I thought about ringing grams up and telling her about the manticore, but the warrior within me was confident we would save the day. He convinced me that if we could show how well we were doing, grams would see she was working with an equal. I smiled, and liked the idea.
I snuck around to the gym. Mr. Fenton, our Gym teacher, was one of the drones, and my warrior assured me that it was only the manticore spirit inside him that we would be destroying. I was quietly surprised to see this new side to my warrior but I didn't want to delve too deep. He was working with me, and making a lot of sense, so I went along.
Mr. Fenton was in his office when I scoped him out. The warrior whispered in my head that I needed to take out the drones and the manticore in under a minute. The manticore could renew his tentacles within that time span and reconnect with his human hosts. However, my warrior had an idea and we were working it out. If we could use our shield to cover the human hosts, after destroying the connection to the manticore, then that would give us more time to destroy the manticore without it escaping to its other drones. But that was an untested theory, and I had to try something else, just in case plan A didn't go as planned. The biggest worry we had came from the fact that, once one of the tentacles was destroyed, the manticore would know and try to make sure the rest of his drones escaped. We were scoping out the other five drones. We were just fortunate that the six drones had to be relatively close to the manticore. Hence the reason it was six teachers that he had under his control and not anyone around the country.
Each drone had a third of the manticore's strength and abilities, and that was impressive on its own. What did this mean? It meant that they could lift a car in one hand and hurtle it a hundred metres away. One drone, on its own was easy to overpower, but all the drones and the manticore together were formidable. It was a running commentary that my warrior was giving me. Although I was a little apprehensive, for the first time I felt in control of myself and my powers.
I had memorized the layout of the school and planned who I would take out first. Mr. Fenton was in the gym, and it was at the southern end of the school. I would work my way up towards the north, eliminating each drone as I went. There was one more thing that I was going to try, and even my warrior had been a little hesitant. But this was a risk I felt was worth taking, and a crucial part of helping us defeat the enemy. I closed my eyes and called. I felt the warrior recede within me, and something thicker and heavier come to the fore.
I searched, and put lust and yearning into the call. It felt like music was welling up inside me and flowing out onto the wind. I sensed a spark of recognition in the atmosphere, and the warrior peered out from within me, as I sensed someone coming near. Then, like a switch, just like last time, the warrior receded and I was staring at my cousin Simon.
"Hello James, what a pleasant surprise," he said with a smile.
"I need your help," I replied succinctly.
He arched his eyebrow. "You need my assistance?"
"Can you teach me how to freeze time, or pull out of time...or whatever you call it? That's what you did the last time right?"
He folded his hands over his chest. "Yes we pulled out of time to talk. But it takes concentration and mental discipline. You can barely control your powers and, if you were to try and do such a complicated task, the consequences if you got it wrong could be deadly."
"Then, for this one time, could you do it for me?" I asked. "You can call it an act of faith on your part, to help me believe your story and help you."
He sighed. "Before I decide to do this, tell me why you want it done."
"I want to destroy a manticore and his drones before he rejuvenates."
Simon's eyebrows rose into his hairline. "There is a manticore here?"
I nodded my head. "I am hoping that if we are pulled out of time, I can kill the drones inside their human hosts before the manticore realises what's happened. And when it does? By then it will be too late." I gave him a smug smile at my reasoning.
"I'm impressed, James." I bowed my head and thanked him. "Your plan is actually quite brilliant. While the manticore is trapped within a human body, it is tied to the laws of time just like most humans. This could work." With one final nod he raised his hands in preparation. "Ready?" he asked.
"Go for it," I felt adrenalin race through me, and my heart pounded. I pushed that emotion into the place where my warrior lived, and I felt him roar to life. I saw a seagull, frozen in mid flight, and I raced toward the office doors of the gym.
I ran so fast I was a blur. I was inside Mr. Fenton's office before I had taken a second breath. Energy from the warrior leaped outwards and shot straight into Mr. Fenton's body. I was pulled into Mr. Fenton's mind with the warrior. The drone screamed, as I sensed Mr. Fenton's soul, huddled in a dark corner. His soul looked like his physical self, except there was pain and suffering bordering on insanity etched on his face. Parts of his astral body had been ripped and shredded, as if by a large animal. The drone had been feeding off of the essence of Mr. Fenton's soul. I shuddered at the horror of it. The healer in me came alive, and I put a soothing silver balm over the slashes in his soul. The astral form of the warrior fought a reddish purple scorpion. He looked like a muscular, wilder, version of me. I was too busy concentrating on Mr. Fenton to watch the battle. A claw came swiping towards Mr. Fenton's soul and the warrior warned me to move a split second before it passed where my head had been. I thought of the icy shield and watched as the claw scraped and then shattered against its icy touch. A high pitched squeal came from the drone, and the warrior made short work of it. I saw a large hole in Mr. Fenton's back where the manticore tentacle had connected to his soul, and put a shield over it. I watched as a hazy blue shield shone flush against his skin.
The warrior rejoined me, and I shot out of Mr Fenton's body into my own. We raced to the second drone, and the warrior and I completed our tasks efficiently and well. It was over in seconds, and then the remaining drones were just repetitions of the first two. I did my best to help heal the dark wounds of all the host teachers and I was sweaty and shaky by the time we were finished.
I ran towards the Principals office, my last destination. Mr. McDonald was still sitting at his chair but, while his body was frozen, I saw that his eyes were tracking me. There was a feral glow in them, and it sent a shudder down my spine. The warrior inside snarled and rushed to the fore. I accepted him gladly, and we raced into the mind of Mr. McDonald.
A sharp claw came swiping at us as soon as we entered. I put a shield up just in time, and the impact had me grunting and flying backwards. The warrior went rushing towards the Manticore. I searched for Mr. McDonald's soul and gasped. His astral body had been shredded to the point where it was not recognisable as anything remotely human. I sensed it was on the verge of disappearing altogether. I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder, as I saw the warrior knocked backwards, with his shoulder pierced, and a silver mist wafting from the hole. I threw a shield in the manticore's way, and sent healing energy towards the warrior. The manticore snarled its anger and frustration, and turned towards me. It rushed me, looking like running silk as it sped toward me. I threw up another shield. It smashed into the shield, and I grunted as I felt the shield crumble and shatter. I placed another one just in time. Yet it looked feeble, and the manticore proved it was as the claws smashed through it with one punch. I pushed Mr. McDonald's soul further behind me, and stood in front of the Manticore. A blur behind the manticore had it screaming in pain. It twisted around to find that the warrior had made a long slice down its back. In the warrior's hands was a sword handle with a shimmering heat wave of energy, where a blade should protrude. The Manticore attacked the warrior with a flurry of strikes; the warrior countered and sparks flew, as the invisible blade and claws clashed. The manticore roared, and his attack sped up until the warrior began to lose ground and was being forced backwards.
The manticore opened its mouth, and out spilled a noxious green gas. The warrior ducked, but was not quick enough. Part of his face began to sizzle as the poisonous gas hit it. It distracted the warrior for a second. That's all the manticore needed. It turned into a blur and stabbed his claws into the warrior's stomach. We both screamed, and I saw the warrior fade into mist and flow back into me. The manticore gave a clacking laugh with its mandibles and turned towards me. It started a slow, stalking motion towards me. Fear rose strongly, and the manticore seemed to be sucking it up like it was sustenance. I projected a shield in front of me, but the manticore knocked it down like it was sugar glass.
My life flashed past, and I thought about Kevin. I remembered our last conversation in the car. Then an idea hit me. I thought about what Kevin had said... If I could heal him, then he was right; it wouldn't be hard to stop my own heart. Perhaps I could try to stop the manticore with my healing, somehow? All this flashed through my head in a nanosecond. I pushed my healing out and imagined sucking the life out of the manticore. I felt my senses brush against the manticore. I wallowed in a place where unseen creatures would pull you into the marshes and glowing lights would lead you deeper, never to return.
I pulled back, trying to stop the shudder that wanted to crawl up and down my spine. The manticore loomed over me. It opened its mouth, screeching in triumph. I watched as those dark claws descended towards my face. I screamed, and pushed my hand upwards as if to stop those lethal claws from tearing into me. Something hot and raw rushed up from inside me and out of my arm. I screamed in pain, as if thousands of glass shards were running in my veins and into the centre of my palm.
I looked up at the manticore. It had frozen on the spot, with claws raised and head high. The pain still pulsed in my hand, and yet the energy kept building. I screamed once more, and felt the ball of pain burn brighter and harder until I swore I was ready to gnaw my own hand off. With a rush, the pain subsided. In my left hand was a delicate ball of light. It looked as light as a dandelion on the wind. It floated up toward the chest of the frozen manticore. On impact, it slipped into the manticore's chest. For a second, nothing happened. Then, as if the manticore was made out of dust, it disintegrated.
I dropped to the ground. Turning around, I saw the half body of what used to be Mr. McDonald's soul. I crawled towards his astral form. My hands shook, and I found it hard to bring the healing colours into focus. They came sluggishly, but with great effort I pushed them into the astral form in front of me. I felt all my energy rush out of me, like a black hole had opened up, and I collapsed into darkness.