Defender and Barrier
“RUN!” the cop yelled.
Quick as a flash, the winged tiger pounced on the policeman, pinning him to the ground. The cop screamed, struggling under its enormous bulk. Sun raised his pistol. And the beast tore out his throat.
A brilliant blue bolt slammed into the creature’s torso. Fire and smoke erupted from its fur.
Roaring in pain, the tiger spread its wings, covering its face and body. Sun ran the gun hard, dumping bolts as fast as he could fire. The power crystal siphoned his qi through his gloves, keeping the gun going.
But as the bolts crashed into the wings, they dissipated.
Turning to Sun, the winged tiger crouched.
And slammed into a crackling white wall.
Dropping to the ground, it shook his head, momentarily confused. It was so close, Sun saw the blood dripping from his teeth and paws, the meat caught between its canines.
Liu stood her ground, her feet planted solidly on the floor. Her arms were extended straight out, her bangles glowing white. The creature snarled, pawing at the barrier, but she stood firm and maintained the force field.
Guns howled. A barrage of bolts crashed into the beast’s flank. Distracted, it turned to face the new threat, and Sun retreated behind a nearby pillar. A team of armed police had arrived, firing from across the hall. But the bolts crashed uselessly against the beast’s wings.
The winged tiger poked its head out between its wings, turning to the cops. And its horn glowed.
“TAKE COVER!” Sun shouted.
A beam of blinding light blasted from the horn.
Liu screamed, throwing her will against the world.
The beam crashed against a fresh barrier. The barrier took everything the winged tiger could throw at it and scattered the infernal energy into harmless rays of multihued light.
The assault ceased. The cops were unscratched. But Liu swooned.
She caught herself before she fell.
“I’m okay,” she said. “I’ll be fine.”
The tiger chuffed. The policemen continued firing, but none of their shots penetrated its wings.
But Sun was a cultivator.
Switching his smoking pistol to his left hand, he called upon his interspatial ring. Another wormhole opened. He reached in, found a firm handle, and drew.
Out came a jian. A straight sword with two keen edges and a needle tip. Holding it low, he circled around the beast.
“Cover me!” Sun shouted.
“Go!” Liu replied.
Summoning his qi from all three dantian, he supercharged his muscles. Filled his blade with qi.
Gravity fell away. The air parted before him. Wind pushed at his back. In a single bound, he flew to the beast’s flank. And cut.
Steel bit into hardened bone and sinewy muscle. A moment of resistance, and the wing snapped off.
Howling, the creature trashed about. Another barrier materialized, shielding Sun from its iron teeth and claws. Leaping aside, Sun extended his pistol, placed it against the beast’s exposed temple, and fired.
Its head erupted in pink steam. The winged tiger slumped to the ground, finally dead.
Scanning, Sun saw no more threats. He flicked the blood off his jian and returned to Liu.
She had propped herself against a pillar, her hands massaging her temples.
“Sun Yao…” she said.
She smiled. “Good job.”
“Couldn’t have done it without you. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. I…” She frowned, pointing at the skylight. “Where’s the barrier? It should be up by now.”
He looked. Through the broken glass he saw clear blue sky and bright sunlight. But there was no barrier. The civil defense sirens continued screaming. And, high in the sky, he saw black dots. Lots of them.
“We need to get to the operations center,” she said.
He nodded. Turning to the cops, he yelled, “Cover the skylight! We have more beasts incoming!”
As the policemen scrambled into position, he pointed at the nearest.
“You! Take us to the operations center!”
The three of them trooped down empty halls and deserted corridors. The civilians had evacuated by now. He sensed no qi around him beyond Liu and the policeman. But just in case, Sun kept his head on a swivel and his weapon at the ready.
The door to the operations center was wide open. The lock had been blasted open. And blood spilled out the open door.
“Ta ma de,” Sun whispered. “Fang Fang, stay behind me.”
He sensed no qi. Only death. Taking a deep breath, he stepped in.
“Lao tian ah!” the cop exclaimed. By Heaven!
Bodies. Bodies everywhere. Seated, lying down, slumped against the walls. A lake of blood covered the floor.
Sun inspected a corpse. Her throat had been cut, almost decapitating her. Another one had been blasted in the chest. A third had been slashed in half. He couldn’t tell if the wounds were made by man or beast. Or both.
Liu pointed at a door. “We need to check the barrier control room.”
“Right.” Looking at the cop, Sun said, “Watch this room. Preserve the crime scene.”
Liu and Sun stepped around the bodies, careful to avoid disturbing anything they saw. The door to the barrier control room was unlocked. As Sun grasped the doorknob the door fell off its hinges.
“Not a good sign,” Sun said.
The barrier control room stretched out before them. Rows of computers and consoles glowed by the sides of the room. Dead ahead was a transparent panel of safety glass. Behind that was the enormous crystal that powered the airport’s barrier.
The crystal was dull.
And the room was empty.
“Where did everyone go?” Liu asked. “This is an emergency. There must be a Barrier Technician manning the room at all times.”
“Maybe they’re dead,” Sun said.
“Zao gao,” she said. This is terrible. “We need to get the barrier online before the beasts attack again.”
“Anything I can do?” Sun asked.
She strode to a console. And heaved a sigh of relief. “This console is unlocked. I can raise the airport barrier from here. Just watch the door and make sure the beasts don’t come in.”
As she spoke, her fingers flew across the keys. Heavy footsteps reverberated outside. Voices floated into the room.
“Defenders! Over here!”
Sun opened his ring, stowed his weapons, and drew his badge. Stepping away from the door, he kept his hands low.
A pair of armed men burst into the room, long guns ready.
“Defenders!” the leader shouted. “Who are you?”
Sun raised his badge. “Defender Class One Sun Yao. She’s Barrier Technician Liu Fang Fang.”
The senior Defender squinted at the badge. Nodded.
“I heard a Defender slew the winged tiger in the lobby. Was that you?”
“Yes,” Sun Yao said.
“Not bad. Ms Liu, what are you doing?”
“Bringing the barrier back online,” she replied.
“You’re authorized to do that?”
“I’m the only Barrier Technician available,” she replied.
“I see.” Looking at Sun, he said, “You… Sun Yao. You were supposed to report for duty today, yes?”
“Yes. This whole mess started right after I stepped off the airship.”
“Hell of a first day at work, isn’t it?” Shaking his head, he said, “I’m Fu Hai Long. This is Yang Guo An. And that’s all the introductions you’re going to get. The city is in a state of emergency. Beasts are everywhere, and we need every Defender on duty.”
Sun nodded. “I’m ready. Fang Fang…”
“I understand,” she said.
“I’ll meet you when I can.”
You can find the previous chapter here.
For more stories that blend magic, swords, guns and martial arts, check out my latest novel Hammer of the Witches.