Having already stopped and dropped, I rolled around. I wasn’t sure if my jacket had caught fire or not, but I tried not to take chances about accidental self-immolation. Burns are some of the nastiest injuries a human can sustain, they take forever to heal, are prone to inflicting secondary hypovolemic and septic shock, and they always leave major scars.
Wanna know the shittiest thing about being a gifted pyromancer? It doesn’t come with any resistance to fire. Given my life so far, it is frankly a tremendous miracle that I still have any skin at all.
After a quick spot check to make sure all of my body parts were still intact, I opened my eyes. The duty-free section of the airport was a rapidly burning wreck around me. My tentative guess at property damage was mid five figures, not counting the constructs. That number could easily grow by an order of magnitude before the fire department got the blaze under control. Those constructs could easily run ten to thirty grand apiece, so perhaps low six figures for all five of them.
Now, they were expensive man-shaped blobs of wax loosely attached to the shelves. It looks like they were more wax than flesh, judging by the extent of the deformation. Marbleface himself still looked largely intact, though his face was so distorted he looked more like something out of one of those wax-doll horror movies than a real human. The construct was futilely trying to stand up with one arm trapped under a heavy shelf and one leg looking like it had broken off at the shin. It’s owner had clearly given up on manually piloting his doll after being lit on fire. I’m no expert on building constructs, but most of the literature I’ve read mentions that it’s difficult to impossible to operate one of them manually without building in some sort of rudimentary equivalent to a nervous system. Controlling the things is difficult enough with some sort of sensory feedback, it’s borderline impossible without it. Basing that feedback mechanism on the human nervous system is the easiest approach, but it has certain drawbacks. Like the possibility of experiencing overwhelming pain as the construct is destroyed.
Thankfully, this dollmaker fellow seems to have read the same literature, he certainly screamed like he was burning alive. It’s a little sad just how familiar I am with the sounds people make while burning alive.
In any case, the situation in the airport was pretty terrible. The burning shelves had set off those sprinkler things on the ceiling, and the fire, being magical, had proceeded not to give a fuck. At least for the next ten minutes or so. I hoped. I wasn’t actually sure exactly how much water the magical flames would be able to resist. All around me, people were screaming and running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Nobody made any effort to help me, which was about par for the course when things began exploding.
All in all, the airport was pretty much a disaster. I really hoped I wasn’t blamed for this. The (Honorable) Association of Magisters Arcanae already wasn’t too fond of me, not that I could really blame them. I’m pretty sure I hold some sort of record for most incidental property damage caused by a living minor. I don’t try to break things, but sometimes, shit happens. And, well, their patience with me has kinda been wearing thin since that whole fiasco at the Texas State Fair (Look, I had no idea that fried food trucks were explosive hazards). Anyway, I really could do without a third incident of first degree magical arson in a public space on my record.
I tried to stand up, and promptly vomited. Then my whole body suddenly went limp and I fell in my own vomit. That’s me, grace incarnate. Thankfully, the only thing I’d eaten in the last twenty-four hours was a bagel. Slower this time, I stood up and brushed the chunks of half dissolved poppy seed bagel off my jacket. I was really starting to feel the effects of using that much power, if I kept this up, there was a good chance the next time I tried a major working I’d just keel over and wake up in someone’s custody. I stumbled over to the melted remains of Marbleface and grabbed my backpack. Then dropped it again, it was covered in molten Marbleface. The damn shard of metal fell out, along with my books. I grabbed the shard, shed a tear for the books, and started stumbled out of the store. A couple of shelves had fallen, but most of them had fallen away from the aisle I was in because of the angle of the initial blast.
As I scrambled out of the store, I finally got a good luck at the rest of the concourse. Nearly everyone had abandoned the nearer gates, running towards security, away from the burning store. Apparently a fire in the building wasn’t enough for the TSA to breach protocol. Some actual police officers, and men in plainclothes with guns, probably Air Marshals, had joined the TSA wannabe-cops at the security station. One of the police officers shouted at me. I had no idea what he said. I did nothing. He shouted again. Two of them pointed their guns at me. I got on the ground, stuffed the metal spike up my shirt, and put my hands behind my head. I’ve been shot by cops before, it wasn’t a pleasant experience. I’m justifiably a little nervous around them.
“I didn’t do anything!” I shouted for good measure.
I squeezed open one eye, trying to see what the cops would do next. Unfortunately, I never got to find out. At that moment, the northern wall of the terminal exploded inward, sending x-ray machines and officers flying. The wall was made of Plexiglass panels, and the… thing… just pushed through them like they weren’t there. Each panel was a four foot square, and the thing sent six of the panels flying as it tore into the building.
Superficially, it looked kind of like a large black man. Cast iron black, not African black. And large might be a bit of an understatement. The fucker looked pretty damn close to nine feet tall, but bent it was bent so far forward it’s arms scraped along the ground. It’s… His… chest was absolutely massive. His arms were almost grotesque, it looked like someone had tried to sculpt a human form, then just given up and started throwing clay on the upper body wherever it would fit. It’s head was misshapen lump of iron, bulging in strange places with only the barest hint of features. Instead of the normal binocular setup, a single glowing red eye sat smack in the middle of it’s head, right where the nose should be.
It turned to stare straight at me, it’s massive body screeching like iron nails being dragged across a chalkboard as it’s metal joints ground against each other. With a crunch like breaking bones, the golem’s jaw snapped downward, transforming it’s mouth into a gaping chasm wide enough to fit my head inside. It’s voice was unlike anything I had ever heard, grating and deeper than any human or animal. I could almost hear the ring of hammers punctuating it’s words. The entire building shook as it spoke.
“I’M GOING TO CRUSH YOUR SKULL, BITCH!”
I peed myself. Just a little. I couldn’t move, I just lay there on the floor, terrified and trying to control my bladder. There is absolutely nothing I can do to a monstrosity like that. It was going to kill me, horribly, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I was going to die horribly in a fucking airport terminal over a fucking oversized nail. The police officers, bless their souls, turned right around and started shooting. They accomplished absolutely nothing of course, other than encouraging the ten thousand pound golem to turn around and swing one pillar of an arm down at the nearest officer.
He was turned to pulp. His head popped like an overripe grape under the weight of iron, his chest hopelessly crushed, white and red bits everywhere. There was so much blood, crimson coated the wreckage all around the poor officer, spilled out along the floor. A woman screamed, breaking the silence that had fallen in the concourse.
Everyone started moving at once. Officers screamed orders, some began firing again, most backed away, one insane TSA agent charged the monster, baton raised high. The golem lumbered into screeching motion, and the crowd panicked. There was nowhere for them to leave, the fire escapes barely putting a dent in the mass of people. Some people beat on the windows, some fought towards the fire escapes, trampling others in their panic. And some remained frozen, gaping or stuttering, desperately hoping against hope that their eyes and ears were deceiving them. Me? I ran right at the golem.
No, I’m not crazy, I just saw what everyone else in terminal didn’t. The only way out of here was either through those busted windows, or through the wreck of security. Both behind the monster.
I made a run for it. I ran right across the concourse, fire behind me, a monster ahead. I ran right past police officers, right by the golem. It took a swing at me, but it reacted too slowly, I ducked under an arm that took out another section of the wall. I ran right off the edge of the building, legs still pumping as I fell. I landed hard on the concrete, I felt nothing but the impact, saw nothing but stars, and heard nothing my own pulse, pounding in my ears.
Until one noise cut across that roar.
“NOT SO FAST!”
I stumbled to my feet. Stumbled ahead, putting one foot in front of the other, throwing an arm to up catch myself when the ground wasn’t where I thought it was. I’d barely made it a dozen yards when the world shook. Scraps of concrete flew by me, dust billowing out from the crater where the golem had slammed into the runway. I ran. And four tons of black iron barreled down the runway after me.