Kalden followed the others outside the cell. These hallways had been so sterile when they'd first arrived. Now, corpses covered every square foot—prisoners and Martials alike. Sirens echoed beyond the walls, along with the muffled voice of someone speaking through a megaphone.
Could they really survive this battle? Even with the Grandmaster on their side? Half the Martials on Arkala must be waiting for them out there. The rest would be guarding Keylas, or the roads between.
He doubted they could kill Elend tonight, but they didn't have to kill him to make things rough for Kalden and Akari. Grandmasters might have bulletproof skin, but not them. One mistake, and this was all over.
Jared and Viv lay among the sea of black-clad bodies. From here, they looked like two more Martials who'd died at the fugitive's hand. The media would spin some 'redemption' story about Jared, ignoring the fact that he'd left the Martials and become a freedom fighter.
As for Viv, they probably wouldn't mention her at all.
We're coming back, Kalden reminded himself. No matter how long it took, he and Akari would return to this island and free everyone. And if Jared and Viv had families, he'd make sure they learned about their sacrifice.
Kalden was still surveying the scene when the lights snapped off, shrouding the hallway in pitch blackness.
"Huh," Elend's voice said from nearby. "Took them long enough." An amber-colored flame sprang to life in his palm, chasing away the darkness.
What kind of technique was that? Another Construct, like his dagger? The Grandmaster's techniques were like something out of a movie—too nonsensical to be real.
"I'm guessing that way's the front door?" Elend asked with a glance to their right. His 'torch' flickered in slow motion, like a flag blowing in a soft breeze.
Kalden nodded. "That's the way we came in."
"Excellent." He dropped his torch, letting it float like a balloon in midair. Then he fired a volley of red Missiles down the hall. The Missiles warped into a full pack of red raptors, charging the exit.
"That ought to keep them busy," he said as he retrieved his torch.
It might also spring their traps. No complaints there. But even if they fought their way out of the prison, could they really get as far as Keylas? There was only one road leading to that part of the island. Relia had been confident last night, but Kalden wasn't so sure now. What was stopping the Martials from collapsing the tunnels or blowing up the bridges?
Elend spun around and began strolling away from the exit.
Kalden shot a glance at Akari. She shrugged a shoulder, and they followed him together.
The Grandmaster stepped over more corpses, past the security booth, and through another door that Kalden hadn't seen before. They followed him into a dark stairwell with creaking iron steps.
Elend took them two at a time, and the sound echoed into the vast emptiness above. His right hand glowed with mana as he walked. It formed into some mechanical shape, the same way it had when he'd conjured the dagger. But this looked more like ... a grappling hook?
"Dream mana," Akari muttered to Kalden as they walked.
"Not this time," Elend replied from up ahead. "Just a pure mana Construct."
"So it's not an illusion?" she asked. "Thought Constructs were all simple shapes like walls and domes."
"At your level, yes. But you rely on your body for Mana Arts. Masters don't."
Well, that was great, but how did a grappling hook help them? Kalden cleared his throat, "You realize there are helicopters outside, right? They'll spot us if we try to climb down."
"Indeed," Elend replied with an amused tone. "I'm counting on it."
The stairs ended at a metal door labeled 'roof access.' Elend paused before lowering Relia to the ground. She was still unconscious, but the ice had faded from around her cheeks.
"You stay here," he said to Akari and Kalden, meeting each of their eyes in turn. "And protect my Apprentice. If anything happens to her, I might just leave you both behind."
Kalden swallowed thickly, then nodded.
"Good lad." Elend clapped him on the shoulder and burst through the final doorway.
"Wow," Akari muttered once he was out of earshot. "Someone woke up on the wrong side of the ice chamber."
His clothes blew in the wind as the helicopters closed in. Three spotlights shone down from the sky, painting the concrete roof with pale white light. The Grandmaster conjured a dome of pure mana around his body, absorbing a storm of bullets and Missiles.
Kalden had already seen Relia do this back in White Vale. In her case, it seemed to take a great deal of effort and control. Meanwhile, her master did it with a flick of his wrist. Then he conjured another layer of mana beneath the first.
Two helicopters closed in while the third hovered outside Kalden's field of vision. Missiles crashed against his outer Construct in a storm of thunder and lightning.
Elend spread out his arms, and the outer shell broke into a dozen smaller pieces. The shards rotated in the air, each one at a different angle. They spun slowly at first, like gears on a heavy machine. Then they picked up speed, spinning as fast as saw blades.
One blade tore a helicopter vertically down the center, and both pieces collapsed into the courtyard below. He struck the second one horizontally, severing the main rotor from the hull.
Finally, he threw his grappling hook at the third helicopter—the one Kalden couldn't see from inside the stairwell. It must have tried to retreat because the rope went taut.
Elend's boots slid across the concrete, but he widened his stance and flared his Cloak technique. His body glowed with mana, becoming a bright blue silhouette against the night sky. Then he pulled the helicopter closer. More bullets rained from the sky, but the attacks broke against his shield.
The tires hit the roof a second later. Kalden wouldn't call it a clean landing, but it was soft enough to leave the helicopter intact.
The Martials slid open the metal doors and leapt onto the roof. Some ran for the cover of the stairwell while others trained their weapons on the Grandmaster.
Kalden activated his mana shield while Akari readied a Missile. Fortunately, their efforts weren't needed. The Martials had barely taken two steps before Elend released a storm of Missiles, dropping them like insects. One final Missile wormed its way into the cockpit, taking out the pilot.
Elend nodded at his work, then he gestured toward the stairwell. The spinning rotors drowned out his voice, but Kalden could still read his lips. "Get in!"
Kalden released a long breath as he gathered Relia in his arms. He'd expected her to be light like Akari—especially after Elend had carried her around like a ragdoll. But her muscles were like iron despite her slender frame
I need to work out more, Kalden thought as he heaved her off the ground. Unless this physique was some fancy Apprentice perk, then that was just unfair.
He followed Akari across the roof, then they all climbed into the open cabin. Like all Martial helicopters, the hull was solid black with a long, low profile. Machine guns protruded from either side, and the cabin had enough seats for half a dozen troops. Kalden also spotted a gravity Construct generator behind the last row of seats. They could use that to lighten the helicopter or to move heavier objects like cars.
Akari took one of the machine guns, and Kalden secured Relia in the seat beside her.
"Now"—Elend brushed his hands together—"who's driving this thing?"
Kalden froze, turning to Akari. "I thought—"
"That was a joke, lad." His face broke into a grin. "I need a navigator, though. Never been here before."
"Oh." His shoulders sagged with relief. "I can do that."
They all put their headsets on, and Kalden settled into the co-pilot's seat. There must have been over a thousand different dials, buttons, and switches here—not just on the front console, but on the walls and ceiling too. It made his car look like a kid's toy by comparison.
Elend began flipping switches, seemingly at random. "Everyone ready?" His voice came loud and clear over the headset this time.
"All set," Kalden said
"Ready," Akari said from the back
Elend stretched his left hand out the nearest window, and two silver Missiles flew out from his palm. Instead of raptors, these Missiles warped into a pair of helicopters. Each one was a perfect replica of the one they sat in. And when Kalden peered closer, he even saw another version of the Grandmaster piloting them. The interiors were less detailed than the outer hulls. Not blurry, but more like the general impression of something rather than the real thing.
One helicopter took off, heading straight over the prison's courtyard. A Construct appeared below the landing gear, absorbing the storm of Martial attacks.
Elend flicked his wrist, and a second helicopter flew toward the south. More bullets and Missiles followed, but their effort was more half-hearted this time.
Kalden grinned as he imagined their confusion. Relia had kept her master's aspect hidden until now, and he could see why. The less people knew about his techniques, the more effective those techniques were.
Finally, Elend grasped the steering stick. The vehicle shook beneath them, and they took to the sky.