When the first group of space dinosaur wizards ambushed Farley, she was delighted. She had been on her way to the only syncaff shop worth a damn in the whole of Graxus Station, and a scrap with some spellslinging theropods was exactly how she preferred to start her mornings. They went down easy, sure, but she was already contemplating where to pawn off their spellslates for some quick credits.

The second ambush interrupted her in the middle of drinking a cup of syncaff blacker than tar, and since Farley rather liked that cafe she politely took the fight outside before slagging the pack of Slzakians. Unlike the first group, these mages were coordinated enough to blast a few holes in her before going down, but Farley had always found Slzakian meat to be fantastic fuel for her regeneration factor.

With breakfast filling her up Farley had a few hours to kill before her noonday meeting. She had originally intended to spend that time catching up on her favorite holos, but she was far too much of a pessimist to think the Slzakians would stop after two failed assassination attempts.

The third group were slow to track her down, and only sprung their ambush after she had purchased a satchel of scatterstones. The kinetomancers of Slzvak-III were infamous for their sloppy formulae: they intentionally broadened their mana channels to shove more power into every spell, which made their combat magic as dangerous as it was easy to disrupt. Scatterstones–which were essentially shrapnel grenades packed with arcanically-resonant detritus–turned their force bolts into stiff breezes.

By the fourth ambush, Farley was starting to feel annoyed. It wasn’t that melting feathery velociraptor-like faces with a literal hellfire shotgun had ceased to be visually pleasing; on the contrary, it was still quite satisfying to see the charred gore of one dinosaur wizard splatter all over the face of another dinosaur wizard. Really, her only issue was with the quality of the goons being sent after her.

So she decided to pay their boss a visit.

“Do you have a reservation?” asked the dull-witted Nebheki bouncer outside Club Abraxas.

Farley ignored his question and moved to step past him, but the bouncer held out a thick tentacle-arm to block her path.

“If you don’t have a reservation, you’ll have to get in line and pay the door fee.” The Nebheki pointed another of his many tentacles at the much-longer line stretching around the block.

Farley crossed her arms and glared. “Come on, do you really not recognize me?”

“The rules are the rules, ma’am. If you have a reservation, just give me your name and I can check the list.”

She rolled her eyes. “This is insulting. How many wolf-eared lizard-tailed chimeras run around dressed in a nanoweave duster and cowboy hat? I’m Farley Cinderfall. The one and only.” Well, there was that one clone she fought on Patem-II’s secret moon base, but it didn’t have a Hellcannon.

The bouncer looked at a dataslate held in one of its tentacles. “That name isn’t on the list.”

“Well that’s just inhospitable,” Farley muttered. One of her furry ears twitched and she frowned. “Hold that thought.”

Farley whirled and drew the Hellcannon on an alley that looked empty to her easily-fooled human eyes, but to her wolfish sense of hearing the approach of enemies was obvious. Oh good, these ones actually bothered to learn some optomancy. Luxamancy? Whatever, I don’t need to know what made the effect to dispel it.

Farley tossed a scatterstone down the alley and was intrigued when it vanished into thin air without going off. She twisted the sundial on the top of the gun toward the infernal rune that meant “Fizzle” and pushed it in. The Hellcannon pulsed with crimson energy and restructured itself.

Farley pulled the trigger and hellfire consumed the alley. The stench of brimstone filled the air as demonic flame erupted from the barrel of the Hellcannon and scorched the hypersteel walls of the station corridor, leaving twisted gouges in their wake. The Slzakians unfortunate enough to be caught in the spread of hellshot found their bodies only a little melted, but the spells of invisibility protecting them were utterly devoured by the hungry flames. Three raptor-men and one raptor-woman (she had gray-and-brown feathers rather than the colorful plumage of male Slzakians) became visible.

The second Farley caught sight of feathers she was already moving, superhuman reflexes and mobility allowing her to sprint into the middle of the pack before any of the dinos could start casting. The twist of a dial, Hellcannon set to “Burn,” and the upper half of the first Slzakian turned to ash.

The wizard wearing a fancy robe instead of sensible body armor–probably the one who cast the shroud–hissed out an incantation and started drawing power for something big. Farley tossed a scatterstone at him as she thumbed the reload rune on her Hellcannon, but the lady wizard clapped her hands together and the grenade vanished.

Interesting. Since when does Vurin employ spatial mages?

Farley dodged a force bolt from the third mage and shot hellfire in his direction. He threw up a barrier but failed to factor in heat transfer and screamed as his talons blackened. Farley pivoted from the channeling wizard, relying on her regeneration to take the hit from whatever he threw her way, and charged the woman.

Hellfire crashed against a shield of force, and this time no supernatural heat bled through. Farley spared a moment to acknowledge her opponent’s skill before activating a scatterstone and shoving it into the barrier. The Slzakian wizard clapped her hands again, but this time the grenade didn’t vanish; it was still clutched in Farley’s hand, and thus protected by her personal magic resistance.

The grenade went off and the shield came down. Farley took a few pieces of shrapnel but nothing she couldn’t heal, and the Hellcannon reduced her foe to ash.

The fancy wizard finished channeling, and immediately all Hell broke loose.

Since when does Vurin employ fucking riftwakers!?

Space ripped apart, a hole in reality tearing open, and for a moment starlight and darkness poured out as the void between worlds gleamed infinite. Then static, and then the static resolved into rivers of fire and pits of screaming souls.

Oh fuck. He’s trying to send me to an actual hellworld.

The artificial air of the space station began to pull in toward the rift. Farley swore and dashed in the opposite direction, but a force bolt from the Slzakian with burnt talons tore through her ankle and took her stride out from under her. Farley redirected her chimeric regeneration to focus entirely on the ankle, but she was already sliding toward the rift.

Farley finished off the burnt-talon wizard with another Hellcannon shot, then pulled a plasma dagger from her coat and sank it into the metal floor of the station to try and resist the increasing gravity of the dimensional rift. Her approach slowed, but the rift was still growing.

The Slzakian who had wakened the rift was being pulled in too, but as he flew toward the gate to Hell he was grabbed around the waist by two tentacles from the Nebheki bouncer. The rest of the bouncer’s tentacles were anchoring him to parts of the station, and he began to reel the wizard back toward Club Abraxas.

Farley leveled her shotgun and pulled the trigger, but the wizard raised a barrier in time. The raptor laughed at her and hissed, “Vurin Thsaethlys sends his regards… and Lord Mephistroph is eager to see you once more.”

Oh, Hells.

The half-incinerated bodies of three Slzakians slipped into the rift, and then the plasma dagger tore free and Farley was falling after them.

The rift winked out above her as she fell from an ashen sky toward a roiling sea of hellflame.


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