Bob leapt through the interdimensional portal and rolled out unscathed from the other side. Well mostly; some of his right leg was missing. But that didn’t really matter that much – a wrist mounted healing beam could be so useful. Layla, naturally – as she had had a lot more practice at the escaping from evil sorcerers than he had, was fine going through portals. Bob less so. Looking nervously around him, Bob wondered which universe they were in. The glowing mushrooms and fairies indicated that they were in a magic based universe, or one with an atmosphere which contained a hallucinogenic drug. The trees were bright purple and upside down, with roots blocking out the sun while the leaves sought out traces of magic from the earth. This didn’t have to work as photosynthesis hadn’t been discovered here. In the distance a castle rose up in all its bright pink and white glory, with weird glowing parapets and a flag which hung limp in the strong, gusty wind. That seemed like a good place to start. Behind him there was a buzzing sound as ‘it’ fell out of the portal. The portal snapped shut with a soft pop, like TNT going off inside an indestructible jellybean. ‘It’ waved its tentacles in an annoyed fashion.
“Well, we’d better get going before Silas gets here” said Layla in a completely unconcerned voice considering that they were on the run from a serial soul-snatcher.
“Yep. You reckon we should try the mushroom houses or the fairy-tale castle.” Replied Bob, trying hard not to be scared to death.
“Blarg de blargowa” said ‘it’, brushing its feathers with one gnarled root.
“OK, ‘it’” said Layla.
They looked at the forest. The tree roots curled up into the sky like twisted bones. The leaves carpeting the floor with dangerous tendrils. All in all, not really the best place to walk through. But the noise behind them gave them little choice. It was a zap, like a wet and rabid rabbit being struck by lightning. A portal was opening, and there was only one person who could be opening it.
“It’s Silas! He’s opened the portal already.” Layla drew her two short longswords.
Bob switched on his laser pistol and cut a blackened hole in the foliage before them. Behind them, in the clearing, a piece of reality was wrenched aside to make way for the portal, which flashed violently. Obviously this one was even less stable than the one they had just come through. But Silas Atkins was powerful enough not to need limb replacements when he stepped through. He wore sunglasses and a tattered Hawaiian shirt, with a soul catcher net slung over one shoulder. His brow was furrowed with annoyance – it was not usually this hard to find his prey. Bob, Layla and ‘it’ were too far away to see. They were busy crashing through the undergrowth. Leaves snagged at their clothing as they ran. But they weren’t getting away. ‘It’ squealed with one multifaceted beak as it was dragged sharply to the left, tangled in a net.
“What on earth?” thought Bob?
Seconds later another net crashed up from the floor, taking Layla with it. Silas stepped out from behind a tree.
“Well, well, Bob. It’s been a fairly short time.”
“Silas, I know our souls are wanted for the Ikakshan ritual, but please could you make an exception. It’s not like I signed up for this. Besides, are you sure releasing a world destroying demon is a good idea?”
“What better way to remove Earth-567J4VY. That nasty technology has been messing with our spells for decades.”
“So you’re not going to let us go.”
“Worth a shot. On the subject of shots.”
Bob pulled out his laser pistol and sliced at Silas. It had little effect against the soul-catcher’s shielding spells. Bob’s power armor blended itself with the background and for a second he was invisible to the eye, both human and augmented. Just long enough. Silas spun round and released a wave of magical electricity. The suit’s circuits fried and the camouflage pads faded to black. Damn. Silas slid a soul net from his back and cast it, muttering a spell as he did so. Bob, his suit now heavy, was too slow to avoid it. He crashed to the ground, dropping his laser pistol as he did so. The built in charms activated and the net tightened, tying Bob more firmly than the best of ropes. Silas strode over to the now incapacitated Bob.
“And that’s 3. Now I just need to get you back to the right dimension.”
Bob angrily yelled some assorted swear words in a variety of languages. He was not going to be beaten this easily. Silas cut down the nets holding Layla and ‘it’. Their nets had built in gags to stop them from talking. Bob counted himself lucky on that front – there was something he needed to say.
“Silas, tell me, have you ever heard of a series called Skulduggery Pleasant. Published in about infinite-and-nine worlds.”
“No. But you’re going to die. Why would you bother to try to talk to me?”
“There’s a quote from it I would like to say.”
“Oh, one of those last words things. Go ahead.”
Bob took a deep breath.
“The sparrow flies south for winter”
The bomb that Bob had placed on Silas’s cloak in the few seconds of invisibility exploded. Silas, being a being of mostly magical energy, also exploded. The resulting energy outburst fried the magic in the nets and they relaxed. It also caused several fairies to vanish and mushrooms to blacken. A tree collapsed. Bright lights refracted off the moisture in the air and then Silas Atkins, murderer and soul-snatcher, was gone forever (a long time).
“That went well” said Layla.
“He forgot one thing: any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.”
“Blargefrp” chirped ‘it’, waving its tentacled fronds.