There was only a split second for Matthew to get himself out of this situation. If he did not think of something, he would get a bullet straight to the head.
Good thing he planned ahead.
As the woman had been taunting him, he slowly shifted his hand toward the pocket that held the burned out artifice. Barely after the woman finished her 'final words' he had flung the rounded disk of metal and wood at the woman's head. It crashed into her shoulder which, considering what has happened, was a great shot.
But the fact that it succeeded in its task was even better. The object flying at her then hitting her was enough of a distraction to make her miss. Matthew felt the bullet slice his earlobe and he hooted in pure adrenaline before turning on a heel and running away.
This woman definitely had skill. That was confirmed when a lance of fire flew past him. The only reason he dodged was because he felt the sudden shift in her energy as the spell was released. Something that not many people knew to look for. Even though he knew what to look for, though, he almost did not sense it fast enough.
Knowing that the woman was skillful, though, gave him the idea he had been toying with halfway through their conversation. In order for him to survive he needed two items. He just had to hope that the rooms they were in were still intact. Or else he would have to go fisticuffs with her which was a near suicidal idea.
So, he just had to survive until he could get to the rooms. Doing the math in his head, he figured that he would need fifteen minutes to get to each room. Half an hour of running and fighting against a mage of high caliber. Something that could be considered suicidal in itself, but it was less so than the 'fight hand to hand with a master mage who had a gun' plan.
The Colt behind him coughed out and Matthew flinched in reaction. He heard something careen off of the wall next to him and keep bouncing back and forth down the hall in front of him. Almost immediately afterward he felt that snap of sensation again and ducked down. Ice whizzed close enough to slash a few hairs from his head.
It had only been a minute yet his opponent already got close to killing him three different times. How the hell was he supposed to survive to get the items?
Duh, he thought to himself, by using your head!
The standard Inquisitor always had two items with him at all times no matter if he was on or off duty: a pistol, with the popular choices being the Colt and the .44 Magnum, and a shield artifice yet replacements were in the Armory. That was why he was able to defend against the explosion, but afterward his had burned out just like the one the mage who set it off did. So, the first thing he needed was to grab one of the pistols from a fallen soldier. Something that made him feel sick to his stomach, but he had to survive. And if he was lucky, he could also grab a shield artifice.
He abruptly turned a random corner and kept a mental map of the base up. Behind him as he did, he felt the sudden heat of another fire ball fly by him. It was so close that he checked to make sure his clothes were not on fire again.
But just the weapon and artifice would not be enough. He had to find a way to slow down or stall the mage chasing him. Randomly turning corners would help, but he needed a better way. If he was able to move the debris scattered around him, he could have put those in her way but any second he was standing in place was a second that made it easy for her to headshot him. And he had no magical abilities himself, so he could not just chuck the debris at her.
No matter what he came up with, though, he could not figure out how he would be able to do it. He knew of a few artifices in the Armory that he could use, but that would require him actually making it to the Armory before he died. With each step he took it seemed less and less likely that would happen.
A sudden thought hit him and he shook his head in frustration. He had been thinking the wrong angle. All of the plan that he thought of were focused on fighting her as a mage. But despite all of her power, she was still a human. And all humans have ways to get distracted.
First, he had to start confusing her.
Through panting breaths, he said as if to himself, "Where is it?" Along with his question he started looking back and forth as if looking for something. "I thought it was around here!"
The snap of a spell releasing reached him and he threw himself to the left. That gave him the chance to look behind him. The woman was still chasing after him and still getting closer but Matthew could see her expression change slightly.
Assuming that she started taking the bait, he muttered, "Maybe it was to the left."
It took a couple of minutes to get to the next intersection. When he approached the four-way cross, he started to act as if he was about to turn left. It was hard for him to tell, but he thought he could hear the woman start shifting to the left. Grinning like a fool, he suddenly leapt to the right.
A grunt of surprise sounded from behind him, confirming that the woman did indeed take the bait. He had to restrain from laughing as he continued running through the halls.
As if to retaliate, the woman launched a massive blast of fire down the hall toward Matthew. He turned the corner, but the blast traveled too fast. His arm erupted into burning agony and he fought off the need to scream. He could not let the woman know that she actually hit him. This was at least in part a psychological fight after all.
Looking behind him, Matthew could see that he had gained a significant lead. He felt that he was far enough away to start looking for the weapon he needed. After five minutes, he still had not seen anything and he thought that he would have to just deal with avoidance. Yet, turning the last corner, he saw his first destination: the Armory.
He let out a sigh of relief and ducked into the partially damaged room he was familiar with. As he passed the doors, he slammed them shut. They did not give him complete coverage as they had holes in them, but they would slow the woman down a bit.
The idea of having to use a weapon larger than a pistol unnerved him. But he ignored the feeling and grabbed an assault rifle and multiple clips that miraculously remained fully loaded. He slammed a clip into the gun and aimed it right at the door as he grabbed a couple of artifices. Seconds later, the woman crashed through the door.
And Matthew, with only a millisecond of hesitation, opened fire.
The booming sounds of the gun firing off each shot threatened to deafen him in the tight space of the Armory. And the physical bucking of the gun was like a bull trying to throw off its rider and his burned arm did not help. Yet, the bullets all collided with deadly force into the shield the woman called at the last second.
He smiled slightly. She was doing exactly what he wanted.
The woman took step after step backward and Matthew matched her. When she was out of the Armory, she flung herself away from the doorway. Matthew rushed out of the room and headed in the opposite direction. He felt her about to fling another spell at him, but he started peppering her with bullets again and watched as she had to call up a shield to protect herself again.
Magi were powerful people. It was why they were so feared all over Earth and why the Magic Law was created. Yet, they had inherent rules to how they use spells. And it was well known that very few magi actually have the concentration needed to hold two spells at once.
And the woman behind him was no different.
Her shield interrupted her buildup for another offensive spell. Not only that, but the sudden shift of gears in her "Magic Lobe" probably damaged her.
Again, a sudden and irrational pang of guilt hit Matthew. He shook it off and headed for his next destination. Flinging the rifle onto his back, Matthew pulled one of the artifices he grabbed onto his hand. Immediately he could feel a prickly sensation crawl up his arm. It was the leaking energy from the woman amplified more than possible with his "Magic Lobe." While he had no idea what her levels of ability was before he put it on, he could imagine that she was running up to her first level of tolerance. Good. That would make it easier to do what he planned.
The glove sent signals up and down his arm that were strong enough to nearly numb the limb. She was preparing yet another spell. Had she not learned yet?
Matthew grabbed the rifle again and, without looking, opened fire again. Sensations from the glove shifted slightly as she had to call up her shield again. After a few rounds, though, the gun clicked empty.
He growled and started reloading the rifle. Laughter from behind him caused him to look and see that she was about to fire the Colt. Quickly, Matthew pressed a couple of fingers against the second artifice he grabbed. He could feel the power form a shield behind him and watched as blue ripples emanated from multiple point of the shield where the Colt's rounds hit.
Protected, he finished reloading the assault rifle and continued to open fire. Signals from the glove started to gradually grow weaker as the woman's energy was dying. He just needed to push a little bit further.
After ten minutes of back and forth, Matthew finally arrived at his second destination: the Artifice Development Lab.
Every Inquisition base had a lab where scientists and artificers researched and developed artifices for the Inquisitors to use in the field. Normally, though, they were much more organized than it was now. Tables, tools and cabinets were scattered everywhere, opened and broken. Only a couple of objects remained upright or relatively undamaged.
Matthew slammed the door shut and locked it with its deadbolt. While it would not hold the woman back for long, he hoped he would be able to find what he was looking for before then.
It was under the fourth cabinet he searched. Wooden handcuffs with a metal chain clinked as he pulled it out. Many people would have laughed at its appearance, but it was a mage's worst nightmare. At least, if it worked. The problem with developing an artifice to fight against magi in the Inquisition base is that there were no mages to test them on. So, Matthew prayed that they would actually work and ran to hide behind an upright shelf.
The door of the room exploded inward and Matthew could the mage's quiet footsteps. He only needed her to get to the center of the room and he would have her. Just five more steps.
His glove flared to life and Matthew did not have any time to react before invisible force slammed him up against the wall. The handcuffs fell from his suddenly limp fingers and clattered to the floor. He had expected the force to disappear after hitting him, but instead it increased its pressure.
The woman stepped toward him with a smile on her lips, "I have to admit that you were rather clever boy. But did you think you could trick me that easily?"
Matthew grunted, "I got you here, didn't I?"
"True. But the game is over. With you dead no one will know of this attack for months. Maybe even a year. This was just the prologue, boy. And you will get to watch the story unfold from Above!"
As she talked, Matthew could hear the strain in her voice. At this point, she had to have surpassed her first tolerance level. Which meant that she was only seconds from hitting her second tolerance level.
"That is an optimistic estimate." Matthew said, "What makes you think it would take that long?"
Her smile grew, "Stalling me? That won't work."
The glove on Matthew's hand quietly died down to near nothing. And the pressure on his body faded.
The woman growled and fired the Colt. As soon as he was able to, he dropped down into a crouch. His hand gripped one of the cuffs and he lunged forward with a yell. Her lack of magical energy severely reduced her reaction time and she both missed the shot and was not able to avoid the cuff wrapping around her wrist. It snapped shut but she yanked her arm back.
She then swung her arm forward and used the other cuff as a weapon. The wood cracked into Matthew's cheek and he was stunned for a second. He felt two more blows on his body before his vision returned and he raised his hand up. The metal chain slammed into his hand and his skin immediately started to burn. The artifice was already working its magic then. It was the energy from its activation that was burning him. He did his best to ignore it as he pulled it toward him.
The woman cried out as she was thrown off her feet. Matthew grunted when her elbow sunk into his belly and a large puff of breath escaped. Yet, he pushed through it and reached around to grab her other wrist. She struggled against him which made it that much harder to get that second cuff on. However, he finally heard the snap and pulled away from her.
As soon as the cuff slapped shut the woman started convulsing. From what Matthew heard, the cuffs used slight contact with the metal chains to send relatively harmless electric currents throughout the wearer's body. However, the inventors had enhanced it to also cut out what little magical energy the wearer has.
A minute later, the woman fell face first onto the floor. Matthew just sat there breathing heavily. When he saw that she was not getting up anytime soon, he slowly pulled himself up. Gripping the back of her shirt, he started dragging her with him as he headed for the Major Sergeant's office. As long as the room was still standing, he should be able to access the phone inside of it.
Surprisingly, the woman did not wake up throughout the ten minutes of Matthew dragging her. He got to the room and found it standing. The phone was still plugged in and Matthew quickly got a line through. Speaking to the person on the other end, he finally got someone to come up to the base.
Done with that, he sat at the Major's seat and despite logic telling him he should not he immediately fell asleep.