Max the Second: Max and the Great Balls of Fire
Sometime in the middle of October, 2006.
Max hummed a nameless tune to himself, heading along the campus walkways swinging a bola around, smashing it into the ground or benches or trees, whatever he happened to pass by. Now and then he changed up the lyrics with a few meaningless phrases.
He carried a backpack, like any other student except for the scabbarded chainsaw, one strap passing under the pocketless bandoleer worn across his chest.
The bola, it seemed, was actually two pouches hanging from a piece of rope. each pouch embroidered with arcane symbols and a small piece of hard clay.
Other students on the path, when noticing him, avoided him with some going so far as to head across the lawn in their efforts to get away from the freshman who had quickly been established as the school’s reigning nutcase.
Max greeted each and every one with a cheerful wave, even going so far as to perform a few tricks with his toy, often ending up smashing it into rocks along the path, or other obstacles that happened to get in the way.
Finally, he reached his destination, Range 4. Inside could be heard the screaming of one Corporal Erik Mahren, the rangemaster, colloquially known simply as Mister Mahren.
What he was screaming about this time didn’t concern Max, it was probably some other student doing something, in Mahren’s mind, entirely wrong and unacceptable.
Max headed inside and looked around, several students were present, including a few seniors even. Mister Mahren was screaming at another freshman.
Quickly, Max spotted his target and headed straight towards her, Morticia Addams, AKA Elyzia Grimes. One of the mystical arts teachers. Towards her, he continued slamming his toy into walls, chairs, steel beams and the like.
Ms. Grimes noticed him and immediately rolled her eyes.
“Mr. Powell, what brings you here, may I ask? Do you not have a class to attend?”
Max nodded his agreement, then shook his head; “Nah, ‘Teach told me to find you, said you were out here. Why is that, by the way? Don’t the two of you hate each other?” He indicated the still shouting Mister Mahren who had already thrown a few suspicious glances his way.
“What Mister Mahren and I may, or may not, think about each other is none of your concern, now I’ll ask you to explain why you were told by Mister Al-Feyez to find me.”
Max held out the two pouches on the end of the rope; “Sure sure, Mrs. Addams,” he switched to a less than elegant version of Shakespearean English, “thou didst command a project most mystical from I, and I assureth thou, that I hast obeyed!”
Ms Grimes accepted the pouches from him; “I’ll thank you not to butcher neither English nor Shakespeare like that again, I’m sure Mrs. Carson would not be adverse to assigning you extra work for her. Yes, she told me you will be writing twenty pages on Cicero for her.”
She studied the pouches, the embroidery and the arcane work Max had shown her, muttering a few spells to further ascertain their purpose.
“Hmm, the artificing is adequate, though I’m sure you would benefit from an embroidery class, simple leather, yes. What are these, clay? Yes, presumably for opening the pouches, yes? But the way you were handling them, I assume there’s a trigger word as well, yes.
“Yes, fine work, Mr. Powell, fine work. A shock absorbing enchantment, with further protection against cuts and heat, I presume?” she raised an eyebrow at Max and handed back the pouches.
“Sure, gotta protect what’s inside, indeed. Inside, the pouch is lined with a silk and velvet blend. Just for added benefit. Thread is waxed silk, that thing I showed you last week and the needle was a mithril needle I borrowed from the department.
“Say, you wanna see what’s inside?” Max smiled eagerly.
“Indeed, Mr. Powell, do show me.”
“Okay, so, the trigger word for this one is ‘Flubsy’, don’t ask, I just needed something people wouldn’t guess so easily.” He took hold of the clay piece, but stopped and instead handed it back to Ms. Grimes.
“Here, why don’t you do it. Just take a firm hold, pull the clay rune and whisper the trigger. Then pull and hold.”
Ms. Grimes took the pouch and did as instructed. Out came a glass orb around the size of baseball with what looked like a raging fire on the inside.
“An alchemical concoction, no doubt. Is this what you have been working on in Mr. Al-Feyez’s class, Mr. Powell?” Ms. Grimes studied the orb.
“Nah, this is a side project that I’ve been fiddling with on my own time. The glass orb was provided by Glazier down in the workshops, some of the ingredients by various students, and the whole thing set ablaze, if you will, by my good friend, Firestriker. Paid him a hundred bucks for that. Well worth it, I think. Oh, and a special bit of powder I got from, never mind who I got it from, for extra flammable stickiness.” He took the orb from Ms. Grimes and headed towards one of the stations on the range.
“Let’s try it out.”
Before he could throw it, another student interrupted;
“Wow, is that a Dragonball?”
Max looked at him, then at the orb, then back to the student.
“You know, I haven’t really thought of a name yet, but sure, let’s say it’s a Dragonball.” He juggled the Dragonball from hand to hand.
“Okay, let’s see what this thing can do!” He drew his hand back, ready to throw when again, he was interrupted.
This time, by the rangemaster himself, Mister Mahren.
“What the hell is your crazy ass doing in my range? What’s that you got there? You know the fucking rules maggot! Every new weapon and grenade has to be checked by yours truly first! Now fork it over, or I’ll tear your pretty little ass a new one!”
Max looked at the angry Marine Corporal a moment, then shrugged;
“Sure, I don’t mind if you try it first, Mister M.” He handed him the orb, then whispered to the other student; “He thinks my ass is pretty, I feel so special.” The student blanched and huddled over his own weapon, determined not to call attention to himself.
Mister Mahren inspected the orb, sending the occasional evil eye at Max. Then he grabbed the pouch; “This the transport? Yeah. A magical grenade, huh? No, firebomb. What’s the safety on this? Can you put the pin back in?”
Max shook his head; “Sadly, the pouches are one use only, but they’re easy enough to make. But don’t open it unless you absolutely plan to use it. Isn’t that what you said about most weapons as well? Don’t pull your gun unless you’-”
Mahren broke in; “I know what said, idiot. Now stand back, I’ll test this out and then you can fuck off afterwards!”
Max took a few steps back and smiled broadly; “Sure sure, but be warned, there will be fireball!”
Mister Mahren grunted his acknowledgement, drew his arm back, and let the Dragonball fly.
The first thing that happened was the orb hitting the ground and shattering into pieces. An instant later angry red flames leapt out to all sides and grabbed hold of everything it touched and started burning. And kept burning, despite there not being any actual flammable material. Seconds later, the steel beams started to look like they were beginning to melt.
Both Mister Mahren and Ms. Grimes looked stumped for a few moments while eager shouts of “Yeah” and “Wooo” and more, sounded from the other students.
As the fire raged on and started to slowly spread, Mister Mahren turned to Max.
“Turn that fire off now, before it burns down the whole facility!”
Max shrugged; “I can’t.”
“What do you mean, you can’t? What the fuck is this fire?” Mahren screamed at him.
“Oh, it’s an essence fuelled flame. As long as there’s essence, or even spent essence, magical waste if you will, around, it’ll be damned hard to stop it. It’ll just keep going. I suppose if we could suck out all the oxy-”
Ms. Grimes grabbed hold of him and pulled him out of Mahren’s grip. She nearly screamed in his face as well; “An Essence fire? Are you insane? That thing can burn us all to ashes, and you didn’t make something to stop it with?”
Max shrugged, then sighed and shimmied out of both the teacher’s grips; “Okay, okay. I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid.” He held up the other pouch, grabbed the clay rune and whispered the trigger.
The orb inside seemed cold to the touch and appeared to have an ice storm inside.
“Essence ice. Just the thing you need in a situation like this.” He held it out to Mahren who instantly threw it at the fire.
Sure enough, a great burst of ice spread across the fire, which quickly died out.
Mister Mahren drew in a deep breath and exhaled, a cold air on his breath; “You’re damned fucking lucky that worked you maniac!
Now how the hell are you going to get all this ice out of my range?” He seemed seconds away from committing murder.
Max looked the range over a moment before responding.
“Oh, don’t worry about that. Check this.” He grabbed a small metal rune on his bandoleer sitting just above his collarbone. He whispered a few words and pulled it down, like a zipper. Immediately, from his back, over the shoulder, a row of pouches just like the two he’d come in with rolled down his chest as the color drained from both teacher’s faces.
“I got more!”