Mercenary Magic Page 13

This time, it was her turn to snort. Simmons didn’t believe that nonsense he was spewing. Not for a second.

“No, I didn’t believe him,” he said. “And I didn’t care. When Simmons realized that he wasn’t going to dissuade me from hiring you, he started to sing your praises pretty sweetly.”

Aww. Sera would have to remember to send Simmons a muffin. Or at least a bagel. “And why did you insist on hiring me for this job? I’m rude and underpowered. There are dozens of other mercenaries at Mayhem with much better profiles. In fact, anyone at Mayhem has a better profile.”

“Profiles can be forged. Like the part of yours where it says you don’t have any magic.”

“Not that again. I told you—”

“Finn remembers what happened during the entire time his magic was going haywire,” he cut in. “He couldn’t stop whatever force was controlling him, but he remembers everything he did. And everything you did. He saw you shatter that wind barrier.”

Her pulse raced, and her heart was making a pretty solid effort at bursting through her chest. All the while, the fear was spreading magic to every corner of her body. She pushed down, forcing it back into hiding.

She cleared her throat. “A force was controlling him, you say? What kind of force?”

“We don’t know. But whatever it was, it made him stronger. A lot stronger. Finn is a fourth tier mage. I read your report, and there’s no way he could do anything you described. Not even close.”

Mages were classified into six tiers, with one being the highest. Those were the most powerful, the ones who were both revered and feared. There were very few first tier mages, and Sera was looking right at one. First tier mages had a personality to match the power. She reminded herself of that.

“How big was the dragon Finn started to summon?” he asked.

“It would have been around fifteen feet long once fully summoned.”

“His usual dragon is the size of a cat, not a house.”

That certainly was a big difference. The tornados and firestorms weren’t a small matter of magic either.

“So, you brought me here for a play-by-play of the incident?” she asked. “Because it’s all in my report, you know.”

“I saw.” He leaned forward, his shoulder brushing against hers as he reached for the folder on his desk.

She jumped a bit, which seemed to amuse him.

He opened the folder and scanned down the top page. “You were very thorough. I found your description of the swaying wind funnels very poetic.” He tossed her report back onto the desk. “But that’s not why I hired you. You’re here because I need you to help me figure out who is behind my cousin’s odd behavior.”

“You make it sound like a conspiracy.”

His icy blue eyes went completely cold. “Last month, another cousin of mine went berserk while on visit to our New York City office. The resulting magical catastrophe destroyed most of a city block.”

“I thought that was a bomb.”

The footage had made national news. Shattered glass, warped steel, concrete crumbs…a graveyard of dead bodies. Compared to that, Wednesday’s fiasco at Magical Research Laboratories had been nothing more than a minor skirmish.

“We covered it up,” he admitted. “We couldn’t have the general human population getting riled up into a panic. If they knew that mages were going mad and getting a big boost in power, that would be bad for everyone. New York and San Francisco weren’t isolated incidents. There have also been break-ins at all our other offices across the world. In fact, San Francisco was the last one to be hit. We knew it was coming, and that’s why I came to take over this office for awhile.”

“To bite their heads off and breathe dragon fire?”

“Something like that. But we didn’t consider that the perpetrator would hit the Sausalito facility. Anything of real magical significance is kept here, not there.”

“You think that whoever is responsible for this is trying to steal something from you?”

“Yes. We just don’t know what. All those break-ins at all those different offices—yet nothing was stolen. Not the centuries-old magic blizzard staff. Not the fire diamond necklace. Not the summoning tiara. Whoever is hitting us, they’re looking for something very specific. And they’ve figured out how to bypass our facilities’ security measures.”

“What kind of security measures are we talking about?”

“Poisonous firefly swarms. Modulating elemental cannons. Hallucinogenic fog.”

In other words, the best security an abundance of money and magic could buy.

“I see two possibilities,” she said. “One, we’re talking about a very powerful mage or group of mages.”

He shook his head. “I designed our security. No one could break through it. I don’t care how powerful he—” He dipped his chin to her. “—or she is.”

“Nothing is foolproof.”

“My system is.”

Right. Ok, then. “That leaves option number two: it was an inside job.”

His whole body went rigid. He looked like he could have chewed rocks with that jaw. “The only ones with the necessary access to bypass the security are my own family. I coded their magic into the system—and only their magic. They can turn off the security system by performing a secret sequence of spells. Even if someone else knew the spells, they couldn’t get through.”

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