Mercenary Magic Page 22

“So what did you do? In the military, I mean.”

“Let’s just say I played with tanks.”

‘Played with tanks’? Yeah, she could totally see that. It fit Kai to a t. Hard-headed. Indestructible. Powerful. A few years ago, there’d been a weapons manufacturer who figured out how to load magically-enchanted ammunition into tanks. It took only one demonstration for all the world’s governments to agree on something for a change. Within minutes, there was a worldwide ban on any and all magic ammunition. That didn’t mean there wasn’t a black market for the stuff, but it was really expensive. And if its price tag wasn’t enough to deter most buyers, fear was enough to deter the sellers. The Magic Council frowned upon the sale of unlicensed magic. And you really didn’t want the Magic Council to ever frown at you.

Sera stood. “Ok, if the glyphs are out, then we’ll have to walk it.”

“You want to walk all the way back? That will take hours.”

“Well, what do you want to do? Hitchhike?”

“Walking is not necessary. Nor is hitchhiking. Follow me.”

He didn’t wait for her to say anything. He just started power-walking down the trail, and Sera had to scramble to catch up. They followed the path to its end, where it spilled out into an open lot bordered on one side by a long brick building. He hurried past the building toward a concrete box that hadn’t yet decided if it wanted to be a house or a shed. Inside, he swiped a card through the reader beside the door, then they took the staircase down a level to an underground garage.

The garage could comfortably park twenty cars, but most of the spaces were empty. Two sports cars—one red, one yellow, both egregiously expensive—were parked side-by-side at one end. There was a humble silver minivan somewhere in the middle of the garage. And parked closest to the stairwell was a black SUV that was pretty sleek considering its aspirations to be a tank. Sera wasn’t surprised when Kai headed straight for it. The car beeped in greeting.

“It’s lucky you happened to park your car right here.”

He opened the passenger door for her. “It’s not luck. This building belongs to me. And I keep a car in the garage of every building that belongs to me.”

Sera climbed up into the car. By the time she had her sword sorted—she didn’t think Kai would appreciate her puncturing his upholstery—he was in the driver’s seat.

“So, just how many buildings in San Francisco belong to you?” she asked as he turned on the engine.

He drove across the garage and sped up the ramp to shoot out onto the street. “A lot.”

And from the look in his eyes, he wasn’t even kidding.


The Priming Bangles

CHAOS REIGNED BACK at Building Six of Magical Research Laboratories. A dozen men in plain black uniforms surveyed the scene, talking into their headsets as they stepped over pulverized concrete. A few of them were clustered around a metal mesh carpet—all that remained of the chain-link fence the telekinetic psychopath had ripped from its posts. As Sera and Kai passed them, she heard them debating what they were going to do about it. Maybe when Olivia regained her senses, she’d offer to magic the fence back on for them.

Kai stopped in front of the guard standing before the doorway to Building Six. “What happened?” His tone was level, but in his eyes brewed a storm of epic proportions. “Where were you while we were doing your job? Oh, let me introduce you to Sera, the only person right now who’s earning what I’m paying them.”

Since he was clearly having a moment, she didn’t mention that he hadn’t actually paid her anything yet. She did, however, extend her hand to the poor guard he was barbecuing with his glare.

“Sera, this is Dawson,” he continued as Dawson shook her hand. “Now explain why you didn’t come running up the stairs the moment the facility was attacked.”

“We were stuck.”


Dawson had turned a tad green. “Yes. Someone melded shut the door to the guardhouse. It took Gin half an hour to melt a big enough hole in it for us to climb out. By the time we made it upstairs, the fight was over. The mages were gone. And so were you.”

“We fell through some glyphs that transported us to the other side of the bridge,” Sera told him.

He chewed that over for a moment, then said, “I didn’t know that sort of magic exists.”

“Today is a big day for firsts,” Kai cut in. “Like my guards getting themselves locked in. Did you at least see something on the security feeds from there?”

“Yes. After you disappeared, Olivia Sage and several others stepped into Building Six. And then all the feeds went blank.”

Sera looked at Kai. “Just like during all your other break-ins.”

“From the look on your face, I take it they made it past my security measures. What did they steal?” he asked Dawson.

“The Priming Bangles.”

Confusion loosened Kai’s tight jaw, chiseling away at some of his anger. “Why would they steal those?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

“What are Priming Bangles?” Sera asked.

“Two pairs of gold bracelets.”

“And this is what whoever is behind all this was after? This is why they’ve broken into so many of your company’s facilities?”

“I don’t know. The bracelets are pretty. And they’re made with gold, rubies, and sapphires. So they’re quite valuable from monetary perspective,” said Kai. “But they’re not especially magical. Very low grade magic.”

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