Mercenary Magic Page 40

“He said he played with tanks.”

Callum snorted. “That’s one way to put it. Or they played with him. Suffice it to say, he never got to drive any of the tanks.”

“Doesn’t driving a tank require special training?” Sera said.

“Which they didn’t want to give me,” Kai told her.

“Why not?”

“They kept me pretty busy running simulations.”

“Like war games and such?”

“Not exactly. They told me to shift into a dragon and then had the tanks shoot all kinds of weird shit at me.”

Sera opened her mouth to say something, but it took a few seconds for words to come out. “What happened?”

He shrugged. “Not much. Most of it just kind of tickled.”

“Tanks shot at you, and it ‘just kind of tickled’?”

“Yes.”

Wow. Dragons were supposed to be pretty resilient to most magic you could throw at them, but that was magic. And he was talking about ammunition shot out of a tank.

“They tried a few nastier things, and those hurt,” he continued. “One of them really hurt, and I got upset.”

“That sounds ominous.”

“I knocked over one of the tanks, and it broke.”

“Tanks don’t just break. They’re pretty everything-proof.”

“Well, they’re not dragon-proof. And most certainly not pissed-off-dragon-proof.”

“Did anyone get hurt?” she asked.

“No, it was remote controlled. But the military wanted me to pay for the tank I broke.”

“And did you?”

“Of course not. Do you have any idea how much a tank costs?”

“A lot?”

“Yes, a lot,” he agreed. “And it was their fault the tank broke. The German and American militaries were working on this big project together. A project that involved shooting KE uranium core bullets at me in dragon form. If they hadn’t gotten that stupid idea into their heads, I never would have broken a tank. Afterwards, they insisted I pay for the American tank I broke. I refused. There was talk of disciplinary action.”

“What did you do?”

“I left. I’d grown pretty tired of their games. In the beginning, it was funny to watch bullets bounce off my scales. I was young and cocky and liked to show off. Well, the novelty quickly wore off, and I realized I had better things to do than be their research pet.”

“Did they still try to make you pay for the tank?” she asked him.

“Yes. They sent my father a bill. He sent them his lawyer. After that, we didn’t hear anything from them again.”

“Hmm,” said Sera. “So what does this have to do with driving a tank?”

“A few months later, I came home to find a tank parked on our lawn,” Kai replied. “It looked familiar.”

“It was the tank he’d broken,” Dal told her.

Sera looked at Kai. “So your dad did pay for it after all?”

“Not exactly.”

“Then what?”

“They gave it to him.”

“For free?”

“In exchange for towing it off. It was blocking a good portion of one of the fields, and they couldn’t get it out of the mud.”

Sera snorted. “You knocked a tank into the mud?” It was almost as funny as it was blood-curdling scary. Kai knocked over tanks like they were little toy cars. “And how did your dad get it out?”

“He brought along a few dozen telekinetics. They lifted the tank out of the mud, then my father towed it away. He had it restored and gave it to me for my birthday.”

“Your dad…gave you a tank for your birthday?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“It was my parents’ way of getting me to come visit them more often. They knew I’d always wanted to drive a tank, and they had plenty of space on their property for me to do that.”

“That’s… It’s just crazy,” Sera said.

“Is it?”

“Yes. It is. Most people get things like books or clothes or gift cards for their birthday. You got a freaking tank.”

“I see.” He seemed to mull that over for awhile. Or maybe he was just contemplating how best to squeeze between the minivan and the Mini in front of him. “Do you like gift cards?” he finally asked.

“Not really. You can’t usually buy weapons with them. And they’re so impersonal. I wouldn’t say no to a gift card from Wizard House Pizza, though.”

Chuckling, he spun the car into a tight u-turn that knocked Sera against the window. Oxygen fled her lungs like an escaped prisoner flying the coop. Fresh off the spin, the car slid past a pickup truck angling for the last parking spot in sight. To the chorus of angry honks, Sera, Kai, and the commandos jumped out of the car.

“There!” Tony shouted over the wind, pointing to the ferry peeling away from the pier.

Sera ran all out, darting between tourists. The wind beat at her face, salting her tongue and chilling her skin. Kai and his team matched her stride for stride.

They were too late.

The ferry was gone, too far away for them to make a jump for it. Without stopping, Kai changed directions, angling for a row of motorboats. He hopped into a bright yellow one, and the commandos followed. Sera slowed but did the same.

“Don’t tell me you have a boat at every dock in the area,” she said as the motorboat zoomed off.

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