Mercenary Magic Page 41

“No, of course not. That would be excessive.”

Yeah, and having a car in every garage in the city is not excessive?

“We’re just borrowing it for a short while.”

“How often do you just ‘borrow’ things? And how often do those things survive to be returned to their unsuspecting owner?”

“Usually. I’m very careful. I hardly ever break anything.”

She gave him a hard look. “You broke a military tank. And I don’t think you can simply order this floating banana out of a catalogue.”

The commandos snickered.

“Watch your angle,” Kai chided Callum, who was driving the boat. “And hurry up. They’re almost to the island.” He turned toward Sera. “Let’s worry about catching those remote-controlled mages for now. Later, we can deal with bribing owners of floating bananas.”

Sera nodded. The tour boat had reached Alcatraz. She could feel Harrison and Olivia on the island. She could feel other mages too—a lot of them. And every single one of them had that same bizarre magic. The mage zombies had taken over Alcatraz.

CHAPTER TWENTY

Alcatraz

AS THEIR BOAT pulled up to the dock, passengers were still filing off the ferry. A monstrosity of a building loomed over them, its dirty concrete walls bleeding rust. There was not a mage in sight, crazy or otherwise.

“That way,” Kai said, pointing up the hill at the old cell house.

Sera felt it too. The mages were gathering. There were so many of them. Dozens and dozens. Their mad magic sang out, broadcasting their location to every corner of the island, like a lighthouse in a storm. Finding them wouldn’t be a problem. It’s what would happen after they found them that Sera was worried about. Even a dragon couldn’t handle that many mages at once.

“We need a plan,” Sera told Kai as she jogged up the hill beside him.

“I always have a plan.” There was something foreboding in those eyes.

“Turning into a dragon and stepping on them all is not a plan.”

“Sure it is. In fact, it’s a damn good plan.”

“What if the ceiling is too low to shift into a dragon?”

“I’ll shift into a smaller dragon,” he said. “Or cast some other sort of magic. The Storm of the Four Elements is very effective against multiple targets.”

Yeah, and effective at bringing down the ceiling on us, she thought. “Harrison and Olivia just got here, but I’ll bet most of the mages have been here for awhile.”

“How do you know?”

“They… Well, their…”

“You felt the stale magic at the docks, didn’t you?”

“Yes.” That single word scraped against her tongue like a razor. She’d spent two decades keeping her mouth shut about her magic, and now she was deciphering magic tracks with a member of the Magic Council. Had Dad still been alive, he’d have already told her off fifty times over in that cool, calm voice that was so much worse than shouting. She shouldn’t even be hanging around Kai.

“There are a few magic trails, mostly between three and five hours old,” he said.

“That’s long enough for them to have set up some defenses. What if they’ve booby-trapped their gathering space with magic that goes boom when we enter?”

“I don’t think they’re expecting company. Harrison and Olivia were obviously trying something with the Priming Bangles when we cornered them and they ran off here to join the rest of their cult. Whatever they have planned, it’s probably not ready.”

“Cult? Is that what you think it is?”

“Mages spontaneously getting more powerful and acting completely out of character,” he said. “It sure has the makings of a bizarre cult, don’t you think?”

“I suppose.” Sera had no experience dealing with supernatural cults, just that one magic-drunk mage and a whole lot of regular supernaturals who were more than enough trouble as it was. “But they could still have defenses in place.”

“My team has a lot of experience dealing with magical defenses.”

She glanced sidelong at him. “You have an answer for everything, don’t you?”

“Of course,” he said, and climbed over a ‘Closed for Renovations’ sign to enter the old cell house.

Sera followed, and as she entered a cell block, the three commandos passed in front of her and Kai, presumably to put their ‘experience dealing with magical defenses’ to good use. She looked up at the levels of cells that stretched across either side of the cavernous room. She felt at the same time both very small and very claustrophobic. Alcatraz had once been a prison for the nastiest sort of supernatural criminals. The bars in this cellblock were made of iron, which bounced and bent magic like a room full of mirrors. The magical vibrations were giving Sera a migraine.

“…in the basement,” Kai was telling the others.

Purple and yellow spots danced in front of her eyes. Heavy, resounding beats tore through her ears. Her skin was hot and sticky with sweat, and her stomach churned like the water beneath a budding hurricane. She stumbled forward and threw up all of her lunch.

“Sera?” Kai reached out and caught her as she swayed.

She couldn’t speak. She couldn’t even stand. Her head felt like it was stuck inside of a trash compactor.

“Block it out,” his deep voice said over the pounding beat.

“Don’t…know…how…” she croaked. Her mouth burned with acid. Her whole body was burning.

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