Devil’s Den was a city that never slept. Yet, an eerie silence infiltrated the heart of the district and stole away its vitality. It reminded Zoya of a holoscreen placed on pause. No one and nothing moved. Everything hung suspended in mid-animation, like an indefinite glitch in the pocket of time. The wrongness of it all poked at Zoya’s intuition.
She took off running full speed. As she scaled fire escapes and glided across rooftops with feather-light footsteps, she felt an electrical current building around her. Static pulled at her clothes and crawled all over her skin, calling to the magic in her veins and urging her to increase her speed. Every being of magic had a signature unique only to them, much like a fingerprint. After years of training together, Zoya could identify any of her teammate’s magic with ease. The strength of the electrical current in the air meant Triton and Kaz were doing exactly what she told them to do. Zoya hopped down from crumbling brick building leaning partially towards the right, to the dim alley below. At the edge of the alley, she peeked around the corner, assessing the scene.
Her Second and Third in command stood back to back, surrounded by five very pissed off bounty hunters. A comm satellite lay fallen on its side amid shattered glass and chunks of asphalt, along with several bent lamp posts. Most odd, though, was the giant black cloud swirling above them. Kaz, Triton’s support and anchor, remained by his side, muscles tense and steady as a rock.
Zoya pressed the button on her earpiece. “What’s it look like up there, Surge?”
Surge’s words crackled through Zoya’s earpiece. “About five more hunters popped up on my radar. Must’ve been shielding themselves to get the drop on us. We’ve done a good job of keeping them scattered, but it didn’t take them long to figure out which of us was the biggest threat. Now they’ve redirected their attack to Kaz and Triton. Too bad the safety in numbers tactic is useless against those two. If it were me—” Zoya didn’t hear the rest.
Like a hammer striking an anvil, an invisible force rocked her back on her heels, stealing the breath from her lungs. Then gravity reversed, lifting her body from the ground. Anything untethered to the earth, including bits of dirt, glass, the demolished satellite and its lamp post sidekicks, rose into the air like phantoms. Meanwhile, Triton continued to gather energy to himself. Time seemed to stop as his fingers curled into fists in the air.
“Triton!” She yelled. “I want them incapacitated! Not dead!”
The slight tilt of his head and a single twitch of his pointed ears was the only sign that he heard her command. His hand slashed through the air, releasing enough energy to flatten every single bounty hunter. Their faces twisted in wordless cries as their bodies hit pavement.
“What was that about?” Zoya stalked over to Triton. He shrugged his shoulders in a way that felt to Zoya like swatting at a fly.
“You told me not to hold back. I only followed orders.”
“I wanted them out of our way. I didn’t want you to attempt a full scale demolition.”
“Haven’t you noticed? This place is one huge trash can.”
“People live here, Triton. Yes, it’s true some of the worst criminals are here, but there are innocents among them. An extra rank on our arm isn’t worth the collateral. I’m surprised that you didn’t take this into consideration. That’s not like you.”
“You’re right, Zee. I got a little carried away. I’m sorry.”
Though she outranked him, Triton never gave up a chance to challenge her authority. Whenever she said up, he said down. When she wanted to stay, he always wanted to go. She often wondered if he simply enjoyed being contradictory. And yet, this time he admitted defeat so easily. Zoya looked at her first love, noting the exhaustion in his eyes, the way he swayed on his feet. Maybe she could yell at him later when sleep deprivation wasn’t an issue.
“C’mon,” she said. “Let’s go get our target.”
Triton started to follow. Then he hesitated mid-stride. “Wait. Why doesn’t Kaz get scolded?”
Zoya turned to Kaz, noticed his shuttered expression, and figured it wasn’t worth it. “Because I don’t want to repeat myself.”