This entry contains discussions, mentions, and descriptions of dark and triggering topics such as firearm usage, violence, animal attacks, and death.
Reader discretion advised.
Nashville, TN – 2:21
The mission was going downhill fast.
The scouts and captives caught just beyond the northeastern and northwestern borders of Nashville were all slain by the ambushing bandits. The other lookouts all made it fifteen miles outside their temporary camp before the enemy, who had driven straight through Nashville, cut them off at its southernmost point, mowing them down with heavy artillery. With them in the way, Cienna had no clear path to bring the captive humans and thus had to abandon her part of the mission. Christian had taken most of the freed colonists to Atlanta before retrieving Tawni from Savannah, but even the tech whiz couldn’t do more than give them an estimate on the number of bandits in the area before sabotaging their communications. The Nashville squad was down to thirty-three scouts, and they had only rescued twenty-five humans. Any sane leader would have declared the mission a bust, and Monty could tell that Benji would have ordered everyone to fall back if they could.
But Benji was not the leader, and they were not responsible for the lives of the humans still captive within the bandit market… So, Monty instigated a change in plans.
“This is fuckin’ suicide,” Connor grumbled as he placed a hand on one of Chris Sr.’s outstretched arms.
Monty let out a humorless chuckle. “Better to die a hero, right?”
“This wouldn’t make you a hero, it’d make you stupid.”
The prince shrugged half-heartedly as he placed one of his own hands on the teleporter, and he glanced over his shoulder to Cienna, Tawni, the remaining scouts, and the humans they had already rescued. “You sure you got this?”
The fairy cocked an eyebrow at her leader and threw back a mischievous smirk. “I’ve waited my whole life for this moment–there’s no way in hell you’re taking it from me.”
“Can’t argue with that,” he simpered, his eyes passing over the faces of the scouts until he found Maggie and Hank. Maggie nodded as she emerged from the group and planted herself beside Cienna, her deep blue curls bouncing along with her movements. Hank was pocketing a couple of extra clips, but he managed to glance up long enough to address the prince.
“Don’t you go dyin’ now–Liz’ll kill us if you do.”
His remark actually made the angels snicker; they had all seen the former bandit angry, and none wished to invoke her wrath. “You got it, bro. See you soon.”
Lightning parted the storm clouds above and struck the porter and, for a split second, all Monty and his comrades could see was white.
When the light dissipated, Monty blinked and found himself standing before an enormous building with too many windows to count. It seemed to have metal external fixtures in conjunction with its concrete build, and the prince had trouble telling the doors from their adjacent glass walls through the locked chain-link fences that barred the use of the east entrance.
The spirits–Monty, Frankie, Connor, Alexa, Cooper, Tony, Cameron, Aldo, and Benji–all released their hold on Christian, who dropped his arms and let out a sigh.
“Well, at least the stadium doesn’t have a roof,” he muttered. While his son had taught himself how to teleport indoors, that maneuver was still impossible for the elder angel. His eyes shone a bright candy red as he readied his ability, but Alexa stopped him with a raised hand and a mental link with every spirit there.
I can hear at least four bandits watching the remaining hostages, and I doubt they’re unarmed. You’re going to want to bring some backup.
Christian smirked and held his hands out to his cousin and best friend, gesturing for both men to join him. C’mon, old fucks. Let the kids stand watch.
Cameron rolled his eyes and pulled his gun from his hip holster. Fine. Just don’t tell Yavi about this–you know how he freaks out.
No one’s going to snitch to your husband, Aldo smiled and smacked his hand down onto Christian’s shoulder; the porter grimaced and stifled a groan. And if anyone should tell him, it’s you, Cam.
No, thanks. I enjoy living. With that last quip, the youngest member of the Council of Elders took the porter’s hand in his, and the three men disappeared with a thunderous crash of electricity.
You don’t have to keep us connected, Alexa, Monty pointed out. But keep tabs on all of us, and give us regular updates.
The psychic gulped. You know, bandits are technically humans…
The prince frowned. It can’t be helped–you have to protect us and yourself. Attack them with everything you have… Even that.
Alexa nodded, her gaze averted. Monty was referring to her psychic attack; it was a psionic assault in which the psychic manipulated their target into believing that they were experiencing a horrific accident or injury. The council’s journals told of some of the special attacks held by the other mindreaders; the Selenite psychic, for instance, made their target experience drowning, while Gabby was supposed to trick her targets into thinking they were being burned alive. Alexa’s attack was just as alarming–hers was meant to simulate electrocution.
“Let’s spread out,” Monty whispered, indicating that their mental link should end for the time being. His subordinates did as they were told; Connor trudged off to the right with Cooper and Alexa in tow, and Frankie and Tony swapped uneasy glances before heading off to the left. Benji was about to follow them when the demon hesitated before the prince.
“Lizzie isn’t the one that Dane’s after.”
Monty frowned. “You basically admitted that she’s meant to be recruited by him. How is she not who he’s after?”
They frowned and scratched the side of their head through their beanie. “I don’t know. Something’s going on… Something he hasn’t told us. He recognized her and admitted that she’s important, but I get the feeling that the person he’s looking for is on a whole different level.”
The prince threw his hands up, defeated. “Jeez, enough with this cryptic-ass wording. Who the hell is he looking for?!”
Benji shrugged. “I don’t know… None of us have seen anyone else with the potential to be awakened, and he hasn’t given any indication that he has, either…”
The young demon’s words trailed off, and they shook off their own indecision. “Never mind all that. Just stay safe. Liz is like a second big sis to me, and your dying would make her sad, so… Don’t do that.”
Monty scoffed. “Don’t die?”
The Phebean looked the Jovian dead-on, their hazel eyes mimicking the shade of dark wood. “Don’t make her sad.”
Then they jogged after the royal advisor, leaving Monty to mull over the demon’s words.
Almost four minutes had passed before he caught sight of the first truck. Several bandits had piled onto the bed of a pickup that was racing across the wide parking lot, and every one of them appeared to be armed.
Monty huffed out a sigh. He was leaning against the edge of a red wall, tossing his hunting knife high into the air and catching it with barely a glance. His emerald eyes were mostly fixated on the oncoming vehicle and its rowdy occupants. He could hear their hollering over the booming thunder that emanated from Christian’s lightning as he busied himself with retrieving the remaining captives. He could feel their glares through the dirt-covered windshield and heard their cackling laughter when they saw that he was only one person.
We’re ready for you.
The truck veered right to avoid a tree and two wavy bike racks when the gate to Monty’s left burst open with the loud trumpeting of an enraged elephant. Nirvaan trampled the steel barrier, marched full-speed across the street, and bowed his head in time as he collided head-on with the truck’s grill. He lifted his massive head until its front wheels were several feet off the ground, knocking at least half a dozen bandits off the vehicle’s bed.
Nirvaan had chucked the front half of the truck off to one side, disorienting the driver and passengers, by the time Dymas and the Savannah Sounder bolted out of the gate and joined the party.
The cougar had rounded the elephant and the truck before the enemy had recovered from Nirvaan’s frontal assault. He tackled one man, mauling his face with his sizeable claws and intimidating fangs, and the boars got to work on all the bandits still on their feet. Caesarina, the sounder’s matriarch and largest member, charged into the fray, leading Marchesa, Contessa, and Baronessa, her smallest sisters. Regina opted to jump off the ground and onto the truck bed, forcing multiple startled bandits to fall over the side of the bed’s walls. The remaining boars continued to wreak havoc while Nirvaan proceeded to lift himself onto his hind legs and crash his front feet down onto the hood repeatedly, wrecking their escape.
The sight brought a smug grin to Monty’s lips. It’s almost like they don’t like being hunted.
A few of his prey managed to escape the wrath of his animals and took off on foot, heading north. He cocked an eyebrow, amused. Duchessa, Principessa–don’t let them get away.
His two fastest boars tore themselves away from the slaughter to chase down the runners. The men only made it a few meters before they were knocked down by the feral pigs. They stomped their hooves and waved their tusks around, leaving deep gashes in the arms of the bandits, all of which were raised in hopes of fending off the boars’ aggression.
Several shots rang out, and Duchessa let out a blood-curdling squeal just as she melted, leaving the two bandits beneath her screaming and covered in black ink. Her energy reverted back into Monty; he scowled at the passenger side of the truck and pulled his gun from its holster, training it on the man who had killed his creation.
That was my pig, you asshole.
POW! He pulled the trigger, sending a bullet through the open window and into the bandit’s right shoulder. He shouted a slew of curses, and by the way his expression had contorted in pain, Monty was certain that the gruff man would have dropped his weapon.
He was more than a little taken aback when the bandit raised his rifle again–this time, aiming for Monty’s head.
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