This entry contains discussions, mentions, and descriptions of dark and triggering topics such as firearm usage, violence, and death.
Reader discretion advised.
Outside the arena – 2:37
Gavin kept low, ducking behind parked vehicles as he led the way across the lot. He did not slow until his back was pressed against a standalone building that faced the arena’s entrance. A swift glance back the way he came confirmed two facts: the first was that Gabby and Tripp had followed close enough that both were visible, yet far enough apart that they could go unnoticed in the shadows.
The second was that Lizzie, who had always made a point to look out for her friends, was nowhere in sight. She did not follow them, nor was she peeking out from behind the far building. The human had watched him walk away and let him go without even an utterance in protest.
His heart sank at the thought. She really doesn’t love me.
Don’t be an idiot! Gabby snapped within his mind. While his baby sister had always seemed to know what he was thinking growing up, it was a considerably different experience to have her actually in his head. She does love you, Gav–just not the way she loves Monty.
The young demon bristled at the mention of the Jovian prince. Monty Alagona II, prince of the angels that protected their home colony. Everything in Gavin’s life took a turn the moment that man took the throne. His very existence reminded Lizzie of the world beyond their borders, dredging up memories of her horrific childhood, memories the teenager had fought to protect her from.
Rumors had circulated the school back when the former bandit had first enrolled. No one had known the extent of her involvement with the merciless scavengers that threatened their livelihood, but one thing was for certain: the gossip chain left her without friends, sitting alone at lunch day after day. It took months for him to work up the courage to walk up to her, and once he’d managed that, the best he could do was blurt out the first thing that came to mind and ask her to join him and his friends for lunch. He could still see the poignant look in her eyes; she had always looked dejected, as if battling inner demons at every step.
Then she would fix her earthy gaze on someone, and the maroon in her russet irises would shine like flames devouring dead wood. There was a fire within her, one that refused to go out, and Gavin found that that spark was what drew him to her.
There were very few times when he thought the fire in her eyes might extinguish… And when her eyes fell on him last and took in his apprehension to answer, he saw through Gabby’s eyes the thing he feared most.
The fire in her eyes nearly died, and it would have been all his fault.
I just don’t understand how I could have made her feel so sad, he sighed softly, only vaguely aware that Kent was no longer included in their link.
You guys said you were her first friends in the colony, right? asked Tripp as he slunked behind cars, nearly five meters from where Gavin and his sister stood. Those platonic feelings probably persisted after she reconnected with Monty and they started dating. Plus, Benji confirmed that she and Monty are meant to be soul mates. If she had a romantic attachment to you at some point, those feelings would be dwarfed by whatever she has with him.
Gavin gritted his teeth and fought the urge to let out a groan. What’s that got to do with me making her sad?
The porter had reached them by that point, glancing around with an alertness Gavin couldn’t manage at that moment. I’m trying to say that, because she sees you as a friend regardless of her dormant romantic interest in you, she’ll see your admission of romantic feelings for her as a betrayal to your friendship. You’ve both had these feelings for one another, and neither one of you has acted on them, kind of like you guys had some sort of unspoken agreement to leave those feelings alone. When you admitted to having a crush on her, you broke that agreement, and now instead of, ‘Gavin? He’s just a friend!’ you’ve become, “oh, Gavin… It’s complicated.”
Gavin stared incredulously at his superior. As the only unranked member of the trio, he had to default to them when it came to orders and opinions. That didn’t stop him from speaking frankly toward either one–Gabby was his little sister, and Tripp his roommate and friend.
Since when are you an expert on love? You haven’t even met your soul mate yet!
Tripp shrugged. I will… Soon. I can feel it.
Hey, guys? Gabby spoke up through their mental link. Kent says he and the girls are waiting on us to make the first move. As soon as I let him know we’re inside the arena, they’re gonna storm the hotel.
Her brother let out another sigh and nodded, steeling his nerves. Alright… Ready when you are.
The Moore siblings stood on either side of their tribe’s teleporter, each demon placing a hand on his shoulder. Tripp’s eyes glowed red as his ability activated, and Gavin watched as orange flames sprung out all around them, gently licking their legs and arms without setting fire to their clothing.
Get ready! Tripp told them.
The flames dissipated, and Tripp shoved the younger teenagers aside just as the bandits opened fire on them.
The porter had disappeared in another blaze of orange before reappearing elsewhere in the circular stadium, knocking out a bandit with a punch while setting fire to the surrounding seats. I’m okay! Just stick to the mission.
Right! Gabby needed little prompting; her eyes retained their violet glow as she focused on the far-off exits. Pink flames erupted at each set of doors, blocking their escape.
Not one to be outdone, Gavin summoned reddish flames in the palms of his hands before aiming them at the first row of seats. His fire wasn’t as wild as that of his comrades, but the energy needed to forgo what little restraint he had was laughably miniscule, and for the first time since his recruitment, the demon was grateful for his poor self-control.
He and Gabby jumped and rolled and danced around what appeared to be an indoor basketball court, while their teleporter set fires here and there. It was only after three minutes of this that Gabby reported:
Gavin ran to the center of the court to meet her, reaching his sister just as Tripp appeared beside them. He clapped his hand on Tripp’s right shoulder, and Gabby took the porter’s left hand before orange flames surrounded them once more. Gavin gave the arena a final once over as his sight was overtaken by orange; the seats and the majority of the bandits were reduced to ash, devoured by a raging inferno of pink, orange, and red.
When Tripp’s flames dissipated once again, they found themselves right outside the entrance to the hotel. Gavin frowned, and was about to ask why they weren’t already across the street when Gabby’s voice breached his thoughts.
Shit! Clyde’s watching from a window on the top floor. We won’t be able to get across without getting shot.
Gavin’s eyes passed over the vacant lot across the way. There was little to no cover for them aside from a measly little tree and a couple of stacks of bricks that would maybe reach as high as his waist. He cursed their luck.
If you know where he is, then can’t you just set fire to that spot with your mind? he asked her. Or better yet, why don’t you attack him with that freaky psychic attack of yours? That should put him out of commission long enough for us to run across and set fire to the grass along the gate. We can use the fire as cover–
Gabby shook her head. No! I can’t just set fires randomly! I need to see my target in order to set it on fire. The same goes for my psionic attack.
He rubbed the back of his neck as his hazel eyes passed over the surrounding area. He had forgotten that his sister relied on her sight to set fires–the rest of them seemed to rely on instinct and gestures, though having the enemy in their sights certainly helped with accuracy. I don’t know what we’re gonna do, then–
A flurry of movement in the building behind the lot they had their sights on caught his eye. A figure in the shadows, disappearing into a door so quickly that he couldn’t discern much, especially from that distance. Guys? Did you see tha–?
An explosion sounded above their heads, and the building behind them shook violently from the impact. Gavin wrapped his arms around his sister protectively just as Tripp teleported the three of them inside the dark hotel lobby. They watched as shards of glass, chunks of bricks, and other debris rained down on the spot they had just vacated.
“What the hell was that?!” demanded Gavin.
“There was an explosion on the top floor,” Gabby whispered, her face scrunched in confusion. “But–but there was no one there but Clyde. The others are still climbing the steps–they’re only four floors away from him.”
“Is he alive–?” her brother began to ask, only for the psychic to cut him off.
“Yes, he’s alive, and he’s considering retreating to the stairs. I’m gonna give him a reason to meet them there,” she declared, her expression suddenly filled with determination. Then Gabby took a deep breath and addressed the young men. “Gav, run up as fast as you can and meet them. Tripp, port me to the lot really quick so I can set fire to Clyde’s floor. The sooner we flush him out, the sooner we can join our friends.”
The porter nodded dutifully and took her hand in his, teleporting them across the street. Gavin cursed under his breath and found the door that led to the stairway using a flame in his palm as a source of light, and he utilized his demon speed to sprint up the steps faster than ever before. He had no clue who he saw in the building behind the lot, nor what their goal was, but one thing was for certain: the explosion was no coincidence.
He passed the sign informing him that he was on the fifth floor, and he pushed forward still. He passed the tenth floor, then the twelfth–
How many fuckin’ floors does this stupid hotel have? he sneered.
He hadn’t realized he had asked this through their mental link until his sister shouted: FIFTEENTH FLOOR!
Gavin skidded to a stop by the sign he nearly passed that told him he was on the right floor. He barged in just as another explosion rocked the building, nearly throwing him off his feet.
Even in the dark, he could tell how dingy the hallway was. Dust particulates rained down from the ceiling as the building settled in the aftermath of the explosion. He sniffed, his nose wrinkling at the blend of scents that flooded his nostrils. He smelled musty old carpet, gunpowder, and, much to his despair, blood.
He had only a few doors left to go when another explosion shook the building–this one much more powerful, actually knocking him on his ass.
That’s when he heard it–he heard her scream, her tone insistent as she cried out in a desperate plea:
His heart dropped as he recognized the owner of the voice, and he sprung back into action. Hopping onto his feet, Gavin kicked in the next door and saw her on the floor, crawling backwards away from a tall, menacing-looking bandit. She nearly fell backward into a pit that had opened up, presumably from the final explosion. Her eyes were wide with loathing as she glared up at the man before her, focused on his grinning face instead of the gun in his hands that was aimed for her head.
There was fire everywhere–Kent, Tripp, and Gabby were nearby, knocked unconscious from the previous blast. Their respective blue, orange, and pink flames encircled them, the pit, Clyde–
As Gavin willed the flames to let him pass unharmed, his eyes caught sight of the other human. Her right arm was limp by her side, and she bled profusely from several bullet wounds. That didn’t seem to stop her from pushing herself off the floor with unsteady legs, a dagger held in her left hand.
He locked eyes with her for the briefest of moments, the shortest of milliseconds. She gave him a single nod, and the two of them sprung toward the man and woman by the pit. Clyde saw him as he vaulted over the wall of flames, and his aim adjusted to fire at the demon…
She rushed him, jamming her knife into his side just as Gavin tackled her sister. The two of them rolled out of the way, and he was certain that the other Peters girl was taking advantage of his opening to kick her uncle over the edge and into the pit–
Instead, he watched as Clyde grappled with her long enough to retrieve the knife from his side and stab into the side of her neck. The choking gasp that escaped her lips was haunting, and Gavin let out a roar as the fire died in her russet eyes.
Then the bandit yanked the blade from her neck and shoved her into the pit, and Gavin hadn’t even realized that his own red flames had joined the surrounding barrier as one of the other demons dove into the pit after her. He raised his left hand to the bandit, prepared to rain hell on them.
But Clyde moved with swift precision, backing away from the pit just as he shot off several rounds. Gavin didn’t even realize he was hit until he began to burn from the inside, the source of his pain stemming from two new holes in his torso.
The force of the gunshots sent him flying backward into a wall, hitting his head so that he crumpled to the floor and succumbed to the darkness.