Jessie reached up and tapped her earpiece, “West Team Leader, this is Watcher Gamma. Do you read? Over.”
“Gamma, this is West Team Leader! Good to hear from you. We were getting worried over here. A white van went through the west entrance about 25 minutes ago. They should have reached your position 10 minutes ago. Do you have a visual on that? Over.”
“Yes, I have a visual. I tried to call it in earlier, but I couldn’t raise you. I also have confirmation it’s the Sorcerers. Four people, three men and a woman. One of them is down. At least one is using sap, and one is an Enchanted of unknown type. He looks funny and he can throw some sort of black cloud that seems dangerous. I recommend against close quarters engagement. I’m attempting to subdue the active targets, but he was a bit of a bump in my plans. Is the flying team inbound? Over.”
“They’re probably there already. It’s been quit here. We thought there was a pretty good chance the van was our target so we dispatched the fliers about 5 minutes after they passed us. Over.”
Jessie nodded, even though the west team leader couldn’t see her. “That’s good. I’m going to get back into the action, but I’ll try to link up with the fliers. Jessie out.”
“I’ll let them know. West team leader out.”
For a moment, Jessie sat in the silence of the forest, enjoying the warmth of her healing spell, and not wanting to move. If she was going back into the fight she’d need the combat magic again and all of the cat-in-a-world-of-mice madness that came with it. That wouldn’t feel bad. Heck, it would feel great, but she didn’t enjoy stepping off the edge of sanity like that.
She considered just staying herself and walking back through the forest. By the time she got to the road the fight would probably be done, and she could stay herself. The problem with that plan was she needed to make a good showing tonight. She was trying to make a name for herself as an IP Bounty Hunter. It was one of the few professions open to an Enchanted with half a degree, no significant work experience, and high level contacts in the magic industry. Going radio silent then getting lost wouldn’t do that. She reminded herself it also wouldn’t help the team much; lately she’d ignored that side of things a little too much.
It won’t be so bad, she told herself. It wasn’t a lie. The madness didn’t kick in the instant she activated the spell. It needed time to mess up her thinking. She wouldn’t have been so far gone earlier if she hadn’t been sitting in that tree on stakeout since a little before sunset. The remainder of the fight should be over in minutes and then she could purge the magic, and the crazy from her system.
She gritted her teeth and summoned up the spell again. Unlike the healing, or any other spell in her DNA, this one seemed to rest on top of the stack naturally. It had a sort of eagerness to it, and came the instant she summoned it. Strength flooded her body, time seemed to slow, and she felt more stable on her feet and aware of her balance. Her senses didn’t really change, but it was like they were wired deeper into her brain. She could understand things she only sort of smelled before. The shadows and shifting shapes of darkness in the forest made a pattern that was connected to the trees casting them, a pattern she could read.
Without really looking she leapt to a low branch in a nearby tree, then jumped from branch to branch up through it’s canopy until her head poked out the top of the follige and she could feel the tree swaying in the slight breeze. As she had hoped, from this position she could see two sparks of flame in the forest. Around one, there were other whiter lights that flickered in and out of the trees. She presumed those were flashlights and the flying team had engaged one of the sorcerers. If so, it was likely Leader Dude. That action was taking place near the road and that’s where she had left him.
The other flame was deeper into the forest, and appeared to be alone. That made Jessie wonder what had happened. Had Sorority Girl decided to run for it? Well, maybe, that wouldn’t have been a bad move on her part.
Jessie didn’t see any hint of Hoodie. No surprize there, he hadn’t turned himself into a beacon. She was tempted to descend to the forest floor so he couldn’t shoot her out of another tree, but she decided against it. She’d lose track of the other sorcerers if she did that. Instead, she scanned the ground around the next tree over, then jumped to another high branch on it, where she hoped his spell wouldn’t reach. Repeating that procedure each time slowed her progress considerably, and she never did spot the Enchanted, but it didn’t matter. She still moved in a straight line at nearly the speed of a runner, and that was enough to catch up to the last sorcerer in minutes.
Once she was close, she descended the tree she was in making as little noise as possible. She was stealthy enough- the sorcerer below didn’t react. It was the young woman Jessie had mentally dubbed Sorority Girl. She wasn’t being attacked, but she didn’t seem to be running either. She looked lost. She stood in a small clearing in the forest, wrapped in flame, squinting at the darkness with a confused look on her face.
Jessie tried to figure out how to subdue her. If the flame around her had been normal, it wouldn’t have made for a good shield. Jessie figured she could probably pass one of her needles through it fast enough to keep much heat from transferring to the needle or her hand. But the flame wasn’t normal by any means, and thermodynamics had probably taken enough of a beating from the active magic that the needle and her hand would pick up plenty of heat.
Still, that was a theory Jessie could test. She dropped from the tree she was in. Then, running crouched low, and keeping to the shadows, Jessie circled around behind Sorority. Once there, she picked up a fairly sturdy looking stick, darted forward, and whacked the woman across the back with it.
It was not very effective.
All of the flames around Sorority dimmed for an instant, except the for the area the stick was attempting to pass through. That flared to such a brilliant intensity it looked like an electrical arc. The heat was enough to burn through the stick in an instant and if anything got to Sorority it was just some ash.
Blinded by the flash, and slightly unsteady because she had braced against a blow that never landed, Jessie stumbled. With her enhanced reflexes it was nothing more than a slight flat footed moment, but it kept her in place long enough for Sorority to spin around. Fortunately for Jessie the other woman was apparently left just a little flat footed by what she saw.
“What the hell? Are you suppose to be some sort of ninja?”