Guess which book is coming out this month?
Yup, it’s the penultimate Engineered Rebel book!
I’m super happy with how the end of this series is coming together, and I hope everyone will love these next two books as much as I do.
If you want to catch up on the series first, you can here (and the first book is free), and if you want to check where this book falls in terms of the Snowverse as a whole, you can check out the timeline.
“You know,” Mia muttered as she scoped out the building across the road, “when I said I wanted to be back in the fight, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind…”
Her partner smiled beside her. “Reconnaissance is easily the most boring part of any mission, true, but I don’t feel like dying today.”
“That’s not what I meant, Hell. My issue with being out of the fight wasn’t just that I wanted to be fighting at all. I wanted to be focusing on the Enhanced. Not chasing down a Demon at the behest of another Demon.”
“Isha said that the Enhanced have been bringing more people into the city, so it’s too dangerous to strike right now.”
“And what if those people never leave? What if they bring more? That sounds like more reason to be focused on them, not these rogue Demons.”
Hell didn’t argue, and Mia wasn’t sure if it was because zie thought she was right, or if zie was just sick of going round in circles with her.
“See any guards at the door?” Hell asked.
Mia sighed as she stood up straight. “Two that I can see on infrared. And five further in the building. There’s not a lot of space.”
“So, how do you want to do this?”
“I dampen their powers, then you blast them.”
“So, the usual?”
“Well, it’s been working so far. Why? Up for a change?”
Hell shrugged. “Well, I have figured out how to form wings while otherwise staying in my Human form.”
“And you think that would be helpful in an enclosed building?”
“Well… No. I suppose not. But I do have more powers than just blasting fire, you know.”
Mia smiled before kissing her partner gently on the cheek. “I know. And I promise, the next time I see an opportunity to use your wings, I’ll make sure to factor them into the plan. But for now, I’m going to head down there, dampen those Demons’ powers, and then you should come and fry them to a crisp.”
Hell smiled back. “Okay then.”
Mia headed to the ladder at the side of the roof they were standing on, gliding down it as her gloves kept the friction from destroying her hands.
She then made her way towards the building with purpose, knowing that it was best to barrel through and use her momentum, along with the Demons’ surprise, against them.
She dampened all of the magic in the area just as she made it to the door, before using her superhuman strength to kick it down with ease.
The two Demons beyond instinctively went to blast her with magical energy but found that their magic didn’t answer, which Mia used to her immediate advantage, slamming the Demon directly in front of her into the ground with enough force to ensure that they wouldn’t be getting up soon.
Before she could get to the other one, however, Hell appeared and used zir magic to blast the second Demon, sending them flying.
“Five more, did you say?” Hell asked as Mia smiled.
She loved how well they worked together.
“Yeah, just through here. My dampening should have hit them as well, but stay alert, just in case.”
Hell nodded before following Mia through to the back room.
Only three Demons were waiting for them in the room, but that didn’t slow them down.
Hell blasted the one on their left, just before the one on their right lifted two runes.
Mia recognised one as a source stone – a magical battery of sorts, that would allow the Demon to activate the other rune, even if their own magic was dampened – though she couldn’t name the second rune.
“Get down!” she yelled at Hell, but the second rune was glowing before the words had left her mouth.
Hell’s flames flickered and died, just as they would if Mia had used her dampening on zir.
Mina had said that the Demons here were manufacturing charms that could replicate Enhanced powers, but Mia supposed she hadn’t believed it until that moment.
Until she had seen it for herself.
She filed away any thoughts on the matter for later.
They had more pressing concerns.
If Hell’s magic was gone, zie was vulnerable.
Mia launched herself at the Demon who had used the runes, the stones in their hands leaving them unable to defend themselves.
Once that Demon was down, Mia turned to the last one, only to see that they were out cold, with Hell standing over them.
“Your magic was dampened,” Mia said with a slight frown as she took in the scene before her.
Hell huffed, folding zir arms. “Okay, I wasn’t that bad as an Enhanced before I got these powers.”
Mia sighed with relief as she made her way over to her partner. “That’s not what I meant. Are you okay?”
Hell managed a smile. “I don’t know, why don’t you kiss me better and we’ll see?”
Mia raised an eyebrow, able to recognise deflection when she heard it.
“I… I can see why magical beings are so easily caught off guard after we dampen their powers,” Hell finally admitted. “It’s not exactly pleasant.”
“Will you be all right if we try to find the last two Demons?”
“I can deal with it myself.”
“No, no. Of course, I wouldn’t leave you to fight alone.”
“I’m not sure if I should be touched or insulted by that.”
“As if you weren’t worried about me before.”
“Okay, fair.” Mia smiled. “Come on, let’s go and find those last two Demons.”
Mia made her way upstairs, figuring that was the only place they hadn’t checked.
She hadn’t seen anyone there before, but she supposed someone could have moved.
She hadn’t ruled out the possibility when planning, but there was just one, tiny room upstairs, and it had looked like it was storage, so she hadn’t considered it a priority.
But just as Mia reached the stairs, Hell stumbled, and Mia realised how clammy zie looked.
“The dampening really did mess with you, didn’t it?”
Hell cringed. “I… I don’t want to slow you down, but I think dampening my magic also means dampening my shape-shifting powers, and I’ve been living in an altered form for months now.”
“Then you shouldn’t push yourself until your magic returns.”
“I can handle two Demons, babe. And you’ll be right here in case I get into trouble.”
Hell nodded, though zie didn’t look happy.
“I’ll be right back,” Mia assured zir before heading up the stairs.
Only, as she reached the storage room upstairs, she saw that there weren’t two Demons there.
No, there was one Demon.
And one Enhanced.
Mia couldn’t get a good look at the Enhanced – they were wearing the full body armour and mask that older Enhanced usually wore when fighting magical beings – but she readied herself for attack as the Enhanced took care of the Demon.
As the Demon fell to the ground, the Enhanced turned to Mia, and she raised her weapon, ready to defend herself.
Except the Enhanced didn’t attack.
They merely looked Mia over before heading out of the window.
“Wait!” Mia called after them, but they were already gone.
Mia frowned out of the window, at the empty street below, as she heard Hell make zir way up the stairs.
“Okay, I think my magic is back,” Hell said as zie entered the room and Mia finally turned back to face zir. “Where did the other Demon go?”
“It wasn’t a Demon,” Mia admitted as she put her weapon away. “It was an Enhanced.”
“Here? Who was it? Someone on our side?”
“I’m not sure…”
“So, how did it go?” Alex asked, almost bouncing with excitement as Jan arrived back to the base.
Jan smiled tiredly as she pulled her backpack off, making a beeline for their room. “It was fine. It was mostly just induction and stuff. I don’t think we start anything until next week.”
“Induction still sounds exciting.”
Jan shrugged. “It was just a rundown of the course, and then some tea and coffee with the other students.”
“Did you make any friends?”
“With a bunch of eighteen-year-olds? I’m not sure ‘friends’ would be the right word. Not to mention, they kept asking me about America. I really need to lose this accent if I want to blend in…”
“You could just make stuff up.”
“Sounds like a good way to get caught.” Jan sighed as they reached their room. “Are you sure you don’t want to be going to uni instead of me?”
“No, I’m happy enough to live vicariously through you.” Alex’s smile faded a little. “But if you don’t actually want to be doing this…”
Jan groaned as she threw her bag onto the bed before collapsing down next to it, lying down and looking up at the ceiling.
Alex sat down next to her, her hand going to play with Jan’s short strands of hair.
“It’s not that I don’t want to do this. It’s just… How did the mission go today?”
Alex sighed as she realised what was wrong. “Jan, we’ve been over this. If you’re going to do this, you have to do it properly. You can’t be missing lectures or exams because there’s something going on with the rest of us.”
“It feels selfish.”
“It was a routine mission, Jan. You would have just been sitting here with me if you hadn’t been out.”
“Routine missions can go wrong.”
“And you’re not far, and you have a phone. If we needed to, we could have called you.”
“It still feels selfish.”
“Jan, you’re getting training in a skill that none of us has and all of us need. That’s far from selfish. That’s just a sensible directing of energy.”
Jan sighed once more. “Yeah, I suppose. It just… It feels normal. I mean, not normal for me, but normal for everyone else. As if I’m taking time to have a Normal Human Life while everyone else here is stuck in the fight.”
“Except you’re doing something to help everyone here. And we all need to balance life here along with Normal Human Life.”
“So, how did the mission go?”
“Fine, I think. Mia and Hell came back unscathed, and they’re getting changed and stuff before the team meeting. Speaking of, we’re going to be late if we don’t head off soon.”
Jan sat up with a groan, nodding. “Yeah, I know.”
Alex got up before offering Jan a hand.
Jan took it and stood up, following Alex out of the room.
“Was uni really so exhausting?”
Jan shrugged. “I’m not used to people. I’m certainly not used to teenagers…”
Alex smiled in sympathy as they passed Chloe’s room, just as she was leaving.
“Hey Chloe, how are you?”
Chloe sighed. “Feeling huge,” she said as her hand went to rest on her large baby bump. “I’ll be glad when he’s finally out of me.”
“Did your healer tell you how long it’ll be?”
She nodded. “She figures I’ve still got another six weeks or so. Though… I know that she’s a Witch and has magic, and I know that I can’t go to a regular doctor without them potentially noticing our enhancements…”
Jan smiled. “But you trust technology more than magic?”
“Yeah. I don’t think magic is bad, and I am grateful for Mina putting me in contact with Lois and her healer, Jenna, but I do wish we could have a real doctor who knows how to use Enhanced technology.”
“I know what you mean. I’m not sure that I would ever trust magical healing.”
Alex’s hand instinctively went to her face, where a large patch of scar tissue covered her cheek. “Well, it’s certainly saved my life more than once.”
Jan’s expression softened as she turned to Alex, her own hand going up to meet Alex’s. “I know. And I am glad of that.”
“You just don’t trust it for you?”
Jan shrugged. “I guess I’m just set in my ways.”
Alex smiled as she turned back to Chloe. “And how are you doing… you know…”
She knew that that probably wasn’t the most tactful way to ask, but she wasn’t sure how to ask how someone was coping with the grief of losing the father of their unborn child when that child was nearly there.
“I’m fine,” Chloe assured her, thankfully not taking her lack of tact as a lack of caring. “Jenna has been helping with that as well.” She nodded down the corridor. “Now, shouldn’t we get going before we’re late for the meeting?”
Alex nodded, and the three of them made their way down the corridor to the meeting room.
They arrived to find that they were the last ones there, with Mia and Hell waiting at the front of the room.
Once they arrived, Mia stepped forward.
“Right, well, this was a mission for Caroline, so I’ll keep this short. She thought that the Demons there were making charms to dampen magic. She asked us to go because all of her team has magic and would be weakened by the use of these charms. We went, took care of the Demons, and alerted her so that she could come in and clean up their operation.”
Tina folded her arms. “So, nothing of note happened on this time-wasting mission of yours?”
Mia rolled her eyes. “I didn’t say that.” She turned to Gus and Nyssa. “The charms knocked out Hell’s powers, and zie had a bad reaction to it.”
Hell grimaced at that before stepping forward zirself. “I think the effect on my shapeshifting abilities made me sick.” Zie turned to Nyssa. “I’d advise both of us avoid situations where our magic could be dampened.”
Nyssa nodded. “The reaction makes sense. I should have seen it before. Of course, you realise, most of your opponents will have dampening abilities. This could make you useless in the field.”
Hell flinched. “For now, perhaps. Just until we figure out a way around it.”
Nyssa didn’t seem convinced that they would find a way, but she didn’t argue.
“That wasn’t the only thing,” Mia continued. “There was another Enhanced there.”
Alex frowned. “There was? Who?”
“I’m not sure. They were wearing a mask. But they had a chance to attack me and didn’t take it. They just left.”
Alex’s frown deepened. “I don’t like this.”
Jan nodded beside her. “What do you think they were doing there? They can’t be back to kidnapping magical beings, can they?”
“I figure it’s more likely that they heard about the dampening charms and wanted to see for themselves, but if they saw Mia, that’s not good for us. They might realise that we’re working for Caroline.”
Mia folded her arms. “Except, as I said, they didn’t attack me when they could. For all we know, they could be on our side. I want to try to track them down. To talk to them and figure out why they were there.”
Tina nodded. “I agree with Mia. I knew nothing of this through my network, so if they are on our side, we haven’t managed to make contact with them. If someone has fallen through the net, we need to catch them. And if they’re not on our side, we could use them to find out more about the Enhanced’s operations in the city.”
Chloe frowned. “That sounds risky.”
Ryan ran his hand through his hair. “Chloe’s right. If we draw attention to ourselves, we could draw attention to the base. We have the kids to think about.”
Alex sighed. “We can’t risk bringing the wrath of the Enhanced down on us, and we have no idea where to even start looking for this Enhanced. It seems best to stop working with Caroline for a while until things have calmed down.” She turned to Mia. “I know that you weren’t happy about working with her to start with.”
Gus stood up to address the room. “Everyone in favour of laying low for a while?”
Every hand except Mia, Hell and Tina’s went up.
“Then I guess laying low is the plan, and I guess we’re done here.”
Alex turned to Jan. “Want to get some food?”
Jan smiled. “Sounds great.”
As they went to leave the room, however, Alex noticed Mia glaring at her.
She sighed. “I’ll be there in a minute,” she told Jan before making her way over to Mia.
Mia continued to glare. “Here to lecture me on the recklessness of my plan?”
Alex shook her head. “Of course not. I just wanted to say that I understand why you want to go after the Enhanced. But with them increasing their presence in the city, and the fact that we have to think about the safety of the children, not just our own…”
Mia sighed, folding her arms. “I understand your caution, Alex, and if I thought that the vote had been fair, I wouldn’t be half as annoyed as I am. But the truth is, people here still think of you as the leader, and what you say goes. You said not to pursue this, and everyone agreed because you said it, not because it’s what they actually think.”
Alex frowned, brushing a loose strand of hair from her eyes. “I’m not going to deny that that might be a possibility, Mia, but what do you want me to do?”
“Side with me for once.”
“I’m not going to lie about what I think the best course of action is.”
“Then keep your opinion to yourself and let the rest of us pick up the slack.”
“You want me to just step back when the safety of the base is on the line?”
Mia shook her head. “I’m not suggesting that I send an open invitation to the rest of the Enhanced, Alex. All I said was that I should go after this one soldier. That we should take a single, proactive step in this fight. The best defence is a good offence, after all. And the longer we stay in this fight without moving forward, the longer we’re all in danger.”
Alex sighed. “Well, we’ve already decided to lay low, but when we start doing missions again, I’ll try to be quieter.”
“And there’s every chance that that could be too late.”At that, Mia left before Alex could argue any further.
And if you want to catch up on the rest of the series before continuing, you can here (and the first book is free), and if you want to check where this book falls in terms of the Snowverse as a whole, you can check out the timeline.