As a general rule, Lucky did not condone eavesdropping.
“Three schools in three years.” Alastor’s voice sliced through the mahogany door. “She’s an Enpy. Everyone knows it, so why do you keep insisting she isn’t?”
Lucky winced. And this was why. Sometimes you heard things you wish you hadn’t.
Lucinda de la Rosa, aka Lucky, the subject of their conversation, had her ear pressed to the cool wood of the door. She hadn’t intended to eavesdrop, but when she heard raised voices as she walked by, she couldn’t resist.
“I don’t trust their conclusions.” The thick mahogany muffled Victor’s voice.
Face scrunching in frustration—Why couldn’t her godfather speak louder?—, Lucky sprawled on the floor, pressing close to listen through the crack at the bottom. The hardwood planks pressed into her cheek. Beneath the door, she could see the warm glow of firelight inside the study. It was much more inviting than the dark hallway she was lying in.
“Her father is a formidable Titan and her mother was a Silvan of high standing,” Victor said. “It’s improbable she would have inherited none of their power. There’s even growing research to suggest Enpy’s aren’t truly without magic. Trauma, or any number of causes, could have suppressed their abilities. Some may have untapped powers that need to be activated. The possibilities alone are exciting.”
Lucky snorted. Trust her godfather to see a seemingly hopeless situation as an opportunity to revolutionize their world. Activate latent abilities in Enpys? If he pulled that off, he would turn their entire society on its head. It would disprove every belief and assumption about magic and its expression.
“This isn’t one of your experiments, Father. Don’t you think she has suffered enough? Her mother died, her dad abandoned her, a Wylde murdered her best friend’s family, and now, without powers, she has no future. It’s cruel to give her false hope. Arranging a marriage to an adequate family who will overlook her shortcomings is the best she can hope for. Many families wish to be connected to the Rockfords. Think of the business opportunities.”
And then there was Alastor. The pragmatic foil to his father’s genius visionary.
“You’re being short-sighted, Alastor. She’s only fifteen. We have time.”
“It doesn’t matter how much time you spend or how many tutors and tests you throw at her. She’s still an Enpy. You’re wasting everyone’s time pretending she isn’t.”
Lucky was as emotionally tough as the next teenage girl, but she didn’t have to lie here, eavesdropping, if he was going to insult her. Pushing herself to her feet, she headed back to her room, through the empty hallways filled with shadows.
She missed Jayce.
When she was younger, it was nights like this that would find her climbing out her bedroom window to sneak over to his house. His parents pretended they didn’t know, but a tray of snacks always appeared outside of Jayce’s door. The Kgosi’s were a wonderful family. They didn’t deserve what happened to them.
The familiar sadness washed over her like a tide, coming in waves with each memory. This wasn’t the sharp, bitter grief of fresh pain. This was the dull, throbbing ache of a wound that had never healed properly. A pain so familiar, it was part of who she was.
Alastor was right. Lucky was the unluckiest person she knew. The irony would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.
She entered the hallway that led to her room when the long shadow of a suit of armor caught her attention. For a moment, it appeared as though the shadow’s hand was reaching towards her, stretching closer and closer…
Her sacari earpiece pinged. Lucky jumped and pressed a hand to her chest. Squeezing her eyes shut, she breathed through the fluttering of her stomach. She was being ridiculous. She opened her eyes. The shadow was just a shadow. Its hand was where it should be.
Nervous laughter bubbled from her as she tapped her sacari rings together. The white gold of the full finger rings on her left index finger and thumb glowed blue in the gloomy hallway. The sacari’s earpiece, an elegant white gold cuff that curved around the outside of her ear, warmed when it activated, ready for use. She separated her index finger and her thumb, revealing a translucent display.
Luck thief spotted. Keep your distance. Suppress his luck. Stay unseen. We’ll collect him.
The address to a club followed.
Her lips curved, and excitement surged through her. Looks like she was going clubbing.
The Blue Lily was the premier club for Cantuchi’s upper crust, in the well-to-do district where the Sagi, Titan, and Silvan districts met. The headlining performer, Gena Gerisa, appealed to all the Aloris instead of just one, and the crowd outside of the club reflected that. A line filled with Aloris stretched all the way around the corner. Silvans standing with animal familiars, Titans in their leather armor, and Sagi, with their formal outfits that showed their classifications on their sleeves, all gathered together in a diverse mass.
But Lucky didn’t have to wait in line. Instead, her driver pulled around to the private side entrance. Eyes widened and jaws dropped when the sleek autoa floated by. The Aloris in the line elbowed each other and pointed. Lucky’s cheeks heated, but she lifted her chin and stared straight ahead.
One of a kind, the autoa’s polished exterior was an unbroken piece of metal, formed by a confidential telekinetic process. The hovercraft was the future of transportation, or so her godfather said, combining the magic of energy and telekinetic crystals to operate. Right now, its magical energy consumption was beyond what the general populace could afford, but Victor was working on a solution.
Sure, it was flashy, but it had the most important quality- Alastor wanted to use it tonight and finding it gone would annoy him. A little unwanted attention was a worthy price to pay for petty retribution.
Lucky rarely used her godfather’s name to gain entry to places, but this was a special circumstance. The driver opened her door, and she slipped out, smoothing the blue sequin dress she was wearing. A sign on the wall caught her attention. “Notice: Anti-Wylde Enchantments In Use On These Premises.” Lucky stumbled, but she righted herself. They had tested her for this. She would be fine.
A young woman dressed in the Blue Lily uniform waited by the VIP entrance. “Good evening, Ms. de la Rosa. My name is Maya. If you will follow me, I’ll take you to your booth.”
Nervous energy thrummed through Lucky as Maya led her upstairs to the VIP section and stopped at a booth overlooking the main stage and dance floor. U-shaped benches faced the stage, with a table in the middle.
As Lucky sat, she noticed tiny glimmers of light, like a network of stars, dancing across Maya, only to blink away into darkness. The bubbly waitress smiled and portrayed a cheerful attitude, but there were circles under her eyes and tension in the line of her neck.
“Would you like anything to drink?” Maya's eyes swept across Lucky’s ensemble. “We have different ronda fruit blends: happiness, peace, energy. Or maybe you want to give your brain a boost with a brainleaf tea?”
Maya was trying to figure out what Alori she was. She had correctly deduced Lucky wasn’t a Titan. Lucky was too petite and had no weapons or armor. Which left Silvans, as nature manipulators, they loved the emotional experiences of the ronda fruit, or Sagi, who would drink anything that would improve their brain function.
“Nothing for now, thank you.” Lucky’s leg bounced. She smoothed her hands down her skirt, then stopped and placed her hands on the table. Her fingers started drumming on the dark wood.
Maya’s pale eyes tracked Lucky’s movements. Lucky forced herself to stay still and tried to look relaxed. Maya’s lips twitched, but she only said. “If you need anything, I’ll be close by.”
On impulse, Lucky touched Maya’s arm as she turned to walk away. “Things are going to get better.”
At her words, energy pulled from Lucky. The network of stars dancing below Maya’s skin brightened until she glowed with a light that only Lucky could see.
For a moment, Maya blinked at her, stunned, then her smile brightened. “Thank you, I hope you’re right.”
Exhaustion edged with worry washed through Lucky—would this backfire on her?—but she smiled back.
When Maya left, the music changed to an upbeat song. Lights flashed, and the dancers moved in a sea of shifting bodies. A web of lights and shadows clung to each individual. Some were bright, others were dark. The one constant? Only Lucky saw them.
Lucky had a secret. She wasn’t powerless, like everyone assumed. Lucky’s abilities had manifested the same night Jayce disappeared. She just couldn’t let anyone know.
Only one person knew about her abilities: Major Tau Badru. One of Victor’s government contacts. He had recognized what she was early on and had been trying to help her control her abilities, so they were less self-destructive. He was part of the reason she had hidden her powers this long.
The music cut off, and a man walked onto the stage. Judging by his height and natural athleticism, he was a Titan, but it was the charisma pouring off of him in waves that identified him as a member of the Evader’s house.
Lucky didn’t bother listening as he hyped up the crowd for their star performer. Her eyes scanned the crowd, looking for her mark.
“Everyone give it up for Gena Gerisa!” The crowd roared so loud the walls shook.
A willowy Silvan woman with long legs and black hair strutted into the spotlight, reminding Lucky of a glamorous black widow spider. Every move, every step, every pose executed to perfection. A web meant to lure and trap her audience.
Gena’s voice swept through the nightclub, leaving laughter and smiles in its wake. She was a strong siren, able to manipulate others’ emotions with her voice. Lucky took a deep breath and relaxed as her emotions soared. Pure happiness, like a golden beam of sunlight, filled her, sinking into every cell.
Through the false emotional high of the song, anxiety pricked her. If only she had developed the powers of a siren. Lucky pushed those thoughts aside, focusing on the crowd. She couldn’t change who she was. She needed to focus on her mission. This was her chance to show Badru she was ready for field work. She didn’t want to screw it up.
Below, a man wandered by tables and groups, following the flow of the crowd. Several times, he bumped into chairs and people, smiling and apologizing to the group he disturbed, leaning close to place his hand on a shoulder or tell a joke. Lucky’s lips pressed together, her eyes narrowing. A shimmer of light hung over him, brighter than any she had ever seen.
How could someone with that kind of natural luck be so clumsy?
Lucky’s eyes widened. He was her mark. Now she understood why Badru had called her in to put a temporary luck suppressor on him. He would be impossible to catch otherwise.
When she first saw the sparkling starburst on people, she thought she was crazy. In time, Lucky realized what she was seeing was that person’s fortune. Usually, the starburst was an equal but shifting blend of shadow and light, but some individuals were born either blessed or cursed.
Her head tilted to the side. This man was born lucky. Relaxed body language, assured, even while he was obviously up to something. Then she saw it. He stumbled into another chair, knocking a woman’s purse to the ground and spilling her drink. She jumped to her feet with an exclamation. Appearing to apologize profusely, he ducked down to grab her purse. As he stood up however, he snagged a wallet off the table while the others were cleaning up the mess. The man returned her purse, saying something with a charming smile that made the group laugh before he walked away. The crowd closed around him and he disappeared off to the next table. He was halfway across the room before the group realized the wallet was missing.
Lucky’s eyes narrowed. A criminal using his good luck to get away with petty theft. The complete lack of creativity or ambition annoyed her. As a supernaturally lucky criminal, he should do something more interesting than picking pockets.
Maya crossed in front of him, carrying a tray of drinks. The thief froze, head turning to track her movements. He grinned and followed.
Merdar, he’s targeting her new luck. Lucky planted her hands on the table, tensing to stand, when Alastor Rockford’s irritated face blocked her view of the floor.
“Allie!” Lucky leaned back in her seat, feigning relaxation. Alastor’s lips pressed together in a thin line at the nickname, and Lucky fought a grin. Her gaze flicked past him, but the crowd had shifted. Maya and the thief were gone. “What are you doing here?”
Alastor dressed as all the upper-level Sagi dressed, in a three-piece suit with a fitted forest green trench coat. The color of the coat and the designs on the sleeves told everyone he was Inventors Class- Science Specialist.
“I believe that’s my line.” Alastor pulled out a slender dym and took a drag, gazing in the direction Lucky had been staring. Dym’s were popular with the Sagi. They claimed it helped their brains relax from the strain of using their abilities. He blew a cloud of purple tinged smoke in her face and leaned against the booth partition.
Lucky coughed when the sticky, sweet floral smell wreathed around her, swatting it away with her hands. Something about the fragrance was familiar, but she couldn’t place it.
“People watching,” Lucky answered his unasked question. “Could you not do that? It’s disgusting.”
“It’s for my mental fatigue, you know that. You’re here to people watch?” His eyebrows raised, voice skeptical.
“What? No,” Lucky’s mind scrambled for a believable story. For one insane moment, she almost told him the truth, but she subdued the impulse. “I wanted to see Gerisa perform.”
Alastor sighed, blowing another cloud in her face, and pinched the bridge of his nose. “You snuck out to see a performer at a nightclub? By yourself? Lucky, try to be more intelligent.”
Lucky bristled. He never let her forget she wasn’t a Sagi like him and Victor. Sagi’s magic flowed through their minds, giving them abilities like telekinesis or enhanced intuition in their specialty. In her experience, it gave most of them an enhanced superiority complex. “It’s not like Victor would’ve agreed if I’d asked.”
Truth-be-told’s. That’s what the smell was. Lucky’s eyes narrowed. He was trying to force her to tell the truth by blowing truth-be-told laced dym smoke in her face. Alastor must have suspicions. It wouldn’t work, though. He had used this trick on her years ago and afterwards she had sworn she would never fall for it again.
She had worked tirelessly to develop an immunity to the scent. Now, her secrets were her own to keep.
“Because you’re fifteen. You don’t belong in a nightclub.” Alastor's eyes darted to the booths on either side. Ah, that’s right. Public scenes were against the Rockford brand. His patronizing tone scraped across her nerves, making her feel reckless. Lucky raised her voice even louder.
“Oh, and you do? I hear you’re a real regular.”
People at nearby tables looked over, sensing drama. Alastor’s fists hit the table as he leaned towards her, keeping his voice low. “Once again. You. Are. Fifteen. You’re too young for nightclubs. We’re going home.”
Like Helvíti, they were. This was her chance to be taken seriously as an agent, and she wouldn’t let Alastor botch it for her.
“What if—” she began, but he spoke over her.
“You leave with me, or I tell Victor about your little escapade. You think security is strict now? He’ll have you locked up so tight you won’t be able to breathe after this.” Alastor’s eyes gleamed, thrilled with the idea.
I just figured out how to bribe this security team. I don’t have time for a security re-org right now. Lucky ground her teeth together. Her eyes scanned the crowd for the thief.
A dark head of hair on the dance floor made her breath catch. Could it be…? Hope surged through her.
A loud crash rose above the music. Maya crouched over a mess of liquid and broken glass, picking up jagged pieces and placing them back on the tray. The man turned and Lucky sighed. No, it wasn’t.
“You’re looking for him, aren’t you? It’s been five years, Lucky. Jayce is dead.”
Lucky hid a flinch. It was six years today. “You don’t know that.”
Alastor’s expression darkened. He reached to tap the sacari around his ear.
“Fine,” she blurted. “I’ll leave with you.”
Alastor smirked as she slid out of the booth. Clamping a hand around her arm, hard enough to burn, he guided her downstairs.
“Grabbing a little tight, aren’t you?”
Alastor shot her a glare, then looked forward.
Lucky clenched her teeth so hard her jaw ached, fighting the instinct to bend his pinky backwards until he let go. She needed to wait for the right moment to make her move.
That moment came when they stepped onto the main floor. Alastor turned them towards the exit as a rowdy group of Titans stampeded inside. Releasing his grip on her, Alastor scrambled out of their way, but Lucky jumped into the middle of the group, letting the Titans sweep her onto the dance floor.
Alastor tried to grab her, but being small had its advantages. Lucky darted through the sea of shifting bodies, letting her instincts guide her.
Which worked great until she ran smack into the thief.