No matter what, Elva had to reach her sister’s apartment.
Even from this perch on the Brooklyn Bridge, several miles from her destination, she could see her target. Its window was dark, but Elva’s powered-up eyes could still make out a wall quilted with childish drawings, a cheerful pile of presents beneath a sloppily decorated tree.
And all the treacherous territory in between.
Drawing a little more energy from the electrical line that fueled the bridge’s streetlights, Elva squinted. They were out there, ready for her. The warlocks would sense her presence, would already be converging, pulled in by the scent of her magic. She knew, if she focused her enhanced senses, she’d be able to count their number by the electrical impulses of their nerves, the noisy signals of their brain.
But why bother?
A sect of territorial magicians wasn’t about to keep her from her niece on Christmas day.
Checking to make sure the little wrapped box was safe in her pocket, Elva charged herself up as much as she dared. Her limbs tingled with power, agonizing and wonderful at the same time. It always was. The bulbs around her brightened, threatening to shatter.
Finally she let go.
“Here goes nothing,” she said into the dark morning, cracking her knuckles.
And then she leapt.
Her trench coat flapped in the wind as she fell, ground rushing up to meet her. But Elva didn’t scream. Instead she pulled her palms together and shot a jet of electrons down, slowing her fall. It was amazing how people undervalued the thing that powered their homes, their cities, their lives. There was so much more to electricity than most people knew.
Except the Syndicate, of course.
Elva landed cat-like on a grocery truck, scanning the pillars of the bridge as they rushed past. She held her breath, muscles tight, as traffic bore her off the bridge.
Into their ground.
She grinned, heart pumping with the warning, they’re coming, they’re coming.
Jumping, she grabbed a pole as it whipped over her, just in time to feel the whoosh of energy beneath her feet, scorching the air where she’d just been standing. Elva kicked, swinging her body into the nearest building, finding purchase with her fingertips. There was no magic to climbing, but she’d been well-trained. She scuttled up the wall. The dark shadow of a warlock appeared below her, shooting up.
Even from here, she could hear his growl.
She didn’t respond, already rolling onto the roof.
New York City spread out before her like a carpet, all rooftops and wires. No wonder the Syndicate fights so hard to keep this, she thought, relishing the draw of all that power. For a moment she just stood there, arms spread, grinning to herself.
The hair on the back of her neck prickled in warning.
“Time to go,” she muttered, bursting into a sprint.
Twin thumps behind her announced two new assailants. She glanced over one shoulder, throwing her pursuers a smirk. She knew they were men, despite the elaborate drapery and ceramic masks. The Syndicate was an ancient and ossified organization, unwilling to change with the times.
Which was why Elva was never destined to be on friendly terms with them.
Blue power crackled over the nearest one’s hands. He reached for her, but Elva dug her toe into the stone of the roof.
“Too slow!” she called.
And then she was airborne again, limbs thrown out like wings. But she couldn’t fly, not really. She could only control her fall, guiding her way into the fire escape of the nearest apartment complex. Landing with a clang, she paused for a moment to catch her breath. Her energy was low. She’d need to recharge soon, if she wanted to keep this up.
The two warlocks fired balls of energy from the roof across the alley, missing her by inches. Their attacks fizzled harmlessly on the brick wall by her shoulder.
“Better get moving,” Elva said to herself, launching off the railing. Her hands found a string of unlit Christmas lights that looped toward the mouth of the alley, wrapped securely around a gutter.
Miraculously, it held her weight.
Drawing quickly, viciously, Elva stole as much power from the building as she could muster. The tiny filaments flared, blindingly bright, illuminating the alley butter-yellow for a brief, infinite moment.
Suddenly, as one, they exploded.
“Sorry,” Elva whispered to whoever owned them.
But that clean, bountiful city power was coursing through her veins again, filling her with potential. She released the line, drifting to the ground as gently as an autumn leaf, twisting elegantly to avoid another ball of blue electrons.
“You’ll have to do better than that,” Elva called, feeling giddy and reckless.
Then she was off again, darting through the sparse dawn traffic, deeper into the city.
Panting a little and nursing a bruised shoulder, Elva knocked on her sister’s door. The pine-fresh scent of their wreath was a balm on her adrenaline, a coolant on her overheated system. But still she had to fight the temptation of the thick powerline that ran along the hall’s ceiling.
At her knock, a childish squeal rose from the other side of the door. She heard the tumble of small, pattering feet.
The door swung open to reveal a tiny child in a striped red and white onesie.
She crouched, ignoring the exasperated smiles of the little girl’s parents in the hallway, and pulled out the wrapped package.
“Merry Christmas,” she said, voice low and conspiratorial.
The girl clutched the object to her chest, crinkling the reindeer-pattern paper. “You always bring the best gifts, Auntie.”
Elva smiled, straightening with only the barest wince to show what she’d been through. None of it mattered, because the sun was rising and the snow on the windowsill was glistening in the morning light and, for the moment, everything was as it should be.
She’d made it.