Chapter 34: Under the Skin

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Amber looked down on the large mansion in the prestigious Montaza neighborhood. The sun set an hour ago, and they could scout their target's lavish accommodation with better ease under the cover of darkness. She smiled to herself at the absurdity of the scene.

"Arrogant prick," she said.

"What do you see, Amber?" Liam asked in her earpiece.

"He has guards, but no acolytes. The only mana source I see is him."

"Agreed," Bryce's voice came through the com. "That is all I see as well, but Visnau is an old archon. I would not underestimate him."

"True, we still need to be careful," Amber said. "Visnau is not stupid. If he doesn't have acolytes, there's a reason for it, and he has something else planned."

"Maybe he's hiding," Liam suggested. "If he wanted to catch us in a trap, he's probably keeping a low profile and hoped we wouldn't see him.

"Ha! Too late for that, sucker!"

They all shared a brief smile over Courtney's quip, for it was surely a mutual feeling among them.

"Alright, what's the plan, Amb?" Liam asked, a little mirth still evident in his voice.

"Visnau is in the eastern wing of the house. Our only chance is a surprise ambush. We need to rush him quickly but watch out for traps. We can storm the wall and get in on the balcony of the second floor. Court, you can do that too now with your mana. Just stay close to me. Liam, you stay back and monitor the guards. When they start to move in on us, take them down from behind."

"What if he calls the cops?" Courtney asked.

"Not likely," Bryce said. "It will bring unwanted attention to him."

"Correct. He'll be relying on his guards and his own power," Amber said, "but we don't want to alert the authorities either. Use the silencers, and no archon busters except against him. We don't have enough left to be wasting them. He's still an archon, remember. He's a lot stronger than us. Be smart and work as a team."

Amber, Bryce, and Courtney moved around to the eastern side of the palace-like house. Though the house was a veritable mansion, it rested on a small lot, and there wasn't much ground to cover once they hopped the outer stone wall.

"Alright, Liam, we are ready," Bryce whispered. "Have you disabled the security system?"

"Not quite. This isn't the U.S. Things are a little primitive here. I can't just hack the phone line. I'm getting closer, so I can access a control panel."

"Are you sure, Liam?" Amber asked. "The gate guard may see you."

"Heh. He's already down. Got him with a mana dart. He'll sleep for a while," Liam said and chuckled. "Okay, I'm here." Just a few minutes later, he came back on the com, "Done. You got the green light. Go."

Amber, Bryce, and Courtney jumped the wall and sprinted toward the balcony, pausing only to catch their footing before making the ten-foot leap up to the second floor. Still unskilled with such a maneuver, Courtney grabbed Amber's hand, and together they launched themselves up. Amber landed lightly on her feet and barely slowed, though Courtney stumbled a bit after Amber let go of her. The nimble woman balanced herself and unsheathed her pistol by the time Bryce soured past them and smashed through the windowed doors into the house.

Screams of surprise erupted through the room, and the faint sound of Bryce's gun echoed onto the balcony. Loud, unsuppressed gunfire met him a moment later, but it was cut short when Amber and Courtney dashed into the room alongside him. Servants and attendants scrambled from the room, and only two guards remained after Bryce's initial assault. Bryce and Courtney fired on them, causing one to fall and another to leap behind a small table. It would not protect him for long.

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