All three gauges turned green.
The top of the device slid open, magic curving around it like veils of white smoke, nipping at my skin.
Don't blow up. Just don't blow up.
The gauges slid into blue. Wait for it.
My hands shook. I clenched them into fists.
Wait for it.
The gauges turned white. I pushed the final lever.
What the hell?
I had done it right, I'd memorized the instructions, they were in my hand ... Maybe Kamen had lied. Maybe he wanted the device to activate ...
Something clanged within the machine. The gauges drained, the glow vanishing. The veils of magic dissipated, dissolving into nothing. The last sparks of power melted from the device and it sat inert, just a hunk of metal, dull and harmless.
I slumped on the floor. Around me shapeshifters moved. Someone threw a body out the window.
We'd won. Somehow we'd won.
My gaze snagged on Shane, sprawled on the floor in the mess of his innards. He stared at me, his eyes wild.
"We won," I told him.
He glared at me with eyes full of hate.
Behind him Curran loomed in the doorway. He was human and smeared with blood. He stepped over Shane and crouched by me. I put my arms around his neck and we kissed, both covered in gore and neither one caring. We kissed while around us, the soldiers of the Pack tossed the bodies out the windows, stepping over Shane as he lay dying slowly, bleeding his life out, watching his intestines contract and shiver on the floor in front of him.
THE KEEPERS WERE DEAD. THE MAGIC ELITE OF Atlanta celebrated, right outside the fallen MSDU headquarters. Food appeared as if out of thin air, bonfires flared here and there, and a couple of Calydonian boars had been carved into chunks for a barbecue. Mages, the People, witches, and shapeshifters reveled in the simple glory of being alive. We all knew that the next morning the alliance would fracture and old rivalries would rear their heads, but for one evening, we celebrated and watched the cops and the MSDU from neighboring cities try to sort out the wreckage. The law enforcement agencies were none too happy with our impromptu cookout, but given that we had just cracked their best fortress like a walnut, they didn't make any waves.
The Keepers had brought as many of their members as they could muster. The MSDU lost forty people; the rest had been herded into an underground bunker--the Keepers didn't want to waste the ammunition. The rats found them and let them out. Andrea's friend didn't make it.
I wandered past the tables. Smiling faces, lots of food, the hum of excited conversation. Ghastek came walking toward me, carrying a plate. "Humans are fickle creatures," he said. "Three days ago I bet none of these people would have found a cause to throw a party. Here we are celebrating, when all we've done is return things to normal."
"Nothing like a great tragedy to make you appreciate life," I told him.
"Indeed. You aren't celebrating, Kate."
Hard to celebrate when visions of your kid in a hospital bed keep floating through your head. "I don't know what you're talking about. I'm thrilled."
"Rowena came to visit you this morning," Ghastek said. "Why?"
Ha! "Remember how I asked you to get the information from that navigator who fainted and you blew me off? Go screw yourself."
I walked away.
A lone figure sat away from the bonfires, hugging her knees. I came closer and saw pale hair. Jennifer. I came to sit by her. She stared straight ahead. I wasn't sure she even knew I was there.
We sat for a long time, looking out at the base swarming with cops.
"I don't even have a body to bury," she said.
"You'll have his child," I said. She rested her hand on her stomach. Her voice was bitter. "And if I am very lucky, I won't have to kill her."
"Jennifer!" A woman came up to us. She had Jennifer's lean, long body and pale hair. One of her sisters. "Here you are. Come with me. We have a table set up."
Jennifer didn't move.
"You need to eat," the woman said. "You're eating for two, remember?"
Jennifer rose slowly.
"That's it," her sister murmured. "Come on. Let's take care of that baby."
She led Jennifer away. I sat alone.
Curran dropped next to me. "Hey."
It's hard to jump while sitting down. I still managed. "Why do you sneak up on me like that?"
"It's not." I leaned into him and he put his arm around me.
"It's hilarious. It's almost as funny as your snoring."
"I don't snore."
He nodded with a wide grin. "It's a quiet peaceful kind of snoring. Like a small cuddly Tasmanian devil. Kind of cute when sleeping, all claws and teeth when awake."
"You snore worse. At least I don't turn into a lion in my sleep."
"I only did it once."
"Once was weird enough, thank you."
He looked at me. "You're still going through with the Julie thing?"
"Yes. Why do you keep asking me?"
"I keep hoping you'll change your mind."
He sighed and pulled me closer to him.
"YOUR BLOOD AND ERRA'S BLOOD ARE BASICALLY the same," Doolittle told me. I rubbed my eyes. I hadn't slept much the night before, and I had spent all morning trying to get a sample of shapeshifter blood to respond to my magic. I'd accomplished exactly nothing. The blood sat inert in the small plastic dish. It didn't help that Curran had insisted on watching me and spent the past three hours sitting in the corner, looking pissed off. There was the aftermath of the Keepers chaos to deal with and shapeshifters returning to the Keep, but no, he put it all on hold so he could sit here and watch me fail.
"The only difference between you and her is the concentration of magic," Doolittle continued.
She'd had thousands of years to accumulate hers, while I'd barely had a quarter of a century.
"I believe this is getting us nowhere," Doolittle said. "And don't be giving me dirty looks, my lady. I didn't say we should give up."
"I think we should," Curran said.
"What we need is an anchor. Something in Julie's blood that would respond to your magic." Doolittle took a syringe from the table and let a single drop from the syringe fall into the blood. Foul magic tugged on me.
"Vampire blood." I felt it, felt the undeath shoot through the blood in the dish.
Doolittle nodded. "Try it now."
I concentrated and pulled.
I could do this. I should be able to do this.