"Ten eighteen! Backup needed at the TG Paper Mill, Fifty-eighth and Riverhead. Please respond!" the radio blared.
Officer Brian Day of the Parmas City Police Department Metropolitan Demonic Unit barely had time to clip his seat belt in before his partner, Field Training Officer Teresa Krane, stomped her foot down on the gas, pulled the hand brake, and spun the patrol car around. She deftly avoided two parked vehicles and a fourteen-feet-tall, delicately haired street-cleaning spider.
A year ago, fresh off the conjure-free commune where he'd grown up, Brian would have been amazed by the sight of the massive demon. But since becoming a police officer, he barely noticed things like giant spiders.
Unless they were doing something illegal, that is.
Krane responded to the radio request while Brian switched on the lights and siren, still excited even after a year in the police force. Driving fast in a police car was a perk of the job. While he tired of the endless paperwork and found routine calls to pick up drunk and disorderly sorcerers annoying, this--a high-speed race through the gritty urban core of Parmas City--this reminded him why he became a hell cop.
The sweaty summer streets south of the river were quiet at this hour of the evening. Most humans sought respite from the heavy heat by staying indoors, near fans and air conditioning. But those demonic species accustomed to the grueling humidity of the city ventured out. Krane wrinkled her nose against the stench of the polluted river and slammed shut the intake vents on the dashboard. They passed the burned frame of a minivan outside a cluster of graffiti-strewn apartment towers. A group of large yellow-horn demons gave their car the finger as they drove past. He would have laughed it off, except the radio crackled to life again.
"It's a whole fuckin' nest of surgers ... Day, get over here!" The radio went dead.
Brian's stomach clenched. There was only one task he was ever called to by name.
Krane glanced at Brian briefly before turning her attention back to the road. "Sorry."
Brian stared out at the dark expanse of the city, illuminated in brilliant flashes of red and blue. He didn't say anything. He knew he shouldn't be disappointed. This happened all the time. But Krane was more empathetic than the others, and she picked up on his unspoken thoughts.
"It'll be quick," she said.
"It's an honor, really. I never get personally called to anything."
"Yeah." Brian swallowed.
They raced through the empty intersections of streets surrounding the industrial south end of the city. Circles of light from the tall street lamps flickered as broad palm leaves waved in the sultry sea breeze. Up ahead Brian saw the collection of brick towers and exhaust pipes of the recently closed TG Paper Mill, the shattered window panes and half-demolished outbuildings making the neighborhood appear as though it had been recently shelled.
Krane steered the car through the open gates of the mill. The tires kicked up gravel as she halted next to two other patrol cars. Red and blue lights illuminated the vacant parking lot, demolition equipment, and surrounding buildings. Multicolored wires dangled from the exposed floors like streamers, and cheap plywood office furniture still remained within the half-torn rooms. The car lights strobed the shuttered entrance of the cylindrical brick structure like it was the entrance to some underground nightclub.
Brian grabbed his armored vest from behind the seat and pulled it over his head. Before he fully emerged from the car someone grabbed his arm, directing him to a front line constructed of the angled police cars. It was Detective Argent from the Demonic Unit.
"He's here!" Argent called, ushering Brian onward.
Brian glanced to the front of the motor barricade. Six officers were already on the scene, their shock-volt pistols charged. Brian's weapon remained holstered at his belt as he walked past. Brian leaned closer to Argent, keeping his voice low.
"A sorcerer by the name of Arun Volpe," Argent told him. "He's got at least ten surgers in there. My guess? He was after one and accidentally conjured a whole hive. He's wanted for toxin trafficking. We can get him once you clear the path."
Brian stepped from behind the cars and toward the remains of the mill. His heart thumped loudly. He hated this.
But he could feel it already, the sucking pull of anger into him, and rage, raw and unbridled, rushing through his muscles with a need to tear and destroy. Though he understood intellectually that this desire for violence was only the magic that he siphoned from the demons, he still felt sick with himself as his arms began to tremble with the desire to shred flesh and bone.
But being an osmotic sorcerer was what made him valuable to this organization. Without this power he was nothing better than a rookie traffic cop.
Unconscious of his movements, Brian stepped toward the cylindrical brick building, forward, faster, and then he broke into a run, nearly ripping the metal fire door off its hinges as he threw himself inside the building.
There were over a dozen of them--a hive of surgers loomed over Brian, their bodies thin and strong, with strips of muscle like the torso of a snake. Beady eyes blinked at him from atop stalks as thick as mariner's ropes, swiveling to take in their prey.