The apartment was alive as the sun came up.
Lyssa hadn’t been aware that so many lived within the building; she’d only seen a handful at a time when she passed through the lobby, but it appeared there were people on nearly every floor, and all of them headed down through the lobby and onto the streets as the clocks neared six.
Seeing so many people in one place unsettled her stomach. At the arena, it had been different. There hadn’t been any Commands. Now she looked into a widening sea of humanity and could only see them as an easy target for some horrible calamity. Her mind conjured up images of Zero - the young girl who she had threatened so earnestly - sending her Queen’s Light into the bulk of their group, scattering them like ants.
There’s no way she is the one with ten Commands, she thought as she watched more people heading down the stairs and into the lobby. Of everyone, that little girl?
Through the night she had milled the idea around in her mind. Zero had Commands, that much was undeniable. The girl had caused Lyssa out into the city by herself, and she’d seen the girl kill with her Queen’s Light Command. That was at least two. And she’d taken Abel’s own Command, which brought the total to at least three.
If she could have three, why couldn’t she have five? Or ten?
Daryl finally emerged, ushering the last of the apartment’s residents out. He was with two men whose faces were burned into her memory as the men who had stood at his side on her first night in Agona. She estimated the three were friends who had lived in the city long the city was closed off. Daryl having four levels in Kara, the men at his side having two each, she suspected they found themselves as good of leaders as any.
Four Commands, she thought as she watched Daryl begin pointing around the group, splitting them apart. His buzzed hair was white, making his age obvious. If he can live so long and only have four Commands, then how could Zero possibly have ten?
What could she possibly have done to get that much Karma?
Lyssa shivered, her imagination heading astray. No, she reminded herself, there’s no way Sky Sight could know what all of us did before coming to the city. All of the Commands we received are just coincidences.
Remembering the look on Bernard’s face, the sadistic glint in his eyes as he faced Abel, she nodded that fact home. Someone like him surely would have had at least one level in Bara. Commands were simply doled out at random. And Zero had received the lucky ticket.
Daryl and several others walked around with sheets of paper, handing them out and pointing around, at people and at roads. A minute later, he was approaching them. Lyssa noted Sarah moving a step closer.
“You’re certain you don’t want to come with us?” Daryl asked Abel.
“Yes,” Abel answered, taking the piece of paper proffered to him.
The man pointed behind him. “Taryn is over there. She’s your fourth member. You should get a head-start, we want to be spread out as soon as possible. I’ll spare you the spiel, but make sure everyone else in your group understands everything.”
As he was walking away, Lyssa turned to peek at the paper. “What is it?”
“A map,” he said, handing it to her.
Sarah looked over her shoulder as she peered down at the rough pencil sketch of a nearby section of the city. The apartment was circled in red ink and a shaky red line ran down a few streets. “I take it this is our circuit? Seems pretty simple,” she said, looking up and orienting herself to the map. “At least we won’t get lost.”
“Probably,” Sarah added quietly.
“Probably.” Lyssa whispered with a nod.
“Well,” When she looked up, Abel was turning away, motioning them to follow. “He’s right, we should get a move on. We want to get a good distance from the others by the time the Hunt starts. The more spheres we get as a collective, the more everyone can share with one another.”
They stood for a moment, then began following. A woman noticed them from the crowd and ran over to meet them.
Taryn White. Age 24. Kara 0. Bara 0.
She had a pretty face, her body long and thin. She nearly matched Abel’s height, but still managed to radiate femininity with her movements. “Abel!” she called out as she approached. “I guess I’m with you and your group. I’m Taryn.” She waved as they each introduced themselves in turn. “Just you and two girls? When they said I was joining your group, I figured there would be more people. Well, we should get going.”
Along with several other groups, they began to head away from the mass of humanity and down one of the streets. Within a handful of minutes, they were already out of sight of the other groups. Glancing at the paper, she saw they weren’t even a quarter of the way through the outgoing half of the circuit.
A single jolt rankled through her mind like a bolt of electricity. The feeling was reminiscent of something, and when a voice called out, she realized it was feeling that came along with the sound, the horrible deafening sound, but so brief and instant that it had just barely registered.
The Heroic Hunt begins!
The next time she blinked, there were glowing lights across the cityscape.
“Holy shit,” Sarah said, eyes turned to the skies. “They’re so beautiful.”
Giant spheres with facets like diamonds pulsated around the city. Some were attached to the sides of buildings, some lingered airborne in the sky between buildings. Many were golden, the light diffusing from within them, shining out and filling the surrounding air, but she also spotted several which were blue, closer to the ground.
“There’s one over there,” Abel said.
Lyssa followed his gaze and saw a much smaller sphere a short distance away, hovering in the center of the street. It was small enough that it could fit into her palm and a red glow throbbed in the air surrounding it. “Lets grab it.”