All's Fair, Part Five: Aggressive Negotiations

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“Jim, what –” Timebender broke off as the room erupted into motion. The Heran vanguard overturned the heavy bench at which his delegates were sitting, as the opposing artificers drew their weapons and opened fire. The Gelgan bodyguard who had been moving to intercept was fast enough to knock his people out of the line of fire, only to be caught by a half-dozen energy bolts and knocked to the ground. Almost immediately, the Adari espers closed their eyes and focused, bringing a focused shield around the Adari delegation.

Jo’an drew herself shakily to her knees as the Varnn began to line up at the side of the shield. Inside, the other Gelgans were checking their vanguard, who was groaning faintly on the ground. “Those bastards. We need a plan quickly.” She glanced at her accidental saviours. “And what are humans doing here?”

“What is everyone saying?” Lucky groaned, sitting up and speaking in English. “One minute we’re at home, the next… are we actually on Sayleen? And, uh, Jim, why do you have…”

“I’ll explain later.” Jhim shook his head, ignoring the incredulous looks his family was giving him. “Just stay quiet for a moment while we try to get out of this, okay?” Looking dubious, Timebender and Lucky nodded.

Heran Kyall’s voice echoed faintly through the psychic shield. “Surrender, Adari. I don’t know where you got your trained monkeys, but your shield is the only thing keeping you intact. Give up now, or we will bring it down.”

“Not likely, Kyall.” Jo’an sneered at him, crinkling her nose. “I would say the same to you. Your ambush has failed, and these criminal actions will cost you your family and your life if you do not surrender immediately.”

“I think not. Perhaps my friends can convince you to come out.” The door at the far end of the hall opened soundlessly as Kyall continued. “I knew that you wouldn’t give in, Jo’an. You are as proud as you are stupid. So I took the liberty of acquiring the help that I needed to overthrow you.”

“I am Warthread Jtan of the Convergent Leaf.” The lead figure swept an armored gaze over the shield. He was well over six feet tall, clad from head to toe in a deep blue metallic armor that slid easily as he walked, tiny blades protruding from his gloves and spikes on his helmet. His voice was low and hollow, forcing the Sayleen syllables with difficulty. “Surrender or be obliterated.”

“Yocanu.” Jo’an’s shocked gaze swept from the five to Kyall. “You hired Yocanu soldiers?”

“I will do whatever it takes to overthrow you. Even now, an army marches on your capitol. Adar will burn, and the other nations will think twice before daring to challenge us. Now. Surrender!”

“Never!” Jo’an lowered her voice. “We have to break out. Vanguards take the lead. We’ll punch straight through the far wall towards the guard stations…”

Jhim stopped listening. Instead, his attention was drawn to the Lanto family’s esper, who was helping the others reinforce the shield. The esper glanced to his family head, who nodded slightly. Jhim cursed, and spun his gun. “Look out!”

The Lanto reacted instantly. Their vanguard launched forwards, taking a laser bolt as he slammed Jhim backwards into the shield. At the same time, the Lanto esper shifted all of his focus. His brow pulsed as he withdrew all of his strength from the shield and launched a mental attack against the esper next to him. Simultaneously, the Yocanu opened fire. With a cry of pain, the Adari espers broke off, tumbling backwards, and the area was open.

The room erupted into violence once again. Adari vanguards moved to cover their charges, only to be blocked by their opposites in the Varnn. Jhim found himself opening fire to keep his enemies’ heads down, as the Adari espers tried to recover from the mental damage they had received. The Lanto delegates were retreating from the other Adari, to join with the Varrn on the other side of the room, while their own vanguard pushed himself back to his feet and stepped into the path of the stray shots Jhim fired at them.

Timebender pushed off, shaking her head. “I think I get the gist of it.” She moved in a blur, racing across to the Varrn artificers before they could train their weapons on her, pulling them out of the surprised soldiers’ hands and running away before the Varrn could pin her down. Standing by the Gelgan, Lucky was distracting a vanguard, leaping over and around him and avoiding every attack that was aimed his way.

But it wasn’t nearly enough – Jhim could see that at a glance. There were seventeen Gifted on the enemy side, against the mere ten that the Adari were currently fielding. If it weren’t for the Yocanu, they would have a chance, but now… he fired off two more shots. “We have to get out of here.”

“Allow me.” Tiny brown grenades dropped across the Varrn lines. They promptly exploded into a thick smoke that left the Varrn coughing and dazed. Promptly, the air shimmered and Ash took shape near a far wall, speaking in fluent Sayleen. “This way, quickly.”

“Jhim, can we trust it?” Carath Ahliss stared from the robot tree to her son in shock and horror. Despite the situation, Jhim chuckled.

“He’s a good plant. Come on!” Jhim gestured, and the Adari delegation fell into full retreat, Timebender and the vanguards bringing up the rear. Behind them, he heard Kyall yelling.

“There’s nowhere to run, Jo’an! Your nation will fall!”

Jhim shook his head, his momentary good humour vanishing. There was a good chance that Kyall was right, and even though he was glad to see his friends again, he was afraid that they had come only to die alongside him.

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