All's Fair, Part Seven: War Council

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This location is secure for the time being.” Ash informed the Adari delegates, ushering them into a small side room. “It has two exit points to prevent being cornered, and is shielded from non-psychic sensor systems. It should do for planning and explanations.

“Thank you, alien.” Gelgan Jo'an looked Ash up and down for a moment. “Have I seen you somewhere before?”

Possibly. I am the Grovedale Entity Ash. It is possible that you witnessed a recording of one of my interactions with your companion the Handyman.” Ash glanced over to Jhim for confirmation. Jhim nodded distractly.

“Yeah, I can vouch for them.” He shifted into English smoothly. “What are you doing here?”

“Um… not sure.” Timebender tried not to stare. “We were in a confrontation, and Nightshade got in the way. And then she said something to Phil, and… you know, I think they deployed something they shouldn't have.”

“That doesn't make much sense. Can Doctor Ecchs really make something that could get you to Sayleen?” Jhim raised an eyebrow. Before Timebender could reply, his mother intervened, in lightly accented English.

“There is a time and a place, Jhim. And at this moment, we have more important concerns.” She turned her attention to Jo'an, who was gathering the delegates. “But then… Matron Jo'an seems to have other concerns. I suppose your alien friends can wait. Would you bring them up to speed while we confer on our next course of action?”

“Thank you, mother.” Jhim bowed as Ahliss turned to join in the Adari discussion, then returned his attention to his friends. “So, uh, where should I start…”

“How about with you not being human.” Lucky said.

Was that not common knowledge?” Ash looked as surprised as a tree with eyes can manage. “I am glad that I did not mention it, then.

“Yeah.” Jhim rubbed the back of his neck. “I'm sort of actually Carath Jhim Adar. You're currently standing with the house heads, delegates, and bodyguards of four of the five Adari… well, royal families might be the best translation, but it's really more fluid than that.” He gestured in Jo'an's direction. “That's Gelgan Jo'an, the Mother of Adar. You just met my mother, Carath Ahliss. The other delegates are from Shinn and Vokar, respectively.” He shook his head. “And you were there when the Lanto family changed sides.”

“Okay, that answers very little.” Lucky frowned in concentration. “So you're sort of nobility?”

“Sort of, yeah.” Jhim looked embarassed. “Sorry that I never told you. I didn't want to discuss my past, and there was no way to get around that except to not mention where I came from.”

“So you pretended to be…” Timebender threw up a hand. “Actually, never mind. Somehow I get the feeling this is a little bigger than who you did or didn't want to be. Why are there Sayleen shooting at each other?”

“Yeah, seriously. I thought you were all one big happy family. They said in Civics that you hadn't had a war in over a hundred years.” Lucky frowned.

“Well, you're at ground zero for our first.” Jhim shook his head. “It's kind of complicated. Basically, we've had our own version of the Accords more or less since the aftermath of the Chitranu invasion. They've kept the peace between the fifteen nations, and let us use our Gifted – superpowered people – to resolve disputes. But some of the nations feel that the Rites favour psychics over the other two usual types of Sayleen Gifted. Varnn is the most vocal of those nations, and they've been agitating for decades about it. This was going to be another one of those meetings.”

“Only it got violent.” Timebender nodded slowly. “And they've hired Yocanu mercenaries.”

“Yeah. Use of aliens in the Rites is forbidden, but the Varnn are pretty much past caring about that by now.” Jhim shook his head. “I hate that you're here. This has been on the boiling point for years. Why did it have to explode now?”

“Just lucky, I guess.” Lucky grinned, then frowned. “Actually, now that I think about it, that's really weird. Usually my powers work overtime to get me out of situations like this. It takes active effort to wind up in this kind of trouble.”

“Jhim. We have made contact with other areas of the city.” Ahliss swept back into the conversation with the serenity of someone who knows they aren't going to be yelled at. “The situation is grim. Varnn has brought an army. The Yocanu have taken Jurin Heights and the Gand, and the Adari forces are fighting a retreat. Our house guard does not think it will be possible for our delegation to break through to their lines.”

There is, however, another option.” Ash spoke up suddenly, in Sayleen. Jhim quietly translated for his other friends. “I have been monitoring transmissions – neither the Adari nor the Varnn have been careful about encryption. It seems that thousands of Adari are currently evacuating through the Sayleen psigate. The Adari have a large force defending the facility and its neighbourhood, in order to get as many Adari loyalists to Atlantis as possible. If we could reach the facility, you would be able to escape.

“And then what?” Vokar Li shook his head fiercely. “Once the Varnn capture the facility, we'll never get it back. We'll be trapped on Earth while our people fight here!”

Is that preferable to destruction?” Ash looked pointedly around the room. “We currently possess only eleven superbeings, five of them injured. We also have eight noncombatants. The Varrn are attacking the city with a total of one hundred and fifty superbeings, in full combat readiness. If we join battle at the psigate, we will do as much damage to the Varnn as we would if we attempted to do battle directly, with the added benefit that most of us would survive.” He continued pointedly. “Furthermore, on Earth you could potentially recruit forces to recapture the city. It would possibly be time-consuming, but eminently doable. Dead, your avenues of recruitment will be sharply limited.

“Well, when you put it that way…” Li trailed off uncertainly. He looked to Jo'an. “Matron?”

Jo'an considered for a moment. “I agree with the alien. We make for the gate.”

“Great.” Lucky sighed, catching a laser that Jhim tossed to him. “We get in more wars lately.”

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