All's Fair, Part Nine: Problem Solving

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Outside the Meeting Hall, the damage that was being done to the city was obvious. Streets that had once been smooth and silver-sheened were now stained with dust from the artillery bombardments that were still going on, leaving scorched marks and cobwebs of cracks from where a shot went astray and hit a commercial storefront or home instead of its target. The sturdy Sayleen buildings seemed to be almost all still standing, but every few seconds the air shook as a Yocanu cannon sent sonic charges rippling through the air or another artificer-crafted war machine struck home. Overhead, flights of uniquely-designed aircraft swept the skies, the Varrn having driven away Adari defenders and now serving observation for the squads of soldiers sweeping the streets.

One such squad was now covering the western quarter. Talonguard Jalathar Sei'mon triggered his wristcomm as he looked over the street. Behind him, his soldiers spread out, lasers at the ready as they studied windows and doorways for any sign of movement. “This is Patrol Eight, fourth check-in. Seventh through twelfth locales reported free of hostiles.”

“Registered, Patrol Eight. Be advised high-profile targets moving through your vincinity. Estimate ten gifted, equal noncombatants, including Adari Matriarch and two humans. Highest priority targets.”

“Priority registered. Patrol Eight out.” Sei'mon shook his head, closing off the comm. “Great. No chance of us getting backup for this highest-priority target, of course.”

“You don't think that we can manage, sir?” Patrolman Kyuba asked in surprise.

Sei'mon studied him closely. “In fact, Patrolman, I think that we could have some trouble, yes. On account of there are ten of us and ten of them, out of whom there are two vanguards in our unit, and ten Gifted in our opposition.”

“Ah… very good, Talonguard.” Looking abashed, the patrolman quieted down, then added, “Sir?”

“Yes, Patrolman?”

“How will we recognize them?”

“How will we…?” Sei'mon sputtered. “Well, we'll look for a group of eighteen people who include two humans and the Adari Matriarch! God gods, man, don't you watch the news?”

“I prefer the Hannan Show.” The patrolman admitted.

“I… you… forget it. Just forget it.” Throwing his arms up in disgust, the Talonguard turned to address the patrol. “Fall in and keep an eye out. If we do run into the Matriarch, we need to make enough of a fuss that the flyers recognize us.” Muttering under his breath, he spun around, stalked around the corner, made a muffled squeak, and went quiet.

For a moment, no one in the patrol reacted. Then the patrolman spoke. “Sir? Is everything alright?”

“Ah, yes, everything's good. I'm just angry. So angry at you right now.”

“Sir, you sound a bit odd.” Patrolman Kyuba advanced cautiously towards the corner, with the rest of the patrol hanging back carefully.

“That's the anger. Makes me into a whole different person sometimes.” There was a pause. “In fact, come here right now, Patrolman! I want to explain your flaws to you!”

Patrolman Kyubi looked back to the others, who were shrugging helplessly. “Ah… yes, sir. Whatever you say.” He walked around the corner and gave out a muffled squeak.

“Patrolman Kyubi?” The patrol's second in command, Vanguard Jo'sh, stepped forwards. “Sir, is the patrolman alright? Everyone keeps making these strange sounds…”

“The patrolman just… tripped. Over my… foot. I mean, he bumped into me and hit his head.” There was a confused pause. “Vanguard, get over here and help me with him, immediately.”

“Yessir!” Instinct beat concern, and Jo'sh raced around the corner. There were several small cracking sounds, followed by a muffled thud, and then the commander's voice spoke again.

“Dammit, Vanguard, what's wrong with you! You've crushed his leg! Gods damn it, am I surrounded by incompetants? Could two of you get over here and help me?”

As two of the soldiers broke formation to run forwards, around the corner, Timebender and Jhim dragged the unconscious body of the vanguard into an alleyway alongside the Talonguard and the patrolman, as one of the Adari espers modulated his voice to continue to insult them in the Talonguard's voice. Timebender whispered to Jhim. “I cannot believe that this is working.”

“Sayleen don't have much firsthand experience with military tactics.” Jhim grinned. “Or slapstick comedy.”

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