“Sayleen don't have much of a sense of humor!” Lucky dove around the corner, with a hail of energy blasts peppering the ground behind him. He tilted around, firing a string of laser beams to force his pursuers into cover, then glanced back to the squad.
“I'm not sure they consider us beating up three patrols as humorous.” Jhim smiled wryly, joining him in laying down a layer of laser fire, then switched to Sayleen. “How is everyone?”
“The delegates are all intact.” Vokar Sam'uel, one of the few standing vanguards, shook his head grimly, reaching over to tear a chunk of wall free and lob it over the building. He was rewarded with panicked shouting as the Sayleen that had been pursuing fell back in disarray. “The situation for the rest of us, though… Gelgan Gereld's injuries from the ambush are catching up to him, and Pamala and Rudey pushed their mental powers to the limit getting us this far. Also, the human woman's injured and your pet plant hasn't reappeared.” His voice was loaded with suspicion. Jhim answered it with concern.
“I don't know where he went either. I hope he's alright.” Jhim considered. “So we have two standing vanguards, two espers, me, and Lucky. Not good.” He moved back to English. “Anyone still there, Lucky?”
Lucky risked a glance. “They've fall back out of masonry range. If we want to leg it, this is the time.”
“Right.” Jhim waved his arm. “We're moving, people! Top speed, before they get Yocanu down here!” The team broke into jogging, with Sam'uel falling back to cover the rear as Shinn Ellene, the other standing vanguard, took the lead, her eyes peeled for signs of assault. As the team moved, Jhim stepped stepped towards Timebender and Lucky – Timebender was moving in a disjointed, fast-stepping limp, and he frowned worriedly. “How are you holding up?”
“Peaches and cream.” Timebender snapped. “I've been shot, take a guess.” After a moment, she sighed. “Sorry. Can't talk much, or I'll fall behind.”
Lucky elaborated. “She's hurt. She's tilting time just to keep even with everyone else jogging, and trying to filter sounds so that she can hear what we're saying. It takes a lot of concentration – she can keep up, but not much else.”
Jhim nodded slowly. “I'm sorry.”
“You didn't bring us here.” Lucky shrugged, then considered thoughtfully. “Did you bring us here?”
“What? No! Why would you think that?” Jhim yelled.
“Because you're taking it personally, that's all.” Lucky said. “My point is, don't beat yourself up. Someone brought us here. Don't know who, don't know why. But we're damned well making the best of it. Hell, if we hadn't ported in when we did, your matron would be dead and maybe you would be too.”
Jhim nodded. “I suppose so. Well, we'll worry about it when we get out of this.” He looked around. “Any idea where Ash went?”
“He said something about building a distraction.” Lucky shrugged. “I don't understand half the things he does, to be honest. He'll show up.”
“He'd better, or he's going to get left behind.” Jhim bit his lip. “The compound is right over… oh, no.”
The group skidded to a halt as Shinn Ellene held up a hand. She whispered. “The compound's just ahead. Looks like there's a line developed. I make five Yocanu, a hundred Sayleen. I see five vanguards, no marked espers or artificers. Could be a secret one or two.”
Sam'uel added from the rear. “We've got a patrol approaching. Very cautious, I make five Yocanu and twenty Sayleen. Four vanguards, two marked artificers.” He looked over worriedly. “We have about two minutes to contact. Artificer, we need a plan fast.”
“Right.” Jhim nodded. “Lezslie, you're with me. We're going to create a diversion. The rest of you are going to barrel straight through the front entrance – the compound'll support you when they realize you're there. Move in thirty seconds.”
“Jhim -” Ahliss spoke with concern. “Don't get killed.”
Jhim smiled crookedly. “Twenty-five seconds. See you on the other side.” As he spoke, he darted from cover. With a glance to her house leader, Lezslie shrugged her shoulders and followed towards the line.