All's Fair, Part Seventeen: Power Down

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(April 8th)

“Mother!” Pushing his way through a group of milling refugees, Jhim smiled broadly. “You’re well?”

“Thanks to you.” Ahliss turned her attention away from what she was doing long enough to take Jhim’s hand, a smile banishing her scowl for a moment before being driven away. “Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the capitol.” She watched intently as the psicrystals in the portal room flared to life, depositing another group of refugees. “Every report is worse than the one before.”

“I can go back and…” Jhim broke off as his mother shook her head.

“Absolutely not – I forbid it. We’re well past the point where one Gifted is going to shift the tides. And when that point came, you were on the front lines doing the shifting.” Ahliss frowned at her son. “You are not going to throw your life away.”

Jhim subsided, but continued to watch the gate room. “I just… standing here, watching helplessly, I don’t like it.”

“I understand. None of us do. But we will have our own missions to do if we are going to take back our world, and we will need every person we have for them.” Ahliss said. “If we let our desires overcome our reason, the Varrn and their allies will rule our world.”

In the gate room, workers were busily clearing the Sayleen away from the platform to prepare for the next jump. As they did, the psicrystal lights began to flicker, and then went dark, with only the faintest glimmer of blue light shimmering in their depths.

Ahliss turned to the technician on duty, who was typing frantically into his keyboard. He glanced at her as he worked. “I’m sorry, ma’am. We’ve lost reception. I’m trying to get it back, but… damn it!” He sat back, shaking his head, and wiped sweat from his brow. “No good. The Sayleen receptor is offline. They must have cut the power.”

“So that’s it, then.” Jhim sagged. “How many of our people were still there?”

Ahliss recited without checking. “Six Gifted and fifty-three soldiers.” She bowed her head. “At least the last of the civilians were evacuated.” Suddenly, she looked up at the technician. “And five of your Gifted. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” The technician had returned his attention to the screen. “They’ll be back. And unless I miss my guess, they’ll have a few more of your people with them.”

There was a confused hesitation. Ahliss glanced at Jhim, who shrugged helplessly, then directed her attention to the technician. “But you said the receptor…”

“Receptor’s down on their end, which means we can’t ‘port over. But our crystal is working just fine, and our team has a psychic qualified to create the connection. Once they’re ready, they’ll be back – they just won’t be able to return to Sayleen afterwards.” The technician’s attention was fixed on the portal room. He smiled faintly as the lights in the room began to flicker again. “And unless I miss my guess, that’ll be them now…”

Blue light flared, and faded away again, revealing fourteen people standing in the room. Nine were Sayleen soldiers in various states of injury, and Jhim grinned as he saw the others. “I didn’t realize the SEA had arrived!”

Ahliss nodded, looking down into the room, as medics approached the group. One of the humans, a tall, thin man in a brilliant crimson-and-silver jumpsuit, was staggering, and one of his companions had to help him.

In the lead, Dudeman nodded up towards the control room. Leaving his surfboard, on which three Sayleen soldiers were crouching, he strode past the medics, out the door, and up the stairs. Ahliss and Jhim met him on the stairway. “Ma’am. I’m sorry to report that Intrepid wasn’t able to port more than nine of your people." Dudeman gestured towards the jumpsuited man, who was being helped onto a stretcher. "We did our best to clear a path for the others to escape – I expect that at least some of them will.”

“Thank you, Dudeman. We are in your debt.” Ahliss bowed, and then studied the SEA commander. “You’re bleeding.”

“Nothing serious.” Dudeman smiled grimly. “Yocanu soldiers pack a punch, but it’s not the first time I’ve fought them. I just wish I’d seen Warzone in there.” He shook his head, turning his attention to Jhim. “I rendezvoused with that tree of yours. He’s helping evacuate anyone that needs to run and couldn’t reach the portal compound.”

“Good to know.” Jhim smiled, then his expression turned worried. “You, uh, you really are bleeding.”

“I heal very quickly.” Dudeman shrugged.

“No, seriously.” Jhim gestured at Dudeman’s chest. The hero looked down, frowned, and reached to his chest. Fishing around for a moment, he winced and pulled out a seven-pointed, barbed disc.

“Ah. Didn’t realize that was still stuck in there.” Tossing the disc to one side, where it promptly buried itself six inches deep in the concrete wall, Dudeman shrugged again. “Sorry about that.” Continuing bladly, he said “We’re past the crisis point – the Varrn can’t teleport to us, and until we find a way to get access to another Sayleen beacon, we’re cut off. I’m going to go clean off, and make sure this doesn’t get infected. I’ll catch you at the debriefing.” With a wave, he turned and strode away.

Ahliss glanced at the disc in the wall, as a pair of technicians appeared and very, very carefully removed it, placing it in a small steel box. “He seems rather…”

“Distracted.” Jhim offered. “Don’t worry, he’s just focusing on our problem.”

“Good.” Ahliss nodded thoughtfully. “Very… good.”

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