All's Fair, Part Nineteen: Ray of Light

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(April 15th)

“Guys! Over here!” Standing at the arrival gate, Nadia waved her hands joyfully as Lucky, Amber, and Jhim walked through the doors towards her. Vaulting the rail between her and them, she grabbed each one in turn with a massive hug. “Thank God you're alright!”

“Thank Ash, mostly.” Jhim smiled wryly. “I think I owe him twice over now.”

“Okay, okay, enough physical contact thank you.” With a blur of motion, Amber sidestepped an attempt at a second hug, shaking her head. “My side's still a little bit sore.”

“Oops. Sorry.” With an embarassed grimace, Nadia took a step back, paused, and settled for another hug for Jhim. “Jim, I'm so sorry about the invasion…” She trailed off hesitantly. “Are they okay with you being here?”

“For a little while. There's not much we can do, and Atlantis isn't designed for long-term residence anymore. Most of them are heading to San Diego, of course, but I asked about stopping here while we plan our next move, and it got approved.” He smiled faintly. “I think my mother's feeling strained about everything. She wanted me back home because she thought heroing was too dangerous.”

Nadia winced. “I see. What's the timeline on a counter-invasion?”

“Assuming UN approval?” Jhim shrugged helplessly.

Amber took up the slack as the pause lenghtened to an uncomfortable level. “There isn't one. A counter-invasion requires the ability to get an army to Sayleen. We can't do that, because the Varrn control the psigate – unless the Adari forces on the other side can retake the gate, we're stuck. The Oligarchs probably have their own gate, but it'll be tied to the Sayleen one too.”

“That's crazy! There must be some way to get there without a receiver beacon.” Nadia frowned. “I mean, the Atlanteans got to Sayleen in the first place, and it wasn't like there was some giant natural Atlantean psicrystal just sitting around.”

“Running theory is that they were using Earth's psychic reserves at the time. Those are gone now.” Amber shook her head. “On the other hand, someone dropped us there, so if we can figure that out we might have a trick up our sleeves.”

“Yeah… Danielle and 'Wave were reviewing the findings on that front. You guys know what happened at all?”

“Not exactly.” Lucky shrugged. “The teleporter that Nadia was using was designed to move us to a random location, and it synched to an existing teleport system. Long story short, we got teleported right through the Atlantis psigate – it triggered suddenly on the Atlantis and Sayleen ends. Gate control was freaking out. Then the teleport finished, dropping us a mile from the psigate.”

“That seems… unlikely.” Nadia frowned.

“Exceptionally.” Amber said. “We're talking about perfect timing, the ability to override Atlantis's gate controls, which are insanely well-protected, and agents operating in Grovedale and on Sayleen.”

“Plus, unless my luck powers are fritzing out, it needs someone capable of blocking or counteracting my powers. Otherwise, one of the thousands of things that could have gone wrong would have, and we would have been fine. I can guarantee that my powers were trying to get me away from that war.” Lucky pointed out.

There was a silent pause, as the quartet headed for the parking lot. Nadia broke it. “Rex Mundi, then.”

Amber nodded. “I'd bet on it. Hazard could block Lucky, and Rex Mundi's always had the best control of Atlantean things. If anyone could pull this off, it would be him.”

“Okay, but why?” Nadia frowned again, leading the way towards the car that Moonbeam had loaned her in order to get everyone back. “What does he care about a war on another planet?”

“Probably he was trying to block the Oligarchs without using effort.” Lucky shrugged. “Plus, now the SEA has something to worry about other than him – the Oligarchs just jumped to Public Enemy #1. They're instigating wars and sponsoring foreign governments, which is basically the worst possible violation of the Zurich Conventions.”

“Yeah – if the Varrn had signed those, it might matter.” Jhim sighed. “Technically, they're making hash out of our own international laws, but if they conquer enough of the planet before we can get a gate open, there's not much you can do. You know a lot of countries aren't going to be willing to send people to die fighting for an alien planet, especially not with all of the problems on this one.”

Amber winced. “Maybe not. But a lot of people won't want to see our closest ally collapse into anarchy, either. If the Varrn have complete control, yeah, we'll probably be hosed. But if there's a fight…”

“Rex Mundi wins.” Jhim finished for her.

“You don't have to put it that bluntly.” Nadia tried vainly to lighten the mood. “After all, just because Mundi wants to beat the Oligarchs doesn't mean we can't win too. And maybe he's underestimated what we're capable of. Ash is a pretty tough guy, but not a lot of people know about just how tough.”

“Maybe.” Lucky sighed heavily. “I'm just glad we don't have to invade anyone for a little while. I was only at war for a day, and I've already had enough for a couple of months.”

“Um.” Nadia suddenly became very interested in the sky. Everyone turned to look at her suspiciously.

“Um what?” Timebender demanded.

“Well… Dr Ecchs kind of annexed Grover Mall.” Nadia pointed away. “Oh, look, there's the car let's all get in and have a lovely drive.”

Lucky sagged. “Annexed… wasn't he on vacation? I thought he was on vacation.”

“He got back.” Nadia shrugged. “Anyway, he's declared downtown a soverign nation, apparantly on the theory that everyone else was doing it.”

“You know, that seems like an insult to the suffering of the Sayleen people.” Timebender glanced over at Jhim. “Want to help explain the problem to him?”

“I would love to.” Jhim smiled grimly, as everyone piled into the car.

“Excellent.” In the front seat, Nadia leaned back with a smile. There were dark clouds on the horizon, but it felt like the team was back together again, and she couldn't help but be glad.

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