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Ch. 14.2 – Sara

I’m going to kill them, Sara brooded, not for the first time that day.

She didn’t mean it, of course. After an hour of nit-picking, formal minutiae, and deliberate nonsense, though, the Weaver was one insult away from telling the Alliance of Idiocy to sod off. Nehru rubbed her chin, and Sara prepared to unleash all her frustration. “Neither of us means to belittle you union’s potential benefit,” the Oracle said, and Sara bit back her outburst. “Social and cultural constructs have their value. There’s no denying that Majestics talented in Blaze have some trouble finding roles in each of the existing Four Allies. We simply question whether that role is enough for your Bastions to qualify as an entire faction.”

Alex glanced from Nehru to Schnyder, clearly expecting the Councilor to catch the Oracle’s toss. Schnyder didn’t disappoint. “Each of our existing orders serves a particular purpose beyond community,” he explained. “The Council guides and Weaves for peace and harmony. Oracles advance progress both scientific and social. Seekers explore, and Dragons defend.” The old wizard shrugged. “With respect, your Bastions appear redundant with the Ghost Dragons, lacking their vital subtlety.”

That does it! Sara leaned forward, but Alex held up a gentle hand. She felt the spark of inspiration light within him and relented. One last time, she decided, waiting for him to reply. “Do you want to heal the Schism?” Alex asked quietly. Sara nearly gaped, her jaw tightening to keep it from dropping. And if I didn’t see that coming…

Schnyder’s eyes bulged. Nehru gasped. Wenezoui and Liang’s jaws did drop. Molly was the only one who didn’t stare, instead smiling like a Cheshire Cat. *You saw this coming?* Sara sent wildly.

*I was wondering what took him so long,* Molly replied. Sara felt the Ghost Dragon’s pride in Alex radiating from her. *Alex subconsciously assumed they’d be working on it, that’s all.*

“You called their subtlety ‘vital,’ Councilor,” Alex explained, and all four hosts mastered themselves. “I imagined the Council’s role would be to oppose the Schism, but I was clearly mistaken.”

“We all do,” Nehru insisted, but her eyes danced away from the Prime.

Alex folded his hands and leaned forward. “Do you?” he asked gently. “I love Sara, but rest assured, I don’t share her cynicism towards your Alliance. You do a lot of good work. The problem is, you’ve had to hide to survive, and the Allies have turned it into a virtue.” Alex shook his head. “It’s not cowardice, I know. I’ve seen what happens when the – Broken – are faced with majestas. The problem is, you’ve gotten so wrapped up in the pain of the wound that you’ve given up on patching it.”

With that, Schnyder’s eyes narrowed. “That way lies hubris, boy,” he said, voice low and sharp.

“Who else is there?” Alex asked, holding out his hands. “The Global Complex doesn’t want change, Havoc Absolute is an army of supervillains, and Division One’s too busy with the Vortex insanity.” He pressed his hands on the table and leaned farther forward. Determination and desperation at once, Sara thought, feeling Alex’s doubts burn away in those twin fires. “Someone has to push those boundaries. You – all of us – need a group, a union, an Ally, one who dares to shed light on the Schism. We’ll have to be careful, of course.” He straightened, folding his hands in his lap. “We start with people who already see a bit of the truth, help them along, watch what happens.”

“And when, inevitably, some of you go too far?” Nehru asked quietly.

To Sara’s utter astonishment, Alex smiled. “That’s what allies are for,” he replied. “We’re asking to join the community, not use it. When, inevitably, a Bastion is too flashy and public, I expect you to tell us. I’m sure we’ll debate and argue over what constitutes too far, but that’s how we resolve differing opinions, isn’t it?”

Professor Nehru smiled, surprising the Weaver even more. Schnyder tapped his chin with one finger. “Superbly argued, Mr. Deleon,” the Councilor admitted. “Sadly, I must raise an inevitable question. Why do you believe that your Bastions can heal the Schism?”

Oh crap. Sara grimaced. That’s a damn good point. When she looked at Alex, though, his smile had returned. “It turns out,” he said, holding out his hand, “the Skeptic is good for something after all.” A swirling ball of shimmering motes, each a different color, formed above his palm. “I believe that the Skeptic is somehow able to channel the Schism. This is what can counter his crippling rift – art, joy, love, wonder.” He looked at their Ghost Dragon mentor, smile growing. “Molly taught me that.”

Schnyder and Nehru turned to stare at each other, then back at the shining sphere. “There is still much to be discussed,” Schnyder insisted, “and even more to be done.” He glanced back at his colleague.

Nehru smiled. “For now, though, I believe we have the most important elements when trying to move the world: a lever and a place to stand.”

An explosion echoed dimly from outside the castle. Schnyder grunted what Sara guessed was a curse. Was that German? the Weaver wondered. Not now. He waved a hand and chanted, and a window opened in the air above them. Eight men in black paramilitary outfits were entering a breach in the castle walls, armed with the distinctive blocky weapons of the Quadrum Regime. “Now?” he asked, incredulous. “The Complex dares attack now?”

“It’s Travesty!” Sara gasped, fingers dancing through the Weave. She frowned, finding no direct connection to West or his network. “Wait, no. There aren’t any threads that directly link West to them.”

Alex stood slowly, his uniform flaring and becoming sapphire armor once more. With a flare of Blaze, he formed a glimmering sword in his hand. “Then who? This can’t be important enough for an alien empire to get involved.” He looked at Nehru in shock, and Sara realized the Oracle was nodding. “Can it?”

“It seems so,” the professor stated, folding her arms, eyes tightening. “Come, Bastion. Knowing those weapons, I suspect we are about to have the chance to field-test your theory.”

Why can’t it ever be simple? Sara asked. The universe didn’t answer.

Written by Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan was born in the Bronx, New York, giving him the right to root for the Yankees while making less than six figures. After a long, largely pleasant interregnum in suburban Connecticut, he moved to the Inland Empire, California to be with his wonderful wife and muse, a stepson, and a crazed feline. An occasionally too-avid player of and writer for tabletop roleplaying games, his other passion is metaphysics, which informs most of his fiction.

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