Strategy

From the Story Arc: There's No Place Like Home

Previous Story in the Arc: Alone In The Dark by Althea Nagy (Wednesday, June 08, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Endgame by Althea Nagy (Friday, June 10, 2005)

(posted Thursday, June 09, 2005)

They had a zone.

They had coordinates.

Courtesy of technology and magic combined in the sort of improbable fusion that only seemed to occur around the CCCP.

The strange, neurotic woman who looked like a Valkyrie and had not left her apartment for two years said that Althea was in good---physical---health.

Red Saviour had to take all of this on faith. Faith! A fragile support to cling to. But it was all she had. Backup scans from members of the rest of RPCongress seemed to verify---as much as anything could be verified past the Council scramblers---that all of this was true. Right zone, right place, and Althea was still alive.

Red Saviour was not going down the duty roster, she was pulling the entire duty roster, from highest to lowest. This would be a strike-force to end all---

“No.”

Her head snapped up. People’s Blade, looking as serene and composed as ever, and finally emerged from the streets, was staring at her with her arms crossed over her chest. But it was Shen Xue who looked out of Fei Li’s eyes.

“No. If you want to save Althea and the CCCP, you cannot do this.”

The rage held bottled inside Natalya threatened to explode---but this was Shen Xue. She would give him a moment to explain himself.

“Explain,” she demanded.

“Look at the strength of the Council. Look at the strength of the CCCP. Even if we pulled in all potential allies, they can still outnumber and outfight us. They can surround that building and grind us into the dust. They will kill the girl immediately, of course. So the girl will be dead. They will probably manage to eliminate many of us permanently as well. So as much as half of your troops will be dead. The actions of our people against the Council for the past two days have been….excessive. No one has complained openly---yet. But to bring war into Founder’s Falls?” Fei Li shook her head. “Do this, and the CCCP is finished, and the girl will still be dead.”

“So what do I do?” Red Saviout asked tightly---then answered the question herself. “Ah. A feint. With most of the CCCP against---Striga?”

Shen Xue nodded. “Even so. And I will lead it. You will lead the other team. Seven, no more.”

Natalya counted down in her mind. She needed Bella’s calm voice on the comm.. John Murdock certainly. The only other walking firebomb she knew was Red Djinni---Beastial Boy could make up for his negligence and would fight all the better for guilt. Who else?

October Star. She had seen him stagger in this morning, drink half a pot of coffee and go out again. If she forbade him, he would come anyway.

Shen. She did not want to risk another child---but look what had happened with Shuma! If she forbade him, he would do the same as October Star.

That left one space. Well, she would decide to fill it when the time came.

Though---if Thea was not as well as the neurotic said---or if they hurt her once the attack began---

Soviette, or Thanh Ha. People’s Blade would need the other.

“These are mine,” she said, shoving the short list across the desk. “The rest, yours.”

It was Fei Li who went down the list, and one eyebrow rose. Red Saviour could guess over which name.

But People’s Blade said nothing. “I will assemble my force. When we have begun, you may take your team in.” She turned to go, and then stopped, and turned back. And again, it was Shen Xue who looked out of Fei Li’s eyes, but there was something there that Natalya had not often seen.

Emotion.

“The girl is also my student. Take care of her.”