The Longest Battle – Ch 01 – Looks Can Be Revealing

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    It wasn’t that riding a crumbling building to the ground was a regular occurrence for Way, but if pressed she’d have to admit that it didn’t have her full attention. The rocket strikes on the Peace Spire’s foundation had surprised her. She’d consider dreaming the Spire into being able to withstand the blasts but her mentor had stopped her.

    “This is part of the process. Let’s just make sure no one is hurt.” Jessica had told Way.

    It took a deft touch to allow a building to disintegrate while protecting those inside it from serious harm. On her own, Way wasn’t sure she could have managed it. She more often focused on fixing issues via overwhelming force than by subtlety.

    That’s what had her distracted. Subtlety and finesse were Jin’s forte. They’d been apart less than a day and already Way missed her wife.

    “That’s it, just hold the outside structure together and let it settle a little slower. I’ve got the inside bits.” Jessica said. Jessica Wry, Way’s mentor, had been a Guardian for the Parliament of Time for more years than Way had been alive, so despite being something of a powerhouse herself, she had the fine control over her telekinesis that Way hadn’t yet developed.

    “I don’t think the building will hold up on its side for long.” Way warned her mentor as she let the Peace Spire settle gently onto the park that surrounded it.

    “It doesn’t have to. We’ll get the negotiators out in a few minutes. I’m shifting them so they’re all towards the top of the pile.” Jessica said.

    “Are they all ok?” Way asked.

    “Physically? Yes. Mentally I think they’re pretty shook up though.” Jessica said.

    “I don’t understand why we didn’t prevent the explosions in the first place?” Way asked.

    “The negotiators weren’t ready for that. Both sides have secret allies and they both think that they can win this ‘War Across the Worlds’ because of the advantage their allies will provide. This little demonstration will show them that their not as safe as they think they are.” Jessica said.

    “Fear’s not a strong thing to create a peace from.” Way said.

    “No, it’s not. As soon as one side or the other gets over their fear they’ll be back on the warpath.”

    “So that’s not why we’re doing this then?” Way guessed.

    “More accurate to say that isn’t why we allowed this to happen. Convenient as it was, none of us planned for that rocket attack.” Jessica said.

    “Someone did. Their mysterious allies?” Way asked as she floated down to the ground and ripped one of the walls off the tower to begin getting to the trapped negotiators.

    “Probably not.” Jessica said, dropping down beside Way. The older woman barely came up to Way’s waist. With her red, blue and purple hair done up in pigtails, Jessica didn’t present the image of either a mentor or a guardian. From what she’d told Way that was intentional, though she hadn’t explained why.

    “Their mysterious enemies then?” Way pondered the thought. Whatever secret factions were allying themselves with the Earthlings of the two mirror Earths, there were probably other secret factions who were opposed to them.

    “No, I think they did it to themselves.” Jessica said.

    Way had gotten used to following Jin’s leaps of deductive logic and that training served her well with Jessica.

    “One of the sides thought their allies would back them up if they attacked the peace conference. It was a test to see if they could establish an early dominance over their opposites.” Way said, piecing out the reasoning that Jessica had jumped to.

    “The funny thing is that I blocked two sets of teleport beams right before the rockets hit.” Jessica said.

    “Two sets?” Way asked.

    “Yep. One set for the negotiators on the west side of the room, the other set for the negotiators on the east side of the room.” Jessica confirmed.

    “Different recall points for each set?” Way asked, referring to the destination the teleport beams would have brought the negotiators to.

    “Yep. Obscured too. I was able to block the beams, but I couldn’t tell where they came from beyond a very broad area.”

    “So their ‘secret allies’ did step up to help them? That’s not a good sign.” Way said.

    “True, but they don’t know that. We’ll talk about it later though, I think we’ve left the negotiators in there for long enough.” Jessica pointed out.

    Together they worked to clear the wreckage from around the pockets of debris that Jessica had crafted into the Peace Spire as it fell. The fallen structure was more stable than any building in its condition should have been but even so it shifted and creaked and dropped parts of itself off at random as the two Guardians pulled the negotiators and the members of their delegations free from the wreckage.

    “What happened? You were supposed to be protecting us!” a mechanical voice demanded as Way pulled the chief arbiter free from the wreckage. She started to answer but Jessica cut her off.

    “We’d been expecting trouble to come from within the Peace Tower. You had warned us that there might be assassins sent to surgically eliminate one or more of the diplomats. You need to tell us when the surgical attacks you have in mind will be performed with rockets.” Jessica said.

    The chief arbiter pulled himself up to his full height and glare down at the two guardians. He stood almost nine feet tall and was covered head-to-toe in gleaming silver armor that was etched with glowing patterns of circuitry on it.

    “I was told that the security you provided could cover any eventuality.” he hissed.

    “You’re alive and unharmed.” Jessica shot back.

    “And this peace meeting has literally ended in flames.” the arbiter growled.

    “Then you should schedule another one.” Jessica said raising her voice to match his.

    The Arbiter raised his hand with his index finger extended. Energy crackled at its tip but his posture told Way he was merely making a point rather than beginning an attack. She cut him off anyways as she pulled the next negotiator out of the building.

    “Best not to invite any shape shifters to the next one.” Way said. In her arms she held an unconscious form. There was no gender or notable physical characteristics to the shape shifter. In its relaxed state it was a plain grey mass of putty-like flesh.

    “That’s impossible. There were scanners set up to detect Dopplers! How could one have infiltrated the peace conference?” the arbiter bellowed.

    “Easy, the scanners were sabotaged.” Jessica said.

    “Both parties inspected them!” the arbiter insisted.

    “Well then there must have been some other method this shifter used to infiltrate the room.” Jessica said. She glanced over to Way and shook her head slightly.

    It was possible that the shape shifter had discovered a means to bypass the scanner, but it was more likely that the scanners had been tampered with and both sides had remained silent for their own reasons.

    The possibility of infiltration by shapeshifters meant that no one could necessarily be trusted. Friends could be enemies in disguise and even those closest to you might betray you at any moment. It was a climate that bred fear and paranoia and could drive people crazy.

    Unless they were a dream lord.

    Way relaxed her vision and peered at the Dreamlit reflection of the world. Her eyes looked at what was real, what was unreal and what was a mix of the two. There wasn’t a disguise a shapeshifter could adopt, not even if they changed down to a molecular level that would fool that kind of sight.

    Way’s breath caught in her throat. Close to half of each delegation was composed of shape shifters! The enemy wasn’t merely among the gathering, they outnumbered the humans and were poised to strike at any time they wanted.

    Way looked over to Jessica to see if her mentor had noticed their predicament. Jessica simply smiled and put a finger to her lips in a shushing gesture.

    Her grey, putty-like lips.

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