LIAB Text 56
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Phoebe was made of brick. She was covered in soot. Black and red and gray, matching the colors of her raiment. All in a column, matching her general body size and opacity.
She was a chimney on a rooftop, one of many dozens. It was a really good veil. Maybe her best ever. Gold star! The enemy’s minds would not have to reconcile very much with their eyes, and that was the name of the game.
Game. Precisely, associates. This was all just a game, only an exercise. Pretty much a pillow fight.
The Decrypted Archon stood stock still, hovering just above a rooftop she physically could not touch. Her body was rigid with fear, in just the same way (she hoped) that all the other chimneys stood rigid with mortar.
Tagged. Out. Of. The. Game.
And if she revealed herself, then she’d be tagged, too. She knew it.
She should fight, though.
She wasn’t thinking of the team here, which they always told her was the worst thing you could do. This wouldn’t look very good on her next review. “Teamwork ethic still improving” would be written there, and maybe, “confidence remains a deficit area for Phoebe.”
Even without watching, the shouts and blasts and last cries were so clear. That sound was a sword hacking someone, ribs snapping. She should help. That was someone dissolving. She should fly in and stack up with anyone else, and fight. And help.
But now Rachel was gone, and there was no-one to tell her what to do. Scouts don’t autoengage if they can hide, and she could hide really, really well. Better than she could fight. So...she should do that, right? Made sense. Made perfect sense.
In theory, she was capable of moving. She imagined herself spiraling skyward in a powerful, heroic charge. She could picture it. She cheered for herself in her mind. Except she couldn’t actually bring herself to go.
A couple of others she could see were now fleeing the battle, scattering to far corners of the city. She had no orders. The warlord Ossomer was gone. Mistress Wanda’s voice had left her head. She had nothing from her Chief Warlord or her Overlord. They were all abandoned here. And it had been forever since she’d heard the one voice that mattered.
“Charlie...” she whispered to the wind, and felt no shame about it. She still loved him.
A game like this would never have happened to Charlescomm. It never had happened. To lose this many in a single battle? Impossible. Charlie didn’t abandon his associates on the battlefield.
They were all well-trained for engagements, sure. They never stopped “learning and having fun.” But Charlie wouldn’t let a major battle like this happen without linking in to provide direct tactical leadership. Associate-level leadership was just supervisory. No Archon had more than a 3, and that was rare. But through the Arkendish, Charlie could lend another 5 to any fight he was directing. It was just as powerful as Mistress Wanda’s bonus. And he knew tricks. He always knew just what to do. This fight, nobody knew what to do. It felt terrible.
With Charlie dropping in that way, Charlescomm rarely lost. They never lost like this. Not when it was important.
This was so totally wrong. No, she should say it was...antithetical. Lingo was another deficit area for her.
Charlie and Mistress Wanda shouldn’t be fighting. She loved them both, and they should love each other. This game shouldn’t be played. There was no reason for this! Sorry, this action lacks a sound rationale. Monica and Rachel should be alive still! The fight was so...totally antithetical!
Someday, Mistress and Charlie would come together and be on the same side. Why couldn’t that just be now? She wanted to break veil and shout, “Stop! It’s a big, dumb mistake!” She almost did it, but caught herself.
This engagement was a mistake because this war was a mistake. And it was going to cost her her life. And probably nobody cared. Probably this veil wouldn’t work; they had too many commanders down there to spot her.
This was probably her last chance to look around, breathe the air. She couldn't move.
It wasn’t right. It wasn’t even a little bit fair. (Even now, she managed to smile at the old joke. Every Archon knew “fair” was the funniest word in Language.) Well, at least she’d be joining Monica and Rachel, then. She hoped Rachel would forgive her for hiding.
Yes, this engagement was a mistake. And this war was a mistake. Maybe all wars were a mistake. Maybe war itself was antithetical.
But without it, how would anybody do business?