Emerald Legion, Chapter eight
“Blood is 7.3 times thicker than water” – wherein our young Champions face their greatest challenge
The Kathooni delegation had not been formally accepted into the UP yet, so they had no Embassy of their own. Instead the reception was in the sprawling Talokkian Embassy, the otherwise lightless interior of which was decorated in gleaming Kathooni sparkle-crystals, and the many glistening decorations of the various Ambassadors and their retinues. The Talokkian staff themselves wore only armor-like accoutrements of reflective metal, and, as Ambassador Ravin proclaimed, ‘bathed only in the radiant magnificence of their guests.’
Queen Sarya had dressed in robes of deep jade green, effectively black in the dim surroundings, but orbiting her crown was a fist-sized star emerald, which had been specially treated to glow with its’ own verdant inner fire. Her face was bathed in a soft green light, and shifting shadows played over her face as the stone completed its’ circuit around her head. Imra had treated her gossamer cloak to radiate the subtlest pale green hue, not enough to cast any light of its’ own, but merely enough to be visible in the dark as a glimmering emerald shadow. Her Titanian psi-metal adornments shone with their own pale amber glow, and in the shifting light sources, seemed to move of their own volition, like serpents of gold writhing over her legs and arms. Garth had allowed the white and gold segments of his own Champion’s Garb be treated with a fluorescent dye, and cut a bold figure, with his face underlit by the dramatic white lightning bolt cutting down his torso. Rokk had skipped any cosmetic alterations for the occasion, and in the unlit shadows, the pale violet glow of his eyes cut through the darkness with a surprising intensity.
“Great, we’re all gussied up, and I can’t see a sprocking thing.” Garth complained.
“Just watch out for that Talokkian Ambassador. I think he grabbed my ass when he was introducing himself…”
“You *think?* How could you not be sure?” Garth muttered, wondering not for the first time was in this glass he was holding, since he couldn’t actually make out what color it was, only that it had a suspiciously thick texture and tasted like nothing he could identify.
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe ‘cause it was dark? Could have been anyone, really. Well, anyone wearing a lot of metal, I could tell that much…”
Garth got an evil look on his face and cupped a hand to his mouth, but Rokk nudged him in the ribs before he could make any sort of embarrassing announcement.
“What? I was just gonna holler across the room to Imra and ask if it was her…”
“Oh great, get us both killed why don’t you,” Rokk laughed. “What’s she doing over there anyway?”
“She said that she thought she ‘heard’ another Titanian in the room, but she’s having trouble finding them, so she’s on the prowl.”
Any reply died on his lips as the room suddenly exploded into brilliance, and the assorted delegates were left reeling and blinded by the explosion, as a thunderous display of *lightning* poured down in the center of the room.
The Talokkian and Kathooni in the crowd were most stricken by the brilliant display, and Garth could just make out a figure standing in the midst of the brilliant bolt of lightning that was traveling upwards to splash across the ceiling in a display of sparks and electricity.
~Surrender immediately, and die. There is no ‘or.’~, came a powerful telepathic command that neither Garth nor Rokk recognized, although the source was recognizably female. The command seemed to surge around in their minds like a crashing wave, repeating endlessly, and both found themselves momentarily unable to react.
A red flash, likely invisible to the light-sensitive members of the delegation was followed by a gut-wrenching stench, and Garth sank to his knees retching.
“Sweet siblings, the stench! What is that?”
“Thanks, Exposition Lad,” Garth muttered through his hand, futility trying to block the nauseating stench. He suddenly pointed, “There.”
Rokk turned to see a man in a blue and red outfit, wearing an unusual helmet and his eyes glowed red, much like the same energy flash that had preceded the sudden change in atmosphere.
“Venusian, methane-breathers, allergic to oxygen.” Rokk gasped, as he raised his hands and dozens of sharp-edged metallic Talokkian items of tableware flew towards the figure. Both Champions were surprised to see the man’s eyes flash red again, and the metallic projectiles dissolved into water and splashed harmlessly across the figure.
“We need to,” Rokk began when suddenly the room went dark again and he was suddenly lifted from his feet by a massive discharge of electricity which left him gasping and on the razor’s edge of consciousness.
Garth stepped into the current, blocking it with a stream of lightning from his own hands, and saw a familiar face backlit by the flaring discharge.
“Hey, little brother. Fancy meeting you here…”
Garth advanced slowly, his own streams of electricity matching the single blast that his brother seemed to be effortlessly sustaining, “Why are you doing this, these people…”
Mekt kept talking manically, ignoring Garth’s words, “You had the right idea, Garth. Winath was a dead end. Why stick around and watch little Ayla finish her transformation? Crying all the time that you’d abandoned her and thought she was a freak…”
“Shut up!” Garth screamed, switching from just holding his brother’s discharge at bay and pouring out all of his rage.
Mekt stepped back, a look of amused surprise on his face, and raised his other hand to focus fully on keeping his brother at bay. “Come on, you know I’m right. She’s a freak, and you couldn’t stand looking at her freak face. You were right to leave her behind. Who needs a twin, anyway? I sure didn’t…” his face twisted into a hateful sneer, and Garth felt himself falling back under the blistering strain.
Rokk had regained his breath, and noticed that a half-dozen men in masks were walking among the fallen ambassadors and snatching up items of jewelry and shoving them into sacks at their waists. The Venusian was watching him with arms folded, apparently considering him no threat and waiting for him to make the first move. Across the room, he could see Imra standing directly in front of another woman in what appeared to be some sort of uniform. It was obvious they were having some sort of mental battle, as Imra’s arm was frozen in the attempt to reach the woman, and both of them showed signs of strain.
Of the Queen, there was no sign, and Rokk realized that they had only minutes before the delegates began to die from oxygen deprivation, but every time he seized control of a metal weapon to use, the red-eyed man just shook his head and it turned into water in a crimson flash and fell harmlessly to the ground. The man’s environment suit was made of some material that didn’t respond to his magnetic powers, and his hopes of cracking the man’s life-support systems open were dashed.
Sensing a heavy source of metal across the room, Rokk activated his Ring,
Garth! Switch targets, I’ll take care of your brother, you shoot the Venusian!
Garth, do it!
Suddenly, Garth dove to the side and Mekt’s lightning blasts flew harmlessly into the drinks table, where several of the local beverages proved to be flammable. Garth fired a double-blast of lightning at the flat-footed Venusian, and as Mekt turned and started tracking the lightning to where his little brother had landed, a 200 kilo metal gong crashed into his back and threw him to the ground.
Rokk used every erg of his magnetic strength to press the metal gong down, pinning the lightning wielder to the ground, while trusting Garth to handle the Venusian. His trust was rewarded as the scent of sulphur abruptly vanished to be replaced with sweet, sweet air, heavily tinged by the odor of the electrical fires touched off during the brothers’ exchange.
He shifted his position carefully, and he could now just make out Imra and the Titanian woman now face to face, faces glistening in the flicking firelight as sweat poured down their foreheads, muscles straining as they gripped each others arms. Slowly, Imra leaned forward and it almost looked like she was going to kiss the other woman when she suddenly shouted in the other womans’ face, “BITCH!”
The older telepath looked shocked and flinched visibly before attempting to regain her mental focus, but it was too late and she closed her eyes and slumped backwards, stricken instantly unconscious by Imra’s mental assault.
The sack-toting henchmen attempted to flee, only to find that the room had been sealed, presumably by the villains themselves and while Rokk kept his concentration on making sure that the lightning wielder was pinned, Garth and Imra made short work of the remaining henchmen.
The main doors wrenched open with a squeal, and Queen Sarya and Kathooni Ambassador Marin strode into the smoke-filled battlezone, accompanied by a half-dozen statuesque armor-clad Kathooni security women, who quickly moved to see to the fallen delegates, most of whom were sputtering and choking, but seemed none the worse for the wear.
Within minutes, SP troopers also entered the room, and the criminals were manacled and led away.
Being dragged out, Mekt was red-faced and screaming, “Your idiot friends won’t save you Garth! I will destroy you for this! You’ll abandon them like you abandoned us, you don’t deserve friends, you don’t deserve family, you’re *nothing!*”
Garth was trembling with rage, and his hands were crackling and sparking with energy. The SPs continued trying to wrestle the struggling Mekt out of the room, but Garth had moved into the doorway and was blocking them from getting Mekt out, “Go ahead, let him go.”
Rokk stepped between the brothers, “Garth, no.” he placed his hand on the taller man’s chest, carefully avoiding his hands, which were tossing off tiny bolts of electricity that arced towards Rokk’s metal suit, shocking him painfully.
“Get out of my way, Rokk. I’ll burn you down.”
“No you won’t.”, Rokk maintained, only managing to hold himself steady in the wake of the stronger man by using his magnetic powers to hold himself in place.
“You think you can stop me?” Garth said coldly, his eyes glowing with blinding golden energy.
“Go ahead!” Mekt ranted, “Incinerate the fool! Nothing can stop us!”
“Don’t know. Don’t care. *You* are going to stop you.” Rokk pointed behind him at Mekt, who, thankfully, had been gagged by one of the suspiciously strong Kathooni amazon-women.
“I know you won’t attack me, because that’s what *he* would do. And you’re nothing like him.”
Suddenly the glow faded from Garth’s eyes and he turned away, shoulders shaking. “You’re right. He’s not worth it.”
By that point, the armored Kathooni had given up on dragging Mekt out on his feet, and instead rolled him into a decorative tapestry, heaved him into the air and carted him off like produce, struggling feebly as Garth pointedly turned again so that his brother couldn’t even catch his eye on the way by.
Imra came up behind Rokk and put a hand on him as he sagged in relief. ~Thank you. I could have stopped him, but it’s far more important that he stopped himself.~
Hours had passed, and the young Champions had returned to the Venegarian Embassy. Imra and Rokk sat in her room, while Garth had asked to have some time and soared up into the night sky.
~Do you think he’ll be able to get past this?~ Imra asked, the concern tinging her thoughts.
“It’s got to be hard for him. It seems like nobody can hurt you like family.”
~Not just family. It’s the people we love that have the power to hurt us. We give them that power.~
Rokk looked around the room, as if the answer would be sitting in the corner, waiting to be found. “I’m not a telepath, Imra, but I know alone, and I don’t think Garth needs to be alone right now. I think that’s the *last* thing he needs. You should go to him.”
~No. *We* should go to him.~
“You guys have a thing…”
~That’s not the ‘thing,’ he needs right now. He needs friends. He needs family, and we’re his family now. You and me both.~ Imra extended her hand. ~Let’s go find our family.~