Ash checked his weapon as he sprinted through the halls of the stadium. He didn’t have any extra ammo. Maybe had another six, seven bullets in the clip. For once, keeping count didn’t seem like such a bad idea. He couldn’t even imagine taking on someone built and trained like Jayna in an unfair fight, let alone one where he was at a disadvantage.
He could hear the roar of the crowds above him. Were they below the bleachers? Further down the hall, he saw her crouched down, affixing a device of some kind to the wall.
Ash fired a shot on the fly, purposefully going over her head. “Stop before you do something you regret! I’ll pretend I never saw you here.”
The woman froze in place.
“I could say the same thing to you,” said a voice behind him. And he heard the telltale sound of a gun being primed.
Ash chuckled. He should’ve known better. “I’m not the one you’re after and you shouldn’t waste the bullets. You’re… after the senator. Right?”
“We want to avoid unnecessary loss of life,” said the voice. “But if you get in our way, I will consider you very, very necessary.”
Ash closed his eyes. he just needed time to think. “… If you want the senator, I’ll lead you right to her–you just can’t hurt anyone else.”
“We know exactly where she is,” said the voice, pressing the gun against Ash’s back. “Move.”
Ash sighed. “The gunpoint thing isn’t necessary. I don’t need a tattoo of your barrel to know I’m going to get shot if I run,” he said.
“Just trying to get my point across,” said the voice. “Just because I don’t want to kill you doesn’t mean I’ll hesitate. Safeties on and weapons on the ground, slowly. All of them.”
Ash thought for a moment, and pulled out a knife, tossing it on the ground, and then his two pistols, setting both on the ground as instructed.
The gun was prodded into his back again.
“I said all of them.”
Ash rolled his eyes and removed two grenades as well. “Fine,” he said, and looked at her. “Do not try to use them, you will get yourself blown up.”
“Good boy,” she said, and then gave him a shove forward. “This isn’t your struggle, offworlder. You have no stake here. Get out while you can.”
“My crew is in there. I need to see them.”
“They’ll be safe,” she said, nudging Ash toward the door. “As I said. We have no quarrel with you. You’re only a symptom.”
Ash said nothing, but moved into the private box anyway, looking around to get aim of the situation. The senator and Jayna were looking over the athlete card list discussing each participant, Zane and Mari had been in another corner relaxing into the cushy seats, and Theo was… nowhere to be found. Well, that was a blessing, maybe he’d gone to get security.
A gunshot rang out, getting the attention of everyone in the skybox. The noise of the crowds drowned it out, and it went unheard by those outside.
Everyone looked up. Zane was the first one to move, already standing with his gun half raised, but the woman ducked wrapping her arm around Ash’s throat. “Drop your gun now or he will not survive!”
Zane looked over to Ash. He gave the slightest of head-shakes, and Zane flicked his safety on and dropped the weapon.
Mari stood up next, and cocked her head to the side. “…Phoebe?”
The woman chuckled, and Ash’s eyes narrowed.
“Told you to stay out of the rich seats, little one,” she murmured, and then whistled to her partner.
The other woman came forward at this point. “Everybody out,” she said, holding up a remote. “Everybody except for the Senator and her family.”
“Or you’ll shoot us?” Mari said. “And if we leave you’ll shoot them and then we get shot for letting you kill a senator. Besides… we know who you are.”
“We know,” said Phoebe. “Soon, everybody will. Out. You don’t need to be collateral damage.”
Zane set a hand on Mari’s shoulder. She sighed and nodded, heading out the door slowly, arms outstretched.
Jayna watched, eyes narrowing. “You don’t want to do this,”
“Don’t tell us what we want!” said Phoebe, brandishing her weapon. “You haven’t even been here for years!”
Jayna took a step forwards in front of her mom. “You’re right. I left. For a reason,” she said, and then beckoned her to take the shot.
Nia didn’t have to be told twice, she was already halfway to the exit by the time Jayna whipped her head around. She ducked just before she got a boot to the teeth.
Jayna grabbed the woman’s leg and yanked hard, pushing her off balance and into her trunk before she headbutted Phoebe hard.
Phoebe recovered quickly, delivering a heavy blow to Jayna’s gut, knocking the wind out of her and giving Phoebe time to recover. “I am not… going to let you jeopardize all my work!” she shouted, lunging for Jayna. “Can’t you see, sister? I’m trying to save us!”
Jayna laughed despite herself. She leaned into the lunge, grabbing her and using the assassin’s momentum to pull her up into the air and slam her to the ground, planting a boot in her back as she spun into an arm lock. “You dumb yokels. People like you, traditionalists… fundamentalists… isolationists. This shit is why I left!”
Phoebe let out an enraged snarl as she attempted to struggle out. “You’re too late!” she spat. “I’m prepared to die for my cause if I have to!”
Jayna pushed down harder, shaking her head. “Are you prepared to get imprisoned? Because I’m not making you a martyr. Like you’d try to make my mother into. You really think killing her would’ve changed anything?”
“With her out of the way,” groaned Phoebe, “the way will be open for someone who will make our homeland–“
That was when Jayna pushed her face into the carpet.
“Shut up. Just shut up for a second,” Jayna said, shaking her head, and looking up. She saw that the disturbance had been made known of down on the field. The athletes were being herded back to the tunnels, and the alarms were announcing everyone to remain calm.
“You want to change the world? Go into politics. Win, be smart about who you get into bed with!”
Phoebe let out a muffled laugh. “You’ll see,” she said, out of the corner of her mouth. “You’ll see…”
“No, I won’t,” Jayna said, and slammed her elbow hard into the back of her head. And Phoebe was out like a light.
“Mom?” said Jayna, as she got up and brushed herself off. “You alright?”
“Fine,” Nia said, looking about. “We need to go rescue your friends,” she said, looking down at the woman. “Security’s on the way up, but I don’t want this to end in bloodshed.”
“She sounded pretty confident,” said Jayna. “We’re not out of the woods yet. You should get somewhere safe.”
Nia frowned. “I’m not running from these idiots!” she said. She grabbed one of the weapons dropped on the ground, and picked it up, taking the safety off and heading for the door.
“…never change, mom,” said Jayna, taking off after her.
The room was filled with other tourists, with a number of other political looking types on the other side. The politicians were new–before they were just in here alone, but after an alarm went off they were all herded in here together.
“Guess this plan wasn’t so foolproof,” Ash said idly.
“Guess not,” said Mari. “I can’t believe I almost went home with that woman.”
“Me either. She’s a lunatic,” Ash said. Then he looked over to Zane. “So what’s the plan here?”
“They took all my guns,” said Zane. “And I think I missed a dose of my meds last night because the walls are starting to breathe.”
“You didn’t take them in case you drank anything last night,” Mari groaned, thudding her head against the wall. “And this morning we were so.. um, preoccupied I didn’t even think to double up your dosage.”
“We’ll look back on this and laugh later, I’m sure,” he said, smiling.
“Quiet over there!” said Tula.
“Are we going to be shot for speaking now?” One of the politicians, an older gentleman said, his tone rather bored. “This is not going to work, you know.”
“No more talking,” said Tula, spinning around. She had a handgun in one hand and a small square device in the other. “The time for words has ended. Now is the time for action.”
The other armed women in the room took notice as Tula strode to the center of it.
“This, uh, isn’t in the plan, boss.”
“A good plan is just a guideline and must be adaptable,” said Tula. She glanced at her wrist. “It’s nearly time.”
“Time for what?” Ash said. “What are you going to do, blow this place up?”
“Don’t be silly,” said Tula. “There would be so much collateral damage from that. No. This will be… cleaner. A surgical extraction. It will be painful, but the body will heal. Stronger than before.”
As she said it, the others began to put on gas masks.
Ash paled considerably. “Oh come on,” he muttered under his breath.
Tula turned to one of her companions. “Lead the offworlders out,” she said. “Put them in a closet somewhere.”
The guards started to roughly wrest people to their feet, and another one opened up the door. About two seconds, Ash heard the sound of a bowstring pulled taut.
“Duck!” He called out.
A moment after he said it, something whipped past him, and he turned to see the small device stuck to the thick glass panel with an arrow.
All heads turned into the same direction, and there was Theo, holding a composite bow and grinning.
“Sorry,” he said. “I hate to interrupt. Please, continue.”
Tula looked at him, and her fist clenched. “You… you ruined everything!”
Theo stepped to the side as a barrage of security guards followed. “Not everything. These guys might though.”
Tula hesitated for the faintest of moments before bringing her weapon to bear. That was when one of the guards hit her with a stunner, sending her convulsing to the ground,
Ash hurried over to him quickly. “You’ll take care of things on your own, hm?” he said with a grin.
“Of course,” said the guard, looking down at the twitching form. “We still can’t believe it. Senator Kosta has her share of detractors, to be sure, but the audacity of it…”
“Well, you know,” said Theo. “The concession stands were still closed, so I didn’t have anything better to do. Get this trash off the floor.”
“Yes sir,” One of the guards said, pulling the woman outside with the rest of the failed terrorists. A few moments later, Jayna and Nia came sprinting through the door.
“Is everyone alright?” said Jayna. “Did anyone get–“
“Don’t worry, we disabled all their little mechanisms,” said Theo. “We’re safe.”
Jayna sighed, sweeping her big brother up into a bone-crushing hug. “Thank you so much–big bro, you’re so awesome.”
“I know, I know,” he wheezed. “You know what else is awesome? Intact ribs.”
She set him down after a moment, and then pulled back and looked at the arrow still stuck into the glass. “What were they trying to pull off? We saw the guards pulling out these boxes, but we didn’t know what they were trying to accomplish. They didn’t look like explosives,”
“Some kind of gas would be my guess,” said Ash. “Depending on what’s in there, it could kill them just as quickly as an explosive, but with less chance of collateral damage. …at least, that’s my guess.”
Jayna sighed. “Well, thank goodness for small favors,” she said, and then turned back to her mom. “How long has this been going on?”
“Define ‘this’,” said Nia, gesturing. “You don’t get into politics to make friends, dear. And this isn’t the first attempt on my life, though it is, I have to say, the boldest.”
“You need a security detail. I’ve been saying it for months,” Theo said with a shake of his head. “I understand that it seems ‘weak.’ but mom. They got closer than we’d like.”
Nia heaved a heavy sigh. “Alright, alright,” she said. “Even though I know you’ll be insufferable about being right.”
Theo smiled. “That’s the part I get from you.”
The rest of the games proceeded as planned, with very little actual disruption. Things got intense when the gladiatorial combat started, and Jayna hooted and yelled like a fanatic when her sisters came in.
Mari watched as Jayna peered over the edge of the box, like a predatory cat as her sisters managed to deal with the competition, working in tandem to deliver the most crushing fake damage to the other opponents.
“It’s weird, isn’t it?” Ash said, looking down at the world below, mystified.
“Weird how?” said Mari, as she waved a large foam hand that she had somehow acquired.
Ash shook her head. “You very rarely get to see the other side of the decision. Like, if Jayna had stayed, she would be just like her sisters down there or going into politics like her mom. It’s like…a pebble in the stream of time that we can wiggle a bit.”
Mari shrugged. “That’s life, I guess,” she said. “We make choices every day, big ones a little ones, and every single one comes with a whole slew of might-have-beens. What can you do?”
“You know, I really could,” said Mari, looking Jayna over. “She’s got it in her. Who knows, maybe in a parallel universe, we’re all living under the iron fist of Galactic President Jayna.”
Ash chuckled. “Aren’t we kind of doing that already?” he said with a lazy grin.
She snickered. “Good point,” she said.
“So,” said Zane, as he peered through a set of binoculars. “You disappointed that there ended up being shooting on your vacation?”
“Not as much as I’d have thought,” said Mari with a shrug. “I think I’m getting jaded.”
“Wait til you get hit with one, you’ll lose that feeling right quick,” said Ash, giving her a pat. “Pass the popcorn?”