“You’d think they were upset to see me,” Arem said as he looked down the barrels of nearly a dozen pistols in the hands of federal agents. Arem kept his hands outstretched and away from the sword belted at his side. The Dark Towers elf looked at the screaming agents as if slightly amused by their antics.

“Considering how many of them you injured the last time we were here, I’m surprised they didn’t just shoot you on sight,” Erik said. Jason, who was standing between the federal agents and their group, looked back and leveled an evil glare at Erik.

“Fortunately for me, they’re much more restrained by their government than you are,” Arem replied to Erik.

“Can the two of you just shut the hell up until this is all finished and we have Veronica back?” Anne said. Arem and Erik both gave looks of contrition, but Anne severely doubted their sincerity. Anne was also severely doubting the wisdom of their current plan. Arem had escorted Anne back to the apartments under an extension of the earlier truce and explained what had happened to the group. Much to everyone’s surprise, it was Jason who proposed going to the feds. She’d expected Arem and Erik to dismiss the idea out of hand. Instead, they’d agreed on the condition that Jason intervene on excusing their earlier “transgression,” which the undercover federal agent reluctantly agreed. Erik had dragged Samantha from Joseph’s bedside to be a part of the meeting. Of course, the meeting was currently a stand-off between the feds and the Avalonians and Arem.

“Everyone lower your weapons!” cracked the authoritative voice of Special Agent in Charge Belushi. The leader of the federal task force strode between his agents to stand in front of Jason. Agent Privas, the task force’s chief spell slinger, stood next to her boss. Anne could feel the streams of wild magic bending around her as she prepared to counter anything Arem might throw at the feds. Anne breathed out in relief as the feds lowered their weapons. At least now if one of them ND’d, the round would go into the carpet into one of her friends. Or Arem.

“Would you care to explain, Agent MacMurtry?” SAC Belushi asked, staring at his wayward liaison/mole.

“The Servitors are still active in the city, and they’ve kidnapped the Avalonian sorceress,” Jason answered, “From what the Avalonians and Arem have told me, the Servitors can use the sorceress to power an even stronger summoning. Perhaps even strong enough to finally summon him.” Belushi’s dark eyes went wide, but Privas’s eyes narrowed.

“How?” she asked simply, focusing her gaze on Arem.

“She’s an Avalonian sorceress,” Arem answered, “The leader of these fools can use her blood to open a gate and pull in the stronger magic of Avalon. Plenty of power there to not only summon an Outsider god, but kill anyone who attempts to stop them.”

“You’re exaggerating,” Privas said, although her tone was shaky. “Opening a gate on this side is impossible.” Arem drew some wild magic and used his finger to open a slit in the middle of the air.

“You were saying?” Arem asked, flatly. Privas stared at the floating, four-foot tall gate.

“Agent Privas, Veronica explained the difference between the wild magic here and that on Avalon as comparing the water coming out of a hose and Niagara Falls,” Anne said.

“An apt metaphor,” Arem agreed. Anne shot him a poisonous look.

“If Arem is capable of opening a gate here, don’t you think these Outsiders could teach their Servitors how to do it?” Anne asked.

“So why are you here?” Belushi asked, in a biting tone, “You already have all of the data you stole from your last incursion.” Erik took a step up next to Jason.

“Our primary data analyst was badly injured in the battle at Hope Park,” Erik answered flatly, “Time is critical. You have superior analysts, and you also have more shooters than we do at the present. We’ve brought what intelligence we have on these Servitors as well as historical data.”

“So, what, you expect us to team up with you like this was a comic book or some movie?” SAC Belushi asked. “That elf put several of my agents out of action and you were complicit in espionage against the American government. By all rights, I should be arresting you.”

“Special Agent Belushi, we can stand around and argue, or we can get to work and find where those cultists have taken my sorceress,” Erik answered. “Time is of the essence, and this is your best chance to deal the Servitors a mortal blow.” Erik’s face softened. “I am willing to face whatever consequences the American government sees fit to impose – after we’ve defeated the Servitors.”

“What about him?” Belushi asked, pointing at Arem.

“I promise not to make fools out of your agents again,” Arem said. Belushi’s face went a dangerous shade of puce. “My mistress would not allow me to make the same bargain that Jaegar is offering you. Be glad that she is willing to put the full force of her armies at my disposal if need be to stop these fools.”

“That’s not good enough,” Belushi said.

“Special Agent Belushi, Arem’s given his word under flag of truce,” Erik said, “That’s the best you’re going to get with a Dark Towers minion.” Arem gave Erik an affronted look, but didn’t say anything else. Belushi stared hard at Arem as his mouth tightened until it was a narrow line on his face. Then, his eyes went wide in surprise.

“Fine,” Belushi said simply. “Give your intelligence to Agent Davies. He can go through what we have and what you have with your people.” Belushi motioned to a blond agent that looked more like a football player than an analyst. “Paul, bring in who you need. Tap what resources you need. Don’t waste time with niceties. I’ll make nice later.”

What just happened? Anne asked over the group’s telepathic link.

I explained to Special Agent Belushi that we would ensure Arem played nice, Samantha answered.

How? Anne asked, glancing at the smiling elf.

Knowing Erik, probably something explosive, Samantha said.