Chapter 41:

Flipside: The Negotiator Fights - Part 1


That was not ideal in the least.

Fighting an enemy they knew little of and working under the assumption that all allies could be compromised was a pain. It also didn’t fit well with Karim at all, but she had little in the real of options.

All she could do for now was follow the crazy red-haired inquisitor and hope no one she knew would die. And, for the first hours, it seemed to be doable.

The trio would patrol close to a point in the map, Anna would do her eye trick and they would leave after looking around for good measure. All calm and quiet, a little boring even, but it changed when they finally went to the harbor.

Arriving at the area didn’t do much, but a little bit of walking around was all it took to get a reaction from Annabeth. The way her golden eye started to shine and how she got into a trance while staring at one of the warehouses explained everything.

At least Karim could go with her plan from now on instead of letting any of the other two do.

She went to the harbormaster’s office with an excuse to stay even closer to the storage. Used his phone to make a call and tell her aunt what they planned in a roundabout way. And then she spent a good while doing some work she used to oversee.

Still, her mind was focused on what she would have to do later. She would have to fight, and that was not ideal in the least.

Be as it was, Karim was a negotiator. She could fight, but she never held a gun, and, more important than that, she had never killed someone. Even wounds were quite mild when she was involved.

Now though, she had to draw attention and hold her position until the other policemen could arrive at the scene. Aunt Louise would surely send them right away, but it wouldn’t be immediate.

Waiting too long would also risk the whole assault leaking and that would make the whole thing worse.

Obviously, it wasn't due to Anna's debatable reliability taking another hit. The problem was bringing another fiasco like the one with the blurry picture or, worse, having the temple attacked.

It was important to the force that they could keep the population's approval high. The balance of power between the four factions of the Archipelago was much more important, and Louise's side was the weakest of them right now.

Either way, hunting smuggled goods ended without much of a problem, but now was time for the real work.

She split from the two inquisitors under the pretense of looking for the harbormaster. The small blondie got a little weirded out when one of the two inquisitors vanished among the crates, but that was that. Sending the manifesto back was more important now anyway.

Even if it was a pretense, she couldn't hold such an important document forever. She was having a problem finding the harbormaster after approaching his office though.

It was close to the warehouse still, so looking around it wasn't a problem. That was, until she noticed something, or to be specific, someone entering said warehouse.

Three figures she was acquainted with were moving inside the place she was sure to be a dem of evildoers.

Unexpected as it was, the man she was looking for was one of them. He was a common human, as rare as it was, in his mid-fifties, and with two cops following behind him.

The cops were some half-bloods, a man with cat ears and some other minor feline features, and a tall female with a single horn leaving her head. Both people she also knew, even if only by sight.

“This is...” Karim muttered to herself while, for some reason, fighting back the thoughts that she should approach them. “This feels weird for some reason.”

It was a small and likely baseless suspicion. One of her companions spent so long seeding the paranoia that Karim couldn’t avoid the idea that something was wrong.

They could be part of her reinforcements or just be patrolling, but Karim felt that her aunt would give some warning if other cops were close by already. Again, it could be a baseless suspicion, but still…

“I’ll have to hit Annabeth if she turned me into a paranoid...” She kept on muttering, now moving her small body to some cover and walking around with as little noise as possible. “She said it would take a while to find a good position, so we should wait for a signal, but what should I do in this situation? If auntie ends up radioing them, our plan will be nil, but if they’re innocent and unwarned…”

The three had already left her sight, but they were inside the target. Since looking for Annabeth would be impossible right now and Colette was far to the other side of the warehouse, it was time to trust her instincts...

Her instincts were almost useless though. The best she could manage to get from ‘feeling it’ was the faint idea that she was being watched. And this much didn't help much.

Around the area, she could see harbor workers ending their turns, a few guards moving around, and other civilians without a clear position. All in all, no one that was especially suspicious, and more than that, no one seemed to be paying attention to her. Both things meant she was doing a terrible job as bait. “Put your mind on it, Karim...” She lightly slapped her face while trying to gather some focus, managing to get some insights about her situation from it. "You can't let those two make little of you after this."

It wasn't in her skill set and the shorty was very bad at dealing with unexpected occurrences too, but she could solve it.

Karim wasn’t both a negotiator and a holy priest for nothing. If there was a thing she could deal with, it was people. All she had to do was focus a little and a way would appear…

All she had to remedy was the fight that the only thing looking at her was something she couldn't see. And the first thing she could do was make a ruckus.

“OLD MAN!!!” The blondie shouted while leaving her hiding spot, startling a bunch of workers as she did so. “Don’t leave your office open like that. I need to give back your papers and go eat something!”

She started to walk towards the warehouse, gathering some quiet chuckles and some greetings from many workers that had seen a similar scene before. They would all pass by and continue on their way, or that was what Karim was expecting.

For good or for bad, while many simply chuckled and moved away when seeing her, a few others instead made themselves small and headed to the warehouse.

These sights made her click her tongue in her mind, but it wasn’t the time to think about it.

“I need your sign to some abnormalities we found, you know?! There were even some weird dolls around there…”

It was a double-layered plan even. Shouting to gather attention and see who would react weirdly while also showing herself as a bringer of extra work. Extra work no bystander at the end of their turn would want to deal with no matter the good intentions.

“It’s just some papers and some looking around, old man! Nothing an hour or two won’t solve… I can use some extra hands to move it around too.”

She kept on shouting, moving through the harbor while making her way closer to the warehouse while ignoring the people fleeing from her way.

Soon enough, all she could see were wary people around the area and new arrivals. The next step would be to move to a better fighting spot, something like the cluster of containers right by the warehouse’s side would work.

Doing so while shouting and with this many eyes on her was troubling and shameful, but it could be dealt with. The problem would be if she reached the relatively enclosed location she was going to and no signal came…

The small distraction wouldn’t need to worry about that though as almost perfectly timed with her location change, a loud gunshot echoed through the harbor.