The cacophony of voices in the mess hall rose to window rattling proportions as more Star Guides teleported in, drawn by news of the explosion. Tess clapped her paws over her ears when the noise threatened to rupture her sensitive eardrums. When energetic soothing failed to stem the rising pandemonium, she resorted to using an audible purr. Those standing closest to the stage reacted more quickly to the soft rumble. Their sudden silence triggered a snowball effect, the wave of quiet flowing through the room nearly visible to the naked eye.
Sebastian stood statue-like beside Tess. Only he and Claude knew just how close the explosion had come to taking the lives of several Council members. Noting the distress on his frozen face, Tess stepped forward.
“Look, everyone. Nobody was hurt. The timing of the…um…event means it was nothing more than a diversionary tactic.” Tess chose not to share her suspicions that the timing was more of a fortuitous accident. She knew Hightower’s temper factored into his decisions far more than careful planning. “These people believe they can focus our efforts away from their actual agenda by causing turmoil in the Council. Since our current actions are governed by a bunch of renegades who’ve challenged the Council’s recent edicts…” she paused until the laughter subsided. “In fact, our biggest advantage right now is that those kids will remain focused on locating not only the opposition leaders but also their weaknesses. Hightower has no idea we’ve been training the kids, much less that anyone would defy the Council’s orders. I’m less certain he doesn’t suspect Phil and his team have gone rogue. The little escape act from the mine should have put that idea into his head, if nothing else.”
“I love it when a plan comes together!” Phil said with a smug grin.
“Don’t get too cocky!” Tess warned. “Remember Hightower has been part of the Council and he knows who most, if not all, of the Star Guides are.”
Her words alerted Phil and Karl to the gap in her knowledge. She was not yet aware of either how deeply Hightower and his family had infiltrated the Council nor the powerful allies he commanded. A brief telepathic exchange brought Tess up to date before the three decided it was in their best interests to keep Sebastian and the rest of the Council in the dark for the moment, furthering Hightower’s misconception the Star Guides shared everything they knew with their leaders.
Sebastian’s next statement further confirmed the Council had no idea how much had changed since they’d allowed Hightower to convince t...