Arpin and Unexpected walked to the open space made in the ghostly ranks and stopped three meters away from the Repairperson, as her instructions. The spirits were out of earshot.
“Thank you for agreeing to this parley,” said the Repairperson.
“How could we not?” asked Unexpected, “Since the last one went so well.”
“That was not our fault,” countered the Repairperson.
Unexpected made a sweeping gesture to the time frozen Arrondissement and said, “If they could, I’m confident they would disagree.”
“If you had not interfered- “, began the Repairperson.
“Pardon,” interrupted Arpin, “But the issue of blame does not aid anyone, least of all the Arrondissement. Can we agree on that?”
Unexpected looked darkly at the Repairperson, then with a rueful smile said, “Of course.”
“Agreed,” conceded the Repairperson.
“Now, you asked us here to treat with you. What do you have to say?”
“Either bring me the Penultimate Device or reveal its location and I will restore the flow of time.”
Arpin and Unexpected exchanged looks.
“You ask for a mighty leap of faith,” said Unexpected, “One that you cannot really expect us to take.”
“I must agree. What assurances could you offer that we might take seriously, given the state of things?”
“We have never lied to you,” said the Repairperson with no hint of irony.
“I don’t recall agreeing to freezing everything in time,” observed Arpin.
“If you did not interfere, time would be flowing normally.”
“Technically correct,” said Unexpected.
“But a detail omitted in the agreement,” added Arpin.
“It was felt to be necessary.”
“I’d say the truth of that is debatable and it does nothing to further your cause.”
“Let me speak plainly then. You are trapped, while ghosts cannot touch the living physically, a single spirit has the ability to paralyze with fear. Imagine fear multiplied by the hundreds. It would drive even the strongest of people mad. You would long for death. I don’t wish to do this, but if you leave no choice…”
“That’s quite a threat,” said Arpin thoughtfully.
“Not the fear of violence or death but the fear of fear,” added Unexpected, “Fiendish.”
“I would prefer if you would just turn over the Penultimate Device,” said the Repairperson.
“I’m sure you would,” replied Arpin, “But threats do not inspire trust.”
“You may trust that I will do what I need to. I have no desire to harm you but if it becomes necessary, I will not hesitate.”
Arpin took out a cigarette, lit it, and took a deep drag. He said, “You won’t anything of the sort.”
“What makes you think that?” asked the Repairperson.
“Several reasons, if you will allow me to explain.”
The Repairperson nodded.
“First, your army of the dead cannot go too deeply into your headquarters, since you rather thoughtfully built it with… What was that metal called?”
“Ierósium,” added Unexpected.
“Merci. We can hold up in the leader’s offices, since they are thoughtfully lined with Ierósium. Indefinitely. Your larders are well stocked even if they are not culinarily inspired. I suspect that your allies will no longer be as enthused about working with you if they discover what you have done.
“Secondly, if you choose to violate the parley and send your ghosts to terrify us into endless insanity, Mademoiselle Maxi and Monsieur L’Horloge will never trust you. If they ever did. Both of them are remarkably clever and resourceful. I would not wager on your chances against them.
“Thirdly, if you choose to fight us, you have an advantage, given your ‘enhancements’, but you will have to kill us and you will be no closer to laying your hands on the Device. And if you eventually find it and correct the flow of time, the Gendarmerie and the Coterie du Honor will not forget what has happened. You might think time is your ally, but I think it is ours,” concluded the Sergeant Gendarme.
With that, Arpin and Unexpected turned and walked back to the League Headquarters.
“Well done,” quietly said Unexpected.
They turned and found the Repairperson had followed them. Both Gendarme and Chevalier tensed.
“Time is not on either of our sides.”