Episode 31

Aristespha paces around her room with an aetherphone firmly pressing against her long, pointy ear. A faint tune of a light instrumental wafts from the speaker and she grits her teeth with a sneer as the hold music grates her patience. The music stops abruptly and a voice calls out. Aristespha blinks back to attention. "Yes. I'm still here."

Her eyes wander around the room, while she idly shifts her weight between her feet with a rigid posture. After moments of listening, she suddenly pauses, winces her eye, and pivots slowly as her tone lowers. "What do you mean by a... Processing error?"

The voice from the phone speaker maintains a polite, explanatory tone. But, Aristespha's face articulates her boiling ire and her stance twists as she stretches her irritation out across her body. Sebastian's ghostly face phases through the bedroom door and he attempts to present a smile to Aristespha. He halts progression through the door upon examining Aristespha's body language and waits in cautious observation. With frustrated pops of a knuckles on her free hand, Aristespha's expression slides from frustrated to furious. She manages a relatively neutral tone for her next statement. "I understand that. We sent the information. Got a confirmation of receipt by the system. And, we were waiting for an approval response. We were NOT denied. We received NOTHING. We STILL have NOT received ANYTHING."

The person on the other side of the conversation continues with the same polite, explanatory tone, but tinges of questionable sympathy now sprinkle over the intent. Aristespha draws a long, slow breath in through her nose with a contorting flex of her shoulders. Sebastian's eyes widen in dreadful anticipation and he glances around the area, questioning his few reasons to bear witness. Aristespha strains a painful sign from an exhale and rubs her forehead tightly. "I think I'm having difficulty expressing the situation in Americ. You wouldn't happen to have anyone fluent in any of the Evuukian languages?"

A positive reply chimes in from the speaker. A dark grin graces Aristespha's lips and creeps along her face. A flash of violet flickers in her eyes and an odd hint of cheer colors her voice. "Why, that is excellent to hear. I'll be able to express myself perfectly that way... Oh, could I request this be recorded and forwarded to the issue review department?"

She tilts her head forward with the confirming response of the phone representative, casting a darkening shadow upon her eyes. The evil grin spans both corners of her mouth. "Thank you."

A roll of eloquent, proper Evuukian streams from Aristespha. The tone remains polite, but twists in inflection and stretches of pronunciation deviate from the surface presentation. As she continues, odd spikes emphasize parts of words while flexes in pace hint towards contrary semantics. Sebastian stares in awkward fright as his mind pieces together excerpts he understands well and the a few very familiar terms urges him to withdraw. He gradually pulls himself back out of the room through the door and retreats from the audible barrage of uncomfortable terms, aghast.

Sebastian drifts back and spins mid-flight to coast down the hallway towards the living room archway. He exits the hallway into the living room and pans a gaze around. Bach slouches out in his stabilized magical energy chair and rests his head in the middle of the seat back. Dretphi twists her mouth as she glares forward in roughly the television's direction and settles back into her side of couch, propping her feet on the coffee table. Cideeda's tail coils up in front of her and she adjusts her head upon a pillow against the couch arm. Sotalia turns her head resting upon her hand and eyes Sebastian with a sigh from the couch chair recliner. "So, how's it going in there?"

Sebastian tugs at the corner of his mouth and briefly grits his teeth as he tries to present a positive expression. "Given what I could roughly make out... About as good as you'd expect."

Sotalia grumbles an understanding nod and glances over at the television. Bach tilts his head up and aims his gaze at his brother with a curious quirk of the brow. "I'm new to all this. But, what the hell could have happened? I mean we were there a LONG time waiting to hear something back and we were lucky to spot him."

Sebastian ethereally sighs with a nod and gazes ahead in thought. "I know, bro. I don't know how they would remotely be able to find him. Maybe they had some prior information? I wouldn't be surprised if a show like that had a few connections to pull for information."

Bach perks a suspicious brow and ponders. "Maybe a mole inside the guild office?"

A slow grimace of intrigue entertains a place on Sebastian's face and he idly scratches his chin. "Maybe? That's not a rare thing, bro. But even if they do have someone, it's one thing to provide information... It's another thing entirely to interfere with guild operations. That's risking A LOT and it'd have to be done really carefully."

Cideeda grumbles to herself and claws out to the remote on the coffee table in front of her. "At least I was able to sneak over and get the tracker back."

She grasps hold of the remote, aims it at the television, and twists her head upon the pillow towards either side of the couch. "Anyone against me finding a movie or something? I need a good distraction right now."

Sotalia reaches inside her house robe pocket, draws out her aetherphone, and taps through a series of screens. "Let me check the listings."

A few seconds later, devious smirk cracks her lips and she squirms eagerly in anticipation of her discovery. "Channel one nine dash eight two."

Cideeda presses down the buttons and flicks a furry ear towards Sotalia. She briefly eyes over towards Sotalia before seeing the video on the screen and biting her lip to squelch a snicker. Upon the television, a tall, muscle-bound grath man sneers defiantly into the camera. He simply grunts, hoists up twin machine guns as the camera rockets back, and blazes sprays of fire and lead towards countless foes. Bach sits up into his chair with a spark of interest and watches the screen. "Wow, I haven't seen this movie in forever. I think it was back in first year? Or second?"

Sebastian hovers down next to Bach as he stares at the screen in fascination. "Yeah. It may have been during the summer break when we didn't have anything else going on. I remember one movie night where everyone brought the most ridiculous movies."

He echoes a snort and shakes his head in amusement. "Damn, bro. If I remember right we watched this thing a dozen times."

Bach smiles and chuckles. "Oh yeah. There's no way you can experience all the ridiculousness in one viewing..."

As Bach's voice trails off, he notices an odd silence next to him and slowly rotates his head towards the couch. Dretphi crosses her arms as she focuses a highly unamused glare upon the screen. Sotalia and Cideeda snicker between themselves and barely contain a snort and giggle. Dretphi slowly draws a long breath and sighs equally lengthy as her tone tinges with irritation. "Change it. Please."

Sotalia finally releases a laugh. "Oh, come on, girl! You don't want to see a big, gruff grath mow down waves of bad guys with nothing but grunts, growls, and scowls? I wonder how many women will throw themselves at him?"

Dretphi narrows her eyes and rolls them away from the screen with a few phases in grath under her breath. She reaches a hand out to the remote in Cideeda's hand. Cideeda moves the remote just out of reach with a toothy grin at Dretphi. "Aww, I like this next part where he headbutts the head off the bad guy and attaches it to his belt as a trophy."

Without her effort, Cideeda abruptly slides down her pillow and across the crouch, and feels Dretphi's tight, secure grip around her ankle. Just when the remote is within Dretphi's grasp, Cideeda tosses it over to Sotalia. "Catch!"

Sotalia fumbles around to a recovery and presses the volume up button. "Oh wait! Here's a really important bit of dialog!"

The television displays the aftermath of a scene of destruction. Bodies lay on the ground in heaps and piles of rubble crumble out from the partially leveled buildings. The grath hero stands triumphantly, shirtless, with a strangely timed breeze blowing the smoke from his spent machine guns up to intertwine with his long hair. He pans a scowl out to the landscape and... grunts with the faintest hint of a lip curl. Sotalia grins mischievously dripping with sarcasm. "Quote of the movie."

Dretphi glares at Sotalia and huffs as she settles back into the couch. She releases her hold on Cideeda's ankle. "Please. Change."

Sotalia waves her other hand in a calming gesture toward Dretphi, lowers the volume, and flips through the other channels. "I know, I know. Don't worry. There's a comedy just coming on."

Bach blinks a few times, glances over to Dretphi, and awkwardly shrugs his shoulders. "Umm... I didn't think it was that bad of a movie. But, I'm missing something, I guess?"

Embarrassment tinges Dretphi expression as she resumes her normally calm demeanor. She sighs and manages a small smile to Bach. "It is not the movie itself. It is the trend the movie inadvertently started."

She momentarily averts her eyes and shakes her head at herself. "The movie is satire. Parody of glory hunting grath of the past. Many grath did not perceive the satire. They saw it as encouragement. I was in..."

A few moments of thought later, Dretphi nods as her mind settles on an acceptable term. "High school... when this film released. It made dealing with certain classmates... Aggravating."

Bach slowly nods as he thinks about the situation and gradually frowns with a pull of the corner of his mouth. "Yeah, I can understand that frustration. I remember a few of those trends and fads hit our hometown. Thankfully, most of those died out in a few years."

Sebastian ethereally groans with an eye roll and glances down to Bach and Dretphi. "I got so tired of people adopting titles for their ranks in all their cliquish clubs and expecting you to use them."

Dretphi dons a smile as she notices the movie start up on the television and gazes at Bach. "I tolerated it. I thought I was done when I went to college. My younger brothers entered high school. They imitated that behavior."

An evil smirk graces Dretphi's lips as she punctuates her statement with flexing fingers and cracks of knuckles. "Behavior that ceased promptly after I returned home for summer. I will not suffer such anymore."

A few quick blinks, Bach gives a single tilt of the head in wide-eye agreement. "Fair enough."

Dretphi's expression fades back to faint, self-reflective embarrassment and she sneaks a bite of the lip. "My response is... to a fault... in those affairs."

Aristespha steps through the archway to the hallway. She carefully rubs the soreness out of her ear and slouches her shoulders with a long, sigh. "You would all believe it was a communication systems error that coincided with a clerical mishap during a law mandated break?"

Everyone directs their confusion at Aristespha. Sebastain darts his eyes around attempting to decipher Aristespha's last statement and cocks his head to the side as he stares blankly at her. "Um... The hell does that mean, dear?"

Aristespha twists her mouth and grumbles as frustration paints her face. "It means some idiot night shift clerk highlighted the message right before he dashed off to the bathroom, which flagged it as read, and no one else noticed it."

Silence hangs over the room as the group collectively gawks, dumbfounded. The movie on the television peaks in volume and Aristespha perks up with a spark of delight. "Oh, I love this movie. This is just want I need right now."

Dretphi slides the coffee table out. Cideeda scoots up into one seat. Aristespha slides through and into the middle seat on the couch. Sebastian floats near Aristespha as both Dretphi and Cideeda pat her on the back, and Sotalia and Bach give her sympathetic looks.

Samantha crosses her legs as she settles upon her bed, seats herself, and hoists a laptop upon lap. Her eyes scan through different applications, menus, and messages upon the screen. She pivots on the bed to angle the glare from the fresh afternoon sun off the display and she leans over to the aetherphone resting upon one of her bed's fluffy pillows. "Okay, Howie, I just got confirmation from the editing team. They got a rough cut put together and are getting the effects crew to get it polished. They should be sending you the rough cut in a bit."

Howard's voice sounds out from the speakerphone with an air of satisfaction. "Good! I trust that our adventurers enjoyed the successful capture?"

Samantha nods with a smirk and rolls her eyes. "Oh... Yes. Chad was quite apt to boast his actions and even recognized the contributions of others for the successful capture. He also... celebrated... with Veevi."

Delight oozes through the phone with a dark chuckle and Howard takes a long breath in. "Excellent... I hoped those two would latch onto each other and... share... common goals."

He pauses a moment and his satisfaction wanes momentarily. "I was a little worried when she came on strong to Deedri. That was NOT my intention. Keep the crews' focus away from her for a few more days and give a her bit of reprieve. I feel like I need to make it up to her."

Fingers tap upon the laptop keyboard and Samantha flips up a few sheets of paper off her clipboard. "Will do. We got some nice footage from the house cameras of Tassilda having tense conversation this morning with Veevi, right before Veevi stole the upstairs shower away from Tassilda."

Laughter echoes around the room on the other side of the call and resonates through the aetherphone speaker. "Yes! Send me that video when you get a chance. I want to see it and see if I can get any new ideas. I wonder what else Tassilda will surprise us with, given the proper motivation."

A sly smile graces Samantha's lips and she navigates through windows on the laptop eagerly. "I'll get sent to you in the few minutes."

A progress bar appears on the laptop display and slowly creeps across its background width. Samantha gazes outside through the window next to her bed and scans around the bright scenery. She sighs, contorts her mouth, and furrows her brow in thought. "I still can't believe you found that illusionist guy and got him to set himself up."

Howard snorts and snickers to a chuckle from the other side of the call. "Oh, Mack? I'm amazed he got the message I left with his sister. Totally, did not actually expect him to respond back. That fraud has been on the run for years. Ever since that one governor got caught trying to pull another Sundial Tower Scheme and exposed the money he was trying to launder through it."

A dismissive tone briefly hisses from Howard and he resumes his explanation. "He sounded really worn down on the phone. Guess he finally learned all that money is worthless if you can't stick around anywhere long enough to use it."

Samantha rests her laptop off her lap onto the bed top away from her and unfurls her legs into a stretch. She slides herself down across the bed, lets her brown, shoulder-length hair drape out, and tucks her arms between her head and a pillow. After a few seconds of idle silence and her staring out the window into the sky, she rolls her head over to aim her curious concern to the phone. "So, what's going to happen to him now? Are you really going to pay your lawyer to represent him?"

Howard sighs and groans with hints of frustration coloring his acceptance of the situation. "Yes. He's a short-sighted, greedy fool. But... Gods dammit... He's still a close enough cousin. And... I promised my great grandmother I would do what I could to help him."

He draws a long breath as faint sounds of an appliance door closing rise from the remote background. After a few electronic beeps peak through the other phone's microphone, he nonchalantly continues. "With my lawyer, returning most of the money he's hidden, and good behavior, I should have him working that illusion magic as a children's show host in a few years as part of his early release plan."

Samantha hazel eyes flit wide and she covers her mouth as laughter snorts out an escape route. She shifts her hand up to her forehead and cackles loudly. After a few quick breaths to calm herself down, she sits up and directs her voice towards her aetherphone. "WOW. I was wondering how you were going to twist that one to your favor. A children's show host? Oh. Gods. You don't mean... THAT show?"

A dark, foreboding chuckle flows out from the speakerphone and Howard's voice fills with humored pride. "The favor to my great grandmother is granting him the opportunity to use my resources, at his expense. He WILL pay me back. With THAT show. Wearing THAT costume."

Samantha shakes her head side to side slowly and whistles lightly in astonishment. "Wow. That's pretty cruel and unusual."

Howard dismissively pops an exhales from his lips and adopts a dramatically sarcastic tone. "Yeah. Wow. So terrible of me. Steer a group of relatively harmless rookies capture him when he's willing, provide legal defense resources, and secure him a job after he gets out. I'm such a cruel person."

Samantha rolls her eyes slowly, exaggerating each degree of rotation with a goofy smirk and sticks her tongue out briefly to punctuate her feelings. "Dammit, Howie. You're still pretty much taking advantage of his situation."

An unamused groan vents through the phone and Howard sighs. "Well, you know where he was going to go if things didn't work out?"

An eyebrow perks upon Samantha's face and she curiously eyes her atherphone, aiming an ear. "Hmm... We all noticed he was preparing for a longer trip and using alchemy to prepare a larger batch of components. So where was he going to go if this didn't work out?"

Howard plainly states with deadpan cadence. "The Perimeter Weird Zone."

Samantha eyes flit open and surprise washes over her face. "Okay. Never mind, you saved that idiot from himself. That idiot is lucky to have you as benefactor."

An appliance chime rings out from the phone, the sound of a small door resonates from the background of the other side of the conversation, and Howard sniffs the air loudly. "Ah. That he is. That reminds me. We also got lucky, too. One of my favorite informants within the guild let me know that Sebastian's group was waiting for permission to pursue Mack."

Absolute shock overtakes Samantha's face. She snatches her phone off the pillow and holds the device close to her whispering voice. "What?! How!? If it wasn't for the fake fan submitted tip you came up with, Chad and crew would have never been able to spot him earlier without his disguise that day and file with the guild."

Howard maintains an explanatory tone as his inflection reveals a forming idea. "Yes. The report said they spotted a suspicious person with a high possibility of being Mack, followed him, and were waiting for permission to tag the car Mack had with a tracker and remote cutoff. Thankfully, Mack didn't show his real face and they couldn't get photo confirmation to jump to capture mode."

Samantha plops back down onto the bed and groans in frustration. "I guess I should be glad they are thorough. That was too close!"

A plotting voice carries over from Howard's end of the call. "Or close enough."

A brow lifts up on Samantha face. "How so?"

Howard wallows in a scheming satisfaction, and relays his thoughts. "They would have been probably been denied pursuit because our team filed first for a capture. But, a clerical error of sorts left them hanging... To witness those young, upstarts take what they thought was theirs right in front of them."

Samantha dons a dark smile and focuses upon her aetherphone. "I think I see what you are getting at. But, whatever are YOU scheming, Howie?"

Howard chuckles and expresses a hopeful, plotting tone. "I think we need to present an opportunity for the two parties to work nearby each other. I'll have my associate at the guild keep an eye on what missions they bid for and see if that can be arranged."

He drifts off as faint footsteps echo within the room at the other end of the call. With a soft thud and a furniture sliding across a floor, he continues his line of thought. "We'll see if that happens, but for now... I've got a more immediate plan to enact upon our lovely group of fledgling adventurers."

Samantha blinks away from watching the progress bar on her laptop and returns her attention to her phone. "And, what would that be?"

The soft, barely audible sounds of Howard's lips pulling to an ear to ear grin cross the threshold of the microphone. "Oh... Just extending a certain trial period to see what more can happen."

Inside a well decorated living room, Nash and Harvos take seats upon a fine leather couch at the direction of an elderly well-dressed man. Nash scans the area, pauses to examine the many artifacts, awards, and photographs upon the walls and shelves. Harvos nods towards the elderly well-dressed man as he calmly walks over to his aged, leather recliner and lowers himself down. "I want to thank you, Dr. Dawkins. I wish the situation surrounding this meeting could have been better."

Dr. Dawkins settles into his chair, pulls a lever on the side, and reclines back. He eyes over at a small table, hovers a hand over a bottle of brown liquor, and grasps carefully onto it. He pulls the cork out, pours the dark amber fluid into a glass, and extends his arm out with the bottle to Harvos. "You young ones help yourself and keep it away from me. I don't need temptation that close to me right now."

Harvos takes hold of the bottle and spots two glasses upon an antique coffee table. He glances over to Nash, and eyes the glasses with a tipping gesture of the bottle. Nash squints to the read label, flits his eyes wide open, and slides his glass over under the bottle's mouth. "Well, we thank you for the hospitality and we will do our best to keep this temptation over here."

With a dry chuckle, Dr. Dawkins cracks a short grin. "It's good to see they kept with tradition in picking a replacement for the computer science department."

He lifts his glass to his lips, enjoys a long sip of the liquor, and releases a long sigh. He sways his head to gaze at Harvos, his short white, combed hair brushes audibly against the recliner's head rest. "Despite my absence, I have kept up with my old department's progression. I'm most pleased that my successor choose a proper one himself. You have handled the Archaeology department nicely so far."

Harvos bows slightly forward with effort given to keep his horns clear of any obstacles and pours some of the bottle's contents into his glass. "I try my best. I still am trying to figure out the dark, dreadful mystery known as the annual department budget."

Dr. Dawkins smiles and playful rolls his green eyes. "I wouldn't get too hung up on that one. Some mysteries are better left alone."

He pauses a moment and allows a long exhale. With another sip from his glass, he stares forward contemplatively. "Well, I have read your message and the reports."

The fluid in his glass swirls around with the motions of hand and he gazes into amber liquor with a mournful sigh. "I had hoped I would never have to relay this information again. But... Upon years of reflection, I have doubted much of what I did to handle the Orth Ridge disaster."

He slowly turns his age weathered face and regretfully stares upon Nash and Harvos. "I'm going to tell you everything I know and pass on the records you DON'T have... And... I will let a generation far more current than I decide what to do with it. I don't believe we knew what to do then... Because, I still don't know today."

Harvos and Nash exchange glances and then both return their attention. Dr. Dawkins gestures with a wave towards Harvos' and Nash's glasses. "Drink up, young ones."

Harvos and Nash each lifts their glasses up and tip back the dark amber liquor into their mouths. Nash licks his lips and grants a very satisfied nod to Dr. Dawkins. Harvos gently blows out some relief through his mouth and briefly winces with the burn of the drink. "So... Um... Dr. Dawkins, where do you want to start?"

Dr. Dawkins tugs at the corner of his mouth, hems, and swirls his glass around. "Let's start with the information that is the most immediately useful to you right now."

Harvos and Nash indicate their agreement. Dr. Dawkins draws a long breath and explains. "There were some points in your report that stuck out to me. First, the Elder Energy Condenser Chamber. We never got it working."

Harvos blinks and cocks his head to the side slightly, donning an inquisitive expression. "What is non-functional before? Incomplete?"

Dr. Dawkins perks a brow towards Harvos and strokes his trimmed, white beard. "Not that I know of. We just couldn't figure out the damned thing. So, the fact this Dark Lord Noxian was operating it is very worrisome."

With a long blink of brown on black eyes, Harvous draws a concerned breath and puzzles. "So, who would have had enough knowledge to even figure start to decipher it?"

After a long grimacing stare, Dr. Dawkins furrows his brow. "It was team effort to examine that artifact. I would attribute Dr. Malkav to being the most knowledgeable, but his team were very skilled in their own specializations."

He lifts a finger up on his free hand points to a photograph upon the wall. "On that wall is a picture of the team... when they first got there."

As Dr. Dawkins pours a healthy sum of the liquor into his mouth, Harvos motions towards the picture on the wall. "May I?"

Dr. Dawkins nods slowly and directs Harvos's attention. "Dr. Malkav is the third one from the right in the bottom row."

Harvos lifts himself off the couch, walks over to framed photograph, and examines it closely. He carefully inspects the image of a number of people and focuses upon the man third from the right in the bottom row. The man stands proudly with a confident smile and graying hair in a professional lab coat. Harvos eyes wander and he notices a man and woman holding each other with a small child held between them. The man grins happily with specs of gray in his brown hair and the woman smiles forward with long red hair flowing in a breeze at the time. The little girl holds down her similarly red hair by a blue ribbon and grabs onto a bright blue scarf around her neck. Harvos pulls his head back and turns back towards Dr. Dawkins. "Who is the couple with the child?"

A wince of long withstanding pain grips Dr. Dawkins's face but he finally manages to sigh. "That would be Isaac, Sylvia, and Cynthia Huxley. That's a tragic tale that I don't have it in me to recount at the moment. I will say I still feel responsible for sending putting them on that assignment. Such a wonderful family..."

Harvos nods understandingly, steps back towards the couch, and seats himself back down. "That's okay. There's plenty more to cover."

Dr. Dawkins finishes another sip of his drink and eyes Harvos. "Yes. Another strange point in the report was the description of the Formation Factory is drastically different now."

Harvos's interest piques and he leans attentively forward. "How so?"

Experienced green eyes level a stare at Harvos and Dr. Dawkin speaks in a calm but confused tone. "The entire floor below the walkway was filled with Nightmare Miasma. It took our best barrier teams to... extract... whoever we could..."

With a wide-eyed expression, Harvos drifts back into his seat and ponders the drastic difference in his mind. Nash glances over to Harvos, then shifts his attention to Dr. Dawkins with a quizzical stare. "Okay. I have to say something and interrupt. You are using a lot of proper sounding terms that I've never heard of before, but you are speaking as if they were the proper names. I've got to ask... What the hell was this place for?"

Dr. Dawkin empties the last of his liquor down his throat, sighs, and dons a serious gaze upon both Harvos and Nash. "That's the most frightening thing of all of this and a fact we discovered far too late. Understand we came to this site thinking the best. We initially thought the site was a magical factory of some kind. We didn't know what at first."

He rests his empty glass upon the nearby table and settles his hands upon the arms of the recliner. "Our first investigations showed an amazing possibility. We thought this was a fabled manufacture lab for Elder Geists."

Shock splashes upon both Harvos's and Nash's faces and both simultaneously reaches for their drink glasses. After both enjoy a sip from them, Dr. Dawkins continues. "Promising signs. The size of the plant access, the elder energy collection and storage, and the magical structure forms seemed to fit the bill."

Deep sadness from the past flow over frustrations and colors every aspect of Dr. Dawkins as he manages to maintain his composure. "But... Gods. Damn. It. It was the exact opposite. It was small scale factory for creation of those gods forsaken Nightmare Geists."

A long looming silence fills the ornate living room as shock grips Nash and Harvos, and regret fills Dr. Dawkins. Minutes later and a generous refilling of drink glasses by Nash, Dr. Dawkins shakes his head slowly with a distant stare. "It was never our intention to dig something like that up. But, too much was explored by the time we discovered the damning evidence. We didn't want to cause attention or a panic. So, we just designated the area that stored the Nightmare Miasma as a high level hazard and redirect all focus on other areas of the facility."

Pausing to collect his thoughts, Dr. Dawkins explains further with a growing frown upon his lips. "We should have handled it better, but none of us knew how to handle it best in the first place. We figured a little ignorance couldn't hurt and taking advantage of the safety protocols we already had should keep it relatively safe."

He sighs and shakes his head in puzzlement and ponders. "The strange part is that it was working so well. The area seemed stable from hourly readings and layers of protection were there. We even had our structural engineers working on an alternative entrance to the facility."

He sinks into his recliner and tilts his head to the side with a hard frown. "But, something happened. Something happened to the storage container and... We lost precious lives that day. We handled it the best way we could think of. We tried to hide that place away as quietly as possible and took advantage of another incident to obscure what loose ends we could. It was not our proudest moment, but... I couldn't in good conscious at the time let that place be explored any further. It NEEDED to disappear back into history."

Harvos searches his mind for response but struggles. Nash blinks blankly and his stare drift off around the room as his thoughts overtake him. Dr. Dawkins only manages to shake his head side to side slowly. He lifts his head up, gazes towards the photograph at three members of the Huxley family, and mouths to himself. "Gods forgive us."

Cideeda, Bach, and Dretphi sit next to each other on the couch in the living room, all focusing upon a strange hovering object upon the coffee table's top. The dim, blue magical orb teeters side to side and drifts around on the table top with a small few centimeter cube camera on top. Bach grimaces in concentration with glowing blue eyes and contorts his mouth in thought. "Wow, this is a lot more difficult than I thought, but I think a few adjustments should get it to work."

The fingers on his hands twitch in slight movements and the camera carrier orb gradually stabilizes. A magical thread faintly shimmers and the orb's shape warps minutely. Bach nods with a smirk. "I think I got it now."

Cideeda pulls a toothy grin across her mouth and aims the remote at the television and presses down a button with a claw tip. "Good. Now I got the receiver's video output connected, so it should be able to get a feed from the camera."

The television flickers a few moments and a view of the back screen door from within the living blinks up onto the screen. Cideeda picks up a small control console, examines the wiring on the connection panel, and then adjusts a few dials. "Not bad at all. Hardly any interference. Need to tweak the focus and white balance."

Bach watches the screen, nods, and gestures carefully with his fingers. The camera orb moves slowly forward, swaying and balancing sloppily. After a few cautious twists and turns, the magical creation glides with significantly more precision. Dretphi smiles with interest, and places her hand near the camera orb to provide obstacles for it to maneuver around. "This could be useful."

Aristespha steps in through the hallway archway, scans the room, blinks at the television screen with interesting, and locks her intrigue upon the hovering camera laden magical orb. She steps near the couch and watches the orb carefully move on the coffee table top. Bach perks his eye brow, sways his head side to side, and shrugs indecisively. "I guess? I don't know. Most of the time if you want to sneak something by a mage, you want to use pure tech solution that they can't sense. Otherwise, there are remote sensing spells that do a good job already."

Aristespha braces herself on the couch arm and leans over above Cideeda, paying careful attention with brightly violet eyes. "Yes. But, the magical signature is very small."

Cideeda's ears flick their aim from Aristespha to the magical camera orb and track it while she grins. "There's very little noise."

Sebastian's ethereal form drifts into the room from the hallway, pauses upon sighting the group, and hovers above to watch. Bach squints his eyes in contemplation and tugs his mouth to a corner. "Well, I don't know how you'd test it properly."

A sly smirk graces Sebastian's lips and he laughs to the group. "Hey, bro. Send it over to the hot tub gazebo."

Aristespha smiles slyly touches a finger to her lip as her mind ponders. "That's not a bad idea, Sebastian."

Dretphi stands up from the couch, walks over to the back sliding glass door, and cracks it open wide enough for the orb. Cideeda contains a mischievous giggle. "Oh, I haven't seen her since breakfast. She probably fell asleep again."

Bach lifts a scheming brow and gestures his hands in purposeful, controlled movements. The camera orb hovers off the coffee table, floats quickly down to a few centimeters above the floor, and glides out the back door with swaying momentum. Dretphi returns swiftly to the couch excitedly and watches the television with the rest of the group. The screen shows the outside world from perspective of the ground upwards, and displays the progress of the camera orb as it flies just over the patio towards the tall lattice doors of the gazebo. Bach stares intensely at the television, finger motions directing flight path adjustment. The view gradually rises to center itself to a bottom opening between the lattice and passes through to dark room that brightens in seconds. Cideeda taps a button and turns a dial slightly to clear up the picture. "That should get it. Let's see if the audio works."

The television speakers sound out a background bubbling from the remote room. The camera view pitches up to show the profile of the hot tub and a hand with long black nails resting off the edge of the hot tub rim. Bach focuses his glowing blue eyes and exhales long to calm himself. Moments later, the perception from the camera rises up, slowly climbing close to the side of the hot tub as the bubbling volume grows. The group watches tensely as the view crests the top of the hot tub top. A loud snore cuts through the ambient din of the hot tub. Sotalia's head rests upon a water-proof cushion, her dark red hair spread out damp and faintly wavy. Her arms anchor her partially floating legs and body to the edge. Snickers and snorts fill living room air from the group as Sotalia's snores echo out from the television. Aristespha lowers herself down upon the couch arm and directs her voice to Cideeda. "Can that camera make any... sudden, loud noises?"

Cideeda dons a wicked smirk and eyes Aristespha. "There is a retrieval beeper that can get pretty loud."

The group exchanges glances that form a silence agreement and Cideeda gazes forward expectantly as her claw tip flips up a protectively covered button. She waits a few moments and presses it hard. A loud shrill ring blasts bounces into the gazebo. Sotalia golden eyes spring open in utter shock, her arms reflexively draw away from the edges of the hot tub, and her upper body slides unceremoniously into the water. Her legs and feet briefly pitch up into the air before splashing back as she sits up in a state of utter confusion, her dark red hair drenched over her face. Her hands grasp the outer edge of the hot tub. She blankly glances around the area while the rest of her mind resumes awareness. Dretphi suppresses a giggle and taps Bach on the shoulder. "I recommend escape now."

The camera's view back away, drifts down the side of the hot tube, and leaps through the hole in the lattice back into the bright patio. Soon the magical camera orb zips through the opening in the back sliding glass door. Dretphi pulls herself off the couch, closes the glass door the rest of the way, and quickly returns back to her seat. The camera orb slowly increases its altitude and lands upon the coffee table top. Sebastian works the humor out of his face and settles to a proud smile at Bach. "I think that was a success first test right there, bro."

Bach bites his lip with uncertainty and sighs with an eye roll. "Well, she was asleep. So, it really didn't test whether or not a mage could easily sense it part."

Sebastian shrugs his shoulders nonchalantly with his arms to the side. "Sotalia can feel out some really small amounts of magic. She's very sensitive to any magical activity. So, it's a good sign she didn't immediately wake up when it got that close to her, bro."

The back glass door slides open and Sotalia steps through with a towel wrapped around her hair and another larger towel wrapped around her chest. She stretches out a yawn and turns to see the gathering at the coffee table. She blinks in surprise, spots the television imagery, and then grants her full attention to the magical camera orb idly hovering on the coffee table top. Her golden eyes open wide along with her pupils, and she plops down to her knees. She lowers her head to closely study the magical orb with grin of delight. "This is so cool! Have you tested it yet?!"

Bach tightens his lips and maintains a neutral smile. "Sort of. Tested the waters... So to speak."

While the magical construct distracts Sotalia, the rest of group fight to keep their composure. Sotalia narrows her eyes with a flash of an evil grin and lifts an eyebrow. "So, when are we sneaking this thing over to spy on our neighbors?"

At that statement, a wave of inspiration spreads through the group and attentions shift to the magical device with eyes occasionally drifting to gaze out the back window towards the corner of the property.