Episode 38

A small, blue, brightly glowing orb drifts towards the upper part of wall, touches the inscribed surface, and sticks to a stop. The illumination casts out in a circular arc and small shadows stretch out from finely detailed carvings. Another ball of light floats at the engraved stone, halts upon contact, and shines another source of light. Aristespha squints her eyes at the shapes and words written, and points out another spot as she studies. Bach carefully aims his hand at the target and gently launches another small blue, glowing orb out. Sotalia's golden eyes scan the wall. Her head stops at points and she leans her stare forward. She taps Aristespha's shoulder and gestures towards a section of inscriptions. Cideeda, Dretphi, and Sebastian cautiously examine a large, round platform in the middle of the space. Dretphi aims a high-powered spotlight out and traces the outlines of the many small structures surrounding the platform. Cideeda deftly examines the strange but familiar console obviously cabled to other equipment nearby. Sebastian hovers around overhead, surveys the vicinity from above, and fights an uncomfortable recognition. "This... This is REALLY similar to the Orth Ridge site. I can't shake it any more."

Sotalia nods as she crosses her arms. She sighs, cocks her head to the side in thought, and idly drums her long nailed fingers on her arm. "This writing is the same as the bits and pieces I saw inside that damned chamber."

An eyebrow perks on Aristespha's face and she places her hands on her hips with a curious gaze upon the writing on the wall. "The context seems different. I'd have to sit down and decipher the proper translations, but I get the impression this place's purpose is not the exact same."

Bach steps away from staring at the inscribed surface, scans his eyes across the area, and ponders the situation with twists at the corners of his mouth. "Well, it looks like it has a smaller version of that elder energy collector chamber? But it doesn't have that nightmare factory attached to it. So, maybe... A just remote gathering site?"

As the large spot lamp shines a huge, bright circle of light around the chamber, Dretphi pauses her sweep, gradually retraces the path back, and focuses the beam upon a decaying pallet of canisters. The cylindrical containers stand half a meter tall and a quarter meter wide, and various labels adorn the perimeter of small, dark windows in the sides. Dretphi's eyes narrow, her attention locks onto a small detail, and she approaches cautiously to confirm. Her eyes flit wide the moment she confirms her suspicions and she directs her voice to the rest of the group. "Dust has been disturbed on these vessels."

Cideeda stands back from the control console, places her hands on her hips, and nods in confirmation with her own observation. "Same with the controls over here. Someone stood here and worked this system. You can see the contrast between how thick the dust build up is. The dirt on platform has been stirred up, too."

Sebastian flies down between Dretphi and Cideeda, and glances between the two. "Okay. Any guess at how recently it was all mixed up?"

Dretphi returns her head to face the lightly dusted hand outline in the thicker covering on a number of containers, and concentrates her mind on the task. Cideeda squints her emerald green eyes as she kneels back down to compare different surfaces of the equipment and platform. She lifts her head up and glances over to Dretphi. "Um, it's not recent. You don't get this much build up that quickly unless something is adding that much dust to the area. I'd guess over a month? I don't think much more than two?"

She shrugs at Dretphi and Sebastian. Dretphi eventually nods and sighs in a mild frustration. "Agreed. Not enough information. Hard to tell. Would need to observe rate that dust collects."

Aristespha stares at the containers and lifts her head back as recognition springs up in her mind. "Those are old magic energy storage containers."

Upon hearing this, Bach snaps a stare at the containers with glowing blue eyes. "They're empty now, but they do have some significant capacity."

Sotalia narrows her eyes as a dim golden glow flickers, and struggles to maintain the gaze, grimacing the whole time. Aristespha blinks out her glowing violet eyes, and looks over to the ethereal form of Sebastian. "I think Noxian was here, Sebastian."

An awkward smirk graces Sebastian's transparent face and he sighs with a weak smile. "It makes sense. Given the possible time frame, where this is located, and recent information about what Noxian has knowledge of... This was probably a stop for him right after we confronted him in Anta."

A brief smile cracks Sotalia's lips but fades as the rest of the predicament processes in her mind. "Well, he was here and maybe he did something similar to what he did at Orth Ridge. So, what's the plan now?"

Sebastian surveys the various texts, pieces of equipment, and other items in the area. He shrugs his shoulders and releases an ethereal grumble. "Well, wish I had more of a plan, but... Take pictures, regroup back at the hotel, and see if we can find any more clues?"

As a collective agreement passes over the group, various alert chimes echo out into the cavernous space from different aetherphones. Each member, except Sebastian who hovers towards Aristespha, draws out their devices and examines the bright red alerts. Eyes widen in shock. A slight tremor in the hand shakes Cideeda's phone, and Bach stares in silence at the warning. Sebastian quickly darts towards the exit and signals the rest of the group.

On the aetherphone screens, a message flashes. "GUILD BROADCAST ALERT! Nightmare Geist confirmed heading towards Hatten. All able groups are requested to assist in evacuation efforts. DO NOT ENGAGE THE NIGHTMARE GEIST. Respond to get contact information for authorities in the area."

In the city streets, a long convoy of buses, trucks, and military transports roll down the main street towards a rough southeastern direction. Police cars ride ahead, clearing traffic and ordering people out of the way. A number of adventurers and officials guide lines of people onto awaiting transports. Veevi stands on top of truck bed, yells out instructions with an animated, cutesy flair, and gestures everyone watching towards a line. Chad marches and bellows out orders to half-listening crowds. Deedri assists medical professionals evacuating patients out of the hospital. Trakenthin hoists up equipment and supplies into cargo vans. Off the street in a park, at an old city perimeter wall, squads of people form on top of the raised walkway. Captain Hackle and Captain Hays each examine a holographic map and both study it carefully. Hays sighs with a hint of a growl and shakes his head. "As destructive as that bastard thing is, it's at least consistent with its direction."

Hackle nods solemnly and narrows his eyes at the path projection overlaying the city map. "Given the information we've collected, it is on a route to cross near the center of Hattan. If it's any consolation, it seems to be the sparser northern district."

After a long draw of air in, Hays sneers to gritted teeth and releases a slow breath out. "If it just walks through, we may be okay... But, it could honestly go into a full rampage at any time."

Hackle lifts his hand up and traces the route with a finger into the holographic projection. "Hopefully, we've been able to evacuate out a majority of the direct path and we're trying to move as many people out of the surrounding areas."

He glances over to Hays with a serious tone. "I've sent a few of my scouts with your rangers and the infiltration specialist from that group on that show to double-check to make sure we don't have any stragglers or people trying to hide out. But, being thorough takes time."

Hays shakes his head as his expression sours and the pulse of the moving target indicator closes the gap between it and the town. "We don't have enough time to do this right. If we could just slow this thing down..."

Pulling his aetherphone out and holding up nearby with his cybernetic arm, he taps an entry on a list and waits for the device to connect. Kaleb's voice calls out from the speaker. "Hello?"

Hays speaks firm and calm. "This is Captain Hays, again. You are on speakerphone with Captain Hackle. Question. Have you noticed anything that's slowed the geist down?"

An awkward silence of background wind drones over the phone, but eventually Kaleb speaks with an uncertain tone. "Not really. This thing just breaks through buildings like they were wet paper bags. About the only thing I've seen that's slowed it down was when it tore through a machine shop. I think some of the acetylene tanks went up."

After a few moments, Kaleb continues with a hints of defeat in his voice. "It looked like chunks of it were blown off, but... It... Reformed? It's hard to say from this high up, but it's like the black fire mist just collected back on it. It just moved on after that."

Captain Hackle's arms cross behind his back and he uneasily smirks with a lift of brow at Captain Hays. "The only thing I know that slows those things down is raw magical blasts, but even that is limited-"

Kaleb interrupts with renewed vigor over the speakerphone. "Raw magic? Um, sirs? I think I might be able to help with that!"

Hackle focuses his attention upon the aetherphone and curiously quizzes. "How so?"

A confident tone rises in Kaleb voice from the other end of call. "Lagi, my dragon, has been taught a bunch of spells. A lot of raw energy attacks. We could try to see if those do anything?"

Hackle eyes Hays briefly. Hays nods interested. Hackle smiles keenly and calls out to a woman nearby. "Sergeant Violet? Could you please make sure Specialist Thayal has a good view of the geist?"

Sergeant Violet salutes quickly, grips tightly a radio off her belt, and keys up the unit. "Specialist Thayal! Do you have eyes on the target!?"

A second later, static fades out to a grumbling man who finally manages to muster a response. "Yes, Sergeant Violet... It's the only thing of interest I see from up on this hotel roof, apart from the dragon that keeps flying around."

Sergeant Violet nods and Captain Hackle resolutely commands. "Kaleb. Proceed with caution. This is a risk, but I'd rather risk it out there than here, right now."

A loud dragonic roar echoes from the distance with chorus resonating through Captain Hays's aetherphone. Kaleb's voice stands out from the din of background wind. "Understood! We're going to build up speed for a pass and line up for the shot!"

From the skies above, a blue and black scaled, white plated dragon sharply dives, his rider tucking close and secure to the saddle. Leveling off at an altitude above to the tallest buildings in the city, Lagi swings a swift, wide turn over the cityscape with wings swept back. Flows of magical energy pulsate from his wings and through his body up towards his mouth. As the pulses speed up and glow with brighter intensity, he opens his mouth and the flow condenses to a bright turquoise-white ball in front of his open maw. As he jets high over the old city perimeter wall, the loud draconic shriek distracts Tassilda along with a number of other mages gathered upon the wall. Lagi rockets over the suburban streets and greenery below on an intercept course with the Nightmare Geist. Through goggles, Kaleb focuses his full attention and points his particle power blaster forward. A bright green laser beam paints the target from an underside module. With barely a kilometer separating Kaleb and Lagi from the Nightmare Geist, Kaleb clicks a bottom trigger of his blaster and a shrill tone chimes out.

The turquoise-white ball launches from Lagi with a reverberating sound of energy release and colors the sky behind it with a bright, misty trail. Kaleb ducks sharply to Lagi's right side. Lagi's wings flare out and he breaks hard to the right. The energy projectile zips through the air along its arc towards the five meter tall, humanoid, amorphous mass of black raging fire. The potent turquoise orb drops low and solidly impacts the leg of the nightmare creation. An explosive burst of magical miasma erupts a visible shockwave along the nearby suburbia. Small bits of debris tumble and nearby windows shatter as the concussion radiates out. Within the dirt cloud, magical haze, and debris, a low, unnatural growl rumbles with strange hints of strained white noise infiltrating the unsettling tone.

As the visual chaos clears in the distance, Sergeant Violet's radio crackles to life and Special Thayal's voice rises out of the background noise. "Whatever that was did some damage! It stopped moving! It think there's a big chunk out of its leg!"

The joy from Thayal's tone sharply drops out, but hope still remains. "Unfortunately... it's healing back up... But... it's taking a LOT longer to do so and it is still down on a knee."

A grin forms on Hays's face and he calls out to Kaleb through the aetherphone. "Kaleb! How many of those can your dragon do?"

Kaleb replies with slight embarrassment. "I don't know, sir. We've never had a chance to find out."

Hackle smiles as determination sparks his eyes. "Consider this your chance... Rain. Hell."

In a dimly lit room, dust covered equipment hums out warm breezes of air from back side vents and swirls of particulate stir in the few sprays of light overhead. A large flat table display glows colored outlines of shapes through a haze of age and neglect. Idle indicator chirps sound out from worn, dull speakers and form an ambient soundscape. A bright flash fights its way through the obscuring funk and a loud chime rings through the distortion. Nearby, a white haired, thin man sits in a chair at a old metal desk, and guides down his searching gray eyes upon an old manual of diagrams and instructions. He flips back the hood of his hoodie and pulls down his blue scarf. Keeping his focus on the material, his hand wanders off to the side, pats around on spread out plastic wrap, and finds a sandwich. Subconsciously, the hand brings the sandwich close to the mouth, and the old man calmly takes a large bite. After a few seconds of chewing, his graying beard surrounded lips twist with a roll of the eyes and the man grumbles. "... always stingy on the olives..."

Another loud chime crackles through the background din and another bright pulse backlights untold years of grime. The man pauses, swallows, and slowly rotates his head towards the large table display. He waits for a minute and squints curiously at the dusted covered screen. Minutes pass and just as he begins to turn his head away, the man's eyes widen as yet another glow pulses and another loud chime accompanies it. He slides back, rises out of the chair, and steps quickly over to the system. A disgusted snarl curls his upper lip and he swiftly wipes his sleeve covered forearm across the width of the display and directs his full attention to the mapping information. A brilliant indicator radiates out from a point and prompts of text render near diagrams off to the side. The wake of the pulse outlines a starkly contrasting black void. Concern floods the man's expression and his eyes search his mind for an explanation. He places the sandwich in his mouth, bites down to secure it, and swings the freed arm out to snatch the manual on the nearby desk. He flops the tome down, speeds a hand through a flutter of pages, and backs up to focus on a particular page. His other hand taps up an on-screen interface and quickly navigates through a series of menus. The imagery on the map shifts through a variety of color schemes with diagrams morphing to the new context. Change after change sweeps over the visual information, until one final mode darkens the screen except for the previous void, that now glows a pixelated white noise. Horror narrows the pupils as the display flickers an unstable light onto the man's worn face. He slowly removes the sandwich from his mouth, lays it down nearby, and shakily presses on the bright spot. An explosion of diagrams, details, and dialogs overload the entire screen space. Warnings flash around red colored numbers, figures chaotically jump around, and bright yellow messages caution the many unknowns. The man's jaw drops briefly before he grits his teeth and determination fights through the terror on his face. "But how?! When did it?! I- I-... I have to stop it... Before any more damage is done..."

The man steps away from the table display, snaps his head towards the exit, and rushes over. He flips his hoodie up, guides his blue scarf over his mouth and nose, and slams open a metal door to a harsh echo down a dark hallway. The static spot moves along a straight path and the chaotic glow illuminates the surface underneath a stray olive slice.

Kaleb looks down off the side of Lagi and surveys the ground far below. A kilometer long, straight trail of destruction carves into the suburban surface. Every few dozen meters along the path of damaged streets, plowed houses, and fallen trees, a ring of scorched terrain darkens an open area. Debris lays scattered meters from of the impact point and deep indentations mar the ground. Wind whistles through the blown out glass window panes in barely intact buildings and carries paper waste from many shredded garbage cans. A black fire covered humanoid mass rises from the dirt and fresh magical residue mist. It stands just above five meters tall and a haze of loose, dark miasma condenses upon its form, replacing the missing material of its being. The head protrusion upon its shoulders twists upwards and slowly watches the dragon fly in the sky via an eerie shadowy void. It resumes the slow march forward towards the town. Kaleb shakes his head and growls in frustration along with Lagi's irritated, teeth baring snorts. "I know! You're doing good, boy! But... this thing is on a whole different level!"

The nightmare geist stomps ahead. While its head maintains a solid glare above, the creature's long arm reaches out with an unnatural stretch, and an amorphous hand clamps tightly around a nearby fire hydrant. The hydrant twists off the base pipe against unfathomable forces and sheered bolts rocket out, sparking off a car body, splintering through a tree, and embedding into brickwork. A geyser of water blasts out from open pipe. Specialist Thayal's voice erupts from the radio system in Kaleb's headset. "LOOK OUT! I think it's going to throw something!"

The geist plants its feet into the dirt and draws its arm back as black flames blaze out along the length. Lagi's bright green eyes snap to focus upon the hellish mass and his body tenses. A thunderous boom explodes out when the creature flings the hydrant to a supersonic, red streak at Lagi and Kaleb. In splinters of second, a protective golden bubble projects out from Lagi as he twists into a right angle evasive dive away as the bullet blurs through the previous flight path. He drops altitude fast, and unfolds his wings to level out above the tree line, powering fast away from the geist. Kaleb blinks around, glances behind to the geist resuming towards Hattan in the distance, and searches the sky to find a soaring dot falling towards the horizon. "Holy. Shit. That was too close."

Lagi bellows an agreeing bark and gradually flies upwards. Captain Hays's concern sounds over Kaleb's headset. "Kaleb?! Are you okay? We saw you dive back there and lost sight of you. Do you hear me?"

Kaleb nervously laughs and recollects the pieces of his composure quickly. "Uhh... Yes. We're fine. I guess its finally got tired of us slowing it down. Gods, I hope Shadeesa doesn't see that on the news before I get home."

Lagi lets out a rolling whine in commiseration. Captain Hackle calls out with a commanding but appreciative tone. "Then, you best head that way. We're going to fall back away from the projected path and try to get people further from possible danger. Thank you for buying us all that time."

Lagi grumbles a series of barks, growls, and whines, and glances over his shoulder to Kaleb. A stern and solemn expression fills Kaleb's face as he watches signs of fatigue sneak into Lagi's eager face. Kaleb shakes his head and pats Lagi's back with a long sigh. "Understood. As much as Lagi and I want to keep going, I have to call it. We'll find a place to rest up nearby and keep in the area."

From the old perimeter wall, Captain Hays and Captain Hackle watch the distant figure of a dragon and rider fly away. Hays nods with smirk and directs his slight relief to his aetherphone. "We'll be moving to the southern region of town. Keep tuned to radio for updates. Rest up for now. Out."

Hays taps the call end button on the phone's display, lowers his cybernetic arm down, and stows the phone away in a pocket. He scans the vicinity to see the remaining evacuation vehicles loading a final few passengers and military trucks waiting to depart. Hays and Hackle quickly pack up the remaining bits of equipment, rush down old stone stairs, and jump into the bed of transport. Sergeant Violet follows suit, secures the tailgate up, and sits down near front. With a few slaps on the cab exterior, the vehicle rolls forward into formation with the last the convoy. Hackle shakes his head and sighs grimly. "Is it bad to honestly hope that all it does is just level a few city blocks and moves on?"

Hays removes his wide brimmed hat off head head, lowers it down onto his lap, and wipes the sweat off his forehead. He eyes over to Hackle with a shrug of the shoulders and an uncertain grimace. "Some would say that's wishful thinking. Hopefully, clearing out the area of people will keep it focused on whatever destination its going to, rather than targets of opportunity. Gods damned fucking ancient terror weapons..."

A distinct ring momentarily confuses Hays and he glances at his pocket. He quickly retrieves his aetherphone, reads the identification, and his interest piques sharply as he taps the answer button on the screen. "Miss Aristespha. Good to hear from you."

Hackle lifts a brow and turns his head towards Hays attentively. Hays nods with the conversation and chuckles in spite of the situation. "No. Thankfully, it hasn't quite made it to the town center yet. Before anything else, what direction are you approaching the town from?"

He glances over to Hackle and gestures at the equipment. "Northeast? Okay. Let me get your group up to date with the situation. That area will be dangerous in the future, but if you could check a few areas we haven't covered completely yet on your way to safety, we'd appreciate it."

The humvee rolls to a stop at an empty intersection. An eerie silence looms in the air as the people devoid streets, hastily abandoned cars, and swaying open doors of buildings surround Aristespha, Bach, Cideeda, Dretphi, Sebastian and Sotalia. Cideeda shifts the humvee into park, undoes her seat belt, and directs her wary, nervous voice to Aristespha. "S-so, where did they last say it was?"

Aristespha subdues her own nervous energy, examines the map on her tablet, and references a few lines of text on her phone. "A few kilometers away from this position. At least that is what they last reported when they had sighted it. It has drifted off the projected course and they haven't been able to maintain a constant visual of it."

Sebastian ethereally sighs uncomfortably and presents a reassuring smile to Cideeda. "Hang in there. This is the last area they needed us to check to see if anyone is still around."

Sotalia glances over with concern and rests a hand on Cideeda's shoulder. Cideeda summons her drive and puts forth determination behind her smirk. "I know. Need to make sure no one is left behind."

Drifting back in the cab, Sebastian aims his gaze at Bach with a smirk. "Holding up, bro?"

Bach glances to Sebastian, exhales out some stress, and manages a few rocks of the head forward in some semblance of a nod. "Uh, yeah. Just feels weird. Ready to leave once we're done."

Sebastian checks in Dretphi, who gives a thumbs up, and floats up through the open top hatch of the humvee. "Okay. Hop out, quick check for any people in the area, load back up, and then we drive far away from it."

The group collectively agrees, doors simultaneously open, and everyone exits the humvee. Sebastian flies high up into the air above the intersection and searches for activity through the windows of taller buildings. Cideeda and Dretphi rush to opposing street corners and survey down the long roads for signs of life. Aristespha, Bach, and Sotalia peer out with pairs of glowing eyes out into the area. After a minute, Sebastian drops down to pavement near the humvee. "Okay, everyone. I don't see anything. If there's anyone still in the area, let's hope they stay hidden for a little while longer."

Aristespha, Bach, and Sotalia each agree and move back towards the humvee. Dretphi squints her eyes down the long stretches of street for one last scan. She turns away and quickly steps back to the humvee. Cideeda releases a breath of relief and pivots swiftly around toward the rest of the group. Her ears flick back around and lock on to a distant noise. Her eyes widen and she spins her self back around hunting for the source. Sebastian notices the sudden movement from Cideeda and zips his ghostly form near. "What's up?"

Cideeda's ears frantically perk and tilt and her emerald eyes stare far down the street. "I heard someone. Down this way."

With a series of waves and gestures, Sebastian signals the rest of the group to gather near. Cideeda walks cautiously down the street and carefully listens to the quiet. "Well... I thought I heard something..."

A few blocks down, a little girl scrambles around a building corner and topples onto the sidewalk. She lifts herself up unsteadily and lunges forward in a haphazard sprint down the intersecting street roughly towards the group. Cideeda runs forward at the girl, and directs a cautious shout. "Over here! This way!"

The rest of the group follows behind, but Cideeda out paces the pack to meet the scared child midway down the street. Cideeda kneels down to catch the blonde haired girl in her arms as the child collapses in a panicked, panting slump, exhaustion setting in fast. Sotalia slows her pace as a wave of unease and nervous energy grips her expression, and her golden eyes dart around the area. "Oh shit... What the hell is this feeling?!"

Repetitious, solid, low thumps emerge from the background, and echo distantly between the tall buildings. The volume rises quickly with each subsequent impact. Wide eyed horror paralyzes Cideeda. She stares blankly at the rest of the group and fails to hide her trembling. Bach stares down the street, his stance tenses and fear radiates from him. Sebastian assesses the situation and wave of terror washes over him. "HUMVEE. NOW."

Dretphi sweeps the little girl up into her arms and charges forward to the humvee. Sotalia and Aristespha both assist up Cideeda up by a shoulder each, and guide her along. She quickly regains awareness and her fright drives her forward, unconsciously pulling both Aristespha and Sotalia along. Bach bolts after the rest of the group once they pass him. Sebastian flies behind and keeps a watch down toward the building corner. A dark billowing, elongated shadow stretches down the cross street behind the structure, from the late afternoon sun. With a solid, resounding impact, the massive, black fire coated, humanoid form plants its foot to a halt. Chunks of pavement slide clean off the road as the tremendous weight sheers the surface. The nightmare geist snaps its head to aim down the roadway and pauses. The shadowy void within its head stares out. It flexes its amorphous fingers out into long, sharply pointed digits, digs its other foot into the cracking asphalt, squats down, and lunges forward. Sebastian's ethereal form pales and he yells out. "IT'S COMING! Break right into the next alley!"

Bach looks over his shoulder and watches the nightmare geist bound forward. He glances ahead and witnesses the pace of the group overall. Each of the geist's steps shrinks the distance between it and the group... far faster than the group can approach the alleyway. In the few, precious moments, Bach's blank stare barely hides the thoughts racing through his mind. Through the chaos of hopeful possibilities and improbable plans, one option recessed far, far back stares right at him. It cuts through the mental din, forcing all other thoughts to concede, and silences the competition. Bach closes his eyes hard, draws a resolute breath in, and opens his eyes to a flaming blue. He slides to a stop along the pavement, pivots to face the incoming creature, and tenses his whole body. His right hand shakily opens as regimented, organized flows swirl around his body towards the palm of the hand, and his left hand braces the other by the wrist. Sebastian passes by Bach, abruptly halts, immediately spins around, and screams with ghostly reverberation. "BRO! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YO-"

Sebastian's ethereal form distorts and twists to his surprise. Aristespha turns around as the sword shakes forcibly in the scabbard at her side.


The voice of the sword stuns the progress of the group and they all turn to look back. Standing in the path of the charging, black fire bellowing, humanoid mass of terror, Bach stands rigidly. Every part of his body strains, and he shudders out a fearful chant to himself. "Just... a little... not too much... Keep it together... Focus... You can do this... Control it... Dammit..."

Bright white threads shimmer within layers upon layers of tubular magical constructions where previous magical energies swirled. The thin, faint white flows stream gradually towards the palm of Bach's trembling right hand. Mists steadily radiate out from the ends the conduits and condense into ball of pure white light near Bach's clawing fingers. The orb brilliantly shines and overpowers the presence of the sun upon the pavement. The nightmare geist fades its charge and eases to cautious, calculated steps forward. It soon halts short of an arm's reach from Bach and focuses the shadowy void in its head protrusion upon the glowing white orb. Bach carefully lifts his head up. With sweating dripping all over and his face contorting in constant strained twitches, he glares with gritting teeth and flaming blue eyes as pinpoints of white shine from in the middle of the pupils.

Bach raises his braced right hand up, palm forward, and guides the white orb ahead of himself.

Bach steps forward.

The Nightmare Geist steps back.

The two deadlock for minutes. The geist's flaming form waits with idly flexing hands and Bach maintains the flow of energy to the growing orb against blatantly mounting stresses. Aristespha, Cideeda, Dretphi, the girl, Sebastian, and Sotalia watch in absolute silent, stunned awe. A pain winces Bach's eyes briefly, and the nightmare geist's arm flames out. The creature's arm unnaturally extends out in a clawing swipe at Bach. Reflexively Bach swings his right hand towards the attack, aims his palm at the monster's arm, and suddenly flexes his fingers out. A ray momentarily floods the area with blinding light, impacts into the crude elbow of the geist, and fractures white energy into the very structure of its being. In mere moments, the energies flood thoughout the arm and the limb fragments into a fading white vapor that disappears completely. The geist bellows out a thunderous, anguished scream that rattles nearby windows and assaults the air with a cacophony of chaos, white noise, and rage. It stumbles back meters across the street, crushes flat a parked cargo truck as it falls off balance, and flails in agony upon the splintering ground. Bach staggers back and snaps a glance back to the sheer bewilderment of everyone else. "We... Need... To... Ru-"

The loud crunching of concrete and pavement interrupts Bach's warning and he swings his attention back to the nightmare geist contorting itself back upright, with its remaining hand digging deeply into the roadway. The shadowy void within its head glares right at Bach, with clouds of darkness venting out. Jets of black flame erupt into a swirling maelstrom around its body and its legs tense up. With an earth rattling roar, it flings itself forward at Bach. The massive figure shades out the afternoon light from Bach. As horror darkens upon Bach face, the pinpoints of white light in his eyes explode and blast out the blue. The thin threads of flow bulge into torrents, shattering the containment vessels and rushing towards Bach's hand. A palm rises up to the nightmare geist, fingers flex, and a blinding flash erupts between Bach and the monster. A ray of energy floods into the chest of the black fire terror, cracks spider out throughout hidden surface behind the dark flames, and the shadowy void ignites in a geyser of white haze. The splintered form leaks billowing clouds of white miasma and the very structure disintegrates. The light of sun beams through the expanding divides until the last few fragments of the nightmare geist fade from existence.

Silence fills the area as Aristespha, Cideeda, Dretphi, the girl, Sotalia, and Sebastian attempt to comprehend. Bach doubles over and drops to his knees harshly upon the asphalt in a gurgling groan of pain. He tightly wraps his arms around himself as his body strains. Through gritting teeth, his face displays an internal torment as the white light shining within the glowing blue of his eyes pulses chaotically. Chokes and coughs escape Bach and his tortured form sways erratically. Cideeda blinks back to her senses with the source of her fright gone. She focuses upon Bach, and overwhelming concern overtakes her expression as she steps forward with her hand out. "Bach?! Are you okay-?!"

The blue glow surges in defiance and crushes out the bright white. A spherical pulse of white energy blasts out from Bach. It expands outwards in mere fractions of a second, swelling out into the vicinity. Cideeda freezes as agony silences her and seizes her body. Sebastian's form flickers once as the wave passes through his form and again when swaths of the energy divert abruptly into the sword. The wall of the bubble fades as it expands out. Many people throughout the safe zones pause in confusion, and both radio and aether transmissions distort briefly. Far way, in a car speeding along an empty back road, a thin, whited haired man stares widened, gray eyes towards the city, his jaw agape under his blue scarf.

Cideeda yelps when her muscles release. Her eyes roll back and she collapses limply backwards. Aristespha and Sotalia catch her motionless body. Sotalia golden eyes hunt for a reason and panic explodes in her voice. "CIDEEDA!? What's wrong?! Speak to me, girl!?"

Sotalia's voice cuts through the haze impairing Bach and he clumsily twists his head around to clearly witness Aristepsha performing a vitals check on Cideeda. Bach pales immediately as a sickening, horrific guilt overwhelms his consciousness. Through quivering lips, tears flooding his eyes, and choking fright, Bach manages to shudder out a weak plea. "N-n-no..."

He flops upon the warm pavement, his body relaxes despite the shocked ethereal yells from his brother, and the world shrinks away from his senses as he loses out to unconsciousness.

Muffled sounds resonate from the outside world into the cab of the humvee. Peaks of voices leak into the background silence of the space. Laying on the back bench seat with pillows propping his head and legs, Bach stirs underneath a thick blanket and mumbles in muted incoherence. His eyes flutter groggily open and he blankly gazes up towards the ceiling. The orange cast from the setting sun beams through the windows and illuminates the area warmly. Bach's expression shapes as his consciousness returns and recent memories flood back. As each moment passes, his face twists towards a greater degree of doubt, misery, and despair. Despite the warm blanket and the heat of the sunlight upon him, a constant shiver forms from the cold, sinking regret within Bach. The last moments of memory flash before his eyes and the tears well up as his breathing shudders audibly. Dretphi's soft voice sounds out. "You are awake."

Bach stiffens sharply, startles to immediate awareness of the area, and stares frightened at Dretphi's steely gray eyes as she kneels down in the aisle, next to the bench seat. She gazes back in confusion at Bach's expression, brushes her fading platinum blonde braids back over a shoulder, and puzzles with concern. Bach averts his eyes away and meekly mutters. "C-c-cideeda..."

Dretphi lifts her arm, gently grasps onto Bach's shoulder, and speaks calmly. "She is okay."

Bach's eyes widen, his face lightens, and looks up to see the warm smile of Dretphi. She nods to confirm and reassuringly pats Bach's arm. "She woke ten minutes after you went unconscious. Passed out from tremendous pain. Aristespha found no physical issues with her. She is tired. Today has been tiring for everyone."

As the relief washes over Bach, he firmly closes his eyes and a stream of tears leak out along with a few wet sniffs. Dretphi reaches her free hand over pile of supplies and medical equipment in a seat, grabs hold of a wash towel, and gently blots the water off of Bach's cheeks. Bach draws a shaky breath, exhales a long, relieved sigh, and sinks into the pillows supporting his head. After a number of quiet seconds, he opens his eyes, timidly turns his head to Dretphi, and musters his voice. "What happened after I passed out?"

Dretphi twists her lips and quirks her brow in thought as she summaries. "Aristespha fully focused on your care after she deemed Cideeda okay. Determined no immediate danger. We put you here. She is monitoring you."

She points out one of Aristespha's tablets upon a specialized dock nearby to Bach and lightly taps his hand. "She probably knows you are awake."

With a slow effort Bach moves his hand around under the blanket, feels the monitor clips and cuff, and nods understanding. Venting a frustrated sigh, Dretphi continues her explanation. "Travel to proper facilities has proven difficult. Reversing an evacuation seems to challenge as much the evacuation."

Bach weakly manages an accepting shrug. He blinks, thinks a moment, and queries. "What happened to the girl?"

Dretphi presents a warm smile and motions her head briefly towards the outside. "Being delivered to her mother. Long story. She was... Very... lucky that Cideeda heard her. We would have left. She would not be... here."

The calm Bach experiences fades over the next minutes as the full scope of the situation dawns upon him. A nervous chill sends shivers throughout his body and he stares distantly up at the ceiling of the humvee cab. Dretphi eyes her hand upon Bach's shoulder as she feels the shudder, glances over to the vital monitoring tablet, and directs a genuine concern at him. "What is wrong?"

A frown weighs down Bach's lips and dread taints his tone. "Explaining all that's happened..."

Dretphi dons a calming demeanor and speaks carefully as she reassures. "Do not worry. The truth of today will ONLY be known by our group. No one outside our group has shown correct knowledge of our activities today. They will NOT learn of that truth from us. Despite what we may tell them."

Bach nods with a smile, exhales slowly, and winces as a long hidden shame erodes the comfort Dretphi imparts. "That's good to hear. But, that's unfortunately not the hard part..."

A curious brow lifts on Dretphi's face. Bach twists his lips as he fights for the words to speak, but remains silent. Dretphi gently pats Bach's shoulder and grants him an understanding nod.