Episode 43

A television displays a daytime soap opera in the clinic's staff breakroom. A few medical staff lounge upon the weathered but comfortable couch, and many others occupy the chairs surrounding. Deedri stands in gathering and idly chats about subjects ranging from cases to some behind the scenes tidbits from the Next Adventurers of Nexus. Aristespha eyes the nearby mix of city and green space surrounding the clinic complex through large windows, and flips through her aetherphone. Deedri presents a delighted smile and answers a question from one of the doctors. "Oh, most interesting case so far... I think it would have to be the checkup I did for a half evuukian boy named Mylo."

Across the room Aristespha's long ears twitch and her violet eyes flit wide as her attention switches to Deedri's conversation. Deedri discusses vague basics about Mylo, focusing on his child antics than medical aspects. When the wall clock ticks over to noon, most of the crowd double-checks their own time keeping devices and politely disperse to resume work. Aristespha eyes over to Deedri and slowly approaches as Deedri finishes the last bit of coffee from a thick paper cup. Aristespha clears her throat and addresses Deedri. "Mage Preeta."

Deedri blinks and pivots to face Aristespha directly with a blank expression and neutral tone. "Yes, Mage Orienden?"

Aristespha assumes a professional demeanor with barely noticeable cracks in the facade over her personal curiosity. "I overheard you performed a checkup upon a half evuukian boy, by the name of Mylo?"

With a slow nod, Deedri responds flatly. "Yes. Check up and routine immunization."

A narrowing of Aristespha's eyes precedes her examining stare upon Deedri. "I have some questions to ask, if I may?"

Deedri nods calmly and presents a stoic exterior with hints of hesitation. "You may."

Aristespha proceeds to systematically launch a series of questions that grow gradually more probing into the case. Deedri responds appropriately and carefully in return, with her stare searching for the motive behind the inquiry. As Aristespha continues her inquisition, her tone subconsciously develops a sharp, overbearing edge. Each new inquiry incites a reflexive, minute cringe upon Deedri's face.

After a few minutes, Deedri grimaces briefly, breathes in deeply, and interjects into an elaborate, elegant explanation behind her logic and reasoning. Delving into her papers upon ancient genetic bio-modifications and ancestral genetics, she systematically explains in exacting detail and drives the conversation into Aristespha's stunned silence. Deedri maintains a firm stare upon Aristespha and perks an expectant brow. "Any further information you require, Mage Orienden?"

Embarrassment rushes up to fill Aristespha's face and she twists her lips to a frown. She shakes her head with a sigh and bows slightly towards Deedri. "No. Not at all... In fact, I should apologize."

Deedri's stare softens. Aristespha lifts her head up calmly. "I have obviously made some dreadfully and woefully inaccurate assumptions off of erroneous first impressions. I see that you are quite knowledgeable and were the best professional for that particular case. I apologize for acting so harshly upon such assumptions."

A slight smirk curls the corners of Deedri's mouth and she nods towards Aristespha. "Apology accepted."

Aristespha breathes easier and gazes at Deedri with a slight smile. "I believe I have actually read one of your papers before in the past. If I remember correctly, I found it very insightful."

Deedri smiles fully and rolls her eyes at herself. "Thank you. I hope it was one of my later papers, the earlier papers weren't my best work."

With a gentle chuckle, Aristespha shakes her head with shrug. "Do not worry. They never are. I still cringe when I even see the opening paragraph of some of my earliest work."

Deedri narrows her eyes thoughtfully and examines Aristespha's face, again hunting for a motive. "I have to ask, you seem really interested in Mylo's care. Any particular reason why?"

Aristespha blinks and a contemplation graces her face. "I ran into Mylokia at the convention and wanted to make sure he was doing okay. Talking to his parents, they were doing well, but... I could tell it had been difficult for them in the past with... the politics surrounding them."

Nodding understandingly, Deedri perks up with a satisfied tone. "I see. Well, little Mylo is a healthy boy. And from what I overheard, I think things are going a lot better for his parents. I believe the grandparents on his mother's side actually visited."

Surprise fills Aristespha face and fades to delight that relieves her mood and relaxes her shoulders. "That's wonderful to hear."

She thinks a moment, widens her eyes, and averts her gaze briefly from Deedri in a fit of embarrassment. "Oh, before I forget. I would like to also apologize about one comment I made towards you very early on... About your bell..."

Deedri pauses in thought, groans in annoyed disgust, and shakes her head with a wave of the hand. "It's okay. To be honest, I'm not that thrilled about it either. I'm so glad to not wear the thing for a while."

Aristespha quirks a curious eyebrow at Deedri. "Have you tried... misplacing it?"

With a long sigh, shoulder shrug, and her hands on her hips, Deedri grumbles with a defeated glance towards Aristespha. "SO many times. They either have a crew member dedicated to keeping track of it or they just ordered the things in bulk. I haven't figured out which yet."

Cideeda holds firmly onto her wand with both hands. She focuses upon a distant stabilized magical energy pedestal with an empty glass bottle upon it. With slow breaths and a concentrating grimace on her face, she aims the tip of the wand at the target. The inscriptions upon the wand glow green and the flow pulsates along the surface to condense upon the tip. A tiny sphere of magical energy forms at the end and vibrates in a holding position. Cideeda slightly relaxes her hand muscles with a twitch of a cheek under an emerald green eye, and the small magical bolt launches off towards the glass bottle. In seconds, it flies meters across the tall grasses of the backyard and bounces off the side of the bottle. The glass container wobbles in a rolling motion upon its bottom, before spinning off the edge of the platform, and falling towards the ground. Halfway down the pedestal, the bottle jerks back up and dangles, swinging from a thin filament of magical energy. Sotalia immediately cheers and excitedly hops near Cideeda. "You did it! Amazing shot!"

Cideeda tries to keep a humble attitude in face of the claps from Bach and Dretphi, and the energetic thumbs up from Sebastian as he hovers nearby in his ethereal form. She rolls her eyes at herself and groans playfully. "Yes, it should be a good shot. It only took me over twenty times to hit the thing."

She glances at the target, closes one eye, and aims a wand point at platform, while her ears flick in response to the breeze. "So, I think I'll stick to the laser pistols for a little while longer."

Bach shrugs with a glint of blue in his eyes and curl of a finger at his side. "You'll get there. The hardest part is the launch with any unguided projectile. Even a little flux in the flow will send it off at the wrong angle."

The thin filament of magical energy draws the glass bottle back up to the platform. The container flips over upon the top and rights itself under the tension of the flow wire. It slides back into its previous position. Bach gestures towards the target and glances over to Cideeda. "Ready?"

Cideeda exhales out her tension, rolls her shoulders into a stretch, and relaxes her arms to the sides. She shakes her head and steps slowly towards the wooden plank picnic table bench. "Someone else can go for it. I'm actually feeling hungry and a little tired."

Sotalia nods towards Cideeda and steps up to the firing line with sly smirk. "Welcome to the best calorie burning exercises a girl could ever want. A few fireballs does wonders to counter a big dessert."

While walking towards the bench, Cideeda eyes Dretphi. When Sotalia pivots around to setup for a spell, Dretphi glances over to Cideeda and both roll their eyes in unison. Cideeda takes a seat upon the bench next to Dretphi, and exchange wry smirks. Sebastian thinks a moment and glances over to Bach. "Hey, bro, anything you can do to make it a bit more challenging?"

Bach ponders the notion and hums out his thoughts. "Maybe..."

Sotalia brushes back her dark red hair over her horns, steadies her stance, and lifts a finger towards the target with a dramatic flair. A small bolt of energy condenses in front of her long nailed fingertip, and she guides the orb in line with the glass bottle on the magical pedestal. Moments later, the magical projectile zips forward right at the center mass of the glass. A flicker of blue in Bach's eyes and a finger twitch later, the bottle suddenly slides along the pedestal out of the way of the energy bolt. With narrowing eyes, Sotalia directs an unamused stare at Bach and places her free hand indignantly upon her hip. "Cute."

She resumes her attention forward, prepares another similar bolt, and conceals a sly grin away from Bach. Squinting his glowing gaze at the energy orb in front of Sotalia's finger, Bach lifts a curious brow and a smile creeps across his mouth. Sotalia the releases the bolt and it streaks fast across the grassy backyard. The bottle shifts to the side, Sotalia's fingers flick, and the projectile adjusts its path. Bach flexes his fingers and shimmering threads pulse a signal down a track along the ground towards the pedestal. A rectangular barrier unfolds from underneath the pedestal and erects a small wall along the front face of the top platform. Sotalia's eyes widen and her upper lip snarls as she drives the bolt clear at the last moment. It flies wide out and starts to loop back into another approach. Sotalia momentarily glares at Bach, presents a competitive grin, and refocuses to steering the magical orb. With each pass the bolt attempts, the barrier flips around quickly to block passage and the projectile swings clear to ready another attack vector. Feverish minutes pass in the contest. Cideeda and Dretphi attentively watch upon the edges of their bench seats, while Sebastian hovers with full focus upon the fight. Sotalia grits her teeth in frustration, and pants as a few beads of sweat form on her brow from the combination of concentration and the sun above. She growls as her agitation rises with each failed attempt. Bach maintains a constant blue glow in eyes and his fingers flick and flex as pulses of magical energy flash down the thin magical control lines.

After the latest pass, the bolt swings wide and flies out for another attempt. Sotalia notices the faint shimmers of the magical control lines, dons a sinister grin, and gestures with the free hand from her hip as she mouths out an incantation. With a quick snap of the wrist, a directed pulse of magical energy warps out from her downwards aimed palm at the energy threads in the grass. The wave contacts the lines, disrupts the flow of energy, and dispels large gaps into the lines. Bach blinks in a moment of confusion, snaps his stare down at the broken lines, and mumbles a few curses. Sotalia curls a finger with a smug grin and sends the energy bolt right into the bottle, bouncing it clear off the pedestal. She spins around both hands on her hips, bows to the amusement of Cideeda, Dretphi, and Sebastian, and winks with a sly smile to Bach. "Again, cute. But... Fun."

Bach rolls his eyes and shrugs his shoulders. Sotalia pants, wipes the sweat off her brow, and gazes over to the hot tub gazebo. "Well, between that and the sun, I think I need nice long Saturday afternoon soak."

Dretphi glances back over to the house, lifts herself up, picks up her practice wand, and steps towards the ranch style house. "I need to prepare dinner."

Cideeda hops up on her feet, stretches out her back, and grins toothily. "Sounds good to me."

She pauses a moment and perks her ears towards the far corner of the property lot, in the direction of the two-story house. She puzzles a moment and starts to walk away. "Quiet over there today. Don't hear Tassilda or Veevi in a yelling match."

Sotalia snickers to herself as the group walks towards the ranch style house. From the thick, obscuring cover of the bushes along the perimeter of the forest, Tassilda squints her eyes and carefully watches. She focuses her full attention upon one person, Sotalia. Her light blue on black eyes track Sotalia as she breaks away from the group and progresses over towards the hot tub gazebo. As Sotalia enters into the structure and out of view, a dark grin parts Tassilda's lips and she aims a sinister stare upon the gazebo. Tapping a long, black nailed finger upon her lips, she ponders. A spark of inspiration lights up her eyes, a low chuckle escapes her mouth, and she slinks off back towards the two-story house.

Dr. Blackwell sorts through paperwork behind the general diagnostics office area. Examining documents and occasionally signing off on a form, she stares over the quiet waiting room, her idling desk staff, and a number of medical mages and doctors double-checking case files. A shrill chime erupts from a red phone upon the wall and an amber light brilliantly flashes. Dr. Blackwell steps quickly over, snatches the phone handset off the unit, and places the device to her ear with a stern expression. "Dr. Blackwell."

Her eyes follow the statements coming from the speaker and her expression shifts gravely. She quickly scans the area, spots both Deedri and Aristespha, and meets their alert gazes. "Mage Orienden. Mage Preeta. Rush to the ER immediately. You two have both training and experience with magical trauma. Alchemical accident in a home lab. Multiple people injured, the worst is coming via ambulance in the next few minutes. MOVE."

Aristespha and Deedri exchange glances, pause briefly, and then speed off in a fast walk out of the area and down the hall. Dr. Blackwell speaks into the handset. "Two adventurer medical mages are on their way."

During the rush down the main hallway of the clinic, both Deedri and Aristespha prepare themselves. They quickly speak fast incantations and gesture for the same set of protective spells. An auburn glow shines from Deedri's eyes and Aristespha's eyes ignite violet. As they enter the emergency bays, they quickly wash hands, cast disinfectant spells, and don both gloves and masks. They present themselves to the emergency room head doctor and get more detail about the situation. Moments later, fast opening automated doors retract clear to allow a swarm of emergency medical techs and paramedics around a gurney to pour into the area. Upon the medical stretcher, a young man lays unconscious. Slow streaks of crimson ooze out upon his red stained skin from numerous glass-shard filled wounds across his chest and abdomen. As the crowd closes in, Deedri winces as she sniffs the air and the powerful stench of an indeterminable alchemical cocktail floods the area. Aristespha eyes open wide as she immediately studies the state of the man coming into view.

The group of emergency medical techs and paramedics carefully transfer the patient into an awaiting medical table. Aristespha and Deedri enter the fray. Vitals, statuses, figures, stats, and more fly around in a maelstrom of activity. Both Deedri and Aristespha assert themselves into the process and take command. Aristespha directs her voice towards a paramedic maintaining his hands above the chest and abdomen of the patient. "How long have you been magically stabilizing?"

The paramedic maintains his stare at the injured man, breathes audibly, and only grants enough attention to the outside world to respond with the needed information. "Tw-Tw-Twenty... Minutes."

Urgency fills Aristespha's tone as she watches the paramedic's body tremble. She quickly starts a series of incantations and gestures, holds her hands above the paramedics, and calmly but sternly commands. "On three. Transfer stabilization."

She snaps her head to face an emergency tech and orders. "Catch him the second he releases."

The emergency tech nods. Aristespha calls out as her eyes shine brightly violet. "One. Two. Three!"

In one fluid motion, the paramedic with his last bits of consciousness backs away clear of the chaos and falls into the arms of the awaiting emergency tech, who carries him away. Visible flows of magical energy swirl around Aristespha's arms and radiate upon the body of the patient. Deedri quickly and systematically inspects the shards of glass embedded in the body of the man, squints towards strange discoloration,s and inspects the burns upon the body. "Improper glassware. Shards are too large. Chemical burns and excessive magical energy residue. Secondary reaction explosion."

Aristespha nods and focuses upon her stabilization spell with careful breaths. "Too many wounds to maintain this stabilization field effectively any more than half an hour. I can see other issues, but we need to make sure he doesn't bleed to death first once this field releases."

Deedri glances up to Aristespha and resolutely proposes a plan. "I'll perform magical encapsulated extraction of the foreign material. Trauma foam the cavities. We focus on the most threatening and work from there?"

With a firm nod, Aristespha confirms and confidently agrees. "I'll adjust the stabilization field as you fill. It'll extend the time I'm able to maintain it. Watch for active alchemical residue."

Deedri's hand reaches out and hovers near an embedded glass shard sparkling just under skin level of the wound near side of the chest. With a long breath in, she carefully lowers a stable finger down, and places her glove encased claw tip gently upon the hard, shiny fragment. With a brighter auburn flare in her eyes, a flow of magical energy slowly wraps around her finger, crosses onto the glass shard top via claw tip, and infiltrates into the wound. Seconds later, the flow slows and the field of magical energy condenses to a thin barrier. Deedri carefully and gradually pulls her finger away with firm tension. A few centimeter long, jagged sliver of glass slides out of the wound. The field of magic encases the razor sharp edges and contains tiny fragments within a matrix of energy. Glancing around quickly, Deedri spots a nearby nurse at the ready with metal tray and deposits the exorcised foreign material with a dispersal of the energies at her claw tip. "Thank you."

With series of hand gestures, Deedri instructs the nurse towards the cleared cavity and the same nurse applies a spray of foaming compound down into the wound. Aristespha gives Deedri a nod and slow exhale. "Excellent. Let's hope the rest are that simple."

She scans the sheer number of similar wounds upon the man, gathers her composure, and presents a confident air. Deedri glances to Aristespha with a resolute demeanor, flexes her fingers, and surveys for the next target. The emergency medical techs and paramedics fallback to make room for nurses, support staff, other medical mages, and doctors. Aristespha and Deedri work methodically and coordinate their efforts with care and precision. Deedri extracts glass shards into trays, Aristespha augments her stabilization fields to isolate harmful alchemical reside, and the both communicate with support staff. Nearly an hour later, the last glass shard hits a tray and a final tube of trauma foam expands into the cavity of a wound. Aristespha releases the stabilization field spell, carefully steps back from the table, and props herself up against a nearby wall. Deedri scans over the man, double-checks his current vitals, and clears away towards the same wall. Another team of medical staff fill in Aristespha and Deedri's spots, thank the two for their work, and prep the patient for the next stage of treatment.

Aristespha and Deedri both glance over to the attending head doctor. He acknowledges the two of them, surveys the area full of medical staff, and points them to a few chairs off to the side. Aristespha rocks herself forward off the wall, and walks to the cleaning station with Deedri. After clean up, the two sit down, receive potions from nursing staff, and await further instruction.

Cideeda swipes through screens full of text as she lays upon the living room couch and idly taps a claw tip upon her aetherphone display. "I can't believe all the pest extermination jobs out there."

Dretphi stretches her legs out onto the coffee table in front of the couch, settles back into couch opposite to Cideeda, and nods. "Seasonal problem. Pest become active. Mating. Breeding. Migration periods."

Relaxing in the extended recliner, Sotalia thumbs through lists of jobs on her aetherphone and twists her lips more with each title description she reads. "Bandit patrol, bandit patrol, whelp extermination... Oh gods, pig rat extermination..."

She shudders in her seat and quickly flips through a blur of jobs to put some virtual distance between her eyes and that posting. Bach glances over with a quizzical lift of a brow at Sotalia and gazes up at Sebastian floating over his shoulder. "There's a story there, I guess?"

Sebastian grits his teeth briefly and groans with a slight ghostly reverb as he momentarily averts his eyes away from Bach's aetherphone screen. "Yeah. You could say that, bro."

He shrugs with his hands out to the sides and scratches the back of his head. "Pig rats are some weird mutated creatures that look like the large, hairless blend of a pig and rat. They're fucking mean, have claws, and are nearly blind. But, they have a good sense of smell and just swarm anything they sense has magic. I don't know if they just like magic or if it just pisses them off."

Sotalia cringes, squirms in the recliner more, and shakes her head side to side, tensing her shoulders. "Oh gods! Stop talking about them! I HATE those things!"

A wry smirk cracks from the corner of Cideeda's mouth to reveal a toothy grin. "Aww, but they seemed to like you a lot."

Dretphi mutes an ill-humored smile, brushes a few platinum blonde braids back, and keeps her steely gray eyes upon her aetherphone. "Did not know that pig rats could climb trees. Chew through boot leather so quick."

Sotalia's expression sours and she grumbles to herself. "...I really liked those enchanted boots..."

Bach glances over his shoulder again to his ethereal brother. Sebastian rolls his eyes and mouths. "I'll tell you later."

Scrutinizing the list of jobs upon his aetherphone, Bach sighs in thought and tilts his head to the side. "It just seems like pest control or bandit patrol on the guild job board right now."

Sebastian nods and shrugs his shoulders. "Sunday is usually the leftovers from the week, since most governments and business only post during the work week. I'm not against a pest extermination job, but it's dirty work depending on the pest. And, we're not really large enough to handle any significant group of bandits nicely."

Dretphi glances towards Bach and comments with a thoughtful tone. "Undesirable situation overall. Prefer unique exploratory jobs."

Cideeda nods her head upon the couch pillow as she switches up her crossed legs. "Far better loot, too. And less trouble most of the time."

Sebastian lowers his head to peer close over Bach's shoulder at the aetherphone. "Also, most bandit groups tend to leave adventuring groups alone... Too much trouble for not enough reward. Unless... You have a known history with hunting bandits down. That kind of makes it personal with them."

A series of different chimes ring out in a chorus from the aetherphones in the room and a distant series of alerts echo down the hallway from Aristespha's room. Sebastian points a transparent finger at the indicator on Bach's phone. Bach presses the visual notification and a job listing draws up on the screen. Everyone else reacts similarly and simultaneously reads the new information. Sebastian cocks his head to the side and puzzles at the text. "Interesting. A direct bid posting... A search and rescue assignment... For a young evuukian teenager?"

He stands up straight, searches his mind with his eyes, and curiously overlooks the rest of the group. "When Aristespha is done with the clinic, we'll definitely discuss this job."

Upon the clinic break room couch, Deedri lifts her arms up, rubs around her eyes, and releases a long sigh. "I still can't believe those people were that stupid to carelessly mix all those reagents they got off a random aethernet site."

Aristespha lifts a warm compress off her head, gazes over towards Deedri, and groans. "At least only two other people were nearby when the explosion happened. And, they weren't as bad as the first. I don't think I could do another stabilization field after that first one."

The two sit in the calming silence of the room as the evening sun weakly radiates a dusk light through the windows. Aristespha removes the compress completely, places it on the chair arm, and rotates her head towards Deedri. "So, where did you study?"

Deedri blinks open her eyes, sighs weakly, and shrugs off some embarrassment. "Just a small no name school. No where in comparison to where you probably went."

After a brief laugh, Aristespha snorts and shakes her head. "You'd be surprised. I'm the fifth child in the family. I went to budget adventuring school that I still got loans out for."

Genuine surprise appears on Deedri's face and she focuses her gaze upon Aristespha with honest curiosity. "Really? Wow, I... Um..."

A sly grin graces Aristespha's face and she expresses her amusement with a chuckle. "Oh, you thought that evuukian ruling houses were all ridiculously wealthy and all the children got the best of everything?"

Deedri pauses a moment, thinks out her next statement upon her face, and chooses to remain in quiet embarrassment. Aristespha briefly laughs loudly, looks up to the ceiling, and slowly shakes her head. "Gods, I wish that was the case. But, it isn't. Especially, when you are not the first two children. You might get lucky if you are the third. Otherwise, you never much hear about a house's children past the fourth. The resources tend to dry up at that point. The opportunities get REALLY slim."

She frowns slightly. "Honestly, I stumbled upon the big find that got me into the Grand Library. It was pure luck."

Deedri directs a comforting smile at Aristespha. "Well, even with luck you still have to know how to make use of it. It seems like you did."

Aristespha nods with an accepting smirk and lift of a brow at Deedri. "I hope so. I have to ask, what do you plan to do after the show?"

Deedri's eyes flit wide and she furrows her brow in thought with an unsure expression. "I... I don't really know. I certainly want to do more adventuring... with a more cohesive group. But, I don't know if I'll have any more applicable experience than what I started the show with. I don't think I've demonstrated and expanded my skills enough."

A serious, calm tone overtakes Aristespha's voice and she stares at Deedri. "You have today to me. You have the skills. The experience... Will come later in time. But, you DO have what it takes. I don't think you'll have any problem getting hired into a good group in the future. If you do..."

She tugs at the corner of her mouth, but eventually stretches out an honest smile. "I'm sure I can convince the rest of my group to let you intern with us until you find your own team."

Deedri eyes widen utter surprise. She tries to blink away the shock and only manages to wet her eyes a bit with each attempt. She turns her head to face up towards the ceiling, wipes the forming tears out of her eyes, and sniffs quickly to clear her voice. "Thank you. Really. I appreciate knowing that."

A relaxing silence wafts in the room again for minutes as the last bits of sunlight no longer compete with the break room's overhead lights. The two rest and collect their thoughts in the idle time. Minutes afterwards, the entry door opens and Dr. Blackwell walks through. Both Aristespha and Deedri begin to sit up to attention when Dr. Blackwell gestures them to resume their rest. Dr. Blackwell presents a mild smile and pans her gaze between them. "Excellent work, mages. I wanted to come down and personally update you. All the patients are stable and most servere are being treated by regenerative doctors."

Aristespha perks her brow and asks. "How is the paramedic fairing?"

Dr. Blackwell nods towards Aristespha with a professional, proper demeanor. "He'll be just fine. He's on mandatory sick leave tomorrow to recuperate."

She pauses a moment and her expression gradually softens. "I also wanted to state that you two have performed admirably in your duties here. I'll be certain to grant an hour bonus to your quotas. I'll need you to come in tomorrow for some paperwork, but you'll be able to rejoin your adventuring teams for now."

Presenting a proud smile, she gazes out the windows to the orange red glow of the horizon. "If you two ever need to work on your quotas again, feel free to contact me personally."

Both Aristespha and Deedri nod in appreciation. Dr. Blackwell steps closer to the windows and narrows her stare with a growing grin. She turns her head slightly back towards Aristespha and Deedri with a sly tint to her voice. "Now, I'm not one to encourage anyone's activities off the clock, but... There's a particular bar hidden across the way in the commercial district that I've heard is quite popular with many of the staff here."

She pivots around and walks to the door. As she opens the door, she stops short of crossing out into the hall, and turns her head back with a smirk. "I wouldn't be surprised if a few deserving volunteers wander that way in the very near future to settle their nerves before going home for the night."

The door closes behind Dr. Blackwell. Deedri slowly rolls her head over towards Aristespha. "Umm, do you want to go find that bar?"

After a moment of deliberation, Aristespha tilts herself forward to her feet, cracks her neck, and stretches her back out. "Oh gods, yes."

Chad slowly turns the steering wheel of the black sport utility vehicle and guides it into another lane. Alone in the cab, he speaks out loud and maintains an uncertain, contemplative stare out the windshield. "I don't know, dad. Ratings are good. We have a cooperative contract setup for this week with a larger merc company. So, I guess things are doing good."

An older voice with an uplifting hint sounds out from Chad's aetherphone upon a dash mount. "Hey, that's great to hear. What group is it? I might have done business with them."

Chad rolls his eyes, shakes his head, and grumbles. "Of course you probably have been business with them."

An unapologetic response comes from the speakerphone. "That's kind of my business, son. So, come on. Who is it?"

With a slight begrudging groan giving way to a genuine appreciation, Chad responds. "The Chrome Crusaders."

The bright tone of Chad's father shines through into the cab of the vehicle. "Oh, awesome! They're a really good organization. I've sold a number of armor suits and rented a few of the big mechs to them."

After along pause, Chad briefly darts an anticipating glance to his phone and sighs. "If I need you to check in on the particular division I'm working with, I'll let you know."

Hints of embarrassment slip into Chad's father's voice. "Ah... Well... Dammit, son. You know I just want to help you out where I can."

A slight smile forms on Chad's face and he slowly nods while rotating the steering wheel. "I know, dad. Things are going, okay. Not great, but I think I can make it work."

Chad's father approaches the subject with a careful but supportive tone. "Hey, don't worry about it. Even your grandfather had a rough start to his adventuring career... And a lot of slumps, that I was around for."

With the awkward silence, Chad grimaces and waits. His father's voice continues. "As much as you don't want to hear it... You always can work at MERC with your old man for awhile. You network with a few people and you'll be off in your own group in no time. Know the offer is always there, son."

As the streetlights pulse light upon the dash and illuminate the front seats, Chad releases a long exhale, nods, and speaks appreciatively towards the aetherphone. "Thanks, dad. Really. Speaking of... Have you heard from granddad lately?"

A long groan echoes through the speakerphone and Chad's father grumbles in mild annoyance. "Not much since he stopped by a month ago and... borrowed... one the humvees off the lot for whatever quest he's on now. I think he was hunting down another mystical magic artifact."

Chad interest piques and his excitement infiltrates his response. "Really?! Did he say anything to you about it?!"

Chad's father drones, unamused through the speaker of the aetherphone. "No. Of course not. But... From what other equipment he... borrowed... I don't think he's going too far outside aether tower and radio range. So, he should receive anything you message to him. Might even answer his phone for once."

A mixture of emotions fight for space on Chad's face and he cautiously responds. "Well, I'll try to contact him and relay what he's doing to you."

A long sigh escapes Chad's father and sounds out from the other side of the connection. "It's okay. He's your grandfather. And he's always happy to hear from you and you should talk to him. Just... Just... Just don't fall into his... life philosophy? It works for him, but I think he's the only one it works for."

Chad rolls his eyes, flips the turn signal, and slows the vehicle to a stop at an empty lighted intersection. He thinks a moment, contorts his mouth, and finally replies. "I'll be careful, dad. I'm going to make it work."

A long pause later, Chad's father responds pleasantly. "I know you will. Speaking of making things work, how are things between you and Veevi?"

Chad blinks to attention after pondering the question, notices the lights changing to green, and drives the black sport utility vehicle into a long left turn. He uncertainly contemplates and snarls an unsure upper lip with a shoulder shrug. "It's... A thing?"

A hearty laugh echoes from the aetherphone on the dash mount. "Ah! No need to explain. I totally understand, son. Despite what you may think, your old man has had a few of those in his early years, too. You gotta have a few flings."

Chad shakes his head quickly, narrows his eyes incredulously ahead, and puzzles with a snort. "What?! You? No way!"

A sly chuckle resonates through the phone. "Hey, I've had my own exploits behind the scenes of the mercenary equipment trade. Even a few flings that I still keep in contact today. You know Lady Aaveradean? The nice woman who gave your first training sword?"

Chad eyes widen and he flutters his eyes in bewilderment. "You and her? Wha? I... Okay, you HAVE to be bullshitting me now dad."

Another laugh sounds out from the phone. "Hey, I wasn't too bad looking back in the day."

Chad presses the brakes and guides the vehicle into a parallel parking spot along the street dividing the clinic complex and nearby commercial district. He reaches for his phone, lifts it off the mount, and rolls his eyes in amusement. "Okay, dad. I'll talk to you later. I need to figure out where to pick Deedri up at."

Chad's father chuckles lightly and brightly answers. "Okay. Good luck finding your medical mage. I love you, son."

Chad smiles at the phone and nods. "Love you, too. Bye."

He presses the call end button on the screen of his phone and turns his attention to the evening activity in the area. As he focuses towards the clinic complex, he hears the tapping of claw tips upon the front passenger side window. He snaps his head around and watches Deedri wave with a relaxed smile. With a quick click of a button, the vehicle's door locks disengage. Deedri quickly opens the car door, hops into the front passenger seat, and faces Chad with a smirk. "Hey. Sorry about the late pick up. It's... Been a day."

Chad blinks utterly confused and slowly nods. Deedri hiccups and covers her mouth. Chad's bewilderment continues as Deedri loosely puts her seat belt on.

Veevi steps carefully along the carpeted hallway of the upper floor. She slinks around pass bedroom doors and gradually approaches the two doors at the end of the hallway belonging to Deedri and Modoran. Her eyes focus upon Modoran's bedroom door and a sinister smile creeps across her lips. As she closes in on the doorway, she adjusts her posture to shift her nightshirt into a more provocative position upon her body. Just as her hand hovers above the door knob to Modoran's door, wooden creaks from the steps echo down hall from the stairwell. A series of slow steps sound out and grow louder. Veevi searches around the area, straightens her stance, and dons an innocent demeanor as she slides a meter away from the door. Deedri arrives to the top of the stairs, yawns with a loose sway, and walks slowly towards her end of the hallway. Veevi squints her pink pupil eyes at Deedri and examines her posture, mannerisms, and body language. As Veevi's mind processes the information, a mischievous, evil smirk cracks from the corner of the mouth and her full attention locks onto Deedri. She slowly moves forwards to Deedri and greets her with a wave. "Hey. You're home really late."

Deedri glances over to Veevi, awkwardly returns the wave, and continues towards her bedroom. "Yes... It's been a day."

Veevi closes the distance between her and Deedri, and casually sniffs the air. A spark of inspiration lights her eyes and she presents a concerned look at Deedri with a sweet tinge. "Really? Anything you want to talk about? I can be a great listener."

Deedri slides her course away from Veevi, close to the wall leading to her bedroom door. "It's okay. Just a stressful day. I'll be fine. Just need to get to bed."

Veevi places her tan, brown-striped arm upon the wall in front of Deedri's and gazes at her with a smile. "Hey... It's okay. I'd like to hear about your day. It might help relieve some stress by sharing."

Deedri squirms and searches for an alternative route in between glances at Veevi's best convincing expression. Veevi eases closer, rests a gentle hand upon Deedri's shoulder, and lowers her voice to a soft whisper. "Listen. I've had a lot of crazy, stressful experiences. And, I've learned a thing or two about dealing with stress. And, I've learned that best ways are sharing with others..."

Veevi's long, short-hair tail snakes closer to Deedri's leg, and her free hand slips in the space between Deedri's arm and waist, under her medical duster, to rest upon her back of her pants. Donning a sultry grin, Veevi winks to Deedri and punctuates with a firm squeeze. "And... I've learned the best ways involve a bed..."

Deedri body stiffens, her expression blanks, and she closes her eyes. Veevi expectantly awaits a response. Deedri releases a long, irritation strained exhale, and opens her eyes ignite with auburn. In a fraction of a second, Veevi's confidence vaporizes as shock overtakes her completely and she releases a loud, reflexive yip. She instinctively lifts up on the balls of feet and drops her panicked, wide eyed stare down. Deedri's claws curl through Veevi's nightshirt and press sharply onto Veevi's soft skinned belly. Deedri swiftly marches towards the opposing wall of the hallway and guides Veevi along under near-piercing pain and the threat of puncture. With a solid thud upon the surface, Veevi lifts her hands away from Deedri and raises them up with a tremble. From behind the nearby door, Modoran's voice sounds out a confused quip in evuukian.

Deedri adjusts her spread finger grip of Veevi's belly and glares darkly right up into Veevi's eyes with an auburn glow illuminating her face "You. Just. Had. To. Push. It."

She squeezes her hold lightly and watches Veevi cringe and tense. "Let me make this clear. I've had a stressful day and want to go to bed. Alone. In fact, I really don't want anything to do with you in that particular way... EVER. And, before you start thinking... I've entertained a variety of relationships. So, when I say I don't want anything to do with you..."

She straightens her stance, pulls Veevi down, and glares through Veevi. "I. MEAN. YOU. Do you understand?"

Veevi rapidly nods her head a few times and remains silent from terror. Deedri maintains her stare and examines the very details of Veevi's face. Modoran's door opens and he cautiously leans out. He halts in utter bewilderment at the scene before him and quietly observes in awe. Deedri draws in a long breath and growls. "Good. Because... If you pester me with your pitiful attempts to bed me again... I will..."

The claws latched into Veevi's belly press harder into her soft tan skin and reach the near piercing point of her flesh but halt precisely short of it. Deedri grits her sharp teeth and narrows her brightly shining auburn eyes upon Veevi's horrified face. "Manually. Spay. You... Understand?"

Veevi nods her head quickly with a pleading tone. "Y-y-y-yes. U-u-u-u-nder-s-s-stood."

In a swift motion, Deedri releases her grip, steps away, and pivots in place. She stops her rotation when she sees Modoran gawking and relaxes her fury with a few long breaths to a much calmer, slightly embarrassed smile. "I'm sorry. It's- It's been a day."

Modoran blinks back to awareness, musters a comforting smirk, and nods in agreement. "Looks like it. Um, it's okay. I've had... Similar days?"

Deedri returns the nod, turns the rest of the way, and quickly slips through the door to her room. Modoran slowly swings his blank stare over. Standing with her knees touching and supporting most her weight against the wall, Veevi finally inspects her abdomen, finding no blood or broken skin. She slowly lifts her head up, pants unconsciously, and feels her pink flushed face. Resting hand upon her chest, she stares forward confused and contemplative, her mind vainly trying to evaluate the situation. She rolls herself away from Modoran along the wall, steadies herself on her feet, and sheepishly walks weak-kneed back towards her room. Modoran bounces his gaze between Veevi's retreat and Deedri's bedroom door, only managing mouth out evuukian phrases, absolutely perplexed.