Episode 69

Sebastian’s ghostly form hovers nearby Aristespha as he looks over her shoulder, sampling the sections the text she reads from pile on the dining table. He eyes over to Aristespha’s worn gaze, and resumes inspecting the document currently in her hands. Tossing her long silvery blue hair back, Aristespha groans out a long sigh, and slowly shakes her head. A defeated frown slips out on her face, and she drops the stack of papers upon the table top between other piles of research materials and a tablet. Bach rocks side to side in his seat, and wrestles a mix of boredom and stale frustration while he strains to keep his eyes upon the heavily notated printout. After a loosing battle with his attention span, he releases the paperwork upon the dining table, rakes both hands through his brown, longer hair, and sinks back into the dining chair with a grimace on his face. “Damn, I’ve run through all this a few times, and I can’t figure out anything new.”

Aristespha nods slowly as she brushes her hair back, and guides a few stray strands over her very long ears. “Same here.”

She blinks her violet eyes, stretches her arms out in front of her, and rests her hands on the table top. “Okay, reviewing all this... Noxian- Well, Isaac, seems interested in these sites and ruins near coordinates detected by that research outpost. We can now assume that these sites have had some kind of involvement with elder energy, since we keep finding energy collectors.”

Lifting her hands to rub her ivory skin along the blue gray hints at the temples of her head, she grimaces with a long sigh. “He’s definitely been collecting power where he can, but I can’t help to think there’s something else he’s looking for.”

Sebastian hums ethereally in thought, floats down into an empty seat at the table, and crosses his arms as he delves into the discussion. “Gathering power make sense. Going to places that have elder energy makes sense still. We’re still not certain what his end goal is...”

Lifting a quizzical brow towards Bach, Sebastian cocks his head to the side, and poses a question. “But, the fact he seems to be changing things up because of what he learned about your elder energy connection... That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”

Bach blinks blankly as he searches his mind, and squirms slightly in his seat. “I don’t know. If he could figure out how I’m getting elder energy... And gods forbid reproduce it... It’d certainly solve his problem with acquiring power.”

Sebastian nods in agreement, twists his mouth as he sorts through his thoughts, and grumbles. “Yeah. Then, he’d just build up his power far from anyone else, and then do whatever he wants when he feels the time is right.”

Mulling over the possibilities, he focuses his gaze at Bach and inquires hopefully. “Hey, bro, you sure he didn’t mention anything else to you when you ran into each other? Insinuated anything? Even an odd reference?”

An uncomfortable wave travels through Bach’s body as a frown slowly weighs down his face. He plays back recent memories in his mind with a squint. “I- I’ve gone through that whole thing in my head multiple times. Nothing blatant stands out. Though...”

He grimaces, narrows his blue eyes inward, and uncertainly comments. “Isaac seemed really happy I was using elder energy in the ways I have. And, he seemed really honest with offering to help me. It really felt different talking to him then, than Noxian before.”

Aristespha twists her mouth, and consider the idea. “I hate to say it, but it might be truly genuine. Isaac was an academic, a knowledge seeker, and a very supportive member of the Grand Library during his tenure. Unfortunately, him and that particular group were not much for respecting limitations.”

Sebastian’s ghostly form phases slightly through the chair and table as he drifts into a deep line of thought. After a minute, he blinks his eyes, floats back in sync with the physical objects around him, and cocks his head to side, staring uncomfortably. “Actually training others to use elder energy? Possibly recruiting people to whatever his cause is?”

Bach cringes, sighs as he rests his forehead on his palm, and searches in mind. “I don’t know. That could make sense... Instead of trying to do whatever he plans by himself, train others to assist him? Gods, that’s fucking terrifying... The LAST thing this world needs is more elder energy users. The worst magical disasters I’ve ever heard of happened because of elder energy.”

Squirming briefly into an uneasy roll of his shoulders, Sebastian glances over to Aristespha, and awkwardly approaches a question. “If I remember right, dear, some weird zones were the result of such disasters?”

Aristespha sighs deeply, and nods solemnly. “Yes, Sebastian... That’s what the current consensus of evidence points to... Well, evidence that existed afterwards. Numerous things that plague us today stem from elder energy misuse.”

She pushes her mood towards levity, slides back her chair away from the dining table, and stands up in a long, slow stretch. “Historians at the Grand Library joke that the fact the planet wasn’t annihilated before the Abstract Prism proves the gods exist and they are strangely merciful. Anyway... Does anyone want anything? I’m brewing some coffee.”

Bach glances to Aristespha, and briefly lifts his hand up. “Some tea, please. Nothing special.”

Pivoting around towards the living section of the large room, Aristespha tilts her head to side as watches Dretphi pull out a cloth measuring tape along Cideeda’s outstretched arm. “You two want anything?”

Cideeda blinks to attention, searches her mind with her emerald eyes, and perks up her furry ears. “I’ll join in on the coffee.”

Dretphi glances over her shoulder, and nods towards Aristespha. “Coffee will be fine.”

Sebastian snorts and shakes his head amused. “Almost noon on a Wednesday and we’re already hitting the coffee again.”

Aristespha rolls her eyes with a dismissively humored toss of her hair, and presents a defiant smirk. “Oh please, this isn’t my worst abuse of caffeine.”

She groans on her way into the kitchen area, sneers her upper lip, and mumbles as she prepares the larger coffee machine. “And fuck me, if I’m going to dig through all this material again for some off the wall reasoning we haven’t found yet... I’m going to need SOMETHING to keep my mind from wandering to ANYTHING else.”

Cideeda’s ear flicks back from listening to Aristespha and she nods to herself a commiserating smirk. Dretphi kneels down next to Cideeda, wraps the fabric measuring tape snugly around Cideeda’s hips, and squints as the end overlaps the marks on the strip. Flitting her eyes wide, a relevant concern enters Cideeda’s mind, and she taps Dretphi on the shoulder. “You should probably get a measurement with my tail wrapped up. I always buy body suits with a little extra room because of that.”

Dretphi releases the tape measure around Cideeda, and writes down another number on a pad of paper. “That would be wise. I have options to contend with that.”

Cideeda’s long tail curls between her legs, flicks upward in the front of her shorts, and loosely coils around her waist. With a well practiced method, Cideeda combs down the medium length fur with her clawed fingers, gently tightens the slack in the partial wrap, and guides her tail the rest of the way around and back between her legs. With a bit of effort, she works the tufting at the end down, and secures the wrap between her thighs. She lifts her hands up away from the area, and nods towards Dretphi. “Okay, now take a measurement. The tail always adds a few centimeters around the waist and hips.”

The sliding glass door opens up, and Sotalia walks in with a towel around her shoulders. Closing the door behind her, she takes a few steps before drying the damp ends of her fiery orange, wavy hair. She stops midway, blinks curiously at Cideeda and Dretphi, and lets the towel drape over to either side of her bikini top. Observing Cideeda standing around with her tail coiled around in a rough imitation of her bikini bottom, Sotalia smiles intrigued, rests her hands on her hips, and chuckles lightly. “Sometimes, I just can’t help but get a bit jealous of those with tails.”

Cideeda gazes over to Sotalia, crosses her arms, and shrugs with a nonchalant tone. “It has its benefits. Honestly, I’m still surprised I made it out of childhood with it intact.”

Rolling her emerald eyes at herself, she smirks with a lighthearted snort, and slowly shakes her head at the memories. “I mean, by all odds, between my dad’s junkyard and my mom’s metal shop, it should have been shortened from all the trouble I got into.”

Sebastian glances over to his brother, smirks, and comments. “Yeah, I doubt we’d have anything left by now, if we had tails.”

Bach smiles tightly, blinks with a rocking nod, and briefly grits his teeth. “Yeah...”

He ponders a moment, gazes back over to Sebastian, and puzzles. “Between us, who would have lost part of their tail first?”

Lowering his head in reflection, Sebastian’s eyes sort through a long series of memories before returning to the conversation with a twist of his mouth. “Probably me. Actually... Definitely ME. But, I don’t think you’d be too far behind.”

Bach mulls over the answer, and quickly nods back in agreement. “Oh yeah, that wouldn’t surprise me at all.”

After Dretphi finishes taking the measurements, Cideeda’s tail unravels free from around her shorts, flips out behind her, and wags in purposeful stretches. She steps into position for the next set of measurement from Dretphi, and flashes a prideful grin towards Sotalia. “One of the benefits to being the only child was getting all the attention and care from mom and dad... If only to save me from myself.”

A bit of embarrassment sneaks out onto Cideeda’s face, and she smiles awkwardly when briefly averting her eyes. “Thinking about it now, Fate was kind to have me be the special, unexpected little surprise to my mom and dad when they were younger.”

She grits her sharp teeth momentarily before grimacing in equal parts humor and seriousness. “Because I seriously doubt they’d have the energy these days to keep up with me back then. I think they started teaching me how to properly use all the equipment and told me all the safety rules, just so they could get a few moments free from watching me.”

Sotalia snickers as she steps towards the kitchen area, playfully makes a gesture to snatch hold of Cideeda’s tail, and smiles slyly. “You’d think it wouldn’t be too hard with a handle this long on you.”

Cideeda laughs with a proud grin, rests her hands on her hips, and wags her tail defiantly. “Oh, believe me, it was used for that purpose A LOT. First thing a fvalian parent learns about their child is how tough their tails are to you grabbing them.”

The watery gurgle of the coffee machine rises up from the background, and the familiar steamy hiss piques everyone’s attention. Aristespha waits patiently as the last few drops of brew drizzle down into the carafe, and sets out containers and condiments on the counter top. Carefully removing the glass pot from the built-in hotplate, she slowly pours the dark drink into a mug, and stirs the teabag around in cup off to the side. Sotalia sniffs the air with interest, but stops as she notices the academic chaos upon the dining table top. “So, any progress on the Noxian front?”

Sebastian’s ghostly form hovers up from his seat, drifts over ahead, and surveys the collection of research materials. “Well, we’ve definitely been going for the same places that Noxian is interested in. But, maybe that’s the problem.”

Sotalia lifts her brow incredulously, sways her pose, and contorts her face. “Okay... I thought beating him to the punch was the current plan? Clear out the elder energy before he gets it? Maybe catch him off guard?”

Aristespha walks on by Sotalia from the kitchen area with mugs in hands. She drops off the cup of tea in front of Bach, leaves a mug of coffee in front of her seat, and glances over to Sotalia. “Yes. But, we might need to try a different angle. There’s a few mundane and well-explored sites indicated by the coordinates on the printout.”

Settling in her chair, Aristespha wraps her hands around the mug, and ponders the situation a moment. “I’ve done initial searches in the Grand Library database and found exploration reports for some of the sites. I haven’t delved too deeply, but some have unexplored, sealed areas.”

As Dretphi and Cideeda slip on by towards the fresh coffee, Sotalia perks up at Aristespha’s explanation. She steps up behind a chair next to Bach’s, leans over slowly to get a better look at the material all over the table top, and cracks an unconvinced smirk. “Okay, interesting... Sounds like we'd be pushing the limit for acceptable exploration.”

Sebastian shrugs with an eager smirk. “Well, I don’t think we should go around cracking open every sealed door. But, since I don’t have worry about typical barriers, I could easily find out if there’s anything worth the risks.”

Cideeda and Dretphi return around the table with coffee mugs in hand. Bach redirects his attention away from a nearby distraction as the gathering around the table focuses on the topic. Cideeda’s interest piques, and she slowly sips from her cup with intrigue. “That would help cut through the list... First thing, how are we getting official reasons to be at these places? There’s only so much protocol you can dodge before you get the wrong type of attention.”

With an understanding sigh, Sebastian nods his head and ethereally grumbles. “Yeah, the whole pursuing and tracking down Noxian excuse probably won’t get as far as it did, since he’s been mostly out of the news lately.”

A sly smirk graces Aristespha’s face, and she sits up in her seat. “Well, I am still a Master Sage of the Grand Library. So, I doubt academic passes with legitimate enough sounding reasons would be too out of the ordinary.”

Flicking her ears with her thoughts, Cideeda grins toothily, and scratches her chin with a claw tip. “Oh, that would probably work. Make it sound boring enough so the local authorities don’t get nosy.”

Standing up back straight, Sotalia narrows her golden eyes, sways her stance in deliberation, and grumbles slightly in an unenthusiastic tone. “I don’t know, this feels like going down the wrong fucking path. We need to get ahead of him.”

Bach manages his gaze upwards from his seat to Sotalia, presents a reassuring smile, and motions towards the coordinate list. “Well, maybe THIS is the way to get one over on him. I mean, he can easily go to the same ruins out in the middle of fucking nowhere that we can. But, just how easy is it for him to go to regularly patrolled places? He can't easily camp out around these places, since the police have been informed what to look out for. And, he wants to keep a low profile. While I don’t think it’ll stop him from investigating these places, they're not his first picks.”

Dretphi finishes a long sip of her coffee, and idly combs her fingers through her platinum blonde braids as she follows an idea in her mind. After a few moments, she furrows her brow, and calmly states. “If we have to clean a location of elder energy, we should monitor that location.”

The suggestion floats above the gathering and slowly sinks into the minds of the team. Cideeda chuckles to herself, flicks her furry ears, and wags her tail. “Yeah, I bet he’ll investigate at least one of these places. And, I don't think he'll have the time to be too cautious. So, if we could manage to hide some intrusion detection near something he’d be interested in, we might be able to detect him when he's making his move.”

A bit of excitement slips out into Sotalia's demeanor as she shifts her weight and brushes back her fiery orange hair over a horn. “Okay. Now THAT I can get behind.”

Her mood sours slightly as sarcasm tinges her voice, and she rolls her eyes with a grimace. “And I actually wouldn’t mind going to places that don’t have completely unknown horrors awaiting us... For once.”

Recovering her confidence to an eager smile, she glances over to Cideeda and snickers to a suggestion. “Are spy cameras an option? I’d love to capture the look on his face when we surprise him.”

Grinning toothily, Cideeda laughs with a mischievous tint and poses with her hands at her hips. “As if I was going with anything else.”

Upon a brightly lit, small stage, Veevi prances to the bass beat, tosses her long, bright pink hair back, and flashes an attention soaking grin to the crowd in the large karaoke bar. While rhythmically wagging her long, short-haired tail, she grips hold of the microphone, winks to the eager crowd, and starts singing out one of her songs. Dozens of younger evuukians cheer out from the tables, and a few dance upon the small dance floor in front of the stage. Wandering around the venue, Chad patrols the floor, stopping at each table to meet and greet evuukian house members. With his trademark bright white smile, he poses in pictures for excited fans and signs his elaborate signature upon promotional materials, items, and the bodies of a few inebriated, wilder evuukians.

Tassilda tosses her raven hair back, presents a sly smirk with an evocative lift of an eye brow to a fan calling out her name, and grants a parting wave. She struts through the maze of tables as her alluring facade fades the further along she gets. Approaching a corner section of the establishment, she stops next to Trakenthin, and curiously glances at the cover of the book he’s reading. “I’m surprised you’re able to read during all of this.”

Trakenthin turns his head slightly to gaze down at Tassilda, straightens his standing posture, and shrugs his shoulders stoically. “You learn when you have no choice.”

Resting her hands on her hips, Tassilda leans over to peer around Trakenthin and down the narrow passage to the booths next to the bar. “Is Deedri STILL back there?”

Twisting his head the other way, Trakenthin searches down the aisle next to the booths along the wall, and notices a familiar tail lazily wagging out from the further corner booth. “Yes. The server has gone there multiple times. With large drinks to the table. Empty ones coming back.”

Quirking her brow in surprise, Tassilda nods with a twist her mouth and pats Trakenthin on the shoulder. “Well, thank you for keeping an eye on these spoiled brats. At least Veevi is good at keeping them distracted.”

Trakenthin contorts in expression into a begrudging agreement, releases a long sigh, and nods as he briefly scans over the area. Tassilda walks down the corridor towards the corner end booth, and slides into the leather bench seat opposite of Deedri. “Still hiding out here?”

Deedri springs back to awareness from a distant thought, notices Tassilda at the table, and awkwardly smiles to her. “Um... Yes? I just...”

She releases a long sigh, props up her head upon the palm of her hand, and slowly shakes her head. “I’m sorry. I know I should be going around to the tables... But... I just need a break.”

Tassilda smiles comfortingly to Deedri, and waves off the trouble. “It’s fine. The nobility are plenty distracted right now.”

She rolls her eyes, twists her mouth, and sneers her upper lip. “I hate to admit it, but Veevi can actually sing pretty good, and is putting on the best karaoke show I’ve ever seen.”

Deedri nods, releases a long sigh, and relaxes back against the booth seat. “I’ll give her that.”

Tassilda surveys the table, eyes the pile of leftover beverage decorations, and ponders a tally in her head from the evidence. “So... How many have you had so far?”

Averting her gaze to either side, Deedri presents an innocent facade, shrugs her shoulders, and smiles. “Not that many.”

A sharp, high pitched hiccup from Deedri reveals the truth, and Tassilda focuses her examining gaze. With an amused smirk, Tassilda chuckles to herself, and rolls her light blue on black eyes. “Don’t worry. Your secret is safe with me, and I’m certainly not one to judge these days.”

Deedri rakes her clawed fingers through her multi-colored hair, and exhales out her relief. “Thank you. After having to babysit these noble jackasses these last few days, I need a few moments to unwind. Gods, some of them are THE WORST.”

Tassilda grumbles sympathetically, grits her teeth, and resettles herself on the booth seat. “Tell me about it. They certainly are used to thinking they are better than everyone else. I can smell that attitude from experience.”

She glances around, leans slightly over the table, and directs a whisper to Deedri. “And you can definitely tell some are hunting for an opportunity to defy that interracial relations taboo they have.”

Deedri groans visibly irritated, rolls her auburn eyes, and contorts the frustration out on her face while clenching her fist. “Oh my gods... I swear the next one that tries to work the conversation to ask what can do with my tail or if use my claws will get a full strength magical bowel evacuation.”

Tassilda blinks blankly in a bit of shock as she stares at Deedri. After a few moments, Deedri recollects herself with a punctuating short, high-pitched hiccup. Failing to contain her smile, Tassilda covers her mouth with her hand, and giggles as politely as possible. “Oh, I know the feeling. Such hypocrites, too. Since they’re the ones that keep that whole taboo alive publicly.”

She leans out, scouts the stage, and watches Veevi bring up a few of the evuukians up to participate in the impromptu singing contest. Gauging the future entertain, she settles back into her seat, glances over to Deedri, and motions towards the exit. “You want to head on out and walk around a bit? I think Veevi and Chad have got this covered for now.”

Deedri flits her eyes wide for a moment, bites her lower lip in embarrassment, and sheepishly replies. “Uh... I want to, but I don’t think I should.”

Noticing the confusion up Tassilda’s face, Deedri weaves her fingers together, averts her gaze briefly, and sighs. “I don’t think I’m sober enough yet to risk a long walk.”

Tassilda squelches a laugh, smiles amused at Deedri, and searches around for a server. “That’s okay. I’m impressed actually. In the mean time, let’s see about some water for you.”

Relaxing her guard, Deedri sighs appreciatively, and asks a question. “Have you seen Modoran lately? I thought he’d eventually show up here like the rest of us.”

Pausing to think, Tassilda shakes her head, and gazes over to Deedri curiously. “I actually haven’t since much of him today since that lunch and trivia event.”

Deedri narrows her stare off to the side, twists her mouth, and colors her tone with an angry tint. “What the hell has made him so scarce these last few days? Gods dammit, I know he usually sticks to the shadows, but this is ridiculous.”

With a growling hint in her voice, she curls her upper lip to reveal a sharp canine, digs a claw tip into the finish of the wooden table, and snorts out her irritation. “He’s hiding something something from me, and won’t say what!”

Tassilda perks her brow at the display, and puzzles at the odd change of attitude. Quickly analyzing the behavior, she gradually adopts a sly grin as her intrigue grows upon recognizing the evidence. “Well, I’m sure he has his reasons. I don’t think it’s worth getting too upset over... yet.”

Drifting off into her own thoughts, Deedri's frustration fades. “Hmm... You’re right.”

Propping her arm on the table by the elbow, she rests her head lazily on her hand, grows a goofy smile, and mumbles near incoherently. “... can’t stay mad... ... ... especially... that good... shirtless...”

Tassilda tilts her head to the side in honest confusion, and aims her pointed ear to Deedri. “Huh? What did you say?”

A flush of red colors Deedri cheeks as the protective measures in her conscious mind force a surge of corrective sobriety into her thought processes. “Um, nothing! I think I need some water.”

Nodding in agreement, Tassilda finds a server and waves them over. “Yes. That would be for the best.”

She turns back toward Deedri, and nudges the conversation elsewhere. “Speaking of water, we really need to find time to try out that private pool.”

Deedri grits her teeth briefly, sighs out a reluctant tone, and squirms uncomfortably. “Yeah... Unfortunately, I don’t really have a swim suit. But! I’ll hang out around the pool.”

A delighted grin appears on Tassilda’s face. “Well, lucky for you, they have a wonderful little shop on site that we can visit. I’m certain we can find something for you.”

Blanking her expression, Deedri wrestles her self-conscious discomfort, and stumbles around the subject. “You sure? I mean, I doubt they’d have anything that... flattering of my figure...”

Tassilda narrows her intrigued gaze upon Deedri, presents a sly smile, and giggles eagerly. “Oh, you would be surprised. Let me be your guide.”

A calm quiet flows through the warmly lit halls of the hotel building. Leaning out cautiously, Modoran peeks around the corner into the main run from a branch corridor, searches around with his dark blue eyes, and pauses a moment to listen with his long, pointed ears. With nothing but dull ambient background noise, he softly steps out into the hallway, and carefully surveys the area. Assessing the situation, Modoran gradually relaxes his posture, breathes a muted sigh, and begins to casually walk down the passage. Reaching the midway point of the corridor between intersections, he halts abruptly, darts his eyes around the exit points, and mutters a short evuukian curse under his breath.

Six evuukians of similar age to Modoran boldly step out, three covering both ends of the section of hall. With a mean, sneering smirk, the best dressed one calls out in a dramatic, patronizing tone. “Modoran...”

Modoran fights the mix of emotions fighting for space on his face, and manages to present a nonchalant smile. Quelling nervous hints slipping into his body language, he recognizes the lead evuukian with a respectful bow, and addresses the man with a proper evuukian greeting. The leader of the group narrows a disgusted glare at Modoran, crosses his arms defiantly, and growls out his distaste. “Stop trying to speak to me using OUR tongue. You damn well know YOU aren’t worthy enough use it to address me after what you’ve done to our house.”

A bit unease bends the friendly grin Modoran presents, and he lifts his open hands up in an apologetic manner. “Okay. My apologies, Hektoran. It has been awhile since I’ve even gotten near proper nobility, so I’ve forgotten my manners.”

Hektoran concentrates his yellow eyes at Modoran, steps forward, and leads the other male and female evuukians at his side, while the other three on the opposite end of the hall section close in. “Yes you have. But, I haven’t forgotten the embarrassment you brought upon my house for your actions.”

Modoran uncomfortably chuckles, glances around at the diminishing space between the two groups of three, and tries to adopt a calming, peaceful attitude. “Hey... Listen. That was a few years back, and I mean... I got caught. I was very officially removed from my house, and I’ve kept away from it all. And, your house got popular from it. So, that’s always good.”

Hektoran grits his teeth with a curl of his upper lip, slowly stretches out his neck towards both shoulders, and starts cracking his knuckles. “Yes, but we were still denied proper payback. Which I think we’ll exact now.”

Glancing nervously between the two closing parties, Modoran keeps his hands up in the air, dons a nervous pleading grin, and tires to smooth things over with an easy-going, relaxed voice. “Hey... This is supposed to be a vacation for you all. Take it easy. Relax next to the pool. Veevi Valiant is doing a show at the karaoke club.”

Lowing his hands to his sides, he carefully sneaks in magical gestures and whispers out incantations under his breath. He pauses at a point in the process, gazes over to Hektoran, and shrugs his shoulders. “I’ve heard that your sister is big fan of hers, you two can catch the show if you head out now.”

Hektoran grins confidently with an evil laugh, motions his head towards the female evuukian leading the opposite group. “Oh, we plan on doing so. After we settle some debts with YOU. Don’t try your disappearing act, Mishavalla has been practicing her magic, especially to counter your tricks.”

Modoran pauses in thought, blinks in surprise, and gazes over to the young evuukian woman in the other group. He squints his eyes at her lithe frame, pale dark blue hinted skin, and piercing yellow eyes, as she precisely weaves together a preparation of magical flow through gestured incantations. After a moment, recognition dawns upon Modoran, and he nods in her direction. “Huh, you’ve certainly grown up since I last saw you. Taking after your mother with magic I see.”

With a sinister and appreciative smirk, Mishavalla steps forward in sync with her brother Hektoran. The two groups of three systematically shrink the space around Modoran, as he tries to search for an escape. Attempting levity, he shrugs his shoulders with hands out to his sides and puts on his best charming grin. “Oh, come on! I’m not worth this much effort. I mean, I appreciate the sentiment. I’ll buy you all a few rounds. We’ll take some pictures you all can post on your favorite aethernet site...”

Modoran’s voice trails as he arrives at the conclusion that the six evuukians no longer listen to his persuasive attempts. His stance tenses, his posture shifts defensively, and he nervously grits his teeth.

Down the hallway from an intersection, a booming, commanding voice echoes powerfully out from a tall, imposing evuukian man. “HEKTORAN! MISHAVALLA!”

Quickly with solid footsteps, the older evuukian in proper attire walks down the corridor towards the gathering, and levels soul piercing stares upon the six younger evuukians. He focuses a drilling, brilliant orange eyed glare right through Hektoran, and exudes an intimidating, stoic presence. Parting through the pair of evuukians behind Hektoran, the older man stops mere centimeters away and waits as he gradually lowers his glower. With Mishavalla and the accompanying evuukians watching in terror, Hektoran stiffly pivots against his desires to tremble, and fumbles to greet the imposing, older evuukian. “Uh... Hello, great uncle Kallentesson...”

Kallentesson widens his cutting glower, and leans closer in demanding silence. Hektoran’s horror spikes, and he awkwardly presents a colorful, elaborate proper greeting to Kallentesson. Straightening his posture after the satisfactory address, Kallentesson launches into a condemning verbal fury and systematically berates Hektoran, Mishavalla, and their associates in litany of furious evuukian. Heads bowing and long ears slightly drooping, the group weathers the furious scolding without contest. Modoran gradually creeps back from the center of the hallway, and slinks over against the wall while hunting for an out. With a final angered snorting exhale, Kallentesson snaps his fingers to a point down to the nearest exit, and commands the group. At the first opportunity, the six evuukians escape quickly and empty out of the area.

A bit of relief gradually relaxes Modoran, but wanes when he notices Kallentesson’s attention upon him. He walks over to Modoran, bows slightly, and calmly speaks. “I would like to apologize for their behavior, Modoran.”

Modoran appreciatively smiles, and relaxes his tensed stance further. “It’s okay. To be fair House Head Kallentesson, I expected some kind of run in. Just thought I was a bit more careful.”

Kallentesson smirks, and sighs out his frustrations as his commanding presence fades. “Well, it has been a number of years since you last dealt with them, and they’ve gotten significantly more crafty and bold.”

Agreeing with a simple nod, Modoran sheepishly addresses the old evuukian. “Either way, sir. I want to apologize for disturbing your evening.”

Kallentesson furrows his brow, slowly shakes his head, and frowns slightly. “No need on your part. You did nothing to provoke this. In fact, I’ve been meaning to apologize to you.”

Modoran halts his thoughts, gazes to Kallentesson, and tilts his head curiously to the side. Kallentesson draws in a long breath, sighs deeply, and nods respectfully to Modoran. “I’ve been doing some much overdue reflecting after recent revelations. And, I want to apologize to how you were treated. If I had the wisdom I do now, I would have talked down my brother into pursuing a more reasonable punishment for you.”

In stunned astonishment, Modoran stumbles to a response, awkwardly scratches the back of his head, and settles upon a thankful tone. “I- Uh- Wow... Thank you. It does mean a lot. But, I don’t blame you for anything. By house laws, you were correct to allow your brother to seek justice.”

Kallentesson rolls his bright orange eyes, shakes his head of gray speckled golden brown hair, and twists his mouth dismissively. “True, but my brother is a vindictive prick at times, and no one should suffer it. The judgment was unfair, and I should have at least appealed for something more fitting.”

Modoran shrugs his shoulders, smirks amused, and snorts with a chuckle. “Gods, I think that would have caused far more drama and trouble for everyone.”

With a hearty laugh, Kallentesson nods in agreement, releases another long sigh, and smiles. After a few seconds of silence, Modoran glances over to the exit, and thumbs over to it. “Well, I don’t want to keep you all night, House Head Kallentesson, so I’ll leave you be.”

Kallentesson raises his hand to get Modoran’s attention, and pauses in thought to form his question. “Could I ask a favor of you?”

Modoran searches his mind for a moment, nods tentatively, and lifts a curious brow. “Um, sure? Depends on what it is.”

With a bit of embarrassment, Kallentesson smiles as he relays his request. “Could I get a picture with you? I am going to see my grandson this week, and I would like to impress him. He’s always excited to see you on the show... Well, the little he sees when sneaks out of bed, and before his parents catch him.”

Modoran thinks a moment, searches his memories as he looks at Kallentesson, and finally nods happily. “Sure. And I’ll get you a group signed promo photo, too. I’m sure your daughter and her husband will like that.”

Carefully reading the last few lines upon a page of handwritten notes, Dr. Dawkins pauses. He gradually lifts his gaze up, settles back into his leather recliner, and locates his glass of whiskey upon the small table nearby. Resting the packet of papers upon his lap, he glances over to Issac, blinks while shaking his head. “Has the weight of what you are reading been as heavy as mine?”

Isaac closes his eyes hard, stretches his neck to either shoulder, and blinks back to the conversation. “I think so. While I’m not seeing anything definite and concrete, the implications are all there.”

He glances over to Dr. Dawkins, twists his mouth, and lowers another collection of heavily notated documents down. “Okay, before I say anything, what do you think that Dr. Malkav believes he’s found?”

Dr. Dawkins ponders, searches his mind, and draws in a long, collected breath. “The location of where one of the lead architects behind the Abstract Prism retreated to.”

Isaac nods slowly, glances over his packet of notes, and flips through a few pages. “Yes... Most importantly, it seems like it was one particularly meticulous mage that somehow absconded with a great deal of the original design documents.”

Grasping hold of his drink, Dr. Dawkins sips upon the brown liquor, slowly shakes his head in astonishment, and sighs out his amazement. “While I highly doubt those documents have survived after all these years, assuming they weren’t destroyed purposefully... Just the fact that Dr. Malkav located a copy of the table of contents and part of the index to possibly THE master plan for the Prism is- I do not know where to begin.”

Rubbing the temples of his head, Isaac closes his eyes briefly, collects himself, and searches through the text in his hands. “The section headings alone are fascinating enough! By the gods almighty, there are references to aspects that I don’t ever remember hearing about during any my studies.”

He leans over towards Dr. Dawkins, presents the packet of papers, and points to highlighted sections. “There’s references to the actual construction of the Prism! Where it is located, and the definition of what the WHERE is actually? How it streams out magical flow and the definitions of what the Prism will recognize? Foundational Construct templates? These are things that dedicated researchers have spent their careers trying to speculate.”

Dr. Dawkins sorts through the stack of notes on his lap, pulls out on page, and hands it over to Isaac. “If you think THAT is fascinating, read this summary Malkav wrote from the his exploration of the references he found in the index.”

Isaac grasps hold of the page, settles back into his seat, and quickly reads through the information. Dr. Dawkins waits patiently, and calmly drinks his whiskey while observing Isaac. The looming quiet peaks when Isaac stares absolutely dumbfounded and bewildered. He mentally wrestles with the conclusion written upon the document, slowly turns his head towards Dr. Dawkins, and speaks plainly. “Possible self-optimization and self-adaptation systems in the design...”

Dr. Dawkins gradually nods, releases a long exhale, and rests his head upon the back of the recliner. “Yes. Something that’s been theorized to exist... This practically confirms.”

Isaac rubs his eyes into a pinch of the bridge of his nose, settles back in his recliner, and calms himself back down. The two dwell in a long silence, and both internally deliberate the ramifications. A few minutes later, Dr. Dawkins twists his face contemplatively and theorizes out loud. “Having such documentation would explain why this mage disappeared into the Perimeter Weird Zone.”

Isaac stirs from his stupor, reflects upon the circumstances, and visibly puzzles. “Also might explain why there’s no mention of his existence or involvement anywhere. Yet another thing the creator mages obscured from history in some obtuse attempt to protect us.”

Dr. Dawkins narrows his distant stare, gradually nods, and ponders out loud. “That would make a great deal of sense. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they purposely planted rumors about prominent creator mages having small sections of Abstract Prism documentation as a way to distract everyone. Busy everyone out there into looking for the known small, unimportant bits. Meanwhile, an unknown mage disappeared with the master document to an unknown location. Probably just in case something went wrong too soon after the implementation of the Abstract Prism. Their backup plans.”

Contorting his face against his shifting mood, Isaac shakes his head and clenches his fist briefly. “Oh fucking hell... Given the other trickery and shenanigans that collection of pompous, arrogant smart asses have cursed upon our society, that makes too much sense.”

After brief moment of silence, Dr. Dawkins glances over to Isaac with an adventurous smirk. “I do believe this confirms that dear Dr. Malkav is most certainly in or around Perimeter, and quite possibly has delved into that massive weird zone.”

Isaac sighs as he stares distantly ahead inside his mind while his thoughts play out into his demeanor. “Oh yes. But, the city of Perimeter is massive by itself, and that weird zone dwarfs it completely. If he’s gone in... Who knows where he’s at now? I need to go there, but it’ll be fruitless if I don’t have a means of roughly locating him.”

Dr. Dawkins lifts an enlightened eye brow, and chuckles to himself. “While I can’t say were he went to if he’s inside the PWZ, he most certainly left an impression somewhere in Perimeter. Believe me, he’s easy to pick out in a crowd and unforgettable by most.”

A sly grin grows on Dr. Dawkins and he taps the finger tips of a his hands together. “And, it does help I still have a few contacts around those parts that I can put you in touch with. Plus, I most certainly am not going to let you run down there unprepared.”

Isaac gazes over to Dr. Dawkins in hopeful disbelief, and smiles graciously with a thankful nod. “I- I, uh... Thank you. I don’t know what to say. You have done more than enough, and I don’t want to burden you any more than I have to. And, I certainly... Do not want to feel that you owe me for... the past.”

Dr. Dawkins notices the empty glass on Isaac’s side of the table between the recliners, picks up the bottle of whiskey, and calmly fills the container. With a delighted smile, he laughs softly and shakes his head. “Well, just think of it as repaying you for reviving an old man’s sense of adventure and thirst for discovery. To be honest, Dr. Malkav’s recent work here has captured my curiosity. While I’m no longer spry enough to do field work, you seem most capable still.”

Isaac grins eagerly, picks up the filled glass, and sips down the liquor. He wanders through his thoughts, halts at one, and quirk his brow. “There’s some prep work that needs to be done. And, thinking about it, a little bit of clean up after our recent chore.”

With a mild grumble, Dr. Dawkins frowns slightly annoyed and muses. “Very true. We need to contend with those cheap aetherphones I bought through the... usual sources. I always detest wasting good, still serviceable equipment. But, in this situation I guess it cannot be helped exactly.”

Pulling a smirk at the corner of his mouth, Isaac glances over to Dr. Dawkins and inquires with a plotting tone. “Are the phones still on the dining table?”

Dr. Dawkins eyes Isaac curiously, and nods. “Yes. Batteries still removed, and the identification chips pulled. All of it should still be there.”

He pauses a moment in thought, narrows an inquisitive gaze at Isaac. “Whatever are you planning?”

A brilliant, scheming grin widens upon Isaac’s face, and he settles himself contentedly in the recliner with a devious tinge to his voice. “Well, I think a quick, stealthy visit to that pick up point for The Train is in order. I believe with careful placements on the undersides of hauler trucks, and liberal applications of duct tape, they should transmit some interesting coordinate data in case someone gets lucky idea. Give them red herring to enjoy.”

A highly amused cackle leaves Dr. Dawkins, and he shakes his head snorting. “Oh, gods... Have I ever told you story where we had to contend with a bunch of bandits looting our artifact shipments back to the Grand Library?”