Episode 72

Aristespha, Bach, Cideeda, Dretphi, Sebastian, and Sotalia gather around Aristespha’s aetherphone on the dining room table and listen to the speakerphone. From the other side of the call, Nash sighs in a mix of frustration and fatigue. “So... That’s the summary. Noxian- or Isaac- whoever you want to call him, showed up and took something. I wish I knew more than that, and I really want to know what he took. But, I’ve been dealing with everything else since yesterday.”

Closing her eyes tightly, Aristespha rubs the temples of her head and grits her teeth. “Gods almighty, how are the higher ups dealing with this?”

Nash pushes out a halfhearted laugh through the phone and groans out his annoyance. “Well... Running around with their heads on fire, but with less direction. No one these days really has the temperament and experience to handle something like this. And, for better or worse, all the major players this side of the continent have been informed and brought in.”

Sebastian’s ghostly visage leans over and drifts closer to the aetherphone with an inquisitive perk to his brow. “Major players? Who exactly?”

A chair squeaks out from the other side of the call, and Nash grumbles out his apprehension. “Well, the Big Ones. Let’s see... You got the Greater Azure Alliance. Appaland has been called in. Even the Coalition Of Independent Lands to the north, and Perimeter Defense Force to the south. To say the least, it’s gotten... Interesting?”

Cideeda raps her claw tips on the wooden dining room table top, furrows her brow in thought, and directs her curious voice to the aetherphone. “Anything useful turn up on the camera footage from anywhere else in the area?”

Nash hums in thought and sighs apologetically over the speakerphone. “Well, unfortunately, nothing too useful despite what we've tried. We were able to track him from when he arrived on the campus and went he left. The problem is that he walked onto the campus from the surrounding neighborhoods. Hell, he even entered and left from two different points. We’re trying to locate any other cameras from homes and businesses to see if we can figure out where he went, but he picked the perfects spots to appear and disappear.”

A hopeful tinge colors Nash’s voice, and he relays his interest in a piece of information. “But... We did notice him use an aetherphone. I’ve already pestered a few people I know in the network companies, and they’re combing through the data.”

With some disappointment weighing on his tone, he explains the situation further. “Unfortunately... Officially, they can only release basic information at the moment, until they get an official court order or warrant to be able to dig further. Unofficially, they let me know they found two strange outliers mixed in with the usual devices detected. Oddly, the last time those devices checked in they were out west almost to Radotahin.”

Dretphi cocks her head to the side, blinks confused, and ponders out loud. “Do not know what could be in Radotahin. Two devices? An accomplice?”

Sotalia crosses her arms, sneers her upper lip, and grumbles out her growing irritation. “Gods damn it. Not only did he steal something that was important enough to him, he’s ditched the area and has someone working with him?! Fuck! How are we ever going to find him at this point?!”

Nash’s voice rises up from the aetherphone and he explains with a soothing cadence. “Hold up. Those techs warned me that those devices were really suspicious since they’ve shown up in other odd places before based on their network access history. At this point, this is all random bits of the info, and I won’t have anything too concrete until the legal paperwork starts landing on the right desks. It’s going to be crazy for the next week, at least. But, I’ll get you all the information and data I can manage. Just remember, THE hornets nest just got drop kicked into our party. Soon, the GAA, Appaland, COIL, and PDF investigators will be everywhere.”

A sly hint emerges into his tone, and he chuckles hopefully from the other side of the call as his chair back rocks with a slight metal groan. “This could work out for you all pretty soon. I get the feeling any clearance you need to do your work will be easier to get, and you probably will be hearing from a GAA representative in the area.”

Twisting his mouth contemplatively, Bach weighs the pros and cons, and shrugs his shoulders. “I guess that’s one good thing to come out of this. Helps if you have updated paperwork to show people when you want to get into places.”

Aristespha nods slowly as she reopens her eyes with a calming sigh. “Very true. As much clout as the Grand Library has, it would still be beneficial to have something local governments can immediately recognize and respect.”

Cideeda rolls her emerald green eyes with a begrudging nod. Sotalia tosses back her fiery orange, wavy hair over her shoulder, and brushes the stray hairs over her swept back horns with a mumble. “Might be useful... if he hasn’t escaped to the west.”

A long silent pause fills the room as some background chatter leaks from Nash’s side of the call. He returns his attention to the conversation and groans. “I’m sorry. I’ve got to go. Another horde of officials are making their rounds. I need to lead them around to the scene, and hand them copies of all the evidence. I’ll talk to you all as soon as I can.”

Aristespha manages an appreciative smile and directs a gracious voice to her phone. “Thank you, Nash. Keep us informed.”

She taps the end call button on the aetherphone screen, sinks back into her dining table chair, and tilts her head of long, silvery blue hair over the back. After a few tense moments, Sotalia’s ire peaks and she firmly grabs her hips while gritting her teeth. “GODS DAMN IT! While we were digging through the places Noxian must have dismissed as useless, he went and got something that was of some real importance AND LEFT WITH IT!”

Her body language tenses as she spins away from the table, and walks irritably away tightly grasping her horns. “FUCK! GODS FUCKING DAMN IT!”

As signs of dismay and discomfort form in the team, Sebastian straightens his posture, narrows his gaze in thought, and projects a resolute declaration. “He has NOT gone far. And, I DON’T think he’s done with this area yet.”

Sotalia pauses a moment, and glances over her shoulder back towards the table with a trace of hope in her voice. “Why do you think that?”

Crossing his arms, Sebastian searches his thoughts and twists his mouth while he forms his theory. “I don’t see why Noxian would head off to Radotahin so suddenly. Can’t dismiss the possibility, but that doesn’t fit what he’s been doing. And, it doesn’t feel like those devices are exactly trustworthy.”

Cideeda’s furry ears perk up, and she tilts her head to side with a thoughtful, sly smirk. “Yeah. Nash said those techs have seen those devices pop up before. They could be second hand, or bought from the... Usual Places.”

Nodding in agreement, Dretphi searches her thoughts, and idly grips the back of the chair she stands behind. “Noxian has not worked with others before. Do not think he would leave with someone else now.”

Bach grimaces, darts his blue eyes around his mind, and slowly shakes his head. “We did find at least two places he might be interested in. I don’t think he’d just completely abandon those easy pickings... yet. Even if he did wander off, I still think might visit those spots.”

He glances over to Aristespha quizzically. “Are any of the locations on that list out west?”

Aristespha ponders a moment, and shakes her head. “No. The research station seemed to have had a limited detection range from what I’ve determined, and it didn’t go that far.”

A proud grin appears on Sebastian’s ghostly visage, and he nods happily to the team. “Exactly. As careful as he was for the most part, I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled a trick or two to mislead and cover up things.”

Exhaling out her fading frustration, Sotalia steps back up to the table, and tugs at the corner of her mouth. “Gods, I hope that’s the case. Because I don’t know what to do otherwise. Still... Now, I’m wondering who he was talking to? Someone one the inside? I wonder if they can figure who and where the other caller was during the heist?”

Resting her head upon her folded ivory hands, Aristespha narrows her stare internally and thinks out loud. “The Grand Library is his old home. I would not be surprised if there was someone helping him out with a place to stay for the time being. Possibly trying old contacts for information? Calling up old friends? I don’t know. I hope it would not be someone directly helping him do this.”

Sotalia musters a hopeful smirk, rests a hand on her hip, and taps her long, black nails on a chair back she stands behind. “Well, I DO hope he does stop for a visit. Hate for our efforts to go to waste.”

Bach shrugs his shoulders and stretches out his back. “I don’t think it was a waste regardless. We still got some useful data for that list in what those other numbers meant.”

Aristespha smiles and nods in agreement. “Yes. Seeing what was to be found and correlating those sites on the list has helped decipher some of the significance.”

Cideeda’s tail wags and she grins toothily to the team. “Well, I hope something trips one of the traps. Otherwise, we’ll need to sneak and break in again to get everything back before someone else discovers all of it.”

Sebastian blinks at the realization, and grimaces with a twist of his mouth. “Yeah... Then, we’d have to explain TWO incidents worth of breaking a few laws.”

Aristespha grits her teeth briefly, and bites her lower lip uneasily. “Let’s hope we do get some broader investigative authorizations from the GAA, Sebastian.”

A dim red glow illuminates the horizon against the encroaching night sky, and a few sparse clouds barely drift along overhead. Isaac stands and wanders off in thought as the gentle breeze sways wisps of his white hair. With a relaxed sigh, he narrows his gray eyed gaze out to the fading light and stretches out his thin, wiry frame. A house door leading into the garage opens, and Dr. Dawkins walks out with a thoughtful smirk towards Isaac. “One of the reasons I’ve kept this house. Too good of view.”

Isaac glances over his shoulder with a smile and nods as he resumes his stare out into the distance. “I can’t argue with that sentiment. I’ve had a wonderful time here.”

Dr. Dawkins steps next to Isaac, lifts his green eyes up to the scenic night sky and chuckles to himself. “I really do wish the context surrounding your stay was different. Just know, you are more than welcome to stay as long as you like. But, I do understand the hunt and that itching desire to venture toward the next step of your quest.”

He hands over a thick portfolio binder brimming with papers and other documents into Isaac’s hands, and presents a bold grin. “I made sure to make copies of all my old notes and maps relating to getting to, from, and around Perimeter and the Weird Zone. I’m certain you’ll find something useful in there.”

Isaac shifts his focus to the collection of documents in his hands, opens up the leather folder, and briefly studies the contents. He swells with appreciation and bows slightly to honor Dr. Dawkins. “Thank you... So much. I’ll definitely take time when I stop to go over them.”

Dr. Dawkins nods with a smile and examines Isaac’s sedan with a scrutinizing stare. “There’s a list of my previous contacts in the area for whatever tasks you might need help with. But, before you go too far, I’d recommend looking over the off-the-record routes for getting to Perimeter. With good weather, you should be able to travel most of them. But... You might want to... Change out vehicles once you get to Perimeter.”

Meeting Dr. Dawkins’s subtly insisting glance, Isaac nods understandingly as he relays similar sentiments. “Yes. I figured it might be time, since I’ll be going to less accessible places.”

With a humored smirk, he perks an inquisitive brow at Dr. Dawkins. “Am I correct to assume there’s a recommended contact for such a transaction?”

Chuckling with a slight grin, Dr. Dawkins narrows his green eyed gaze, and nods slowly. “Of course. A few actually. It always threw off artifact thieves when you left in different vehicles than what you arrived in. They eventually figured out it, but it always bought us a day or two down the road before we had to worry about them.”

Isaac laughs and shakes his head in brief disbelief as he gazes at Dr. Dawkins. “I feel I have only gotten to experience the smallest sampling of what you are capable of, Dr. Dawkins.”

Straightening his posture with a proud smile, Dr. Dawkins holds his hands behind his back and shrugs his shoulders innocently. “Maybe so. By the way, call me Emanuel. You WERE my student and employee. My friends... Call me Emanuel.”

A bit of surprise swells in Isaac as he gazes at Emanuel, and smiles happily. “I will... Emanuel. Gods, that’s going to take some getting used to it.”

Laughing heartily, Emanuel rests his hand on Isaac’s shoulder and shakes his head with a grin. “You’ll have plenty of time to get used to it when you call and message me. Remember to use the new aetherphones. And, send anything... Interesting... that you are willing to part with back through one of the preferred package services on my list. Most of them like money more than they like asking pesky questions.”

Lifting an inquiring brow at Emanuel, Isaac scratches the gray scruff on his chin thoughtfully and hums in thought. “I will do so. It might be some time before I find anything worth the trouble. First, I need to finish checking a few sites in Amaranth Valley before I head down to Perimeter.”

Emanuel narrows a cautious gaze upon Isaac, and twists his mouth uneasily. “I would exercise caution there. You would not want to put yourself at risk, when a greater prize is possible elsewhere.”

Nodding understandingly, Isaac mentally weighs the options while staring at the supplies filling the backseats of his sedan. “Very true. But, I don’t believe I’ll run into too much trouble. The locations haven’t garnered much attention lately, so I doubt anyone is putting forth any resources to guard them.”

Crossing his arms contemplatively as the summer wind breezes by, Emanuel shrugs his shoulders with an examining gaze at Isaac. “Just exercise caution, regardless. Some of the worst surprises I’ve ever experienced spawned from the most mundane situations.”

Isaac steps forward, turns around, and extends a hand to Emanuel with an appreciative smile. “I will. As much as I enjoy your company and generosity, I should be off now. Need to take advantage of night to travel.”

Emanuel firmly shakes Isaac’s hand, nods thoughtfully, and sighs. “Indeed. I’ll try my damnedest to keep you updated on things here. I pray it remains quiet enough. Good luck, Isaac. And whatever happens, my door is always open to you so long as I’ve got one to open. Always appreciate someone to share a drink with.”

Isaac bows with a grateful smile to Emanuel. “Thank you Dr.-... Emanuel. Gods damn it. I’m going to have to practice.”

Emanuel laughs loudly, shakes his head, and waves to the departing Isaac. He returns to the door in the garage to the rest of the house and watches as Isaac enters his sedan. After starting the vehicle, turning on the lights, and granting a final farewell, Isaac rolls down the long driveway to the access road. As he disappears out of sight down the sparsely lit roadway, Emanuel presses a button on a panel next to the doorway, and the garage door slowly closes.

A warm summer breeze blows through the open garage door of the ranch style house, and circulates the air inside. Cideeda stands in a rigid posture wearing her new bodysuit, and waits for Dretphi to finish up the latest adjustments to the slip on armor plating. Dretphi stands up fully and admires her handiwork. “Move around.”

Cideeda steps forward carefully and purposefully, sensing every bit of her motion. As she gets in the middle of the garage, she flexes her arms out to their extremes. Twisting her flexible torso around with the rest of her body, she gracefully morphs between a series of contortionist maneuvers. Slowly widening her stance, she eases down into full side split with ease, twists her upper body around along with her arms, and arches herself backwards. Pulling her legs together in front of her and pointing her clawed toes, she folds herself forward and rests her head upon her shins with her furry ears flicking at her ankles.

Sitting back up with a long draw of breath, Cideeda smirks proudly as she brings her legs close and feet underneath herself. She tucks into a forward roll, and springs herself up to stick the landing on her feet with her arms out to balance. Pivoting around from the mouth of the garage, she prances elegantly in exaggerated motions and flexibility showcasing poses with a prideful grin as she stretches out. “Barely held me back. Had to push against a little resistance. But... I’ll manage.”

Bach blinks out of his staring stupor, and returns to his focus to the unfinished armor plate on his lap. He shuffles his seat on the floor, picks up the thin metal piece, and taps it on the ground. “All that might be easier after this latest incarnation of your armor enchantment.”

He pushes forth the plating along the ground and it slides with gentle glide across the floor to Cideeda’s eager clawed fingers. “Think I got it just right for what you need. Thinner and sleeker protective layers, with a very low friction coating.”

With a firm grip, Cideeda picks up the armor piece, studies it carefully, and drags her claws hard across the surface. Her fingers easily slip along the plating, and a faint golden glow fades from the path her finger tips pressed. A toothy grin appears on her face, and accomplished glint sparkles in her emerald green eyes. “Oh, I LOVE it when my designs become reality.”

She smiles towards Bach with an intrigued lift of her brow. “So, when can you update the new plating with the latest version?”

Bach shrugs his shoulders with a nonchalant smirk and easy going attitude. “Not long. Just a few tweaks that’ll take a few minutes per plate.”

Dretphi steps up behind Cideeda and presents a sleek, plated head guard to her. “Try it on. I believe the measurements are right.”

Cideeda examines the piece of head gear apprehensively initially. After studying the construction and design, she swiftly dons the protection and cinches it into place. Her furry ears perk freely through the crafted clearances on the sides and she taps her claws the plating on the forehead cover to faint traces of a magical barrier. A satisfied, toothy grin appears, and she rest her gloved hands on her sides in a confident pose. “Pretty close. Nothing little wearing in won’t fix.”

Cideeda’s confidence shifts to casual unease as she watches Dretphi train her steely gray gaze upon her in a mix of awe and joy. Dretphi clasps her hands together with slight bite of her lower lip in an overwhelming appreciation of her creation. “This is... Cute! May I take a picture? My mother will want to see this.”

With a slight chuckle, Cideeda presents a smile with a pose, and nods calmly. “Oh, sure. Go right ahead. I mean you did make a lot of it.”

While Dretphi searches for her phone nearby, Cideeda glances over to Bach with an uncertain expression. Bach darts his eyes to either side, shrugs with his hands out to the side, and smirks in return. As Dretphi takes pictures of Cideeda from different angles, Bach flexes his hands in a break from his enchantment work, and scans his gaze around the garage. He notices the minigun from the large security droid on a workbench, and points over to the weaponry. “Any progress on getting that working?”

Cideeda shifts her attention to the device, crosses her arms, and sighs. “Unfortunately, not much. I just really need to sit down for a day and just tear into it. But, we’ve been running around so much, that I just haven't been able to set aside time just to do that...”

A guilty smirk graces her lips, and she rolls her eyes with a shrug. “And... I’ve been a bit distracted with trying to figure out what I’m going to exactly do with all the golem parts.”

Gripping her hips, she drums her fingers in sync with her thoughts as she ponders. “As much as I am learning about magic, those things are a bit... Large? And well... unwieldy for me right now? I don’t know how to say it correctly. Maybe if they were smaller and simpler, I’d make some headway.”

Bach narrows his gaze and nods understandingly. “I think I get the idea. There might be something we can do. I’ll have to check with Aristespha and Sotalia, and see what we could come up with.”

As Cideeda steps away towards the distraction of a nearby box of golem components, Dretphi glances over to Bach and quietly agrees with him. Bach and Dretphi watch Cideeda dig through the box with a happy smile.

Stepping through the sliding glass back door of the two story house, Trakenthin slowly moves through the opening while staring at his aetherphone. Furrowing his brow, he struggles with the bewilderment plain on his face, and cocks his head as he blinks at the ended call statistics screen. As the prompt disappears and reveals the home screen on the device, he pulls the sliding door behind him to a close, and steps past the table of the dining area, sorting through his confusion. His attention diverts away from his phone and he glances over to Tassilda and Deedri sorting through reagents and recipes.

Deedri carefully measures out exacting amounts of powdered compounds into a series of small flasks, and gently swirls the granulated mixture along the glass bottoms. Tassilda narrows her light blue on black eyes at the process, and cocks her head of raven hair to the side curiously. “Any particular reason, you don’t use one large flask and divide out the potion later?”

Flicking her furry ear back from listening to Tassilda’s question, Deedri focuses her auburn gaze upon the task, and explains with a smirk. “Limiting liability. There’s a few steps in processing these reagents that can spoil the potion. Each is tricky by itself, and together it makes it quite difficult. So, I like to do a series of small batches.”

Settling the last small flask on the counter, she glances over to a pot of iridescent fluid faintly steaming in a large pot on the stove, and twists her mouth in anticipating frustration. “Occasionally, despite my best efforts, there’s some variance in the mix or impurity that throws the calculations off. When that happens, it can cause byproducts that can ruin the batch, and are almost not worth the effort to filter out.”

She crosses her arms, turns around to face Tassilda, and leans against the edge of the counter with a sigh. “I consider the first flask my litmus test, and adjust from there. Thankfully, I rarely have any problems after the first flask anymore.”

Tassilda brushes her hair over her swirling horns, rests her hands on her hips, and smiles with a chuckle. “Do I sense some previous scarring from past failures?”

Deedri grumbles with a playful roll of her eyes, and slowly shakes her head. “Oh gods... So many hours wasted on salvaging potions with reagents I had to pay too much for.”

A sympathetic groan leaves Tassilda, and she nods understandingly with a faint sneer of her upper lip. “Don’t I know it. What’s worse is when you have to make do with the ones you know aren’t quite right.”

Exhaling out flits of bad memories, Deedri grimaces and briefly grits her teeth. “Introductory Alchemy was a rough semester on my digestive track.”

Leaning to the side, Deedri glances around Tassilda, and waves over to Trakenthin. “Hey, Trakenthin.”

She narrows her curious gaze at Trakenthin, and cocks her head to the side. “Are you okay?”

Trakenthin blinks back to awareness, notices Deedri and Tassilda, and puzzles on an appropriate response. “I am okay. Do not know if my father is.”

Tassilda turns around to observe Trakenthin, and focuses her concern on him. “What ever has happened?”

Putting away his aetherphone, Trakenthin steps closer to the counter opposite of Tassilda, rests his hand on the counter top, and twists his mouth in contemplation. “Nothing is wrong. I do not believe anything bad has happened. My father called me.”

Narrowing his stare internally to his own mind, he grimaces a few times searching for the appropriate pieces for his explanation. “He requested my assistance... for a task he did not disclose. Described it in vague terms. Assisting honor?”

Quirking her brow, Tassilda shifts her weight as intrigue influences her pose. “I always heard being vague was difficult in the grath language? Since, well, it has exact words for every different degree something can be?”

Trakenthin shrugs his shoulders with a roll of his hazel eyes, and sighs. “It is not hard. Gaps between the definitions provide ambiguity. Tone context can obscure further. Contradictions worsen it.”

Deedri ponders a moment, and gradually rocks her head side to side as her understanding develops. “I think it’s similar to word order when framing in fvalian. Sometimes there’s a subtle difference between a big red ball and a red big ball.”

Tassilda blinks as she processes the concept, and furrows her brow. “All this makes most Emin dialects sound very straight forward in comparison.”

Thinking a moment, Trakenthin grants an agreeable nod, and contorts his face at the previous subject. “I am surprised my father is here still. I assumed he would have left for... usual reasons?”

Crossing her arms, Tassilda sways her stance and studies Trakenthin’s expression with a slight frown. “Not that I believe it’s the best for your sake, but you don’t believe he just wants to spend more time with you?”

Humming in thought, Trakenthin weighs the possibility and remains unconvinced overall. “Not strictly. An ulterior motive exists. Can not determine that right now.”

Lowering his eyelids and exhaling a long groan, Trakenthin twists his mouth into an unamused smirk, and slumps his shoulders slightly. “Will probably ask me for money. Not the first time. Will not be the last.”

Narrowing her concerned gaze at Trakenthin, Tassilda pries with a slight grumble to her supportive tone. “You seem to have a very... trying relationship with your father. Despite your best, noble efforts.”

Drawing in a long breath, Trakenthin releases out stale frustrations, and nods slowly in begrudging acceptance. “Yes. Long story. Rhymes often.”

An appreciative smile appears on his face, and he shrugs his shoulders. “If he only asks for money, I will consider it a good day.”

Deedri briefly checks the concoction in the pot on the stove, and glances over to Trakenthin with an inquisitive perk of her furry ears. “When did he say he wanted this favor from you?”

Trakenthin pauses for a moment, checks his recent memory, and ponders. “Soon? No exact date. Under a week? He had chores to handle first. Do not know what chores he would have here? It is perplexing.”

Tassilda smiles to Trakenthin and sighs with a supportive voice. “Well, if you need my assistance, don’t be afraid to ask.”

Deedri nods with a happy tone towards Trakenthin. “No matter how it goes, we have your back.”

Subduing a bit of embarrassment, Trakenthin grants a very appreciative smirk and bows slightly towards Deedri and Tassilda. “Thank you. I will leave you to your tasks. Off to read a book.”

As Trakenthin turns and walks away, a sly grin graces Tassilda, and she playfully inquires. “Oh, is that the new one the girl from that review aethersite suggested? You seem to LIKE a lot of HER recommended books.”

Trakenthin’s dark bronze skin flushes with hints of red around the cheeks, and he stumbles upon his vocabulary to a response. “Uh... Yes. She has... Excellent recommendations... that align... with my... preferences...”

With an air of satisfaction, Tassilda pivots around to face Deedri, and directs her voice back. “Okay, just curious. Let me know how it is after you read it.”

Trakenthin disappears through the archway into the living room, and quickly up the stairs. Deedri narrows an accusatory stare upon Tassilda, and mildly chides her. “Tassilda. What did you do that for?”

Tassilda shrugs her shoulders with a guilty smirk, and bites her lower lip. “I HAD to confirm my suspicions. I just keep seeing him browsing that same aethernet site.”

Returning a scrutinizing gaze back at Deedri, she smiles with a giggle. “Don’t tell me you weren’t curious.”

Averting her eyes away, Deedri shifts her focus to her task and eventually grants an admission. “Well, yes...”

She sighs and motions the content Tassilda over. “Now help me with this pot.”

Aristespha and Bach sit cross legged upon pillows on the floor of the garage. Sotalia rests her hands upon complicated magical markings encircling Aristespha and Bach. Focusing her attention upon the protective circle, she releases flows of magical energy down her arms and hands, and guides them to sink into the carefully drawn shapes upon the concrete floor. After a few moments, she gazes between Aristespha and Bach, and smirks eagerly as a glow rises out of the circular barrier. “The circle of protection is charged.”

Cideeda finishes a few final adjustments on the aim of the camera and presses the record button on the device. Giving a thumbs up, she nods towards the team. “We should be recording.”

Dretphi kneels down nearby the circle opposite of Sotalia and keeps the sheathed Sword of the Spirit Realm in her hands, at the ready. “Sword is prepared.”

Sebastian hovers nearby, grins proudly to Bach, and nods to him. “When you are ready, bro. Kind of getting the hang of figuring out this elder energy sensing part of the sword. Might have to try detection at a distance.”

Finishing a final sequences of incantations with gestures, Aristespha smirks approvingly with a sigh, and aims her violet illuminated gaze upon Bach. “That would be nice, Sebastian. Maybe we could recover some of that functionality the sword lost.”

Bach rolls his shoulders in a stretch, positions his hands close together in front of him, and nods with a snort. “Yeah, that’d be nice. Have the damned thing help us out again rather than stating the fucking obvious.”

Sebastian’s ghostly visage rolls his eyes, and he groans commiserating. “Gods, tell me about it, bro. If the creator of this thing wasn’t very likely already dead for a few hundred years, we’d forcing him to write an instruction manual at gunpoint.”

Shaking his head briefly, Bach grits his teeth, exhales a long breath, and settles his full attention upon the task. “Yeah... Well, I’ll get started then... Here we go...”

Aristespha directs her voice to Bach, and calmly instructs him. “Focus on maintaining control and fine flows. Keep from pushing yourself too hard.”

Bach closes his eyes with a nod, and reopens them to a brilliant blue glow. Narrowing his stare at the space between his hands, he concentrates fully within. Magical miasma rises from his arms and upper body, and condenses into elaborate magical structures that hover in anticipation. When the last bit of the energy mist collects upon the layers of prismatic machinery, Bach draws a long, careful breath, and tenses his body. Fighting against a pained wince, he presents a cool, collected attitude, and concentrates on calming minor tremors and spasms in his body. Small pinpoints of white appear in the centers of glowing blue in his eyes. The sword vibrates in Dretphi’s expectant hands, and Sebastian observes his wavering and flicker form.


Focusing upon controlling his self, Bach slowly breathes at a consistent rate, and stabilizes the sporadic twitches and shudders in his arms and hands. Seconds of straining concentration later, thin threads of pure white drift out of Bach, and weave between the encapsulating confines of the magical constructs around his arms and upper body. The strands of magical energy flow steadily, and diffuse into the vaporous cloud between Bach’s hands. The miasma condenses gradually into a denser form, and draws the constant thread flows towards the center of the tiny, glowing orb. Slight tremors and shudders move Bach’s body, but he remains cool and collected against the building stresses. As the minutes pass, Sotalia gawks in wonder at the small sphere of white brilliance. Cideeda peer over Dretphi, as the two observe in astonishment at the scene. Sebastian’s form warps and wavers with the flows of energy, and he occasionally stabilizes for brief periods before his visage distorts again. He twists his month in frustration, and grumbles out his annoyance at the constant inconvenience to his studies.

Aristespha observes the energy flows, and carefully leans closer to examine the magical processes. A few minutes later, the thin flowing threads of white energy fade out, and Bach secures the glowing ball of energy in his hands. Faint trembles rattle his composure, but he remains fully focused upon the stable orb hovering above his palms. The rest of the team observes the magical phenomena, as they contend with curiosity and awe individually. Blinking his brightly blue illuminated eyes, Bach fights against a wince and sighs out a mix of stress and looming exhaustion. “I’m starting to feel it...”

Noticing familiar signs of fatigue, Aristespha signals Dretphi with hand motion and nod. Dretphi partially slides the sword out of its scabbard, and guides it close to the floating white orb above Bach’s hands. As layers of elder mist vent off the ball, Sebastian’s visage flickers and distorts. He furrows his brow thoughtfully, and searches within to judge his feeling. Seconds later, the sword vacuums the last of the quickly disappearing energy sphere into itself. Sebastian's ethereal form stabilizes, and he gives a thumbs up. “All clear!”

Aristespha grabs hold of Bach’s arms, while Dretphi and Sotalia stabilize Bach by a shoulder each. Bach tilts backwards as his eyelids try to close hard, and consciousness struggles to maintain hold of his mind. Closing his glowing eyes, and Bach rocks back against the support of Sotalia and Dretphi. Immediately, Bach’s eyes spring open, and he startles back to full consciousness, shuddering his head. “Gods almighty, that’s still a hell of a hit afterwards, even taking it slow. But... I don’t think I went out completely this time.”

Dretphi shakes her head with a comforting smile to Bach. “No. You woke when you put weigh back.”

Gently patting his shoulder, Sotalia grins to Bach, and quirks an intrigued brow. “I think you might be getting better at this. You’ll be quite the challenge soon enough.”

Bach smiles awkwardly, and shrugs his shoulder. “Well, I don’t know about that. The kick back wasn’t as bad as the times before. So, that’s progress, I guess?”

He glances over to Sebastian, and smirks amused. “So, brother... What was the score on that bundle of energy?”

Sebastian searches the top of his head, dramatically contemplates with a hum, and slightly shrugs his shoulders. “Well... Maybe a little more this time? It’s been pretty consistent. Which is fine by me, since the whole coming down from all that seems really rough on you, bro.”

Leaning forward to prop himself up by his arms, Bach sighs with hints of frustration venting out. “Yeah. I don’t know what’s going on there. Gods dammit, I really wish it wasn’t the case. Then, I could spend my spare time dumping elder energy into that fucking sword, and maybe get enough to satisfy it.”

Aristespha releases Bach’s arms, sits up straight, and grumbles to herself in agreement. “That would be absolutely lovely, but I agree that would be too much of a risk to you at this point, Bach.”

Sotalia frowns slightly, and rolls her eyes with a sneer of her upper lip. “And well... gods damned Noxian doesn’t seem to want to retire and stop being a fucking problem. So, can’t just sit around and wait.”

Cideeda walks over to the camera setup, hits the stop button, and properly turns off the equipment, nodding at the sentiment. Sebastian shrugs his shoulders, holds his hands out to his sides, and grins boldly. “Well, we can’t very well be called adventurers, and leave a threat like him wandering about anyway. We’ll figure all this out one way or another. He and everything else hasn’t stopped us yet, and I don’t see a reason to stop ourselves.”

The team appreciates the moment of emotional uplift. Stepping across the garage with a spring in her step, Cideeda wags her long tail, climbs up the steps towards the kitchen door, and glances back. “Anyone else hungry?”

Aristespha, Bach, Dretphi, and Sotalia exchange glances, and arrive to similar conclusion. Cideeda grins toothily and opens the door. “Well, I want more Fval Spice and... we haven’t had a chance to hit the game shop lately...”

Dretphi and Sotalia perk up, and excitement swells in Dretphi. “All the new issues should be available...”

With a sly smirk, Cideeda glances down at the dust and dirt on her shirt and shorts, and slips through the doorway with a final declaration. “Sounds good to me. I’m changing to some cleaner clothes, first.”

Sebastian drifts close to the door, and watches into the house as Cideeda turns down the archway into the main hallway. He flies over to the rest of the team, and whispers quietly. “So... Cideeda’s birthday is coming up soon... Anyone got any ideas? She’s a tough one to shop for.”

Sotalia sighs in defeat and shakes her head of fiery, wavy orange hair. “Gods, I don’t know. Been trying to think of something.”

Dretphi hums in thought, and shrugs her shoulders. “Gift cards are bland.”

Aristespha contorts her face, and grumbles. “No ideas from me.”

Bach glances between everyone, narrows his eyes in thought, and cocks his head to the side. After searching his mind for a few moments, his confidence builds, and he grins proudly. “I got one.”

Attention shifts towards Bach, and Aristespha, Dretphi, Sebastian, and Sotalia wait expectantly. Bach nods with a sly smile, and gazes to the members present. “I got an idea, and it should incorporate a number of things she’s interested in, but I’m going to need to help from all you to make it happen.”

As the group shifts into a quick meeting of the mind, Sebastian keeps watch through the doorway.

Very dim moon light leaks through the partially closed window blinds. The faint rays creep across a desk covered with contingents of plastic military figurines and squads model vehicles in various states of painting. Scatterings of midnight light barely illuminate a freshly configured body suit upon a chair and a neatly laid out set of slip on armor plating upon the floor. Cideeda’s tail hangs out to the side the bed from under the sheets, and she softly slumbers. Her furry ears flicks reflexively, and her tail retracts back under the covers, as she gradually stirs. Unconsciously flexing her clawed fingers into tighter grip on her sheets, she mumbles out a few slurred phrases of fvalian, snorts dismissively, and rolls up another layer of her bed covers around her.

Settling her head of short multi-colored hair back on her pillow, she eases back to a quiet, peaceful rest. Minutes of idle, soothing domestic background noise fill the air. The air conditioning unit on the wall softly spins up a faintly droning fan, and provides another layer of background noise. The gentle breeze circulates the air in the peaceful bedroom, and softly blows the fluffy hair in Cideeda’s ears and the tufted tip of her tail peeking out from underneath sheets on the other side of the bed.

A sharp, jarring alarm rings out, and reflects off the walls in the room. Crashing out from her unconscious state, Cideeda grits her teeth reflexively, and tosses in bed with a jumble of fvalian swears leaving her. As the sharp, harsh din of the alert noise persists, Cideeda groggily opens her emerald green eyes, and stares half-awake in the direction of the sound. With her ears pulled back, she drags her annoyed self across the bed to the night stand, and fumbles her clawed fingers for her aetherphone. Finding the device, she quickly snatches it off the night stand, and studies the device with growing confusion as her consciousness restarts. Tapping in a security code, she turns off the jarring alarm to her immediate relief and relaxes her tensed body.

Searching through the application menus as the screen brightly lights up her squinting eyes, she locates a prompt and presses the on screen display. A connection progress bar appears on the device, and a video feed appears. As the imagery streams, Cideeda’s face contorts with an uneasy, developing familiarity of the layout and contents of the room shown. Her eyes lock onto to humanoid movement, and she immediately summons her full focus upon events transpiring on the screen. She cocks her head to the side and puzzles briefly, before the scene brightens from a new light source. As the video adjusts and refocuses, Cideeda’s eyes spring wide open in absolute shock. The immediate, unquestionable recognition stuns her dumbfounded for moments.

Snapping back to awareness, she scrambles upon the bed, sticks her finger and toe claws into the surface, and launches herself off towards her bedroom door. Landing smoothly as her loose nightshirt catches air and her tail trails behind her, she flings the door wide open, draws in a large breath, and screams out into the hall. “WAKE UP! NOXIAN IS AT ONE OF THE SITES!”