Episode 73

A dim street lamp in front of a tall, simple metal mesh fence flickers momentarily before settling to a steady glow. A mechanical roar in the distance grows louder with each passing moment, and bright beams of a light illuminate the surrounding trees bordering the road at the top of a hill. The humvee crests over, and speeds down the roadway to a hard, controlled stop into the gravel parking lot near the fence gate. All the doors swing open as Cideeda, Sotalia, Aristespha, Bach, and Dretphi pour out, and rush towards the entry point in the chain link barrier. Cideeda scouts the immediate vicinity and glances towards the rest the team. “I don’t see another car around here? Anyone spot anything?!”

Sebastian’s visage materializes a few meters above the group, and he surveys the area. After a few moments, he shakes his head with an unsatisfied grumble. “Nothing from up here. And he’s here, right now?”

Sotalia eagerly nods towards Sebastian as she hands Cideeda’s aetherphone back into her awaiting claws. “Oh, yes. He is. Seems to be taking his time here, in comparison to that other place. We got the drop on him this time...”

Dretphi squints her eyes, underneath her full face visor helmet, towards a number of distant spots in view and slowly shakes her head. “Must have parked a distance away. No recent tracks. No disturbances indicate a vehicle hidden nearby.”

Sebastian floats down in front of the gate in the perimeter fence, glances towards the old architecture in area, and calls back to the team. “Okay everyone! Equipment and magic checks!”

Aristespha recites through a methodical check list of the equipment on her, inspects her pack of medical supplies, and secures the sword at her side. Sotalia tightens her belt of pouches around her waist, brushes out her cloak, and readies into a casting stance. In near synchronization, both Aristespha and Sotalia cast similar protective spells and layers of magical armor settle into transparency upon their bodies. Electronic whines ring out from Bach and Cideeda. Bach’s plasma pistol charges up and flows of prismatic energy sink into the device. In a well rehearsed routine, the weapon transforms to a magically upgraded form, and modifications of stabilized energy materialize. Cideeda holds both her laser pistols in hand, and watches the status lights flip to ready as the highest pitch whine tickles her sensitive furry ears. Dretphi cocks her sub machine gun, inspects the suppressor on the end, and checks the magnetically secured large machete and powerful rifle on her back. With a determined, toothy grin, Cideeda examines her shotgun, throws it over her shoulder. Sebastian smiles with pride, focuses upon the path ahead, and eyes the rolling track gate in the chain link fence with suspicion. “This has got to have an alarm.”

Cideeda narrows her investigative stare upon the frame of the gateway, steps up close, and carefully inspects the system with her eyes and ears. “Oh, yes. I remember when we were here, there was a few simple sensors to detect if outer entry points were breached and a standard alarm system. But...”

She approaches one side of the fence door, and focuses her emerald green eyes upon a barely hidden mechanism near the top on the other side of the chain link fencing. “I don’t think they have any area motion detectors, at least outside.”

With a sly smile to Sotalia, Cideeda points up, and motions over and down. “So, as long as we don’t disturb the fence, nothing will trip out here.”

Sotalia chuckles to herself, stretches her arms out, and begins to gesture out a spell. “That makes sense. Noxian looked pretty calm on your phone, so he probably flew over this this.”

Cideeda’s furry ear flicks back from the building down the dirt path, past the gate, and nods in agreement. “And no alarms. So, probably nothing difficult left for me to rig to get us in.”

Sotalia finishes the few incantations for the spell, and hovers up from the ground. She glances between Bach and Dretphi, and holds her arms open. “Who’s first over?”

Bach nods towards Dretphi, and slowly breathes out as he concentrates his flows of magical energy. “You go, Dretphi.”

A bit of confidence colors Bach’s grin, he prepares himself as energy drifts around his legs. “I can get over this myself.”

Aristespha finishes casting a similar spell, and offers Cideeda her hands. Pairing off, Aristespha hoists Cideeda up and over the fence, and Sotalia wraps her arms around Dretphi and ferries her above. After the two pairs land safely on the other side, Bach couches down, summons up the energy flows, and springs up into the air. Clearing the height of the chain link barrier, he maintains his concentration, and glides slowly down to decent landing next to the team. Sebastian phases through the fence with a brief shudder, and smiles proudly to his brother. “Nicely done, bro. A little combo work there or something?”

Bach shrugs his shoulders with a nonchalant grin, and walks with the rest of the group down the path towards the old structure. “Something like that. Mostly putting all my half-assed skills together.”

Sebastian coasts in the air next to his brother and smirks mischievously. “Ah, so you can make a complete ass of yourself.”

Rolling his eyes, Bach shakes his head and moves into formation, while Sebastian scouts ahead.

Aged hallway lamps above flicker near an open hydraulic sliding door. The reflection of the lighting above glints in the growing pool of dark fluid oozing out from the near-invisible seams beneath a door panel. The liquid seeps out, and coats the floor a few meters down from the force breached doors. Interior room lighting casts out between the tilted door panels, and an outline of someone briefly crosses the illumination. Slowly stepping through the large room of tables and displays, Noxian’s wiry frame wanders between the aisles, and studies the assortment of artifacts and objects. Occasionally pausing, he picks up items, examines them closely, and returns them after the brief interest fades. He narrows his gray eyes, surveys the area, and gradually settles his curious stare towards the far back wall of the room. Twisting his mouth under his blue scarf, he lifts an intrigued brow, calmly navigates the rows of displays and tables, and catches sight of a circular stone platform. His eyes widen with recognition as he moves closer, focusing his attention upon the elaborate carvings on the dais.

A relieved grin draws under his blue scarf covered face, and he releases a long sigh while relaxing his shoulders. Stretching out his arms and hands, he rocks his neck side to side, and grimaces with the audible crack. He briefly grunts, massages the back of his neck, and rolls his eyes at himself. “Gods... Need to get that checked out... Ow...”

Shaking off the stale aches, he readies himself in front of the stone circle on the floor, and holds his hands over the device. Breathing out, he closes his eyes, and concentrates his full attention inwards. After a few moments, wisps of white energy swirl out from the engraved dais, and twist towards Noxian. Swirling around his body in an upward draft, the energy sinks into his form, while the currents of air lightly toss stray white hairs on his head. Just as Noxian settles into the routine, the flows of elder energy wane and gradually thin to fine threads. Seconds later, the last bit of magic settles into Noxian’s body, and nothing more rises from the stone platform. Blinking out of his trance in confusion, he lowers his gaze downwards, cocks his head to the side, and stares incredulously at the stone platform. Lowering his arms slowly, he scrutinizes the magically empty object, and frustration leaks out into his body language. Narrowing his glare upon the stone platform, he throw his hands out to side, sneers his upper lip mildly irritated, and groans out his disappointment. “Really? That’s it?”

Crossing his arms with a huff, he halfheartedly kicks the large disc on the floor, and slowly shakes his head unsatisfied. “Gods damned research station... badly calibrated... piece of shit...”

After staring at the magic disappointment, he sighs out a begrudging acceptance, and slumps his shoulders with a dramatic eye roll. Sebastian’s amused voice confidently resonates in front of Noxian. “Aw, you weren’t expecting that, were you? Among other things...”

Noxian’s body stiffens immediately, and he eases his stare towards the ghostly visage of Sebastian, while he rigidly straightens his posture. Gritting his teeth under his scarf, Noxian gradually turns his head around, and glances back behind him towards the exit. In one corner of the room, he spots the red armored, large form of Dretphi, and the sub machine gun barrel precisely aimed at his center mass. Instinctively, Noxian snaps his attention towards the opposing corner at that end of the room, and just catches a glimpse of Cideeda’s sleek, lightly armored figure, with her twin lasers pistols appearing just above the top of a table. Focusing upon the exit point, Noxian watches Aristespha and Sotalia project protective barriers, while Bach finishes filling up the doorway with a translucent golden barrier.

Noxian returns his attentions towards Sebastian, and awaits with hints of annoyance rising upon his face. Sebastian smirks, crosses his arms authoritatively, and narrows a stare upon Noxian. “Alright Noxian. Let’s just make this easy on all of us. Give up, surrender whatever elder energy you got in you to the sword, and we’ll see what happens from there.”

A defiant grin contours the blue scarf covering Noxian’s face, and he bellows a loud laugh with a dramatic pantomime of his hands. “Really? You honestly think I would hand over all I have worked for to you? At this point?”

With hint of frustration leaking out, he presents a counteroffer, and colors his tone to a darkly demanding twist. “How about your team lets me walk away, and they all get to the do the same? And, I understand your desires to be freed from that sword and this state of existence. So I promise you, it’ll be one of first of the many mistakes our ancestors left for us to deal with that I will remedy... Once I take of care of things.”

He narrows his gray eyed stare upon Sebastian, quirks his brow, and tenses his stance. “A fair deal really. Saves us ALL so much TROUBLE.”

Sebastian curls an indignant twist to his mouth, and slowly shakes his head. “No. I think not.”

A determined gaze settles on Noxian, and flash of white illuminates his eyes. “I thought so.”


While a warping, transparent barrier radiates out from Noxian, Sebastian yells out in a commanding tone. “LET HIM HAVE IT!”

As Noxian pivots quickly around, a spray of suppressed bullets from Dretphi impacts the outer layers of his protective barrier and bounce weakly onto the floor. Twin bright, blue beams from Cideeda diffuse violently upon the surface of the defensive energy and burrow gradually against the protective magic. Eyes radiating a white energy, Noxian lifts an arm each towards Dretphi and Cideeda, and concentrates his attention upon them. Streams of flow warp the fields around the impact points of firearm and laser attacks, and the barrier shifts slightly. Bullets sink briefly into an elastic warp of the elder bubble, and launch back in a chaotic spray. Laser beams hit and reflect under the direction of Noxian’s whims. With twists of his hands and swings of his arms, the combination of returning mass and photon launch out in arcs across the length of the opposing wall to focus on Aristespha and Sotalia’s magical fields. Sparks and crackles of energy mix with the acoustics of the room, and Aristespha and Sotalia buffer the defected brunt of recent shots. Quickly, Cideeda and Dretphi halt their attacks. Aristespha, Sotalia, and Bach scatter for cover behind displays. Throwing his hands out, a wave of energy knocks over a number of large tables near Noxian, and he dives for cover. Sebastian hovers high above Noxian, maintains his watch, and calls out. “He’s taken cover right below me, behind a table!”

Glancing briefly up to the ethereal watchdog above, Noxian grits his teeth, grumbles out his frustration, and cautiously glances out from cover. His eyes search through aisles table legs and displays to catch brief glimpses of movement from the corners. Sebastian keeps his vigil and continues to call out updates on Noxian’s activities. Briefly retreating into his mind, Noxian ponders and frantically searches for a solution to the situation. Momentarily peeking out, he notices new movement behind other displays. A plotting smirk appears barely on the surface of his scarf, and he nods to himself. Eyeing up at Sebastian briefly, Noxian stands up and aims his palms at two displays near the exit. Sebastian’s yells out, as white magical flows swirl into small orbs in front of Noxian’s hands. “INCOMING! LOOK OUT!”

Members of the team peek out, spot Noxian and the forming energy, and react. Aristespha dashes out from one display to another. Bach and Sotalia rush out from the other display, and scramble to fresh cover. Bright flashes of energy fill the room. Wood and glass violently erupt into energized fragments. The light fades to reveal the fractured remains of two displays. Dretphi and Cideeda appear from new locations, and unleash volleys of metal and energy upon the translucent barrier surrounding Noxian. When Noxian’s attention shifts, Cideeda and Dretphi duck back down. Searching for other attacks, Noxian swings his arms forward and releases a repulsive wave towards the doorway. The magical force launches tables and displays off to the side in cacophonies of destruction. Noxian focuses his full attention at the barrier, and takes the first steps towards the exit. Sebastian signals and calls out. “He’s trying to make a break for it! Lock him down!”

Aristespha pops out from cover mid incantation, focuses her violet eye glare upon Noxian, and finishes the final gesture with a swing of her arms forward. A wave of energy glides a path through the room and envelops Noxian. The warping field of energy constricts down and tightens upon the protective elder barrier around Noxian, slowing his progress and laboring his movement. Sotalia appears with a mean grin, takes aim with the last stage of casting, and projects a transparent beam at Noxian. The magical flow splashes over Noxian, and the force holds him in place. Sebastian commands out to the team. “Wear him down! Fire!”

Bach, Cideeda, and Dretphi appear from new locations, aim, and unleash. Joining the barrage of mass and photon, balls of green plasma splatter upon Noxian's defensive field and visibly distort energy flows. Noxian pauses, reassesses the situation, and grimaces in a torrent of annoyance, frustration, and worry. Searching his mind, he begrudgingly arrives to an inconvenient solution, grits his teeth, and focuses.


White flows of elder energy ooze out from Noxian’s wiry frame, glide in swirls across his form, and force out the protective barrier further. He powers through against the restrictive magics, and powers through towards the exit. Both Aristespha and Sotalia strain to maintain their spells. Aristespha releases her spell, unhappily grumbles, and drops down to cover. After many unsuccessful rallies of magical flow and seeing Noxian’s progress, Sotalia halts her spell, grits her teeth, and focuses an irate glower. “FUCK YOU, NOXIAN! YOU’RE NOT LEAVING HERE ALIVE!”

Putting her hands together, she focuses energies between her palms. Swirls of air condense down, ignite into fire, and concentrate into a blue orb of hissing flame. Sotalia heaves the fireball in a collision course with Noxian. The explosive fire explodes upon Noxian’s back, pushes deep into his barrier, and radiates a power force inwards. The impact pushes Noxian forward, and he unceremoniously stumbles onto the floor next to the archway, while bullet, beam, and bolt fly at him.

Forcing himself back onto his feet against the unrelenting attacks upon his protective field, Noxian steps over to the golden barrier sealing the exit archway, and studies it briefly with an intrigued quirk to his face. “Fascinating, but...”

He presses his hand against the surface of the magical force field, concentrates his stare upon the energies, and flows a powerful pulse of white miasma out. White arcs crackle upon the surface of the golden barrier and highlight the hexagonal substructure in a sparking, flickering light show. Moments later, the wavering field stabilizes and solidifies back to a defiant, golden blockade. Blinking in surprise, Noxian pauses briefly in awe as his gray eyes widen in shock. “Oh.”

Cideeda pops up from cover behind a turned over table, drags two long, blue blasts from her laser pistols, and drops back down. She checks the indicators on her weapons, grits her teeth in worried frustration, and speaks to her radio. “Okay! We need to do something else. I’ve only got so many cells for my pistols, and his barrier is still holding up.”

Bach speaks on the radio channel, with the source from nearby. “I know. My plasma bolts are doing something, but it's just thinning his barrier. We need something that can pierce it.”

Aristespha sighs out on the frequency, and her hesitation radiates. “I cannot risk using any more of reserves.”

Frustration crackles in from Sotalia after another whoosh of an expanding ball of fire sounds out into the room. “I can try something more powerful, but nothing is hitting him as hard as it should!”

Dretphi reports in a defeated tone. “Sub machine gun ammo is low. Not effective.”

Cideeda grumbles, flicks her ears, as her emerald eyes sort through options. “Maybe powerful single shots?”

A very wary Bach mumbles on the channel. “Maybe a D-Ball? But, I’m afraid that he’d be able to return that somehow-”

An excited prompt from Dretphi springs onto the radio, and her eagerness seeps out. “My rifle!”

Cideeda grins toothily, and glances over at Noxian studying the golden barrier, as another plasma bolt slams into the barrier around him. “That might do it. If nothing else, it’ll catch him off guard.”

Bach chimes in with a renewed confidence. “If that gun can crack my barriers, it just might do enough damage to Noxian’s.”

Aristespha's hopeful voice sounds over channel. “It’s worth trying. Sebastian relayed to me he’s good with it, and we should get into position to capture if it works.”

The eager tone of Sotalia perks up on the radio. “I think a distraction of all those really annoying spells is in order.”

Listening to the radio planning, Cideeda puts her laser pistols away, swings her shotgun into her hands, and inspects it before slinking off around the perimeter of the room. “I’ll sneak into position. Net and stunner rounds getting loaded.”

Dropping behind the cover of turned over tables, and display debris, Noxian vents out his aggravation with each breath and glares at the golden barrier. As the assault of bullets, beams, balls, and bolts halt against his cover, he tries to gain some semblance of calm and sorts through his thoughts. Narrowing a scrutinizing gaze upon the shielded archway, his white glowing eyed gaze studies the golden structure. Gradually, he nods at construction with a respectful appreciation, and theorizes out a plan. “So... Interesting... Very intricate Mr. Warwick...”

Sebastian glances down at Noxian from above and smugly grins at him with a mocking tone. “Yes, Noxian?”

Rolling his eyes in disgust, Noxian readies himself and growls out. “Not you, Sebastian. Do you have anything better to do at moment? I would appreciate a little time away from your antics.”

Sebastian watches Noxian leap out from cover, rush up to the door, and concentrate magical flows upon it. He settles next to Noxian with a sarcastic flair. “Well, it’s little hard to get away when you are bound to a sword that... Oh... YOU PUT ME IN.”

Noxian tries to maintain a majority of focus on the golden barrier and the energies sinking into the substructure, but glances over with an incredulous lift of his brow. “I only wanted to blast you out of my way. I never intended you to be bound by a badly designed ancient artifact. And, THAT is on YOU for using such a cursed thing.”

He pauses a moment, and waits in silence. Glancing over his shoulder, Noxian searches around expectantly. “Why are they not attacking-”

A swarm of small magic missiles descend from above, and the barrage pelts chaotically upon the outer layers of Noxian’s defensive field. Bright blue white, glowing orbs fly toward Noxian, stick onto the elder barrier, and flash to bright white. He squints his eyes and shields his face from the intense light with his arm. “By the gods... REALLY?!”

Sebastian flashes a mean smile and narrows his glare upon Noxian. “You know, if you’d just give up, we could probably work something out. I’m pretty sure with good behavior and a merciful judge, you’d be out in less than ten years.”

While Sebastian yammers on, a surge of suspicion swells in Noxian. His gray eyes desperately search for justification through the constant warping of his barrier from the magic missile barrage, and the bright, sticky flares overwhelming his vision. “Wait... What is this attack actually for-”

Dretphi’s voice calls out, and faint echoes barely rise into the room from other electronic sources. “EARS!”

When the last of the magic missiles impact and the flares fade, Noxian blinks and searches the room briefly. His gray eyes spring wide open in abject terror when he notices a particular glint of metal sticking out from cover. He realizes the aim of Dretphi's anti-material rifle, just as she squeezes the trigger. “Oh my hell-”

A booming shock wave erupts from the end of barrel, and spreads out into the large room, stirring up nearby debris. The large caliber round presses deeply into the protective magical shell around Noxian, stretching the layers dangerously close to his body. A reflexive surge of elder energy pulses out when nearly reaches his chest. The layers flex and stretch against the danger. In a fraction of second, magical forces erupt, launch Noxian away onto the ground, and deflect the powerful round slightly off its path. Noxian slams upon the floor, the elder barrier flickers away, and the rifle shot crashes into the doorway barrier. Cracks immediately splinter out into the golden field from newly the embedded round.

Recovering from the mental haze, Noxian rubs his head and hunts his bearings. After a few seconds, he blinks back to some semblance of awareness. In a wild eye glance around the area, he notices Sebastian cautiously observing him and rolls over onto his stomach. Laying out prone and still on the floor, Noxian hides his recovery and searches out from the corners of his eyes. Briefly, he catches the glimpse of the tip of a furry ear, moving out of view behind an intact display nearby. Slowly cupping his hand upon the floor, Noxian feigns partial consciousness and idly moves, mimicking prior confusion. Sebastian hovers over Noxian, lands upon the ground, and leans down for a closer inspection. “How you doing there, Noxian? You awake? Ready to talk about this?”


Noxian lifts up with a bright glowing orb in his palm, and aims at the intact display. Sebastian ghostly blue eyes widen in terror and he shouts out. “CIDEEDA! RUN!”

A bright blinding flash floods the room with light. A white beam of energy shatters through the display, and squarely impacts Cideeda on the chest plate. Threads of flow scatter out into the crackling surface of the protective enchantment surrounding the plate. The powerful collision of magics and matter launches Cideeda backwards. She slams solidly upon the nearby wall, bounces off a desk, and crashes into a pile of debris. Sotalia screams out in rage, summoning surges of flow to her hands. “CIDEEDA! GODS FUCKING DAMN YOU, NOXIAN!”

Splinters of wood erupt as Sotalia’s energy blasts burn and break chunks off remaining furniture near Noxian. Aristespha rushes over to Cideeda, while Dretphi snatches up her sub machine gun and pins down Noxian with sprays of lead reminders. Bach stares stunned as a stern, worried Aristespha begins to check over the motionless, unresponsive Cideeda. Terror and horror flood his frozen body, and overwhelm any possible expression on his face. His gloved hands shake, his body shudders, and his eyes flicker bluish. Sebastian turns to Noxian and growls at him with an accusing point. “WHAT THE FUCK! ... Oh, I’m going to enjoy seeing that sword stuck through you!”

Noxian scowls a menacing glare at Sebastian, summons up his flows of elder energy, and stands back up slowly. “I grow TIRED of this... STOP YOUR ASSAULT. I ONLY want to leave. Do not MAKE ME put any more of you DOWN-”

He halts his rant abruptly. Quickly searching around the area, he narrows his blank stare, and hunts through the warping impacts of Dretphi and Sotalia’s attacks. He mumbles to himself uncertainly. “What the-”


Noxian flits his eyes wide open and snaps his gaze immediately at Bach rising from cover, as fear cracks his previous facade. “Shit.”

Mustering his energies, Noxian crosses his arms briefly and swings them out to unleash his barrier in an expanding wall outwards. He swiftly rushes to the cracked golden barrier. Sebastian’s ethereal form distorts with the energy, and the both Dretphi and Sotalia tumble backwards from the force. As the energy parts upon the unmoved Bach, he glares solemnly at Noxian with fiery blue eyes, and white, pinpoint pupils. Noxian examines the doorway field, notices the rifle’s damage, and presses his hand against the damaged section. Glancing over briefly, his fear develops into horror as he watches Bach concentrate upon him. Releasing a massive surge of elder energy, flows force through the cracks and shatter the majority of the golden barrier. Noxian slips out quickly and darts off down the hallway.

Bach grits his teeth, twitches his face, and narrows his whitening eyes upon the exit, focusing himself. A pained cough emerges from Cideeda, and she groans out a few fvalian swears. Bach blinks hard and flutters his eyes back to reality, as the glows fade. Dretphi and Sotalia pulls themselves back up to their feet. Sotalia glances over to Cideeda and Aristespha. “Cideeda!? Are you okay?”

Cideeda winces as she draws in a pained breath and squirms slightly. “I’ll fucking live... Ow...”

Sotalia rushes to the doorway, slips through into the hallway, and searches around. “SHIT! He’s getting away!”

Pausing a moment, Sotalia puzzles and hunts for a distracting target nearby. After a few seconds, she shakes her head, refocuses, and runs down the hallway. Dretphi springs forth, jumps though the hole in the broken barrier, and growls out. “I will retrieve her! SOTALIA!”

Sebastian shakes his head and darts through the wall. “Gods dammit! I’ll be back. Bro, keep it covered here, please!”

Bach nods quickly and yells out to his brother. “Yeah, I got it!”

Slowly surveying the situation, Bach steps through the fresh rubble of wood, glass, metal, and random artifacts. Getting closer to Aristespha and Cideeda, a strangely familiar wave of fatigue seizes him, and he stops. He thinks, remembers, and glances down at his arm. Faintly venting from his limb, a cloud white, magical miasma flows closely to his skin. Horror skewers Bach, and he drops to the ground near Aristespha. Scrambling quickly over, he grabs hold of the handle of the sword at Aristespha side. The sword vacuums up the elder miasma and extracts many similar thread flows from within Bach. Aristespha startles at the sudden pull on the sword, snaps her gaze over, and watches remaining traces of elder energy leave Bach. She stares in silence as he lets go and sits with terror plain on his face. Cideeda pulls in a pained breath and winces her closed eyes. She sniffs her nose and flicks her ears. “Bach? Is that you?”

Aristespha rests a comforting hand on Bach. “Will you be okay?”

Bach shrugs his shoulders a bit and tries to smirk. “Right now... Yeah.”

Nodding understandingly, Aristespha presents a smile to Bach and directs his attention to Cideeda. “Could you help me move Cideeda off the pile of uncomfortable debris?”

Cideeda flutters emerald green eyes open and moans out pleadingly. “Oh yeah, that’d be real nice right about now. I think there’s a nail trying to stick me in the ass.”

Bach slides over opposite of Aristespha and assists in carefully lifting Cideeda off the pile and onto smoother floor. While keeping an idle, shaky grip on Cideeda’s shoulder, Bach feels a familiar five points of sharp pressure on his forearm, and glances down to Cideeda. “Oh, hey, sorry...”

Smirking at Bach, Cideeda gazes her emerald green eyes at Bach’s worried blue eyes, and sighs. “It’s okay. I’m okay. Are you okay?”

Bach thinks a moment, but eventually nods slightly. “Enough for now...”

Cideeda smiles and rolls her eyes at the situation. “Know that feeling.”

Foot steps echo in the large empty hallways of the old structure. Sotalia skids to a stop in the middle of an intersection, and glances around in frantic search. “Where did you go, you bastard...”

Heavy boot stomps and armor clacking halt immediately behind Sotalia, and Dretphi clamps a gauntlet firmly onto Sotalia’s shoulder. “DO NOT ENGAGE HIM.”

Sotalia blinks out of her previous mindset, glances over to the towering Dretphi, and grimaces in partial, frustrated agreement. “I KNOW! I know... I just don’t want to him get away... AGAIN!”

Sebastian’s ethereal form stops in front of Dretphi and Sotalia, and he gazes at Sotalia with stern concern. “First, stop running off like that! Secondly... You okay?”

Sotalia nods and pants out her recovery from the long sprint catching up to her. “Yeah... Just... DAMN IT!”

Dretphi shakes her head and grumbles as she scans down the long runs of other dimly lit hallways. “I understand.”

Landing his ghostly figure upon the floor, Sebastian surveys the scene and frowns with a long ethereal sigh. “Chasing him through this place would be useless. Let’s regroup, start calling the authorities, and search around area for tracks... or something...”

While Sebastian gazes back down the hallway with worry, Sotalia releases a long, begrudging sigh, and nods in agreement, while she searches her outfit for her phone. “Yeah... I guess. This is going to be a long, awkward conversation with the cops.”

Sebastian groans out the foreboding dread and briefly grits his teeth. “Tell me about it. It’s going to be a long day between the police, GAA, and the guild about this whole thing. I don’t know what we tell any of them at this point.”

A powerful, rumbling concussion resonates through the building, and stirs dust and dirt from the openings in the ceiling. Crisp, metallic reverberations bounce down one hallway and fill the air with sounds of destruction. Seconds later, red alarm lights pulse along the in varying degrees of function, and a barely working public address system chimes out an audible alert. Dretphi thinks between all the emerging chaos, points down the one hallway, and looks for confirmation. “That way.”

Sotalia nods quickly and stares in that direction. “Heard it from there, too. That rumble felt like a magical concussive blast. Don’t I know know what the other sounds were.”

Sebastian signals the two to follow along, and darts down the hallway with a determined stare ahead. “Fucking bastard probably blasted out the perimeter fence, and is running off now. Let’s see if we can figure out how he’s getting around at least.”

Sebastian, Sotalia, and Dretphi rush down the long hallway, and quickly approach a set of exterior doors leading to the barely illuminated outside. Sebastian phases through the doorway and immediately searches the area for activity, while Sotalia and Dretphi forcefully push open the metal doors. Following Sebastian, the group runs along the dirt path towards the gravel lot and perimeter fence. The team approaches, and Sebastian blinks in utter shock when he spots the humvee. Flipped back end over onto a crushed section of fence, the vehicle rocks slightly, and faint magical vapors steam off the underside armor plating. Sotalia notices a similar miasma drifting off a shallow crater in the gravel lot. She spouts of an enraged stream of curses in a variety of languages. Sebastian hovers over the scene in disbelief, and twists his face in a mix of emotions. “THE FUCK.”

When the team gathers close to the upturned humvee, a faint, small engine sounds out from a distant patch of bushes. Seconds later, a dark green sedan erupts out of the underbrush, hops up onto the road, and speeds off down the remote highway. The engine revs up to full speed. Sotalia remembers the aetherphone in her hand, taps on the camera function, and aims as the vehicle speeds past. Dretphi reflexively swings her strapped on sub machine gun up into her arms, ejects the current magazine, and locks the last fresh one. She rushes out onto the side of road and aims at the escaping dark green sedan. Sebastian zips out after car and phases into the passenger’s seat. “Where do you think you’re going, Noxian?!”

Noxian glares over in mix of annoyance and surprise at the ghostly visage of Sebastian, and sighs with a hint of a grin. “Some place where I’ll be left to continue my work without your interruptions. Again, I’d like to state how much I would rather you and your team to not get in my way.”

Sebastian narrows a stern, irritated stare upon Noxian, and leans in close. “Well, UNFORTUNATELY for all of us, YOU are kind of our biggest concern at the moment.”

Blinking off into thought momentarily, Isaac’s expression softens under his scarf, and he gazes to Sebastian with worry tinting his tone. “You should reevaluate that... For your brother’s sake.”

Sebastian’s face blanks at the sudden change of emotion, and stares idly in shock. Moments later, an unseen force halts Sebastian independently from the car, and he phases through to a hover over to the pavement. He shudders back to awareness, snaps his head to face the dark green sedan rolling off into the distance, and squints his eyes at the identification plating on the back of the vehicle. Floating there mumbling out letters and numbers to himself, his visage distorts as a series of small projectiles zip through. He immediately glides off to the side, and watches a few stray rounds impact the back of the sedan, with grazing sparks and solid punctures in the metal. One projectile manages to hit the back window edge and send cracks through the glass. The vehicle crests over the hill and disappears from view.

Sotalia sorts through a few pictures on her phone, and grimaces as the imagery discourages her. “Gods dammit. None these are worth a shit. Too dark and it was moving too fast. Maybe this one will do, but I can’t read anything off it.”

Sebastian’s ghostly visage zips next to Sotalia, and he sighs with a slight smile. “Got that vehicle’s ID, write it down quick.”

Flipping to a note taking app on the phone, Sotalia pays careful attention to Sebastian reciting a series of letters and numbers. She nods with a growing smirk after the saving the note, and compares the sequence to the picture. “Yeah, that looks close enough to blurs on the picture. Okay... So, older green sedan, with this identification, and-”

Dretphi walks over to the group, ejects the empty magazine out of her sub machine gun, and flips up her full face visor with a partial, reserved grin. “Broken back windshield. Bullet marks on back half of vehicle.”

Sebastian blinks, smirks towards Dretphi, and chuckles slightly. “One or two bullet holes in the trunk actually.”

Nodding a hint of satisfaction, Dretphi glances over into the distance and twists her mouth. “Surprising. At that distance.”

Sotalia finishes recording the information on her phone, reads over it a few times, and taps through the contacts list. “Okay, that’ll be a start. I better make the call now, BEFORE they arrive to investigate this alarm.”

Searching through her belt of pouches, she pulls out of a few vials, and quickly quaffs down the potions. She finds an old stump nearby, sits down, and groans out a long sigh while removing her radio ear piece. “After I finish this call, I’ll see what I can do about getting the humvee back on its wheels...?”

Both Sebastian and Dretphi shift their attention to the flipped over humvee, and display equal mixes perplexed and apprehensive. Sebastian grits his teeth, shifts between different uncomfortable grimaces, and crosses his arms awkwardly. “Well... Um... I think it should still drivable... Once we get it right side up.”

Dretphi eventually rocks her head in partial agreement, taps a button on the side of her helmet, and glances over to Sebastian. “First check on Cideeda. Maybe inform then? Maybe later? Upright it before she sees it.”

Sebastian quickly nods, and starts to fade. “Sound good, I’ll go back to Aristespha and see how it’s going there.”

Dretphi scans the scene around her, slumps her shoulders with a shake of her head, and slowly steps over to pick up the two empty magazines nearby. Sotalia draws in a long calming breath, and greets the police operator on the other side of the new phone call.

The ambient glow of the late morning sun lights up the living area of the ranch style house. Above the constant, soft drone of the air conditioning in the room, a dull mechanical rumble sounds out from the kitchen door leading to the garage. Seconds later, the door opens quickly to an irritable growl of Sotalia as she rolls her eyes and toss back her fiery orange, wavy hair. “Gods fucking damn it! That’s THE last time I think we should call the local cops around here for ANYTHING. I swear they were just thinking of reasons to keep us at the station longer!”

She undoes her armored cloak, flings it through the kitchen archway at the living room to the couch, and steps over to the refrigerator. Quickly sorting through the contents of the box, she pulls out a bottle of grath beer, and direct her voice towards the garage. “Dretphi! I owe you a beer.”

Dretphi slowly trudges from garage into the kitchen, stops in front of Sotalia, and holds out her open hand. Sotalia plucks another bottle out of the fridge, and slides it in between Dretphi’s closing grip. Sotalia pries the bottle cap off her beer. Dretphi clamps her gauntlet covered hand around the top, and wrenches the metal off the glass. In unison, both Sotalia and Dretphi take long swigs of their beverages, and stare off distantly. After a few moments of silence, Dretphi snarls her upper lip, quietly growls out her frustration, and mumbles loudly. “Yes. I have FUCKING licenses for my firearms. Includes my rifle. Assholes.”

Sotalia rolls her eyes in commiseration and shakes her head. “I don’t know what the hell was up with that one guy. I mean gods forbid they run a quick check with the guild... That we are all registered with... That should have all the information they need.”

Cideeda walks into the area, rubs her back briefly, and lifts up the top of her old shirt to sniff. “Wow... We need to wash the spare clothes in humvee. Ungh.”

Her tail waves slowly behind her. She tries to brush off dirt on a pair of worn shorts, but only manages to smear it further. Closing her emerald eyes for a moment, she shifts her attention to the hospital bracelet around her wrist, and picks at it with her claws. “Before the painkillers wear off, I’m getting this fucking thing off, hitting the shower, and going to bed. No offense, but leave me the hell alone until dinner. Please...”

She walks off into the hallway wincing as she breathes too deeply, and mumbles frustrations to herself. “Shouldn’t have peeked around the corner... that must be how he knew I was there... gods dammit...”

Listening to Cideeda blame herself, Dretphi drinks the remainder of her beer, sighs out regretfully, and mutters heavy with guilt. “Should not have taken that shot.”

Sotalia narrows her gaze at Dretphi, and pats her on the shoulder of her under armor suit. “Now don’t you start blaming yourself, too. We all agreed on it. And, your shot took him down. The bastard just got really lucky and pulled a fast one on us.”

Aristespha moves through the kitchen area, mutters to herself in evuukian, and flips through a combination of tablets and paperwork in her arms. Sebastian hovers in pursuit after her, but halts the chase after a certain set of evuukian phrases. Aristespha speeds through the area worried, past the hallway archway, and quickly down the hall through her closing bedroom door. Sebastian’s ethereal form rubs his forehead, and glances over to Sotalia and Dretphi. “I’m going to give her a few minutes before I go in there.”

Dretphi and Sotalia nod together in agreement. Sotalia perks her brow and gazes curiously at Sebastian. “Is she still panicking about how to explain that supposed anonymous tip we got about Noxian being there?”

Bach walks in through the door from the garage, closes the door behind him, and nods grimacing. “Yeah... She’s been trying to put together a supporting story for it? I mean, I think an anonymous tip is somewhat believable. And... we did find him. But, I don't know if anyone starts digging too deep.”

Sebastian sighs ethereally, shrugs his shoulders, and crosses his arms. “Well, not much more we can do today. Hopefully, since it’s Friday any serious paperwork about us won’t be filed or processed today. That’ll give us the weekend to sort things out.”

He relaxes his shoulders, dons a grateful smile, and nods to everyone. “For now, let’s just take the rest of this day easy.”

Sotalia drinks more of her beer, walks out of the kitchen, and politely waves with beverage in hand as she goes through the hall archway. “Sounds good. I’m going to try to get some sleep.”

Dretphi sighs, rest her empty bottle on the counter, and plods towards the hallway. “Will do the same.”

When Dretphi leaves the living area, Sebastian glances over to Bach and focuses his concern. “You feeling okay, bro?”

Bach blinks a moment, thinks for a few seconds, and rocks his head side to side. “Yeah... I suppose you know. Uh... Um... Well... I really don’t know how to feel about THAT right now.”

Sebastian presents a comforting smile to his brother, and shrugs his shoulders nonchalantly. “Don’t worry about it then. Talk to me when you feel like it. We all made it. That’s all that matters right now.”

An appreciative smirk appears on Bach face, and he sighs with some ease. “Thanks. That... That was not a good situation.”

Nodding in total agreement, Sebastian leans close to Bach, lifts an intrigued brow, and whispers. “Just between you and me, I think he ran because of YOU.”

Bach blinks absolutely bewildered and pauses to process that statement. “I REALLY don’t know how to feel about THAT.”