Episode 77

A distant, ambient drone faintly fills the air, and aged lighting flickers at the end of the long ramp downwards. Cideeda, Dretphi, Aristespha, Sotalia, and Bach cautiously walk down the wide and tall corridor upon an old coated concrete floor. Sebastian’s ghostly form hovers in front of the team, watching carefully ahead. Magical lamps and flashlights search, and the group studies the architecture. Bach narrows his stare at the wall paneling, and recognition fills his face. “Does this look familiar to anyone else?”

Aristespha pauses, glances to a few spots, and scrutinizes details with a slight nod. “Yes, somewhat. This construction is common to many early third period government structures. Similar to the research outpost.”

An uncomfortable curl twists the corner of Bach’s mouth, and he grumbles audibly to the rest of the team. “Gods, let there NOT be a kill crazed security bot here.”

Sotalia flashes a confident grin, rests her hands on her hips, and laughs boldly. “Oh, I think we know how to deal with something like that.”

As the passage levels out, Sebastian coasts ahead of the team, and notices the back-lit silhouette of small structures within the tunnel ahead. “So... What is all of this?”

Under his direction, lighting aims ahead and illuminates a small guard kiosk off to the side, the crossing guard arm across the concrete roadway, and a sign. Interest shifts over to the large lettering on the metal sheet. Despite the decayed vinyl and rust obfuscating the outer wording, the center plainly states the most important piece of information. Everyone focuses upon the title between the pair of symbols, three black circular slices around a center circle upon yellow background.

“Nuclear Waste Transmutation”

The team stares blankly at the new information, briefly dumbfounded. Sparks of terror ignite the frightful faces upon Aristespha, Bach, Cideeda, Dretphi, Sebastian, and Sotalia. Aristespha quickly gestures through a frantic incantation. Cideeda expediently searches through her vest pockets and retrieves a device. Both Aristespha and Cideeda turn their full attention ahead, pointing spell and gadget forward, while the rest of the group remains in aghast silence.

Cideeda’s emerald green eyes study the display on detector, and her furry ears listen to the consistent, modest combination of beeps and clicks. Aristespha’s glowing violet eyes scan the vicinity ahead with her palms aimed outwards. After a few tense seconds, Cideeda glances over Aristespha with tentative relief. “I’m not picking up anything seriously out of place. Maybe slightly above normal?”

Aristespha blinks her eyes back to normal, releases a long breath with her nerves, and nods thankfully. “Yes. It’s the same as I detected. There’s traces of elevated levels, but nothing that should be immediately harmful. Though, I would not recommend an extended stay.”

A wave relief passes over the rest of the squad, as Aristespha releases her spell. Cideeda tweaks the threshold of the detector, and clips it onto her vest. Sebastian hovers ahead of the group, directs them ahead. “Well, let’s see what we got going on here... And, make it quick as possible.”

Resuming formation, the team slips through the guard gate, and continues to the end of the concrete and metal panel tunnel. Echoes of a large open area funnel down from the brighter mouth of the passage, and the group searches the area curiously. Sebastian halts at the exit of the tunnel, hovers in place, and gawks with his jaw open. “Holy shit... Really?”

He signals the rest of the team to join him as he continues to stare ahead. Aristespha, Cideeda, Bach, Sotalia, and Dretphi arrive around him, and look out. They collectively gaze in utter astonishment at the overhead domed concrete and rock ceiling meters above a huge steel framed and transparent paneled geodesic structure, upon an expansive concrete bowl. From the surrounding, encircling outmost platform, a ramp leads down through the open outer passage towards a central smaller concrete and metal encased semi-spherical building. Cideeda steps forward, squints her eyes, and points a claw tip to massive structures of steel, copper, and other materials. She traces the routes of the hardware. Guiding the team’s attention, she shows the connections from the central structure to the outer framework perimeter and the joining networks of pipelines stretching out into the walls at evenly distributed angles. “Those HAVE to be heat exchangers... And THOSE are the pipes! One of these must of have run to that field.”

Dretphi notices a light haze on her full face visor, carefully rubs a finger of her gauntlet covered hand across the outer bottom, and studies the condensed moisture. “It is warm down here.”

Discomfort arises within everyone else as the awareness prompts reactions to the unexpected temperature. Sotalia glances her golden eyes around the area, inspects the gradual curling in her fiery orange, wavy hair, and blinks thoughtfully. “Yeah, it feels like I’m around a heated indoor pool or sauna.”

Bach opens his eyes wide, glances over the group, and directs his inquiry to Cideeda. “Oh... Shit... Is this thing running right now?!”

Cideeda blinks as tinges of worry creep upon her face. Her furry ears flick around and search the soundscape. Seconds of scanning the mix of sounds, she grits her teeth, and gazes back to the team. “Something is running. I don’t know what, but I’m hearing too much happening.”

With a stern, urgent tone, Dretphi draws in breath, and suggests. “We should find the controls.”

Sotalia points over to a nearby rectangular building close to the entrance. “That one looks like the part.”

Sebastian nods in agreement, starts leading the team, and flies ahead. “Lots of cabling going to it, furthest from the action, AND right next to the exit. Sounds like where anyone trying to run this thing would be. Let’s go!”

Flashlight spots zip between shattered screens and shredded wiring, while ambient magical glows from blue orbs on the ceiling cast light upon the ruined equipment. Fanning out into command center, the team surveys the wholesale destruction to rows of electrical and computer systems. Sebastian hovers towards the middle of the area, coasts close to the ceiling, and scans the vicinity with a confused stare. “Okay, any ideas of what the fuck happened here?”

Cideeda approaches a torn open console, carefully lifts up the keyboard module dangling by ripped ribbon cables, and slowly shakes her head. “I don’t know. Someone caused this damage. This all looks like control equipment, so there shouldn’t be enough current running through these things to blow them apart.”

She sniffs the air, and ponders with an investigative expression. “And, it doesn’t smell right. Electrical and electronic equipment burning up on its own usually stinks up a room with very distinct odors.”

Dretphi pans her gaze around, steps next to computer rack, and notices a puncture through the front bezel. She scrutinizes it closely, reaches for her knife from the back holster, and pulls it out towards the hole. Holding the tip of the blade close to the gap, she explores a few maneuvers, studies the possible motions, and matches a likely candidate. Replacing her knife back, she glances over to the rest of the team, and ponders out loud. “Purposeful attack. Took significant effort. A specific goal in mind? Attacker knew of how the system functioned?”

Sotalia closes her golden eyes, relaxes her shoulders, and hold her arms out slightly from her sides. After a few moments, she twists her mouth, crosses her arms, and open her eyes full of suspicion. “Someone threw serious magic around here. I can feel A LOT of leftover energies.”

Aristespha blinks her eyes to a violet glow and Bach’s eyes flick to a blue illumination. The two stare at scorched impact points littered long rows of computing systems, and analyze the evidence before them. Bach grits his teeth, grumbles uneasily, and nods. “Someone wanted this place to be completely fucking wrecked. They went down the row.”

Sebastian curls his upper lip as he lowers down towards to floor, and gazes around the scene with obvious bewilderment. “No shit, bro. This beyond just tossing something in and running off. Someone took their time to do this.”

Slowly walking through the aisle between equipment rows, Aristespha spots a broken flat panel monitor on the far wall. She cautiously approaches the shattered display, and narrows an accusatory gaze to a single, embedded arrow. After studying it, she grips the shaft tightly, firmly rips it out of the screen, and examines the construction. Mumbling a few evuukian swears to herself, she turns around and holds up the arrow for the rest of the team to view. “Looks like Brennon’s hunch was right. This is hand made, evuukian design... And, definitely something a Terra Priest would be shooting.”

Flying over to eye the projectile closely, Sebastian’s ghostly visage lifts an incredulous brow. “Really, dear? Did whoever just shoot this... Just to leave their mark behind?”

Aristespha furrows her brow, sighs out hints of annoyance, and nods with a groan. “Yes, Sebastian. Knowing the egos on some of them, I’m pretty sure that’s the case. Because, he obviously had other means of destruction available to him.”

Sotalia rests her hands on her sides, idly picks at her belt of pouches, and sways her hips with an irritated curl to her lips. “Okay, what the hell was the goal here? Are you trying to use this place for something, or just wrecking it? What is it? Pick one.”

Cideeda’s furry ears flick and perk towards a faint noise in the corner of the room. She aims her gaze towards the source, quickly steps over the piles of debris, and digs into a clutter of knocked over computing systems. Carefully, she extracts from the nest of cabling a partially functional monitor, and inspects the device. “Hey! This screen is still working and actually attached to something that is working. The sound barely works, but-”

Her emerald green eyes lock on to the status graphics on screen and the erratic pattern of blinking red littering key measurements. As the team assembles around her, an unsettling pressure presses down on them, and unspoken dread rises within each. Bach squints his gaze at the screen, and slowly shakes his head as an enough understanding spikes fumbling fear. “None... of that is... good...”

Cideeda’s eyes widen in horror, and she struggles to draw a breath without shuddering. “No... Everything... EVERYTHING... is overloaded.”

The team travels fast down the access path leading through the outer geodesic containment structure and towards the vault door on the central concrete, metal encased dome. Cideeda slightly leads the group with her radiation detector in her hand. Sebastian hovers next to her and questions while staring ahead at the massive doorway ahead. “So, what are we looking for?”

Cideeda checks the readings on her detector for safety, gazes ahead, and releases a hesitant but hopeful sigh. “Well, the control room is trashed. BUT, this place is still running. So, I guess core systems are still intact, but there’s nothing to tell them to stop. If this place was built to any safety code, there’s GOT to be emergency overrides.”

The group arrives at the entry into the solid strutcure. The heavy machinery surrounding the reinforced gateway frame and the massive mechanisms attached the thick door exudes an imposing, uneasy presence. Sebastian hovers up close to the haphazardly closed vault hatch, and glances back to Cideeda uncertainly. “This doesn’t look like it’s in the greatest shape.”

Bach steps forward, and points towards surface melting and soot marks scattered across the dome walls and machinery. “Someone tried to blast this from the looks of it.”

Sotalia narrows her stare, wipes a bit of sweat off her forehead, and nods in agreement. “Yeah, TRIED. Whoever tried the same spells they did in the control room here. And, didn’t manage to do much.”

Surveying the nearby structure, Dretphi rolls her shoulders uncomfortably in her red plated armor suit, focuses her attention to the warping of light from heat above the thick, reinforced door, and motions with a gauntlet. “The door is not sealed. Heat is escaping above.”

When the team draws close to study the entrance further, alarms ring out and rotating warning lamps spin up. Instinctively retreating, the team backs away when low groans sound out. Loud, powerful strains resonate through the structure and vibrate the ground. Rushes of hydraulic fluid churn in the aged pumps. Gigantic rams rattle free layers of old dust and rust. Machinery clangs out in a cacophony of mechanic echoes. The huge, thick door shudders briefly, flexes millimeters towards closing more, and groans defiantly. Covering her furry ears briefly, Cideeda searches the audible chaos and filters a particular sound. She spots a large steel chunk warping under the crushing forces of hydraulic rams and supporting metal framework. Searching around, she notices the strange collection of blast marks surrounding missing section of plating above on the dome. After a minute, the system halts its attempts to close the door and settles back down.

Cideeda signals the team’s attention, points out the huge metal blockage, and calls out. “THERE! It’s been jammed. We’ll need to clear it out.”

Bach twists his mouth, and glances apprehensively down towards Cideeda. “Should we? That might be the only thing keeping this door from sealing.”

Walking close to the heavy machinery, Cideeda slowly nods, and waves a claw tip to key issues. “If we want to get in there, we’ll have to clear it. That chunk is completely locking the thing up with how bent up it is.”

Aristespha studies the material, ponders a moment, and readies to gestures out a spell. “That seems like lead with thin steel layers encasing it... I think I have a spell that can cut it.”

Sebastian hovers over the team, thinks a moment, and calls out instructions. “Okay. Let’s make this quick. Aristespha will cut that chunk up. Sotalia, you get the pieces out of the way. Bach, Cideeda, and Dretphi. See if you can coax that door open enough. I’m going to peek inside and make sure nothing immediately terrible is inside.”

Over the next minutes, Aristespha releases concentrated beams of magical energy and surgically whittles down the massive lead chunk into manageable pieces. Sotalia guides transparent flows of magical energy to hoist up the heavy fodder clear, and piles up the metal clumps. Cideeda coaches Bach’s magical manipulation of the door systems, and coordinates Dretphi’s application of muscle and leverage with a scrap metal pipe pry bar. Sebastian’s ethereal form phases out through the thick door, and he recovers his senses with a brief shudder. “Whoa... That’s at least a meter or two thick...”

He observes the team’s progress, and announces. “It looks like everything is still intact inside. At least I didn’t see anything sparking, on fire, or leaking.”

Cideeda acknowledges the information from Sebastian, glances to Bach and Dretphi, and calls out. “Okay! Get ready. On three! One. Two. THREE!”

Bach’s eyes flash blue as pulses of prismatic flow travel down to massive valves and reinforced electrical lines. As stubborn flows of hydraulics fight against uncooperative rams, Dretphi forces her full might against a flexing steel pipe to wrench the support arm of the thick, solid door away from the gateway frame. In a tense few moments with Sotalia’s magical energies assisting Dretphi’s efforts upon the heavy door, the concrete dome’s massive hatch gradually parts open a few centimeters before grinding against a hard stop. After seconds of futile effort, Cideeda signals to stop, hops down, and approaches the doorway with radiation detector in hand. Studying the size of the gap and checking the readings for relative safety, Cideeda stretches her body. “I think I can fit through there.”

Sebastian’s ghostly visage lands his feet next to Cideeda, and he gazes at her with a concerned grimace. “You sure about that? We should try to get that door open a bit more, and secure it first.”

Drawing in a long breath, Cideeda slowly shakes her head, examines the gap closer, and sighs. “It can’t open any wider right now. And, fixing it is going to take time away from figuring out if we can even shut this thing down safely.”

Grumbling slightly, Sebastian agrees with the logic, and gestures out the layout inside. “Damn... You’re right. Okay. Just to your left inside, it looks like a control console and bunch of monitoring valves. I would stay away from the right side, as it just looks like a bunch of really hot pipes. Then, there’s the central chamber with what looks like the reactor in a deep pool of water. It is closed off but there’s windows to look inside.”

He gazes into Cideeda’s emerald green eyes, fights off the concern on his face, and grants an encouraging grin. “Just get in there. Figure out if it can be shut down safely. If not, try to make it manageable. We’ll get ready to cut and run, and seal everything we can on the way out.”

With a confident smirk, Cideeda nods, flexes her form with an exhale, and slips into the gap between door and door frame. Wiggling through the layers of steel and concrete, Cideeda deftly slides the slick enchanted plates along the tight quarters, and squeezes past the narrowest part. Slowly drawing in a breath, she orientates herself and glances over to control console on her left side. Stepping over fast, she studies the system in front of her. Wiping away the dust from the screen, she brushes off the keyboard, and types through a number of menus on the simple interface. Sebastian phases through the doorway, flies over near Cideeda shuddering from the transition, and carefully inquires. “So... What’s the story?”

Cideeda’s emerald eyes sort through the information prompts on the screen as her claws click upon the keys. She quickly processes the data, and grumbles to herself. “I don’t know yet. This is definitely some kind of emergency console. There was no password. I’m trying to figure out what a graceful shutdown could even be at this point. Someone really did a number on this thing.”

As she digs deeper into the different menus and systems outlined by the console, a nervous frown grows sharper on her face, and her body language stiffens. Sebastian observes the quiet changes and asks. “Everything okay?”

Cideeda grits her teeth briefly, sighs long, and slowly shakes her head. “Not really. But, there should be a way to handle this...”

Dretphi’s voice calls out through the door gap. “Do you need assistance?”

Glancing over her shoulder, Cideeda directs her reply back. “No! Just keep out there, and make sure that door stays open. Not sure how to shut this thing down, yet. But, once I do... We should leave this mess as soon as possible.”

Dretphi’s voice confirms and moves away. “Understood.”

Outside the concrete dome, Dretphi picks up the scrap steel pipe in her hands, and steps over to the heavy duty hinges of the thick, concrete and steel laminated door. Studying the structure and mechanics of the hardware, she slides the pipe firmly to wedge between functional clearances, and gazes over to Aristespha, Bach, and Sotalia. “Need more to secure it proper.”

Aristespha taps Sotalia’s shoulder, points over to the pile of steel plated lead chunks, and motions over towards the door corner. “Let’s hover this over to the door and see about an impromptu doorstop.”

Sotalia nods, glances over to Bach, and lifts a curious brow. “You got it under control?”

Bach sorts through the collection of stabilized magical energy cables in his hands, blinks over to Sotalia, and rocks his head side to side. “Think so? I got the valves set and locked that we know of. But... Good gods... This damned thing is engineered with a bunch of redundant and backup systems that are... hard to figure out.”

Another set of alarms blares out in the area. Spinning warning lights flash to life around the doorway. Bach eyes widen and surge with bright blue light. He focuses fully upon the door control systems, and the magical lines flash with powerful prismatic pulses. Loud, powerful thunks sound out as torrents of fluid stir violently inside the piping. Bach grits his teeth, strains his concentration, and surges out new flows down the bundles of magical lines. “SHIT! The valve servos are fighting back! Trying to interrupt power-”

Sparks erupt in a downpour from the door’s powerful electrical controls, and motors strain against opposing forces. The door shudders forward. Dretphi grabs hold of the steel pipe, and wrestles the leverage back to jam machinery. Sotalia quickly gestures out an incantation, directs her energies to a large chunk of steel and lead, and guides the mass up into the air, and over to the door gap. With explosive arcing and a powerful mechanical thud, the system violently frees itself from Bach’s overrides. The full power of the hydraulic ram forces the door mechanisms against the makeshift pry bar in Dretphi’s hands. With the surge of overwhelming power, the forces upon the steel pipe flings Dretphi away, and launches the makeshift tool out in distant arc. In a ditch attempt, Sotalia propels the steel and lead chunk into the closing doorway. The heavy duty door and door frame pinch briefly onto the chunk. After moments of strain, the conflicting pressures pop the metal piece back out, and propel it meters away free from Sotalia’s telekinetic control.

The door quickly closes, and sink into the frame. Loud machinery engages, and the locks secure the door completely.

Cideeda maintains a constant watch upon the console display and monitors the system outputs. She blinks hard, releases a long stressed breath, and wipes the sweat collecting on her light brown face. Sebastian hovers next to Cideeda with a reassuring smile, and motions over towards the door. “Hey, don’t worry. They will figure out how to get the door back open.”

With a reserved but hopeful smirk, Cideeda nods to Sebastian, gazes back upon the screen, and taps out commands upon the keyboard. “I know. I’ve been listening to the radio...”

Tapping on button her vest, the speaker of her radio crackles to life as the mode switches. Bach’s voice sounds out over the heavy static. “Gods dammit! What the fuck is wrong with this thing?! This system is overpowering anything I try... Ah, shit... what the fuck to do... Dretphi! Check to see if there’s a cut off or something for this thing.”

Dretphi sounds out over the radio. “Understood. Saw valves over there. Will investigate.”

Sotalia’s irritation comes through the audio as she growls out her frustration. “This is just layers of steel, concrete, and lead! And, there’s some locking bar or something holding it in place... FUCK! I can’t pull this door back.”

Hints of desperation trickle through Aristespha’s vocal facade. “I know. If we can find the locking deadbolts, I may be able to cut them and then you should be able to pull the door back.”

Cideeda frowns with a brief grimace, taps the button to switch her radio back into the previous mode, and sighs nervously. “They’re not having the best of luck.”

Sebastian tries to maintain a hopeful demeanor with an encouraging tone. “It’ll be okay. You focus on getting this thing to shutdown properly. Then, you’ll help them figure it out. I know you will figure out the best solution.”

Cideeda’s claw tips clack on the console keyboard, and she flips through the same series of information screens. Each transition her frown deepens, a shudder trembles her breaths, and grim mood weighs down upon her ears. Sebastian gazes at Cideeda, drifts in front of her, and directs his concern. “What’s wrong?”

With her furry ears drooping, Cideeda drops her head forward, and sadly replies. “I know a way to shut it down...”

The spark of joy within Sebastian disappears under a wave of dread upon his face. “But... It’s not good.”

Cideeda draws a long, deep breath, wipes more sweat off her face, and sorts through the explanation with growing fear. “I don’t understand completely how this system works... I think it was suppose to use a fusion reactor to transmute nuclear waste to more stable isotopes. But, I know it’s well past its limits. Whoever, purposefully overloaded the processing chamber with too much nuclear waste, and set the output of the fusion reactor way too high. Now you have the too much heat from the fusion reactor AND have nuclear waste under going fission. Meanwhile, the cooling system, that was already in disrepair, isn’t capable of handling the thermal load anymore after every pipeline burst. And... THE only thing that’s keeping this area from getting bombarded by radiation is the protective containment force fields... powered by the fusion reactor.”

With a trembling voice and terror filling her emerald eyes, Cideeda stares out through an observation window, past the sparkling energy barrier, and into the glowing pale blue cooling pool. “Without the advanced computer control, this system has been running off of basic backup systems... It’s been stuck in a feedback loop of doom. Fusion reactor powers the field. Field stops the radiation. Radiation is caused by fission from the fusion reactor processing the waste. The only thing I can stop is the fusion reactor, which will hopefully stop the cycle and drop the heat output to something manageable. But, once it stops... The protective field will decay in minutes. This containment dome will keep radiation from going outside... But here...”

Horror washes away the encouraging expression on Sebastian’s face, and he desperately tries to search through possible options in his mind. “Okay... Okay... Okay... We’re not out of options. Okay. How long before the force field breaks down after shutdown?”

Cideeda glances inside her mind, processes the calculations, and weakly answers. “Maybe ten to fifteen minutes? That’s being really... hopeful.”

Visibly stressing at the situation, Sebastian summons up his composure, force up a hopeful grin, and ponders a plan out loud. “That can work. Once they figure out how to the door open, you trigger the shutdown, you get out, we close that door, and get moving. We’ll try to get the other containment dome door closed, if we have time.”

Grabbing hold of the console sides firmly, Cideeda pulls a pained breath in, stares at the monitors on screen and gauges off to the side. “Time is the problem.”

Sebastian follows Cideeda’s gaze, and squints grimly at the gauges and the needle indicators well into red regions. “Oh, gods... I was really hoping those were broke and the needles were resting on the those pins.”

Cideeda frowns, closes her eyes tightly, and shakes her head slowly. “No... They’re pushing against the stops.”

Drifting away towards the door, Sebastian puts forth a reassuring front with a smile. “Hey! We still have a good option. Since you know how to shut it down, we can focus on getting the door open. Then, we can shut it down, seal it, and run. Let me get everyone focused and with your help, I’m sure we’ll get this thing open.”

Cideeda weakly nods. She slowly draws in calming breaths, wipes the sweat off her face, and combs away stray multi-colored hairs with her clawed fingers. Closing her eyes in thought, she attempts to focus her self and mutters a few fvalian prayers under her breath. Her furry ears twitch to a new noise. She steps back from the console, sweeps the aim of her head around, and both ears lock onto source of the sound. Through the ambient drone, crisp noises tickle Cideeda’s ears, and she watches as crumbles of concrete fall from gradually expanding cracks around pipework entering the reactor chamber. Hairline fractures form from widening divides leading to other reinforced pipelines. Cideeda’s eyes narrow, and she notices the slight bends in the longer runs of steel tubing and the strange, minute swelling at joins and connectors. The waves of heat billowing out from the heat exchange machinery fume up and flow along the ceiling.

Another noise pulls Cideeda’s attention over. Focusing her frightened gaze through the observation window and sparkling force field, she surveys the surface of the glowing pale blue pool. Small bubbles breach the surface of the water, and more patches of boiling vent out onto the surface in rising intensity. Cideeda’s expression blanks, and her stare grows distant. Quietly, she drops her head down, steps up to the console, and gazes resolutely inwards. Her emerald green eyes flit through possibilities, calculate the odds, and weigh heavily the costs. Sebastian phases back through the door and hovers towards Cideeda. “Okay. I think the plan is to try cutting off the door hydraulics. That might free it up, so that with your help...”

Frowning sadly with tears welling in her eyes, Cideeda lifts her head up to the console screen, and begins to type out a command. She draws in a long breath and silently contemplates. Donning a somber smile, she taps a button on her radio, and gazes over to Sebastian with a remorseful tone. “I’m sorry, everyone.”

Sebastian jaw drops as he vainly reaches out for Cideeda’s hand, and pales as she initiates the fusion reactor shutdown. In the dwindling ambient hum, Cideeda closes her eyes tightly, and Sebastian watches the tears run down her face in absolute, overwhelming dismay.

The background din winds down and Aristespha, Bach, Dretphi, and Sotalia search around the area for the cause. Bach calls out from near the hydraulic door machinery, and blinks absolutely bewildered. “Did something turn off? I didn’t do anything over here. What was that?”

Aristespha glances over to the shrugging Dretphi and confused Sotalia, narrows a perplexed gaze at Bach, and eyes the concrete dome with developing dread. “That sounds like it is from inside...”

A faint crackling chorus sounds out from the group’s radio devices, and Cideeda’s resolute voice rises up from the static. “I have shut down... the fusion reactor... The pressure and heat levels are dropping. It should hold out and stabilize.”

Her shuddering, uneasy breath wavers off the airwaves, and she fights through her choking sobs to relay her message. “I’m sorry... But, you all maybe have ten minutes to get safely out of here! The concrete containment dome should... shield you all from most of the radiation... But, I DON’T KNOW and I want YOU ALL to get clear, NOW!”

Abject horror crushes the team as they listen to broadcast. Cideeda draws in a sniffing breath, clears her throat, and continues on her explanation. “Try to get the second containment dome shut for everyone’s sake! But, don’t stick around. I’ll monitor things from here...”

Sotalia grabs hold of the collar of her cloak, pulls it away to reveal the clipped on radio, and glares at the device. “WHAT THE FUCK, CIDEEDA?! Why did you trigger that now?! We need more time to figure this door out!”

Cideeda sternly retorts with a pained growl and her voice blares out of the radios. “There was NO TIME. The walls of the reactor chamber were at the point of catastrophic failure! I’m not going to risk it blowing up, and killing everything for kilometers around this place.”

Bach directs his voice to his radio and frantically explains a panicked plan. “Okay! We can still do this! There’s things I need your help on- BUT! I think I can overpower the system as hard as I can and get it to cooperate for just long enough and-”

With a cold, eerie tone, Cideeda’s voice systematically dismantles any possibility before Bach’s terrified, tearing blue eyes. “That would risk breaking the current seal in place. We CANNOT risk opening what we don’t know we can close... Leave... please... Respect my... last wishes...”

Sebastian phases through the door with a stoic expression, stares grimly at the team, and commands ethereally. “You heard her. GO. NOW. Close the outer containment door if you can. We need to alert the town.”

Dretphi meets Sebastian’s hard gaze, drops her head squeezing the tears from her eyes, and steps towards Bach. She grabs hold of his arm, pulls away from the door hydraulic systems, and marches towards Sotalia. Summoning her defiant ire, Sotalia draws in a long breath, stretches her arms, and readies herself for spell. “FUCK THAT! We’ll just cut a hole large enough to get you through and-”

A firm, red gauntlet covered hand clamps onto Sotalia’s shoulder, and Dretphi drags the hesitant Sotalia as both fight against their emotions. Sebastian rests a sad gaze upon Aristespha, sighs deeply. “I’m... going to stay with her as long as possible.”

Aristespha summons all her resolve to maintain a strong front for Sebastian, nods simply in agreement, and quells the turmoil in her voice. “Thank you… Sebastian...”

Sebastian turns around and phases back through the door into the interior chamber. Aristespha pivots in place, musters her courage, and quickly steps to catch up to Bach, Dretphi, and Sotalia. She seizes Sotalia’s other arm, and starts disarming Sotalia’s desperate attempts to reason hastily thrown together plans. When Dretphi, Sotalia, and Aristespha step out the outer dome’s transparent framework, through the gateway, the distant concrete structure and the surge of finality overloads Sotalia. She struggles to break free. Dretphi releases Bach, wraps her arms around Sotalia tightly, and speaks simply through her tear splattered full face visor. “Please... I know...”

Bach stands blankly at the mouth of the outer geodesic structure’s entrance, and stares empty at the central containment dome. Moments pass, and he maintains his gaze downwards to the concrete metal encased building, and focuses upon the vault door. Tightening his fists, he drops his head down closing his eyes tightly, draws in a long calming breath, and frowns with a strangely peaceful hint. “I’m sorry... Cideeda.”

A pale blue light radiates out from the cooling pool waters, and highlights the sparkling surface of the chamber force field. The mix of ambient glow and flits of light blend with the illumination of the overhead lights and yellow strobes. Cideeda tightens her arms around her curled up legs, resettles her back against the interior concrete wall, and rest her head on her knees. Sebastian crosses his arms as he sits on the floor next to Cideeda, glances over with a curious brow, and hums. “That actually sounds like a nice name for a boy. Why don’t you like it?”

Cideeda smirks briefly with a snort and roll of her emerald green eyes. “Same name as a previous boyfriend I had. If mom has a boy, he doesn’t deserve that namesake.”

Sebastian cracks a humored smile, nods in agreement, and chuckles. “Fair enough. About as good a reason as any. I’ll be sure to remember that, so Aristespha can write it down.”

Drawing in a long breath, Cideeda releases an equally drawn out sigh and surveys the chamber. Staring at the console, the status monitors gradually drift further from the red extremes in the relative safety of the yellow regions. Her sight settles upon the gauges nearby, and she watches the slightly bent indicator needles creep gradually away from overload. Flicking her furry ears over, she listens to the shrinking cracks in the concrete around pipelines, as the various tubes deflate towards to their original shapes and alignments. A somber smile appears on her face, and Cideeda rests her head back upon knees. “I guess it was the right move...”

Sebastian summons up a bold grin against the looming doom, and nods with a genuine tone. “You saved the team. You saved the town. And prevented who knows what else. It could have been an absolute disaster.”

He stares up towards the observation window and the looming pale blue glow radiating out, glances over to the console, and settles his proud gaze upon Cideeda. “You knew full well the situation, and you did it anyway. That’s far more brave and courageous than I’ve ever been.”

Cideeda blinks briefly, lifts her head up, and puzzles at Sebastian. “Says the man that has gone toe to toe with the Dark Lord Noxian?”

Sebastian rolls his eyes at himself, and shakes his head with a smirk. “That wasn’t bravery. I was bold and dumb. Totally believed I was going to win those confrontations each time...”

A few moments of silence pass on by in the low background noises of the surrounding systems. Cideeda glances over to Sebastian with a weak smile, snorts, and asks through her embarrassment. “Could you buy Bach a new holoplayer with my share of the mission payout? I’ve got it with me and I’m certain the radiation will destroy it.”

Sebastian’s ethereal form fights against his swell of sadness and presents a comforting smile. “Of course...”

Lifting up her head, Cideeda stares at the console screen, and watches the power indicator meter for the reactor force field approach creep near the bottom. As her mind processes the status, her emerald green eyes water. With a sudden frown on her face, she drops her head down, curls up tightly, and sobs loudly. “I wanted... to do... so much more...”

Wiping the overflowing tears, she sniffles and cries as she buries her face in her hands. “I was really looking forward to having a little brother or sister, and helping my mom and dad out... I was finally learning how to use magic and really loving it... There’s was that business I wanted to try out after adventuring...”

Regaining some of her composure, Cideeda struggles to calm herself down after a series of slow, stammering breaths, leans back into the wall, and frowns regretfully with a sad tone. “And... maybe... there was a possibility I wanted to explore... that I’d never considered before.”

Sebastian smirks with a curious quirk of the brow, chuckles against the gloom, and pries. “Like what?”

A slight tint of embarrassment fill Cideeda’s face, and she twist her mouth.

Sebastian suddenly sits upright, springs up into the air, and glances around confused. “Cideeda, have been listening to your radio?”

Cideeda blinks, stands up, and starts to the press the button on radio. “No, I turned it off to well... Let me turn it-”

Once she clicks the button, a blast of static crackles out upon a wavering twist of tones and other odd noises to her utter surprise. Sebastian halts suddenly, blinks his distant stare, and snaps his attention to Cideeda. “GET TO THE DOOR!”

Following the order utterly perplexed, Cideeda steps in front of the door, and stares to Sebastian for answers. “What the fuck is going on?! They aren’t going to-”

Her furry ears flick forward and her eyes search the doorway. Thin threads of prismatic magical flow seep around the joins of the door and weave into the material surrounding. Loud clunks resonate from outside into the structure and mix with a cacophony of mechanical strain, fluid rushing forcefully against pressure, and groans of machinery straining counter to its desires. In a brief moment of silence, Cideeda widens her eyes as the prismatic flows erupt in a brilliant white burst. Locking bolts slam hard, and the containment door flies with a powerful pull of air.

Blinking in utter surprise, Cideeda briefly gazes upon a magical barrier covering the exit, and notices Sotalia’s field encased arm reaching out. Sotalia grabs hold of Cideeda’s hand, and yanks her out through into barrier and outside the central containment building. Cideeda runs along at the guidance of Sotalia and within Aristespha’s warping barrier as it bubbles around them. She glances back and watches the massive, heavy containment door slam shut under the power of white energy infused magical machinery. Long runs flow conduits bound to parts of the door system glow brightly, and magically energized sparks erupt out from hydraulic electrical systems nearby. Loud solid clanks echo throughout the outer containment dome as the door locks reengage under a domineering power. Moments later, the cracks between the vault hatch and door frame glow to a near white hot heat, and sputter with molten lead as magical cabling feeds leftover metal chunks into the crevices.

Aristespha, Cideeda, and Sotalia cross through the threshold of the outer, transparent geodesic dome, and Sebastian materializes next to the team. Following the bundles of magical, white pulsating cables and conduits, Cideeda gazes over to torrent of prismatic and white energy flows radiating from Bach. Maintaining full concentration and focus with brilliant white glowing eyes, Bach motions his hands and alters the energies leaving him. The long lines reaching to the concrete dome dissipate quickly into clouds of white and prismatic miasma, and the remaining lines pulse and twitch to operate the outer containment dome’s door. As the system sputters and grinds, Cideeda’s ears flick over and she listens briefly. Glancing over to Bach, she notices the growing strain apparent on his face and wavering concentration, and calls out an instruction. “Disengage the safety locks, then pressurize the rams!”

Bach snaps to back into focus, nods quickly, and warps the flows of energy down the lines. Soon after, the final containment door shudders free, slides closed, and locks. The final conduits of flow dissipate in clouds of magical miasma, and Bach stumbles around after releasing the last flows of energy. Dretphi swiftly supports him under the shoulders, and leads him towards the main exit with the rest of the team.

Bach, Dretphi, Aristespha, Cideeda, Sotalia, and Sebastian sprint out from the underground ramp, encased in a protective barrier from Aristespha. When the team gets meters away, a faint alarm sounds out from down the corridor. Aristespha braces herself and bolsters the barrier around the team. Bach drops down to knees with Dretphi guiding him down. Cideeda pulls out her radiation detector, shows it to Aristespha, and slides it just out of the bubble. Minute pass uneasily as the sounds of surrounding nature fill the background behind the beeps and clicks of a radiation detector.

Cideeda motions over to the detector and Aristespha warps the field over. Carefully approaching, Cideeda picks up the detector, sorts through the recorded readings, and breathes a sigh of relief. “Normal levels. That barrier should have shut down completely by now. I think we’re safe enough for the moment.”

Aristespha releases her barrier spell, takes a few steps, and eases herself down upon the ground. “Good. I need to rest after that. Sotalia... Potion please? Need to get ready to do some medical checks.”

Sotalia flips open a pouch on her belt, pulls out a vial, and passes it to Aristespha. “Here you go. I’m going to make a call to the local police before ANYTHING ELSE happens.”

Dretphi pats Bach’s shoulder, waits for him to nod, and flips up her visor after retrieving her aetherphone. “Will contact the guild.”

Sebastian hovers up, and calls out. “I’m going to check to make sure nothing else happening nearby from above. Gods fucking dammit, can this day just end.”

Cideeda steps next to Bach and Aristespha, settles down onto the ground, and relaxes for a moment. Slowly recovering from the surge of activity, she glances over to Bach and cocks her head as she watches him support himself up by his arms and sway quietly. She slides over close to him and curiously gazes. “You okay, Bach?”

Bach unsteadily keeps himself seated up on his knees without response. Cideeda grips hold of his forearm, gently presses her claw tips, and angles her head to see his face. “Bach?”

Bach startles out of his daze, lifts his head groggily to Cideeda, and tries to keep his faintly white glowing eyes in focus. “W-w-what? Are you okay? I- Um- Uh- Where...”

With a concern in her tone, she nods and grips both his arms. “Yes. I’m okay. We’re okay. We’re clear. You can rest now.”

A relieved smile graces Bach’s face, and he blinks into a wince. After gritting his teeth and grimacing, he reopens his normal blue eyes. Exhaustion overwhelms Bach immediately, and he manages a weak smirk before tipping over to the side into unconsciousness. “I’m going to lay down n...”

With a firm pull, Cideeda redirects Bach’s collapse and guides his head gently upon her shoulder. Wrapping her arms around to secure Bach, Cideeda gently strokes his back as he passes out.