Episode 92

Late morning shines down upon the large, multi-lane highway, as breezes from the western coast stir up white sand around the shoulders of road. Rolling down the right most lane, the humvee navigates the gentle sways and curves of the roadway as it threads lazily through suburban patches and inlets from the large bays. Sotalia leans near her open window, smiles happily, and stretches as the draft stirs her fiery orange, wavy hair around her swept back, black horns. Bach peers out his partially rolled down window, surveys the mix of palms and coniferous trees filling the gaps narrow gaps of houses, businesses, and open stretches of beaches. Easing back into his seat, he quickly brushes his longer brown hair into some semblance of order, and flicks the stubborn white streak off his face. Angling his gaze over to Aristespha’s tablet, he ponders out loud. “How far inside the Perimeter territory are we? I don’t think it’s been that long since we went over the super bridge, and there’s a lot more civilization than I thought there would be.”

Aristespha hands the device over to Bach, combs back her silvery blue hair with her fingers, and slips a hair tie around the bundle. “We just got into Perimeter proper a few minutes ago. This is the outer circle of towns right now. We should start seeing the city core up ahead soon enough.”

Bach examines the display, visually compares a tracking blip upon a digital map, and zooms the view. “I keep forgetting how big this place really is. We’re not even in the city technically and there’s already so much.”

Dretphi peeks over around Bach’s seat, studies the map on the tablet, and smirks. “Our previous stops are poor comparison.”

Nodding at the comment, Bach passes the device back to Aristespha and stretches in his seat. “Phis wasn’t too bad. But, then again it was a major trade hub and station for the Train.”

Cideeda’s emerald green eyes scan the horizon ahead and read a number of highway signs. Navigating the humvee through the thickening patches of vehicles, she veers into newly formed off ramp lane, and directs her voice back with a perk of her furry ears. “I’m taking this exit and hitting a station. Figured we might as well fuel up, and I’ll see if there’s any good local routes to our hotel.”

Sebastian’s voice resonates from the sword resting in the aisle between Bach and Aristespha. “Sounds like a plan. I get the feeling this isn’t the town you want to run out of gas in the middle of the highway.”

Rolling her eyes with a dismissive smirk, Cideeda narrows a glare at a large truck aggressively weaving between lanes and grumbles. “You’re telling me, I’m pretty one of these assholes would ram you out of the way and charge you for the damages. Hopefully there’s a less packed back route we can take. This mess is reminding me of Anta traffic in the worst way.”

The humvee travels off the main highway and follows a gently curving ramp to an intersection. With the signal lights, the vehicle merges with traffic and soon rolls into the large parking lot of a huge depot. As the humvee slows to a stop in a fueling stall, the powerplant spins down, and the doors open. Sotalia hops out, stretches out her back, and turns to face a coastal gust blowing from the bay side beach nearby. Stepping out from the shade of the awning, she flips open a pair of shades and turns to soak in the nearly noon sun. She glances back at the approaching Aristespha, and grins. “We HAVE to try to hit up a beach.”

Sotalia examines the light tan and dark gray patterned skin on her arms, grumbles to herself, and sighs. “I really need to get some sun.”

Aristespha holds out her ivory skinned hand, checks the hints of gray and blue, and shakes her head with a smirk. “I’ll definitely join you for some sunbathing, at the very least.”

Bach waves to Cideeda and Dretphi departing into the depot store front, and steps up curiously next to Aristespha and Sotalia. “Okay, so, it’s true about Evuukians not being able to tan?”

Blinking her violet eyes, Aristespha shifts her attention toward Bach and nods plainly. “Yes. There are some exceptions in certain populations, but evuukian skin pigmentation very resilient to sun exposure. You never tan or lighten. But... You never burn.”

She rolls her eyes, rests her hands on her hips, and snorts. “Though, you should see the things that people will try. Each one more ridiculous than the next.”

Sotalia sighs, furrows her brow with past frustrations, and glances over the patterns on her arms. “They don’t realize how lucky they are. Try a sunburn on just one tone of skin.”

Bach eyes over the comparisons, holds his tan forearm up, and cracks a bit of confidence. He hooks a finger in the sleeve of this t-shirt. Previous confidence pales along with the stark shift to white upon Bach’s upper arm. A sly, humored smirk appears on Sotalia’s face. She steps along side Bach, and compares her arm against his. “I think we might be able to help each other out.”

Blinking his blue eyes blankly, Bach awkwardly chuckles and nods. “Yeah. Sure. If we get around to hitting a beach.”

Cideeda and Dretphi exit the store front. Cideeda wags her long, medium length haired tail, and smiles while enjoying her cup of bubble tea. Dretphi eagerly approaches Aristespha, Bach, and Sotalia with a pastry box in her hands. She opens the lid, presents a dozen cinnamon and chocolate coated buns, and grins. “Please have one.”

Sotalia’s golden eyes widen at the treats, and plucks one out with an appreciative nod. Aristespha studies over the collection, and picks one. “Thank you.”

Dretphi’s tall frame positions the box in front of Bach, and she smiles warmly at Bach as the breeze tosses her platinum braids. Bach pulls a bun out, sniffs it, and cocks his head to side with recognition. “I remember this smell. You got a bunch of these from that last station we stopped at...”

He narrows a playful stare at Dretphi, and smirks. “That you horded all to yourself.”

A faint flush of embarrassment fills Dretphi’s tan cheeks, and she averts her gaze briefly. “Yes. Had not enjoyed them for a long time. These are freshly made... You get to enjoy better.”

Bach laughs and shakes his head with a smile. “Well, thank you. This smells really good.”

He takes a bite out of the treat, pauses a moment, and nods while munching. “Oh, wow. It’s custard filled.”

Aristespha, Sotalia, Dretphi, and Bach enjoy their pasteries, and wander back over to the humvee. Cideeda removes the fueling nozzle, closes up the humvee’s panel, and hangs the handle on the pump. Tapping through a few menus, she waits as a receipt slowly prints out. After the printer trims off the paper, Cideeda snatches the receipt up with her claw tips, hops up into the driver’s seat of the humvee, and glances back to the assembling team. “So, just so everyone knows, they have bubble tea machine in there that’s actually really good. Even has protellow root flavor.”

Noting the flits of interest, she gives the receipt to Aristespha and shifts the topic over. “Also, I talked to the clerk who lives further in the city, and she passed along another route to try. We might get lucky to avoid a lot of the traffic, since it’s close to noon. But, if have to do a lot of city travel, we might want to check out a few other streets.”

Bach leans through the back passenger door, and lifts his brow. “So, what’s the plan of attack right now?”

Sotalia nods, and glances over towards Aristespha. “Any word from the anyone at the GAA?”

Sebastian’s voice emanates from the sword. “Not recently that I know of. Dear, did they send anything this morning?”

Aristespha twists her mouth, finishes up a bite of the bun, and searches her mind. “Yes, Sebastian. Nothing significant. But, once we’ve settled in to our lodgings, they will send over two investigators from the Perimeter Defense Force that have been following up on Noxian’s trail. They’ve confirmed a few areas he’s been around in the city.”

An ethereal hum resonates from the sword, and Sebastian’s voice sounds out. “I think we could probably help them figure out what he might have been up to.”

Bach grimaces uncertainly and eyes distant flits of phenomena southeast. “I mean, I think we can assume he’s heading into the zone. That’s kind of THE major draw to this place?”

Dretphi nods, lifts a curious brow, and sighs thoughtfully. “When? Where? Why?”

Drifting off in a mix of internal thought and staring out into the distant traces of the zone activities, Bach frowns slightly. “Yeah...”

Attentions gradually shift towards the southeast, and the team spots brief, colorful auroras, faint shifts of the sky, and sparks of movement in the furthest horizons over the Perimeter weird zone.

The indirect glow of noon fills the long living room, and a gentle breeze sifts through the front window and vents out the back door screen. A soft snore leaves Shadeesa nose, and the starts of consciousness twitch across her white freckled, light gray face. As she slowly rocks her head of long dark green hair, her green on black eyes flutter open into a post slumber daze. She lifts her head off the pillow upon the couch arm, and groggily scans the room. She spots a cooled mug of tea with the tea bag floating on top, and lifts up the aetherphone on her chest. She puzzles at the blanket neatly upon her very pregnant form, guides locks of hair over her upward swept horns, and focuses her vision upon the phone display. Reading the time, her green on black eyes widen in worry and she mumbles out emin curses under her breath. She quickly tosses back the blanket off to reveal her apron and a comfort-minded variant of her professional work clothes. She attempts to sit up, eases off the effort halfway, and grasps hold of the back of the couch. Resting her free hand on her belly, she holds position and weathers a moment of indigestion with slight wretch. She takes in a breath, ponders her situation, and gradually eases her self into position to get up from the couch. “Oh, my little boy. I’ll be so happy to have you in my arms... Rather than pressing against my stomach.”

Balancing herself up on her feet, she sweeps up the mug of tea, and walks towards the side door through the kitchen, while drinking the cold beverage.

Carefully stepping down the few stairs to the pavement next to the long brick house, Shadeesa walks next to Mr. Frenzacia and nods with an apologetic tone. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Frenzacia. I over slept for some reason. I thought I had set an alarm before I laid down for a quick nap. But, it did not go off.”

Mr. Frenzacia smiles with a chuckle, and shakes his head with a comforting voice. “Oh, not a problem, Vet Serania. I completely understand. And, there’s no real rush. Kaleb has been keeping the both Fawna and Varan busy with flight lessons. It’s been fun to watch.”

Shadeesa shifts her gaze towards Kaleb, and narrows a mildly suspicious stare with hints of warmth. A gust pushes through the large open backyard along a dirt runway. The wind breezes through Kaleb’s short, blonde hair and tosses Fawna’s long, silvery red-tinted hair around her curled horns. Lagi’s massive wingspans catch the air, and his large blue black scaled dragon form lifts up. He maintains a glide through wind and anchors himself with his front clawed hands in the dirt. Varan furiously flaps his small amber wings and manages a few hops into slow falls. The little dragon snorts and whines out his fits of frustration. Fawna kneels down next to Varan, and pets him behind the head with some encouraging words. “It’s okay. You got a lot higher that time. You’ll get the hang of it soon.”

Mr. Frenzacia crosses his arms, shifts his weight, and slowly shakes his head while watching Lagi’s massive frame coast in the wind. “Just amazing he can take off with just a strong breeze.”

Shadeesa grins, lifts a humored brow at Mr. Frenzacia, and motions towards Lagi. “Despite his size, he’s got similar flight characteristics of a biplane. Dragons like him can control their wing shapes, too.”

Glancing over to Shadeesa, Mr. Frenzacia lifts an intrigued brow and cocks his head to the side. “Oh, so he’s got his own versions of adjusting his flaps, ailerons, and elevators?”

With a nod, Shadeesa smiles and agrees. “For all practical purposes. Kaleb knows more about how all the function translates, but it’s the same theories.”

Fawna comforts the disappointed amber scaled dragon, gazes her blue on white and blue on black eyes up to Kaleb, and pleads. “Is there anything you can do to help Varan? He keeps trying so hard, but he can barely stay up in the air.”

Kaleb’s light brown eyes meet Fawna’s, and he kneels down. With an encouraging smirk, he points to the base of Varan’s tail, and motions to Fawna. “His wings haven’t grown quite enough yet. But... You can help help him out with the weight. Hold onto his tail, and get ready to pull up on the next gust.”

Fawna eagerly grasp hold of Varan, directs his attention to the distant wave upon the grassy field in front of them, and grins. “Okay, Varan. Get ready.”

The wind rushes by and Kaleb gestures to Fawna to lift up. With Varan feverishly flapping his wings, Fawna pulls up on the little dragon’s tail, and guides him swiftly up into the air. Varan blinks his eyes in complete disbelief, and quickly chirps out excitedly the higher and longer he maintains flight. A bright, happy smile appears on Fawna’s face, and she gently supports the little dragon in the flow of the wind. Kaleb glances over his shoulder towards Shadeesa and Mr. Frenzacia, and cracks a grin. “He’s getting the hang of it. Once his wings catch up with his body, he be flying on his own just fine.”

Mr. Frenzacia tightly smiles as traces of reservation leak out in his tone. “I’ll be sure the warn the neighbors. I get the feeling I’ll be talking to them a lot more in the future.”

Kaleb shrugs his shoulders, and points towards inside the hangar at a large industrial fan. “If you don’t want to scare the neighbors all the time and let Varan get some practice, one of those large fans will work great until he gets really big. Just make sure he has something solid to hold onto.”

Shadeesa twists her mouth, rolls her eyes, and sighs. She narrows an examining stare upon Lagi. The dragon glides effortlessly in the rolling strong breezes with his eyes closed and blue black wings reflecting the noon sun. Shadeesa furrows a suspicious brow, clears her throat, and calls out. “Lagi. You better have not fallen asleep while gliding, again.”

Lagi’s bright green eyes spring wide open, and he snaps his attention over to Shadeesa. Darting his gaze around, he awkwardly conceals tinges of guilt and lets out a reassuring series of chirps. Shadeesa crosses her arms just over her stomach, and tugs at the corner of her mouth unconvinced. “Good. We really don’t need you crashing into the hangar... Again.”

Mr. Frenzacia cocks his head and focuses his intrigue upon Shadeesa. “He fell asleep while... Flying?”

Shadeesa twists her mouth, grumbles with a shake of her head, and sighs. “Yes. On days like this where he coast with the wind in the sun, he’ll get drift off to sleep and let go. If we’re lucky, he just flops on the ground... Unlike the one time he crashed right into the original hangar doors.”

Briefly studying the cleaner outer doors of the hangar, Mr. Frenzacia nods and scratches his dark gray chin. “I figured something must have happened to the old doors. Did not quite expect a dragon crash.”

Rolling her eyes with flit of embarrassment, Shadeesa grits her teeth briefly. “Something to keep in mind when Varan practices flying.”

As the wind wanes in strength, Fawna leads Varan down gently to the ground and Lagi lands back gently upon the grass. Shadeesa neatens up her apron and working clothes, steps forward, and pulls out a stool. “Well, since I’ve woken up finally...”

With Kaleb supporting her, she eases herself down upon the stool and eyes him with a loving smirk. “Despite my alarm not going off...”

Kaleb’s light brown eyes meet Shadeesa’s green on black gaze, and he grimaces awkwardly as attempts to feign innocence fail. Shadeesa smiles with a light chuckle to Kaleb, and turns her attention to Varan and Fawna. “Let’s see how little Varan is doing.”

While Kaleb, Fawna, and Mr. Frenzacia watch Shadeesa perform her examination of Varan, an old van slowly rolls down the road, past entryway to the property. While a woman with dark gray skin, and braided red hair drives, a young man with slicked back hair focuses his attention upon Varan with a plotting grimace.

Pacing down the middle of the upstairs bedroom, Samantha rubs her temples and angrily spouts towards her aetherphone on the desk. “GODS DAMNED CHAD! The hell is that dumbass thinking he’s doing?! Howie, we HAVE to reign him in! We don’t need him going all noble leader on us and actually getting the group functioning!”

Wincing her hazel eyes closed, she pinches the bridge of her nose, draws in a long breath, and tosses back her shoulder-length brown hair. “Fuck... We don’t need this right now. Maybe in another month or two, we could start this... Gods, I can feel the future ratings dropping.”

Gerald lifts his dark brown eyed stare over his aetherphone, and shakes his head of dark blonde hair. “Samantha. It’ll be fine.”

Howard’s voice resonates into the room from Samantha’s phone speaker with traces of a sigh. “Gerald is right. We’ve worked with far worse situations. There’s still plenty of chaos in this group. So, there’s enough drama to work out of them yet.”

Samantha crosses her arms, pivots in place, and paces back down her previous path. Howard questions from the other side of call. “Gerald is she still pacing around?”

Rolling his eyes, Gerald groans out and nods. “YES.”

With audible sigh, Howard draws a long, deep breath, and calls out from the phone. “Samantha. Sit down, please.”

Snapping her head back, Samantha directs a defiant tone. “I CAN’T! We have to figure this out, and I’m too worked up.”

Howard’s voice adopts a calming cadence, and he slowly explains. “Samantha. You are keeping yourself worked up by pacing. Sit down. Take a deep breath. And, listen to me.”

Pausing mid stride, Samantha fights a grimace on her face, huffs out, and drops down to a seat on a rolling office chair. After a series of squeaks from the aged mechanical joints, as Samantha settles down, Howard exhales his relief, calmly draws in another breath, and carefully approaches the topic. “Good. The problem is that you are too focused on the bad of the moment, to see the good of the soon.”

Samantha narrows her hazel eyes upon her phone on the desk with swelling apprehension and fading confidence. Howard’s tone brightens and he continues. “Yes, most the group is trying to come to together to be functional team. A little bit more than we’d typically want. But...”

A darkening chuckle sounds out into the room, and confidence exudes from Howard’s voice. “Not everyone is onboard. We have still have Veevi. An agent of self centered chaos. Her pride and ego freshly wounded by what she perceives as betrayal and abandonment in her mind. Nothing has been going her way lately, and she won’t reason it’s her fault. And, most importantly...”

A grim satisfaction rises forth from Howard and echoes into the minds of Gerald and Samantha. “She’s all alone now. She’ll be left to her own devices for a number of days... Without anyone to stop her… And, plenty of reasons to seek her petty little revenges.”

Samantha blinks blankly as the a series of thoughts twist and warp the expression on her face. Gerald shifts his glance over to Samantha’s growing contemplation. With a sly roll in his cadence, Howard finishes his explanation. “And, I’m quite certain... YOU... could spare a dedicated camera crew to give her all the attention and motivation she’ll need during this fragile phase she’ll be enduring.”

A devious grin ignites on Samantha’s face, and she barely contains an eager giggle. “Why... Of course, Howie! I’ll make sure she receives all the attention she needs.”

She squirms in delight, snatches over her clipboard, and flips up to a clean page with pen in hand. “Okay. I know the right crew for the job. They work together really well, and will keep out of her way just enough to allow her... qualities... to shine.”

Gerald grimaces uneasily as Samantha feverishly jots down notes and charts out diagrams. He settles his head back down on his pillow, and refocuses his attention to his aetherphone. Samantha pauses in thought, glances over to her phone, and directs a plotting tone. “This is really good and all... But, I think we need some kind of catalyst to really kick it off. Veevi has been a petulant, whiny bitch in her room the past day. We need something to really push her out of the gate.”

A sinister laugh resonates into the room from the aetherphone, and Howard speaks after the distant reverb from his end of the fades. “That’s the beauty of it all. After that last episode reveal, I’m pretty sure that someone else very close to Veevi will be taking care of that. I’ve made sure to drop some hints to that the one person Veevi will listen to, and suggested that she give her a much need pep talk and coaching session.”

Entering into a sparsely decorated living room, Nash’s heavier frame flops over the back of an old, worn couch, and he bounces himself up upon a few cushions. With a quick motion, he secures a bottle in an opener mounted on the crude coffee table in front of him, and pries the cap off. After a long swig of the beverage, he settles a contemplative stare at the large television, and eyes he remote on the table top. Snatching the device in hand, he turns on the display, flips through a number of menus, and twists his mouth while sifting through the options. After minutes of indecision, he shifts his attention to a game controller, stretches to reach it, and taps a central button. A few lights blink to life in the dark shelves near the television, and a startup logo appears on screen.

Nash clicks through numerous game titles, and mulls over each possibility. With a long groaning sigh, he settles upon one, and mutters to himself. “Gods, I shouldn’t... I mean... But... Just a few more turns left on that one game from last night-”

He pauses in thought, searches his mind with his pale blue eyes, and scratches his head of long, graying hair. “This morning... Yeah... Can’t do an all nighter... Fuck...”

Twisting his mouth, he pours back another long dousing of his beer down his throat, and snorts out his boredom infused frustration. A synthetic tune plays out, and Nash rummages around the large side pocket of his shorts. Retrieving his aetherphone, Nash reads the contact info, perks up with a smirk, and taps on a menu button. The television flickers, and Harvos appears on the screen. Nash waves from the couch, and nods toward Harvos. “How are you doing on this fine Sunday?”

Harvos blinks his bright brown on black eyes, shrugs his shoulders, and sighs. “Not bad. I was curious as to what you were up to.”

Nash glances around the room, hoists up his beer, and gestures to himself laying on the couch. “Pretty much what you see. I was thinking about playing Kingdoms of the First Period... But...”

Cracking a humored grin, Harvos leans close to the camera on his side of call. “Are you actually trying to be responsible and not stay up all night before work?”

Lifting an intrigued brow, Nash chuckles to himself, and sighs. “What? Can’t a man try? Anyway, I’ve only got a few turns left on that one game, and you know...”

Nodding understandingly, Harvos tugs at the corner of his mouth and rolls his eyes. “Yeah. Just enough to get you in the zone. Then, you start a new game, because you think you can totally just do a few turns.”

Nash cracks a smile, and groans. “You know it. Anyway...”

He narrows an inquisitive gaze at the screen with Harvos’s image, and cocks his head to the side slyly. “I’m surprised that Malva let you free from the basement dungeon. Awfully nice of her to give you some free time to rest and recover.”

A flush of red tints Harvos’s light gray face, and he blinks quietly while quelling his embarrassment. “It’s nothing like that.”

Nash drinks more of his beer, cracks a grin, and wags a finger at the screen. “Oh! She’s not there right now. So, she doesn’t know you’ve escaped the bedroom.”

Harvos rolls his eyes, fails to grimace off the awkward expression on his face, and grumbles. “Fuck you, Nash.”

Shrugging his shoulders nonchalantly, Nash chuckles out his ill-humor, and waves off the subject. “I’m sorry. I’m just happy you two are hitting it off really well. I mean, for the longest time, it’s like you were completely ignoring all her hints. Blatant. Obvious. Hints.”

Stretching his muscular arm to rub the back of his neck, Harvos sighs and laughs. “Uh... Yeah.”

He narrows an inquisitive stare through the television at Nash, and ponders. “Anyway, I’ve been thinking... The whole Noxian stealing something from data center?”

Nash pulls himself up to an upright seat on the couch, tilts his head to the side, and furrows his brow. “Yeah. What about it?”

Harvos twists his mouth, works through shades of uncertainty, and puzzles out loud with a proper cadence. “I feel as if I have completely over looked something. Some part of my mind won’t let me close the matter, and I don’t know why. There just something missing.”

Settling into the cushioned couch back, Nash searches his mind, rocks his head side to side in thought, and lifts an intrigued brow towards Harvos. “Like what exactly? I mean, so far, it seems pretty straight forward. Noxian wanted something that was hidden. He figured out a window of opportunity by watching Dr. Dawkins, and executed a pretty tight plan.”

With a snort, he rolls his eyes and laughs. “I mean, if it wasn’t for students, quite literally, fucking around, we would have never known about it.”

Easing out a rough sigh, Harvos combs his long, black nailed fingers through his short, bright brown hair, and groans. “Gods, I know. It is just that... I have this hunch... I guess... That I have missed some detail and it is really important. I don’t know how to best explain it. I keep feeling as if there’s an empty space, where there shouldn’t be one.”

Nash swirls around the remaining beer in the bottle, shifts his gaze towards Harvos on the television, and smirks. “And, that’s why you went into Archaeology and I went into Computer Science. So, what's your plan and what do you need me to do?”

Harvos blinks his surprise, and awkwardly stumbles to an explanation. “Well, I mean... I was going to ask for your help. I don’t want to impose on you, but I’d really appreciate the help.”

Resting the near empty bottle on the crude coffee table, Nash laughs, stretches his arms out on the couch, and smiles. “Hell, you are going to need my help at this rate. Those investigators have pretty much dropped us completely out of the loop. I’ll admit, I wouldn’t mind knowing the whole story, since it happened in my department. And... If you are willing to start turning over stones and dig up stuff, I think could help hold the shovel for you.”

A wave of relief washes over Harvos, and he breathes out some tension. “Thank you. I’m going to do a lot of... um... off the records research and do some unofficial cross referencing.”

A mischievous grin appears on Nash’s face, and he chuckles. “Oh man, you want me to go back to my delinquent undergraduate roots don’t you? Can’t say I haven’t been wanting to revisit our misspent youth. You got the muscles to really work crowbar now.”

Narrowing his bright brown on black eyes at Nash through the call, Harvos lifts an unamused eyebrow and sighs. “I guess. Let’s hope it doesn’t quite come to that.”

Nash nods in agreement and sneaks out a sly smirk. “Yeah... And... it’d be really awkward for you to have to explain to Malva why you are REALLY good at popping locks off.”

He averts his gaze with a snicker. “But, she might get suspicious at how you escaped your hand cuffs so easily.”

Harvos blinks blankly, rolls his eyes, and snorts. “Oh, gods, whatever. And may I remind you who else benefited from that particular skill?”

Nash meets the accusatory stare of Harvos on the display, and Nash chuckles loudly. “Oh no. I know. Don’t worry. I have NOT forgotten. I just hope that security guard had the good sense to not report the whole incident, especially after how badly we made him look like a complete idiot by escaping.”

A smug grin appears on Harvos’s face, and he laughs with a shake of his head. “Despite that unfortunate infraction at the end... That was a really fun ruin to raid. There were really neat artifacts in there.”

Nash snickers and shakes his head as old memories rise up to the front of his mind. “I can’t complain. Found those old pristine game consoles and working games. And, that old collectible computer tech totally paid for food for that whole summer.”

Harvos sighs reminiscently and smiles. “That corner store clerk could never figure out how a bunch of idiots like us had the money to buy so much junk food.”

Rubbing his large stomach, Nash searches his thoughts, stands up from the couch, and laughs. “Shit, now I’m hungry. I’ll be right back, I got some ice cream sandwiches I need to finish off.”

Glancing to a point off camera, Harvos twists his mouth, hums in thought, and licks his lips. “Yeah, Malva did leave a few liters of specialty ice cream in my freezer.”

Nash’s voice sounds out from the kitchen above the din of rummaging frost and boxes. “Man, you better carb up. When she gets back, she might be ready to go for round, what, three or four?”

Harvos slowly tilts his head while glaring at the camera, angles his pair of large, straight horns, and grimaces between begrudging pride and stale embarrassment.

Late afternoon sun glows into the room from the closed horizontal blinds on the window. Sitting on a bright-colored bed spread pattern of cartoon characters, Veevi concentrates her pink pupil eyes on her colorfully decorated aetherphone, and huffs out her annoyance. Tossing back her long pink hair, she sits up straight, stretches her thin, tan and brown-stripped legs, and flicks her fuzzy, upright ears. Crossing her legs, back she settles back into a seat on the bed, curls her short-hair tail around her lithe frame, and snarls her upper lip petulantly as she aims an ear towards the door of her room.

A few firm knocks sound out from the door, and Chad’s voice calls out from the other side. “Veevi. Are you going to come down for dinner? You can still eat with the team.”

Furrowing her brow, Veevi grits her teeth as a swell of fury raises the hairs on her tail, and snaps her infuriated glare at the door. Pulling her lips back, Veevi directs her rage towards Chad’s voice, and spits out a growling tantrum through her sharp teeth. “GO FUCK YOURSELF, CHAD! If I’m SO welcomed at the dinner table... then why THE FUCK AM I NOT WELCOMED ON THE MISSION?! You think about THAT? DUMBASS! If I wanted to listen to a tiny dicked betrayer, I’ll go knock on your door.”

Drawing a hard, harsh breath through her nose, she blurts out her abject anger with blatant contempt. “Go join the rest of YOUR TEAM, you worthless shit! And LEAVE ME ALONE!”

After a few silent moments, a worn sigh resounds from the other side of Veevi’s bedroom door, and Chad’s voice drifts away. “Okay. If that’s how you feel.”

Veevi maintains a petulant, pouting glower at the entryway, and flicks her fuzzy ears listening. Seconds later, she slightly cocks her head to the distant, muffled sounds of wooden creaks from the stairwell. Snapping her gaze back to her front, Veevi fights a range of grimaces while her mind visually obsesses over numerous thoughts. Gritting her teeth, she sharply hisses in a breath, and snorts out a disgusted, indignant growl. Her tail whips erratically side to side, and hairs on the back of her neck spring up. In a surge of spite, she snatches up a small bed pillow in her sharp nailed fingers, and flings it wildly across the room. It impotently fluffs against a pop style poster of herself holding a stage mic. She narrows her stare upon the image, sighs into a frown, and flicks her ears back. “Fucking should have just worked on another album instead of this bullshit.”

As her eyes linger upon the other promotional images of herself, a sad taint colors her frown, and faint, depressed whine infiltrates her breaths. Idling a distant gaze down towards her bed spread, she wraps her arms around her tight fitting shirt, and her ears droop slightly. In the silence, her pink pupil eyes wander through her thoughts, and her grip on her brown-striped, tan arms tightens with flits of winces on her face. Guarded breaths slip through her mouth, and waves of discomfort shake her form.

A melodic ring sounds out from her aetherphone. She flips the display into her view, and reads the caller information. Her eyes light up, a genuine smile graces her lips, and her voice wavers. “Momma...”

Quickly tapping the answer button on screen, the call connects and the video feed appears. On Veevi’s aetherphone a middle aged human woman with a tan face of makeup, carefully styled pink hair, and pink pupil eyes perks her dark pink brow. “Baby?”

Veevi sniffs up some tears and smiles weakly. “Hi, Momma.”

Veevi’s mother releases a long sigh, presents an understanding smirk, and cocks her head. “How are things, my baby girl?”

Wrestling a cringe, Veevi shrinks a little as she tightens her grip on her phone, and whines. “Not good...”

Her mom shakes her head, twists her mouth, and gazes at Veevi through the call with a comforting voice. “I know. I saw, baby. Momma loves you and is here for her little girl. You know you can always call me. You don’t have to wait for me.”

Veevi nods her head, sighs into a sad frown, and runs her hand through her long pink hair. “I love you, too. And... I know. I just... Wanted to handle it myself...”

Her mother perks her brow, cracks an amused smirk, and chuckles. “Oh baby, you know you don’t have to do that. You don’t need to be tackling these things all by your lonesome. What kind of mother would I be to let her little girl fight off these snakes in the grass by herself?”

Veevi’s frown lightens into a tentative smile, and she wipes welling tears out of her eyes. “I know. I just didn’t want to disappoint you.”

Cocking her head to the side, Veevi’s mother unconsciously checks her hair style with her long, painted nails, and furrows her brow. “As if you could. After all the talent shows you won, the way you showed them on the Next Star of Nexus, and going on all these adventures... You have made me so proud.”

She narrows her examining stare through the video call, hoists up an inquisitive brow, and tugs at the corner of her mouth. “Now... The question is... What are you going to do next?”

Blinking blankly, Veevi squirms uneasily, sighs out her frustration, and grimaces. “Gods, momma, I don’t know! The other show was so much easier. I was the only star and I didn’t have to deal with others, and all these rules. It was so simple to charm anyone who was difficult to do what I want. This is just SO HARD.”

She frowns, and grumbles while rolling her eyes. “I’d just rather work on my next album. To hell with this show, and fuck these people.”

Her mother’s voice peaks up from the other side of call, and a commanding glare meets Veevi’s surprised gaze. “Don’t you DARE give up now! There’s no way I’m letting my little girl quit so easily. That’s the not the Veevi I raised, all by myself!”

Veevi’s fuzzy ears droop to the sides, and her pleading face quivers. “No! I don’t WANT to give up! I- I... I just don’t know what to do now. This is so different. Nothing is working.”

A warm, compassionate smile radiates from Veevi’s mother, and she shakes her head as she comforts her daughter with a motherly tone. “I know, baby. This is a different game than the rest. You’ve done really good with using your tricks.”

A sly grin parts her lips and she tilts her head to the side with a devious highlight to her cadence. “But, I think it’s time for momma to teach her little girl some new tricks. I’ve been wondering when I’d have to bring out the advanced lessons.”

Veevi’s fuzzy ears perk, her tail flicks up, and flit of intrigue lights her eyes. “Really?! Oh, you know the all the best things, momma!”

A smug, prideful smile appears on her mother’s face, and the middle aged woman soaks the praise with a giggle. “Of course. And, I think I need to pass them down to you, so you can survive in this crazy world like I’ve had to. So, first things first...”

She cocks her head to the side, brings the camera on her side of the call close, and smirks. “All this that has happened... is a great opportunity for YOU.”

Blinking through her confusion, Veevi puzzles over the statement. “How so? I’m just going to be here all by myself, while they go and adventure without me.”

Veevi’s mother grins devilishly and laughs darkly. “Exactly, baby. They’re going to leave you all alone in that house, and they won’t be around. So, for a few days, you have full run of the place... And all their stuff. Who knows what you’ll find?”

Flickers of realization glint in Veevi’s eyes, and she ponders out loud. “I mean... Yes... But... I think I know what you are getting at. But, they keep their bedroom doors locked.”

Narrowing her gaze around a sinister spark in her eyes, Veevi’s mother giggles with an eager smile and shakes her head. “Oh, please. Those are interior door locks, they won’t be able to stop you after I tell you a few of my tricks.”

Veevi’s tail wags side to side in anticipation, and she brings her phone close with an excited grin. “Oh, please, teach me, momma!”

Her mother draws in a long breath, settles down in a seat, and picks up a glass of wine from off camera. “Okay, baby. Listen good. We’re going to make sure they will think twice before they EVER try to put you off the team.”

A sliding glass door slowly opens, and Bach slips out onto the moonlit balcony of a two story hotel. Easing the handle, he gradually seals the door, and steps carefully away towards a metal mesh chair. He settles down into the seat, slumps his shoulders, and stares distantly out into the faint aura glow in the eastern horizon. Rubbing his blue eyes, he brushes back his brown hair, and releases a long sigh. He props his elbows on the chair arms, and rests his hands on his stomach. After moment, he pulls at his looser fitting t-shirt, and puzzles while pantomiming missing personal mass. Briefly lifting an amused brow, he shrugs his shoulders, and smirks. With a long draw of breath, his attention shifts to emerging thoughts in his head, and he sighs deeply with an uncomfortable grimace. Shaking his head, he sorts through his mind, and twists his mouth uncomfortably. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he props his tilted head up by his arm, and grumbles to himself. “Damn...”

Phasing through the sliding glass door, Sebastian’s ethereal form emerges from the interior of the hotel room, and steps out onto the hotel balcony. He glances around, spots Bach, and whispers. “Hey, bro. What’s up?”

Bach blinks out of his introspective stupor, and settles his gaze upon Sebastian. “Nothing really. Just couldn’t fall asleep right now.”

Nodding understandingly, Sebastian drifts down into another similar metal mesh chair, and hovers roughly in place on the seat. He shifts his attention to Bach, and sighs with a ghostly reverb. “Nothing else bugging you? Anything you want to talk about?”

Bach pauses in thought, mulls over a few ideas while rocking his head side to side, and shrugs his shoulders. “I mean... Nothing new. Well, no new topics. Just updated versions of the same things.”

Sebastian cracks a smile over to his brother, and motions to him. “Like what? Throw it out there, bro.”

Letting his head tip back, Bach rolls his head, blows the stubborn white streak of hair out of his face, and ponders out loud. “Shit... Well, there’s always the usual existential dread. The constant worrying of what Isaac, Noxian might be doing right now. Wondering if we are making any real progress towards stopping him.”

He darts his eyes around his head space, and grits his teeth. “I mean, what the hell is he even planning? It can’t be anything good. And, the lengths he gone to... I mean... At this point, we can’t ignore it now.”

With a long sigh, he slumps down in the chair, rocks his head forward, and awkwardly smirks to Sebastian. “Then there’s...”

He roughly motions to himself and shakes his head dismissively. “Me. I mean... Fuck, man. I wield power that every Dark Lord has ever wanted to have. I went from hiding it and avoiding it for YEARS... Now, I’m using it to do insane things. In a few months.”

Rubbing the temples of his head, Bach gazes over to Sebastian’s ghostly form, and cracks a smile. “It’s really fucked up when you think about it.”

Sebastian snorts ethereally, smirks with a chuckle, and shakes his head. “Yeah. It’s all pretty rightly fucked up, bro. I mean just over half a year ago, I was chasing down Noxian. Almost had him. He was cornered, weakened, and almost at our mercy. Really thought it was going to be that perfect chosen one victory over the great evil dark lord.”

With a sharp wince, he weathers a cascade of painful memories, and frowns. “Then, he caught me off guard, blasted my dumb ass, and that gods damned sword revealed this weird preservation function? I don’t even know what to call my present state of existence. Fuck...”

Bach watches the mix of muted pain and aggravation creep across Sebastian face, and sighs. “Totally had it all figured out, and then something completely unexpected happens. And what spared you from one fucked up situation... Puts you right in a whole new fucked up situation.”

Sebastian presents a commiserating smile, gazes into his brother’s eyes, and laughs. “I totally get it now. Sorry, I didn’t try harder to reach out to you all those years ago.”

Shaking his head, Bach waves off the notion and grins appreciatively. “Shit, don’t worry about it. It’s not like I was in the right state of mind to even process any of it, or even accept help. We’re handling shit now, and I’m just glad for that.”

Sebastian nods at Bach, glances out towards the eastern horizon, and surveys the dense, low city sprawl. “Same here. We’ll figure all this out. Just happy to have you along, bro.”

The two brothers watch colorful weird zone phenomena glow out in the distance in a long, silent lull. Minutes later, Bach blinks back to awareness after noticing to sound of the city at night. He quirks his brow at Sebastian. “Not that I don’t appreciate the company, but you think your ghostly self should be out right now?”

Sebastian searches his mind, shrugs his shoulders, and points to the weird zone glow off in the horizon. “Honestly, I think the locals are used to far weirder crap.”

Bach scratches his beard, yawns, and nods in agreement. “Yeah. Point taken.”