Episode 16

Morning light drifts into the living space through the back sliding glass door, and warmth radiates from all the floor and furniture covered. Soft clicks of metal upon ceramic bounces off the neutral tone painted walls from the gathering at the dining table. Fighting back the lingering drowsiness, Bach brushes his fingers through his longer brown hair and wrestles his head back against yawn. Rubbing the remaining traces of sleep from his blue eyes, his attention wanders a moment and spots a stray gray hair hanging prominently in front of his eyes. The gray hair sways with faint air currents, separate from Bach's white streak. Hovering his fingers around the target, a quick clamp seizes the offending hair. He plucks and flicks the gray hair away upon the floor and returns his distant gaze to his bowl of cereal. Starling back to awareness, he cracks a smile. "Damn... It's been FOREVER since I binged on Zone Runners."

Kaleb loses his fight against a yawn and shakes his head. Shuddering into the conversation, he scoops up a spoonful of cereal from his bowl and lazily hangs in midway. "No shit. That was NICE. Gods, wish I could have stayed up longer. Can't put off sleep like I used to."

Bach shrugs while crunching down and glances at the coffee table. "Well. That third run was too good to risk sleep deprivation on. I think it was best that we saved it for later. We got lucky to find those artifacts so early. Got real potential to make it to the veil and get through it."

Nodding in agreement, Kaleb cracks a slight grin, eagerness hinting. "Gives me a reason to stop by again then. Can't let it go to waste."

Sebastian floats in through the kitchen door and drifts near the dining table. Glancing between Bach and Kaleb, he eyes behind himself at the kitchen door with an amused smirk. "Despite how big he's gotten, Lagi is still that spoiled little dragon we used to chase around the campus."

With a snort, Kaleb shakes his head of blonde hair and rests his spoon into his cereal bowl. "Well he's still just as thrilled about baths as he ever was, too. Uh, what is he getting into, anyway?"

Scratching his chin, Sebastian's visage briefly turns towards the kitchen door and back to the question. "Oh. He's doing a bunch of tricks for pieces of jerky. He's making out like a bandit, too."

Kaleb rolls his light brown eyes and sighs with a humored smile on the side of his face. "Gods, I can't believe he's even thinking about treats after all he drank yesterday."

Bach perks his brow and stares at Kaleb. "What DID he drink? In fact, what ARE you feeding him these days?"

A chuckle erupts, and Kaleb dons a sinister grin. "Used cooking oil. Leftovers. Whatever plants that aren't part of the landscaping. Small children that get lost in the woods. But, mostly used cooking oil when doing long flights."

Blinking a moment, Bach drifts into his thoughts. He nods in acceptance, twisting a strange grimace with his memories. "You know... I'm really not that surprised. After a few of the things I've seen him eat..."

He rolls his blue eyes. "Or, at least attempt to."

Sebastian crosses his arms and widens his eyes as a flash of the past arrives at the front of his mind. "Yeah, especially after the synth diesel incident..."

Twisting his grimace, an ethereal snort slips out of Sebastian. "That residential director was PISSED."

Kaleb rests back into his chair with a smile. "Well, his stomach hasn't gotten any less indestructible and destructive. Shadeesa keeps track of his nutrition for anything he needs. But after all my research, those Pre-Cataclysm scientists covered all the bases for all the biological basics, when it comes to Lagi's ancestors. He just needs a food source dense in energy and his metabolism will do the rest. Just mapping out the digestive processes going on will probably get me enough material for my doctorate."

Bach sweeps the bottom of the bowl with his spoon for the remaining milk, scoops up a few bits of cereal. "Does he still eat rocks?"

With a grumble, Kaleb lifts his hands up in stale defeat. "Occasionally. I kind of wish he would stick with that instead of what he's been doing lately."

Placing the spoon into his bowl with a slight clink, Bach quirks his brow. "Shrubs?"

Kaleb groans and tips his head back. He sways his head shoulder to shoulder and works out the lingering annoyance. With a sigh, he drops into a hanging nod. "YES. Gods... Shadeesa was out picking some wild berries with Lagi following her around. She fed him a few and went inside."

Narrowing his unfocused frustrated gaze between Bach and Sebastian, he grimaces. "Well... Let's just say the next morning there were A LOT of uprooted, half-eaten bushes and shrubs ALL around the area."

He props his arms upon the tabletop and rests his head between his hands, unamused. "It's like he's on this one dragon quest to find other tasty shrubs, bushes, and hedges. Thankfully, most places I stop at are willing to overlook their landscaping getting eaten and are quite happy with the free disposal of cooking oil. And, the customers a dragon attracts."

The kitchen door opens up and reveals Sotalia. Stepping forward to the refrigerator, confusion fights contemplation upon her face. She opens the fridge open, retrieves a bottle of a fruit shake and strides over to the dining table. With a firm grasp, she pulls back the chair and sits down. She quaffs some of the fruit shake and wanders a curious stare between Bach, Kaleb, and Sebastian. "Okay. That dragon outside is unlike any I've ever read about or seen. Let's start with the basics."

She narrows a borderline glare with a demanding undertone. "How the hell did a biology student get a dragon?!"

Blinking blankly, Kaleb bites the lip near the corner of his mouth and pulls in a long breath. "Well... Here's the quick version..."

He straightens his posture in the dining chair. "I needed to take an elective at the last minute to keep my scholarships. There was this selected topics course in dragon biology. Turns out it was mostly military minded guys taking the course for credit, so they could meet requirements to ride dragons. I was really the only one interested in the details of the biology, and the professor and I got to know each other. Due to the death of a mother dragon, there was a clutch of eggs and I got one. Bach, Sebastian, Shadeesa, and I hatched it and raised Lagi during his early years. Now, he's a big dragon, and I'm furthering this whole field of study. Off to the side, since that doesn't pay the bills."

Sotalia pauses and winces against a flurry of thoughts. Narrowing her eyes, she points at Kaleb and squints incredulously. "Okay... First question, of many... Who the fuck was your professor that even had ACCESS to dragon egg that could spawn a beast like Lagi... And even give it to you?!"

Kaleb grits his teeth into a wary smile, anticipating Sotalia's reaction. "Well... A Commander Blaureiter."

With a distant gaze on her face, Sotalia flutters her golden eyes in disbelief. As recognition of the name solidifies, she pulls her head of dark red hair back slightly and settles her widening stare upon Kaleb. "Excuse me- Wait... The? Commander Blaureiter?!"

Bach nods slightly, exchanging intrigued glances with Kaleb and Sebastian. "Yeah, I guess. He didn't care to be called commander most of the time. He really liked professor a lot more. Considers the whole commander thing to be in the past."

Sotalia slowly and firmly rubs the temples of her head. Sliding her hands through her dark red hair, she frustratingly grabs her black swept back horns near the bases. "Are you- Really?! You guys KNOW Commander Blaureiter?!"

Her golden irises flick to the floating ethereal visage of Sebastian. Her face follows after with a glare right through him. "OKAY. Why the FUCK didn't YOU ever tell me this?!"

Presenting an uneasy smile, Sebastian nervously averts his eyes from the attention. Drifting back slightly, he raises his arms up defensively in the air. "Hey! It never came up! I didn't know you were a fan of his! He was just a really cool professor that really loved his job. Also, just a really awesome guy to hang with. We were really thankfully for him teaching us how to take of care Lagi."

Kaleb exchanges a wary glance with Bach, and both share the forming trepidation. Sighing, Kaleb manages to summon up a firm smile. "Yeah, I got to know Blaureiter. He was very interested in having an honest student for once, and I learned a lot about the Pre-Cataclysm, First Period, and Second Period histories when it came to dragon biology. I even got to meet..."

He stiffly sniffs and steels his grimace against a flash of remembered fear. "Blaureiter's dragon..."

Her jaw slowly dropping, Sotalia gawks, and shock claims against all other possible expressions. With a quick head shake, she regains her senses and gazes at Kaleb with a genuine interest. "By the gods... You actually met the Night Terror?"

Kaleb nods, exhales as memories arise in his mind, and squirms reflexively in his seat. "Yes. That was quite THE harrowing experience. Just the stare she gave me the whole time."

He blinks to a visage inside his mind and shudders back. "But, as Blaureiter said, she was just being... VERY DEFENSIVE of her eggs."

A twitch nearly winks her golden eye, and Sotalia straightens herself in the seat. Floating her hand to point towards the kitchen door, she fumbles with her words. "Wait... No... There's NO WAY..."

She bounces her gaze off the door and to the gathering around the dining table numerous times. "That goofy, playful, child-like dragon... Doing tricks for jerky... Through that very door and just outside the garage..."

Furrowing her brow, she stares barely able to contain the sheer bewilderment escaping her being. "Is the SON of THE Night Terror?!"

Bach, Kaleb, and Sebastian silently converses through glances. After a quiet agreement, they nod in unison to Sotalia. Sinking back into her chair, she drifts her gaze around in haze of shock. "The Night Terror. A winged weapon of mass destruction. A creature that once broke out of her military containment to destroy a twenty kilometer stretch of anti-air batteries, because she felt insulted that one took a shot at her."

She covers her mouth, searching the chaos inside her head. Pulling her grasp down to her chin, she eyes Kaleb incredulously. "I- I just can't believe it. The terror that took both the arms of Commander Blaureiter and could breathe fire so hot it melted stone..."

Her golden eyes spring wide open. "But, WAIT!"

She pivots in the chair and leans towards Kaleb, narrowing her eyes with an accusing tone. "I remember reading about The Night Terror's death! A massive positively charged lightning strike in a maelstrom? They said all four of her eggs were donated to different nations' research facilities as part of an old peace treaty."

Nodding in total agreement, Kaleb narrows his stare at her. "Yes. She broke out of containment in a strange fit. I mean, she wanted to get out for some reason. And when flying around, she got hit with a positively charged, magic empowered lightning strike. Probably the only thing that could have ever taken her down."

He leans back into his chair and sighs to a serious, somber tone. "She was dead. Her first clutch was in trouble. They just couldn't find another dragon to tend her nest. Most fled in sheer terror when they caught the scent of it."

Furrowing her brow, Sotalia rests her elbow on the table top, props her head up with the back of her hand, and ponders out loud. "But... Most attempts to hatch an egg without a parent usually results in a pseudo-dragon or whelp. Correct?"

Grimacing to the past, Kaleb sorts through an explanation. "Yes. But... I had a theory. Many younger breeds of dragon have various genetic and magical protections to prevent stolen eggs from becoming viable weapons. A few protections even manipulated genetics, so you couldn't really breed anything useful. It was very common in the Second Period. One of the reasons we have so many whelp and pseudo-dragon varieties today."

Piecing together his explanation, he places both elbows on the table, intertwines his fingers, and rests his chin on his hands. "For what she WAS, she HAD to be descended from a much older, untouched bloodline. Something that was well before all the specialized breeding and protective measures. And... I bet the mate she found during her two week absence from a previous escape was from an equally old bloodline."

He furrows his brow and frowns. "She would NOT have settled for anything less."

Lifting his head up, he separates his hands and grins deviously. "So, before the authorities came to claim the eggs, I asked Blaureiter for the fifth one."

Tilting her head to the side, a few stray dark red hairs fall off Sotalia's horn. She quickly sweeps them back over and raises a very curious eyebrow. "Fifth? But... All the news outlets and government reports said there were four."

With a proud grin blatant, Kaleb slowly nods. "Oh, I know. And, I had the fifth one. There was only four left when they showed up."

He draws in a long breath and smugly smiles. "I theorized there was a good chance those eggs didn't have all the biological protections and could be hatched into proper dragons without a parent. So, I explained my theory to Blaureiter, and he agreed. When the officials came, they took the decorated war hero's word. Since he was also the only person who had ever gotten close enough to count the eggs, so they had no means of proving him wrong. They continued to believe him well after they never found him caring for an egg or running around with a dragon hatchling. After a year, they never really checked further. Since each nation part of that peace treaty got one egg, no one really cared."

With a humored smirk, Bach chuckles and tilts his head to the memories. "Gods, those were some crazy months. I still remember keeping that big egg between Sebastian and me on the couch when we played video games. "

Sebastian crosses his arms with a smile and floats down to a mimic sitting upon a chair. "That freak winter storm, too. Heaters couldn't keep up, and we nearly destroyed the clothes dryer warming blankets to cover someone while they held the egg in their lap."

Sotalia flutters her eyes in thought. A intrigued grin settles down upon her lips. "If the results weren't outside in the front yard, I would never believe this. SO, your theory was correct, and he hatched to a proper dragon."

Kaleb snorts and draws a long breath with a tight smile. "Well, turns out hatching was only the first part... The easy part. Yeah... The stories to be told, and the many to never be told."

Bach hems, leans next to Kaleb, and speaks out the side of his mouth. "By the way, did that sorority ever stop hating us for when Lagi chewed up all their laundry?"

Scratching the stubble on his cheek, Kaleb laughs with an eyeroll. "Yes... Eventually. When Lagi got big enough to walk people around on his back, I helped with a few fund raisers. Plus, they thought he was pretty charming when he wasn't trying to eat elastic out of their underwear."

Sebastian draws a wicked grin and sighs in pleasant remembrance. "I had almost forgotten how much attention I got when taking little Lagi out for walks. So easy to get noticed."

Bach narrows his stare at Sebastian from across the table. "And, so many numbers?"

Sebastian shrugs with an upward, guilty glance. "Well... You know. When they come to you, who are you to refuse?"

White fluffy clouds float overhead in the noon sky and drift shade across the world below. Gusts rustle the leaves of fresh green treetops and sway the heavy branches. Standing near the wooden plank picnic table in the open field, Aristespha squints into the distance and coasts her stare just over the treetops of the forest. "I think I see them. It looks like they're coming this way."

Lifting up her arm, she points out a huge creature aggressively flapping. Lagi speeds over the green sea of leaves, each powerful beat of a wing rippling upon the surface. Clearing the forest near to the grassy plot behind the house, he lines up an approach next to the picnic table. Bach, Aristespha, Sotalia, and Sebastian wave the dragon and passengers. Two pairs of massive wings fling open wide, and Lagi air brakes just short of the landing zone. With a gentle drop upon the ground, his claws securely grasp the grass. Kaleb pats Lagi on the side and chuckles. "Alright. You've terrorized them enough, left them off."

Lagi crouches low to the ground. Quickly unbuckling the safety harness, Cideeda deftly dismounts from behind Kaleb and sticks the landing. Springing up exuberantly, she cheers excitedly with her hands up in the air above her head. "That was AMAZING! I can't believe you do that for a living!"

Kaleb gazes over his shoulder towards Dretphi with a concerned smile. "Hey, uh, you need any help? Lagi can lower down a bit more if you need it."

White knuckled hands release from handles on the large saddle rig on Lagi's back. Dretphi slowly and purposefully pulls in wary breaths and carefully exhales with faint shudders. Guiding her platinum blonde braids roughly back, she blinks her wide open steely gray eyes. Her calm, stoic demeanor haphazardly reassembles itself bit by bit, and she manages to shake her head. "No... I will be fine... I can step down. Thank you for your concern."

While releasing herself from the safety harness, she relaxes her clenched leg muscles, and Lagi faint sighs in relief. Lifting a leg over the saddle with pivot, she slides slowly onto the ground. With staggering steps upon the firm earth, she navigates her shaky, large frame towards the nearby picnic table bench and flops down. Sotalia walks to Dretphi's side and comforts her with gentle pats on the back, steadying her by holding her shoulder. Her amused breaches into a smile and fights to be a grin. "You screamed A LOT."

Dretphi nods blankly and leans back heavily upon the picnic table edge. Detaching from the saddle, Kaleb hops down onto the grass and pats Lagi. "You okay, Dretphi? I'm sorry. He's a bit of a show off with new people."

Dretphi rests her hand on her chest and takes another long slow breath. Cracking a faint grin, she glances over to Kaleb. "I am okay... Despite my outbursts. Had an absolutely exhilarating time."

Laughing, Kaleb puts his hands on his sides and gives Dretphi quick wink with a sly smile. "Ah! Well, is that so? Want to go again?"

Lagi cranes his head around Kaleb and gazes at Dretphi. A draconic, eager smile draws itself upon the open maw. Slow, careful airflow halts midway. It resumes, and Dretphi's expression shrivels to a nervous smile, her eyes flitting wide open. "Another time. Eventually... "

Perking her furry ears, Cideeda dons a toothy grin and struts around with a wag of her tail in each step. "How much do you usually charge for that long of a flight?"

A loud snort comes from Kaleb, and he chuckles loudly. "Multiple thirty minute rides?! I should show the price list Shadeesa wrote up. You should see the ten minute cost alone."

Kaleb pats his shirt pocket, flips up the flap, and plucks out his aetherphone. "Huh, speaking of... Her ears must have been burning."

With a tap on a screen button, Shadeesa's bright green on black eyes, white freckles on her gray face, and upward swept horns appear on the screen. "Hey! Good. I caught you before you left. It looks clear today, by the way. So, I also looked up on the guild system and found an aerial survey job on your way back."

With a quick nod, Kaleb rotates the phone screen out to everyone else. "Sounds good. Just got done doing a few flights with everybody, so Lagi is ready to go."

Shadeesa waves with a glowing smile to everyone through the screen. "Hey everybody! I'm glad you got a chance to fly."

Twisting a humored smirk, she playfully rolls her eyes. "Unfortunately, I need them back now. You know how it is."

Lifting an intrigued eyebrow, Aristespha lifts a tablet off the picnic table and steps over next to Kaleb. "So, you two are in the guild system? Would you mind sending me your ID number? I will send you ours."

With few taps on another device off screen, Shadeesa faces the camera. "Oh gods, I completely forgot! Yeah, if we see any work near us, we'll definitely let you all know."

Aristespha's tablet chimes moments later. Bach crosses his arms and narrows a quizzical gaze at Kaleb. "So, what types of missions do you take on from the guild?"

Searching his mind, Kaleb twists his grimace between thoughts. "Ah... Well... Mostly surveying, aerial photography, and exploration near weird zones. Nothing too crazy. Just flying around really. Occasionally, we get search and rescue."

He scratches underneath Lagi's chin. "The nice thing is that Lagi can go where a lot of planes, helicopters, and drones have problems, without any trouble."

Lagi purrs low, closes his eyes, and angles his head to guide Kaleb's hand to the right spot. Kaleb shakes his head with a smile and gazes back over to the rest of the group. "That's the really nice thing about creatures that can manipulate magical flow and put up defensive barriers. So, those contracts pay pretty good. There's even a good market for delivery to remote locations. I once delivered food to a science team researching some hard to reach mountains."

With a final pat on Lagi's head, Kaleb rolls his shoulders in a straining stretch and straightens up his posture. "So... Yeah, we are totally exploiting the big goofball."

Rolling his bright green eyes indifferently, Lagi spots a number of small bushes nearby. A long sigh sounds out from the aetherphone speaker, and Shadeesa lowers her head, fighting a flit of embarrassment. "Unfortunately... Well, I guess fortunately? Anyway, showing Lagi off pays the bills REALLY well. Hopefully, in the NEAR future, I'll get my veterinary practice set up. Then, we'll live off that. And let Lagi... Well... Just be Lagi."

Rolling her green on black eyes, she shrugs with a humored grimace. "But, gods, I can't ignore how much people are willing to pay to be near a dragon that won't attempt to eat them at the first sight. And, especially, one who knows a bunch of cute tricks and loves to show off. Thankfully, Lagi doesn't seem to mind it at all."

She perks up and narrows her gaze at the camera on the side of the call. "Oh! That reminds me! Kaleb?"

Kaleb pivots the phone to his face with a curious quirk. "Uh, Yes?"

With a bit of cheer in her voice, Shadeesa clasps her hands in front her. "The convention we're scheduled for? I checked the location again, and it's really close to Amaranth valley! We'll be in the area this coming weekend!"

A wave of excitement moves through the team and interest in the event grows. Bach smiles and glances at Kaleb. "Well, I guess we'll have to go now. I mean, we HAVE to see your act."

A groan of comedic dread emanates from Kaleb, and he wanders his stare up to the skies. Letting his arms droop down, a resigned sigh slips out from him. "Oh gods. Okay. But, be warned... I'll be wearing an old knight's costume."

His glare bounces between Bach and Sebastian. "If you two can keep the peanut gallery commentary to a minimum, I would REALLY appreciate it."

Shadeesa calls out from the phone with playful defensiveness. "Hey! I think you look good wearing shining armor. And, I REALLY love my First Period princess dress."

Twisting her mouth into an awkward grimace, she grumbles. "Unfortunately, it'll probably be the last time. For a while... Since I won't be able to fit in it soon. So, I want to enjoy it while I can."

An ethereal snort slips out from Sebastian, and he dons a genuinely happy smile. "Well, we'll definitely try to make it out. With a dragon there, I might actually stand out the least for once."

Kaleb glances over at the phone screen and holds it out one last time. "Okay. I'd better get up in the air. Say bye, Shadeesa."

On the screen Shadeesa waves through the screen. Kaleb aims the screen at his face and shines a loving smile. "See you in a few. Love you."

A softer tone from Shadeesa comes through the phone speaker. "Love you, too."

Before the connection closes, Shadeesa quickly drops in one last remark. "Oh! Don't forget to stop by somewhere and get some milk! Breakfast was really rough this morning."

Kaleb grants a simple, confirming nod with a wink, and presses the end call button on the screen. Walks up to the group, he shakes hands and exchanges goodbyes. A loud crunch and a series of snaps sounds out and captures everyone's attention. Lagi lifts his head back and munches down on a shrub, small branches and leaves filling his mouth. Kaleb grumbles and musters his parental prowess. "Lagi! Spit it out now!"

In the front yard of the two-story house, Next Adventurers of Nexus recording crews rush about, keeping track of Chad, Tassilda, Deedri, Trakenthin, and Modoran in the area. Standing out in the yard, Chad meticulously combs his coiffed light brown hair, adjusts his collared, down-down shirt, and brushes off his designer blue jeans. When the crew member levels the tilt of the camera and pans the aim over, Chad almost instinctively assumes a heroic pose and makes sure his well defined, tanned physique hints through his clothes. A boom mic slips into the air space above Chad. Emerging from the mass of crew, Samantha inspects the scene, checks her clipboard, and points to Chad. "In three. Two. One."

With a wag of the finger from Samantha, Chad directs his gaze straight to the camera. Taking a long, thoughtful breath, he places his hands on his sides and puffs his chest out. "I have been thinking greatly about how to improve our group. I, along with my party, have the talent. We have the burning desire for adventure that only the Flames of the Phoenix can show to the world. But, I thought..."

He lifts an eyebrow. "We are still lacking something."

Appearing casual on the exterior, Chad purposefully struts over towards a shiny, new, and black sport utility vehicle. Slowly pivoting, he rests his hand upon the front fender and straightens his posture. Brown eyes lead the rest of his face to the camera, and he winks with a gleaming, white smile. A near seductive undertone hints within Chad's voice. "And, I figured it out. What better thing for a promising adventuring party to have than a means of transportation befitting them. When the quests come in, we need to venture out to them... In style."

Behind the wall of crew recording Chad, another team keeps a watch over the other Flames of the Phoenix members, standing underneath the front porch overhang. With arms crossed, Modoran rests his back against the front door frame and rolls his dark blue eyes away from Chad's monologue. He lightly bounces the back of his short, white haired head against the door frame in futile attempts to distract himself. Feigning an arm stretch, he covers his long, dusky bluish gray ears, and mumbles to himself. "We get it, Chad. It's a fucking nice car. Can you stop the info dump... Maybe take us somewhere in it?"

A furry, tuft tipped ear back from Modoran, and Deedri glances over with her auburn eyes. Tipping her head up, a long braid of red, white, blonde, and tan hair slides from her shoulder. The medium length fur on her long, tapered tail brushes against the other side of the door frame underneath her skirt. Holding her claw-tipped hands together in front of her on her blouse, she draws in a long breath, and sighs hopefully. "Well, I'm just happy we'll have a working air conditioner. Those vans were pretty dreadful."

Tassilda tosses back her raven black hair around her swirling backward pointing horns. Narrowing her blue on black eyes at Chad, she hoists an annoyed eyebrow. She places her thick, black nailed fingers on her hips and squirm her figure against the house's siding. With a quick pass, she adjusts the waistband of her tight fitting yoga pants and arches her back just enough to reveal more gray, patterned skin through her top. Cocking her head to the side with a slight sneer, her small pointy ears peek through her hair. "So... I have to ask. Is there a Grath word for... this... display?"

Dark bronze arms flex their muscles. With his arms crossed, Trakenthin's face follows his hazel eyes to a gaze down at Tassilda. The sunlight reflects off and slips through his short styled, dirty blonde hair. Quirking his brow, he slowly returns his unamused stare ahead. Boredom and idle frustration flex his large, very muscular frame through his gym shorts and tank top, many small scars apparent upon his arms and legs. He grunts with a grimace. "Yes."

A hin of an amused smirk cracks out the corner of his mouth. "Translates to... Large surrogate manhood."

A sly smile graces Tassilda, and she crosses her arms with a lift underneath her chest. "You will HAVE to teach it to me. I believe that Chad doesn't know Grath."

Trakenthin snorts and shakes his head. "He does not."

Samantha calls out to the camera crews, and motions towards members standing on the porch. "That's good. I want some promo photos of the SUV right now. Alpha Crew, I need you to set up inside around the table for mission planning."

Modoran slowly raises his face towards the placid skies above and closes his eyes in grim anticipation with a groan. "Gods, what I wouldn't give for something to come up to put that off. My aetherphone is still charging from the last few meetings I had to sit through."

Deedri's furry ears flick, and she blinks in surprise. Taking a step forward, she squints up to the white fluffy clouds above and shield the sun from her eyes with a hand. Her ears scan above and track a source. From a distance above, a loud, low shriek cries out. Gerald immediately freezes. Hoisting his camera up to the sky, he frantically adjusts zoom and focus while searching the sky. Another shriek halts abruptly to sickening hacks and retches. Deedri tempers her curiosity, fights down tinges of disgust, and places her hand over her mouth. Faint, low powerful sounding thumps of air resonate from above with an erratic rhythm. Wet gurgling color the distant hacks and retches and loaded coughs punctuate the moments between. Visibly upset crew glance around exchanging unsettled expressions and uncertainly search for a source, less eager by the second. A heavy frown pulls down the corners of Tassilda's mouth, and she places a hand firmly upon her chest. Fighting a wave of nausea, she carefully exhales. "Oh. My. Gods. What is that?! It sounds like a giant version when one of my mother's cats hacks up a hairball."

Trakenthin curls his lip in a snarl. Gritting his teeth into a stern grimace, he scans the area. "Reminds me when... My dogs would vomit a bone."

With a sudden muffled retch, the sickening noises halt, and the thumps of air fade away. Modoran's dark blue eyes dart around, and he furrows a puzzled brow. "Well... It's stopped. But, I don't know if that's a good thing."

Deedri's ears flick to a new sound, she mumbles to herself bewildered. "A whistling... Getting louder?!"

An explosive, wet splat bursts forth. A spray of viscous gel erupts out from the hood of the shiny, new, black sports utility vehicle. Bits of glossy matter plaster the hood, the windshield, and the many people surrounding the machine. Crew members examine the new mix of muck upon their bodies. Samantha slowly lowers the clipboard from her face and inspects herself to find nothing. She glances at Chad in front of her. He glares distantly, absolutely unamused with a stiff face and posture. With a gradual pivot, he beholds the minor disaster behind him. A gelatinous mess of mucus, chewed up leaves, and small gnawed branches oozes down the front of the green muck coated sports utility vehicle. Blinking away from the astonishment of the point of impact, Samantha notices a similar mess on Chad's back.

Blinking in sheer astonishment, Deedri keeps her mouth covered with both hands. Modoran gawks with his jaw agape, absolutely speechless. Her light blue on black eyes scanning the cosmetic devastation, Tassilda lifts an arm up, places the hand in front over mouth, and stares in awe. Trakenthin tilts his head towards one shoulder, then to the other. A grin rips across his mouth, and he erupts into a booming guffaw. Straightening his back, Chad spins in place and angrily points quickly to Trakenthin. "Shut the fuck up, Trakenthin! I REALLY don't need your shit right now!"

Crews quickly clean equipment, find their new marks around the fresh splatter, and ready themselves. Trakenthin laughs relentlessly and only pauses briefly with a snide smirk. "Correct! You have plenty now!"

A low growl crawls out from the back of Chad's throat and ceases moments later. A devious grin springs up on Chad. "Well! Since YOU are so amused by this, MAYBE, as party leader, I should task you with cleaning it up! We'll see how funny it is for you afterwards! I paid for this for the group, and you've been slacking on your chores! Time to chip in and clean!"

Trakenthin crosses his arms tightly, puffs out his chest, and dons a defiant sneer. "I will NOT clean."

Chad postures in response, narrows his eyes at Trakenthin, and tilts his head back. "That's probably for the best. Given how much you stink most of the time, I think it'd be worse off."

Failing to contain herself, a titter escapes Tassilda. Chad snaps his glare in her direction and puts forth a mean grin with a condescending tone. "Well, Tassilda... You have any USEFUL tricks for this? Or are you just going to stand there and let everyone else do the work?"

Placing her hands firmly on her hips, Tassilda levels a death glare at Chad and growls petulantly. "I'm sorry! Maybe if our glorious leader could pick missions better, we wouldn't be in situations suddenly facing creatures without minds to charm! My specialty is in illusion and enchantment. Not-"

Chad interrupts, drowning the rest of Tassilda's word with a derisive shout. "Useful magic? OH! I'm fully aware of that, along with everyone else!"

Swearing in a dialect of Emin, Tassilda storms out across the yard to Chad. Another quip grates Trakenthin, and he follows his ego into the fray. At the intersection, the three argue to a stand off. Crews morph around, hunting for ideal angles and perfect positions. Deedri sniffs in a long breath and exhales, lowering her head with a sad frown. Modoran glances at Deedri, pulls the corner of his mouth in thought, and eyes the front door. Grabbing hold of the knob, he opens the front door, and aims a whisper. "Hey... They're fighting again. Might want to get out here."

Seconds later, a wave of crew hastily rush out the front door with equipment in tow. Modoran gives them quick nods and encouragement when they pass by. Once the last one clears, he gazes at Deedri and smiles reassuringly. "Hey? Deedri? You want to get a look at the missions before everyone else?"

Deedri startles back to awareness and turns to Modoran. Glancing over her shoulder at the three way squabble, she catches the moment Chad scoops up a congealed blob of goop from his back and slowly approaches Tassilda. Deedri returns her awkward stare to Modoran. With a simple nod, she musters up a happy smile against her discomfort. "Yes. I don't feel like watching another fight, right now."

Modoran smiles slightly, bows, and gestures with a wave towards the open door. Deedri walks forward through the doorway, and Modoran follows behind her. He steps to her side and glances over curiously. "I have to ask... Do you KNOW what that was that made that noise?"

Deedri halts rigidly in place and nervously darts her auburn eyes around the room. "I, uh... I... Um..."

With a light chuckle, Modoran smirks and holds a hand up. "Later? Where the cameras aren't?"

Deedri smiles brightly and quickly nods. "Yes."

Modoran nods in return and narrows an inquisitive stare at various papers and documents covering the dining table. "Understood. Let's see what they got in store for us."

Outside a loud shriek of disgust erupts from Tassilda. "AHHH!! You fucking asshole! It went down my top! EEWWW!!"

Afternoon sun radiates through the sliding glass door into the living space of the ranch style house. Standing in front of the tall glass, Bach cranes his head down and angles his stare out to the clouds coasting above. Scanning the light blue, he wanders his search to the horizons and sighs to his own thoughts. A chime sounds out from Bach's shorts, and he rummages within his pocket. Squinting at his aetherphone, Bach reads a message out loud to himself. "Next week's episode will be interesting... Looks like THEY got some new wheels to drive around in. Huh..."

He shrugs and slip aetherphone back in his pocket. Glancing curiously at Bach, Sebastian drifts closer to his brother. "What was that again, bro?"

Bach gestures with a wave to the horizon before him. "Ah, it was Kaleb. Looks like the adventurers next door got a new car or something. He must have seen it on his way out."

Nodding contemplative for a moment, Sebastian peeks out the sliding glass door and narrows a stare to the two-story house just visible above the trees, towards the corner of the backyard. "Well... Good for them."

He rolls his translucent blue eyes and snorts ethereally. "Hopefully, it'll take them on some missions far from us for a while. Give us a buffer zone for a bit."

Bach shrugs his shoulders and turns away to the coffee table. He sweeps up the remote from the tabletop and flops down the couch. The television flickers to life, and Bach wrestles an indifferent smirk. "Well, I mean... They really haven't bothered us yet. Well, here, at least. Maybe if we ignore them, they'll leave us alone? Without any drama, I don't there’s anything worth recording."

A low reverberating grumble rumbles out from Sebastian's visage, and he fights down sparks of suspicion. "I don't know, bro. THEY might be fine with doing their own thing. But, I get the feeling the people behind the show aren't going to leave it alone. Them moving in right across from us was no accident."

Bach resigns from the debate, throws his hands up in the air, and shrugs. "Oh well. Hell, man. At this point, after dealing with cyber-zombies, a spirit commanding teenager, and a super battle bot... I doubt they'll be much trouble in comparison."

Sebastian crosses his arms, tracks the thoughts crossing the front of the mind with his eyes, and grimaces towards an acceptance. "Ah, you're right, bro. And, if they get too annoying, we'll figure something out. We've got a few tricks up our sleeves."

Flipping through the wasteland of channels upon the television, Bach tilts his head towards the dining table and projects his inquiry. "So... What's the agenda this week?"

Faintly perking her very long, pointed ears, Aristespha withdraws herself from the fortress of paperwork upon the dining table and relaxes upon the back of her chair. "Well. First thing Monday, I think we should schedule a meeting with Captain Hackle and see what he would like to discuss with us."

A wave of unease flows through Bach upon a cascading full body squirm, and he twitches a sneer through a slight frown. "Okay. Just make sure it's somewhere public?"

Noticing the questioning stare from his transparent brother, he narrows an reserved gaze back. "I don't know. I guess I've just read too many rumors about how some nations have handled some adventuring groups in the past. Kind of strange that you never hear about the success stories."

Twisting in her chair, Aristespha quirks her brow at Bach with an amused grin on her ivory face. "Oh, do not worry. We will, of course, disavow any evidence of your handiwork if they pry too much. Regardless, I think Captain Hackle just wants to have a nice chat and know who is in the group. Even the military has a hard time getting information from the guild apart from the quick party identification guides."

Sebastian smiles reassuringly at Bach. "I wouldn't worry about it too much, bro. Usually, they just want to know who is in their territory and chat them up to get a feel for them. Hey, they might even have some useful information about Noxian. It wouldn't be the first time some official has passed along intel unofficially to us to help us out. They don't care much for what Noxian has done either. It's a lot of containment and cleanup most don't want to have to do, if someone can put a stop to it."

Glass vials rattle and ring out from the kitchen. Moments later, Sotalia walks into the living room, carrying a handful of small vials. With a sly grin prominent, she winks to Bach. "Oh, don't worry. You're only the intern, they won't expect anything of you. Honestly, knowing how some military groups are, they probably won't even want to talk to you. That whole command structure thing slips out into a lot of what they do."

She hands a small vial to Aristespha, moves next to Bach, and holds one out to him. Bach carefully pinches the sides of the glass container and examines it closely, recent memory driving his hesitation. "Yeah, fair enough. If nothing else..."

He curls a humored grin. "They'll probably blame all the crazy stuff on you."

Squinting closely at the red fluid inside the small vial, he slides his uncertain stare up toward Sotalia. Hoisting up a similar vial, Sotalia shakes it for Bach's curiosity and uncorks it with an eye roll. "I'll try it out first. I'm sure this batch will taste right this time. I made sure to recopy my notes with working pens full of ink this time."

She places the mouth of the vial to her lips, tips her head back, and shows the empty vial with a confident stare at Bach. Aristespha exchanges a reserved glance with Bach and waits with her vial at the ready. For seconds, Bach inspects Sotalia's expression for any deviation from the smug norm. Opening his vial, he drinks the solution. His eyes wander around his head, and he judges the concoction. Moments later, he grants a satisfactory nod. Aristespha tilts her vial back and arrives at a delightfully similar conclusion. Sotalia grins proudly and confidently strides back to her alchemy setup in the kitchen. "HA! See! I know what I'm doing. I'll get the rest of the batch portioned out and bottled."

Walking through the doorway, she spins back around and bounces a point between Sebastian and Aristespha. "Oh! If Bach keeps on doing any more crazy magical stuff that people start noticing, we might want to get him reclassed as something other than an intern. The guild does not like it when you misuse the intern classification."

She flashes a devious grin to Bach and perks her brow. "As much as I would love to make claims to some of your more interesting feats, there's some credit I think YOU solely deserve."

Bach narrows a stare and wrestles between different shades of uncertain expressions. "Yeah... Right... Why do I not feel exactly good about that?"

Sotalia shrugs with a flippant smirk and slides the rest of the way through the doorway. Floating towards the dining table, Sebastian peeks over Aristespha's shoulder and scans through the listing of aethermail messages. "So, any word from Nash, dear?"

Aristespha sighs and works a half smile. "He's still working on it. He sent an aethermail about what he has done so far. They've found a system that should run the software. But, now they are trying to get it to either run on the actual hardware or figure out how to emulate it. They are not quite certain which will be easiest given this situation."

Tapping a title line within the list, the full body of the message opens up to the entire screen of the tablet. Sebastian reads over the document on screen and snorts into a laugh. "Damn, he's got a way to describe his day. Whipping graduate assistants into shape and press-ganging student workers. Testing the limits of tenure? Look at this line..."

Leaning his ghostly form closer, he squints and grins. "I found some old network cable, so I should have a new whip ready tomorrow. If the free coffee and donuts doesn't get them motivated, this will?! Gods, he must be hilarious to work with."

Aristespha's neutral expression pours into the tablet, and her violet eyes follow the same lines slowly. Sebastian notices the strange gaze. "Um? You okay? Dear?"

Aristespha blinks back the awareness and shines a loving smile to Sebastian. "Yes, I am, Sebastian. I'm trying to figure out which bits are facetious and which are real. He purposely mixes them up to keep the administration guessing. So far, I think the network cable whip is real."

Blinking blankly, Sebastian snaps his confusion towards the screen. Aristespha continues to smile and points out a line. "Don't worry, the coffee and donuts are too. He usually gets a few boxes of the really nice selection of the specialty shop ones. He actually treats the students a lot nicer than most of the faculty."

Bach contorts his face and glances at Aristespha. "There's something worse than the possibility of being whipped with a networking cable?"

Aristespha slowly glances over her shoulder with a dark grin and shadowy eyes towards Bach. "Oh. Yes. Someone has to be the target of an induce vomiting spell when you are learning to cast it."

From the kitchen, Sotalia groans, disgust heavy in her tone. "Ewww..."