The ceiling fan in the living room spins slow and gently cycles waves of air coming from the screen door. Bach sits at the dining table and concentrates upon the old book from the abandoned town. He briefly examines the necklace and decorative blue ribbon off to the side, before returning to the book. He carefully opens the book, turns the outer pages, and stops upon the first handwritten page.

"This is the journal of Isaac Kurt Huxley. Truth be told, I've been prompted by my wife Sylvia to record my thoughts about our new adventure here at Orth Ridge. I must say, it's been quite the trip to get here and a delightful chaos since we arrived. They are still getting the basics of the village together. The engineers have gotten power and water working just fine, but they seem to be having difficulty getting the aethernet relays online. Some strange interference source in the area from what I've gathered in assisting them. But, they've been able to get radio links functional and even bounce a signal off one of the satellites the Grand Library has managed to reprogram over the years. The fact that something that old still functions still fascinates me to no end.

Overall, we are all settling in just fine. Even little Cynthia is warming up to the place. Once she found out she'd be getting her own room and a play area in the office, I think all her reservations disappeared. I can't thank Dr. Dawkins enough for putting us on this assignment. From everything the records we've found have implied, there's something very unique here. I can't wait until the outer area is cleared by the safety teams. I have to say, it is a bit frustrating to see such an amazing site hinted outside my bedroom window and know we can't go there yet. Sylvia at least has been able to put her writing and artistry skills to use in documenting the happenings of the site. If the drafts of her latest book are any indicator, they'll be quite the exciting read for the higher ups."

Bach eyes follow line upon line of handwritten word upon the weathered pages. He flips through, gives quick glances over each page, and continues until he notices bold and large script. He settles his gaze on the page and squints.

"AMAZING! I cannot relay into words how excited I am! The industrial nature of the outer area was intriguing enough and the hours of speculation about what happened here have made for some epic late night debates. But, we finally were granted access into the circular chamber. The pictures the safety investigators brought back do not do it justice. Unlike the warehouse before it, this chamber is magnificent with the grand circular platform and the strange construction is baffling upon initial inspections. The safety teams have given the area a green for our exploration and have found nothing immediately dangerous. But, we will still take precautions and place a number of flow monitors in the area to detect anything that may be lingering.

I'll admit I'm a bit wary of crossing the bridge through that dark warehouse. Thankfully, they've put up a few layers of barriers to create a protective tunnel and the rest of the area is a red zone. The most I've heard they are doing in that area is sending pure electronic drones to place sensors and they lock down the area before attempting that much. Still, my travels through there will be at a gingerly pace. They're only allowing our team to go through the area at the moment, but if that area seems dormant enough they'll open it up to others. Sylvia is very eager to see the grand chamber and very keen on drawing it. I'm certain a picture will do for the higher ups, but she so enjoys capturing such grand things upon paper herself. From the looks of it, she have plenty of vantage points with the encircling balcony walkway."

A slow breath escapes Bach as recent memories rise up into consciousness. He follows the writing to the next page and the end of the entry. The entries grow longer with each iteration as Bach travels through the daily logs. Before habit takes hold, he stops himself from turning a page. The entry starkly contrasts previous with shaky handwriting and a less writing dated a week later.

"I've finally gotten the presence of mind to write into this journal. Sylvia writes to help her thoughts and I more than ever need any help I can get. Something happened a week ago. They are still investigating. I don't know what happened. Sylvia and Cynthia are fighting for their lives. Something exploded in the warehouse. They were bringing me lunch so we could have picnic in the grand chamber. They were on the bridge when it happened. By the time I got to the archway, I saw them midway on the bridge trying to get their footing to move. That black miasma was shredding the layers of barriers. Marcus, gods he tried to keep the barriers up and keep the safety doors overridden. Gods he blames himself, even after saving me from getting hit by that black jet of energy. Why did this happen? I need to return to their sides."

Bach notices odd markings upon the paper, lowers his head close to the page, and examines scattered water droplet stains below the trailing path of a pen. He rolls the page over to the next entry and his eyes trace the wavering penmanship.

"Dr. Malkav has a plan. I always thought him to be on the fringes of madness with his theories. I never saw eye to eye with him. But. That man cried for my Sylvia and Cynthia. When he thought no one could see, he broke down and cursed the gods like I have every day. If he's right, then this energy can be countered enough to save them. Artifacts with some ability to emit elder energy are being located and rushed out to the site as soon as possible from the Grand Library. It has to work. It makes so much sense the more I think about it. I have to go back, I won't abandon them."

A frown upon Bach's face darkens shades grimmer as he reads the next few shrinking entries. He pauses at a page to stare at the last semblance of writing, a single sentence.

"They're gone..."

A water worn trail of ink drifts aimlessly upon the bound piece of paper through a few of the many bubbles of water stains. The binding of the book wants to remain open on this moisture warped page. Bach slowly resumes turning pages and finds many attempts to start new entries. Header dates reduce to mere pen marks. Finally, an explosion of ink and a small indentation piercing through a few layers of paper serves as the last act of effort.

Bach releases a sigh and searches his mind as he idly stares into a distance. The sound of a mug resting upon the table top brings him back to awareness and he turns his head to see Aristespha. "Oh. Hey."

He glances down at the mug next to him and watches Aristespha sit down in chair next to him with her mug. "Thanks. I think I need the tea right now."

Aristespha lifts a brow with a smirk and shakes her head as she eyes the book in front of Bach. "If it wasn't midday on a Thursday, I would have put a lot more than tea in there to help you get through that book."

While Bach lifts the mug up and takes a long sip, she nods upon seeing Bach's face. "About the same expression I had after reading it over."

Bach briefly eyes the material, uses a free hand to close the book up, and slides it away. "It started out so nice, too. I can see why you are a little on edge lately. I just... Wow. I don't know what to think."

Aristespha rests her head against the chair back, directs some of her silvery blue hair over her long pointed ears, and sighs with a hard blink. "Honestly, I don't know either."

The two share a few seconds of silence. A thought surfaces in Bach mind and he stares at the book. He gradually cocks his head to the side before shifting his gaze to Aristespha. "You think that's..."

Aristespha notices the gesture from Bach, eyes the book, and warily bites her lip with wide eyes. "I've thought that, too. And... I REALLY wouldn't know how to feel about that."

Bach blinks a few times, draws in a long breath, and exhales as he slides the book away from him a bit more. "You got any more experimental materials you want to try to make today?"

A flicker of interest lights up Aristespha's mood and she smiles with an eager tone. "Yes, I do. That sounds like a great thing to do right now."


A tall, bellied man wanders in the walkways between towering rows of metal cases. A constant chorus of fan hum accompanies the low roll of air flowing in overhead duct work. Graying wild hairs freely follow the chaotic winds he continues down the avenue of technology in the dimly lit region of the cavernous chamber. He stops, consults an old paper blueprint, and sharply turns down an intersecting path towards a heavy wall. He halts at the intersection, eyes the map, stares overhead with a flashlight in hand highlighting his interest, and pivots to face a dead end. He squints through the sea of green, amber, and blue status light reflecting upon his glasses and his eyes trace a series of conduits underneath the high ceiling. His flashlight halts upon a collection of junction boxes with slightly newer sheen unlike the piping nearby. The man steps forward in thought and focuses upon a run of tubing leading straight into a concrete and brick wall. "Okay. That's not exactly what I'm here for... But that's pretty fuckin' weird."

He glances down at the blueprint, holds them near the vented door of a server rack, and allows the cooling fan suction to secure the paperwork upon the door's surface. He shines the light upon detailed schematics, traces a highlighted path of wiring diagrams, and taps his finger upon the incorrect section. After a quick check of the change date, the man narrows his glare at the mass of junction boxes with annoyed grumble to himself. "The fuck did they put a junction down here?"

Arms crossed, he studies the wall and darts his eyes to several oddities, each new discovery tugging at the corners of his puzzled expression. He pinches the bridge of his nose, reaches into a pants pocket to retrieve his aetherphone, and taps through a few menus to call out. When the call connects, he places the phone on his ear. "Hey, Harvos. Got a question for you."

The proper, male voice at the other end sighs briefly. "Yes, Nash, what would that be?"

Nash cocks his head to the side and lifts a brow. "Okay, pretend you're searching for an artifact you know should be in your possession. You go to the spot it should be and find out, it's gone."

Harvos replies with a curious tone. "Okay. Following the analogy, I would check to see if it has been misplaced, loaned out, or something is wrong with the paperwork. I assumed you've done similar."

With an exaggerated nod, Nash paces around the dead end row. "Correct. The weird thing is that everything shows that it is still in the room it is supposed to be and there are no signs that it has left that room. So, you go to manually check everything in that room. Then, while tracking it down, you find the plug for some thing plugged in, but the cord runs into a wall... Where nothing needing power should be."

After a brief pause, Harvos puzzles at the concept with his voice teetering intrigue and wariness. "That would certainly be concerning and extremely strange."

Nash places his free hand on his side and dons a tight smile with a grit of the teeth. "That's what I thought. I just wanted to confirm my suspicious."

Harvos chuckles lightly and follows his curiosity. "Well, not that I don't mind helping you out, I have to ask, why did you call me?"

A sly grin cracks Nash's mouth. "Well, it turns out this database node I'm missing has some of your department's decataloged data on it."

A long silence resonates through the aetherphone with a singular thoughtful hum breaking the tension. Sounds of movement find their way out of the speaker from Harvos's side of the conversation. "I'll be right over. This sounds FAR more entertaining than this budget spreadsheet."


A breeze floats across the grass of the field behind the ranch style house. Aristespha inspects a practice sword, feels out the balance, and swings precisely in front of her. Bach stands a few meters away with well-worn practice sword in hand and bubbling apprehension. "So, uh, are we doing basic drills? Practicing foot work? Uh-"

With a twirl of the training blade to aim ahead and a confident step forward, Aristespha smiles with the crack of a grin. "I thought we would spar a bit."

Bach's eyes dart around nervously and an awkward, weak laugh leaks out. "Ah, heh... What?"

Sebastian floats into the space between Aristespha and Bach. "Don't play dumb, bro. I know you know most of mom's sword fighting techniques."

A cringe starts at Bach's cheek and creeps to the corner of his mouth. "Knowledge of, yes. Proper application... Nooo."

He shrugs his shoulders, loosely hangs the practice sword in hand, and glances over towards Dretphi and Cideeda working through stretching routines upon mats off the patio. "You know, how about we join them. I need to work on my flexibility a bit and-"

Sebastian snaps his gaze to Aristespha, gestures his head towards Bach, and mouths out. "Now."

Aristespha focuses her stare at Bach and lunges forward with her training blade thrusting towards his midsection. Bach's eyes catch the sudden movement and assess the assault. He hops back from Aristespha's attack, swipes his sword to deflect, and readies himself to a defensive stance. Sebastian crosses his arms with a sly grin and flits an eyebrow to Aristespha's amusement. "See. He damn well knows the moves. You're going to have to force it out of him."

Bach briefly flashes a sneer to Sebastian but keeps his attention on Aristespha. "Yah, I KNOW the moves, but I've never been able to DO anything with them..."

His sentence trails off when Aristespha steps forward with an overhead swing and drops down her sword to clash upon Bach's blade. He redirects the opposing weapon to the side and backs away. "Okay, you made your point. Let's do some drills. I'm really rusty and I could really use the-"

Aristespha pushes forward with a flurry of careful strikes that startles Bach into action, as he counters each one in a tense display. Bach increases the distance from Aristespha after the final deflection and points his practice weapon at Aristespha. "Stop that! Dammit, Sebastian! What the fuck did you tell her?!"

Sebastian averts his eyes away with a humored smile and chuckles to himself. "Nothing really, bro. Just how mom would always teach us sword fighting and let us spar against each other... That you are probably be the best one to help her practice what I've taught her."

A twitch settles in the corner of Bach's eye and he glares, welling with irritation. "Gods damn it, Sebastian! I'm not that good at-"

He shifts his footing, side steps, and guides his blade to divert Aristespha's lunging thrust. Aristespha stands back up straight, glances to Sebastian with a sly smile, and gazes at Bach curiously. "You have defensive maneuvers. But, I have yet to see any offense."

She grins with a confident pose, readies her training sword, and signals Bach to attack with her hand. Bach sighs with a droop his shoulders, prepares himself, and launches into an attack. After a few well executed moves, that Aristespha counters with some difficulty, he manages to create an opening with a rusty side-stepping deflection. But, he fails to capitalize on the opportunity as clumsiness and lack of practice completely hinder the effort. A loud smack sounds from the surface of Bach's outer thigh when Aristespha quickly moves and slaps the practice blade hard. Bach yelps, hops awkwardly back, and dramatically rubs his pants leg. "OW! Dammit! Did he tell you to hit me that hard too?!"

Aristespha lifts brow and ponders to herself. Her violet eyes flips through the recent events and she eventually nods with understanding. "I think I see what you were you telling me, Sebastian."

Sebastian sighs ethereally, shaking the head of his ghostly form. "It's unfortunately so, dear."

Bach snaps his dubious glare between Sebastian and Aristespha, a hand still protecting the sore spot on his leg. "What else has been said?"

A bit of shame bubbles up into Sebastian's face and he rubs the back of his neck with tight smile. "Well. That you are awful at offense because I always kept you on the defensive. And, well, I'd never let you get an attack off all the way, so you don't know how to follow through properly."

After a long stare, Bach's expression softens to an agreeable series of nods. "Huh. Yah. That's pretty much it. About the only times I won is when I used some magic-"

Sebastian narrows his gaze with a pull to the corner of his mouth and crosses his arms. "Or threw the sword at me."

Bach closes his mouth, meets Sebastian's stare, and eventually averts his eyes in embarrassment. He grumbles and squints to Sebastian. "Oh, what else was I suppose to do? No rules against it. We were tied. And you won the coin flip, so a draw would go to you. I HAD no choice."

A singular cackle escapes Sebastian's stoic facade. "Bullshit! You could have fought me normally!"

Bach snorts and shakes his head. "And lost horribly. Hey! Mom warned the camp instructor to NOT put us in competition with each other."

A wry smile creeps up on Sebastian's mouth as memories appear in his mind and his posture loosens. "That was pretty funny watching him dodge your sword after I smacked it out of the way, bro."

The brothers share a few snickers and chuckles. Eventually, Sebastian resumes a commanding stance and instructs his brother. "Okay. Practice some offense with Aristespha today."

He glances lovingly over to Aristespha. "Be lenient on the timing, but don't be afraid to let him know his mistakes, dear."

A sly grin widens upon Aristespha and she slowly aims her eyes at Bach. "Don't worry, I'll only break what I can fix, Sebastian."

Bach blinks hard and fights off reluctance as he readies himself.

Clanks and clashes of training weaponry fill the air for the next minutes with yips, groans, and grumbles of pain from Bach. Off the end of the back patio, a lattice door opens on the small screened gazebo and Sotalia struts out with faint wafts of steam radiating off her skin and two-piece bathing suit. She uses a towel to pat her face and then drapes the towel across the back of neck, down over her shoulders. She guides water slicked, dark red hair over her horns, stops near Cideeda and Dretphi, and watches Aristespha, Bach, and Sebastian. "How long have they been going at it?"

Cideeda inhales slowly, points her clawed toes, flexes her legs to maintain her full side split upon the mat. She places a hand in front and rests one behind her to stabilize herself and glances up to Sotalia. "Only the last few minutes. Did you fall asleep in the hot tub again?"

Sotalia grimaces briefly and rolls her eyes from own her embarrassment. "Well. Yes. I couldn't help it. It's a nice calm Friday and it's just off the back patio. You can't put a nice thing that convenient to me and not expect me to abuse it."

She inspects Cideeda's position on the mat, cringes with a grit of the teeth, and squirms at the hips. "Girl, I do not know how you can just sit there like that. I think I'm starting to hurt just looking."

Cideeda shakes her head with a simple smile and snorts. "Just time and effort to get there and little to maintain it. I could show you the exercises I did when my mom put me in gymnastics. Nothing too intense, but it's a start."

A loud smack grabs Sotalia's attention and she watches the sparring between Aristespha and Bach. Shaking the sting out of his hand, Bach circles away from Aristespha before returning to his spot. He glares his full irritation at Sebastian. "Dammit! Oh gods! It's like fighting you!"

Sebastian chuckles and shrugs his hands out to the side. "What can I say, bro? I taught her."

Sotalia snickers to herself and shakes her head. "Not today, girl. Too nice of day to be torturing myself."

Cideeda lifts a brow at Sotalia and gestures her head over to Dretphi. "Oh, it's what everyone's doing today. Even Dretphi is doing those exercises."

Sotalia angles her head up and studies Dretphi on the next mat over. Dretphi sits with her legs spread out to form a rough ninety degree angle. She grimaces as she attempts to reach her arms out forward and touch the furthest part of the ground in front of her. After a minute of struggling, she relaxes her arms, straightens her back, and draws her legs together with the residual cringe of pain fading. Sotalia pivots around and walks with a sway to each step back towards the sliding glass door. Sebastian looks over his shoulder, quirks a brow, and coasts backwards up to a pace just in front of Sotalia. "Hey, how's your day been?"

Sotalia stops with a hand on her hip and a nonchalant smile. "Really wonderful. Woke up late. Nice hot tub session. And, I think I'm going to read my novels in the warmth of the sun until we watch our favorite show tonight."

Sebastian adopts a sly grin and nods. "Sounds good. But, the show's not until much later, so you can spare an hour, right?"

A dark red eyebrow perks up on Sotalia's face and she squints her eyes. "An hour for what?"

With a quick glance past her, Sebastian directs Sotalia's attention to the rest of the group. She eyes over her shoulder and returns with dismissive smirk on her face. "I'm good."

Sebastian crosses his arms, tilts his head to the side, and narrows his eyes incredulously at Sotalia. "No. I think you need to put in an hour doing something."

Both of Sotalia's hands firmly grasp her hips. She straightens her posture and stares at Sebastian. With his ethereal form returning the gesture, Sebastian calmly speaks. "I'm not asking for a lot. Just an hour or two a week doing some kind of physical training. Just to maintain yourself."

Sotalia's stare shifts towards a mild glare and she angles her head back while her eyes keep focus on Sebastian. "Maintain myself?"

Sebastian groans out a sigh and shakes his head. "Yes, you do keep yourself up with your magical training. But, if your magic doesn't work, what do you have to fall back on?"

Thoughts within Sotalia's mind tug at the corner of her mouth. Sebastian continues with a reassuring tone. "Hey, you are the magical power house of the group. But, with me being practically a ghost and Noxian changing up his tactics... I'd really feel better if everyone was at least at a certain physical fitness."

Sotalia crosses her arms and aims her eyes away from direct contact. After each moment when Sotalia settles her gaze away from Sebastian, he shifts over to reestablish eye contact. Eventually, Sotalia concedes when staring up into the sky provides no refuge from the hovering ethereal form of Sebastian. She levels her head and stares forward at Sebastian when he follows her eye line down. Sebastian sighs and closes the distance to whisper pleadingly. "Come on, Sol. What's more of a hit on your pride? Being awkward and goofy in front of us with some exercises, or having a vine controlled by some bratty teenager interrupt your spell because you didn't know what to do about it?"

A snort escapes Sotalia as she bites a smile and shakes her head at Sebastian with an amused tone. "Oh, fuck you. Okay. I'll try."

She hovers a pointed finger in front of Sebastian's chest. "But, I get to stop when you are back to normal."

Sebastian nods with a happy smile. "Fine with me."

Sotalia gazes over to the rest of the group just as another loud smack precedes a yelp from Bach. "I do hope you are not expecting me to fight in my bathing suit."

An ethereal laugh resonates from Sebastian and he shakes his head. "No. You're more than welcome to change clothes and do some sword training. But, I'd figured you could just join Cideeda and Dretphi, today. Plus, I think Aristespha is having too much fun at the moment."

Sotalia grins with an evil tint and eyes Sebastian. "I noticed. You may need to go over there and make sure she's keeping it educational."

Sebastian nods with an eye roll and drifts towards a zealous Aristespha and frantically defensive Bach. "Yeah."

Sotalia takes a few steps toward the sliding glass door, but glances down at herself in the bathing suit. She thinks a moment, spins around, watches Cideeda stretch herself, and then looks at Bach. Her eyes search her mind and witness the pieces come together. With a flicker of mischief, she struts out towards Cideeda and Dretphi. When she arrives, a sinister influence infiltrates her smile as she directs her voice to Cideeda. "So, what were those exercises?"


In a dimly lit section of a cavernous structure, a tall, bellied man stands in the concrete walkway along with an emin man. The emin combs his short, bright brown hair back with a hand and shakes his head in disbelief while his bright brown on black eyes examine the wall ahead. "Nash, these are times I wish you were wrong."

Nash leans his weigh upon the handle top of a sledgehammer and blows air sporadically through his mouth. "Fuck, I've been wanting to be wrong A LOT lately. Strange times, Harvos, strange times."

Harvos loosens his leather jacket off his body and hangs it on a server rack door Nash pulls out for him. "I assume you want to take the first few swings at this wall?"

Nash hoists the other end of the handle up into his free hand with a strong yank, judges the weight of the sledgehammer, and steps up towards the middle of the wall. "Oh, yes. Plus, I think I got an idea where to hit the thing given where all the new concrete got put up."

Harvos stretches his muscular arms out, checks the tips of his horns with a glance up to the overhead conduits, and satisfaction hints in his expression. "Whoever certainly took an impressive amount of effort to obscure the cut lines and blend in the new concrete. What concerns me the most is that I've seen similar from old records of scouts resealing sites to prevent thieves."

Nash lightly taps a spot upon the wall, and slowly rehearses a few swings. "I was SO hoping you wouldn't find anything yesterday. Especially, nothing that would require the both of us to be down here doing manual labor on Friday night."

He glances behind him at Harvos and grins slyly. "Certainly, hope I didn't steal a day from you that Malva wanted."

A flush of red blends in with the light gray tones of Harvos's face and he darts his eyes around as his demeanor weakens with embarrassment. "Uh. Um. No. Of course not... She asked me to go to a cultural expo, tomorrow."

An amused chuckle echoes out from Nash as he rears back the sledgehammer, and grins with a smug smile. "Fuckin' knew it."

As Nash swings forward, a shrill voice projects down the walkway. "Chair Howard! Chair Azerios! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"

The sledgehammer drops down, missing the wall. Nash stumbles in an awkward recovery of balance as his body cringes from woman's shout. He steadies himself upon his feet, slowly straightens his posture, and glances over to the surprised Harvos. "Did you?"

Harvos shakes his head carefully and pantomimes a strong no. The woman marches up, stops right behind them, and glares intensely with bright orange eyes. She pulls a sneer up on her patterned face and reveals sharp teeth. "What. Are. You. Doing?!"

Nash pivots around slowly with a painful cringe, letting the sledgehammer slide through his hands upon the floor. He projects a forced smile. "Vetra! Funny to see you here."

Vetra narrows her eyes, focuses her glare upon Nash, and then darts her attention to the sledgehammer. "What are you doing... With that sledgehammer?"

A glint of light from the overhead lamps reflects of a label and she widens stare as she reads the label. "That belongs to MY Engineering department."

Nash pulls a grin hard across his face. "Oh, certainly nothing of interest to you."

Vetra stomps forward with her stare burning up at Nash, and swipes a pointy, dark nailed hand to snatch the sledgehammer away. "Explain why I had to hear from the lab assistant on duty that someone walked into my department's lab, borrowed a sledgehammer, and dismissed any questions saying Official Library Business."

Nash crosses his arms and grumbles in annoyance while diverting his eyes away from Vetra. Harvos shakes his head, steps forward, and sighs with a calming smile to Vetra. "It's a simple exploration that hopefully won't lead to any further complications. We need to get access to a section of the structure that was initially walled up after renovations for security reasons and limiting possible access..."

With a perk of the brow, Harvos gestures towards wall and points out the faint outline of a filled in cut into the concrete and brick wall. "But has since been opened up and sealed without any known records."

The scowl on Vetra zeroes in on Nash pops away and she puzzles ahead, her bewilderment growing with each step closer to the wall. She squints and traces the faint fill lines with a finger. "It has been cut and sealed."

She spots the conduit and pipes from the junction box running into the wall and her suspicion overtakes her thoughts. "Where do those go?!"

Nash sides steps with an evil smile and cranes his head into Vetra's eyesight. "Only one way to find out."

Vetra bounces an unamused stare between Nash and Harvos, sighs with a smirk of determination, and tightens her grip on the handle of sledgehammer, muscles in her arms defining themselves. "Well, it's sanctioned if I make the first swing."


Inside Amaranth's Wrath Game Emporium, people gather around the many tables. Scaled down battlefields decorate the table tops, portraying different types of battles from many eras. A young evuukian cracks a confident grin when he slides a clear plastic stand supporting a giant black four winged dragon with a gray-armed rider across the grid map. "Full power auto burst from Blaureiter's Particle Power Blaster to your Red Gear Master Mech."

The young evuukian picks up a number of dice and continues to fill his hand with more. The human teenager across the table lifts a confused brow and cranes his head around the miniature scenery. He squints incredulously at the number of dice in the young evuukian's hand. "The fuck are you going to do with all those dice... Shallen?"

Shallen glances up with a playful, sneering grin towards the teenager across from him. "Shred the armor right off that damned Master Mech of yours... Dace."

Dace alternates a glare between Shallen and the two prominent figurines on the board. "Bullshit! There's no gods damned way you get to roll that many dice."

Shallen grasps a packet of paper next to him and holds it over the table to Dace. "See for yourself."

With a reluctant grab, Dace's eyes follow the rules printout until the accepting discomfort overwhelms his expression. "What the fuck? How the hell did they allow this combo?! This should cost A LOT more points."

A smug grin crosses Shallen's face and he shrugs with dice rolling out his hand into a shallow box. "Probably in the next errata. But for now..."

Dace drags his hands down his face and watches as Shallen counts dice out of the box. The shop door rings open from the electric chime above and beams of late morning light break into the store. Cideeda steps through, hoisting the large rectangular carrying case up and gleefully scanning the tables for an opening. Bach follows behind with Sotalia and Dretphi stopping after clearing the doorway to gawk in astonishment. Cideeda waves to Steve at the counter, and he looks up from studying a collection of new figurines on the counter. Steve waves back and picks up a clipboard to show Cideeda. "Hey! Sign up is here. Just grab a table for now. Everyone is warming up with a few skirmishes and playing with some of the new units we got in."

Cideeda zips over to a table with space, places her carrying case in a chair, and hops off to the counter. Bach gives a quick wave and nod to Steve as he wanders through the aisles between the tables, examining the various battles playing out. Sotalia and Dretphi keep behind Bach while they both uncertainly survey the activities around them. The trio cross over from the table region into the aisles of book shelves and display stands. Bach glances back to Sotalia and Dretphi. "Both you should take a look around for yourselves. You've both been to a con, you should be able to figure it out."

Dretphi nods in agreement as she slowly pans a gaze out into the novels and books. Her eyes flit open and flash of joy lightens her face as she departs for a particular section of the store. Sotalia lifts an eyebrow as Dretphi walks away. She checks around to not find Bach nearby, pivots to spot him moving towards the front counter, and shrugs as her attention drifts around the area. Bach stands up next to the counter. "Hey, Steve. How's it going?"

Steve breaks from his studies of figurines and rule material to smile at Bach. "Really good, man. Looks like you brought almost everyone from you party. Except for the evuukian medical mage, Ari- What's her name?"

Bach replies with a smirk. "Aristespha. She's didn't feel good this morning."

He squirms slightly as memories remind him and cringes as stale aches confirm. "She went all out on some sword sparring yesterday and worked a few muscles too far."

Steve briefly grits his teeth sympathetically and tilts his head to the side. "Man, I know that feeling. Reminds me after my first self-defense lesson. I was sore for a week. But, can't she heal herself?"

Bach bites his lip and rolls his eyes. "Well, she was able to do some healing without too much trouble, but I think it's a matter of professional pride of the healer to not have to heal themselves. So..."

Steve nods and shows Bach the new figures and rule booklets. Over near shelves displaying graphic novels with cover art of couples in dramatic poses upon colorful backgrounds, Dretphi collects another book and places it on the small stack in her arms. Sotalia stops next to Dretphi, peeks at the stack, and slides one off the top. As she flips through it, a devilish grin crosses her face. "Another batch of romance books I see. Let's see what you picked out..."

Her eyes slowly shift between the cells of the graphic novel and her grin fades to genuine interest. Dretphi leans to gaze over Sotalia's shoulder at the material just as she flips to the next page. Sotalia exaggeratedly lifts an eyebrow at Dretphi and a slight blush of pink emerges on Dretphi's cheeks. Sotalia nods slowly, closes the book, and places it back on the top as she leans close to Dretphi. "I want to read that one after you are done."

Dretphi straightens up her posture, stifles a smirk with a bite of a lip, and quietly responds. "It is an excellent series."

Sotalia winks at Dretphi and scans the display racks nearby. "Oh, I'm sure it is. Speaking of series, I wonder if-"

She kneels down, pulls a comic book off the shelf, and stares intensely at the issue number on the cover. "Twenty eight?! But, the latest I've got is twenty five and Cideeda said she bought the latest when she gave me the last batch."

Dretphi ponders the situation and glances down at Sotalia. "Her purchase of the latest issues. You receiving issues. They can be independent actions."

A soft growl follows Sotalia as she stands up and glowers across the spans between her Cideeda. She tilts her head forward, showing her horns as her hair falls ahead to frame her eyes. Cideeda idly chats with Bach and Steve, grimaces momentarily, and glances back to meet Sotalia's glare. Her furry ears flick back and confusion floods her face as she mouths. "What?!"

Sotalia lifts up the issue twenty eight off to her side, points at it stiffly, and projects a demanding stare back. Cideeda briefly squints and dismissively rolls her emerald eyes back to the conversation with Bach and Steve. Bach squirms as a strange feeling graces his back. He glances back, spooks, and returns his head forward to direct his voice to Cideeda. "What was that look for?!"

Cideeda sighs with trailing grumble. "Oh, she just found out I've been keeping her a few issues behind."

Steve scratches his head and puzzles at Cideeda. "None of my business, but I'm wondering why you would do that?"

A sneer twitches on Cideeda's lips and she glance between Steve and Bach. "The one time she got ahead of me in Tinkering Tina... She spoiled... you-know-what."

Bach searches his mind for the reference, and Steve gasps and covers his mouth in astonishment. "No..."

Cideeda singularly nods with a grimace twisting her lips. "Yes."

Steve sighs solemnly and offers a sympathetic acknowledge back. "Totally understand. Spoiler breakers can't be trusted."

He checks the clock on the wall and taps the screen on his aetherphone. "Well, need to check the sign up sheet and get the brackets together. You sure you don't want to do a historic scenario? You got a great Perimeter Defense Force unit."

Cideeda shakes her head with a smile and walks away. "No. I deal with enough history as it is. This is my fun time."

For the next half hour, people shuffle around tables, move packs of miniatures around, and set up scenery. A few patrol around, answering questions and settling debates. Bach watches from the sidelines as Sotalia wanders next to him. She taps his shoulder and gazes over to a side table, pointing out two people playing a card game. "Have you ever played Conclave of Mages before? It seems like you play mages with spell cards drawing mana from lands. I saw there were A LOT of cards you could get to build a deck. And, there's a chance you could rares that were magically enchanted."

Bach's eye flit wide in fright as he recognizes the game and a terrifying concept dawns in his mind. He calms himself and leads Sotalia down an aisle away from the players. "I played it a long time ago. It's not bad, but there's a number of other games like it that are better to try out."

Sotalia follows along behind and quizzes Bach. "Better how so?"

With awkward smile, Bach goes down the aisle. "A LOT less financial investment, habit forming, and lifestyle destroying. And I'd be FAR more willing to play them with you."

An evil grin forms on Sotalia as the two move down further. At the counter, Steve taps in bewilderment, focuses upon a sheet of rules next collection of new figurines, and glances over to a rotund man hanging out nearby. "Commander Reti's squad seems so counter intuitive."

Dretphi walks up to the register, places down her large stack of books, and notices familiar logos and markings on both figurine and rules material. She studies them closely and her eyes ignite with recognition. The tactical puzzle distracts Steve. "How do you make an assault with this squad?"

A full smile graces Dretphi. "You do not."

Steve glances up to Dretphi with a curious expression. "Really? Then, how do you play them?"

Dretphi answers plainly. "Skirmish. Retreat. Draw their forces out. Ambush."

Steve squints down at the page of rules in front of him and begins to nod. "That might work. Have you played them before?"

With a slight shrug, Dretphi shakes her head. "No."

An unconvinced expression grows on Steve. "Then, how do you know their tactics?"

Dretphi blinks nonchalantly. "I know my birth father's tactics."

Steve reflexively nods and halts with surprise as his mind fully comprehends that statement.