Sunlight shines in through the small window panes of double doors leading out to the balcony. Inside the small bedroom, Gerald lays on the modest bed and props up a thin monitor upright on his chest. His dark brown eyes idly watch a video playback. Intermittently, his finger presses a control button to pause the progress, spins a jog dial to revert a few seconds prior, and taps another button to resume. Holding the display with one hand, he brushes his hand through his short, dark blonde hair, and the hidden gray hairs glint in the reflected light. A series of wooden creaks sound out from the stairwell leading up to the bedroom door. Gerald stops the video on his monitor, aims his eyes over toward the noise, and waits. Seconds later, Samantha climbs the final step of the stairs, swings into the room by the door frame, and beams a wide grin to Gerald through the open bedroom door. "How are YOU on this fine Sunday morning!?"

Gerald quirks brow and slowly rests the screen on the side of the bed, guiding the slack of the cable leading from a large camera over the side. "Fine...?"

Samantha walks forward and exaggerates her individual steps along the wooden floor as she hugs on to her clipboard. "Well, good. Anything interesting on the cameras?"

With a simple shrug, Gerald tugs at the corner of his mouth and eyes over at his recording equipment upon a nearby table. "Nothing too exciting. Caught Deedri wandering off into the forest again. She was by herself this time... Well, until Veevi followed along after her. But, both came back. Deedri looked pretty annoyed. I noticed she was holding her tail to the side. Haven't figured that one out, yet."

Samantha drops herself to a seat upon the modest bed, turns to face Gerald, and holds out her clipboard. "Guess where we're going."

Gerald reaches out his hand, takes the clipboard, and puzzles over the paperwork clipped on the wooden plate. His eyes trace the text upon the pages, and he quickly flips over the sheets as the content surprises him. "Hattan? Really? Huh. Haven't been there in a while. Wow, there's a bunch of jobs out there right now."

An ear to ear grin graces Samantha's face and she chuckles darkly to herself. "Yes, but not so many that a few couldn't be sniped from a CERTAIN group."

After a few blinks, Gerald returns the clipboard to Samantha and shakes his head. "Wow. Hope Howard isn't overusing his contact at the guild."

Samantha searches through the pages and inspects them with a smile to Gerald. "Nah. Howie said he's just getting the info and using it as an advantage when bidding through the proper systems. Oddly, there's this really simple sounding pest extermination job that's just been passed over by everyone."

Gerald lifts his brow and glances over to Samantha curiously. "What's the pest?"

A few pages flop over the top of the clipboard and Samantha lifts the documents closer for her eyes to read. "Um... Simple, harmless slimes from the looks of it. Even our group should be able to handle that."

A long groan sounds out from Gerald as he rolls his eyes over to a collection of protective clothing hanging in the closet. "Please tell me you've at least warned the crew to pack waterproofing gear."

Samantha sighs and nods dismissively. "Yes, of course! Though, I did make sure to not remind the team. Howie's orders. He wants to see if they'll take the proper precautions... Or, learn the hard way."

A singular laugh escapes Gerald and he smirks knowingly to Samantha. "Right... I'm certain he's hoping for the hard way. It ALWAYS gets better ratings when they learn the hard way."

After a sigh and snicker of agreement, Samantha flips to the last packet of paperwork between clip and excitedly displays it to Gerald. "Did you see where Howie booked us?"

Gerald leans his head forward off the pillow and squints briefly as his eyes dart left and right. His eyes flit wide open and he settles his head back down. "Wow! Not bad, Howard. Guess he was in a good mood when he made the reservations. Really fancy."

Samantha tilts to over towards Gerald and amuses herself on a thought. "Howie found out that the owner will shill out to anything... So long as the hotel gets mentioned excessively in the promo materials."

She leans back to level and laughs with a short grin. "Plus, one of the researchers found out that the owner's kids LOVE the show."

Gerald snorts and shakes his head side to side on the pillow, twisting a smirk. "Now THAT is the angle that Howard used. I'm sure of it."

He puts both his hands behind his head, relaxes his arms out, and eyes Samantha. "What was it that he said? If they don't want to deal with you, see if they have children they want to deal with less?"

Samantha draws in lungs full of air, blinks with twisted lips, and slowly exhales out a begrudging sigh, gazing upwards. "Yes... He's said that a number of times. But, it works. Does it ever work."

She throws herself forward off the bed, stands up on her feet, and stretches her arms and back. "Well, I need to go finish up the paperwork and get copies over to the team. I think we'll be able to head out Tuesday and use tomorrow to prep."

Gerald nods, pulls his upper body up from rest, and smiles to Samantha. "Sounds good. We can get the standard mission loadout ready in no time."

Samantha pivots with a sly grin, lifts a bundle of paperwork up, and reveals a section of interest to Gerald. "We'll also need the promo equipment ready. Howie has booked one of the event rooms for a surprise fan meetup."

Curiously perking a brow, Gerald draws a sinister grin and narrows his eyes at Samantha. "Before... or after the slime stomping?"

Samantha responds with an evil smile and wink. "Well, of course, after, if at all possible. Have to try to give fans the genuine adventuring experience."


Two wide lanes of roughly paved road stretches out through a continuous cleared strip between the forested edges. The humvee coasts along the smooth asphalt and the suspension only occasionally shakes from the rare dip and rough patch. Along the maintained shoulder, trees pass on by with sporadic gaps between, allowing clear views of farms, open fields, access roads, and rustic houses. Opposite the road border, a large, grassy median serves as a barrier from another pair of similarly wide lanes with an equivalent border shoulder. A red, low profile motorcycle zips around the humvee from behind into the opposing side of the road with a high pitched roar. The cycle captures Cideeda's attention as it shrinks into the distance. She shakes her head with an amused grin and glances through the rear view mirror at Bach. "These roads are nice..."

She quickly eyes down at the dash and spots the needle on the speedometer. "And to be fair, we're going a hundred kilometers per hour smoothly, but I don't know if I'd open it up like that."

Leaning out into the isle to peer through the front windshield, Bach snorts and settles his head back on his seat's headrest. "Yeah. That's why I stuck with my bike. Way too easy to tempt fate on those things."

Sebastian aims a glance to Bach and dons a amused smirk. "Remember that one guy in the dorm, bro? The one that wrecked his bike-"

Bach's eyes flit wide and he coughs out a reflexive laugh. "Up the tree! Oh gods! I still don't know how he did it without magic. It's one of those things I still try to figure out."

Sotalia blinks, rolls her head over on her headrest, and directs her voice back. "That actually happened? I always thought Sebastian was just exaggerating that part."

With a chuckle and a side to side sway of the head, Bach grits his teeth in a near smiling grimace. "No. It was UP the tree. I stood out there with everyone else trying to figure out how it happened."

Dretphi briefly gazes up from a finely carved staff in her hands and momentarily ponders such a feat of physics. But, the allure of the staff snatches her attention back as she concentrates upon it. After a few moments, a glowing flow gradually creeps up the handle and navigates the grooves in the wood. As the energy travels through the pathways, the routes become gradually more complicated higher up the staff. As the humvee rolls down the road, Dretphi devotes her full focus towards progressing her magical might up the wooden maze. Sebastian notices a metal road sign with a single line of text and his ethereal form grins smugly. "Tullachester, five kilometers, bro. Still don't want to swing on by to see how things are?"

Bach gradually rotates his head up to his hovering ghostly brother, lifts a brow, and slowly shakes his head side to side. "Pass. I'll enjoy the sight of the off ramp disappearing behind us into the horizon."

A slight grumble from Aristespha next to him draws Sebastian's attention and he expresses concern. He lowers his head just over Aristespha's shoulder to peek at her tablet's display. "What's wrong, dear?"

Aristespha brushes back a few stray, silvery blue hairs, twists her mouth in mild annoyance, and squints at the screen. "I was hoping we'd win the bids on a few other small side jobs, Sebastian. But, someone secured the bid for a few of those quests."

Sebastian tugs his lips to the corner of his mouth and puzzles at the list of jobs on the tablet. "Well, probably a lower bid from someone else, dear. At least we secured what we really wanted. Can't fight the lowest bid on those smaller jobs."

His eyes gravitate towards a job header and he points his finger towards that particular listing. "What was this job again? I don't remember seeing a bid on that one."

Aristespha gently taps the entry and the program display expands the detailed information out upon the screen. She grows an evil smirk and aims her narrowed eyes at Sebastian with a lift of an eyebrow. Sebastian's eyes bounce left to right with each line and he abruptly averts his head away with an amused snort. "OH! THAT job. Wow... Good luck to whoever bidded on that one. I figured THAT would stay unbid for at least few more months."

Gently lowering the tablet down onto her lap, Aristespha stretches her arms over the back of her chair and arches her back in the seat briefly to relieve her muscles. "I would... Ah... Not be surprised if it comes back up on the guild board in a week."

Sebastian nods slowly with a tight smile and gazes to Aristespha. "I hope they make the work comments public on that one."

Evil tinges the grin that splits Aristespha's lips as she looks into Sebastian's eyes. In the front passenger's seat, Sotalia watches the road ahead, scanning out towards the horizon. She squints to see one distant long-haul cargo truck ahead, yawns, and shifts herself around on the seat to find a comfortable posture. Her eyes flit wide and she cringes slightly as a new discomfort seizes her attention. She nonchalantly places her hands on her knees, pushes her legs close together, and searches the upcoming shoulder. A few minutes pass. Sotalia squirms gradually and momentarily curls her upper lip to reveal gritting teeth. With an idle fidgeting tap of her finger on her knees, she keeps her attention forward in a hunt for some specific item. The humvee crests the top of a hill. Sotalia's eyes open wider and lock onto a large metal road sign ahead. As it passes by, she directs her voice back towards the group with a light tone. "Hey, there's a rest stop ahead... Does ANYONE need to stop and... use the restroom?"

Cideeda perks an eye brow, angles her head slightly towards the center console, and notices the empty, extra large cup of fancily ordered coffee. She returns her head forward and conceals a smirk on the side of her mouth away from Sotalia. Aristespha shakes her head and continues to stare out her window at the midday scenery below a cloud speckled blue sky. "I am just fine. Remember? I only ordered the SMALL coffee and tea."

Bach shrugs and watches the world speed on by out his window. "Not me."

Dretphi briefly diverts her attention away from the magically glowing staff, looks ahead, shrugs, and resumes her focus. "No."

Sotalia twists her lips and notices another road sign. She draws in a careful breath and exhales long. She peers back over to the shoulder of her seat and dons an uncomfortable smile as pleading hints infiltrate her voice. "Is everyone sure? No one could stand to take a break, stretch out, and enjoy the local scenery...?"

An eye brow sharply hoists up on Bach's face, Aristespha peeks over from the corner of her eyes, Dretphi pauses her flow progress, and Sebastian plainly stares right at Sotalia. Cideeda grins mischievously and mockingly sighs as she watches the exit sign draw close. "I guess NO ONE needs to stop. We'll see what's around in an hour or so..."

She directs a toothy smile to Sotalia. Grumbling to herself while her body language telegraphs a developing unease, Sotalia eyes the distant exit ramp. A long awkward silence looms inside the cab as the group collectively awaits. Sotalia growls in defeat and calmly, hesitantly pleads. "Cideeda... Could you take this next exit?"

Cideeda eases off the accelerator, gazes ahead, and gradually turns the steering wheel. "Why?"

Drawing in a breath through her gritting teeth, Sotalia mumbles loudly. "So, I can use the bathroom."

A snort escapes Cideeda as she directs the humvee down the exit ramp and rolls her eyes. "Yes, we can."

Aristespha rotates her gaze at Sotalia, presents a smug, triumphant grin, and giggles to herself. "I was wondering how long before that EXTRA LARGE coffee you got... after I warned you... worked its way through you."

Cideeda grins wide, Dretphi smirks shaking her head, Bach rolls his eyes, and Sebastian snorts ethereally. Sotalia stiffly sits in the car seat, and stares ahead out the windshield glaring an unamused expression forward. "Oh, HUSH, girl!"

A sly smile cracks upon her lips, and she aims a tease towards Aristespha. "I especially don't need a lecture from Queen of the Hot Wings."

Dretphi stifles a snort late and averts her gaze away. Cideeda presses her lips tightly together and keeps her view squarely on the road. Bach examines the expressions of Dretphi and Cideeda, and presents a quizzical stare at Sebastian. "Okay, I'm missing something here."

Sebastian shrugs awkwardly and works out an ill-humored smirk from his face. "Well, bro, there was this one time-"

He halts abruptly mid-sentence and mildly winces a cheek. Beside Sebastian, Aristespha twists a grip tightly onto the sword and glares bright violet at him, with the glow encompassing a distinctly reddish hue. Sebastian closes his mouth, allows his mind to ponder some new information, and directs a neutral expression to Bach with a flat tone. "...that will not be discussed at this time..."

Moments of quiet hang in the air as the humvee rolls to a halt at a stop sign intersection. Sotalia snaps her head to peer over the shoulder of her seat, a sparkle of mischief in her eyes and her horns prominent with the downwards tilt of her head. "So, after a LONG day of spellcasting-"

Aristespha's eyes fly open and she grits her teeth at Sotalia into a twitching glower with a faintest growl.


The humvee rolls between the faded markings of parking spot. As the powerplant spins down, the doors open. Sotalia closes the glove box, tucks a roll of toilet paper under her arm, and gingerly hops out. She scans the area, her stance squirming. "Okay, where's the bathroom in this place?!"

Cideeda steps onto the pavement, walks to the front of the humvee, and squints her eyes towards a number of buildings in the area. A wary expression rises upon Cideeda's face as scouts the structures and she frowns slightly. "We might want to keep driving for another place. This rest area looks... Under serviced?"

In the overgrown clearing before the group, a collection of picnic tables, permanent shade canopies, and snack machine kiosks surround a central park building. The long grasses thoroughly obscure where each touches the ground. Aristespha stands next to Cideeda, cocks her head to the side, and fights the disgust on her face. "Oh my..."

Bach pans a gaze across the vicinity and simply shrugs without surprise. "We're just south of Tullachester. This is about what I expected."

Sotalia grimaces while surveying each building and perks up as her eyes settle upon the central building. "I bet they're at the big building! I'm going to go check!"

She swiftly power walks down the winding path from the parking lot up towards the large structure, her speed tempered by caution. Sebastian floats above and drifts forward uncertainly. "You want me to check that building out first?"

Sotalia aims her voice back and continues onward. "No! I'll be fine."

Aristespha sighs, glances up to Sebastian with a smile, and strolls along the same direction as Sotalia. "Don't worry, Sebastian. I'll accompany her and make sure she doesn't fall in."

Dretphi gazes up towards the tree tops, cups a hand around her ear, and puzzles as she pivots to face the source of a faint bird song. Bach looks over, traces her line of sight, and searches the high parts of the forest. "What are you looking for?"

After few seconds, Dretphi's eyes briefly widen and she points out a large, brilliantly colorful bird preening itself upon a tree branch. "There. It is a... zone parrot? I think that is the correct term."

Bach follows the angle of Dretphi's arm and spots the animal sorting through its brightly patterned plumage. He blinks and gawks in bewilderment at the creature. "Wow... I don't ever remember seeing anything like that around here of all places."

Dretphi nods, lowers her hand to her hip, and contorts the corner of her mouth. She tilts her head to the side, letting a few platinum blonde braids shift upon her shoulder. "You should not. This place is not this creature's habitat. I do not know why it is here. Strange."

Cideeda's ears flick around and hunt the soundscape, concentrating on specific noises. Seconds later, she turns her head towards Dretphi and Bach across the hood of the humvee, with a twist to her lips. "There's at least two other birds that sound like it in the area."

Astonishment tinges Dretphi's expression. She crosses her arms, leans upon the humvee's side, and lowers her head slightly in thought. Bach eyes over curiously to Dretphi with a cautious tone in his voice. "Uh, anything we should worry about?"

Dretphi turns her head to Bach, dons a light smirk, and shakes her head confidently. "No. Zone parrots are not hostile. Annoying. Destructively curious. Do not attack people."

She lifts her head back up to stare at the leaves as the wind rustles through the canopies, and continues pondering. "It is just... Odd. They do not migrate. Live in weird zones. No where else. One this far away could be excused. Maybe lost. Three? There is another reason."

Sebastian's ethereal form drifts over above and gazes out into the area. He glimpses over near the central building as both Sotalia and Aristespha disappear around the corner of the structure. Hovering down onto his feet next to Bach, he leans close to Bach's ear. "Thirty seven."

Bach blinks hard and swings his head over to face Sebastian dumbfounded. "Thirty what?"

Contorting his face to contain his ill amusement, Sebastian sighs with a roll of his eyes. "Thirty seven hot wings. In one setting. We got roughed up bad, bro, on one mission. She spent the entire day patching us up out in a remote location and worked up an... appetite. She demanded we stop at the first food place we drove pass on the way back... It had to be a wing place."

Around the corner of the central building, Aristespha and Sotalia stare into a dim entryway next to a women's bathroom sign. The corridor turns sharply at a right angle into a dark, unseen room. Sotalia cringes and grumbles as she peers into the shady hallway. "I think I see the light switch on the wall there."

Aristespha gestures with her hand and a small orb of light hovers above her outstretched palm. She nods to Sotalia and the two walk slowly through the entry, approach the forward wall before the right angle turn, and move next to the light switch. Both turn to face down the corridor into the inky darkness filling the echoey room before them. Only a few dim glows from narrow, dirty high windows provide any direct illumination into the room with the ambient glow from outside barely reflecting in around the bend. Sotalia places her finger underneath the switch and toggles it up. The two watch as the overhead lights gradually flicker to light and surge a bright shine into the room. As the brightness floods the tiled public restroom, amorphous collections of loose specks retreat chaotically away. The scattered masses crawl into the darker parts under sinks and disappear into the shaded regions of the row of stalls. Abject horror overflows from Aristespha and Sotalia faces, their jaws drop agape, and the pupils of their eyes shrink to pin points. Aristespha covers her mouth and slides her eyes over. Sotalia meets Aristespha's eyes with a cheek twitching grit of the teeth, slowly shakes her head. "No..."

Both take synchronous steps away and carefully retrace their paths back outside. Once well in the light of day, Aristespha pivots promptly to search the nearby treeline. After a few moments, she directs Sotalia's attention towards a large, obscuring shrub, and laughs out her nerves. "I think that one will work just fine."

Sotalia dramatically exaggerates a nod and quickly skips over to the target. "I'll make it work!"


Decorative light fixtures hang down from the tall ceiling in the modest hotel lobby. The dusk sky casts an orange hue through the windows to mix with the warm glow of the overhead lamps. The ornate slate floor path from the entry splits the lobby into two distinct sections. Plush wooden couches form small group meeting spaces scattering one area. In the other, elaborate chairs surround the long tables encircling a central kitchen with chefs busily working on orders. Aristespha, Bach, Cideeda, Dretphi, and Sotalia sit around a table, each with menus in hands.

The elevator chimes out in the lobby pass the front desk and a tall man with a long black beard and shorter hair steps out. Cradling a wide brimmed hat in his cybernetic arm, he brushes some lint off his jacket and secures his Borderland Ranger badge onto the jacket's front pocket. He walks nonchalantly out upon the floor in dirt speckled boots, nods a hello to the desk staff, and leads himself towards the exit. As he travels the divide between the sections, he glances over to one side and then to the other. His pace slows to a stop as recognition dawns upon his face and an amused smirk graces his lips. With a sharp pivot, he calmly approaches the table with the sitting group, stops politely nearby, and bows slightly. "Pardon me for interrupting, but I do believe I have made all your acquaintances a few weeks back."

Aristespha gazes up from the menu, studies the man's face, and smiles pleasantly. "Yes we have... Captain Hays, I believe?"

Captain Hays nods an acknowledgment. He quickly greets and shakes everyone's hand. He glances over everyone with a smile and addresses them. "It's good to see you all are in good shape. I've heard some interesting things through the usual sources."

Aristespha quirks a brow and studies Hays with a slight grin. "Oh, really? I do hope nothing too terrible. Also, I am ever so sorry we haven't gotten around to contacting you. We haven't had a chance to wander towards the border regions."

After a hearty chuckle, Hays draws in a breath and shakes his head slowly. "Understandable. I'm certain you've been busy. And truthfully, for a Borderlands Ranger, I've been away from the borderlands A LOT as of late."

Dretphi lifts a brow and gives Hays a quizzical gaze. "Why is that?"

With twist of the lip, Hays quirks a brow and ponders a summary. "Well... to put it simply... We've been trying to figure out why the weird zone and borderlands critters are everywhere they shouldn't be."

He casually strokes his beard and sighs with tinges of frustration. "It's nothing like we've seen before. We occasionally have a few odd migrations if a zone shifts around, but this isn't one of them."

The group exchanges looks as a new light shines upon recent events. Bach glances to Dretphi and Cideeda before he shifts his attention on Hays. "We actually saw some odd creatures today."

Hays examines the expressions at the table and tilts his head curiously. "Really? What did you all see?"

Dretphi calmly and clearly states to Hays. "Zone Parrots."

Hays pauses in thought and meets Dretphi's eyes. "Where?"

Dretphi returns the gaze with a serious tone. "Northwest. Up the highway."

Bach squints at his memory and recounts. "Um, yeah... Just south of Tullachester at the old rest stop."

After a long pause, Hays hums as his mind processes the implications. "That's over a hundred kilometers from where you should even start finding them normally. Hmm. We should compare notes. I'm here with my two scouts trying to chart the movement of all these critters."

With a nod, Aristespha offers an empty seat at the table. "If no one objects, I am certain you could join us and we can discuss this further."

After the rest of group indicates their agreement, Captain Hays holds his hand up with a happy sigh. "I would love to oblige you and greatly appreciate the offer. Unfortunately, I'm on a mission to get food for two very tired scouts and two very obnoxious scout whelps."

Sotalia's eyes light up and she aims a pleading gaze with a bright smile towards Hays. "Well, maybe after diner you all could stop by so we can discuss this further..."

Eyes focus at the table focus upon Sotalia and await in amusement for the rest of her statement. Sotalia flutters her eyes at Hays and colors her voice coyly. "...and you are more than welcome to bring the whelps over."

Captain Hays smiles proudly and grants Sotalia an affirmative nod. "I'll see what I can do. That would be up to Heccaeh, but I don't think he'd mind. It'd give Chana a break from entertaining them."

Aristespha retrieves her aetherphone, taps through a number of menus, types out a brief message, and presses firmly on the screen. "Here's my contact information and our suite number."

With a gracious bow, Hay starts to turn away, stops, and grins at the group overall. "Before I forget, I want thank you all for assisting Captain Hackle and capturing the thudkickers. He was doing a favor for us, since that group had left our jurisdiction without our knowledge. Thankfully, they've been relocated to a calmer weird zone."

His eyes narrow slightly and he hoists a brow with a hint of amused suspicion. "A few of us are bit curious how you adjusted the attitude on that alpha male. We're not complaining. That particular alpha was an absolute asshole, so humbleness didn't hurt him."

As a searching gaze scans the table and settles upon Bach, Hays smirks with a chuckle. "But we can't figure out why he's now spooked by men wearing full helmets."


Down a fashionably decorated hotel hallway, Deedri and Tassilda both peek out around the frame of their room door and stare cautiously towards the intersection leading to the elevators. Tassilda grumbles, snorts out her irritation, and pouts. "This figures. We arrive ahead of schedule to a very nice hotel next to a top rated day spa, with the rest of the day free... And, we have a camera crew stalking us, just waiting for us to leave."

Deedri sighs sadly as her ears droop to the side. "I know. I've heard it's really nice. But, I don't think I could enjoy it like that."

Her ears flick back and her head swings the rest of her around. The next door down the hall opens into the room, Modoran slips deftly around, and carefully eases the door back shut. He scans the area and notices Deedri waving at him. Deedri energetically signals Modoran over and he slinks swiftly behind Deedri and Tassilda. Modoran checks down the hallway and with quizzical expression. "So, what are you two up to?"

Tassilda briefly glances back and grumbles as she resumes her focus on the bulky shadows projecting out from the elevator lobby lighting. "Trying to determine if we could actually enjoy the next door day spa... while under surveillance."

Modoran slides out from the door alcove to the middle of the hallway, and leans to peer down the way. He balances himself back standing, stretches his body, and presents a nonchalant smile to Deedri and Tassilda. "Are you ladies ready to go?"

Tassilda and Deedri exchange glances and nod hopefully towards Modoran. Pulling out his aetherphone, Modoran holds it up briefly before tapping upon the screen. "I'll send a message when it's clear. Just be ready get to the elevator."

Both Tassilda and Deedri excitedly dart back inside their room. As their door closes automatically, Modoran casually strolls down towards the intersection. His lips subtly move as his voice mumbles out extremely quiet incantations and the fingers on his free hand trace out very minute gestures. His posture stiffens and body language develops suspicious mannerisms. He quickly rounds the turn, awkwardly notices the two cameramen sitting on lobby benches, and blatantly averts from eye contact as he rushes right up to the elevator call button. The two cameramen glance to each other and focus their full attention upon Modoran. Both puzzle when Modoran presses the upwards call button, stand up, ready their equipment, and pantomime an agreement that both should follow.

While the seconds pass, Modoran's nervous ticks become more and more obvious, intriguing the men greatly. One of the two elevators open with a chime and Modoran nervously darts inside with the two camera operators immediately behind. Modoran checks his aetherphone briefly, hides the screen down from view, and presses the button for the next floor up. The doors slide shut and a gentle acceleration pulls down on an extremely nervous Modoran and two very suspicious cameramen. The digital elevator display changes to the next floor and ring brightly with a voice announcement. When the doors part wide enough, Modoran bolts clear of the elevator car, slides out a sharp turn, and tears off in a full sprint down a hallway. Both camera operators nearly crash into a pile out on the elevator lobby floor and scramble after Modoran.

On the elevator button panel, the previous floor's button slides in momentarily and lights up. Immediately afterwards, an unseen force adds the second floor of the basement parking garage to illuminated selection. Finally, a finger fading back into opacity firmly presses the door close switch. The rest of Modoran's body sheds off the transparent guise and he smirk smugly while tapping out a message on the phone. The elevator seals back up and faintly hums down a floor. The display changes, a voice announces the floor, and the doors part to an eager Tassilda and antsy Deedri. Both quickly step in at the prompting of Modoran and he smiles nonchalantly. "Next stop, freedom."

The elevator car shuts back up. Tassilda glances over to Modoran with a sly grin. "What did you do? Knock them out and stuff them in a broom closet?"

Modoran rolls his eyes with an amused sigh. "Nah. Just had them chase my ghost."

Deedri spots the light for the second basement garage level and puzzles. "The second level of the parking garage?"

Modoran casually shrugs and presents a calming smile to Deedri. "Well, figured at least one other crew is on the ground floor and the SUV is parked on the first level of the garage. So, they're probably monitoring that. But, we should be safe to wander over to the stairwell leading out to street on the second level of the garage."

After a few nods, Deedri blinks as a thought crosses her mind and she gazes up to Modoran. "What are you going to do?"

A long pause holds Modoran's tongue and he ponders the situation. "I don't know actually. Probably wander around the city until dinner? Didn't really have any plans."

Deedri entertains a genuine smile and flits an eye brow. "Ever been to a day spa?"

Modoran's dusky bluish gray skin flushes with purple undertones around the cheeks. In an attempt to avert his face, he runs his fingers through his light gray hair to scratch the back of his head. "Oh. Um. I-I wouldn't want to intrude."

Tassilda rolls her eyes with a dismissive shake of the head. "Oh, please. Don't play modest now. If you get us there, you are more than welcome to join us."

The elevator doors slide apart and Modoran leans out to check the vicinity with an awkward smile on his face. "Well... Then I better get you two there. Looks clear so far. Follow me."


Beams of light shine through ancient gaps in the tall ceiling of the solid stone structure. Faint traces of dust drift aimlessly through the huge, long hallways and barely stir to the whims of the wind outside. A flash brightly illuminates an area immediately near Aristespha, Bach, Cideeda, Dretphi, and Sotalia. Aristespha inspects the fresh image on the display of her aetherphone and shakes her head as a bored sigh vents. "I can't discern difference. Everything seems to be matching the old pictures."

Cideeda's ears flick around, her eyes keenly inspect the area, and she sniffs the air. She pulls an unamused smirk into the corner of her mouth and shrugs. "Nothing. Still nothing out of the ordinary. I'm actually feeling a little disappointed."

Sotalia kneels down to the ground, picks up a small, unlit magical indicator stick, and rolls her eyes at herself. "I know I should be okay with this, but..."

Dretphi twists her lips and grumbles. "This place is tediously mundane."

Staring up between the columns of light streaming from the holes above, Bach's eyes search for anything of interest. "I'm really surprised they haven't just bulldozed this place down. There's no sealed off areas or anything hidden left. They didn't need adventurers for this job. They needed a building inspector to tell them demolish it already."

Aristespha nods in agreement and fights back a frown. "I know, but everyone is still paranoid about these old places. So, a job is a job, and for what they are asking... it's not THAT terrible of a payout. We actually haven't spent that much time here."

Bach shrugs his shoulders and holds his arms out to his sides. "Yes. Can't believe I'm actually wanting there to be something new or signs that something has changed. But, I'd even take trashy graffiti at this point."

With a glance over the shoulder, Cideeda nods in agreement at Bach and exhales out her idle frustration. "Some days, you just bring home the paycheck and wonder if they would have even known you were there."

Aristespha aims her aetherphone towards another marked section of wall, firmly presses an on-screen button, and a flicker of brightness erupts out from the flash. She squints inside a shaded archway next to the wall's markings and directs everyone's attention. "Quick check that room, please. It's listed as clear on the report. Let's just make sure before we move on."

Dretphi acknowledges, lifts up her sub-machine gun, and approaches it cautiously. Cideeda directs her laser pistol towards the archway and circles out opposite from Dretphi, gradually closing in on the target from the other side. Aristespha, Bach, and Sotalia ready themselves and observe Dretphi's and Cideeda's progress. With her back against the wall, Dretphi slides up to the entry point and awaits Cideeda on the other side. The two silently exchange hands signals and confirm a plan. Dretphi toggles the flashlight on her weapon and sweeps the room from one direction from the archway. Cideeda crouches down, grabs a flashlight from her vest, flicks it on, and pans both her laser pistol and flashlight across the room. The two make a few counter-balancing passes before lowering the weaponry and turning off their lights. Cideeda shakes her head with an exaggerated eye roll. "We have confirmed it is still an empty room."

Dretphi walks away towards Aristespha, Bach, and Sotalia and smirks lightly. "Additional dust. Maybe."

Aristespha plainly nods her head, types in a few notes, and muses sarcastically. "I'll be sure to put that in the notes."

Sotalia places her hands on her hips and pivots around slowly in thought. "I wonder what's taking Sebastian so long. He's been off scouting ahead for a long time."

With a firm grip on the sword, Aristespha closes her eyes and lowers her head in focused concentration. Seconds later, her brow quirks and contorts as confusion plays out on her face. Sebastian's ethereal form materializes next to her and he gazes over to everyone, gritting his teeth. "Uh... Um... I found something."

Aristespha lifts her head up and stares at Sebastian suspiciously. "Okay, Sebastian. What would that be?"

Sebastian's ghostly visage spins gradually to face Aristespha and he manages to put forth a weak smile. "Well, dear... It's uh... It'd be easier to show."

He points down the hallway to a nearby side branch off the main hall. "There's a safe vantage point down there."

Sebastian drifts forward towards the side passage and pinches the bridge of nose in reluctant annoyance. The group follows quickly behind down the main hallway, turns down the offshoot, and travels along to the end archway. Cideeda's nose twitches and an odor in the air bewilders her. "What? What is this smell? It feels so familiar..."

The hallway end opens up to a walkway above a small arena, encircling high on the back wall. Daylight radiates a column down from a single opening above in center the roof upon a strange collection of gelatinous pools of pastel colored slime. A glistening coat covers every surface below and each slime creature refreshes the layer with each slow, oozing pass. Colorful, amorphous blobs undulate along the on the floor and slop over obstacles. Occasionally, a mass will stop and spray a stream of viscous liquid at a random target before sliding along. Hundreds of slimy beings navigate the ramps and steps of the arena below, with new ones sporadically solidifying out from the translucent pools. Sebastian rest his face firmly in the palm of his hand as he witness the horrific disgust upon the faces of Aristespha, Cideeda, Dretphi, and Sotalia. Bach gawks in absolute confusion and flounders on forming a response. "Huh? Wha? The fu..."

Cideeda visibly shrinks back and hugs herself uncomfortably. Dretphi's eye winces in erratic repetition as she stares blankly at the scene before her. Sotalia's fingers flex on each hand and a golden glow sparks in her eyes with each tightening of her fists. Aristespha surveys the scene and the gray and blue hint of her ivory skin pale further. But, a thought crosses her mind and she blinks back to awareness. She lifts up her aetherphone, navigates through a few menus, and carefully reads a section of text on a document. Her eyes light up and a wicked, smug grin reaches ear to ear on her face. "This is an INSPECTION ONLY job."

Sebastian shakes his head and hovers next to Aristespha. The rest of the group congregates around and pairs of eyes all examine the same section of text upon Aristespha's aetherphone. Sebastian snorts with a ghostly echo. Soon a chorus of laughs, chuckles, and snickers fills the air. Sotalia holds back her laughter briefly when she strolls out. "Well, consider this place fucking inspected! Job done!"

Sebastian leads the group out through the entry and shakes his head. "Well, I guess that slime extermination job just got a lot bigger."

Cideeda snorts and grins in ill-humor as she leaves. "Hope whoever gets a bonus for this one."

Dretphi breathes out a long sigh of relief and rushes ahead. Aristespha finishes taking a picture of the scene on her phone and clears pass the entryway with Bach. She glances over to Bach and gestures her head back. "Could you please seal that opening off and put a manual deactivation trigger on it?"

Bach's eyes glow blue and nods with a wry smirk. He reaches out a hand, and a golden hexagonal matrix forms out. "May the gods have mercy on whoever opens this up."