In a small, single bed motel room, the bright glow of sun fills the area with a warm ambient light. An aged and worn television shows the Perimeter weather report with digital maps of the area. A fvalian woman directs attention to a number of smaller storms coming in off the western coast, and gestures a north eastern direction into a huge expanse of land with the simple label “PWZ”.

“We will experience a number of small, intense storms crossing over Perimeter and the surrounding territories throughout the day. With the summer heat warming coastal waters and the jet stream arching, this should continue throughout the week. These sporadic cells will continue into the PWZ. Speaking of the PWZ, here’s Tom with the Weird Zone activity report from the Alpha Observation Post.”

A large picture appears in the background as the fvalian woman steps off to the side. A hazy, distorted video feed shows a human man with faintly, uniformly glowing blue eyes in an all-weather survival suit. He calmly nods with a pleasant smile to the camera and draws in a breath.

“Thank you Diannee. I’m happy to report that present PWZ activity has been relatively mild, even in the more troublesome areas of the zone. While we expect the storm cells to be category one maelstroms in the zone, experts are not anticipating them having enough energy to last too far past the northeastern borders. But, for those that are in and around the zone, please keep your radios tuned to an Alert Network Station for up to date information about maelstroms, outbursts, and other dangerous phenomena. Back you to you Diannee!”

Isaac sighs on the motel bed, lifts up the remote at his side, and presses the mute button. He furrows his brow thoughtfully, and ponders out loud. “Okay, one thing going in my favor, at least.”

Brushing back his head of wispy, wild white and gray hair, he slowly sits up on the bed, and pauses with a wince to rub his neck and back. Settling his thin frame upright, he surveys the piles of supplies and other equipment surrounding him on the bed, and grumbles to himself. “Time to figure all this out.”

He reaches out to the nightstand, and grabs hold of a pad of paper and pencil. Glancing over to the small desk to the other side, his gray eyes flit wide. He leans out and stretches to grasp hold of a paper bundle. Unwrapping the sandwich, he takes a few bites, stares out distantly, and sighs after swallowing. A slight frown weighs his face, and he slowly shakes his head as his shoulders slump gradually. “Just not the same... even with the olives...”

Balancing between writing down notes and unsatisfied consumption of his meal, he sorts through the supplies and equipment on the bed and scattered in the room around him. Minutes of inspections and rechecks later, Isaac hums in thought, and twists his mouth uncertainly. He idly taps the pencil to the paper pad, narrows his distant stare, and processes the implications in his mind. Putting the paper and pencil down, he grabs hold of a worn folder, flips through a few sections of documents, and studies a list. Sliding a finger down the crossed out entries of names and contact information, Isaac mumbles to himself and shakes his head. “Gods, Emanuel, I hope you found someone I can work with...”

He lifts his finger away from the paper as he studies the remaining contacts and the unfavorable descriptions noted off to the side. “Really scraping the bottom of the barrel otherwise...”

After his eyes read the bad reviews, Isaac shakes his head, closes up the folder, and drops it off to the side on the bed. Pulling himself to the edge of the, he rests his feet on the ground, scratches his head with both hands, and groans out his frustration.

From the other side of the desk, an alert chirp sounds out from a battered, old laptop. Isaac blinks back to awareness, stands up, and walks curiously towards the desk chair. Sitting down, he swipes his finger on the screen, and the device's display lights up to a plain desktop filled with a cluttered icons. With quick familiarity, he taps through a number of menus and a program opens up. Scrolling through lists of messages, he selects the latest unread and a hopeful smile appears on his face when he reads the source address. After a moment, the system decodes the message, and Isaac narrows his gaze up on the text with growing intrigue in his idle nodding. Halting his reading, Isaac glances around the room, stretches over to the bed, and snags the notepad and pencil. Retrieving the writing tools, he focuses his attention upon the information within the message, and jots down a number of key terms while mumbling to himself. “Beckerin recommended... Lady Rhian’s Artifacts and Magics... Talk to Lady Rhian first... Get directed to Mavian...”

Isaac straightens his back, stretches his shoulders out, and releases a long sigh of relief. He glances over the new lead with a smile, and starts to nod with accomplishment. He stops. He blinks blankly, pauses in though, and contorts his face. Spotting his new Perimeter Road Map next to the laptop, he awkwardly forever unfolds the compact document, and taps open an aethernet browser. He types in the name of the location into a search site, and grumbles out hints of embarrassment. “Okay... Now where the hell is this place?”


Across the dining table from Bach, Aristespha examines a number of materials upon a clean, white mat in front of her with glowing violet eyes. She carefully picks up a luminous sheet of stabilized magical energy with both hands, rotates it around in front of her view by the edges, and narrows an analytical stare upon it. Seconds later, she cracks a satisfactory smile, and nods as she continues to inspect the flow fabric. “Nicely done. A very close approximation to what the normal spells and processes can manufacture.”

Rubbing his eyes into a pinch of the bridge of his nose, Bach blinks hard, stretches out of his neck, and rocks his head. “Cool. To be honest, it was getting little mind numbing doing all those little details over and over again. I think next time I need to figure some magical automation on those parts.”

Studying the last few details of the material, Aristespha lays it back down upon the large surface in front of her, and thoughtfully rests her chin on her hand. Searching her mind with her violet glowing eyes, she lifts an inquisitive brow at Bach and tilts her head slightly. “Would you like to try something a bit more challenging?”

Bach cocks his head, ponders briefly, and shrugs his shoulders. “Sure, I guess? What exactly is the more challenging thing?”

With an interested grin, Aristespha draws a long breath in, thinks about the right phrasing, and explains. “The magical medical materials you’ve been making are the more... common variety. Very useful for first aid and initial treatment of trauma. Their effectiveness wanes for more significant and involved injuries.”

Furrowing his brow, Bach nods in general understanding, but narrows his gaze curiously. “Yeah, I can see that. So, what’s the cutoff point for the types of injuries that stuff can handle?”

Aristespha tosses her long, silvery blue hair back, grimaces in thought, and gestures out the concept with her hands. “The materials we have here are great for mild lacerations, scrapes, covering burns, closing open wounds, and... Well... Preventing anything important from leaving your body.”

The mental imagery triggers a reflexive cringe and grit of the teeth from Bach. Nodding at the sentiment, Aristespha changes her pantomime to focus on the other subject. “These more advanced materials are used to remedy other types of injuries. They are extremely useful in the right circumstances, and can often mean the difference between life and death.”

She turns in her chair at the dining table, leans over to the side, and reaches into a large medical kit. Swiftly, she navigates her hand to a small, bright neon orange metal box, grasps it carefully, and lifts it onto the table. Gingerly, she releases the latches, pivots the box towards Bach, and presents its contents. “This is my stock of those types of materials. All these were purchased. The processes to create them require dedicated magical machinery manually flowed by trained medical mages with very specific spells. Now, that doesn’t mean they cannot be made without such equipment, but you can’t get the volume needed quickly enough otherwise.”

Sorting through the sterile packages of detailed information, she finds a sealed transparent packet containing a dimly glowing, translucent sheet, and pulls it out of the row. “This one is about to expire soon. It’ll be a perfect example for us.”

Carefully closing and returning the box to it’s proper home, Aristespha slides the pack of medical fabric to Bach, and smirks expectantly. Curiously, Bach takes the packet, lifts it close to his eyes, and angles the package to gaze at it. “So, what is this exactly?”

Aristespha smiles confidently and points to the material. “That is a tissue bonding sheet. Very versatile magical material. You can wrap it around a damaged artery. Put it between separated tissues. And even, with a little work, you can reconnect ligaments.”

With a violet pulse of her eyes and flit of flow in her hand, she cracks a calm grin and hints of excitement color her voice. “Then, with the right application of magical flow, you can activate the material to thread out around the very cells of target tissues to form a powerful bond that stabilizes the damage.”

Bach blinks surprised at the change of tone. He studies the package closer, closes his eyes, and reopens them to a glowing blue. “Okay, now THAT is actually really impressive... Wow... That is some detailed construction in that... Sheet? Wait...”

He draws the packet closer to his eyes and he squints tightly during his examination. “No... That’s a... That’s actually a mesh. A really, really fine mesh. Damn, that is fine detail work there.”

Aristespha nods at Bach’s discovery, and sighs with a roll of her eyes and twist of her mouth. “If you think that’s impressive, you should look at the price on the back.”

Bach flips over the material pack over, studies the information printed on the back, and halts. His eyes flit wide and he reflexively shudders with a wince. “Uh... Wow... That is REALLY expensive. But, I guess that makes sense for buying a box of a dozen or-”

Chuckling to herself, Aristespha lifts her eye brow with a reserved smirk. “They’re individually priced.”

With his mouth hanging open mid sentence, Bach shifts his awkward focus upon the packet, glances toward Aristespha, and cautiously hands the wrapped magical material back. “Okay... I think this is safer in your hands.”

Aristespha snorts as she grasps hold of the package, holds it in her hands, and smiles with a mischievous tint. “Oh, is it?”

With a defiant grin, she neatly tears the top off the packet. Bach tenses up slightly at the sight of Aristespha breaking the expensive seal. Shaking her head, Aristespha explains calmly with a smile, and expertly removes the tissue bonding sheet out onto the clean, white mat. “Don’t worry. It was too close to the expiration date for my comfort anyway. As much as I don’t like to waste materials, I am not going to keep questionable materials around, and risk anyone’s health needlessly.”

Bach works out the surge of unease with a few shoulder shrugs, and pauses as an idea rises to the front of his mind. “I mean, THAT is some really amazing magical material... But? Don’t medical mages have a whole set of spells to handle really bad injuries that they would use that stuff on?”

Aristespha ponders, nods with some reservation, and tugs at her mouth as she approaches the subject. “Yes and no. A good portion of the spells medical mages use focus on enhancing the body’s natural mechanisms to heal. Those spells unfortunately require time, energy, and preparation that is not always available.”

Processing the exceptions, Bach gradually forms an understanding, and presents a summation. “Oh... Okay. So, great spells when when things are more ideal than not?”

With a confirming smile, Aristespha shrugs her shoulders and relates with an amused tone. “For the most part. While I know spells to do intricate, near perfect repairs on your arteries and veins, you will have long bled out before those spells can work on a sliced open femoral.”

Excitement leaks out into her grin, and she works the tissue bonding sheet in her fingers. “Hence, this is why we have materials like this.”

She perks her brow, smirks mischievously, and gazes at Bach. “Would you like a demonstration?”

Bach gradually shrugs his shoulders nonchalantly, and glances over with an agreeable tone. “Sure. Wouldn’t mind seeing this in action-”

Aristespha quickly applies a medical glove, deftly retrieves a metal scalpel from a disinfectant bath, and searches around the vicinity. Bach awkwardly finishes his statement. “Without personally needing its services.”

Narrowing a brief incredulous glare at Bach, Aristespha shakes her head with an eye roll, and gestures out an incantation with her free hand. She directs a concentrated flow of energy upon the entirety of the medical instrument with faint crackling, and sweeps a waves of similar magic upon the area of the mat. Resting the scalpel upon the sterilized surface, Aristespha stands up from her chair, taps her ungloved fingers on the dining table top, and hums in thought. Her violet eyes widen briefly, and a clever smirk appears on her ivory face. She steps around the dining table, walks into the kitchen area, and opens the fridge. Searching a few seconds, her gaze finds the target, and she reaches inside. With a modest steak in her gloved hand, she returns to her seat and readies the meat for surgery.

Aristespha confidently picks up the scalpel, prepares herself, and directs Bach’s attention. “Now, depending on the type of cut, you have a number of factors to consider when using the tissue bonding sheet. For example, if the injury goes parallel with the muscle fibers...”

As Aristespha makes a precise cut into the steak with Bach observing, the kitchen door leading to the garage opens up. Dretphi steps through the doorway with an eager smile, walks up to the refrigerator, and opens the door. Searching the contents inside, she pulls out plates of mixed vegetables, potatoes, and bread, and arranges them out strategically on the counter top. She furrows her brow, stares through the door into the garage, and twists her mouth contemplatively while eyeing the large charcoal grill smoking in the driveway. Sorting the sequence of events with mumbles of grath, she shifts her attention back to the fridge and grabs hold of a large plate of steaks. She examines the cuts of meat with pride and abruptly puzzles. Studying the four cuts on the plate, she cocks her head to the side, shifting a few platinum blonde braids, and turns her full focus to the fridge. She places the plate down, and searches the inside of the refrigerator thoroughly with brief grumbles of perplexed grath.

Aristespha finishes placing a strip of the tissue bonding sheet inside the incision in the cut of steak. Pinching the meat together on both sides of the cut with her gloved hand, she gestures with her free hand and recites a complex incantation. Flows of magical energy condense around her gloved hand, and sink exactly into the closed divide. A faint, thin glow of prismatic energy fades, and she releases. The incision remains closed. Bach squints his glowing blue gaze at closure and leans closer. “Okay, that’s pretty cool. So, how well does that hold against being pulled apart?”

Aristespha smiles proudly, presses two fingers of her gloved hand upon either side of the sealed cut, and attempts to pry it back open. “Depends on the design of the material and its lifespan. But most of the time, you’ll cause another separate injury before you’ll ever be able to pull apart the tissue.”

Bach nods as his glowing vision narrows, and quirks his mouth uncertainly. “Amazing... Really wish I could get a better view of what going down at the microscopic level.”

Aristespha’s very long, pointed ears perk up, and she tilts her head curiously at Bach. Moments of thought later, she blinks to a realization and motions Bach’s attention to her eyes. “Oh... That’s right! You’ve probably never been shown how to use medical types of magical visualization. Have you?”

Shrugging his shoulders, Bach shakes his head. “Don’t think so. I can do some very small scale sight magics. But, most of the time I’m just feeling out the flows after certain point. So... I guess I’m not really SEEING what I’m... flowing around? Just feeling that there something the flows are going around?”

Lifting her head up, Aristespha rests an examining gaze upon Bach, and gradually nods. She points to her violet illuminated eyes. “I think I can show you one process that I’m using. It’s a combination of addon spells to your typical mage sight. YOU might be able to pick up what I’m doing and duplicate it.”

Bach nods and concentrates his full attention at Aristespha face. Blinking her violet eyes back to normal, she signals the start of the process to Bach. Her eyes flicker back to a strong glow. With slow, exacting precision, she recites through each stage of a combination of incantations and gestures. She pauses after each major phase, waits for Bach’s confirmation, and demonstrates the next steps. With faint warping of magical flows around her eyes, she finishes the last step and summons magical energies in her hand and places her fingers down upon an empty section on the white mat. With Bach’s understanding nods, she flutters her eyes back to normal and dismisses the energies. “That particular set of spells will enable you to do microscopic visualization of a volume under the influence of the flowed energies.”

She works through a grimace and narrows a concerned gaze at Bach. “Start with a very, very small area. It’s extremely easy to get overwhelmed. That’s why most practitioners start out with the least amount of magnification power. It can be a bit of an unwieldy spell combination, because all the various factors in each individual spell.”

Bach mentally reviews the last minutes in his mind, and his eyes sort through the processes in his head. Drawing in an apprehensive breath, he concentrates. His eyes pulse a brighter blue and threads of magical flow emerge down his arm into his hand. “Okay... I think I got the basic idea. Let’s see how far I get with this...”

As the energies stabilize in his hand, Bach places his fingers down upon a similar spot on the clean, white mat. The magical conduits pulse with different flows of prismatic color. Bach grits his teeth and he visibly cringes with a distant, disconnect stare. After a brief moment of facial twitches and hard winces, he closes his eyes hard, shakes his head, and waves off the energies. “OH GODS! Fuck me! Damn, I don’t think I got that right... at all...”

Aristespha barely quells a humored snort, shakes her head with a commiserating smile, and assures Bach. “No. That probably means you did it just fine. That is the same reaction EVERYONE who first attempts that spell gets. How are you feeling?”

Bach blinks, rubs his eyes with both hands, and shudders out the remaining discomfort. “Fine, I guess? Probably would have gotten a headache if I keep it up much longer than that.”

Releasing a sigh of relief, Aristespha smirks amused and laughs lightly. “Oh good. I still remember five people in my class getting really bad nausea and dizziness. One poor man vomited into the garbage can. So, you did just fine for your first attempt.”

She lifts a curious brow, narrows an inquisitive stare at Bach, and queries. “Were you able to see anything?”

Reviewing his recent memory, Bach eventually rocks his head side to side with tinges of uncertainty. “I think so. Brief glimpses. It was just a lot to sort through all at once. Felt really... Disconnected? Disjointed, maybe? It was weird.”

Aristespha smirks and agrees completely with Bach as she shakes her head reminiscently. “That sounds familiar. It’s a hard feeling to describe. It gets better when you are more familiar with the spells.”

A large, faint shadow contrasting the light from the kitchen casts itself up on the tabletop. A light shiver up Bach’s spine pushes his posture straight in the dining chair, and he eyes either side of him searching for something. Aristespha lifts her gaze upward to meet the sternly stoic expression upon Dretphi’s face. The imposing grath woman standing behind Bach narrows a glare at Aristespha, and points to the cut of steak on the white mat. “Still edible?”

Maintaining a calm collected smile, Aristespha nods confidently and motions to the meat. “Perfectly. Sterilized the surface and instruments. I needed an appropriate demonstration medium for Bach’s education.”

The edge to the stern stare upon Dretphi’s face dulls, and she focuses her firm tone upon Aristespha. “Are you done... preparing... YOUR steak?”

Aristespha presses a gloved finger onto the closed incision, and directs a dispelling burst into area. “I am now.”

After the incision opens back up, she picks up the cut with her gloved hand and Dretphi presents a small plate to place it upon. Dretphi takes the piece of meat away, and walks out into the garage towards the grill and cooking food. Bach eases out an awkward breath, as the looming emotional pressure systems deflates.


In the living room of the ranch style house, Sotalia sits on one side of the couch flipping the pages of a graphic novel, and her golden eyes sift through the imagery and dialog. Turning the last page of the book, she bites her lower lip with an excited smirk on her face, and places the book on the pile next to her. Leaning slightly over, she grins and whispers to Dretphi on the other side of the of couch, while pointing to the cover of the graphical novel. “So... Who do you think HE ends up with?”

Dretphi pauses from her reading, notices the particular book cover, and fights back hints of embarrassment on her face. She glances to either side of her, leans close to Sotalia, and quietly replies in grath. Sotalia shifts her weight away from Dretphi, dons a devilish grin, and tosses her fiery orange, wavy hair back over her shoulders. “Oh... Really? I... I hadn’t thought of it like THAT. Interesting.”

Working the pink flush out of her tan face, Dretphi shrugs her shoulders and stretches her faintly gray striped arms out. “My theory.”

Sotalia lifts an intrigued eyebrow and snorts her amusement. Brushing stray hairs over her swept back, black horns, she catches a glimpse of the muted television, and leans over to the coffee table for the remote. “Finally, they’re showing the weather report. Takes them forever to cycle back to it.”

She presses a button on the remote and stares at the display of an evuukian man in front of a digital map.

“Local authorities have put out a heat advisory for Amaranth Valley and surrounding areas. Presently the jet stream is pushing away storm systems from the southwest, along with any possible maelstrom activity. Unfortunately, we are in a heat bubble with very little wind for next few days. With the shifting of the front, we should get relief by Monday night. Until then, exercise caution with the heat.”

Sotalia taps the mute button the remote, shakes her head as she picks up another book, and smirks. “Oh well. Good enough excuse to catch up on this series.”

Sitting at the dining table, Cideeda’s tail wags side to side, and she slowly rotates a miniature between her claw tips. Narrowing her emerald green eyes, she tugs her mouth either side s she deliberates, and hovers an ultra fine paintbrush near a the tiny details of the figure’s armor. She pulls the brush away, mulls over a thought indecisively, and puts the figurine down. Bach spots the contemplation on Cideeda’s light brown face, and tilts his head of longer brown hair to the side. “Something wrong?”

Rapping her claw tips on the table top, Cideeda briefly grimaces and rocks her head to either side. “Nothing wrong... Just trying to figure out what type of Perimeter Defense Force unit would be better to have with my army. I think I got enough heavy armor units to be the front line... So, maybe having a few Deep Zone Rangers would be good.”

Bach sets a large mech miniature in the middle of the table, tweaks its pose, and ponders out loud. “Yeah. You can’t go wrong having a few units with high evasion, first strike, and that cover bonus.”

He points to the unit, and curiously asks. “So, is this the look you were going for?”

Cideeda turns her head, flits her eyes wide, and grins toothily at the mech figure as her tail wags faster. “Yes! That’s perfect. Now, if I can just get the paint mix right to capture that balance between ancient and rusty...”

Stepping through the archway leading from the hallway, Aristespha stretches her neck out to either side and extends her arms over her head. She puts her hands on her lower back, curls backwards, and grunts softly. “Gods... Sebastian, next time I try to write for that long... Please remind me to take a break to walk around.”

Sebastian’s ethereal forms drifts into view next to Aristespha, and he playfully rolls his eyes. He reflexively adjusts the loose pompadour of brown hair on his head, and smirks to Aristespha. “Of course, dear. You could also try writing in chair with proper posture... Instead of curled upon pile of pillows and blankets.”

Aristespha rests her hands on her hips, straightens her athletic figure, and twists her mouth at the truth. “I guess... It’s just hard to get in the right mood.”

Sebastian crosses his arms, leans his ghostly form close to Aristespha, and quirks his brow as he whispers. “As if it’s hard for you to get into the right mood for what you write.”

Shaking out her long silvery blue hair, Aristespha smirks confidently and giggles quietly to Sebastian. “Oh, but it takes a special state of mind for my best work to come forth.”

As Aristespha walks into the living area, Sebastian shrugs his shoulders and ethereally snorts while drifting behind her. “If what I’ve proofread so far is any indicator, I fear what might be lurking in your mind.”

An evil smile briefly emerges from the gray, blue, and violet hints on her ivory face, and Aristespha surveys the army of figurines upon the dining table. She crosses her arms, studies the miniatures closer, and directs her genuine tone towards Cideeda. “Next time you head out to the game shop for a tournament, let me know. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a high point count match.”

Cideeda’s furry ears perk up, and she nods with an eager smirk. “Will do. Going to finally take the plunge?”

Aristespha waves off the idea, and sighs with an embarrassed grimace. “No. Not quite yet. I deal with balancing enough numbers and figures professionally as it is. Don’t really need a hobby that involves that, too.”

Accepting the explanation, Cideeda grins toothily and rocks a figure temptingly towards Aristespha. “Fair enough. We all be waiting for you...”

Suddenly an ambient drone in the room drops out into silence. The team quickly focus their collective attention to the inert air conditioning unit on the wall. Cideeda blinks a few times, and her furry ears search the soundscape. “The other units are off, too... And, I didn’t hear the thermostat turn off.”

Sebastian points towards the far end of the house, and hovers that direction. “Okay... Weird... I’m going to go check that big unit outside.”

Rolling her eyes, Aristespha shakes her head with a groan and walks back into the hallway. “Let me get the number for the leasing company, we’ll probably need it.


Chad walks into the living room carrying in a small decorated chest. He stands in the middle of the area, in front of the coffee table, and addresses the Flames of the Phoenix team seated around. Okay, everybody. Time to cast your votes.”

He glances down at the sturdy prop in his hand, shrugs his shoulders in his collared shirt, and rolls his eyes casually dismissive. “If you’ll excuse how it looks, this is what the show provided to store the ballots.”

Tapping his fingers on the wooden exterior, he smirks in slight amusement and rests it down on the coffee table top. “Surprisingly, it’s actually really well made. And, the lock works. Samantha said they found it in a local shop.”

He turns the key in the lock, lifts the lid open, and retrieves a collection of paper ballots and pencils. “Everyone gets a ballot, rank your three...”

Glancing around the room at Deedri, Modoran, Tassilda, Trakenthin, and Veevi, Chad snorts at the group’s ill-humored expressions, and shakes his head. “Well... Two real REAL choices from 1st, 2nd, and 3rd pick. Then, just fold them, and slip them through the slot.”

He travels around the room and hands out ballots and pencils to each member of the team. Veevi promptly stands up with a bright, saleswoman smile, and poses confidently. “Now before everyone makes their choices, I’d like to really point out that while we have a tough choice to make...”

A sly grins accompanies a persuasive glint to her dark pink pupil eyes, and she gestures her opinion with a dramatic flair. “We should really think about our futures and our team’s future. While some jobs can serve as paltry resume builders, very few can grant you the unique opportunity to get your foot in the door of a rewarding industry.”

She rests her hands on her hips, lifts an examining brow to the rest of the team, and shift her stance. “You all understand the value of doing small jobs to build towards a greater goal. I believe in that. But, I also don’t want to be doing small jobs forever, along with you. So, why not make the choice to pick a seemingly small part for a chance for something greater in the future?”

Chad steps up to Veevi, presents her ballot and pencil, and tilts his head to the side. “So, I guess you are really pushing for the movie set job?”

Veevi tosses her long pink hair back, sways her tan, brown striped hips, and widens her hungry smile at Chad, giggling out loud. “Oh my. Am I being that blatant?”

Shaking his head, Chad turns around, closes up the chest, and locks it. He finds a seat in a couch chair, and works on his vote. With obvious deliberation on his face, he taps his pencil on the ballot, and suspiciously eyes Veevi’s wandering gaze his direction. Trakenthin examines the ballet, quickly marks off three check boxes in the array, and folds the ballot up. He stands up, inserts the ballot in the chest slot, and nods towards Chad before he leaves the room. “Sparring practice for cameras in an hour?”

Chad nods with a muted smile, and a sigh. “Yeah, they want some last minute filler footage, for some reason.”

Trakenthin shrugs a similar sentiment as he exits. Modoran glances around casually, nonchalantly folds the ballot up with one hand, and drops it off in the chest. Tassilda and Deedri exchange looks, check their own ballots once more, and get up. Folding their votes up, they deposit the papers and head of to the dining area. Veevi springs up from her seat, steps towards the table, and slowly slides the ballot in the hole with a seductive smile at Chad. She struts past Chad, playfully brushes her tail along his chest in passing, and chuckles quietly to herself with an evil grin. Chad nods at her expression, and waits for Veevi to leave the room.

Standing up from the couch chair, Chad approaches the voting chest and holds his ballot while pondering. He takes the key, unlocks the box, and opens the lid. Staring at the folded pieces of paper inside, he contorts his face with an uncomfortable grimace. A minute passes, and an odd calm washes over him. He slowly exhales. Shaking his head, Chad unfolds his ballot, erases two check marks, and fills the opposite back. He closes the small chest, locks it back up, and slips his ballot through the slot.


The blades of the overhead fan in the living area spin around quickly and the chassis sways in short repetition. Within the strong draft below, Dretphi and Sotalia lounge miserably, sprawled upon the couch. Dretphi wipes a sweat droplets off her soaked brow with her hand, and tugs her undershirt away from her chest. She fans air through the damp garment, and sighs out her weakened frustration, trying to distract herself with the television. Sotalia groans out her disgust as her boredom wanders to gaze upon her frizzing fiery orange, wet hair. She tightly grips a towel nearby with her long, thick, black nailed fingers, and wipes the sweat off her face as she grumbles. Dragging the cloth down her body, she blots off the surface moisture around her shoulders, bikini top, and stomach. Aristespha droops her long, pointed ears lower, eyes the end of call message on her aetherphone in defeat, and tosses her head back. “Bad news or good news first?”

Sebastian surveys the fading morale on the couch, and smiles encouragingly to Aristespha with a hopeful tone. “Let’s go with good news, first?”

Aristespha rubs her eyes into a pinch of the bridge of her nose, draws in a long breath, and sighs. “Good news. The leasing agent was able to book a repair technician, despite the overwhelming demand right now.”

Faint signs of relief and hope swell in both Dretphi and Sotalia. Raising her fist up, Sotalia weakly celebrates. “Woo...”

Lowering her eyelids half mast over her violet eyes, Aristespha colors her tone with tinges of anger and deflates upon the dining room table. “Bad news... The appointment is tomorrow afternoon.”

Dretphi sinks into the couch deeply, drops her head back, and curses in grath. Sotalia buries her face in the palm of her hand, and grips one of horns in frustration. “Gods... Dammit...”

Gritting his teeth briefly, Sebastian hovers towards the other side of the house, thumbs over his shoulder, and reassures the team present. “It’ll be okay. I’m going to go check on Bach and Cideeda. I’m certain those two will be able to figure something out.”

He drifts through the wall away from the miserable crew.

Outside on the other side of the of the ranch style house, Bach kneels down next to Cideeda and grabs hold of another side of panel to a large air conditioning unit. He pants against the stagnant heat and the overhead sun, and assists Cideeda in lifting off the metal shell. Both Cideeda and Bach turn their attention inside the maze of wiring and metal tubing, along with years upon years of debris, funk, and filth. Cideeda sneers her upper lip, lays her furry ears back, and growls. “There’s no fucking way this has seen a yearly service this decade.”

Bach cringes at the sight, and glances down as the buildup of dirt and sediment crumble out from the bottom of the machine. “Shit... They probably just dropped it in and haven’t touched it since. To this thing’s credit, it was doing pretty awesome until now.”

Nodding in agreement, Cideeda picks off chunks of torn insulation around the copper lines with her claws, squints her emerald green eyes at the network of wiring and machinery, and smirks contemplatively. “Honestly, I’m going to have to clean this thing up first, before I can really diagnose what happened to it.”

Peering into the crevices between major components, Bach slowly shakes his head, and sighs out his waning confidence. “Yeah... Kind of hard to spot the soot of the blown out part... Against all the other dust and grime.”

Sebastian’s ghostly form phases out from the nearby brick wall, and he pivots to face Bach and Cideeda. With a hopefully smile, he pleads for good news. “So, any idea what we’re dealing with? Progress of any kind? Anything good to say?”

Cideeda lowers her furry ears and shakes her head with a defeated grumbles. Bach turns his head to face his brother, draws a long breath in, and explains uncertainly. “Well... We’re probably the first people to open this damn thing up in forever. It’s filled with grit and grime. And, fuck us if we have clue what this damned thing’s problem is.”

Pointing a clawed finger to Bach, Cideeda nods her head in sympathetic agreement as she inspects the air conditioner. Sebastian sags his shoulders, frowns slightly, and gives an appreciative thumbs up. “Okay. Well, you two do what you can. There’s a tech scheduled for tomorrow, so you don’t need to overhaul it. Just see if you can get it to last us through the night.”

Both Bach and Cideeda return the thumbs up, and start sorting the mess. Sebastian phases through the brick wall and drifts back to the living area.

Upon the living room couch, Dretphi sighs deeply, and her annoyance contorts her face. “Would shower. Does not help. Not cold anymore.”

Sotalia glances down at herself, growling lowly at the situation, and cringes. “Gods, even stripping this bikini off wouldn’t help at this point.”

Slouching in the dining room chair, Aristespha narrows her stare to the temperature on the thermostat, rolls her eyes, and sinks further into her chair. Sebastian hovers into the area, apologetically smiles, and attempts to imbue confidence in the team. “Bach and Cideeda are getting started on diagnosing the thing. It hasn’t seen service for a while. So... Hopefully, it might be a simple routine fix. But, they don’t know right now.”

Sotalia nods appreciatively against her doubts, reaches out to grip the edges of the couch, and sighs. “At least they’re on the case. I’m going to... Try the whole cold shower thing...”

Gripping tightly, she gradually peels herself off the couch, eases herself upright, and fights a squirming fit of uncomfortable disgust. Visibly cringing and awkwardly flexing her body, she glances down and widens her golden eyed glare at the wet outline herself on the cushions. Suppressing a reflexive gag, a surge of determination forces her arms defiantly up in the air, and she stomps over towards the sliding glass door. “FUCK. THIS. I’m fixing THIS. RIGHT NOW!”

Sotalia grabs hold of the door handle, powerfully throws the slider wide open, and stands over the threshold. “I’ll pay for the deposit we don’t get back. Clear the blast!”

Dretphi glances around, notices Sotalia gesturing out an incantations, and springs up from the couch into the hallway. Aristespha blinks quickly, follows behind Dretphi, and calls out. “Fuck the deposit. Do it!”

Summoning forth a mass of flows in her hands, Sotalia pushes her arms out to her sides, with one hand inside the house and one outside in the heat. Prismatic energies traveling along her arms illuminate brightly, and air swirls out in a projected vortexes from each hand. A cone of cold wind bursts forth into the living room and spills into the open spaces. Light refracting waves of heat erupt out from her other hand, blast forth into the yard, and up into the air. Nearly half minute of waning intensity later, Sotalia halts the flow. Stepping in from the foggy mist of cold air meeting outside heat, she closes the sliding glass door slowly, struts into the middle of the room, and breaths out a visible, relieved breath. “Much better...”

Aristespha and Dretphi peek out from the hallway archway, and quickly enter the room to enjoy the significantly lower temperature. Sebastian glances around the faintly frosted room, nods at the impressive display. “Not bad. I’ll go see if Bach and Cideeda want to take a break.”


Standing in the middle of the living room of the two-story house, Chad presents the small voting chest to the gathered Flames of the Phoenix team, and the surrounding camera crews at the edges of the room. He sets the wooden container upon the coffee table and announces. “It’s time to reveal and tally the votes.”

Unlocking the chest slowly for the cameras, Deedri, Modoran, Tassilda, and Trakenthin watch on with hints of apprehension and highlights of suspicion. Veevi grins confidently and poses for the recording crews. Chad draws out the ballots, unfolds each of them, and counts them. A genuinely proud smile graces his face, and he gazes over the team to address them. “Well, to be honest, I safely assumed the Chances of Smiles mission was not even in the running. So, the remaining choices are between the Movie Set Escort and Remote Drone Recovery quests.”

Eyeing over the votes fanned in his hands, Chad present his bright white grin, draws in a dramatic breath, and calls out. “The winner is... The Remote Drone Recovery. Five to one.”

A wave of surprise washes over the rest of the team. Deedri, Modoran, Tassilda, and Trakenthin collectively puzzle at Chad. Veevi’s expression abruptly drops to a blank stare, and simmers towards an accusatory, indignant glare. Gritting her teeth, she digs her sharp nails into the cushions of the sectional couch, and directs an insulted, muted growl towards Chad. “Don’t YOU mean TWO to four...”

Chad calmly pivots his head towards Veevi, narrows his resolute stare at her, and repeats plainly. “Five. To. One.”

Veevi balls up her fists, shoots up from the couch, and hisses at Chad. Narrowing a mean glare upon the rest of the team, she petulantly yells out. “What the fuck is wrong with you people!? A perfect opportunity to further yourselves, and you turn it down to go wander around in the woods looking for junk?! Am I the ONLY ONE with any kind of AMBITION here?!”

She tosses her pink hair back, turns in place, flicks up her long tail disgustedly. As she storms up the nearby stairwell, a small camera crew detachment scurries up the stairs behind her. Moments of awkward silence later, Tassilda lifts an intrigued brow at Chad, crosses her arms, and smirks. “So, five to one? Interesting.”

Chad respectfully nods. Between the assembled members, a quiet acceptance grows into a mix of appreciation and approval.