*The crate looks normal, it's not locked. Whatever is inside could push the lid open easily. As far as finding something, Darnell will have his choice of a tent full of tools and artifacts of all kinds.*

Darnell: *finds something to defend himself with, then will…okay, no, two things – one for defense and one to lift the lid a bit from a distance . . . will use something to get himself more than arm’s length from the crate, then lift it up a little and try to get a look inside*

*The lid lifts and he'll hear a soft cry of fear and dismay from inside.*

Darnell: *stops, lid still cracked* Hello?

Man: *............voice soft.* H-hello...?

Darnell: */huffs/ in relief* Hello. It’s okay. You’re safe now, sir. My name is Special Agent Darnell Barrett. *no idea if the guy actually speaks English, but if nothing else, his reassuring tone will be understood – sets down both items in his hands and will move to slowly lift the lid as he speaks*

Man: *wide, fear-filled eyes turn up to Darnell.* I-is it g-gone?

Darnell: Yes. I’m so sorry. *offers his hand to help the man up and out…he’s been in there for /hours/, poor guy*

Man: *he's been in there for at least a day. He takes Darnell's hand, his own shaking. He'll need help getting up, let alone out of the crate. He's looking all around as though expecting some kind of horror to jump out at them.*

Darnell: *supporting him as much as he needs, will even pull an arm around his shoulders and snug the man to his side, other arm wrapped around his waist* I know what you’re looking for. I’ve seen one before. You’re safe now. How many were there? What happened here?

Man: *looks at Darnell, studying him... He’s seen one?  He’ll believe? ...He’s really safe?* Th-three.  There were three.  They were attacking everyone.  I-I-I h-hid...I-I didn’t know what else to do...

 Zero: *He'll start with his avatar program, adjusting the clothing. That done, he'll pull up a map and find the location of the dig site. He'll make a ground bridge off a little ways so they're not stepping out into the middle of people.*

Darnell: *wide-eyed as he stares at the…whatever it is…* And . . . we’ll be able to get back this way? Can /you/ go that far? From your body? *suddenly realizing Zero might or might not have to stay behind*

Zero: Satellite imaging shows the landing flat enough. I'll leave my alt there. 

Sparks: *released from a compartment on Zero* Woo. *beep!*

Zero: Be ready to reopen the groundbridge when I give the word. 

Sparks: Whoop-woo! *will go hover near Darnell*

Zero: Ready?

Darnell: Ah . . . give me a few minutes? *he wants to change clothes and get the rest of his new purchases into his suitcase so everything’s in one place . . . once that’s done, yes, he’s ready to go*

Zero: *nods and activates the ground bridge. Swirling green energy forms within a circular frame. He'll fold into alt and open his door for Darnell, avatar forming in the driver seat.*

Darnell: *climbs in, visibly nervous, but…willing to trust*

Zero: It'll be all right. You'll not be the first living, organic lifeform to go through a ground bridge. The first was a bird that followed me through one time. Had a hell of a time catching the frightened thing so I could return it to its natural habitat. *will drive through. Darnell's skin will tingle a little, but that's all. And then the glow from the wormhole is gone and they're in Russia.*

 Zero: *his avatar follows Darnell in. They'll take a table together, and Zero will settle across from Darnell...and order a little something. He's curious. He'll just have to de-manifest his avatar away from here...*

Darnell: *brows go up – he was prepared to make some excuse to the waitstaff why “William” didn’t order anything – but he doesn’t dare say anything when someone could overhear, will put in his order, something quick to fix but filling, as well as a large coffee*

Zero: *got something cheap (Darnell is paying after all) and small. He gives Darnell a little shrug and a grin.*

Darnell: *once the server heads off to put in their order* You can take things in?

Zero: Theoretically. *he'll start with that glass of water, taking a careful sip.*

Darnell: *small grin* Hopefully. *will pull out his case journal and sketch while they wait for their food, it’s his way of processing some of what he’s learned so far*

Zero: *well, the water is contained fine, so... he'll just watch Darnell sketch until food comes.* You're really good at that. *glances at the waitress with a smile and soft "thank you" when she puts his plate before him*

Darnell: *small grin* Thank you. Once upon a time, I was going to be an artist. *looks up when the waitress arrives and puts his stuff away with another grin* Thank you, Dolores. *reading her nametag – once she’s left, gives Zero a wry grin* I don’t need to teach you how to use utensils, do I?

Zero: What? You mean I can't just shove my face into the plate? *teasing as he picks up a fork and manages with it well enough. He studies the bit of food on the end before putting it in his mouth.* ...Wow. So much flavor. 

Darnell: */grins/* Yup. You’re welcome to some of this too, if you’d like. *motioning to his own plate as he digs in – WOW he’s famished, finally really realizing that now that he has the smells right under his nose*

Zero: *grins* Some other time.  *will just slowly eat.  He’s not worried about finishing the food, he’s not properly processing it anyway, though that might be something interesting to look into.  Basically being able to put his body into stasis and letting his avatar fuel like this?  He’s not sure how that’d work, maybe some kind of tiny spacebridge tech or something.  He’ll have to tinker with the idea.  In any case, when Darnell is done and food has been paid for, Zero is ready to go.* Shall we, then?

 Darnell: You're doing really well, Lilly. *looks up at Zero* Sounds like that's when she went into shock. If she just walked out of the house, that's probably what saved her life. I noticed that if I stood still or moved too fast, it focused on me and started closing in. But when I moved slowly and calmly, it's like I disappeared. It got confused and I was able to walk right by it as it wandered off for the kitchen.

Zero: *brushes a hand over her head.* Hmn. Interesting. Glad it turned out that way. 

Lilly: *gives Zero a little smile and /snuggles/ to Darnell*

Darnell: *one arm around her as he pulls his phone from his pocket, which is ringing* Master Detective Barrett. Thomas...good, thank you. Any info yet on the stuff I emailed? .....hmn, yup, sounds about right. Lilly Barnes. Yup, I'm with her right now. As well as can be expected considering what she just survived. I gave her my cell phone number. I've told her this is an open investigation and she's not to talk to anyone about what happened. Figured that was the easiest till we get a handle on this. Gonna stay with her till Services gets here, then I'll head back over to the house. Yup...will do. All right. Bye. *hangs up and puts his phone back into pocket and just snuggles Lilly*

Lilly: *while Darnell is on the phone, she’s calmed enough to start to doze off against his shoulder, not even stirring at the light knock at the door.*

Woman: *peeks in* Agent Barrett? *looking between the two men for confirmation of who the Master Detective is.*

 Zero: *will at least put his hands on the wheel to make it look good as he heads them where directed.  He'll park and his avatar will step out to go inside with Darnell.*

Darnell: *will have Zero stay close, signing them both in (Zero under the name William and as his guest), then will have the staff take them to see Lilly*

Lilly: *when Darnell and Zero are shown to her, she's sitting in a room, gazing out the window.  She doesn't even react when they walk in.  The room is a small office, as she's not injured, and Child Services hasn't arrived to get her yet, and the doctors hoped that she'd be more comfortable here rather than in a hospital bed somewhere...*

Darnell: *will cross to her, lightly touching her shoulder as he crouches down to her level* Lilly . . . it's Darnell. Agent Barrett. Do you remember me?

Lilly: *looks at him...and looks away...*

Darnell: Lilly . . . I'm sorry I left you. I really am. I should have stayed but I also needed to see for myself what happened so I could try to stop it from hurting anyone else. *a beat, then...* I've seen it, Lilly. I've seen the creature that killed Haley and everyone else. The black thing. I've seen it.

Lilly: *....Looks at him, a little frown on her face...but then her expression changes.  He means it.  He really has seen it.  He believes her!  Tears fill her eyes and she'll shift to /hug/ him* N-no one believes me! *sob*

Darnell: */hugs/ her tightly* I believe you, Lilly. This is my job, to deal with the dark things that happen. I believe you. I know you're not lying or imagining things. *will just.../hold/ her for as long as she needs*

Lilly: *will just SOB against his shoulder for a long couple minutes before she finally quiets.*

Darnell: *just /HUGS/ her to him, rubbing her back, murmuring softly till she gets it out of her system*

Lilly: *sniffling as she wipes her tears away on Darnell’s shoulder...and possibly a bit more than tears, sorry Darnell.* I don’t want to stay here.  I don’t want to go with people who don’t believe me.

 Zero: *will pull up by Darnell's car, waiting for the detective to get what he needs.*

Darnell: *will just...get his whole suitcase and transfer it to Zero's trunk or back seat for now if the scientist robot's okay with that*

Zero: *no problems with that.  He'll grin at Darnell when he gets back in* You want to drive? *Darnell has trusted him, he'll trust Darnell...*

Darnell: Uh...me? Really?

Zero: If you want. *grinning*

Darnell: Uh, if...if it's all right...

Zero: *nods and motions a the wheel* Go for it.

Darnell: *gingerly takes the wheel....is, uh, careful at first, just getting a feel for the car...and HIGHLY AWARE that the car is sentient...*

Zero: *amused grin, not that he blames Darnell, in fact, he appreciates the hesitation* You're not going to hurt me, and if I need to, I can quickly and easily take back control. 

Darnell: It's just . . . it's generally a Bad. Thing. to assume control of another's body, even by invitation...

Zero: Agreed, but to be honest, you're only in a small amount of control of me, and only so long as I allow.

Darnell: ........... *nodnod - will...get a little bolder...he /is/ in a RACECAR now after all...*

Zero: *grinning, and Zero's alt will respond as any car would...*

Darnell: *okay...no really... he has a RACECAR...in an all but abandoned city...he's going to try a few things - still careful if ONLY because the car is sentient!!!...but...yeah, he's gonna start having some fun before they head to the next town for food*

Zero: *GRINNING...and might aid a little, but for the most part he'll let Darnell control his alt.*

Darnell: *will quickly become clear that...he likes speed, and to have /fun/*

Zero: *laughing, he's enjoying Darnell's delite.*

Darnell: *also laughing!...will get more and more bold, while still being careful both of Zero's body and of people's property around them*

Zero: *when Darnell finally seems done and starts them towards the next town.* Have fun?

 Darnell: *small smile once they’re on the floor* You’ve been working on your programming.

Zero: *grins* Is it better? I've had to guess at how human bodies feel. Now I've a better idea.

Darnell: *nods and offers his hand again – wants to feel the firmness again as well as check temp*

Zero: *takes Darnell's hand...he certainly feels more human now. Just don't nudge him in the side, his stomach area is still way more firm than it should be.*

Darnell: That’s a really good start. We should work on the rest of you, though. If…you’d like. *important…plus it’s a nice distraction from what’s been bothering him…*

Zero: *headtilt...well, distraction is good...* Sure. It'd probably be a good idea.

Darnell: My thinking being if someone hooks your arm, pats your shoulder, bumps into you by mistake… if you don’t “feel” right, it could make them do a double-take at you, and you don’t want to draw that kind of attention. *draws a breath, cheeks coloring softly – a milder version of his reaction from earlier tonight when he had to go outside* Know that on anyone else, from here to here all the way around on anyone - *indicates his waist to the tops of his thighs* - and here to here on a female, especially the front - *indicates shoulders to low ribs, Zero will likely recognize that as the place where women have…swells…that men don’t* - is off-limits. But . . . *wry grin* . . . . for the sake of science, I’ll let you get a…a feel - *yes, that was a semi-intended pun, how else was he going to put that? 9,9* - for what a human male body is like and how it works, range of motion, stuff like that.

Zero: *can't help the amused little smile at Darnell's clear embarrassment.* As much as I'm interested, are you sure? Please don't feel you have to; I don't want to make you uncomfortable.

Darnell: …I know. But…I want to help. You saved my life, and it’ll help you blend all the more for interacting with others. If you choose to. It’s . . . uncomfortable, sure, but I also know most of that comes from the culture and social proprieties I was raised in. It’s not like you’d be doing anything harmful.

Zero: ...Thank you. I really appreciate your help. What would make you most comfortable for...letting me get a feel for a human body...?

Darnell: Well . . . you did pretty good with just a handshake for your hand. Safe to guess you know the general build of our bodies? Skin, fat, and muscle over a skeletal support frame. Some parts of the body have less between the skin and the bone underneath than others. Most of the head, the spine down the center of the back, collar bones, breast bone. *touches each with his fingers* On a healthy and . . . decently-built man, you’ll just feel the end of the arm bone in the outside of the shoulder here within the muscle tone. Someone with more body fat than I have will have a lot of places that feel even softer, more rounded from the accumulation of fat cells. You wouldn’t be out of place to copy my body build, though. I’m fit, but not abnormally so.

Zero: *nods and...well, if Darnell doesn’t back away from him or something, he’ll reach out to feel over Darnell’s shoulder, arm, and chest.*

 Zero: *after a while.* You want to talk about it? Whatever happened today is clearly haunting you, and I get the impression it's the sort of thing you can't generally tell people. I'm glad to listen, and won't think you crazy no matter what you tell me. I know there was quite an anomaly in that cave before the explosion.

Darnell: ........ *sits up, voice soft* What do you know about what happened in the cave?

Zero: Not much. I could tell there was meant to be some kind of containment field for...some kind of entity, though my readings didn't tell me what. Whatever was meant to be held was there, though it left behind residual energy. It... the readings remind me of an entity we call the Necrobot, an entity believed to come to all who die. *little shrug.* That's what the readings made me think of anyway.

Darnell: ………………… *shoulders slump, then he turns and pulls his case journal from his satchel, opening it to a sketch he did during the investigation because the lighting wasn’t enough to get a good photo, turns to show it to Zero* Her name is Ankou. She’s a death goddess. The containment field was meant to capture her once summoned, before releasing her on the living world. *rueful grin* I don’t think she was too thrilled with that plan.

Zero: I'd imagine most wouldn't be, especially such an entity that is characteristically neutral to all. *amazed, though. Does this mean the Necrobot could be real?* ...You drew this?

Darnell: *nods* It was too dark where I saw this to use my camera, so I did a quick sketch. I was copying someone else’s drawing, but turns out it’s not just an artist’s rendering. It’s accurate.

Zero: *brows go up* You actually saw her? I...well maybe I'm basing her too much on what I'm familiar with, but wouldn't you have to die to see her? Or nearly die? *hadn't thought that explosion hurt him that badly, though he knew Darnell needed help that likely wouldn’t find him, but still...*

Darnell: *looks away* Yes . . . you do. I’ve seen her twice. Once because I was holding a feather that had been taken from her at one point, and another because . . . I’m the one Richard used to summon her. He captured her when she came for me. She . . . spared me, though. So I could stop Richard and free her, I guess. *huffs softly, hunched over with elbows braced on his legs, head down* It sounds crazy, I know. Funny thing? It's not even the craziest thing I've had happen.

Zero: ...*will slip an arm around Darnell and gently pull him close.* Seems you succeeded. You did a good thing, Darnell; I'm sorry you've suffered so to see it done. *little smile* Mmm, I'm sure meeting an alien ranks somewhere on that "craziest thing I've had happen" list. *in other words, not going to call Darnell crazy*

Darnell: *startles from the touch, head snapping up to look at Zero…but…then lets himself lean…just a little, shrugging as he shakes his head* It’s . . . part of my job. It’s what I do. I’m the Master Detective in Service to Her Majesty the Queen. Most of what I do is normal criminal justice work, detective work, but any time there’s anything . . . unusual - *rueful grin* - “unbelievable” as she told me over the phone this last time – that’s when I get sent in. *at the last, he looks up with a small, wan grin* Yes and no...

Zero: *softly scoffs* I don’t know if I should be offended or impressed. *his tone is amused...and impressed. But then he’s serious again.* Sounds like you’ve been through a lot of slag that you keep to yourself because others would take you for crazy if you tried to convince them of the truth... *gives Darnell a gentle squeeze.* I may not understand or have a frame of reference for everything you’ve “had happen”, but I’ll not disbelieve you either, if you want to talk.

 Zero: *will set things on the chair... then take a seat in his and let his avatar manifest beside Darnell.* I thought this might be easier this time.

Darnell: *hesitates, looking between the robot and the avatar, hadn’t really thought about it when he was a car but…* Do you…split your attention, or did you just…sort of leave your body to come over here into…this?

Zero: *grins* It's more like splitting my attention. Both bodies can function independently to an extent. *he points at his natural body* I do, however, have to keep some concentration towards holding this form, keeping the programs running basically.

Darnell: *shakes his head, impressed* That’s so weird to think about. I don’t think humans – or any organic life – have anything even close to equivalent.

Zero: It's not exactly a common ability with Cybertronians either. I kind of just invented it. *big grin before shifting around Darnell to see to his back.*

Darnell: You . . . really? */stunned/ even as he shifts as well, settling to let Zero work*

Zero: Yeah. *quite proud of himself.* I've noted what I assume to be law enforcement while driving around, and quickly realized it would look... wrong to drive around with an empty cab, so I've been working on a solution. Tonight was my first real test. I'd have... presented my avatar to you first, but you woke sooner than expected. *sheeps.*

Darnell: Not just wrong, impossible. Suspicious, at best. Automobiles of any kind are machines that require a driver to operate. They don’t move on their own. *chuckles* That would have been easier to start with, but I think overall knowing the truth sooner was probably the best. At least for me.

Zero: You're more accepting than I imagine most would be. *will finish up and get Darnell rewrapped with bandages.* How are you feeling? You seemed tired earlier. I can help you fix up a place to recharge.

Darnell: *rueful* I’ve dealt for many years with far more strange and unexplainable things that most ever will. *turns to look at him* Thank you, and . . . recharge? Oh, sleep? Ah, yes, I probably should. *SO NOT looking forward to the nightmares (he’s still not really come to grips yet with everything Richard put him through) . . . and then he blushes softly, unable to put /that/ off any longer either* Ah . . . first, though, is there someplace I can . . . um . . . I should probably go outside for that, I guess. To . . . void wastes.

Zero: Ah, right. *he'll give Darnell a hand down.* I'll prepare a place for you to sleep while you're out.

Darnell: *relieved* Thank you. *will head outside and . . . ah . . . scrounge some large leaves first, he’s…gonna need them – gets business dealt with and heads back inside*

Zero: *his robot form is up and moving around, his avatar is spreading large, soft cloths out on the chair like blankets. He's also rolled one up like one long pillow. The avatar turns when he steps back in.* Come tell me if this will work.

Darnell: *grins* This will be fine. Thank you, Subzero. What about you?

Zero: Days here are much shorter than I'm used to. *he turns down the lights.* I'll be back in my lab if you need anything.

 Darnell: *grins* If I felt trapped by you, I wouldn't have gotten into your car form. Still, thank you. I appreciate the consideration. *will eat what he's got*

Zero: *can't...can't help staring, sorry Darnell....*

Darnell: *pauses* Am...am I doing something wrong? *concerned*

Zero: *soft, embarrassed buzz as he realizes what he's doing, fans whirring softly to cool his heating faceplates.* No, no, sorry, just...observing.  I don't mean to stare.

Darnell: *grins* I don't mind answering questions. What were you watching exactly? *is happy to explain*

Zero: How you fuel.  It's just not something I've observed first hand yet.  Your fuel...food... is completely solid?

Darnell: A lot of it. Not all of it. It might be solid, semi-solid, or liquid. We have glands in our mouths and throats that produce something called...I think enzymes? that help break things down, as well as the physical action of our teeth and tongues. Then we swallow it down into our stomach, which has more chemicals our body produces to help further break it down. It goes into the small intestines, where what our body can use is absorbed through the membranes, and what we can't use is compacted in the large intestines and then passed out of the body.

Zero: *amazed* You...consume things your body can't use? *what?!*

Darnell: Yes and no. This, for instance? *holds up the sandwich in his hand* Once you break it down chemically, I'm sure there's something in here my body can't use, so it will expel it. The less something is processed, the better for us, but at the same time, if you really break things down, there will be things my body isn't meant to have and some things that I need. My body separates them out.

Zero: *considers* ....On one hand, that sounds very inefficient, and on another that's absolutely incredible. Do all biological lifeforms work that way?

Darnell: To my knowledge, yes. And . . . *small grin* Yup, probably inefficient. But I'm not a biological scientist of any kind. I'm mostly going by what I learned in school a long time ago.

Zero: Still, that’s amazing.  Everything I’ve learned about biological lifeforms is just fascinating.  You’re so fragile, and yet so...resilient.  It’s... *shrugs* amazing.

 Terris: *nose working a bit even as he steps into the room.* Darnell, son, fetch me some hot water and cold water, please. *will move to Flint and softly brush a hand over his head, ready for the soldier to react.* Flint.

Darnell: *nods and leaves to do so*

Flint: */flinches/, elbow coming up to try to defend himself, but then he just curls again with a whimper before finally waking, looking blearily up at the amin* T-terris…?

Terris: *tone gentle* Tell me what you're feeling. 

Flint: *shifts, murmuring, then will…do his best to describe things*

Terris: *listening even as he checks over Flint, listing to his heart and breathing. When done, he rests a hand in Flint's forehead.* Just try to rest. I'll fix something to help when Darnell returns with the water.

Flint: W-what’s…why…nnnn… *never mind, just gonna lay there and be miserable*

Terris: You're just very sick. You'll recover.

Flint: */huffs/, nodding, softly just because he has no energy* I hate being sick.

Terris: *little smile* I imagine most do. *especially since Flint is finding it hard to breathe and his stomach is upset.*

Flint: *making himself lie still and relax as much as possible, hoping to ease both with the effort*

Terris: *looks up when Darnell enters with water. He's been going through his medicine bag.* Thank you, son. Set it there.

Darnell: *does so* Local crud finally catching up with him? *remembers when /he’d/ gotten so sick when he first arrived, really hope it’s nothing more serious for Flint…*

Terris: Most likely. This is the first time he's spent more than a day or two around anyone but us since he arrived.

Darnell: *nods* Is there anything else I can do?

Flint: *weak grin as he shifts to try to see Darnell* Shoot me?

Darnell: *crooked grin* Besides that.

Terris: Prepare a cold compress, please. *is already mixing medicines for Flint.*

Darnell: *nods and goes to do so*

Terris: *turns to Flint...and sticks a needle in his arm. The contents will burn and leave his arm aching.*

Flint: Nnn! *stiffens but doesn’t otherwise resist – he remembers all the crap the Army shot in him starting boot camp, and a few times since for various reasons*

Terris: *softly massages the spot once the bleeding stops.  It’ll help ease the ache*






((Amin: Terris, Nixiom, Shaila – Humans: Darnell, Flint, Mitham – J’har: Neida, Jerrin, Kendra – Half-Bloods: Nyri, Jendayi – Others: Sethin, Ari))

 *the family has gotten settled at the Shurmel house over the last week.  When Flint wakes up this morning...he is /sick as a dog/.  Sethin is already awake and highly aware of the stink of sickness from Flint.  Ari will notice as soon as he wakes up too, but he’s all but sprawled beside Darnell right now.*







((Amin: Terris, Nixiom, Shaila – Humans: Darnell, Flint, Mitham – J’har: Neida, Jerrin, Kendra – Half-Bloods: Nyri, Jendayi – Others: Sethin, Ari))

 Darnell: *chuckles and loves on him so more – to Zah’uri* He really is good with kids. *finally sits back* I’m sorry . . . I hope we’re not taking too much of your time.

Zah'uri: *shakes her head* It is my pleasure to be with our guests. *she gracefully stands, looking around at them all.* Would you join me for a drink?

Darnell: *glances at the others – if no one else speaks up first, since he’s kinda become the de facto spokesman for the group, he’ll give her a nod* We’d love to, thank you.

*The three nod when Darnell looks to them.*

Zah'uri: *smiles and motions them to follow.* Come.

*They’ll follow, Darnell keeping a hand on Ari’s shoulder and softly reminding him to just let people see him. They’ll deal with any upsets when – if – they happen.*

*There are those who /react/ to Ari, but they can clearly see that he’s known to those he’s walking with...so... they’ll not interrupt the lady and her guests...*

Zah’uri: *will lead them to a nice sitting room.  Instead of servants coming in to prepare the drinks, she’ll do so herself... and it seems she’s making either some kind of tea or coffee.*






((Amin: Terris, Nixiom, Shaila – Humans: Darnell, Flint, Mitham – J’har: Neida, Jerrin, Kendra – Half-Bloods: Nyri, Jendayi – Others: Sethin, Ari))

Zah'uri: I imagine he will. Come, I will show you where the children can play.

Darnell: *hasn’t spoken aloud of his misgivings, though he…will if someone directly asks - nods* Thank you. *will gather the kids around him and Terris to follow, if they’re not already*

*The kids, the girls especially, happily gather around their uncle.*

Zah'uri: *smiles* They sure love you.

Darnell: *grins, /hugging/ the girls to him* And I them. We’re all family. Terris is their “Papa” and I’m “Uncle”.

Zah'uri: *awww* It is good to see such a diverse family. It makes me miss my homeland.

Darnell: *nods* May I ask where you’re from?

Zah'uri: Far, far to the south.

Darnell: Really? Maybe in the general vicinity of where we’re headed, then. We’re making our way to the tip of the southern continent.

Zah'uri: *perks, turning back to him.* Whatever for?

Darnell: It’s kind of a long story, but the short version is there’s a temple or a church at the very southern tip of the continent that may have knowledge I’ve been seeking. Flint and I both, really.

Zah’uri: *perks even more* I know the church of which you speak. I worked and lived there for many years as I grew up.






((Amin: Terris, Nixiom, Shaila – Humans: Darnell, Flint, Mitham – J’har: Neida, Jerrin, Kendra – Half-Bloods: Nyri, Jendayi – Others: Sethin, Ari))

 Flint: *shrugs* No weapons – this round, anyway. No groin shots. Head shots are tag-only. No lethal strikes, no breaking bones, no aiming to actually injure. Otherwise, anything goes. Match is over when one opponent pins the other for a ten-count.

Kalan: Rules accepted. Let's see how we do, eh? *he shifts a bit, stance clearly ready, but loose and able to move quickly and fluidly.*

Flint: *impressed, nods and…ducks around to one side, kicks up off a surface to get some height as he comes at Kalan from an unexpected angle . . . and after that, he’s relentless, fast, and unpredictable, using the environment around him to top advantage*

Kalan: *moves with fluid grace and lighting speed, not a bit of effort or movement a waste of energy. He too is relentless, fast, and unpredictable. It'll be a good match, the two pushing each other in a drawn out and impressive display. Eventually, though, Kalan lands a blow that allows him to pin Flint down; he makes a killing strike, pulling it last second to not even touch Flint with that final blow. He'll hold Flint a moment before shifting back and pulling Flint to his feet.* You, sir, are quite the warrior. Thank you, that was truly exhilarating. 

Zah'uri: *watching with a little smile. She loves watching Kalan fight...*

Flint: *starts getting visibly frustrated the longer the fight goes, though he never loses control – then Kalan gets him down and he recognizes the strike, eyes /widening/ and breath /hitching/ even as Kalan pulls it last second . . . it takes him a second to catch back up, then Kalan is pulling him to his feet . . . nods* You too. *seriously underestimated the man, though he won’t admit it* You’re really good.

Kalan: Thank you. *offers his hand for a friendly shake.* Shall we go clean up?

Flint: *now that it’s over, he’s not frustrated anymore, just impressed – easily takes the hand in a clasp* Sure thing.

Kalan: We’ll have to spar again sometime.  If you’re interested, of course.






((Amin: Terris, Nixiom, Shaila – Humans: Darnell, Flint, Mitham – J’har: Neida, Jerrin, Kendra – Half-Bloods: Nyri, Jendayi – Others: Sethin, Ari))

 Flint: *small grin at the reaction, nods* Yes, ma'am. We've decided to take you and your husband up on your generous offer. 

Zah'uri: It is truly a small world that you would meet my husband on the road after leaving here.

Darnell: He and his may well have saved our lives, my lady. The slavers who had tried to take Aren found and cornered the rest of us.

Zah'uri: *concerned frown* Is everyone all right? 

Darnell: Yes, thankfully. Thanks to Lord Shurmel, Taren, and Egan.

Kalan: Just Kalan.

Zah'uri: *relaxes with a smile* I am glad to hear it.  Please, let us show you to rooms, and then give you a tour.

Darnell: *nods* Kalan. And thank you.

Kalan: *smiles and nods* C'mon. *he'll lead the way, an arm still around his wife.*

Terris: *will make sure all the kids come along.*

Kendra: *so many new faces.  She's going to go reach up at Flint*

Flint: *won't notice at first, but if she gets his attention, yeah he'll pick her up readily, offering to take Jerrin's hand with his free one*

Kendra: *soft whimper as he starts to go by her, little hand catching his pant leg. Once up she tucks against him, hiding her face against his chest a moment before looking around at everyone around them. It really is that she’s just overwhelmed...*

Jerrin: *will take the offered hand.*

*Shaila and Jendayi will come up on either side of Darnell and take his hands. Nix and Mitham will follow along with little grins. Nyri, Neida, and Terris will also follow, and Sethin will come to settle on Darnell’s shoulder.  Ari... is still invisible and is as close to Darnell as he can be without getting between him and either of the girls.*




((Amin: Terris, Nixiom, Shaila – Humans: Darnell, Flint, Mitham – J’har: Neida, Jerrin, Kendra – Half-Bloods: Nyri, Jendayi – Others: Sethin, Ari))

Kendra: *has already wandered over to gaze up at the biggest, toughest-looking of the two guards.*

Guard: *glances down at her... and his frown melts into a grin as he crouches to greet her.* Hello. 

Kendra: *smiles and touches his face.*

Kalan: Make a new friend, Egan?

Darnell: *followed her over, staying close and ready to snatch her back if needed, will crouch behind her, giving her someone to fall back to if need be* Sir, this is Kendra. Please don’t be offended if she doesn’t speak to you. She’s . . . special. *and he means that fondly*

Egan: Aww. She doesn't have to say anything t'be cute. 

Kendra: *pats Egan's cheek*

Egan: *turns his grin to Kalan.* I think she likes me. 

Kalan: *chuckles.* Seems so.

Darnell: *relaxes* Thank you, both of you. Kendra’s a really good girl, she just has to be allowed to approach people in a way that her mind can process. Kendra, come here, sweetheart. *if she’ll let him, he’ll draw her back, then pick her up as he stands, snuggling her a little as he brings the other two little girls forward to introduce, and then the boys, and Neida and Nyri*

Taren: *the last guard introduces himself. He's quiet, a bit stoic, but patient and gentle with the children.*

Egan: *has gone from a gruff-looking brute to a giant child as he greets and grins happily at the kids.*

Kalan: *also happy to meet everyone. He comments on Jendayi's lovely eyes. She's getting old enough to start learning to wield!*

Darnell: Pleased to meet you all. Thank you again for your acceptance of everyone. It really means the world to us.

Toren: *gives Darnell a small smile* My son is a half blood.  Those in your family here wouldn’t be the first in our home.





((Amin: Terris, Nixiom, Shaila – Humans: Darnell, Flint, Mitham – J’har: Neida, Jerrin, Kendra – Half-Bloods: Nyri, Jendayi – Others: Sethin, Ari))

 Mistress: Just be willing to work while you stay here, it is all that would be required as payment.

Flint: And we’d be allowed to leave, no strings attached?

Mistress: Yes, as soon as you decide it is safe for you to do so.

Flint: Thank you. I’ll share your generous offer with our company lead.

Mistress: *nods* My name is Zah'uri Shurmel. It has been a pleasure meeting you, Flint.

Flint: Pleasure’s mine, Mrs. Shurmel. Thank you for your time. *will stand and move to head out if not stopped*

Zah'uri: Flint, if I may, and please do not think me rude for this, but might I inquire about your dress? I have not seen clothes like you are wearing before. *sorry, Flint, she couldn't contain her curiosity.*

Flint: *stops…looks down at himself…shit – he’s been wearing one of Darnell’s outfits on and off, but the man’s almost half a foot shorter than he is and he’s just more comfortable in his own clothes, so he’s been wearing them mostly . . . if he’d thought about it, he would have changed before coming like he’d do if going into a town* I’m . . . from somewhere a /long/ way off from here. Normally, I’d have, ah, more appropriate clothes on, but we weren’t expecting to meet anyone today.

Zah’uri: *smiles* I can understand blending in, but do not feel you must hide your culture here.  Safe travels to you, Flint, and know you and yours are welcome should you decide to return.




((Amin: Terris, Nixiom, Shaila – Humans: Darnell, Flint, Mitham – J’har: Neida, Jerrin, Kendra – Half-Bloods: Nyri, Jendayi – Others: Sethin, Ari))

 Aren: *greets everyone with a smile, and likes seeing that Mitham is openly affectionate with the other kids.* It's a pleasure to meet you all. *to Darnell and Flint.* Especially you two. Thank you for your help earlier.

Darnell: *nods* It's our pleasure, Aren.

Flint: While we're on that, mind telling what happened, exactly?

Aren: Scouting, I'm one of a number who aim to keep dangers from our home. I'd been focus on... another form or danger when they stumbled upon me. I didn't manage to react fast enough. *looks at Flint.* What did you do to that one man?

Flint: *frowns* You should have had someone with you, help watch hour back. *wry grin* Trade secret.

Darnell: *soft snerk*

Aren: Usually do. *soft sigh* In any case, I'm sure that body has been found and it's been noted that I'm missing.

Flint: Was there anyone else with you this time? *nods* Come on, then. Let's get you home. *stands* Darnell, stay here with them. *Nyri, Neida, and the kids*

Aren: We'd split up for a moment. *will get up And look at Flint.* You didn't tell me what you did to that man. How did you kill him?

Flint: *concerned frown as he glances at Darnell* Must be still out there, then.

Darnell: And hopefully not found by those men or buddies of theirs.

Flint: *nods* Guard them. I'll make sure Aren and his buddy get home. *to Aren* I'll explain on the way. C'mon.

Darnell: *also stands* Be safe, Flint. *bumps fists, then forearms, with the soldier*

Aren: ...He's safe. *meaning the companion he's been out with. He'll easily move off with Flint.*

Flint: *raises a brow* Thought you said you two got separated. *starts heading back the way they came*

Aren: *wry little grin.* We did. How'd you kill that man?

Flint: I have essentially a mini-crossbow. Sort of. How do you know he's safe?

Aren: *brow goes up and he glances at Flint.* Loud crossbow.  *a pause* You ever heard of inriomai?




((Amin: Terris, Nixiom, Shaila – Humans: Darnell, Flint, Mitham – J’har: Neida, Jerrin, Kendra – Half-Bloods: Nyri, Jendayi – Others: Sethin, Ari))

 *While the men are out they'll hear the sounds of a struggle not too far away*

*They'll come across a j'har man and five human men.  They've managed to stun the j'har, knocking him to the ground where he looks to be barely conscious and are starting to bind him to take him away... must be slavers.*

Flint: *steps into view* Excuse me, what are you doing with my slave?

Darnell: *uh...WHAT?...but he'll step out and just...stand there, neutral and supporting Flint*

*the men stop, eyeing Flint and Darnell.  Of these (obvious) brothers, Flint definitely looks dangerous...but they outnumber these two, more than two to one, even... they turn to the men, a couple drawing weapons.*

Man1: I don't think you'll be needing a slave anymore.

Flint: *confident smirk* Oh, I think I beg to differ. Put your weapons down and back away if you want to live.

J'har: *groggy, but has turned to eye the man who's suddenly claimed him.*

Man2: Big boast for someone outnumbered.

Flint: *smirk just grows* I'm willing to bet your lives that I have the training to take down twice your number and not break a sweat. *pulls his pistol and shoots him - one shot, one kill (only one bullet spent) . . . slowly pans the gun across the other four* Next?

Darnell: *it's /everything/ in him not to /jump/ at the sudden gunshot, staying focused on unity with Flint against the men*

>*The men /do/ jump, not realizing at first that the one of their number stumbling back is actually wounded and... dead by the time he hits the ground.  Even the j'har on the ground flinches.  The men realize their buddy is covered in blood and...most definitely dead, and they'll start backing off.  They'll leave if Flint doesn't stop them.*





((Amin: Terris, Nixiom, Shaila – Humans: Darnell, Flint, Mitham – J’har: Neida, Jerrin, Kendra – Half-Bloods: Nyri, Jendayi – Others: Sethin, Ari))



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