Arsha stirred a few hours later. She stretched and looked around her quarters, her memories of recent events returning to her mind. She then saw a note on her nightstand with her hairpiece in its box. It was brown now. She picked up the note and read it aloud. “‘Your rose is all drained of mana. You can have it store mana once it’s red again.’ …Doggone, she wasn’t kidding. Still, I feel a lot better now. I wonder where my boys are?” She headed to the comms terminal. “Computer, locate Foresna and Gorfanth.”
“Foresna Falshenda and Gorfanth Steelhorn,” reported the computer, “are located at Barmek’s Bar and Grill.”
“Thank you,” bid Arsha. “Hey, did Marshii check me over? I thought I heard her voice before I fully went to sleep.”
“Dr. Borontho did perform a medical examination, confirming the intruder’s findings,” answered the computer.
“I better call her before I head to Barmek’s,” declared Arsha. She then connected a call to the sick bay. “Is the doctor in the house?” she asked.
“Doctor’s right here,” replied Marshii’s voice. “Enjoy your nap?”
“I certainly feel better,” answered Arsha. “You need me to come over to sick bay for an examination?”
“I’d prefer it,” affirmed Marshii. “Need to make sure you’re not still affected by excess mana.”
“Coming over,” declared Arsha.
“Well, looks like you’re all clear,” declared Marshii once the examination was done. “Though, I have to admit, seeing you in a good mood without your rose, kind of weird.”
“Noted,” muttered Arsha. “I don’t know how long it’s gonna take for the rose to return to its usual red state, but I’m willing to let it be for a while. In the meantime, I need to talk to the bridge crew, see if there’s anything new.”
“Not a bad idea,” affirmed Marshii. As Arsha got up from the bed, Dalengor came in.
“Captain!” she cheered. “Are you fully rested?”
“Sure am,” replied Arsha. “What’s up?”
“Could you get Foresna and Gorfanth off the bridge?” asked Dalengor. “I doubt they got special dispensation from you when you were napping.”
“Left Barmek’s to explore the bridge, did they?” muttered Arsha. “On my way.”
Foresna and Gorfanth were near Malak’s station. “Mr. Falshenda, Mr. Steelhorn,” growled Malak, “I must protest your unauthorized presence on the bridge!”
“Hey, what’s this one do, Mr. Molak?” asked Foresna as his finger inched towards a button.
“Please, sir!” yelped Malak as he grabbed Foresna’s hand. “That’s a torpedo launch initiator, and…and it’s Malak, not Molak.”
“Hey, this chair’s pretty comfy!” chuckled Gorfanth as he sat in the Captain’s chair.
“It’s also mine,” called Arsha as she entered the bridge. Everyone stood to attention. “We’re not undergoing an inspection,” she assured. “As you were. Now, you boys,” she pointed to Foresna and Gorfanth, “off the bridge.”
“Oh, come on!” protested Gorfanth.
“I didn’t give you special dispensation just yet,” interrupted Arsha. “There ARE areas of this ship for civilians.”
“Fine, we’ll use them,” grumbled Foresna. He then pecked Arsha on the cheek. “Good to see you up and about,” he purred.
“Glad to BE up and about,” replied Arsha. Foresna and Gorfanth then left the bridge as Arsha sat in the Captain’s chair. “Any messages?” she asked.
“A call from Rokalla at your earliest convenience,” answered Shalvey. “No mission details. He said he was fine seeing the bridge crew.”
“Call him,” directed Arsha.
“Calling…channel open,” reported Shalvey.
“On screen,” declared Arsha. Rokalla appeared on the big screen and saw the bridge crew.
“Good afternoon, Endeavor,” greeted Rokalla. “I trust things are well so far?”
“As well as they can be,” remarked Arsha. “A lot of my crew had relatives on the Skyshell. I’ve given them some time to reflect and mourn.”
“Well, I’ve found something that may help them lift their spirits,” declared Rokalla. “The Endeavor is invited to the Over-union festival and during that time, Lardeth will undergo the Tour’s End Ceremony. I believe he’ll want to move to your ship.”
“We’d be happy to have him on board!” cheered Arsha.
“An Over-union festival!” giggled Denstra. “That would be so fun and just what we need after the fight!”
“I was talking to the Captain,” muttered Rokalla.
“Don’t tell me you’re still sore about that time when we were cadets!” grumbled Denstra.
“My record was stained forever, thanks to you!” snapped Rokalla. “I still remember the sleepless nights of scrubbing out the base with a toothbrush!”
“If we can just walk away from recollections,” called Arsha, “when is the Over-union festival?”
“It starts in two days and will last a week,” replied Rokalla.
“Perfect,” giggled Arsha. “Hey, before you go, can you tell me anything about a Sorsha Longbark?”
“That recluse?” asked Rokalla. “Yeah, she’s part of the oldest living Elf family in the Realms. She usually sells her potions anonymously. How they get to their destinations, I can’t fathom.”
“She’s snuck onboard the Endeavor twice now, but she was only interested in the millions of years’ worth of mana that was stored in my rose,” answered Arsha.
“I thought there was something different about you,” remarked Rokalla. “So, she stole it?”
“No, I loaned it to her and she drained the mana off,” explained Arsha. “It should be fully regenerated now.”
“I’m going to be at the festival,” revealed Rokalla. “Maybe you can tell me the story there?”
“It might become convoluted, but sure,” replied Arsha. “In the meantime, I need to do something.”
“Aaaand, that’s it,” declared Sorsha as she completed her new device.
“So, this should increase natural mana collection?” asked Jokorah.
“That’s the theory,” replied Sorsha.
“Why can’t you people go forward with certainty?” complained Johgo as he ate a pear.
“Certainty can only get you so far,” remarked Jokorah.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” muttered Johgo. “Honestly, a group of primates learns how to make tools at a faster rate than your own and all of a sudden, they think they’re the ones in charge!”
“Should have harnessed fire!” teased Sorsha. “Now, the next thing we…we…er, Jokorah, is this an illusion of yours?!” The three weren’t in Sorsha’s cottage anymore, the walls were way too pristine and metallic for that!
“No, no, it isn’t!” gulped Jokorah.
“Where in the jungle are we?!” yelped Johgo.
“You’re actually OVER the jungle,” corrected a voice. “Where you’re IN right now is inside a Dauntless-class vessel, specifically, its bridge.” The three whirled around to see Arsha sitting in the Captain’s chair, her bun once more decorated with her hairpiece. The three stared at the grinning Arsha. “No need to stop with your usual banter on my account,” chuckled Arsha as she waved. The three still stared, making Arsha a little uncomfortable. “…You really don’t handle surprises all that well, do you?”
“Your face doesn’t handle surprises all that well!” snapped Johgo.
“…Okay, so a monkey decides to do a ‘your face’ joke,” muttered Arsha. “I know about you, Ms. Longbark, but I don’t know about your friends.”
“Forest Dragon’s called Jokorah,” introduced Sorsha, “the monkey’s Johgo.” Johgo climbed up her robes and perched himself on her shoulder.
“I just wanted to talk to you for a bit,” explained Arsha. “You know Rokalla?”
“That Orc? What about him?” asked Sorsha.
“He told me that, for a while, you stole stuff,” replied Arsha. “And, from what I’ve seen, you haven’t exactly given up that habit after the trial.”
“I BORROW things,” snapped Sorsha. “I’m sure you’ve noticed that I return stuff now. Speaking of which, I’ve got the mana contained, but my resources in disposing it are rather…lacking.”
“You know, you saved my bacon when we first met face to face,” recalled Arsha.
“Purely by accident,” remarked Sorsha, “but I’m glad I could help.”
“I couldn’t help but notice that you’ve picked a pretty hazardous area to make a home in,” mused Arsha.
“I’m a recluse,” answered Sorsha. “I like doing my own thing with no interruptions, especially when it comes to selling potions on Realmnet. Look, my time is precious, so, what do you want?”
“I want someone to give my own alchemists another pair of eyes to check their work,” replied Arsha, “you want to be paid to do your own thing. So, want a job?”
“I gave you my business card!” protested Sorsha. “You could have just called!”
“I could have,” conceded Arsha, “but, considering you boarded my ship twice and caught us unawares, I figured I’d show off what I can do.”
“A job?” asked Jokorah. “Like, an actual paying job?”
“Yep, and she can be as reclusive as she wants!” confirmed Arsha.
“I think I can work with that,” mused Sorsha. “So, you said another pair of eyes for your alchemists?”
“Like you,” explained Arsha, “they’re trying to find new potions to make for a body to take.”
“I think I can work with that,” replied Sorsha. “As long as the money’s no joke.”
“Perfect!” cheered Arsha. “We’ll just need weekly progress reports from you.”
“Got it,” affirmed Sorsha.
“See you later!” bid Arsha.
“Does this mean you’ll finally fix your roof?” asked Johgo.
“Hush, you!” snapped Sorsha.
“I’m just saying,” continued Johgo, “the jungle gets extremely wet whenever it rains and I can’t stand the sound of a leaky roof!” The three were then teleported off the bridge and returned to the cottage.
“Now,” sighed Arsha, “to check on Samuje.”
Arsha had connected with Marianes again to get the story. “I’m sorry to say,” sighed Marianes, “the battle’s traumatized her. She’s now scared of even boarding a Realmfleet ship. She’s resigned from Realmfleet.”
“Damn,” sighed Arsha. “Well, I can’t really blame her.”
“I’m not sure who to blame at the moment,” remarked Marianes. She fixed Arsha with a hard glare.
“Your sister and her ship and crew will be avenged, I promise,” assured Arsha.
“Part of the Kurontar Sea feels Realmfleet is to blame for being so fool-hardy in their approach to Oyed,” countered Marianes. “They feel a more ideal solution than a blind siege should have been concocted. I’ll do what I can to assure my people that Realmfleet can still be trusted, but there are people who suffered a war and lost. I believe we freed them from the Mega-sharks a while ago.”
“I still remember helping your kingdom free Roomeela and her people from slavery,” hissed Arsha.
“They’re the part that disagrees with Realmfleet’s decision,” continued Marianes. “Do what you can to help me prove them wrong. Marianes out.” The call ended and Arsha groaned.
“Well, that could have gone better,” she muttered.