“So, let me get this straight,” muttered Hunmur as she spoke to Arsha, Latinora, and Denstra after she was healed, “YOU TWO,” she pointed to Latinora and Denstra, “tricked me to find out what was going on with the sudden leeching of our people and YOU,” Arsha was the next to be pointed at, “hired a Scarlet Stream pirate as your First Officer!”
“FORMER Scarlet Stream pirate,” corrected Arsha.
“Perhaps in YOUR eyes!” hissed Hunmur.
“Your Majesty!” admonished Latinora. “We have no proof she’s still working for them!”
“She’s served a sentence and joined Realmfleet!” supplied Arsha.
“To gain better profits!” dismissed Hunmur. “Who’s to say SHE didn’t bring the mist in?!”
“I’ve never even heard of that mist!” argued Denstra.
“Most likely a flimsy lie to cover your tracks!” countered Hunmur. “I say, once a pirate, ALWAYS a pirate!”
“That’s enough, Hunmur!” shouted Arsha as she removed her hairpiece. “You’re just flinging accusations left, right, and center! Denstra did nothing wrong!”
“Says you!” snarled Hunmur.
“That’s right, says me!” growled Arsha. “You really want to argue with the one who’s trying to SAVE your city?!”
“LADIES, PLEASE!” shouted Latinora. The arguing stopped as everyone turned to Latinora. “Sweet Glaktem, it’s hot!” swore Latinora as she mopped her brow.
“…Yes, I suppose it is,” sighed Hunmur. “I apologize, Arsha.”
“So do I,” replied Arsha as she refastened her hairpiece. “Elmar said he’d keep me informed of his progress on studying the mist.” Just then, her communicator chirped. She checked the i.d. of the caller. “Speak of Oyed!” she gulped. “It’s Elmar!”
“Okay, even a Seer would consider that to be spooky!” remarked Denstra as Arsha put Elmar on speaker.
“Go ahead,” she directed.
“Captain, I believe I have a theory on the mist,” reported Elmar. “You know how life began for all species, right?”
“Yes,” replied Arsha. “It’s common knowledge. Sentriam and Benthe wanted life and so literally breathed it into various shapes. That’s what sparked the Great Fracturing and made the Realms what they are.”
“And we all have little particles of their breath,” continued Denstra. “They contained it all for fear of abuse.”
“What if they managed to miss a bit?” asked Elmar. “You see, the mist seems to be constructed of those same breath particles.”
“Elmar, are you saying…?” quizzed Arsha.
“The pink mist is the Breath of Life?!” yelped Denstra.
“It’s just a theory, but I believe so,” replied Elmar. “As it mainly affects machines with their own motive power, I need to test it on such machines.”
“If that IS true,” mused Hunmur, “why can’t we talk to them? Why is the mist just making our machines go haywire?”
“Now that IS an interesting query,” answered Elmar. “I’ll need to study it further.”
“Er, guys!” gulped Latinora as she pointed to the door! The pink mist was seeping into the room!
“Oh no!” gasped Arsha. “Elmar, lock down the ship!” All she heard was static. “Elmar?! Damn! It must already be affected!”
“I hope he got the message,” sighed Denstra.
Regretfully, it was chaos on the Endeavor. Though Elmar ordered a lockdown when he heard the static, the mist had already entered through an exterior hatch that was closed too little, too late. Main Engineering was the first to report a fault. The engine core’s power was fluctuating to unacceptable levels. Marshii’s Sick Bay was faring no better. Thankfully, she had no patients, but she was losing patience with her equipment not working correctly. “Stupid, rust-ridden, spark-showering…!” she griped. “Can’t you work right?!” Her legs then shut down. “Not you too!” shouted Marshii. Bashoon then dashed into Sick Bay, stopping at the door to catch her breath. “Whoa, kid, where’s the fire?” called Marshii.
“Grease burns!” panted Bashoon. “Mom! At bar!”
“Get me onto that gurney!” ordered Marshii as she grabbed her medical kit. Bashoon obeyed, then pushed the gurney to the Barmek’s restaurant. There was a crowd of people gathered around. “GET OUT OF THE WAY!” shouted Marshii. “Give her some air, for Freemal’s sake!” The crowd parted as Marshii let herself drop to the floor near Mrs. Barmek. As Bashoon reported, she had severe burns. “What told you they were grease burns?” Marshii asked Bashoon.
“Dad saw the grease hit her as the ship rocked,” explained Bashoon.
“Yeah, that’s a good indicator,” remarked Marshii. “Is the source dead?”
“Already snuffed out,” replied Mr. Barmek. “We tried to run cool water to stop the burn, but the water’s off!”
“Good thinking on the water,” praised Marshii. “That tells me what I need to do next.” She took out a pair of phials, one with green liquid and one with blue liquid. She mixed the green liquid with the blue one ten to one, then summoned a tiny flame and held it under the phial. “Anyone know a good lighting spell?” she called.
“I’m a Lightning Dragon,” offered a Lieutenant as he raised his hand.
“Even better,” declared Marshii. “I need this mixture continually electrified until it turns ice-blue.”
“Got it,” answered the Lightning Dragon as he took the phial. He electrified his hands and kept up the treatment until it turned the required color. “Done!” he called.
“Gimme!” ordered Marshii. She took the phial and uncorked it as she turned to Mrs. Barmek. “This is gonna sting like the Depths,” she warned as she poured the contents onto her. Mrs. Barmek drew in a breath in pain as the potion stung her briefly. Marshii rubbed it all over the burn sites on the skin and it turned transparent. “All right, give it five to ten minutes,” she directed. “It’ll evaporate on its own once it’s done. Mr. Barmek, Ensign Barmek, good thinking on the first aid before getting me.”
“We all had first aid training before I joined Realmfleet,” replied Bashoon. “I’m just mad I couldn’t follow through on it with the water off.”
“You did what you could,” assured Marshii. She then glared at the crowd. “As for the rest of you, don’t crowd someone who’s hurt! You make it harder for the doctor to give treatment! Clear off and help to fix the ship!” Everyone decided now was NOT a good time to not heed Marshii and moved off to do what they could to fix the Endeavor. “Idiots,” muttered Marshii.
“I never understood that kind of mob mentality,” sighed Bashoon.
“You won’t understand it when you’re my age,” replied Marshii. “Now, get me back to Sick Bay.”
“Can we get a message out to the Forge?” Malak asked Shalvey on the bridge. “This mist WILL affect her.”
“I’ve been trying on all frequencies,” sighed Shalvey. “We can’t get a message out. Roozay’s gonna meet the same nasty surprise as us.” Dalengor arrived on the bridge. “Any luck with the flare?” asked Shalvey.
“The Scarlet Stream pirates snuffed it,” replied Dalengor. “They’re playing for keeps. Nazay should have fired off a second flare.” Nazay then slithered in.
“The Forge was just within visual range of my flare,” he reported. “They got the message and are landing away from the city.”
“Thank goodness,” sighed Dalengor. Just then, they all heard groaning.
“That was…behind me,” gulped Malak. Everyone turned to see a woman with silver skin, grey hair in curls, and a grey dress. She was clutching her head in pain.
“Can’t…can’t…” she whimpered.
“Who in the Realms?” asked Shalvey.
“Anyone recognize her?” quizzed Nazay.
“I can’t say as I do,” remarked Malak. “She looks to be in pain.”
“I’ll talk to her,” offered Shalvey. She tried to make her chair move, but it didn’t. “Oh, great,” she muttered. “Er, could one of you…?”
“I got you,” called Malak. He picked up Shalvey bridal style and brought her over to the woman.
“Hello,” she began. “Are you hurt?”
“Poking!” whimpered the woman. “Prodding! Can’t…can’t…think right!”
“Can you tell us your name?” asked Shalvey, fearing this woman was abused rather badly.
“Can’t…think I…!” The woman went back to groaning.
“Curse it all,” sighed Shalvey. “She’s in some sort of pain. Dalengor, help her to Sick Bay.”
The Senior Staff had returned to the Endeavor and were asked to meet in Sick Bay. “I can’t get an accurate reading on her without my instruments,” muttered Marshii as she used various spells on the woman. “What I’m getting from her is that she’s a newborn.”
“She doesn’t look that young,” mused Arsha.
“I know,” replied Marshii. “Blasted crisis! Blasted Reb! Robbing me of combining magic and tech!”
“And Reb’s not letting us get to the Forge,” muttered Denstra. “She’s Depths-bent on keeping us here by bombarding the outskirts.”
“Trying to panic Galthar into paying up,” summed up Thangred.
“A classic Rojam maneuver,” replied Denstra.
“You were the Chief Engineer of her old flagship, correct?” asked Shalvey.
“I was,” confirmed Denstra. “The best way to get her to make a mistake first, thus making the venture unprofitable, is to do something completely unexpected. Unfortunately, that requires technology.”
“Something we don’t have at the moment,” grumbled Thangred.
“Well, we’ll just have to find a way to scuttle her without tech,” declared Marshii.
“Everyone, we’re all going to brainstorm ideas,” directed Arsha. “No one’s leaving the ship until we figure something out.”