The first night spent in the vicinity of the cave holding the ancient city, Penelope came to Ox and said, “My father wanted to give you a couple of things he thought might come in useful for you as a thank you for what you did.” She gives him a small metal box as well as a synth cylinder with the fine, glowing lines etched across, explaining to him what each could do and how to operate them.
“And I wanted to give you something that’s specifically from me. It was actually the first real find of any value that I discovered since I convinced my father to let me come work with him. It’s a Skin of Fire Sloughing. I know, it’s a terrible name for such a beautiful, diaphanous fabric, but when stretched over your skin, it is almost invisible and adheres and conforms to your body, protecting you against fire.”
Ox responds, “Penelope, I’m flattered by all these gifts. It would only be fair that I give you one in exchange. Not because I owe you, but because you are a wonderful person. Even Banshee likes being around you, and that’s saying something. The work we do for your father is hard, and sometimes dangerous. I keep feeling like my life could end at any moment, this sense of doom that follows me everywhere. But whenever I look at you it disappears, like a magic whirlwind of fresh air takes away all the dust and grime from the days’ shift. I’ve got not much to give you, but I will find it. With your fabric, I can now go to the balzing infernos of hell and back if that what it takes to find an artifact worth of your beauty!”
She blushes and looks away, then says, “You’ve already given me so much… I don’t know what to say.” Then she impulsively kisses him (not on the cheek this time, but still relatively quickly), smiles and takes his hand. “I want to show you something.” She leads him to the camp ‘kitchen’, grabs some food, then takes him away from the camp altogether. She heads higher up the mountain to a ledge overlooking the capital city, rolling foothills and forest as dusk begins to settle and color casts out over the land.
As the two of them settle down to eat, she says, “I found this spot last night… just wait, it gets even better.” They ate and talked as the sun set, then watched as little lights blinked into existence across the darkened city like fireflies in the night.
Meanwhile, Siri has been having some rather intense dreams lately. First she had a romantic dream with Jax that felt extremely real, both physically and emotionally. It happened the that night she and Doc met Zon. Now she’s had another intensely real dream, this time with Doc. When she wakes, what feels like actual feelings of love linger for awhile afterwards. This dream occurred after spending the last couple of days getting the camp and her equipment set up, the night before the team began to explore the ancient underground city further.
That same night, Doc has a really vivid dream, as well. In it, he’s standing with Siri. The two of them are hiding around the corner of a building in the city, clutching eachother’s hands. Screams fill the city around them. She looks at him, her eyes wide with terror and her voice breaking with panic, “Someone has deactivated the portal’s safeguards! They’re coming through!”
Just then, they saw someone run past in the street and get brought down by a couple of those creatures (the Tarik’th’aa that they forced back through the portal with the help of Zon). Doc and Siri break off in a dead run, dodging around the convulsing bodies littering the streets who were all slowly being consumed. The two rarely dared to look back, but when they heard the clattering of the approaching beasts get too close, they both spin around together, launching electricity from their fingers and destroying the nearby monsters.
The emotions he felt during the dream are intense, real. Even stronger than the fear, though, he felt the overwhelming need to save the woman he loves. But there are too many of the creatures, and even as he neared the great doors that would provide escape from the city, the clattering sounds of the Tarik’th’aa can be heard closing in all around him…
And that’s when Doc. wakes up with a start, drenched in sweat. The emotions stick with him, almost palpable, for some time afterwards and are only beginning to fade when he heads out for work that day.
After having worked in the cavern for a few days now, Ox also has a really vivid dream: In it, he’s walking down the street away from the central plaza. The ancient city is alive and vibrant around him, and its streets are filled with its inhabitants. Up ahead, he notices Jax and Siri walking… or wait, perhaps that’s Doc and Siri. Curious and somewhat suspicious, he decided to follow them as they disappear down an alley.
Peering around the corner, he saw Siri leaning up against a wall and Doc pressing in close to her, kissing her passionately. He bristles with anger as she laughs with pleasure. The keepers of the stones are forbidden to have this kind of relationship! Betrayers! Two of the three cannot be allowed this kind of alliance. They would hold far too much power. Something must be done.
And with that he awoke, still livid with anger, which only finally began to fade as he headed in to work.
Fresh from their dreams, the team united in a less organized, more uncomfortable fashion than usual. But they decided to keep things professional and moved past the disorientation caused by their nocturnal adventures, not speaking to each other about the dreams.
They chose to explore a research facility that had been discovered and thankfully Ox’s stone gave them access to the rooms within it. They found a variety of equipment apparently designed for experimenting on a wide variety of technology, both large and small. They also found some bizarre glowing metal tablets with inscriptions in them. Ox found that he could surprisingly read the inscriptions, which spoke of something called the Devourer, who brought great power in service of those who serve it. There also seemed to be what almost sounded like an incantation to summon the Devourer on one of the tablets, which Siri stopped Ox from finishing out loud.
In other drawers, they found a variety of cylinders and slides, as well as some syringes. Although Doc accidentally broke a slide with some tiny robots on it, he luckily (or so he thought) discovered the syringes held the same tine robots… which he also proceeded to drop, breaking the syringes across the floor.
Although they didn’t realize it at first, this released the nanites, which spread throughout the team so they could perform their intended function, to allow the team to change their bodies from organic to inorganic material. Not all of the team was compatible, however, and one of the gophers was killed before Doc managed to communicate with the nanites to stop and eventually reverse the conversion process for those who couldn’t survive it. In order for Penelope to survive, he even transferred some of the technology within himself (apparently the same as was in Siri) to her, and she suddenly discovered that she could now communicate with machines, as well.
Ox oddly discovered that he had already had the process done to him, but that he could transform into metal like Zon was made of instead of the simpler inorganic material that Doc, Siri and Penelope could now metamorph into.