“Master Ferocity, welcome home. Who is our young guest?” Whotov asked, meeting him at the door.

The young Dragon was surprised by the appearance of the Ploosnarian butler, still sporting the Londo style hair that was popular on Ploosnar before he left. She edged closer to Ferocity, until her shoulder was touching his leg.

“This is one of the evacuees from the VReoria specimen ships, we will call her Nguvu. She will be staying with us for a short time Whotov.”

Whotov stepped forward and extended his hand. “Hello. My name is Whotov, if you are in need of anything while you’re here, you have only to ask.”

She cringed with fear. Ferocity placed his hand on her shoulder, giving her courage. She extended her own hand. “Hello.” was all she could manage.

“If you would be so kind as to follow me, I will show you to the guest room. Are you hungry?” Whotov said moving toward the hallway.

She looked up at Ferocity for guidance. “Please follow him. Whotov will care for you, you can trust him.” She didn’t speak, she just did as she was asked.

Ferocity was exhausted but not quite ready to sleep. He reached for Agent Brzko. “Lord Brzko, are you on Misko?

Yes. I’m on the lower terrace. If you’re here, join me. The espidrun seems to compliment the waves nicely this evening.

After letting Whotov know where he was headed, just in case there was an issue with the young Dragon, Ferocity joined his bond. He took a seat on one of the stools, near where Brzko sat. Brzko poured him a drink.

“Espidrun, although I know it doesn’t have the same effect on Dragons, you may still enjoy it.”

The hot pink liquid released its blue steam when he poured it. Ferocity stared at it and chuckled.

“What? Did I miss a joke?”

“I lied.”

“I’m sorry?”

“The effects of espidrun and other alcohols are not lost on Dragons.”

This gave Brzko a good laugh. “Seriously? So you’ve been enjoying the effects of espidrun and nekmid all this time?”

“Yes.” Ferocity said with a smile that reveals his large jagged teeth. It’s not really a friendly look.

“And so you lied because….”

“I was intimidated.”

“Intimidated? You’re a Dragon, you can breathe fire and ice, not to mention you can fly, and you were intimidated? By who?”

“I was the outsider to a tight group of friends visiting Trella. Just being a Dragon was enough to frighten the others, I didn’t want to add to their concern.”

“Hmm. I see your point. That was probably a wise decision. Well I’m glad to know that we have another way to enjoy each other’s company.” Brzko held his glass up to Ferocity in toast, and then drank it. Ferocity did the same.

“So how are you? As tired as I am?”

“Yes. I look forward to a long sleep. Whotov is caring for the young Dragon we found.”

“What’s her story? Did they grab her when they were oppressing Dragona?”

“Her egg, and many others that did not survive their experiments. She was the only Dragon they had.”

“So she’s never really been to Dragona, she doesn’t remember it as her home?”

“No. Her memories begin in the lab of a VReoria ship. And they are horrible and painful.”

“What do you want to do with her?”

“I would like to raise her myself, but she needs to be around other Dragons, and she is too young to be left here alone when I’m out. She needs to learn how to be a Dragon. I will take her to Dragona once she’s stabilized and find someone to host her.”

“OK, let me know if you need anything.”

“Thank you Lord Brzko. Where is the Muse of Mischief.”

“Ha! Beating up on her old friend Emperor Bartala.” Ferocity tilted his head waiting for more. Before continuing, Brzko refilled their glasses. “It seems that Empress Nalau has decided she wants to work with us. And as you can imagine…. Bartala was not happy to hear that. Nalau asked for M to help her convince him.”

“She will be a great addition to the team. I sense that she is much stronger than she seems.”

“I agree. She’s also highly intelligent and dedicated. I think…”

“Hey, got room for one more?” They turned in the direction of the voice. It was Lelelu, she had come down the stairs so quietly, they didn’t know she was there until she spoke. She wore a long flowing sarong wrapped around her. The white color provided a great contrast to her bright blue skin.

Brzko jumped up and went to her. “Of course. Lelelu, how are you?” He said as he hugged her. He hadn’t heard Ferocity move but he was right behind Brzko and as soon as he released her, Ferocity embraced her, wrapping his wings around her.

“Lelelu.” Was all he said.

She took a seat next to Brzko and he poured her an espidrun.

“Thank you.” She said watching the blue steam spill over the side of the glass.

“So how are you Lelelu? How’s your father?” Brzko asked.

“Baba’s doing OK. It hurt him to know that my mother died a few years ago. Once he realized his freedom was a reality he wanted to see her. I hated telling him but… Anyway, he seems to be doing well. I’m going to give him my house on the mainland and move in here permanently. If that’s OK with you and M.”

“You know we’d both love to have you here all the time.”

“Thanks. It just feels right, my father used to share that house with my mother; and of course Zri would prefer that I live here. He designed the security systems here on Misko.”

“How’s he dealing with everything?”

“Hmmm, as well as can be expected. He wants to keep me locked up so that I’m always safe, but my independence and strength are the things that drew him to me. He knows that if I lived that way, I wouldn’t be me. So….”

“Speak of the devil.” They turned toward Zri, walking down the stairs to the terrace.

Brzko stood to greet him. He was laughing. “You got that wrong Zri. It’s not the actual devil that says ‘speak of the devil’ it’s the ones that are speaking that would say it.” He shook his hand and welcomed him.

Zri shrugged and sat across from Lelelu, she moved to the other side of the deck, sitting next to him. “Eh, what do I know about Earth sayings. Is there more espidrun in that bottle? I could use about five shots in a row.”

Brzko accommodated his request while his mind was with M.

“Have you and M had time to read the message from Ciic?” Lelelu asked.

Hey Brzko, I’m home. Where are you?

On the lower terrace with Ferocity, Lelelu, and Zri.” Brzko answered M telepathically, aloud he answered Lelelu, “Yes, M and I haven’t talked about it yet but I don’t see why we wouldn’t honor her request. It will just make us stronger.”

M appeared at the bottom of the stairs and walked over to the group. “M and I haven’t talked about what?”

Brzko stood and gave her the best Hollywood kiss ever, sweeping her back and giving her a lengthy kiss. He released her, stepped back and said, “You’re drunk.”

“Shit. You have no idea! I had to get Bartala drunk to calm him down enough to even converse. He was literally spitting mad when I got to Ploosnar.” She took the chair next to Brzko’s. “Hey guys,“ she said acknowledging Ferocity, Lelelu, and Zri. “Oh I bet you were saying we haven’t talked about Xiix yet. Right?”

“Yep.” Brzko answered

“I don’t see any reason not to have Xiix work with us.” M said shrugging, and looking around to see if anyone had comments.

“Xiix wants to join us?” Ferocity asked.

“Yes.” Brzko answered. “Ciic has provided him with a small ship that he can easily handle alone. It seems like a good idea, he’d be a great asset, and give us quick access to all of the Suus knowledge.”

“Agreed. And then I won’t be the only non-humanoid on the team.” Ferocity smiled, revealing his jagged teeth. Where will he stay?”

“Hmmm. Don’t know yet.” He turned toward M, raising his eyebrows to solicit her opinion.

“I think we’ll need to build another house on Misko. We’ll just need to get some specifications from him so that we can make sure the design is conducive to a being that sustains itself on vapors. I suspect we should build a greenhouse into it, so he can grow some of the flowers and herbs they enjoy.” M said.

“He is welcome to stay with me until his house is ready. I have more than enough space.” Ferocity said.

“Thanks Ferocity I’ll suggest that, how’s the young Dragon?”

“I think she will be OK, M. Whotov is looking after her right now.”

“Good, and how’s Iysuno?” She asked, turning back to Lelelu.

“He’s doing OK. I still can’t believe I have my father back. I never dreamed that it was a possibility. I was telling Brzko that I’d like to take up permanent residence in my house here, on Misko, and give him my house on the mainland. After all, it was originally his home.”

“That’s great news Lelelu, I’d love to have you here all the time.”

“So how’s Bartala, did he come to terms with the idea of Empress Nalau working with us?” Brzko asked.

“Yep. Under a few conditions.” M said. “Pour me an espidrun and I’ll tell you all about it.” Brzko of course complied by pouring everyone another round. “So first, I’ve asked Nalau to attend personal defense and flight training on Gaznzul. She’s a lot tougher than any of us realized, but the training will give her some new skills and boost her confidence.”

“Agreed. I’ll make the arrangements.” Zri paused, he clearly had something else to say but was considering his words carefully. Everyone just waited.

Lelelu looked at him, “What?…. Oh! You think I should learn personal defense too?”

“Yes.” He said carefully because he wasn’t sure how she’d react.

“OK, it’s a good idea, I think I’ll enjoy it.” Zri looked relieved when she answered. “What are the other conditions?” She asked, looking at M.

“Bartala is going to have a new ship built for her, something that is very fast, and heavily armed, with cloaking abilities.”

“Can he build two? I know I don’t travel as much as Nalau probably will, but it would be nice to have an updated ship.” Lelelu said.

“I’m sure he will, I’ll talk to him tomorrow.”

“Anything else?” Brzko asked.

“I’ve asked her to select a small team to work with her. She’s going to consider some of the evacuees. I suspect some of them would love this type of work.”

“Good plan, I assume they’ll be attending training with her?” Zri asked.

“Yes. That will also give you time to observe them and make sure they are…. Mmmm ‘right’ for the position. If you know what I mean.”

“I understand. We’ll test their mental status while they’re on Gaznzul.” Zri said.

“She also has an idea for a host for the young Keateran, Scomia. She thinks Kilome the designer might enjoy providing her with a stable home while she completes an education.”

“That would work well, assuming Bartala was willing to employ the other three Keaterans.” Brzko said.

“He is. He might be temperamental but his heart, well hearts, really are in the right place.” M said.

“Hmmmm does that sound like anyone else you guys know?” Brzko teased her.

The friends sat quietly for a while, they’d recently been through a lot. The sound of the waves from the Schwarth Sea below was soothing, allowing them to all be lost in their own thoughts. A fair amount of time had passed when they heard Iysuno approach.

“Hello all, may I join you?”

“Baba! Yes please, how are you feeling this evening?” Lelelu asked.

“Better, a little stronger every day. It’s just going to take time. The doctors said that stasis prevented me from aging, so once my body recovers I’ll feel young again. Can you imagine that?”

Zri stood up and offered his seat. “Please, sit here next to Lelelu, Iysuno.”

“Thank you Zri, now what are you all drinking out here next to the ocean waves?” He said as he took a seat next to Lelelu and Zri pulled up a chair on her other side.

“Espidrun, have you heard of it?” Lelelu asked.

“No, but it looks toxic with that bright pink color. Are you sure it’s not poison?” He laughed. “Who’s going to pour an old young man his first espidrun?”

Brzko was already pouring when he asked. Iysuno’s face scrunched up when he saw the blue steam. “This has got to be poison!” He blew the steam away and took a careful sip. “And I don’t care if it is!” He tossed back what remained in his glass. “Pour me another would you?”

“M are you still on com?” She heard Bartala call via earcom link.

“Yes Bartala what’s up are you OK?” Everyone looked toward M when she spoke, Bartala had called only to her, probably because of the late hour.

“Neither of us can sleep, we were thinking about how much fun we had sitting around sharing stories on the way to Trella. We were just wondering if you and Brzko were still up.”

“Yes, Bartala, we’re having a party on the lower terrace. Would you like to come?”

“Yes please. We’re in my sitting room, if you come here directly the guards won’t see me leave.” Bartala said.

“I understand. We’ll be right there.” She turned to Brzko. “Bartala wants to sneak out of the palace unguarded, will you come to his sitting room with me to get him and Nalau?”

“Of course.”

They were both gone instantly, only to return to the deck less than a minute later, each with a guest in tow.

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