ICEP Trading, Round 1: Doors
Summary:Nume and Ilraen, having looted a very large pair of oak doors from their last mission, seek to get rid of them as quickly and advantageously as possible.
Timeline:Aug 8—14, 2015.
Rating:G/K - Petty Elvish bickering.
Players: Neshomeh (Ilraen and Supernumerary)
Huinesoron (Agent Huinesoron, Dafydd Illian and Constance Illian-Sims)

A notice appeared on the bulletin board near the Cafeteria:


One very nice set of oak doors carved with images of Middle-earth,
including one panel of Smaug burning down Dale.

If interested, please contact Agents Supernumerary and Ilraen at RC 999,
ICEP address [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]

We really want them out of the RC. Will entertain any reasonable offer.

From:Agent Huinesoron [eagleshade.console1325897ng23404402tr.rc7455.DOGA]
To:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]

Agents Supernumerary and Ilraen,

Rumour has it you’ve come into possession of some very nice Middle-earth doors? In memory of Nargothrond, I would be very interested in taking them off your hands. If you’re interested, I can offer you some ‘archery things’ (they’re covered in bells and whistles and shoot arrows by themselves) and a ‘sword,bow’ (which rather has to be seen to be believed).

Agent Huinesoron, DOGA

From:Dafydd Illian [external address not listed]
To:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
Subject:The other sort of portal


I’m told you have some rather nice doors on offer. Can I tempt you with a couple of fire-lizard eggs? Our pair recently clutched, and I know they’ve always been great trading goods in HQ.

Alternately, I have small children perfectly suited for ‘assistant’ work. Just saying.

~Dafydd Illian, ex-DOGA

From:Constance Illian-Sims [external address not listed]
To:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]

Please ignore my husband’s attempts to sell one of our children into slavery.

It’s all or none.


From:Agent Huinesoron [eagleshade.console1325897ng23404402tr.rc7455.DOGA]
To:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
Subject:Really? I thought he quit.

Agents Supernumerary and Ilraen,

Is this right? Former-Agent Dafydd has made a bid for the doors? (Never mind where I heard about it; we have mutual friends, I suppose.) Meddling in my life has certainly become a habit for him.

Might I mention that I collected a few interesting weapons from the Men in Black canon while on secondment to Finance? You know, if you’re interested.

Agent Huinesoron, DOGA

From:Dafydd Illian [external address not listed]
To:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
Subject:Upping the ante

My wife’s ex-partner (does that make him my partner-in-law?) says that Finarfinian they’ve got in the Pyros these days wants the doors too? What, is he going to stick them on his RC? I don’t think even the Mallorn would appreciate that.

I have alternate-PPC steampunk tech. You know you want it.

~Dafydd Illian, ex-DOGA

From:Agent Huinesoron [eagleshade.console1325897ng23404402tr.rc7455.DOGA]
To:Ilraen-Aroline-Fothergill [ilraen.console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
Subject:Just a thought.

Agent Ilraen,

It’s just crossed my mind that during the last Jaycacia observations, there were some claims that you and Agent Dafydd were the same person. Obviously I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that the former (might I suggest ‘renegade’?) agent who has admitted travelling to alternate multiverses could be behind that occurrence . . .

Still happy to give those doors a home if you’re looking.

Agent Huinesoron, DOGA

From:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
To:Agent Huinesoron [eagleshade.console1325897ng23404402tr.rc7455.DOGA]
Subject:Re. Really? I thought he quit.

Agent Huinesoron,

Thank you very much for your offers. My partner and I do not have much use for weapons, I’m afraid, but we are intrigued by Men in Black technology nonetheless. Could you give us some details about the particular weapons in question?

I am told it is improper to discuss any other bids we may or may not have received. Please be assured that we shall pursue the offer that most interests us without favoritism or bias.

Agent Ilraen
RC 999
Department of Implausible Crossovers

From:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
To:Dafydd Illian [external address not listed]
CC:Constance Illian-Sims [external address not listed]
Subject:Re. Upping the ante

Agent Illian (or is it Mr. Illian?),

Thank you kindly for your offers. We are quite interested in the fire-lizard eggs, although we would have to find other homes for them in further trade—my partner insists that there will be no pets in the response center.

Since that is the case, would you consider throwing in the steampunk technology as well? We would appreciate more details on that, but we are sure it would “sweeten the deal,” as I believe the expression goes.

I am informed that it is not polite to discuss what other offers we may or may not be entertaining, but I assure you that we shall choose only what best pleases us with no bias or favoritism toward any particular Eldarin line.

Agent Ilraen
RC 999
Department of Implausible Crossovers

P.S. I am sure I do not need to tell you that we shall not take any children in trade. However, if you are seeking peace and tranquility in your household, may we suggest a babysitter or two that you may find agreeable? For instance, we believe Agent Suicide is quite capable of subduing any unwanted tendencies toward unruliness and replacing them with a certain military discipline. Or perhaps Agent Gall and her Monstrous Nightmare could exhaust the children’s excess energies with quality diversions of a physical nature?

From:Ilraen-Aroline-Fothergill [ilraen.console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
To:Agent Huinesoron [eagleshade.console1325897ng23404402tr.rc7455.DOGA]
Subject:Re. Just a thought.

Agent Huinesoron,

I must admit to being extremely confused by your latest message. Even if I supposed for one instant that the former Agent Illian somehow colluded with the abominable Jaycacia, what would he possibly stand to gain by insinuating that we are the same person? And if we were, why would I enter into a trade with myself? It is quite absurd. I do not see your point in bringing this up.

Agent Ilraen
RC 999
Department of Implausible Crossovers

From:Agent Huinesoron [eagleshade.console1325897ng23404402tr.rc7455.DOGA]
To:Ilraen-Aroline-Fothergill [ilraen.console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
Subject:Re: Re. Just a thought.

Agent Ilraen,

I have no idea why former-agent Illian would convince the abhorrence to turn you and himself into the same person in her multiverse. Who can possibly understand the machinations of House Fëanor? I was simply pointing out that he may not be terribly trustworthy; though as a Kinslayer that may have been obvious . . .

Needless to say, I don’t think you and he are one and the same in this multiverse.

Now, let’s put aside that whole unpleasant issue. The technology actually comes from an ill-defined crossover. Not of all it is weaponised, in fact: I have several vials of purified midi-chlorians if those would be of interest? Also a Ghostbusters containment unit modified with Time Lord technology – I believe the correct analogy is ‘ghost-trap of infinite holding’.

If these are not of interest, I have the weapons too, as I said.

Agent Huinesoron, DOGA

From:Dafydd Illian [external address not listed]
To:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
Subject:Details, sliateD

Well. I have a Magnetonic Pressure Oven, capable of making superb tea in under ten seconds. I have several Proximity Deterrents, which can be attached to any weapon to provide automatic self-defence. Of possible interest to you in Implausible Crossovers, I have a Fused-Fiction Disentanglement Device, capable of separating two canon universes completely in a single (piston and cog-powered) step.

And, yerk, apparently when I think about this stuff I end up talking like them, too. Sorry about that. Anyway, obviously I couldn’t part with all of it, but I’m sure one piece could accompany the clutch . . .

(I don’t think that letting the kids into the company of a full-sized dragon is a good idea. We have enough trouble keeping Jasmine from telling all the neighbours about Hera and Ilwion; getting her to keep quiet about the real thing would be downright impossible.)

~Dafydd Illian (ex-Agent Dafydd is fine, and thank you for asking)

From:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
To:Dafydd Illian [external address not listed]
Subject:Re. Details, sliateD

Ex-Agent Dafydd,

Excellent! We will be very pleased to accept your offer of two fire-lizard eggs and the Magnetonic Pressure Oven. (Nume insists the latter is likely nothing more than a microwave oven with brass bits and steam plus the hazard of a pressure cooker, but nevertheless.)

When would be a convenient time for you to come to HQ and make the exchange? And, do you have some means of transporting the doors yourself, or will we need to arrange something?

Agent Ilraen
RC 999
Department of Implausible Crossovers

From:Ilraen-Aroline-Fothergill [ilraen.console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
To:Agent Huinesoron [eagleshade.console1325897ng23404402tr.rc7455.DOGA]
Subject:Re. Re: Re. Just a thought.

Agent Huinesoron,

I regret to inform you that we have closed a deal for the oak doors. However, we are quite intrigued by the containment unit you mentioned—we feel it could be quite useful in the disposal of wraiths. Would you accept another offer for it?

Agent Ilraen
RC 999
Department of Implausible Crossovers

(( Dafydd says he’s free any time, and can handle the doors by himself (probably with more steamtech, I dunno). hS says no thanks and goes off in a sulk. ))

“You only gave them two?”

Dafydd stepped back from his new doors and frowned at his wife. “Yes? Plus the Magnetonic Pressure Oven, of course.”

Constance seemed to be on the verge of waving her arms about in distress. “And what are we going to do with the rest?” she demanded. “I hope you’re not planning on keeping them!”

“Two fire-lizards in the house is enough for me,” Dafydd assured her. “I thought we’d . . . you know, do what we always do? Drop them off on a beach somewhere over on Pern?”

Constance reached up to stroke the gold fire-lizard perched on her shoulder. “You know how much that always upsets Hera, though.”

“And Ilwion always settles her down again.” Dafydd cocked his head. “There’s something else, isn’t there?”

Constance’s lip twisted. “Tanfin’s been asking for one of the eggs.”

“So we tell him he can’t. I don’t really see the—”

“I did tell him he can’t.” Constance scowled. “I told him he can’t, because we’re sending them to the PPC.”

“. . . Ah.” Dafydd reached out and drummed his fingers on the carving of Smaug on the doors. “We could lie?”

“He’s far too good at seeing through us.” Constance threw out a quick grin. “Takes after his father . . .”

“I dunno, you always caught onto my fibs pretty quickly.”

“Past tense?”

“Shh.” Dafydd considered the situation. “So . . . what do we do?”

“Simple.” Constance pointed at the hidden door to the technology-filled basement. “Get back on the line to the horse-dude and tell him he can have the lot.”

“And what if he doesn’t—?”

“Correction: tell him he’s having the lot, whether he wants them or not.”

ICEP Trading, Round 2: Eggs
Summary:Having acquired a clutch of twelve fire-lizard eggs, Nume and Ilraen have to find homes for them.
Timeline:Aug 14—24 2015.
Rating:G/K - Honest gray-market trading.
Players: Neshomeh (Supernumerary, Ilraen, and Jennifer Robinson)
Iximaz (Alex Dives)
Alleb (Alleb and Jesse)
Phobos (Barid and Brightbeard)
Scapegrace (Wobbles and the Notary)
Darkotas (Bosh’Guk)
Desdendelle (Agent Desdendelle)
PoorCynic (Teyala Solnerii)
Huinesoron (The Lichen)
JulyFlame (Building Maintenance)
Zingenmir (Dawn McKenna)
Edhelistar (Shui-Hua Liu)

Another notice appeared on the Cafeteria bulletin board:


Good homes for twelve (12) Pernese fire-lizards:
unconditional love, very intelligent, very useful.

Will consider any reasonable trade.

Infrastructure preferred; will consider Action if mental stability is assured.

Must be available to attend the eggs’ hatching at short notice.

Instruction on care and feeding will be provided.

For more information, please contact Agents Supernumerary and Ilraen at RC 999,
ICEP address [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]

Please CC any message to Nurse Jennifer Robinson at

Thank you!

From:Alex Dives [adives.console050102ky332761.rc007.DOSAT]
To:Supernumerary and Ilraen-Aroline-Fothergill [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
CC:Nurse Jenni [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]
Subject:Inquiry about fire-lizards

I saw your notice in the Cafeteria and I’m definitely interested! I’m an intern with DoSAT and have pretty regular hours, so hopefully that’s good enough for you!

I have red the original Dragonriders of Pern trilogy as well as the Harper Hall trilogy, so I also know a fair bit about fire-lizards and how to care for them.

In return, I can offer up some bits of Sue tech rescued from the field: I have an extra laser spanner that needs fixing up (unfortunately, it shines blellow at the moment; I’m trying to fix it, but if I can’t, I hope that isn’t a problem), a freeze gun that encases the target in a block of ice for several minutes (it leaves no permanent or lasting damage, as far as I can tell), and a tricorder that’s a little bit beat up, but I can get to work on fixing that up if that’s what you’re interested in.

Thanks for your time!

From:Supernumerary and Ilraen-Aroline-Fothergill [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
To:Alex Dives [adives.console050102ky332761.rc007.DOSAT]
CC:Nurse Jenni [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]
Subject:Re: Inquiry about fire-lizards

Agent Dives,

Hello! You are the brother of Rina Dives, is that correct? It is very nice to hear from you.

Your trade is exactly the sort of thing we were hoping for. We would be happy to accept the tricorder if it can be repaired, or the tricorder plus laser spanner if one or both are in less than optimal condition. We hope you find this agreeable.

We will be in touch about the hatching. Good luck!

Agent Ilraen
RC 999
Department of Implausible Crossovers

From:Alex Dives [adives.console050102ky332761.rc007.DOSAT]
To:Supernumerary and Ilraen-Aroline-Fothergill [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
CC:Nurse Jenni [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]
Subject:Re: Inquiry about fire-lizards

Yes, I am, actually! She’s where I get most of my tech from, as a matter of fact. Otherwise I’d be sitting around all day repairing broken CADs and waiting for the techies to order me to get them more coffee, ha ha. The Sue tech makes for nice side projects in my free time.

I’ll get to work right away on repairing the tricorder! And no worries, the laser spanner is in perfect condition . . . you know, other than the blellow thing.

Wow, I can’t wait for the hatching! I really don’t mind what color fire-lizard I get, since they’re all pretty cool in my opinion.

Thank you very much!

From:Ilraen-Aroline-Fothergill [ilraen.console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
To:Alex Dives [adives.console050102ky332761.rc007.DOSAT]
Subject:Re: Re: Inquiry about fire-lizards

Agent Dives (or may I call you Alex?),

Excellent! How is Rina? I have not seen much of her since our co-mission.

To clarify, a working tricorder alone is a sufficient trade, though we will not refuse the laser spanner if you are trying to get rid of it. By the way, what model is the tricorder? A TOS model would be particularly prized by my partner, though of course later models are technically superior.

Speaking of which, I wonder if you might like to take a look at a project of mine. I have long been striving to understand the inner workings of a CAD well enough to repair our old one, but I find that I do not quite have the aptitude for engineering that I hoped—the ideal Andalite, you see, is both a warrior and a scientist, and I imagined that this could be my science. Alas, it is not. I could use a set of experienced eyes that will not judge my ineptitude too harshly.

- Ilraen

From:Alex Dives [adives.console050102ky332761.rc007.DOSAT]
To:Ilraen-Aroline-Fothergill [ilraen.console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
Subject:Re: Re: Inquiry about fire-lizards

Rina’s been . . . doing alright, I suppose. She’s been kind of cranky the last few times I’ve seen her, but otherwise the same as ever.

And alright, good to know! In answer to your question, yes, it is a TOS model; apparently some Sue decided to shove Nurse Chapel down a plothole and take over so she could impress Bones.

As for the project, sure thing! I’d love to swing by in the evening sometime! Just let me know whenever works for you.

From:Agents Alleb and Jesse
To:Agents Supernumerary and Ilraen at RC 999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
CC:Nurse Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]


My name is Agent Alleb, of the Realm. My partner, Jesse, and I would like to inquire of these “fire-lizards.” Neither of us have experience with them, but in Alleble I often tended our Blue Dragons, which are big enough to ride.

For trade, I have two masterful daggers, crafted by Naysmithe himself. Each blade is engraved with Pennath Ador, the Mountain of Glory. One alone should suffice as payment. My partner also offers his shotgun, which he says is from his country’s Civil War.

Never alone,

From:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
To:Agents Alleb and Jesse
CC:Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]

Agent Alleb,

Hello! Thank you for your interest. We are not familiar with your Realm or its dragons, but we would be interested to learn more. In turn, our friend Jenni will tell you more about fire-lizards. (I believe she is even now writing an informational pamphlet to hand out to all the prospective Impressors before the hatching takes place.)

Neither of us is much interested in combustion firearms, but I quite like the sound of the daggers you describe. We would accept one masterwork dagger per egg, one for you, one for your partner. I do not know what an equivalent value of one dagger is where you come from, but my partner says that the value of a fire-lizard is more or less akin to the value of a purebred companion animal from a reputable breeder on World One. Perhaps your partner would understand?

Please let us know if you accept this deal or if you would like to make another offer.

Agent Ilraen
RC 999
Department of Implausible Crossovers

From:Agents Alleb and Jesse
To:Agent Ilraen at RC 999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
CC:Nurse Jennifer Robinson at [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]
Subject:Re: Re:

Agent Ilraen,

(( Before I begin, I’m afraid I must give a small disclaimer. I don’t own the physical books that detail Alleb’s home universe. I have them in audiobook format, so I can’t search for information. The books have a wiki, but it’s not detailed. Therefore, disclaimer: Everything I say about the Realm’s dragons ought to be taken with a grain of salt. ))

The Realm’s dragons are, from what I know of other dragons, fairly standard. The Blues I tended were used by messengers, and known for their speed and stamina. Their roars are very loud, their fire hot, and their wings wide. Some of them are quite temperamental, and I think my experiences with them have prepared me for anything a fire-lizard might do.

I am afraid that my partner is as unsure of the items as I am. He does not know the value of my daggers in your modern currency, and as to “purebred companion animals,” well, here is what he said:

“I don’t rightly know what she* means. Any dog’s a good dog so long as it earns its keep.”

The price of the daggers is . . . somewhat hard to place. They were made as a favor to my uncle, and given to me as a gift, so I do not know how much gold they might be sold for. But, if I understand rightly, I believe the deal is fair. Jesse says he doesn’t want a fire-lizard for himself, so only one dagger need be bartered.

A pamphlet would be lovely,

Agent Alleb

(( *I know Ilraen is male, but Jesse’s just arrived from the Civil War, and the name sounds feminine to him. That’s also why he’s useless with the money exchange; he’s still freaking out about how much a bag of flour costs. ))

From:Agent Barid [datroll.console773945eb097374bt19873.rc1986.APD]
To:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
Subject:Da Bulletin

Hiya. Dis is Barid. Ya remember me from dat time we went ta Azeroth an’ had dat adventure? Dat was great. I was handin’ out fliers at the cafeteria an’ I saw dis paper on da board. I t’ought ta myself, “Barid, ya love fire an’ ya more or less indiff’rent ta lizards, so dats a net positive!” So, can I get one’a dem fire tings? I got a mess’a shrunk heads and assorted jujus, fetishes, an’ potions. Whatta ya say?


From:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
To:Agent Barid [datroll.console773945eb097374bt19873.rc1986.APD]
CC:Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]
Subject:Re: Da Bulletin

You’ve got to be kidding. This is a joke, right?

Listen up, you blue loony: “dat adventure” was not great. We don’t want your junk. You don’t even know what a fire-lizard is! So no. We say no.

And also, heartfelt from me personally, go to hell.

— Agent Supernumerary
RC 999
Department of Implausible Crossovers

From:Agent Ilraen-Aroline-Fothergill [ilraen.console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
To:Agent Barid [datroll.console773945eb097374bt19873.rc1986.APD]

Agent Barid,

I apologize for my partner’s rude message. I told him I would handle all correspondence regarding this matter, but he got to the console before I could.

Agent Ilraen
RC 999
Department of Implausible Crossovers

From:Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]
To:Agent Barid [datroll.console773945eb097374bt19873.rc1986.APD]
CC:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
Subject:Re: Re: Da Bulletin

Good grief, Nume. That was completely unnecessary.

Ahem. Barid, I must confess I am concerned about your motives for Impressing a fire-lizard. For one thing, they don’t breathe fire except under certain conditions, and we’re going to be taking steps to ensure that said conditions cannot be met here in HQ, since we don’t want anyone fined, arrested, etc. Furthermore, fire-lizards can be quite a handful without proper training, and that takes patience and dedication. You’re rather busy with your group, not to mention missions. Are you sure you can provide the sort of care that these sensitive creatures need?

~Jenni Robinson
Section 31, C-14
Department of Fictional Psychology

To:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
CC:Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]
Subject:Dat Paper

Hey dere. I’m dat Dwarf dat ya know and kinda like, I tink. I hear ya got some kind’a lizard dat breathes fire. Bein’ a Dwarf, my beard is probably fire proof. Can I get one’a dem? Um . . .lad?

-Totally Da Dwarf

To:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
CC:Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]
Subject:Please ignore previous message

I apologize for my uncouth partner. I’m lucky that I check my messages regularly and that he forgot to log out of my account after trying to game the system, as it were. I assure you, I will find some creative way to make his life difficult for as long as it takes for him to learn his lesson.

However, I am also interested in your offer. Though my beard is not in fact fire-proof, I do take measures to make it fire-resistant when working the forge. Which brings me to my trade offer; I can make for you all manner of metal implements. I recall that neither of you are particularly fond of combat, so likely won’t want arms and armor. However, I can supply you with tools and various other things if given good references and schematics.

I will also keep my partner as far away from you all as is possible, free of charge.

Eamon Brightbeard, Knight of the Rubber Pocketknife

From:Agent Bradstow-Chapman
To:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
CC:RC #1875, Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]

To whom it may concern:

I am obliged to inform you of a request for one of your eggs from my associate, Wobbles the Clown. As you may or may not be aware, Wobbles is a television presenter and friend to all children, however violent, dull-witted, or sticky. Upon hearing of your advertisement, she was filled with joy at the prospect of having a “real-life Puff the Magic Dragon” to act as a pet on her delightful program. When considering this request, I urge you not only to think of the love she can give it, but also how loved it will be by all the little children of the Nursery, her colleagues in the A/V Division and NutMint, and everyone with whom she works.

Payment will be provided in the form of all paperwork, Stores requests, and similar unpleasantnesses being comprehensively expedited for one calendar year as of the date of the transaction. Additionally, compromising photographs of LOs of your choice will be made available from the A/V Division’s aborted “Canons After Dark” program (please see attached file for a comprehensive list of canon characters).

Finally, to preemptively answer the question of why my colleague has not contacted you directly, her condition (acute arcane technometaplasia) prevents her from operating anything more mechanically complex than a buttonhole flower that squirts water at the unwary. It therefore falls to me to act as a go-between. Thank you for reading.

Yours in good faith,
Barney Bradstow-Chapman,
Director of Children’s Programming, A/V Division.

“Uh, Grody Ski? Why’re you sending them that?”

The Notary turned and smirked at her colleague. “Well, they’re hardly likely to give me a dragon just because I require a new document shredder, human. Indeed, they’d more than likely spit in my face as soon as I asked. I do have a reputation, after all.”

From:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
To:Agent Bradstow-Chapman
CC:RC #1875 [console2A5B9C05A1E1.rc1875.DF],
Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]

Agent Bradstow-Chapman,

Thank you for your message on behalf of Agent Wobbles. We quite understand that her circumstances prevent her from communicating directly in this medium; it is not a problem.

Do we understand correctly that her half of the deal would, in fact, be carried out by her partner the Notary, who gifted Agent Supernumerary with a rather hefty guide to requisitions on the event of his tenth anniversary? We do not object to this arrangement provided that the Notary agrees to it, but we would like to hear from her to ensure that there is no confusion. We also have one further condition: that no pictures of any LOs be sent to this RC in any form, ever.

Please let us know if that is agreeable.

Agent Ilraen
RC 999
Department of Implausible Crossovers

From:Agent Bradstow-Chapman
To:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
CC:RC #1875 [console2A5B9C05A1E1.rc1875.DF],
Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]
Subject:Re: Re:

Dear Agent Ilraen,

Thank you for your prompt response.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Notary would be amenable to such an arrangement; indeed, she was the one who suggested it. She felt, and Wobbles concurred, that a more tangible benefit would be agreeable to you, rather than the miscellany of Suvian gimcracks that people are on record as offering in similar situations, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that they declined to swipe anything from their previous missions, with the exception of a Suvian AAT-mutated combat toaster currently being studied by our mutual friends in DoSAT. I agree with the Notary, for my part – something I’m given to understand happens rather rarely. I’ll ding her presently.

Thank you for reading,
Barney Bradstow-Chapman,
Director of Children’s Programming, A/V Division.

From:Spinel Promotor Notary, Continuity Council of Gallifrey-In-Exile [rassilonssaggylefttesticleanyonebuther.console2A5B9C05A1E1.rc1875.DF]
To:Agent Ilraen-Aroline-Fothergill, DIC [ilraen.console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
CC:Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]

Agent Ilraen-Aroline-Fothergill,

I am given to understand that you have considered my offer and not found it wanting. This is well. I do not personally believe that the accumulated gimcracks of a career in canon maintenance is acceptable as trade goods for a living being, but I understand that I am very much in the minority here, with my colleague in the majority. She wanted to give Agent Supernumerary and his children, if any, a guest spot on her program; I managed to dissuade her. I will assume a note of thanks is in the post.

To clarify my basic position in this matter, I am willing to correct clerical errors, expedite them, make sure they are read, offer assistance in bureaucratic preferred styles and the navigation of the PPC’s comparatively simplistic filing system, and ensure that any and all censures are delayed, held back, sent to the wrong subcommittee, sent to the right subcommittee from the wrong supracommittee, lost, found, lost again, and buried in a peat bog for nine months. Do forgive my lapse into human media for that reference; the clown has been on at me to engage more readily with “World One” culture, and I am deathly afraid that some of the mud thrown at my proverbial wall is beginning to stick. This will last for one calendar year as of the transaction. A full list of services is available in the attached file marked 15-B.

Finally, I am extremely gratified to be remembered by yourself and your partner. People very rarely see the benefit of properly-completed paperwork, and I hope that the guide was of as much benefit to you as I intended.

I remain,
Yr. obdt. svt.,
Antrilovorasilendar (the Notary),
Spinel Promotor of the Continuity Council of Gallifrey-In-Exile,
Agent, Department of Floaters,
Sane for official purposes (aggressive personality disorder and depression noted but within one standard deviation of good health, full details of FicPsych report for both her and Agent Wobbles available in attached file XV-)

From:Agent Bosh’Guk
To:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
CC:Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]

My name is Bosh’Guk. I am a Stonemaul ogre of Azeroth and an agent of the Department of Mary Sues, and I would like to request thatjoisdndsfgsdajbdas YOU HAVE FIRE LIZARDS GIMME ONEjdiosjfjdsfhd

. . . my apologies. My other head keeps trying to change the contents of this message, and jhdisuhduysafdasd I PROMISE TO LOVE THEM FOREVER diksydhyhavsfuy

Again, sorry. We have adequate living conditions for heat-based reptiles such as them, and experience with full-size dragons from our time in duhsuiDgauXdYfawuOd I WANT TO NAME ONE BURNIE dhsuidtatyecUTWFGFhxb

Anyway, I have knowledge of fire-immunity spells, so this will not be an issue. In trade, we have a number of various potions, enchantments, tomes of spells, and hfsuiegf FISH. WE HAVE LOTS OF FISH. I THINK IT’S CALLED GUNGAN CULTURE

Look, sorry about all that, he won’t let me delete what’s been written . . . Just send us a message at RC 417 and I’ll make sure you’re communicating with a competent individual.

-Bosh (AND GUK)

From:Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]
To:Agent Bosh’Guk
CC:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
Subject:Re: Salutations

Agent Bosh’Guk,

I’m afraid I have some concerns about your ability to Impress given your unique circumstances. While I don’t doubt that both of you have the best intentions, there has never been a situation where a fire-lizard has Impressed to two personalities before. This is pure speculation on my part, but it seems likely that it would only bond with one of you. In the worst-case scenario, the hatchling could become confused or frightened and vanish forever, and this is what troubles me.

Assuming the boys in RC 999 find your trade agreeable, I think we should let you try it, but only if Guk can be very, very calm for the hatching. Any outbursts or sudden movements could jeopardize the Impression, so it’s very important. What do you think?

~Jenni Robinson
Section 31, Room C-14
Department of Fictional Psychology

From:Agent Bosh’Guk
To:Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]
CC:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
Subject:Re: Re: Salutations

this is guk

hi. bosh made me promise to be very, very good. i won’t try to hug them or make loud noises until the bond thing is complete, promise.

Bosh here. I’m actually surprised, because Guk actually agreed to be civil for once! Just in case, I have a sleeping spell handy, but judging from the effort Guk has been making, I don’t think I’ll need it. Perhaps this means more to him than I thought – he never focuses like this unless something is of great importance to him. I do not know much about the Impressions common to the species in question, but I agree that it’s logical that it would bond to only one of us . . . this could be an issue, and I’ll have to discuss it with my counterpart if our offer is of interest. Guk wants to add something – the next section is his.

hi again. do these lizards sometimes have more than one head? i think that would be nice. both of us would be able to have our very own lizard friend that way. plus we would know how to feed it and what it’s like for burnie. i wonder if he would argue with his other head too?

Bosh again. Thanks for your time. I’ll do some research into the process of Impression – perhaps some answers could be found, even if we are not to be the owners of these creatures.

-Bosh (and guk)

From:Agent Desdendelle [0.4342944819.console.ayugiohcard]
To:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
CC:Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]

Agent Desdendelle here, Floaters. Fairly stable, can take care of animals (if I couldn’t, I’d be covered with mini-Reaper stings and whatnot). I can offer in trade Icingdeath the scimitar (probably magical, but needs testing — I’m more of an axe person myself), Avatar Aang’s uncanonical lightsaber (don’t ask), an International Rescue jacket (comes in blue, orange, purple or yellow sash colours), or any combination of the above. I’ve also a full Jian Shang Di armory in my cupboard, but I reckon you guys aren’t after guns.

Something tells me your inbox is flooded with trade offers, so I’ll be holding my fingers here.


From:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
To:Agent Desdendelle [0.4342944819.console.ayugiohcard]
CC:Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]
Subject:Re: Fire-lizards?

Agent Desdendelle,

Greetings! We gather that you have something of a reputation as the “sane one” of your partnership, and we are interested in what you have to offer. The lightsaber in particular we feel would make a fine collection piece. What color is it, and does it bear the Avatar’s name or any other identification?

We are also curious about Icingdeath. Is that THE Icingdeath of Drizzt Do’Urden (or rather a copy of it)? If so, what of its companion, Twinkle?

Agent Ilraen
RC 999
Department of Implausible Crossovers

P.S. I believe you meant “crossing my fingers.” Do not worry, I have had a long struggle with idioms myself.

From:Agent Desdendelle [0.4342944819.console.ayugiohcard]
To:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
CC:Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]
Subject:Re: Re: Fire-lizards?

Salutations, Ilraen.

The lightsaber had less description than is right; I’m afraid the fic didn’t even bother to mention its blade’s colour. You can, however, play it like a guitar — not that I tried. I like my fingers where they are, thank you very much.

As to Icingdeath — it is, indeed, a copy of that Icingdeath, though due to the author’s confusion it also shares some of Twinkle’s attributes. As mentioned, I have not tested it, but the sapphire in its pommel seems to wink in and out of existence.


PS: There you go, that’s ESL for you. The equivalent expression in Hebrew is indeed להחזיק אצבעות, to hold one’s fingers.

From:Teyala Solnerii [tsolnerii.console18513hr51394713br2346.rc580.OPS]
To:Agents Supernumerary and Ilraen, RC 999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
CC:Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]
Subject:Cafeteria Bulletin

Hello there!

I would like to put myself forward as an adoptive candidate for one of the Pernese fire-lizards mentioned in your bulletin. It’d be nice to have some regular company when I’m off of work. Jennifer can speak for my “mental stability” and reliability; we know each other from her visits to the Nursery. As for items to trade, I have a selection of artifacts from the Mass Effect universe collected over my previous career. I can also provide advanced weaponry if need be. I also have some leverage with people in both Ops and Personnel, not to mention with those in a certain . . . private gathering place in which there may or may not be libations and related activities.

Thank you for your time and I wish you the best of luck in finding those fire-lizards some good homes!

Teyala Solnerii

From:Agents Supernumerary and Ilraen, RC 999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
To:Teyala Solnerii [tsolnerii.console18513hr51394713br2346.rc580.OPS]
CC:Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]
Subject:Re: Cafeteria Bulletin

Agent Solnerii,

Hello, and thank you for your interest! We are quickly running out of available eggs, but since you are in Operations, we believe your bid should take a high priority for the well-being of the hatchling.

Furthermore, we are tantalized by the hint you have dropped regarding said private gathering place. We understand that a high quality tabletop game runs there regularly. I have never role-played before, but my partner has, and I would like to learn, if only to understand his jokes better.

We understand that you could not guarantee that we would be allowed to join, of course, but then, we cannot guarantee much about the hatching, either. This seems fair. What do you think?

Agent Ilraen
RC 999
Department of Implausible Crossovers

From:Teyala Solnerii [tsolnerii.console18513hr51394713br2346.rc580.OPS]
To:RC 999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
CC:Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]
Subject:Re: Cafeteria Bulletin

Agent Ilraen,

I can agree to that! And you’re right about the tabletop game; I’m both part of it and close friends with the agent who acts as the regular game master. If you pass the interview process, I’m sure he would be happy to grant you a spot at the table.

As for getting into the gathering place itself, name a good time for an introduction. We can meet at the Nursery and walk to the location from there. Dress in formal wear (or as formal as possible).

Thank you again!

Teyala Solnerri
Department of Operations - Nursery

From:The Lichen [lcladoniastellaris.console66.DIC]
To:Agents Supernumerary and Ilraen, RC 999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]

I assume you were intending to offer one of these eggs to your Department Head. Perhaps the letter simply got lost in the post, hmm? On this occasion, I suppose I can overlook your tardiness – and the small matter of your trading in a controlled flammiferous species – if you rectify your error immediately.

The Lichen, Head of Department, Implausible Crossovers

To:The Lichen [lcladoniastellaris.console66.DIC]
CC:Agents Supernumerary and Ilraen, RC 999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
Subject:Re: Fwd: Ahem.

Hello; this is Nurse Robinson with FicPsych. You may already know that I’m overseeing this matter as a former resident of Pern (AU)—Harper and Weyrwoman. It’s all in my file.

With all due respect, sir, you’re a lichen. How do you plan to feed the hatchling to make Impression, oil its hide if it’s dry, train it? I mean, I know you’re all powerful psychics, so I guess the answer to all that is telekinesis and telepathy, but even so, fire-lizards are social creatures. They need to touch and be touched. I’m concerned that any bond you make wouldn’t last very long, unless you somehow forced it. Need I say that I literally shuddered typing that?

Please, sir, consider the very long life of your potential friend. Would it be a good one?

~Jenni Robinson
Section 31, Room C-14
Department of Fictional Psychology

P.S. Don’t worry, nobody’s sneaking any firestone into HQ if I can help it. I’ll be keeping track of every Impression, so if anyone’s critter is caught flaming, I’ll know who to sic the DIA on.

From:The Lichen [lcladoniastellaris.console66.DIC]
CC:Agents Supernumerary and Ilraen, RC 999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
Subject:I am appalled.

Nurse Robinson, I am appalled that you would even consider comparing any Flower to the Mysterious Somebody. Do you think I do not remember the so-called ‘Lofty Skies insanity’? Do you somehow imagine that I have forgotten the horrors that Nurse Hyrax – and doubtless many others who did not live to tell the tale – underwent?

For your information – though this is, as you might say, ‘all in the files’ anyway – telepathic controls have long allowed for Hornbeam’s people to build ‘artificial limbs’, animal-like robotics which feel and operate like the real thing. Feeding and oiling a fire-lizard is well within my capabilities.

No doubt you are about to suggest that ‘mechanical add-ons do not count as touching’; that would imply a severe lack of insight on your part. Touch only has meaning because of the mind behind it, and my mind is far more capable of making contact with a fire-lizard’s than one of my agents’. Just ask the Queen Anne’s Lace and that Daisy if you don’t believe me.

-The Lichen, Head of Department, Implausible Crossovers

P.S: You speak of ‘very long life’ when you plan on giving eggs to humans? Tsk. Regardless, the Medical Research Division has almost completed the [That information is classified, sir. We don’t know who’s reading. ~Duros Black]

From:Colt [cglimmerhand.console9126413a05.rc20.DO]
To:Agents Supernumerary and Ilraen [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
Subject:Fire-Lizards, huh?

One free ‘you broke it we’ll fix it’ no questions asked no lectures given.


From:Gerry [gcavendish.console9126413a05.rc20.DO]
To:Agents Supernumerary and Ilraen [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
CC:Jenni [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH],
Colt [cglimmerhand.console9126413a05.rc20.DO]
Subject:Re: Fire-Lizards, huh?

He’s not responsible enough for a pet, don’t do it.

I’ll bump it up to two favors from BM.


From:Colt [cglimmerhand.console9126413a05.rc20.DO]
To:Agents Supernumerary and Ilraen [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
Gerry [gcavendish.console9126413a05.rc20.DO]
Subject:Re: Re: Fire-Lizards, huh?

What! I’m totally responsible!

Two favors *and* electrical work of your choice up to and including the console so long as you don’t let DoSAT know.


From:Gerry [gcavendish.console9126413a05.rc20.DO]
To:Agents Supernumerary and Ilraen [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
CC:Jenni [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH],
Colt [cglimmerhand.console9126413a05.rc20.DO]
Subject:Re: Re: Re: Fire-Lizards, huh?

Don’t trust the idiot half-elf with a fire-lizard.

Two favors and I’ll bump your RC up the queue in case of any problems.


From:Colt [cglimmerhand.console9126413a05.rc20.DO]
To:Agents Supernumerary and Ilraen [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
CC:Jenni [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH],
Gerry [Gcavendish.console9126413a05.rc20.DO]
Subject:Re: Re: Re: Re: Fire-Lizards, huh?

I’m totally trustworthy!

Three favors, the electrical work, and I’ve got unrestricted access to our supply ordering system if you know what I mean.


From:Denny Robbs [drobbs.console9126413a05.rc20.DO]
To:Colt [cglimmerhand.console9126413a05.rc20.DO]
CC:Building Maintenance [BM.DO]
Subject:Fire-Lizards, Supplies

Colt’s off the list for unrestricted access for ordering supplies just so everyone knows.

Also, are we seriously getting into a bidding war for fire-lizards between ourselves? Seriously? Be adults, people.


From:Colt & Gerry [console9126413a05.rc20.DO]
To:Denny Robbs [drobbs.console9126413a05.rc20.DO]
Subject:BM & Fire-Lizards

But we really want fire-lizards! They’re like dragons but less terrifying!

Also, dammit, hoping you wouldn’t notice.

-Colt (and Gerry too)

Mostly I just wanted the fire-lizards.


From:Denny Robbs [drobbs.console9126413a05.rc20.DO]
To:Agents Supernumerary and Ilraen [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
Building Maintenance [BM.DO]
Subject:I’m rescinding Colt’s last offer with a final one.

BM has a sizable group who want to adopt fire-lizards, so I’m throwing in for everyone a final offer: Three favors, Colt’s electric work offer without including the Console, and prioritizing any job you have once.

We can figure out who’s actually there for the hatching later if you accept.

Denny Robbs

From:Agents Supernumerary and Ilraen [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
To:Denny Robbs [drobbs.console9126413a05.rc20.DO]
CC:Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH],
Building Maintenance [BM.DO]
Subject:Re: I’m rescinding Colt’s last offer with a final one.

Agent Robbs,

Thank you (and the rest) for your interest. We accept your offer and we will guarantee at least one egg in return, with the possibility of two at no extra cost if any are still unclaimed when they begin to hatch. We know they could be quite useful to your crew, and we appreciate the value of your work.

Please let us know who will attend the hatching so we may keep them informed.

Agent Ilraen
RC 999
Department of Implausible Crossovers

From:Agent Dawn McKenna [dawnm.console17015dm997091sh62442.rc18.DMS]
To:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
CC:Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]
Subject:Re: Fire-lizards!


As you can see above, my name is Dawn McKenna, currently with the DMS. I’ve been around since late 2006 and have never been stuck in FicPsych for an extended stay. (That is, my level of insanity is within the accepted range for agents and has stayed there for the past 8 and a half years. Wow, time flies.) That should speak for my mental stability. I used to be a big fan of the Pern series, too; I read more of the books than I can count on two hands. I wouldn’t say I remember everything I read, but I’m sure I can find the resources to fill in the gaps—wikis, books, that sort of thing. I’m good with research. I also have a good history with animals and minis of varying sorts: we had pet rabbits and pet guinea pigs before I joined the PPC, and I currently live with several minis, a pov, and a tribble. We all get along pretty well, too. You can meet some or all of them, if you like.

As for trades . . . I’m not completely sure what sort of things you prefer, but maybe one or more of these will interest you. If not, feel free to let me know what sort of thing you’re looking for, and I’ll see what I have—I’ve collected a lot of odds and ends.

I can offer you:

-A Tortall-verse sword, Carthaki steel blade (ridiculous Sue, thought she could steal Jon from Thayet—but her weaponry wasn’t bad.)

-One of those medical scanner things from Star Trek: TOS (you know, those things that Dr. McCoy uses that were actually pepper shakers or somesuch. This one has a tendency to get bleen stripes when scanning Vulcans, but otherwise seems to work perfectly. Can be calibrated for out of universe aliens if you know how, I expect.)

-A tribble. Or several. (Not currently, uh, born, but if you want one or several I can feed my tribble a very, very small amount of whatever’s lying around. That should do it.)

-Torchwood-verse Retcon. (Very useful if your neuralyzer stops working—they’re amnesia pills. Once swallowed, the person gets sleepy—well, with the mix I have, anyway, there’s a mild sedative included—and when they wake up, they’ve forgotten however much time you calculated the dose for. Can be dissolved in liquid.)

-A Quick-Quotes Quill. (To quote the HP Lexicon: “A quill that is enchanted to be set up on a sheet of paper without human support, which when activated will write an exaggerated account of whatever is said in its presence.” Very fun to use if you’re charging a Sue or replacement who’s been using really purple prose.)

-Three dragon scales from the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, green and gold. (Not much practical use, but very pretty. Also useful as bookmarks and coasters.)

-Crocheted scarves. (Made by me. I have some extras by now. I tend to just use whatever yarn I had with me or could find, so the color combinations are odd on some of them, but they’re nice and warm and they aren’t itchy. The yarn is mostly nice quality too.)

Again, if none of those are things you’re interested in, let me know what sort of thing you’re looking for and I’ll see what I can dig up.

Yrs sincerely,
Agent Dawn McKenna

From:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
To:Agent Dawn McKenna [dawnm.console17015dm997091sh62442.rc18.DMS]
CC:Jennifer Robinson [jrobinson.console3114ps94394fp42865.rcC-14.FICPSYCH]
Subject:Re: Fire-lizards!

Agent McKenna,

Hello, and thank you for contacting us! I have enjoyed considering your variety of offers. My partner will be very pleased to accept the TOS scanner to add to what is becoming a complete collection. We shall avoid scanning any Vulcans—not that we would have much opportunity to do so.

If you are willing to throw in the Retcon and one of your scarves, as well, we would call that a very good deal. For the scarf, I am not partial to any particular colors, but if you have something that would look nice with both blue fur and red hair, that would be most appreciated.

Agent Ilraen
RC 999
Department of Implausible Crossovers

From:Technician Shui-Hua Liu [shliu.console1219lk226u6c3482b15289.DangerRoom.DoSATT&A]
To:RC #999 [console349376sn2066720bc102875.rc999.DIC]
Subject:Something about fire-lizards.

Greetings Nurse Robinson!

It recently came to my knowledge that you have ‘fire-lizard’ eggs for trade. I don’t know why no one told me about this sooner! I gathered that it was a notice in the Cafeteria, but I never go to that place, the food is horrible and probably still alive, that’s why I prefer going to – Wait . . . What was the subject again? Oh yes, fire-lizards trade. The reason I ask about it, is that I think it might be . . . beneficial for my mental health, to care for someone, besides me, and to have some company over here.

Okay, if there are still eggs available, well, I don’t know exactly what the inhabitants of RC #999 are looking for, but I have some gadgets from superhero universes, and if don’t have it, I can forceask my slavesthe agents of RC #2814, to fetch something you’d like to get.

Currently, I have:
- A Bat-Sue’s utility belt.
- Harley’s Punch Glove Gun
- Some Batarangs
- A Bat-Grappling Gun

I also have a Water Tribe pendant (it . . . brings bad memories . . .), some bags of Jasmine Dragon’s jasmine tea (you know, General Iroh’s special brew), scraps of Mandalorian Iron (that you can get someone to forge something out of), and a stash of paper money from the United Republic of Nations. I also have some standard issue Imperial weaponry from Star Wars, but I don’t think you’re looking for mere weaponry. Failing any of that, I . . . offer my services repairing damaged equipment for the next three months, free of charge.

Appreciating your kind attention,

- Technician Shui-Hua Liu, Department of Sufficiently Advanced Technology, Testing and Application Division.

OOC: Hatching RP is go!

Here’s who’s invited and what their characters promised to exchange for their egg, in case you need a reminder:

  1. Iximaz - Alex Dives - TOS model tricorder
  2. Alleb - Agent Alleb - one masterwork Naysmithe dagger
  3. Phobos - Eamon Brightbeard - keeping Barid out of the way plus smithwork TBD
  4. Scapegrace - Wobbles (but actually the Notary) - general clerking for one year
  5. Darkotas - Bosh’Guk - some healing potions? maybe a spellbook? (I forgot we hadn’t actually gotten this settled. >.> )
  6. Desdendelle - Agent Des - Avatar Aang’s lightsaber (the guys decided they didn’t need the sword)
  7. PoorCynic - Teyala Solnerii - Pennacook Club interviews
  8. Huinesoron - the Lichen - because it’s the Lichen. (Dafydd, Constance & family are also cordially invited to watch the hatching if they so choose. It seems only polite!)
  9. JulyFlame - 2 Building Maintenance reps - three favors, electrical work sans console, one job expedited
  10. Zingenmir - Dawn McKenna - TOS medical scanner, Retcon, one scarf
  11. Edhelistar - Shui-Hua Liu - Mandalorian iron plus Water Tribe pendant (since she seems to want to get rid of it) and Iroh’s jasmine tea (which Jenni is claiming as her fee for helping out)
The Hatching
Summary:While Ilraen concludes his business, Jennifer Robinson oversees the hatching of the twelve fire-lizard eggs.
Timeline:Aug 24—Sep 4, 2015.
Rating:G/K - Warm, fuzzy feelings for all.
Players: Neshomeh (Jennifer and Henry Robinson, Ilraen)
Iximaz (Alex Dives)
Alleb (Agent Alleb)
Phobos (Eamon Brightbeard)
Scapegrace (Wobbles and the Notary)
Darkotas (Bosh’Guk)
Desdendelle (Agent Desdendelle)
PoorCynic (Teyala Solnerii)
Huinesoron (Dafydd Illian and family)
JulyFlame (Gerry and Colt)
Zingenmir (Dawn McKenna)
Edhelistar (Shui-Hua Liu)

Agent Voltarmi, Department of Intelligence, Liaison to the Keepers of Time in Azeroth, was a bronze dragon. She spent most of her time in the form of a pink-haired gnome to facilitate easier passage around Headquarters and easier interactions with her fellow agents, but in her downtime, she liked to relax in her natural shape. Therefore, her office was huge, hot, and full of sand. It was also decorated with posters of Dr. Manhattan and other buff, scantily clad blue men, but that’s neither here nor there.

The tropical heat and recessed, sand-filled floor made the dragon’s office the perfect place to incubate a clutch of fire-lizard eggs. Voltarmi hadn’t made a bid for one of the eggs herself—possibly her ambivalence toward children extended to the prospect of having a very tiny cousin attached to her for life—but she had agreed to watch over them nevertheless. And being constantly aware of her entire timeline, she knew exactly when they were about to hatch and was able to put the word out in advance.

But not too far in advance. What fun would that be? She gave the current owners half an hour and everyone on the list of successful bidders between five and fifteen minutes, at random. Some of them would have to really scramble, and that would be good for a chuckle.

Of course, Jennifer Robinson was always going to really scramble, even if she’d been given a full hour’s warning. You didn’t dawdle for eggs! And besides, she had more to do than anyone else. She had to gather up the handbooks she’d prepared for the new owners, and she had to collect her son from the Nursery and the all-important meat from the Cafeteria. She wanted her hatchlings—she thought of them as hers even though this was in no way true—to have the best first meal possible, so she’d spent a lot of her off-duty time in the past week hunting Pern’s uninhabited south for wild wherries. (With help, of course. Giving Suicide an excuse to exercise his throwing arm not only resulted in better hunting than she could have managed on her own, but also stroked his masculine ego and led to some additional rather fun demonstrations thereof.) She convinced the Cafeteria cooks to butcher and store them for her by bringing them enough extra to serve as a dinner special, but she had to cart the resulting twelve bowls of raw meat and giblets from the kitchens to Voltarmi’s office herself, with a six-year-old riding on her back.

Henry was going to watch. He was too young to have a fire-lizard himself, but since Jenni was raising him on Pernese songs and stories, it would have been unfair to keep him from witnessing a real, live hatching. He would sit on Voltarmi’s desk, next to the bronze dragon in her gnome form, and they would both have a pretty good view.

Once he was settled and chatting happily to Ilraen about his day, Jenni checked the eggs, arranged in a loose double-circle on a mound of sand in an out of the way corner of the office. Their mottled shells were rock-hard, and she could just about feel them throbbing with life ready to break free. But there was a little time yet. Time enough for Nume to pick one to take to his boss—the smallest, she noticed—and time enough for her to give the agents a few last-minute reminders about what to do. Assuming they got here soon . . .

Intern Alex Dives raced through the Generic Corridors of HQ, clutching the newly-repaired tricorder to his chest. The eggs were hatching, they were finally hatching!

It was all he could do to keep from thinking about the fire-lizard he would soon be getting, but he forced himself to replay the last episode of My Little Pony in his head as he ran. Consequently, he almost blew right past the door.

He skidded to a stop, spun around, and opened it. “I’m here!” he gasped, bending over and panting hard. “I’m—I’m here! I’m not late, am I?”

The Notary was a total contrast.

She glided serenely, in much the same manner as an iceberg; though it should be said that icebergs generally possess less malevolence and do not spend most of their time refiling requisition orders so that Stores’ supply of CADs didn’t dwindle too much. Her every movement was refined, delicate, measured. A human who knew ballet would have recalled a performance of Coppélia, albeit (had they known the Notary) perhaps one in which the prima ballerina was in fact a large and ungainly filing cabinet.

Her partner, on the other hand, was bouncing off the walls.

“We’re gonna see a dragon oh my goodness it’s a dragon it has teeth and scales and a crest and—”

“Human, if you’ll recall, so does the Skink who works in one of the support departments, and you didn’t much care for him.”

“Yeah! Because he wasn’t a dragon!”

“Technically, neither is this—it’s a Pernese fire lizard, which is the draconic equivalent of Vegemite. Either you love them or you have taste.”

“But, but it’s supposed to be a dragon!”

“Didn’t you read the pamphlet on them that the other human sent us?”

It should here be noted that the Notary had only glanced at the cover.

“Uh . . . bits? I mean, it took a while and four different consoles, but I got most of it!”

The Notary placed her head in her hands. “Rassilon’s bones, human, it was in dead tree format as well . . .”

“Uh, it was? I didn’t check the mail that morning, you did.”

“Yes, you bloated magic-eye painting, it was. Here.” The Notary shoved a hand in her robe pocket and shuffled it around inside for a bit. “One pamphlet. Near mint. Slight dogear on page 4. Probably.”

“. . . That you’re holding.”

The Time Lady stopped dead; Wobbles bounced off down the corridor before realising she sort of had to go back.

“Ah. Well, you could have asked me for it!”

“Okay! Can I have the pamphlet?” Wobbles turned on her most endearing grin. “Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease?”

“. . . No,” replied the Notary, and shoved it back in her pocket. There was a crunch of something inside, and when her hand came back out it was bleeding, but she didn’t pay it any mind. “Now come on, I need a paper shredder and you need to seek professional help. We both need to meet this Robinson woman and the others. Perhaps I can offer something they will appreciate . . .”

“Hi!” Wobbles yelled past her. “I think I remember you! You did a thing once, and then she did, and then everything went to poop for someone who’s actually kinda nice! Okay, so that doesn’t narrow things down, but still. Hi! Again!”

The Notary looked up from the blood on her hand to Alex Dives, known associate of DoSAT and sundry other concerns.

“Then again,” she mumbled, “perhaps not.”

Everyone in the office looked up when the door flew open to admit Alex.

“Nope, you’re not too late!” Jenni said with a grin. “In fact, you’re the first to arrive. Grab a bowl and an egg, and pull up a patch of sand.” She waved him further into the room.

<You can leave the tricorder with me,> Ilraen added. He’d brought a pair of sacks done up like saddlebags, which were currently at his hooves.

At Wobbles’ yell, Ilraen and Jenni exchanged puzzled looks.

“Is she talking to one of you?” Jenni wondered, including Alex with a glance.

At that moment, Shui-Hua arrived carrying a box with the pieces of a scrapped Mandalorian iron plate (which the PPC’s resident Kryptonian had accidentally punched earlier this week, rendering the Danger Room unoperational for the rest of the week). She had spent the day before cutting it to more manageable pieces; there was enough metal in that box to make an entire set of Mandalorian Armor, or perhaps two. Also, she put in there the bag of Iroh’s jasmine tea and the pendant that used to identify her as a member of the Southern Water Tribe; she didn’t want it anymore, she didn’t want to remember the war anymore.

She shook those thoughts from her head, and scanned the room, setting her gaze on the blonde teenager there. Alex Dives? How come whenever I need to find him, I can’t find him, and when I don’t, I always do? She shrugged. Heh, whatever. She walked towards Nurse Jenni, and left the box near her feet.

“Here are the things requested,” the Technician said. “Whew . . . it was heavy. Since it wasn’t specified, I brought inside that box about thirty pounds of Mandalorian iron, and put in there the other items too. I might get more metal if you need it.” She stretched and rubbed her back. “Augh . . . I think I might need an aspirin.”

Alex smiled tiredly at Ilraen and handed him the tricorder.

He headed over to the eggs and picked one at random, cradling it carefully. “Hey, little guy,” he whispered. “I don’t know you yet, but I hope we get along.”

At Wobbles’ yell, his shoulders stiffened. Oh gods please don’t let the Notary be here please don’t let the Notary be here. He risked glancing over his shoulder. Crap.

He turned to Nurse Jenni instead and gave her a nervous smile. “When do you think they’ll hatch?” he asked.

Another figure stepped into the office.

Teyala Solnerii found herself nodding at the elaborate setup despite the brief worry that crossed her mind. She wouldn’t have to cover her response center with sand, would she? What she knew about the canon—which, admittedly, wasn’t a great deal—hadn’t said anything about spreading around sand. She hoped the guidebook she had heard about would help her to understand.

The asari waved at Jenni and Ilraen, but didn’t approach them yet. It would be rude to barge ahead of everyone. Besides, her item for trade was best exchanged in quiet corners. It could wait. Now, where was that guidebook . . .

Agent Desdendelle, DF, arrived at Voltarmi’s office holding Avatar Aang’s uncanon lightsaber like it was an especially disgusting dead rat. He looked at the gathered group, shrugged, and positioned himself behind and to the side of the Notary so Ilraen would notice him. He stared at the eggs curiously, trying to ignore the Notary (not that he had met her; he had, however, heard the stories) and the rest of the people he didn’t know.

A large two-headed ogre stepped through the door. Agent Bosh’Guk of the Department of Mary Sues stopped short of the small group of agents beginning to form. He set down a large sack and crossed his arms.

“Ugh, I told you we were going to be late . . .” said the bearded head on the right.

“I’m sorry, Bosh. I just wanted to see the lizards,” replied the head on the left.

Bosh sighed. “I know, Guk, but . . . We both know how traveling this place works. The more you think about getting here, the less likely we are to arrive. You very nearly caused us to be lost.”

Guk looked about ready to cry. “I said I was sorry!” He sniffled a bit. “Please don’t tell the nurse lady I screwed up.”

Bosh’s face wore an expression of concern. “It’s okay, Guk. I won’t.” He smiled at his counterpart and gestured at the crowd. “It won’t be long, now. Ready?”

Guk sniffled again and smiled back. “Yeah, I guess.”

The ogre picked up his sack once more and stepped forward to stand at the rear of the assembled agents.

A portal opened in the corner of the room, and . . . nothing came out for a moment. Then a small arm appeared, and disappeared again. And then a black-haired woman stepped through, holding a small, squirming child.

“If you don’t stop right now, we’re going straight back,” Constance said to the blonde three-year-old in her arms.

“But!” Daphne exclaimed brightly. “But! Jasmie hit me!”

“No, she didn’t,” Constance growled, “and I’m getting very tired of you saying she did.”

“At least she’s stopped hitting people herself,” Dafydd pointed out, shepherding the other children through in more-or-less reasonable order. “Stars, that wasn’t a nice—Jasmine, leave the side of the portal alone, sweetie, they’re dangerous. Bella, stop pulling Oleander’s toes. Tanf—Tanfin! Get away from those eggs!”

The eldest Illian child knelt by the circle of eggs, his pointed ears poking prominently through his long hair. He didn’t even twitch in response to his father’s call.

“Tanfin! I said . . . Connie, can’t you do something?”

“I’m already keeping Daphne in check—Jasmine, I don’t think the nice dragon wants to see your picture—why don’t you do it?”

Dafydd muttered something and crossed the room to his son. “Tanfin,” he said, taking him by the shoulder. “Tanfin. We’ve been over this. You can’t have one.”

Tanfin sighed the biggest sigh he could. “But you’ve got one. Why can’t I?”

“Look, when you reach ten thousand years old, we can talk about it.” Dafydd took Tanfin’s hand, adjusted Oleander on his shoulder, and headed across the room to where Jenni Robinson was giving instructions.

“Hi,” he said when there was a break in the conversation, “quick question. We’ve left Hera and Ilwion at home in case they have problems with the Impression thing, but, uh . . . did we need to? I’d like them to be here if they can.”

“And I want an egg!” Tanfin piped up.

Dafydd sighed. “And you can’t have one. We’ve talked about this . . .”

Wobbles immediately noticed Tanfin’s distress. Or, more accurately, she noticed his father’s exasperation and the child at which it was directed. Thus, she swept into action. It was going to be tricky, but it could be done.

And after a few minutes, it was. The elaborate balloon fire-lizard was complete, though certain aspects of it had been rather more difficult than she’d thought. She then bounced over to Tanfin with it in tow.

“Heya, kiddo! We met before, about a year ago, and it’s so nice to see you again! Now, I know your dad said you can’t have a little dragon friend of your own, being a big ol’ meanie, but they can be real difficult to look after. But! You’ve still got a friend here, if you want him! ’Cause I bet he wants to be your friend too! Ain’t that right, Mister Fire-Lizard?”

The inflatable lizard was squeezed around the middle briefly, and went RAAAAAAR. This . . . was not even close to how the beasts actually sounded, but it was how dragons were supposed to sound, according to Wobbles’s unique worldview.


Meanwhile, the Notary was trying to ignore the displeasure rolling off the other agents in waves. Since this was the Notary, it was simplicity itself; she had totally discarding other people’s anger and distaste down to a fine art. She contented herself with taking out a dataslate and filing a request for automated smartdust surveillance of proceedings . . . then a request to cancel the previous request. It was something to do, and if it technically meant that a request for some additional electronic equipment coming from the Grunt’s RC was significantly delayed, well, that was merely bureaucracy in action.

She allowed herself a glance around her surroundings in between reports, almost immediately regretting it. Doctor Manhattan’s fat crotch glowstick glared cycloptically at her from various positions on the walls, and she put in a request to both censure and censor the dragon. There were technically children present, after all, even if they were from a race of pointy-eared backwoods hippies.

Tanfin’s jaw dropped. He stared wide-eyed at the balloon fire-lizard. And then . . . then his brow furrowed, his eyes narrowed, and his tongue stuck out a little between his lips.

“Why’s it red?” he demanded. “Fire-lizards don’t come in red. They come in,” he took a deep breath, “gold and bronze and brown and blue and green. Unless they’re Suvian. Is it Suvian?”

“Tanfin!” Dafydd gripped the boy’s shoulder. “You say thank you to the nice slightly-scary clown lady. You don’t nitpick the present she made you.”

“But it’s inaccurate.” Tanfin folded his arms. “You always say that inaccuracy is—”

“Bloon! Bloon bloon bloooooooooon!” Daphne came running across the room and snatched the fire-lizard out of Wobbles’ hand. It RAAAARed in her hands, and she jumped back—then giggled and squeezed it again.

And again.

And again.

“Bloon!” RAAAR. “Bloon!” RAAAR. “Bloon!” RAAAR . . .

Wobbles’ smile froze for a moment at Dafydd’s comment. Then she controlled the upsurge of blinding, incandescent rage and sent it back into the pit of her stomach where it could mature into some nice, friendly, socially acceptable Notary-oriented passive aggression, just like those nice ladies from the DOA taught her. Sort of.

As Daphne bloonraaared off into the middle distance, Wobbles changed tack. “Oh, gosh, I’m sorry! I’m new to this whole making-fire-lizards business. Say . . .” And at this point she grinned heartily at the boy. “Y’know, if we worked together on this, I bet I could make you a real fire-lizard! Since you’re super smart and know way more about them than a silly clown lady. Whaddaya say, pardner?”

“Human, it may have escaped the notice of your lonely, dying brain cell, but I am your partner.”

Wobbles let the Notary’s words pass her by as she bent down to Tanfin’s level. “Ignore the Time Grump,” she whispered conspiratorially, “she’s all grouchy today ’cause someone put superglue on the underside of her big silly Time Lord collar. And because she’s the Time Grump.”

Tanfin looked supremely skeptical. “I think only queens and bronzes can make real—” he began.

Just then, Jasmine wandered up. “You’re a Time Grump?” she said in a loud voice, tipping her head back to look up at the Notary. “Is that like a Time Lord?”

“I think the clown lady meant to say Time Lord,” Constance said, hurrying over. “Dafydd, have you seen Bella?”

“She’s—uh, right, be right back.” Dafydd ran full-tilt towards the door into the rest of HQ, which his five-year-old daughter was trying gamely to open.

Jasmine was never one to be put off by her siblings’ antics. “I met a Time Lord,” she announced. “She came to our Buds meeting. She told us ‘You don’t want to be a Time Lord’. And then she told us it again. And then she told us it again. And then Tanfin set fire to her hair.”

“I did not!” Tanfin protested. “It was her collar, Jasmine, get it right.”

Daphne had circled back round by now. “But!” she announced, looking around solemnly. “But!”

And the inflatable fire-lizard went RAAAAR.

“. . . Yes. Clearly. It could not possibly be because my partner is a professional imbecile. My ire is genetic. Such an unfortunate being is the Time Grump; doomed to wander the multiverse forever with two shrivelled hearts, being constantly irritated by small trivial things.” The Notary’s tone made it crystal clear which small and trivial things she meant . . . or it did to an adult. Whether or not Jasmine twigged, we can only speculate.

Still, she was forced to remember the slight smell of burnt hair that clung to her fellow Councillor for some time afterwards. This may have accounted for the grin spreading across her face like a particularly unpleasant oil slick; it’s the sort of smile nobody wants directed at anyone, least of all a little girl.

Wobbles, meanwhile, just continued to smile like an actual person. She got out another fistful of sculpting balloons and got to work, instead electing to try the Last Homely House. After a few minutes of idle chit-chat with Tanfin, she presented him with his very own Last Homely Hat.

“You must be Mister Tanfin’s Dad. Would you like one too?”

Eamon Brightbeard had received his message from Voltarmi while in the middle of smithing a battle axe. It wasn’t the sort of thing that one could simply set aside. So, Brightbeard finished what he was doing, ran a damp cloth over his face and hands to cleanse himself of soot and metal shavings, and pulled on a linen shirt. He was not prone to hurrying. He’d lived long enough to know that little good ever came of running off half-cocked (or quarter-cocked in his partner’s case).

He knew his way to Voltarmi’s office, having visited often. He reminded himself that he had to travel upwards, red-wise, take a left at the spotted cucumber demon and balance on his clockwise foot. This all, being incredibly hard to envision, served as a suitable distraction to get him where he wanted to be. He smoothed his beard and opened the door.

He was immediately greeted by a small child, a harried elf, and a RAAAAAAR. Brightbeard smiled warmly as he stepped onto the sand. This was going to be a wonderful experience.

Daphne stopped dead in front of the dwarf. She looked him up and down thoughtfully, clutching her inflatable fire lizard tightly. Then, beaming, she said, “But! You have hair.”

“Most people do, Daphne,” Dafydd said as he scrambled after Bella. Dragging her away from the door, he took Daphne by the hand on the way through. “Sorry about her,” he said to Brightbeard. “She’s three; I’m afraid the only cure is time.”

“But! I want hair!” Daphne’s face crumpled as her father led her away from Brightbeard, and she let out a piercing shriek. “I! Want! Hair!”

On Dafydd’s other side, Belladonna started to squirm. “Daddy,” she protested, “if Daffy gets hair why can’t I have some too?”

“NO!” Daphne bellowed. “I want it!”

RAAAAR, said the balloon, not wanting to be left out.

Reaching Constance’s side at last, Dafydd handed her Oleander—who had remained a very quiet bundle under one arm the whole time—and rolled his shoulder back. “Ow. Daffy, Bella, you’ve both got hair already; please stop screaming.”

“Of course they’ve got hair, Dad,” Tanfin said, adjusting his new hat. “Everyone’s got hair.”

“Unless you set it on fire!” Jasmine piped up.

“Right. Yes. Top marks for observation. Um, thank you, but no,” Dafydd put in, with a quick smile at Wobbles. “I think we’d better get these little uruloki to a corner where they can calm down.”

“What dragons?” asked Tanfin. “They haven’t hatched yet.”

“And they never will if you keep yelling at them,” Constance said, taking him by the shoulder. “Come along, everyone, let’s go over here . . .”

Teyala felt a pang of professional consternation. On the one hand, it was her job as a Nursery worker to help any parents in the PPC. This newly arrived family certainly seemed to qualify as needing some help—or, at the very least, another set of hands. It would be remiss of her not to at least offer her assistance.

That being said, she technically wasn’t on duty at the moment. Plus, the hatching would begin at any moment. That was something that would require her full attention. Surely they would understand?

 . . . Oh, damn.

The asari clicked her tongue before walking around the growing gaggle of agents over towards the Illians. “Pardon me,” she said to the two adults. “My name is Teyala Solnerii, and I work with the PPC Nursery. If you need any help with your children, please let me know. I would be happy to assist you.” She glanced over at the eggs. “Well, before the hatching begins, anyway.”

Dawn McKenna ran in through the door, and stumble-skidded to a halt on the sand. One end of long blue and green scarf trailed from her shoulder; the rest of it had been wrapped loosely around her neck and once around her waist. A small bottle of Retcon tablets rattled in her pocket, next to the TOS medical scanner. She looked around, wondering why so many people were there. Surely they couldn’t all be here for the eggs . . .

Her gaze fell on a group that included five children and an Elf who seemed oddly familiar. What was—no. Impossible. Maglor Fëanorion had no children, except briefly for Elrond and Elros (sort of), but—no, wait. There had been a DOGA agent connected to the First Age Elf in some way, hadn’t there? Not too long before she’d joined, too. Only then he’d died, and been somehow brought back to life, and this was actually rather confusing, she’d have to go looking for the details at some point—and speaking of details, why was there sand on the floor? Was it a temporary thing to make the fire-lizards feel more at home? And who was the two-headed agent? And all the other people, for that matter? And she should really find the agents who were trading the eggs at some point soon . . .

Jenni boggled at Shui-Hua’s box a moment before recovering her composure and smiling at the tech. “Wow, that’s a lot of iron! It’s not for me, though—I only wanted the tea. You can give the whole box to Ilraen for now.” She nodded toward the blue-furred Andalite standing by the desk at the other end of the room.

From the top of said desk, Voltarmi replied to Alex’s question: “In about thirteen minutes.” Her gnomish voice was piping high, and quite easily carried across the space.

Teyala’s arrival caught Henry’s attention. Here was someone he knew! Not as well as some of the other Nursery workers, sure, but still. “Hi, Lala!” He grinned and waved at her. “I didn’t know you were getting an egg.”

But all conversation was interrupted by the Illians’ rambunctious lot arriving on the scene.

Jenni just managed to squeak a reply to Dafydd’s question—"Of course they can!"—before he was distracted again, and she wasn’t at all sure he’d heard her. Normally she would have jumped in to help, but she had eggs to supervise.

Henry watched the kids with wide eyes. He vaguely knew the older ones from Bud activities, but they were in different posies and didn’t get together much. And they were outsiders, anyway. They didn’t stay in the Nursery during the day like everybody else, but actually went off somewhere Outside, with their parents. That was weird. But, in some indefinable way, it made them cool, too.

He didn’t mind that they hadn’t noticed him, though, because Wobbles hadn’t noticed him, either, and he preferred it that way. She was funny on TV, but up close she was really loud and really big, and he didn’t want to talk to her. He’d just stay on the desk and watch, like he was supposed to, and that would be okay.

When it looked like things were settling down and Henry still hadn’t made a move to interact with the other kids, Ilraen looked down and put a hand on his shoulder. <Henry? Will you not go and say hello to the other children? Perhaps you could all watch the hatching together! Would that not be fun?>

“Oh,” Henry said, as though this thought were too banal to have crossed his mind before. “I guess so.” He hopped down off the desk and scuffled through the sand to where the Illians had herded their flock. Resisting the urge to suck a finger out of nervousness, he shoved one hand into a pocket and waved at them with the other. “Hiya, Tanfin. Jazzy. Bella.”

Meanwhile, Jenni realized that several other agents had arrived during the commotion. By her count, only three were missing and they’d probably be along any second now, so she thought she ought to start talking and get some semblance of order in place.

“Hi, everyone!” she called out, waving a hand in the air for attention. “Glad you’ve made it! If you would, please go ahead and give Ilraen whatever you brought to trade, then pick up a bowl of meat from the dolly over there. Yes, it’s supposed to be that color, don’t worry.” It occurred to her belatedly that the dark green copper-based ichor might be worrisome to people who’d never encountered it before. “Then you can come to me for your egg, and just find a spot anywhere to settle in. Thank you!”

Brightbeard didn’t so much walk into the room as stroll into it. He was enjoying the heat and the dry, dusty air. It reminded him of his own home on Azeroth; the mountain stronghold of Ironforge, with its Great Forge.

When Jenni had finished her speech, the Dwarf meandered over to Ilraen. “Good tae see ye, lad,” he said, extending his ruddy, calloused hand. “I trust all is well? Keepin’ yer partner out of trouble?”

When he spotted Dawn in the crowd, Des almost squeed. A smile spread on his face; he rubbed his hands together and shoved the lightsaber into a pocket of his coat. Capitalising on the fact that she did not notice him, he sneaked around the room until he was positioned behind her, then hugged her. “Surprise, love!” he said.

Gerry and Colt had left the moment they were able to after Denny gave them the word, which largely consisted of a back-and-forth radioing between Gerry and one of the other shifts to make sure they were fully manned while running off. Implausible Crossovers had the start of a flooding problem—complete with krakens—they were hoping to cut off before it required pumping, and a good portion of response centers in Geographical Aberrations and Floaters had no water at all, including the Floating Hyacinth’s office. Unfortunately, all of that was on top of their normal workload, so the day was already a trying one.

They made it to the office where the eggs were in holding at a decent enough time, but found there were already plenty of people inside when Gerry opened the door. “This is a surprise,” she said cheerfully. “I didn’t know there’d be this many people around.” She then yanked Colt, who was too busy looking at the elf kids (or the balloon dragon, it was sometimes hard to tell) through the doorway with her, giving a brief wave at Jenni and the two Detanglers as she did.

“Yowch! You could have said something,” the half-elf complained, but it quickly turned into a grin as he laid eyes on the eggs, while looking around at everyone else. “How much longer do we have left?”

Dawn shrieked and jumped, and then began to laugh. Turning, she hugged him back. “Des! When did you get here? Why are you here? Did you also come for the hatching? I didn’t know you’d traded for one, too. When did this happen?” She was grinning madly by now.

“A few moments ago; for the hatching, of course; yes; and,” Des took a breath, “remember the time I asked you out? I got Avatar Aang’s uncanon lightsaber from the mission immediately before it; traded it for an egg.” He smiled and stroked Dawn’s hair. “I kinda need someone in my RC that isn’t Lump.”

“Oh, I see, I see. And yeah, I guess you do. Pity I can’t move in there—uh, I mean—right, hold on, I think she wants our attention, doesn’t she?” Dawn, her face now going red, turned to look at Jenni. She kept her arms mostly around Des.

Once Jenni finished talking, Dawn nodded to herself. “Oh, okay, good. Time to take off this scarf, then. It’s a bit too warm for inside HQ anyway.” Something came back to her, and she looked up at Des again. “Wait, you’re carrying a lightsaber? That’s fantastic. Or did you already give it to Ilraen?”

With the children settled (which took longer than it might have—Oleander woke up from his nap, and Dafydd spent some time persuading him that no, he couldn’t have Daphne’s balloon—or Tanfin’s hat—or Jasmine’s ear), Constance turned to her husband. “So what did she say?”

“Um? She . . . offered Tanfin a balloon?”

“Bloon!” RAAAAAR.

Constance rolled her eyes. “Not the clown. Jenni. You were asking about Hera . . . ?”

“Oh.” Dafydd closed his eyes for a moment, calling up the memory. “‘Of course they can!’ In a squeaky voice.”

“That’s still a neat trick,” Constance murmured. “So I’ll—”

A dark blue alien woman stepped up to the family. “Pardon me,” she said. “My name is Teyala Solnerii, and I work with the PPC Nursery. If you need any help with your children, please let me know. I would be happy to assist you. Well, before the hatching begins, anyway.”

Dafydd blinked. “Do we look like we can’t—wait, never mind, we kind of do.”

Constance chuckled. “What, you don’t think the Rampant Horde exudes a feeling of complete—Jasmine, get down from the console or Makes-Things will get you—control?”

“It could be worse; no-one’s riding around on a gigantic hound.” Dafydd smiled one-sidedly at some memory. “Um, thank you, Teyala; I think we’ll be okay.”

“About that we.” Constance plucked the remote activator from Dafydd’s belt and pulled up a portal. “I’m going to fetch Her Majesty. Back in a minute.”

Dafydd watched her go, then turned back to Teyala. “I say okay . . .”

A six-year-old boy Dafydd vaguely recognised from Bud activities wandered over, one hand in his pocket. “Hiya, Tanfin. Jazzy. Bella.”

“Henry!” exclaimed Jasmine. “I haven’t seen you in for. ever.”

Tanfin snorted. “You saw him two weeks ago at the Pointless Party. Remember?”

Jasmine glared at her brother. “For. Ever,” she repeated.

Meanwhile, Bella had ignored her siblings and walked straight over to Henry. She looked him up and down with an expression of deep thought, then wrapped her arms around him. “Henry!” she squeaked.

Dafydd shook his head, smiling. “Yes, I think we’ll be okay. Thank you, though.”

The portal reappeared, and Constance stepped through. She had a fire-lizard on either shoulder—gold Hera looking imperiously around, bronze Ilwion seemingly half-asleep. “Oh, hi, Henry,” she said, pointing the RA and shutting the portal.

As Jenni started talking, Hera hopped into the air and glided across to the rough circle of eggs. She landed lightly in the middle of the clutch and made a soft crooning noise, nudging a couple of the eggs with her snout.

Constance glanced at Dafydd. “I think you need to get over there. If she gets possessive . . .”

“Right.” Dafydd scooped Ilwion off Constance’s shoulder and plonked him on his own. “Good luck with the kids.” He kissed his wife on the cheek and hurried off across the room.

“It’s all right, Your Majesty,” he murmured, kneeling down as close to Hera as he could get. “We talked about this, remember? They’re going to good people.”

Ilwion fluttered down onto the sand at his mate’s side and rubbed his neck against hers; Hera made a quiet sound, but her eyes were a slow purplish-red, and she seemed content to leave the eggs alone.

Dafydd glanced up at Jenni. “She should be fine. At least I think she should.”

Wobbles heard him talking. And she smiled much wider as she wandered around the room, looking for a buffet table to pillage in the name of Cap’n Wobb, the Pirate Clown—wow, she really had to bring that girl back, it had been months since her last appearance on the show and she loved playing her. In any event, she saw a motley bunch of agents, support personnel, and assorted operatives, and felt . . . content. This was, bar one, a hive of good people and good things, doing their best to make other people happy. She was confident everyone here could come together to make a bad ting good, as the old saying had it (okay, it was actually the theme tune to Rastamouse, but it was probably an old saying somewhere), so she abandoned her quest for little stick-mounted nibbly things and went off to find the Notary.

As she got closer, it was obvious that her partner had overheard Dafydd’s words too. She was sitting down and focused on her datapad, her body ramrod straight and apparently able to ignore the broken glass sticking out of her right knuckles. “Human,” she said without looking up, “why are you lumbering towards me? Surely there are some small humans for you to allegedly entertain. I notice that Former Agent Illian has quite the collection, though it does make one long for the days of collecting with poison and pin.”

“Uh, but you’re a Time Lord, not a pokeyman, Agent Ovaltine. I don’t think Time Lords can learn Poison Pin. Is that even a move?” The Pokémon games themselves were a closed book to the clown, but she’d watched as much of the anime as she’d had time to down at the A/V Division and she knew children and adults alike loved them.

“How on Earth should I know, human? Stop jabbering. I am trying to concentrate. I mean, look at these 15-Bs—oh, no, you can’t, can you? Slipped my mind. One wonders if Supernumerary is even aware of the Unofficial Bureaucratic Style Guide . . .”

“Didn’t you write that?”

“Well, yes, as a matter of fact I did.” The Notary preened at that, which was slightly disturbing.

“Didja send it to him?”

“I published it. I may have had to self-publish it, mostly with the printer credits of dormant accounts, but it is available in physical and digital forms.”

“Okay! Only, I know they’re in those boxes in the RC and none of them have been opened yet, so—”

“It is hardly my fault if people elect to ignore good advice when I offer it to them for a reasonable charge in line with similar texts for sale at any reputable university, and even the thoroughly disreputable ones on what you people call ‘World One’.”

“I . . . guess so! I mean, you obviously put a lot of work into it, so, uh, yeah! I’m sure someone will buy it eventually! For a reason!”

The Notary sniffed in reply and went back to her filing. Blood occasionally spattered to the floor when the fingers on her right hand flexed, staining the sand by her chair an unattractive shade of maroon. “Human, you’re still here. Remedy this.”

Wobbles bounced off, slightly smugly. Her partner just sat, and watched, and tried very hard not to stick her hand in the pocket of her robes and fish out something to stare at.

Alex looked up when Constance appeared, queen and bronze on her shoulders. He watched Hera fly over to the eggs that had not yet been claimed, then hesitantly followed Dafydd.

“H-hi,” he stuttered. It wasn’t immediately clear who he was talking to, but then he held out his egg to Hera, smiling nervously. “Don’t worry, I promise I’m going to take care of this one.”

Hera raised her head and deigned to look at Alex. Her eyes whirled briefly, yellow specks creeping into them, and her wings rose as if preparing for flight.

Ilwion nuzzled his mate’s neck, spreading his nearside wing to cover her. She craned round to look at him, and the agitation in her eyes faded into a purple-blue glow. The two fire lizards gazed at each other for a few moments, before Hera turned away.

She leant forward and pressed her cheek against Alex’s egg, making a soft chirrup that sounded almost questioning. Whatever answer she got was apparently acceptable; the little queen sat back, eyes calm, and looked up at Alex with an expression of sublime indifference.

Dafydd smiled slightly. “That’s about the highest recommendation anyone ever gets from her,” he murmured.

Alex grinned. “Thank you, sir,” he said, ducking his head shyly. “Are both of them yours, then? They’re really nice.”

Dafydd reached down and touched Ilwion’s head. “He’s mine,” he said. “Hera is bonded to my wife.” He glanced over at where Constance was trying to put a stop to Daphne and Oleander’s ‘let’s run in circles around Mummy’ game. “Which is not where she gets her temperament.”

Hera looked up at Dafydd and hissed softly, shaking her way out from under Ilwion’s wing. Her eyes flickered briefly orange.

“Hush, you,” Dafydd chided. “Just because you’re prettier than everyone else doesn’t mean you’re better.” He grinned at Alex. “I would say being named after the Queen of the Gods has gone to her head, but there’s a reason Connie named her that way.”

Alex’s eyes widened. “W-wait a minute,” he stammered, “Connie? Are you . . . a-are you Dafydd Illian? Um.” His eyes were now about the size of saucers. “Sorry, I, um, I just, um, wow.” He took a deep breath and scratched the back of his neck. “Um, yeah, I think I’m going to name mine Mitzy or Zeke, depending on what I get. I don’t mind, really, but I’m kind of hoping for a blue or a green. They aren’t as high-maintenance as queens. Which are very pretty, too,” he directed hastily at Hera.

“Most of the time. Except when I need to be Darth Balrog, Scourge of the Multiverse.” Dafydd chuckled at the kid’s expression. “Joke, joke. As, I’m sure, would be anything I said about Hera being high-maintenance.” The golden queen flicked her tail at him, but seemed content to let the scolding pass—for the moment.

“Sorry.” Alex looked sheepish. “Just kind of startled me, is all. Oh, right!” He awkwardly held out a hand. “Alex Dives. I’m an intern in DoSAT. And, um, thank you for donating the eggs.”

As an answer to Dawn, Des took the lightsaber out of his pocket, taking care not to ignite its blade by mistake. “I’d like to get rid of this ASAP,” he said, “it positively stinks of Studom.” He nodded toward Ilraen. “Shall we—” He cut himself short and squinted. “Wait a sec, is that a Noldorin Elf I see?”

Colt shrugged a bit.

Gerry sneezed the moment it came out. “Seriously. Ugh, Sue weapons.”

“I was hoping for Tel’Quessir, personally,” Colt said, temporarily distracted by the lightsaber before looking at the elf again, slightly squinting. “But I guess the name answers it.”

Dawn followed Des’ gaze, and nodded. “Yeah, that’s a Noldo. I, uh, I think he used to be an agent of some sort—I mean, a DOGA agent. He left or retired or something a little before I joined—something about dying and maybe coming back to life? I’m not even sure anymore. And he’s got some sort of connection to Fëanor’s second so—Galloping Griffins, he’s missing a hand!” Dawn clapped a hand over her mouth for a moment, desperately hoping that her voice hadn’t carried. When there was no immediate death by Noldorin glare, she lowered her hand and continued in a voice that was just above a whisper. “That can’t be right, that’s the same hand Maedhros lost. He shouldn’t be missing a hand at all—he looks like Maglor! What is he, a recruited mix of Maglor and Maedhros? Maybe he’s a Maglor who got Maedhros’ backstory? This makes no sense!”

Dafydd’s ears twitched. Actually, they didn’t—he’d often thought they should, but mobile ears weren’t a trait possessed by many Eldar.

Dafydd’s ears wanted to twitch as a woman across the room called (well, said) something about ‘missing a hand’. He tuned in to the quiet conversation, picking up snippets: “. . . hand Maedhros . . . shouldn’t be . . . looks like Mag . . . recruited mix of Maglor and . . . backstory? This makes . . .”

Ilwion raised his head, eyes whirling as he picked up on his friend’s agitation. “No, don’t worry,” Dafydd murmured, reaching down to stroke the bronze. “I’m used to the questions—it’s why I kept it a secret so long.” He glanced quickly over his shoulder at the woman who had spoken. “Though I admit people didn’t usually recognise me as Maglor. That’s almost a first.”

“Shakhar, wait a sec.” Des rubbed his goatee. “Missing hand, Noldo, missing hand, agent, not any more, dammit where’d I read this, missions missions missions . . . fabric? No, something with T . . . Oh I know. Terri Ryan, DOGA archivist. Isn’t that—?” Des cut himself short. “Why do guesswork, let’s go introduce ourselves to the guy.”

“Hey!” Alex waved at the two people when they approached. “Are you here for the hatching, too?”

Too many people get out get out get out.

He hoped there wasn’t any sweat beading up on his forehead as he held out his egg. “I’m excited, are you excited? This is going to be so cool! Um . . .” Alex hunched his shoulders.

Stop talking stop talking you’re making yourself look like an idiot.

Dawn nodded in response to Des. “Introductions, right. That should go well. Let’s hope it goes well, actually, dealing safely with Fëanorians usually requires being out of, uh, everything-range. Oh well. Maybe an agent!Maglor, or an agent!Maglor-Maedhros—this sounds really familiar, it’s weird—well, maybe he’ll be a bit less dangerous. Or less touchy. Should be fun.”

They walked over, and were greeted by a blond who was at least claiming to be excited. He did look rather excited, actually, although with a touch of nervousness. Dawn gave him her best grin, and then found herself focusing in on the egg—it was the first one she’d seen up close, and it was fascinating.

“Hello there!” Des said. “Yesyes to all your questions, bub!” he said. “I’m Des, this is Shakhar—Dawn—and you—” Des squinted. “You look somewhat familiar . . . what’s your name, dude?”

“I . . . I’m . . .” Alex cradled the egg to his chest. “’M Alex Dives,” he said, finally finding his voice. “DoSAT intern.” He smiled and held out a hand. “Nice to meet you . . . Des, was it?” He frowned. “Des . . . dendelle?”

“Yes, that’s me.” Des shook the proffered hand. “Wait a sec. Dives? As in . . . are you related to Rina Dives?” Des tilted his head.

Alex flinched. “Yes, I am, and I don’t want to talk about it,” he said, turning away. “Especially not today.”

“Oh. Sorry, dude.” Des bowed his head briefly. “Didn’t mean to upset you. You said DoSAT . . . d’you happen to know a Unison Device by the name of Corolla?”

Hera’s head snapped up. Her gaze locked onto Alex, her eyes sparkling with orange facets. Beside her, Ilwion sat up, craning to look up at Dafydd.

The elf drew in a breath between his teeth. “As a general remark,” he said, not looking at anyone, “fire-lizards are telempaths. That means they pick up on strong emotions.” He stroked Hera’s neck, ignoring her hissing. “In particular, they tend to get agitated quite easily when people around them do.”

Hera had settled down now, and seemed to be trying to pretend nothing had happened. Dafydd smiled, patted Ilwion on the head, and looked up at the new arrivals. “So: Des, Dawn, and Dives, and I’m Dafydd; goodness, what a team. I should bring Daphne over, except I think she’s busy trying to get her balloon to lay eggs.”

“Sorry, Mr. Illian.” Alex sighed. “Won’t happen again, promise.”

To Des, he said, “And, yeah, actually. She’s one of my regular teachers. Supervisors? I like her because she doesn’t make me go on a lot of coffee runs. And she’s nice.”

Des nodded empathetically. He glanced at Dafydd, but when he saw that the Noldo was busy with his fire-lizard, he kept his attention on Alex. “She’s a nice person, yeah. Helped me with a nasty Harry Potter fic, once.”

“Is that the one where Harry was the heir to the Founders and had a harem, or something?” Alex grinned. “She told me about that! Oh, man, that sounded horrible; it’s times like that I’m glad I’m not a field agent.”

Dafydd shook his head, smiling. “Yes, I think we’ll be okay. Thank you, though.”

Teyala nodded. “You’re welcome. Enjoy the rest of your day.”

She turned away from the Illian family, pausing long enough to smile and wave at Henry. It was nice to see him, and she felt a bit embarrassed that she hadn’t noticed him before. The asari’s duties were normally focused on the youngest children in the PPC, but that didn’t mean she didn’t occasionally interact with older ones like Henry.

It was then that Jenni made her announcement. Not that it seemed to make much of a difference; the other agents were either preoccupied with conversation or still milling around trying to take in what was going on. Well, Teyala thought to herself, if no one else will step up, I suppose they won’t mind . . .

She walked over to the Andalite and gave him a courteous nod. “Hello, Ilraen,” she said. “I hope you’re doing well.”

When Jenni had finished her speech, the Dwarf meandered over to Ilraen. “Good tae see ye, lad,” he said, extending his ruddy, calloused hand. “I trust all is well? Keepin’ yer partner out of trouble?”

<Hello, Agent Brightbeard,> Ilraen replied happily, although he offered his delicate seven-fingered hand with hesitation. He hoped the Dwarf was aware that he had to reserve his strength. <My partner and I are well enough, thank you.>

He would have gone on, but he noticed the blue asari approaching them at that point.

She walked over to the Andalite and gave him a courteous nod. “Hello Ilraen,” she said. “I hope you’re doing well.”

<Yes, thank you, Teyala. Henry and I are very excited to be present for this occasion. We wish you joy with the outcome—and you as well.> He bowed slightly toward Brightbeard. <Now, since our transactions are not material in nature, please do not let me keep you from your eggs. Jenni tells me it will be best to be comfortably settled before the shells begin to crack, which should be quite soon.> He glanced at Voltarmi, who nodded with the cheeky grin of someone who knows and isn’t telling.


Henry yelped when Bella abruptly hugged him. “Bell-la!” he complained, struggling to free his arms so he could pry her off. “Lemme go! No glomping, no glomping!” An ill-timed heave resulted in one of his feet slipping out from under him in the sand, and the two children went over in a heap. “Mo-om!


No sooner had Jenni finished speaking than a blur of gold streaked by her to land with the clutch beside her. “Well, hello, gorgeous!” she exclaimed softly. Quickly gathering in her excitement, she did her best to radiate calm and confidence as the queen inspected her eggs. “Don’t worry, they’re all right.”

And then Dafydd was back, issuing much the same sentiment. She nodded at his reassurance, but was distracted from replying by the young tech—another Intern Alex, she recalled—coming around to get vetted by Hera. The queen’s acceptance of Alex reassured Jenni that she wasn’t likely to interfere with the Impressions.

Then Henry squalled for her, and her head whipped around to pinpoint where he’d tumbled in the sand. She relaxed, realizing that everything was all right—he was just in a tussle with little Belladonna. She trusted Constance to sort it out, so she simply called out, “You’re fine, Henry! Play nice!” and left it at that.

She was surprised to note that, although the dwarf and asari had made their way to Ilraen and the Cafeteria dolly, no one else had queued for their eggs yet. If Hera was any indication, they’d better hurry up. She planted her hands on her hips and looked around impatiently. She did not want a chaotic last-minute scramble, and she especially did not want to be landed with ten fire-lizards. She was not Menolly, thank you very much!

She raised her hands and clapped loudly for attention. She was peripherally aware of upsetting Hera and Ilwion with the sudden noise, but they’d be more upset if their hatchlings started to arrive with nothing but each other close enough to eat. “Come on, people! Do you want an egg, or not? We have minutes, if that! Let’s have some order, please!”

“Glad tae hear it.” Brightbeard reached past Ilraen’s hand to firmly grip his forearm. “Now, if ye’ll excuse me, I’ve got tae give my respects to the broodmother.”

Brightbeard made his way to where the eggs were waiting, stopping only to grab a bowl of meat for the hatchling. He knelt down in the sand in front of the clutch and addressed Hera. “Good lady, I thank ye for the gift ye give. I promise tae take good care of yer child; protect it like my own. Do I have yer blessing?”

Agent Alleb, knight of Alleble, servant of King Eliam, was really bad at chess.

“Checkmate,” said her partner, Jesse McKines, for the fourth time. He grinned as he knocked over Alleb’s last line of defense, a pawn, and set his queen squarely in front of her king.

Just then, the console went Bip! Alleb frowned at the strange device. It took some getting used to: having such a wealth of information at her fingertips. Even the Great Library of Alleble, accessible only to the King and His Sentinel, didn’t seem so large when compared to the great Interwebz.

Alleb stood and walked over to the screen, slowly hitting the buttons that would take her to the “inbox.” She read the message slowly, and then her eyes widened. “Great moonrascals!” she yelped, running for the door. “They are hatching in moments! I’m late!”

Jesse called something after her, but she didn’t catch it.

To distract herself, Alleb began reciting all that she knew of the Olde Language, and pretended she was merely on an errand for Sir Oswyn, and would be home soon. After a few minutes, she skidded to a halt in front of the proper RC, took a moment to catch her breath, and walked through the open door. To her surprise, there was already quite a crowd of agents, including several odd-looking characters and . . . children? Furthermore, the floor was sand, but compared to the nature of HQ’s halls this didn’t seem so unusual. The eggs were there, and smaller than Alleb had imagined.

Alleb suddenly heard a woman (Nurse Jennifer, perchance?) call everyone to order. Alleb hesitantly stepped forward and tapped the Nurse on the shoulder. “I am in the correct place, am I not?” she asked.

Hera contemplated the dwarf solemnly. Then, adopting her most regal pose, she bowed her head in acquiescence. Beside her, Ilwion made a soft humming noise and spread his wings slightly.

“Thank ye.”

Brightbeard gently took hold of a medium sized egg, cradled it in the crook of his elbow and went to find a nice patch of sand.

This patch of sand happened to be far from the crowd, but close to the Notary.

The Notary stepped forward. “I am here under false pretenses.”

There was silence at that, if only from Wobbles, and if only then in a manner preceded by an immensely sarcastic gasp. The Notary paid it no mind. She was rather used to it. “I am here under false pretenses,” she repeated, “because I know that I seek a fire-lizard partner, and would not be in receipt of such friendship if it were left to the discretion of other agents. I am not without reputation.”

Throughout this, she had been edging towards the dragonet, her arms folded. They unfolded, presenting a smallish staser. “I’m a bureaucrat. I ran blockades, once upon a time, but that was a long time ago. I lived and loved and had high adventures . . . but that was long ago as well. I refuse to let it colour my decision-making process any more than it already has. I wish only to let the following be known.

“I have a staser. There are many like it, but this one is mine. It kills the things that I consider worth killing. It is good at that. And I am deeply, deeply scared of it. It is eternal death in the form of a pipe and box. And I will never, as long as I draw breath, use for anything other than the defence of your child, should you deem me worthy of such an honour.

“I am a liar and a cheat and a hateful misanthropic b*tch,” she continued, pronouncing the asterisk with some difficulty. “I am the worst person in this room. But I believe in redemption. I believe in salvation. And I would very, very much like to believe in myself.

“I think I need you for that, though.”

She awaited the consent of the queen to take an egg, leaving herself on bended knee, wondering (on a very deep level) if the fire-lizard was going to buy it, or was even smart enough to do so.

Meanwhile, Shui-Hua had managed to drag the box through the office unnoticed, and was now near the Andalite. “Mister . . . uh . . . How should I call you? Fontegil? Anyway, here’s the metal, there is in the box around thirty pounds of Mandalorian iron, enough to make two sets of Mandalorian Armor, minus textile parts and weaponry of course. I hope you have a powerful enough furnace for it, this material can resist the plasma from blaster shots and lightsabers. Inside the box is also the pendant.” She took a deep breath and continued. “One more thing: May I ask you to take care of this bag of tea for Nurse Robinson? She seemed a little busy, and I didn’t want to distract her from what she was doing to give her the bag.” She glanced to Agent Desdendelle and added in a low voice, “You might want to keep it hidden from Agent Des, though. He once drank an entire teapot full of this tea by himself, and he still hasn’t returned the tea set.”

At his turn, Bosh’Guk stepped forward. Bosh cleared his throat to address the Andalite in front of him. His gaze went to the alien’s frontward eyes, then flickered up towards his stalk-eyes, unsure where to focus. He elected to look down at his sack of materials instead. “Ahem. My apologies . . . Ilraen, is it? For being somewhat late. We ran into some issues navigating HQ.”

The ogre placed the sack on the ground, loosening the top and pulling out vials of various colors as well as a few sealed scrolls.

“I don’t believe we were able to specify what constituted an acceptable trade, so I’ve brought a general variety of things,” Bosh started, bending to pick up a red vial. “This is a basic healing potion. Nothing fancy, just speeds up the healing process.” Without looking up, he swapped the red vial for a blue one. “This one gives the imbiber invisibility, and—”

“Uh, Bosh?” Guk interrupted.

Bosh glanced at his counterpart with annoyance. “Guk, can’t you see I’m busy?” He looked down at the vial once more. “Anyway, just—”

“He doesn’t have a mouth, Bosh.”

Bosh snapped his head up, his blue skin turning purple in embarrassment. “Oh. Um. I, uh . . . I’m dreadfully sorry, I didn’t think about . . .” he trailed off, trying to save face. “Will you . . . will you be able to use these?” he finally asked.

Jenni watched Brightbeard get his egg with amusement at the formality he showed toward the little gold. Well, she supposed it didn’t do any harm to set an example of respect toward dragonkind . . .

Or so she thought.

She assured a ghostly girl that yes, if she was here for the fire-lizard hatching, this was the right place. The girl should go give her trade to Ilraen, get a bowl of meat, then come back.

And then she had to think again, about halfway through the Notary’s speech, when she realized (first) that it was happening and (second) that it was actually directed at Hera. Such grandiose words for a fire-lizard! She looked down at the top of the kneeling woman’s head, struggling with a confusion of skepticism and pity. On the one hand, what was she trying to pull? But on the other, her tone and manner suggested complete sincerity, and Jenni rather thought she would know if the act were a sham.

She crouched down to be on an eye-level with the Time Lady. “Um,” she said as quietly as possible, hoping to keep it between them, “sorry, but it’s not actually up to her. She didn’t make the deal. She’s also,” and here Jenni lowered her voice for greater intensity, “not the one who will hunt you down if you’re faking your good intentions.” She drove the point home with a deep green stare.

And abruptly broke it off when she noticed a drop of dark orange-tinted blood fall to the sand. She backtraced it to the Notary’s lacerated knuckles and clicked her tongue in professional disapproval. “Now, how’d you do that? And here’s me without my kit! Tell you what—the dwarf over there is a paladin, I’m sure he can fix you up right quick. Then you can try to co-opt the egg meant for your partner if you insist.”

Hera, meanwhile, was completely ignoring the Notary’s words, and Jenni’s entire existence. She cocked her head to one side, feeling the supplicant’s emotions.

The first one who had come to her had radiated enthusiasm; the second had been a well of respect; but this one was a storm of yellows and reds, purples and greys. Hera felt her eyes whirling up in response, and spread her wings in agitation.

Her mate was there, though, twining his neck with hers, soothing her. Naturally he wasn’t picking up on the kneeling one’s inner maelstrom as well as she—no mere bronze could ever be as sensitive as a queen—but he could still feel it. He simply didn’t care; his concern was all for Hera.

When her mate’s touch had done its work, Hera craned her neck to look across the room at Constance. Her friend had spent a very long time explaining that the eggs were being given to others, and were no longer her responsibility, and despite her insistence on using words to mask her emotions, the message had gotten through. Hera didn’t like it, but she knew that her children’s fate had passed out of her reach.

So she did what she was best at: she ignored the issue entirely. She settled down, her head between her forelegs, and never looked at the supplicant again.

Alleb nodded. Just as she started to walk away, she saw a woman kneel before a gold fire-lizard that Alleb hadn’t noticed before. She missed most of the woman’s speech as she stared at the creature; it was exactly as described in the pamphlet, and for that she was grateful.

Alleb left when Nurse Jennifer started talking; it seemed indecent to stay any longer. She walked slowly and surveyed the room until she found Master Fothergill. He was standing on the opposite side of the room, facing someone. They appeared to be in conversation, although Alleb had read that Master Fothergill didn’t exactly communicate in the same way that she did.

Fingering the handle of her soon-to-be-traded dagger, Alleb walked over slowly, and positioned herself so that the . . . Andalite, wasn’t it? could see her, but the woman he was talking to could not. She had to admit, the agent made her rather nervous. He was so . . . alien. Alleb had caught a few glimpses of humans in Alleble, and they had seemed extraordinarily strange to her. But Master Fothergill made them seem as tame as a woozle.

Alleb shifted her weight to one foot, tapping the pommel of her sword, Cer Fel, and waited.

Dawn had looked up and gone meep! around the point when Dafydd had informed them that fire-lizards were telempaths, but had relaxed a little around his comment about everyone’s names. She had even been going to reply, before the fire-lizards had reclaimed his attention; but that was fine, because it gave her time to think.

Dafydd. That really rang a bell, but not enough to be useful. DOGA agent, right, and rather famous (or was it infamous?) and there had been something about a Ring of Power . . .or perhaps a Silmaril of Power? No, that couldn’t be right. And why was he missing a hand? Maybe he really had been given Maedhros’ backstory . . .

Someone—Nurse Jenni, wasn’t it?—clapped her hands loudly, distracting the assassin from her thoughts. “Come on, people! Do you want an egg, or not? We have minutes, if that! Let’s have some order, please!”

“Honoured to meet you, Dafydd,” Des said. “I’ve read a report or couple of yours. I’m . . . impressed, suffice to say.” He glanced at Jenni. “If you will excuse us?”

Eggs. Those were very, very important.

“Come on,” Dawn said. She pulled Des away, waving nervously at the Elf as they went. “The fire-lizards await!”

“Oh, isn’t this exciting?” Des said, smiling.

Dawn grinned. She was jumping around excitedly more than she was walking by this point. “So exciting. Can you believe it? We’re going to have fire-lizards!”

“Yesyes!” Des chirped. “Let’s go give Ilraen—wow, seein’ an Andalite up close!—the stuff, shall we?” He directed Dawn to the Detangler, digging the uncanonical lightsaber out of his pocket en route. “Hey, Ilraen!” he half-said, half-shouted. “What’s up? Here’s the promised stuff!”

Alleb started as an agent from behind her said loudly, “Hey, Ilraen! What’s up? Here’s the promised stuff!”

She turned and saw two agents approaching, one male and one female. The man was holding an odd metal tube. Alleb gave them a hesitant smile and waved. I wonder what he means when he says ‘what’s up’? she thought, glancing skyward. All she saw was ceiling. This is so very different from Alleble.

“Of course. We shall speak again later.” Teyala gave Ilraen a friendly nod as she stepped out of the way of everyone else. They could conclude the specifics of their business later.

She walked over towards the nest and watched as the dwarf gave his respects to Hera, followed closely by the rather sour-looking woman with the grandiose speech. Teyala did her best to hide her bewilderment at the Time Lady’s words. The sheer seriousness of it contrasted with this place was almost laughable, but there was something about the speech that just seemed . . . off.

Still, people had their own ways of doing things. And Jenni seemed to have the matter under control.

Teyala paused for a moment in order to compose herself before stepping towards the nest. She looked towards Hera and, silently, clasped her hands and gave a slight bow. It probably wasn’t strictly necessary, but it felt like something that should be done.

Ilraen nodded in farewell to Brightbeard and Teyala as they departed. Teyala forgot to pick up a bowl of wherry-meat, and he almost called out to remind her, but there was a line forming in front of him. Well, Jenni would make sure everyone was prepared.

He turned his attention to Shui-Hua and was surprised, both at being addressed with a botched attempt at his third name and by the amount of stuff laid at his hooves. Thirty pounds? That couldn’t be used in a normal forge, at that? He’d planned on working something out with Brightbeard, which would satisfy their trade, but now he wasn’t sure. Could the dwarf work with this stuff?

He put his consternation aside to respond to the technician. <’Agent Ilraen’ is fine, and of course I will look after the tea,> he assured her. <It will remain safely in the box until I can give it to her.> He made no comment on Agent Des and the alleged teapot theft. What did he know about it? <Thank you for your consideration. Now, please take a bowl of meat and approach Jenni for your egg.>

Once she had gone, Ilraen found himself unusually pressed to use both his main eyes and a stalk-eye to properly face one being. He had never met anyone with two heads before and found himself quite fascinated. Unfortunately, Bosh seemed a bit put off by the three-eyed regard and stammered his way through a description of his trade until Guk called him up.

<It is quite all right,> Ilraen assured them, raising one hand placatingly. <My partner can use them, and when I am in human disguise, I do have a mouth. Besides, I can drink them through my hooves in my natural form.> He raised one cloven forehoof as if in demonstration. <Do not worry, this trade is very good. Please take a bowl of meat and go to Jenni for your egg—and good luck!>

Next, an almost frighteningly pale-skinned girl with eyes that glinted blue approached him. Perhaps she would have been reassured to know that he found her just as strange as she found him, but before he could say anything, he heard Agent Des call out to him. He was not caught out by the idiom, as he would have been years ago, and he waved back.

<Hello, Agents Desdendelle and McKenna! You may leave everything with me. Thank you very much, and do not forget to take a bowl of meat each before you collect your eggs!>

As they left their trades, his stalk-eyes roamed around the room, taking note of who was there and whom he’d spoken to so far, then addressed the wraith-like girl. <You must be Agent Alleb. Is that correct?>

“I am . . .” Alleb said, trying not to flinch at the voice in her head. “And you are Master Fothergill, correct? I have read a few of your reports.”

Des flipped the lightsaber around so the emitter wasn’t facing Ilraen and handed it to the Andalite. “I don’t need to tell you to handle with care, I reckon?” he said with a tilt of his head.

Dawn, meanwhile, unlooped the scarf and folded it with a sigh of relief before extracting the medical scanner and a small bottle of Retcon tablets from her pockets. “The dosage instructions are on the bit of paper I slipped inside,” she informed Ilraen when it was her turn to hand things over. “For the Retcon, I mean. The scanner seems pretty self-explanatory, and I think there’re things you can get from the Canon Library or DoSAT that’ll help with doing complex things with it. And I hope the scarf’s all right—I thought blue and green would work, but you can always exchange it for a different one if you don’t like it, that’s not a problem.”

Once Ilraen had taken the things, they each took a bowl of meat and went to Jenni to take their eggs. “This is so exciting!” Des said with a wide smile.

Dawn grinned, holding her bowl just a little farther away from her than was strictly necessary. “Fire-lizards,” was all she said—and then she said it again, with an even bigger grin.

The Notary blithely ignored Nurse Jenni’s threats. This was because she would be fine.

A little digging through files that purported to be confidential, and probably were to someone who didn’t live in the filing system to the extent that she did, had led to Nurse Robinson being bumped up the rankings of the Notary’s personal list of potential threats (in reality an elaborate web that looked like nothing so much as abstract art). She had the ability to lean on stuff, to just make stuff go how she wanted it to. And the Notary had a theory about how that worked.

See, the multiverse was not a place that cared about single sentient beings. The Notary described it as like expecting a stage set to write a review of the play performed on it. So the multiverse at large actually obeying the various, occasionally self-contradictory whims of your average sentient-being-about-town was quite out of the question, though by the Notary’s standards calling any human sentient was a bit of a stretch. This led to some interesting theories, but the Notary’s pet theory (and therefore the one she’d defend to the hilt in the face of absolutely overwhelming evidence) involved that old chestnut, the parallel universe.

Now, Gallifrey had closed off travel to parallel universes during the Time War, but by the same token, there existed an infinite number of universes where they hadn’t. Transfinite set mathematics was a wonderful thing, if one was totally averse to going outside, and thus the Notary had browsed through some of the more pop-sci treatises on the subject in her time off to better understand this theory and how it applied to multiversal theory. It seemed logical to her that Nurse Jenni’s powers resided on her flicking through universes like a file on a Rolodex and transporting, possibly subconsciously, possibly not, to the universe where her desired outcome happened. And since there’s no such thing as impossible, only the deeply weird, it was highly likely that, as a for-instance, the chains holding a canon prisoner in a dungeon could spontaneously decay to nothingness without so much as a fast-time field setup.

By the same token, the Notary therefore felt she had no reason at all to fear the nurse’s threats of direst retribution, because it would all be happening to a different her and she would therefore be fine.

This probably said a lot more about her than she’d care to admit.

So, brushing off the front of her robes, she stood (rising to her full height like a wizard’s scarecrow) and levelled her gaze at Jenni. “Nurse Robinson, Time Lords can communicate telepathically via a haptic connection. Pernese fire-lizards are themselves telepathic. All I must do is touch the hatchling and it will know if it wants to be around me or not, and after that, you may conduct whatever hideously protracted program of vengeful torment you see fit. I am surprised you didn’t know this about my people, come to think of it. Perhaps you would appreciate a handbook?”

And with that and a noise like a camping holiday in a wind tunnel, the Notary turned and swept imperiously away.

That she tripped on something hidden in the sand and smashed face-first into the glowing crotch of a Doctor Manhattan poster in no way invalidated her theory.

If the Notary was unruffled by Jenni’s threat, Jenni found herself almost laughing at the Time Lady’s absurd hauteur and ignorance. Sweet Powers, it had been too long since she’d had someone this entertaining around. What on Earth, or off it, got a person wound up this tight? She would have loved to find out—pushing the Notary’s buttons would be too fun—but now was not the time. She couldn’t let this woman upset the hatching.

She was set to stifle her amusement when the Notary tripped, making it that much more difficult. Her hands flew to her mouth to cover her grin, contorted as it was by trying so hard not to do it.

“Dafydd?” she managed to mumble to the elf. “Would you mind taking over here for a bit? I really, really have to deal with her.”

Jenni stood and started toward the Notary, intending to help steady her and take the opportunity to put a few more instructive words in her ear, but apparently she wasn’t the only one with that idea.

Brightbeard had heard the Notary’s speech to Hera and felt the sincerity of the words. When the Notary tripped, he was the first to her side. A quick gesture to Jenni let her know that her services were not needed at this time.

The Dwarf knelt down in the sand next to the Notary. “I’m sorry. I understand that ye’ve got a reputation, and that people can be a long time in forgivin’, and even longer in forgettin’. That said, I dinna put much stock in idle gossip. What I do put stock into is people who want tae be better than they were yesterday. I believe in redemption and salvation, but most importantly I believe in ye. I believe ye want those things and I believe ye can achieve them.”

“First step is maybe letting someone help ye to yer feet.” With that, Brightbeard held out his hand. “And maybe I can look at those cuts?”

Jenni, brought up short by the Dwarf’s intervention, stood frustrated for a moment. She had to explain the situation to this woman lest she put a hatchling, or worse, all the hatchlings in danger, but—

Wait. What was that?

She turned back toward the nest, heart in her throat. Sure enough, Hera and Ilwion had sat up on their haunches, eyes whirling rapidly, and their throats vibrated with the beginnings of their welcoming song to their young.

“Cripes, it’s starting!” she yelped aloud. She dashed back to her place by the eggs and started thrusting them toward the nearest agents, Teyala, Des, and Dawn. “There, go! When they hatch, feed them, and make sure to think loving thoughts!”

Rather than waiting for the rest to come to her, she gathered up a few more eggs in her shirt and took them around. Gerry, Colt, Bosh’Guk, Shui’Hua, and Alleb soon found themselves receiving both an egg and a repetition of the admonishment she’d given the others—food and love, that was the ticket.

That just left one egg beginning to rock in the sand, its fate still undecided. Jenni looked from the egg to the Notary, frowning. She looked around for Wobbles, who was supposed to be the egg’s owner. Would she come to claim it, or was she resigned to her partner’s deception? Really, Jenni had half a mind to give it to Ilraen, consequences be damned. The hatchling would be lucky to have him.

She watched her Andalite friend, who had taken initiative when he saw Jenni scrambling to deliver eggs and started delivering meat. Everyone would be settled in no time. She could pull him aside the moment this little one broke shell, and that would be that. Yes. That’s what she would do.

Alex’s eyes went huge. He could feel the little creature in the egg rocking, and he ran to get a bowl of meat before he knelt, setting the egg gently in the sand. He realized he was holding his breath and forced himself to breathe. Alex watched the egg intently, waiting for the first signs of it cracking.

Des received his egg with a surprised yelp and nearly dropped it. Smiling widely, he sat down, crossed legged, and put the meat bowl before him, holding the egg in his lap. Realising he was hyperventilating, he took a couple of deep breaths.

Staring at the egg intently, he waited for the first cracks to appear. I shall named you Khataltelet and cuddle you and cherish you was the mantra going through his head, full of squeeing and big smiles and good cups of tea—along with a few loving thoughts of Dawn that managed to sneak in.

Alleb yelped as an egg and a bowl of oddly-colored meat were thrust into her hands in quick succession. Unsure what else to do, she plopped down in the sand, putting the bowl between her legs and cradling the egg. It rocked a little, and Alleb fancied she felt a small tap through the shell in the center of her palm. Despite the tenseness of the moment as other agents plopped into the sand with their eggs, Alleb grinned. Hello, little one, she thought. Now what shall I name you . . .

When Shui-Hua got the egg shoved into her hands, it slipped from her fingers and she started fumbling it for some excruciating moments. By the moment she had finally settled the egg on her hands, she turned to see the bowl of meat that Ilraen had politely left there for her. She missed the entirety of the admonishment given to her, but ws at least able to overhear a part of the one given those near her.

She set the egg on the sand, near the bowl, kneeled and sat on her heels, staring at the egg. Loving thoughts? She haven’t had those in a long time. What should she think about? Her family? No, that would make her cry . . . Tea? Yeah, tea would be; a nice cup of hot, steaming, aromatic jasmine tea . . .

((Well, regarding the bag of tea; we could say is a medium-sized bag, that could anything last from a week to a month, depending on the consumption routine of the drinker. Technician Liu only receives 12 bags of those per year, via . . . uh . . . secret methods, so she has to measure her consumption carefully. Essentially, she’s forfeiting an entire month of her supply for this.))

((And well . . . Agent Des didn’t exactly steal the teapot . . . At the end of that RP Shui-Hua told Agent Des to return the teapot once he finished, and there was never a follow-up to that RP; so I just assumed that Agent!Des forgot to return it XD))

The Notary looked at the shaking egg. The bowl of giant murderchicken—she refused to dignify it with some special name—was within easy reach. Suddenly, she realised she was holding the egg, standing next to its fellows, without recalling walking over there. This was unusual in a being with a perfect memory, but she paid it no mind.

It was . . . strange to touch. Oddly slimy, and deeply unpleasant, as if it was trying to get itself out of her grip. She was thinking of what to name the thing when its shell began to shatter in her grasp. Instinctively, she produced her trusty skewer and neatly kebabbed a few of the lumps of meat, though alas a barbeque or similar was not to hand. It irked her; animals may eat their food raw, but cooked meat was easier for biological digestive systems to break down and would therefore be more suitable for young things.

She tried to think loving thoughts at it, as was suggested. She recalled her last regeneration, as might be expected. She knew what it felt like to love, though being loved remained a mystery that too often concealed a trap.

And the truth of it was, as the shell began breaking in her hands, she wasn’t entirely sure she knew how to love any more.

She had totally ignored the paladin’s comments; redemption was for people. She was totally ignoring Jenni, whom she was certain would not approve of her having swept in to scoop up the egg. Her considerable brainpower was almost entirely focused on the egg, despite Wobbles’ jumping up and down and shouting. She expected it to run. Indeed, she rather knew it would. But that was no reason not to try.

“I’ll call you Lola,” she said, “whoever you are.”

And whoever-it-was began to break free, and so did the Time Lord holding her.

Dawn nearly dropped her newly acquired egg into the bowl of meat, and hurriedly cradled it close instead. Something tapped on the inside—a baby fire-lizard, that was a baby fire-lizard, aaaah!—and she hurriedly found a clear space on the sandy floor of the RC, looking around and mimicking the people she saw kneeling. She put the meat to one side, happy to let go of it—the bowl was rather heavy, and she was never all that eager to touch raw meat—and held the egg carefully in one arm while she hollowed out a dip in the sand for it to rest in. With that done, she put the egg down and watched it rock, wide-eyed and fascinated.

Loving thoughts, hm? That would hardly be difficult. There was a new hatchling coming to join her RC—a baby fire-lizard. Would the mini-Balrogs like the hatchling? Probably, and the tribble liked just about everyone. The pov and Tafe she was less sure about, but likely they would get along just fine. After all, a baby fire-lizard was precious and probably adorable (of course adorable, the adult ones were awesome, she couldn’t picture a hatchling not being cute)—and if there were problems, well, she would sort something out. Maybe Des could take an extra mini, or T’Zar, or even the Nursery—she’d still be able to see them, but a telempathic hatchling would have to come first . . .

Wait, loving thoughts.

She stared down at the egg, considering for all of two seconds before lying down on her stomach with her head propped up on her hands. The egg rocked some more; very, very carefully, she reached out to touch the shell.

“Hullo, sweetheart,” she said with the soft tone and gentle smile that she generally reserved for children and some kinds of pets. “We’re going to meet soon, you and I. We’ll be the best of friends.” She pulled her hand back as the egg rocked harder, not daring to get in the way. “I’m going to love you so much, you know. We all will. It may get busy at times, and you’re probably going to see me in some strangely bouncy moods, but it’s going to be so much fun. You’ll see, darling. You’re going to have all the love and attention you can stand, and if that isn’t enough, you just tell me, because I bet there’ll be more to be found. Well, maybe not attention, I have to go on missions, but I promise to love you, and care for you, and be your friend. We’ll have a fantastic time, just you wait and—” She froze, eyes wide.

There it was again. A tap on the inside of the shell.

Dawn scrambled back into a sitting position and pulled the bowl of meat close, wondering with a trace of disgust if she would have to actually touch it to feed the hatchling. Probably. Oh well; it wasn’t like she’d never touched anything squishy before, and it would be worth it for the little fire-lizard . . .

Another tap, louder this time. Dawn held her breath and waited.

Come on, then, she thought. Time for us to meet. This is going to be fun.

The baby fire-lizard tapped again, and the first crack appeared on the shell.

Brightbeard shook his head. He’d hoped he could reach the Notary through the fortress she lived in. Circumstances seemed to think otherwise. It was too bad; she seemed like she could use someone in her corner. Maybe their paths would cross again in a better time.

But what was he doing? Now was not the time. The future would bring what it would bring and the present was full of hatching eggs.

Brightbeard levered himself to his feet and moved back to his little egg in the sand. He made sure the bowl of meat was close at hand and sat in the warm sand to wait. While he waited, he hummed a low tune to the egg.

((I feel like Brightbeard is probably humming this. Just a little slower.))

Bosh’Guk stumbled as someone shoved an egg into his hands. The ogre regained his composure and set the egg down into the warm sand.

Bosh took a deep breath. “All right, Guk. I’m going to trust you with this next part. Now, remember what I told you. Calm, focused energy. Can you manage that?”

Guk nodded.

“Good. This is going to be your responsibility. I’m not the one bonding, after all. Now, set the meat close by . . .”

Guk set the meat down very carefully, his face still as he concentrated on keeping himself composed. If he lost face now, little Burnie would never be his to hold. Guk allowed himself a tiny hint of a grin. His very own fire-lizard . . . now that was a nice thought.

Jenni did not, in fact, approve of the Notary one little bit. She took her eyes off that egg for one second to survey the room, and when she looked back, there was that woman, on her feet and juggling egg and meat in her hands like a ninny—and what was that, a skewer? She was going to feed it with a pointy object? Jenni pressed her hands to her face and groaned. The woman was going to kill that poor hatchling for sure. But if she could ignore Brightbeard’s kindhearted words and the clown jumping up and down next to her, she certainly wasn’t going to listen to Jenni. If she lost it, maybe it would be a lesson to her. In her mind, Jenni washed her hands of the matter and resolved to help the other ten owners succeed no matter what.

Just about everyone else had done the sensible thing and sat down on the sand with their egg in front of them or in their lap. That was good—a few had the food a little too close to the eggs, though, which wouldn’t help them Impress. One last chance to impart some wisdom.

“Okay, everyone!” she called out. “Make sure to settle your eggs so your hatchling can break out safely, and don’t let them gorge on the meat. Feed them carefully, one piece at a time, and make sure they eat from your hand, not the bowl!”

She heard Hera and Ilwion’s song reach a new level of intensity, and the first three eggs broke almost simultaneously.

If anyone’s was first, though, it was Colt’s. The egg gave one good hard rock, tipped on its side, and shattered. A little green head popped out. The hatchling gave a startled, raucous call, her eyes glinting red like tiny rubies, and shook off the rest of her shell, leaving herself flopping awkwardly on her side with one wing snared beneath her. She called again, a piteous little creel of hunger and dismay.

Near Colt, Gerry’s hatchling had a considerably better time of it. The shell broke neatly, and the creature that staggered forth, though dark with egg fluid, was clearly bronze. He lay on the sand a moment, catching his breath, then flapped his wings and got to his feet, looking around and urgently calling for food.

At the same time, Alex Dives’ egg hatched, and this one was a blue who, when dry, would be the exact medium gray-blue shade favored by the Harper Hall. He added his cries to those of his siblings, head swinging wildly one way, then the other. He caught the scent of the bowl in Alex’s lap, and with an excited squawk, lurched toward the tech.

“Remember, small bites!” Jenni called out. Her heart raced. She could feel the hatchlings’ hunger—anyone with more natural sensitivity than a block of wood could feel it—and she remembered her own Impressions, lifetimes ago though they were. Tears pricked her eyes, but she wouldn’t let herself get caught up in memory.

Henry helped with that. He had been happily chatting with the Illian-Sims kids about this and that, and he eagerly scooted toward the agents with their eggs when he heard the humming that he knew signaled the start of the hatching. He was startled by sudden pangs of appetite, though. “Mommy?” he called out uncertainly. “Mommy? I’m really hungry!”

His tone brought her to his side in an instant, and she scooped him up into her arms. “It’s all right, baby. It’s not you, it’s the hatchlings. Remember?” She smoothed his fine black hair back from his face and also threw a light shield over his mind. The tracker on her ankle vibrated a warning, but she ignored it. The hunger would only get more intense when more eggs cracked, and she couldn’t have her own child upset.

“Oh yeah,” Henry said, relaxing against her. Then he spotted Gerry’s and pointed excitedly. “Look, look! That one’s a bronze like Ilwion! That’s good, right?”

Jenni laughed. “They’re all good, Henry. Just watch now, and see what they do!”

With each suddenly holding a bowl of meat and an egg with its hatchling ready to escape, both shoved onto them (though fortunately having things shoved into their arms was a common occurrence in BM), Colt, and then Gerry, settled down onto the sand as well.

The half-elf didn’t so much so much as sprawl against the edge of the sand as lean against it on his side, egg nestled nearby, and the bowl of meat ready at hand.

Gerry had lowered herself down, folding down into sitting Indian style, egg right in front of her, with a small bit of meat already pinched between her fingers, all her attention and concentration focused on the egg.

Colt’s egg was the very first one to hatch, the green keening for food. His eyes widened—both at surprise at the sudden hunger he felt himself, and her appearance—and softened, as he grabbed a small piece and offered it to the green, his other hand reaching to get her unsnared and unflopped with gentle fingers. His thoughts weren’t just of love, but of companionship, friendship, being welcomed. All this he was directing at the green, things he wanted the tiny hatchling to feel. The group he had found here in the PPC wasn’t just who he worked with, they were also family.

And then Gerry’s hatchling broke from his own shell, getting a cry of delight from the woman. “I have food right here for you, bossywings,” she said as much as thought, sounding pleased and proud, squashing the feelings of hunger that had bubbled up, nudging the bit already in her fingers towards him. For this, for the hatchling, she wouldn’t trade anything in the world.

The little bronze was quick to spot the morsel Gerry offered him. With a triumphant cry, he darted forward and snatched the piece from her fingers, not even bothering to chew as he bolted it down. Fortunately, the raw, slippery wherry-meat went down easily. He sniffed, searching for more, and warbled his need to his new benefactor.

The green, meanwhile, flapped and flopped in her own attempts to right herself while taking the food offered her at the same time. In the wild, she would have been in trouble, but here, thanks to Colt’s efforts, she got her wing unfouled and found her feet in the end. She hopped eagerly toward Colt, peering up at him with utmost admiration for his assistance. But she was really very, very hungry, and made this known with a series of shrill cheeps.

“Hey there, Zeke.” Alex grabbed several pieces of meat and offered one to the little blue. “I’m going to take care of you,” he said, laughing when Zeke snapped up the meat from his hand. “I promise.”

The little blue preemptively dubbed Zeke was not interested in words. He was very, very interested in the meat Alex held in his other hand, toward which he turned and pounced. He tried to propel himself with his still-damp wings and overbalanced when the tip of one struck the sand. He screeched in frustration at being kept from his meal.

Four more eggs cracked.

The two belonging to Alleb and Shui-Hua were greens. The tapping Alleb felt soon turned into determined rocking, and unless she put it down in a hurry, she would have a handful of egg goo and a flailing green fire-lizard with sharp little claws scrabbling for purchase on her palms.

Shui-Hua’s egg, being safely on the sand, hatched with no trouble. This one was a bright mint green, like a beryl. After her initial startled screech upon suddenly freeing herself from her shell, she caught scent of the nearby bowl and started for it.

Brightbeard’s egg seemed to rock to the rhythm of his humming. It thrummed to a low note and finally cracked, spilling its albumin and a rich, dark mocha-brown hatchling. His fiery eyes whirled as he got to his feet, and he gave a little bugle and shook his wings.

Jenni was watching as Bosh’Guk’s hatchling, or just Guk’s, as it happened, made its appearance. She was concerned about this one, though she wasn’t planning to intervene unless the little fire-lizard showed signs of distress. Everything looked fine for now, though. The hatchling was a dark blue, and he quickly got up and began stalking around the remains of his shell, creeling with hunger.

The eggs little tap escalated to rocking. The parents’ song in her ears, Alleb hurriedly set the egg in the sand, and picked up the bowl of meat. Think loving thoughts, Alleb told herself. She pondered for a moment, and then began.

Hello, little one. You don’t know me yet, but you will soon; I’ll tend you and nurture you, just as I have the dragons of Alleble. You will be as dear to me as the Sentinel to his King, and I’ll never let anything harm you. We’ll be together till the end of time, you and I. My little fire-lizard.

Alleb smiled fondly at the swaying egg; and then the cracking started.

Alex offered Zeke another few pieces of meat, using his free hand to scoot the little blue closer to him, stroking its back while he fed the hatchling.

“It’s okay, little guy,” Alex said gently, though he was mindful to not let his fingers get bitten. “It’s all right. I’m here. You’re safe.”

As he fed Zeke, he could feel the hunger beginning to subside, and he breathed a sigh of relief. “You’re going to be okay,” he repeated, and lightly ran a finger over Zeke’s head.

Everything began moving very quickly. The asari soon found herself sitting on the sand with a bowl of meat (which had caused her to blush at her own forgetfulness when she received it from Ilraen) and a shaking egg arranged in front of her. This was it. Literally the penultimate moment.

Teyala clasped her hands in her lap, closed her eyes, and bent her thoughts towards the creature in the egg. This fire-lizard was to be part of her family now, and would be so for a long time. The concept was at the same time overwhelming and wonderful. She pushed those feelings of joy and love to the forefront of her mind, and began to wait.

Brightbeard picked up a bit of meat. As the brown made its presence known to the world, Brightbeard brought the meat close to it. He could feel the hunger, but he was old and used to ignoring the urges of the body. “I’ve some food for ye, lad. And more where that came from.” He tried radiating feelings of home and love. The warmth of the hearth, the forge, and the Light.

The brown eyed its meal for a moment before pouncing. It grabbed the meat out of Brightbeard’s calloused fingers and greedily gulped it down. This one was strong, clearly.

Brightbeard continued to feed the hatchling, and tried to think of a name. He had no frame of reference for a brown dragon. Blue, green, and bronze dragons could be found on Azeroth, but brown was unheard of. So, where to gain inspiration? Fire-lizards were the progenitor race for Pernese dragons, so perhaps the proto-dragons of Northrend could offer a start.

And then it hit him. “Galakrond,” he said to himself, barely above a whisper. “The father of dragons. A strong name for a strong hatchling.”

The Notary had had enough. She was feeling peckish herself—normally something she clamped down on—and rooted through her pockets for random tech she wasn’t using any more. “Human, I have some things for you to juggle.”


“. . . This is going to be a joke, isn’t it.”

“Well, you rang, so—”

“Ah. I stand corrected. Catch.”

The Notary settled down, the egg swaddled in her robes, and tossed a few pocket calculators at her partner. After a few melted and one scuttled off on glowing, spidery legs—a few of which it decided to try and stick up Hera’s nostril for reasons best known to itself—one eventually burst into flames, burning with bright, cheerful colours that weren’t generally found on HQ’s standard plane of existence. When Wobbles dropped it on the floor, sucking slightly on her fingers, the Time Lord began to gently cook the skewered wherry-meat.

“Yes, see?” She murmured gently, trying to make herself think it. “Happy smells. I’m sure you can smell in there. Smells good. Smells like food. Come on out, little, er, airborne bitey thing. Come on. Eat your space chicken.” Her mind kept going back to Lola, though; she’d have known what to do—

No, humans just think they know what to do, she scolded herself. You know how little that’s actually the case. Calm. Think calm. Gentle breezes on a diamond island, set in a silvery sea. You went there once, before. You liked it.

“I never took her,” she mumbled, and only a very keen-eared person or probability manipulator might have heard it. “Even though I said I would, I never did. I’ll take you, though. One day. I think you’d like it. Somewhere safe and warm, with soft things and room to fly. I’ll keep you as safe as I can, little Lola-that-will-be. Come on out. Say hello.”

Shui-Hua hastily got the bowl before the fire-lizard got to it, and put it beside her. She took a small piece of meat and offered it to the creature. Then, she did something that she hadn’t done in months, months that felt like ages: Shui-Hua smiled, a full genuine smile, not one of her very common smirks.

With that smile on her face, and her hand extended to the fire-lizard, she thought, Now, how should I name you? . . . I know! Feysuei . . .

Alleb’s green burst from her shell with a squeal and shook her wings to dislodge a fragment that clung to her. Once unencumbered, she began sniffing for food, mewling in her tiny voice so that her hunger was known both audibly and psychically.

Zeke, meanwhile, attempted to swallow as much as Alex would give him at once, crying any time the supply seemed to dry up. His tiny belly soon began to bulge with the meal, though, and his movements became slower and clumsier. In addition to getting full, he was getting tired. Hatching was hard work!

As the others fed their hatchlings, the last four eggs rocked harder and began to crack.

Teyala’s was the fourth green, the color of pine needles. She spilled herself abruptly onto the warm sand and, after a moment’s rest, struck out straight toward the asari, shrilling her hunger.

Des’ egg was on the larger side of medium, and when it cracked open, it divulged a sturdy little brown who would dry to an eye-pleasing dark amber shade. He quickly realized he was penned in by Des’ crossed legs and screeched a complaint, then set about scaling the nearest ankle with his little needle-sharp claws.

Next to him, Dawn’s egg, which had made a strong start but little progress so far, finally picked up the pace again. The original crack widened, splintered, and finally bifurcated the shell entirely. The creature that scrambled out from between the halves was bright gold, her wingsails nearly transparent as she spread them to dry. Then she was on her feet, calling loudly and urgently. She’d had a hard fight to get free of her shell, and she was ravenous.

The last egg to hatch, because the Laws of Narrative Drama demanded it, was the Notary’s. With a final heave, the shell shattered, its liquid contents soaking into her robe. A little blue, his hide a pale periwinkle, shook himself free.

“Lola” was a male. Apparently the Laws of Narrative Irony hadn’t wanted to be left out.

He tottered about, creeling, until he snagged a claw on the fabric. His cries turned agitated, and he flapped to free himself so he could continue his urgent quest to fill his stomach. He was still too wet to fly as yet, so he didn’t succeed in doing much except creating a small breeze, but at least he was distracted from lunging at the roasting skewer and potentially impaling or burning himself. So far, so good.

Des smiled when his egg finally hatched. He took a piece of meat and handed it to his fire-lizard, who gulped it down and continued to scale Des’ leg. The Floater started humming under his breath, his surprise at the hatching giving way for a warm, fuzzy feeling not unlike the one he felt when he saw a kitten—which made the name he chose for the fire-lizard all the more appropriate.

Giving Khataltelet another piece of meat, he raised his gaze and smiled at Dawn before turning his attention back to the little brown—whose hunger he was feeling, too—he gave him another piece of meat and started singing slowly. “When winter comes and all is silent,” he muttered under his breath, “the saddled mare is tightly bound; the fox she prowls under the moonlight, snow lies thickly on the ground . . .”

(( “Khataltelet” חתלתלת comes from חתלתול khataltool, kitten, except its inflection is female in a somewhat uncommon form—it’s not an actual word, mind you; it’s how my family and I call cats. Any cat, really, their sex has nothing to do with it. It’s similar to the slang word חתולה Khatoola (accent on the penultimate syllable), which means ‘she-cat’ but means ‘any cat’ when said thusly. ))

“Hello, Lola.”

The Notary rummaged through a pocket with her offhand and came out with a pair of long evening gloves, one of which she struggled to put on. Once the task had been completed, she resisted the urge to chow down on the wherry-meat herself and instead plucked a piece off the end of the skewer, gently laying it out on the palm of her hand and ignoring the fat that hissed and spat at her cheek. “Here, little Lola. Be a good . . . lifeform and eat your space chicken.”

Lola, or possibly Lolus, sniffed curiously at the still-hot meat, golden brown and tender and probably not radioactive. Then, getting the hint, it took an inquisitive nibble—before wolfing down the rest like a dragon possessed.

“Good flying blue gecko thing,” mumbled the Notary, who hadn’t been paying very much attention and wasn’t really sure what happened next. “Good Lola. Would you like some more?”

An emphatic creel courtesy of Lola.

“Then you shall have it,” the Notary replied, laying down more of the browned-off meat before the dragonet. “Human, do you perhaps have some wet wipes about your person? Lola is still slick with amniotic fluids and I neglected to bring a handkerchief. While your species compatriot’s guide was useful, it neglected to mention that these things were quite so . . . sticky.”

Wobbles bounded over, a packet of baby wipes in hand. “Huh. You can’t touch your dergn, ’cause of something you can’t be at fault for,” she said as she dabbed the egg goop off of Lola’s back. “Wonder what that’s like. Whosa good dergn? Is it you? Are you a good dergn?”

“Chrff,” chrffed Lola around a mouthful of wherry kebab.

“Is your skewery thingy not getting kinda hot, Agent Codamine?”

“I’ll be fine,” the Time Lord replied. “Please, continue to mock me, by all means.”

“Nah, I wouldn’t do that. I just wanna pet a dergn and now I can! You’re a good little Lola-dergn! Yes you are!”

“Chrrf,” Lola replied. Wobbles extricated his claw from the Notary’s robes and, in reply, he scrabbled gratefully up her chest and across her thin, bony shoulders like a scarf, though frankly he wasn’t long enough to be a proper Time Lord scarf yet. “Chrf.”

The Notary just leaned up and fed him more space chicken, a slightly watery smile running over her face.

Dawn’s eyes went very nearly round when the hatchling emerged from her shell and spread her wings wide. A gold? A gold?

Somewhere, behind the utter shock and a healthy amount of awe, part of Dawn’s mind went, shiny.

The hatchling found her feet and began to call, her hunger seeping into Dawn’s mind and working itself into the gaps between the shock and awe and appreciation of shininess. The assassin reached blindly for a piece of wherry meat, and then nearly ate it herself before remembering that a, she was vegetarian, and b, it was uncooked and meant for the hatchling. She redirected her hand, offering the meat on her fingertips to the eager little gold, and reaching for more once that had been scarfed down.

A gold, she thought again. What.

Well, that settled it. The world had gone mad, she had the shiniest, prettiest hatchling of them all, and she really wanted a sandwich, unless that was just the hatchling’s influence.

And what on Earth was she supposed to name the creature? She had vaguely considered Lehavonet, a Hebrew version of ‘little flame’, but that would never do for such a brilliant hatchling as this one. She had never expected a gold; she had thought up the name more with a green in mind, though she had tried her best not to go in with expectations and had reminded herself that she shouldn’t get attached to a name before meeting her newest little friend. Unfortunately, that now left her without a name.

She would have to think on it. Maybe she would manage to find a name by the time the hatchling was sated.

The hatchling. The beautiful little gold hatchling who was currently eating out of her hand, and would probably look slightly different when dry. That hatchling.

The hatchling she had so far failed to greet.

“H-hello,” she said softly. Her eyes were still wide, and her voice rasped before she cleared her throat. “I—it’s lovely to meet you. You’re a beauty, you know that? If you don’t, I’m sure you will soon.” She reached for more meat and held it out. “I don’t have a name waiting for you, but I promise I’ll find one. Whatever your name, though . . .” Cautiously, she traced one delicate-looking wing with a finger, and lowered her voice even further. “Brukha ha’ba’a la’olam, ktantonet. Welcome to the world.”


(( That last bit is Hebrew, meaning, of course, ‘welcome to the world, little one.’ She’s ignoring the fact that she doesn’t like her accent in Hebrew much, although for all I know she and Des have been working on it. ))

Alleb saw a bright flash of green as the little dragon emerged from its shell. It shook itself, then began to mewl, nosing around for food on the sandy floor. Alleb felt the hatchling’s intense hunger, and grabbed a chunk of meat from the bowl. She did it barehanded; the slop of Alleble’s dragons was much, much worse.

Willing her hand not to bring the meat to her own mouth, Alleb extended it to the hatchling. The little thing ate like a ravenous wolvin, and Alleb reached for another piece. “Hello, little one,” she cooed. “My, you’re as green as the eyes of a Mitheguardian Glimpse before Sir Aidan’s adventure!” She gave her another bit of meat, then gently rubbed the top of the hatchling’s head with her finger. It was sticky, which Alleb really should have been able to guess. After another piece of meat, she plucked a cleaning rag, meant for her sword (which she had unbuckled and laid beside her) and began wiping her down.

“What shall I call you?” Alleb said to her new friend. “Lily, maybe? No. Perhaps if you were a White of Yewland . . .” Alleb thought for a moment, then snapped her fingers. “I know! Mithe!” She grinned at the tiny dragon. Mithe.

Teyala’s eyes snapped open as the egg broke. The asari moved quickly, fishing several slivers of meat out of the nearby bowl and offering them to the tiny green creature. The fire-lizard wolfed them down within an instant before trilling for more. The next morsel was slightly bigger, so she hunkered down into the sand to work on her meal.

Teyala could feel the fire-lizard inside her head; a raw if slightly disjointed flood of new emotions. It was certainly not overwhelming, but it was definitely different.

She fished a small towel out of her jacket. It was true: you always should know where a towel is, especially if you worked with children all day. As the fire-lizard continued to eat, Teyala set to work drying her off.

Hello, little one, she thought. I am Teyala, and I will take care of you. Your name . . . your name is Farida. Welcome to this world.

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The PPC belongs to Jay and Acacia and is used with permission.
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