16 First Ones, 6107 RTR (Feb 16, 2009) Zahnrad and Parsley locate Abner's secret cabin.
(Stonebarrow) (Sylvania) (Zahnrad)
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Outside Zahnrad's Cabin.
The cabin stands out in stark contrast to the common Kadie cabin. The shape, coloring, curves, portholes, everything, screams airship! Adding to the eccentricity of it all, it's decorated in dozens, if not hundreds, of pinwheels. The all spin quickly under the gentle breeze, creating a kaleidoscope of colors and glinting light. The entrance seems ordinary enough, except for the unusual door handle and lock. It appears to be a series of gears and selection switches. Outlines of small compartments above, beside, and beneath the door, could mean entering the wrong entry sequence could spell doom (or at least a very bad headache!) to the unwelcome guest.

By the time Zahn and his new sidekick made it back to the Wingnut compound, the bunny was starting to act fidgety. "It's been, like, almost two hours now Zahn," Parsley complains. "Hurry and open the door, pleeeease?"

"But … the restroom is on the other branch," Zahnrad comments and points with his tail as he works on the complex combination lock.

"That's not what I need," Parsley says, and… starts nibbling on one of Zahn's ears while he works the lock. "When we're this close… it's like being trapped in a candy store!"

"What do you need… ?" Zahnrad starts to ask as all but one of the tumblers have fallen and he works on the last. "Oh, wait, you mean you want to … again? Er, is that normal for Lapis?" It isn't helping matters that he's starting to fidget himself just to keep some clothing comfortable.

"It's the magic bond, I'm pretty sure," Parsley says, stroking the Kadie's tail now. "I mean… well, for bucks this might be normal… and I have been giving you time to rest! Besides, this will only take a few minutes, and then we can get on with crawling in the dirt or whatever… "

"It'll take more than a few minutes," Zahnrad mutters as the final tumbler goes click and the door swings open. "After you!"

Parsley leaps into the cabin. Given that she's wearing Amelia's clothes, which are a bit large on her, the Lapi's second leap sheds them easily before she lands on the bed!

"Amy's clothes smell like you too," she comments. "I'll wear my own after this!"

Zahnrad follows after and closes the door behind, then re-enables the locks in case anyone comes snooping. "Maybe I should just tie you up and leave you here… " he jokes as he sets down his pack of stuff he brought back from the tree, including the tied up old troll costume.

"I don't like the 'leaving' part of that plan," Parsley notes, as she strikes an inviting pose on the bed. "Granted, these feelings are a lot stronger when we're together. So, I promise to let you alone for awhile before we get together with Clover."

"And then you two will kill me," Zahn says with a grin. He starts to undress, though he's very slow about it. "Now, let's see, if the pacing was right, it would be roughly in the center," he says as if he's already thinking about where the lair could be. Or … he might actually be trying to tease Parsley.

"I like holes too," Parsley notes. "Lapis are all about holes! C'mere and I'll show you."

"You're not putting anything in my holes!" Zahnrad claims as he folds up his clothing now. Yeah, he's trying to drive Parsley crazy…

The Lapi is getting crazy, if the pillow flung at Zahn's head is any indication. "Hmmm, next time I'm going to tie you up!" she threatens playfully.

Zahn catches the pillow. He gets a devious, almost Gunther-like grin on his face. "Close your eyes," he says, "And promise not to peek… "

Parsley gives Zahn an unsure look, and then folds her ears down over her eyes like a blindfold. "Okay, they're closed," she says.

"And do you trust me?" Zahn asks as he can be heard walking around and then kneeling beside the bed.

"I know you wouldn't hurt me, Zahnrad," Parsley says.

"Quite right," Zahnrad agrees … and Parsley finds that the Kadie is tying her down to his bed, though loose enough that if she really tried she could get away. "I did say this would take more than a few minutes," he says as he then slides in next to Parsley … and spends the next half an hour simply … teasing the Lapi in various 'evil' ways before he finally gives her what she wants. Of course … the threats she was making towards the end might have been part of the encouragement to not just tease. So … the few minutes turned into about an hour and a half before Zahn's undoing the simple knots from where he's reclined against Parsley.

"I could have strained something," Parsley notes after wards, but not really in a complaining tone. "Definitely gotta tie up Clover though! I bet Amy would never let you do this to her."

"Oh, I figured I would tie up both of you," Zahn notes, "Then make my escape!" He grins. "And speaking of smelling like me … you are starting to smell like me."

The doe cups part of her chest and sniffs at it. "Well, I can wash it off I think! It's just not getting into my clothes, since I'm careful not to wear them too long around you," she notes. And the rolls to the side of the bed to sort of dangle over the edge where she can rummage through her bag of clothing. "I've got my mining duds," she reports. "Those should be fine for going under the dam, right?"

"Probably more than you would need," Zahnrad admits as he sits up, "Expect to get muddy and slimy. It's a bit wet and gooey around the main supports in the substructure. We used to have to chase the otters out of there on a regular basis; they liked to play in the muck!"

"Well… I guess you'll have to wash me after wards then!" Parsley teases, wiggling her tail. Instead of her mining clothes, she picks out her bathing suit.

Zahnrad rolls over until he's laying on Parsley's back and pinning her to the bed. "Only if you wash me too," he says, then licks one of Parsley's ears. The Kadie then pauses there, blinking a few times. "Uh, er, where did that come from?" he blurts out as he realizes he just did, and made, two rather suggestive things…

"Oooo," Parsley coos. "I didn't think you were rested up again yet?" she asks, just to make sure.

"Well, I don't need to be rested up for certain things," Zahnrad says before he clamps his hands over his own mouth. "I'm getting worse," he says muffledly.

"Let's go get wet and slimy before you need a cold bath," Parsley jokes, but then tries to wiggle out from under Zahn, which probably doesn't help.

"Oh no you don't!" Zahnrad says as he playfully holds Parsley down. Which leads to anther few minutes of wrestling … and then the Kadie showing how he doesn't have to be rested to do certain things as there are other ways to do stuff … and when that is over, he's standing on the far side of the room and getting dressed. He also has the window open to help not smell Parsley. "Closed spaces with you is dangerous!" he complains. "It makes me all weird."

"Nicely weird though!" As a compromise, Parsley puts on her bathing suit and her somewhat lumpy mining clothes.

"Oh good, now you just smell like chalk. That helps," Zahnrad says with a relied sigh after a few moments of nose twitching. "Did you know that when you get, er, in a mood, you have a really strong scent?"

"Of course," Parsley notes. "The surprise is that you notice it! Usually only other Lapis can pick it up."

"How can others not notice that? It's … sweet and sort of brain fogging," Zahnrad ties to explain as he waves his arms around for emphasis.

"Goodness, if everyone did, then we wouldn't be allowed in town!" Parsley notes, tying off her belt. "So… ready for poking into some wet, slimy holes?"

"Didn't we just do that?" Zahn jokes as he grabs his tool-belt and cinches it tight around his waist, then puts on a 'hardhat'. "And I'm not sure I'd notice other Lapis, just maybe you and Clover."

"Well, of course you'll notice us," Parsley says, coming around the bed to give Zahn a pinch. "We notice your scent, after all."

"Come on, we better get going before things get overwhelming again. I need the distraction of a puzzle!" the Kadie claims, takes Parsley's hand, and practically drags her out the door.


Mint Dam – Foundation
In the seventy years since it was laid down, the stone and mortar foundation of the Mint Dam has been regularly inspected four times a year. The service tunnels are narrow and kept to a minimum by the ingenious use of a network of strain gauges built into the foundation itself, so that the status of the buried pilings and the shifting and settling of the stone can be monitored without having to leave gaps for visual inspections. The tunnel itself is still damp, being well below the level of the reservoir, but is quite warm due to the thermal nature of the ground.

"See? Hot and wet," Zahnrad explains as he leads Parsley down into the depths of the old dam. "And watch your step, it tends to be slippery due to algae and moss. Now … if I were Abner, I would have built an entrance into the wall so that it was well hidden, yet easily opened. Like … with a fake strain gauge! Time to go gauge checking… "

"This isn't what I thought it would be like down here," Parsley notes, touching the exposed pilings embedded in the walls. "It's nothing like the warren."

"What were you expecting?" Zahn asks as he slowly trails along the wall, checking the positions of each strain gauge, which is really just a series of chitinous bands that are bundled together and spread out in the wall; shifts in the structure then just alter the length. "Dealing with the large pressure issues of water, not to mention its deteriorating effects, require a lot of engineering."

"It's just not… cozy… like the chalk tunnels," is all Parsley manages to say about it.

"You find it creepy then?" Zahn asks as he glances over.

The Kadie notices something out of place. Or rather, something extra – a duplicate strain gauge in an area where two other gauges provide coverage.

"Not creepy, just different," Parsley says. "Creepy would be if it made gurgling noises… "

"You would hate being down here during a storm, then," Zahnrad comments as he peers at the out of place gauge. As he gives it a slight tug, he comments, "And I've never been in the warren, obviously, so I can't compare."

The gauge actually gives a little, and Parsley's ears perk up. "Did you just hear that?" she asks.

"No? What did you hear?" Zahn asks.

"Something went 'click' back… here!" the doe says, turning around and going back to one of the exposed pilings. It's smooth and treated with lacquer to preserve it, and the Lapi taps on it with her claws. "It was here, I'm sure. It made a noise."

"Okay, listen again," Zahn says as he tugs the gauge again.

"I didn't hear anything that time," Parsley says, pressing her ear right up against the thick piling. And then it turns slightly, causing the Lapi to have to shift her weight to avoid falling over.

"Careful!" Zahn says as he darts over to Parsley and takes a hold of her. "There could be traps down here," he comments to the now very close Lapi. Once he's sure she's steady, he lets her go and turns his attention to the odd piling. He doesn't try to move it yet … instead he measures its relative spacing to all the others to see if it should be there based on how much weight is borne.

The pilings are in a staggered pattern, based on the points of a hexagon throughout the foundation. This particular one, like the strain gauge, is out of place but nearly at the exact center of the foundation.

"This doesn't need to be here," Zahnrad comments as he raps a claw on he piling. HE then places his palms flat on it and tries to slowly turn it.

The old tree-trunk turns smoothly. Too smoothly, for something to heavy, and all without making so much as a scraping sound. After about a quarter turn, an opening appears. It's oval, and high and wide enough for a single Kadie to pass through.

Zahnrad keeps turning it until he's sure the oval is open all the way. "You might need to wait out here," he tells the doe, "I'm not sure you can fit."

"What should I do?" Parsley asks.

"Well, you can try to follow me," Zahn offers. He then comes over and buries his nose in her neck and takes a deep breath. There's a brief, whole body twitch from him as he then steps back, blinking. "Otherwise … just be a motivating reason to come back," he says distractedly. "Like … uh, doing that just was."

"I'd rather follow you," Parsley admits, and looks into the hole. There's a chamber inside of the piling, with a hole overhead.

"What's the worst that can happen? We get trapped together?" Zahn asks, then grins. The Kadie salutes, then slips into the piling to see where it goes.

It's like stepping into a closet. There's not much room to move, other than just stepping back out, and nothing but smooth wood all around, except for directly above, where a wide hole reveals a large wooden valve wheel.

Zahnrad reaches up and taps on the 'wall' behind the wheel. "Does that sound hollow to you?" he asks Parsley. "I want to make sure its an air gap behind that and not, well, a drain pipe!"

The Lapi crowds into the cubby with Zahn, and squeezes past to listen to the back wall. "It… sounds open," she says. "I don't hear water."

Zahnrad … tries to turn the wheel. "Well, here goes … possible doom," he says.

The wheel doesn't budge. But with his feet planted, Zahn manages to turn the piling instead. The whole thing rotates, until the entry is blocked by the stone foundation. Eventually the piling finishes a half-turn and is open onto a dark passage.

"Ahah! A tunnel!" Zahnrad declares the obvious. He sticks his head into the passage and sniffs.

It smells just like the rest of the foundation – if a little staler. His helmet lamp shows the same stone walls, and a hallway of sorts – but at the very edge of the lamp's range is a reflection from the floor.

"Hmm … water ahead, I think," Zahnrad says as he squeezes out and into the passage. "We need to be careful… "

Parsley takes 'careful' to mean 'grab onto my tail', because she clutches Zahn's tail firmly.

"It is good that I don't mind things on my tail," Zahnrad comments as he heads towards the shine, "I've used it for years to hold tools so it doesn't bother me anymore. Now Amelia … she really hates things on her tail."

"She's a girl," Parsley notes.

"And that means?" Zahn asks.

"We want our tails to look… nice," the Lapi explains.

"Well, yours does when I'm behind and we're … ah, er, focus! In a dark tunnel," Zahnrad says and slaps the side of his head.

A few paces gives Zahn something else to focus on. The reflection wasn't from water; at the end of the passage there is a circular hatch in the floor. It's some sort of shiny ceramic, and looks like it was cast as a single piece, despite the locking wheel on top.

Zahn blinks. He crouches down and almost reverently touches the hatch. "Wow, did he make this from some material he found?" the Kadie wonders. "Or did he just move it? Or was it always here?" He then pats the floor next to him to indicate to Parsley to sit. "Ever see anything like this before?" he asks.

"Well… yes," Parsley admits, sitting down on the stones. "Under the castle, when Olivia and Natasha and Mage Qing took me to see Buffy, there was a tunnel with the walls like this."

Zahn presses his ear against the hatch and raps on it firmly to listen for open air or water.

There's enough of an echo that even Zahn can hear it through the material. There must be air on the other side.

So … Zahn tries to turn the locking wheel and open the hatch. "Have anything like it ever been dug up in the warrens?" he asks.

"Not that I've heard of," Parsley claims. "But… we don't go that deep. The lower levels are blocked off."

"Blocked off by what?" Zahn asks.

The wheel doesn't even squeak as it turns, but there's a definite feel of the locking levers moving.

"Big doors," Parsley says. "Locked. Except Clover said she found a key, and was able to get down into them… "

"Oh, hm. Did it have a lock that looks like a square slot?" Zahn asks as he continues to turn the wheel slowly.

"No, they have keyholes," Buffy says. "They look like all of the other doors, really."

With a final 'clunk' sound, Zahn can feel the hatch pop free slightly, with a gust of warm air puffing out.

"Ah, so not a special door," Zahnrad says, sounding relieved. He gives a test tug on the hatch to open it the rest of the way.

The hinges don't squeak either. Old abandoned hinges should make a proper squeak. The hatch lifts up easily for someone with Zahn's strength. There's a duplicate wheel and handle on the bottom for securing it from below, and a deep tube. The sides of the tube are of the same material, and perfectly round and smooth save for two trenches where ladder rungs are embedded.

"There's no way he built this," Zahnrad admits as he peers into the tube, "He must have found this." The Kadie sits back and looks over to Parsley. "So … will you swear to secrecy about this?" he asks seriously. "I can't have information about this getting out."

"I'm a Chalk, Zahn," Parsley notes. "We can keep secrets."

"That just earned you some extra fun time today," Zahnrad says as he grins broadly. "I'll go down first, you follow. First, so I if anything nasty is down there you have time to escape. Second … because I get a nice view… " The Kadie then frowns and pulls on his own cheeks. "I didn't use to be like this!"

"I wonder how Gunther will change, then," Parsley says, tapping her chin. "Oh! We need to leave this hatch open too! I wasn't taught any engineering, but living underground drills into you the importance of ventilation. The air under here puffed out, so that means a pressure difference, which means there wasn't any ventilation… err… right?"

"Why would Gunther change?" Zahn asks, looking momentarily confused. "And yes, you're right. Air tight would be extremely dangerous. I don't think it'll go deep enough to cause any bends problems, though."

"Okay, I just wanted to be sure," Parsley explains.

"You're not scared, right?" Zahn asks.

"Not from being underground, no," Parsley says, then looks worried. "Uh… are you saying I should be scared? Just because this is shiny stuff?"

"No, nothing like that!" Zahn claims as he starts down the hatch. "I just don't want you doing stuff you don't want to just because I asked."

The Lapi starts down after Zahn has descended a bit. "You asked me to stay outside," she points out.

"I gave you the choice, yeah," Zahnrad admits as he looks up. He blinks, then looks back down. "Have you seen Gunther recently, by the way? He's been scarily quiet."

"I think the otters have him," Parsley notes.

"Oh dear. I probably have to go rescue him," Zahnrad says and sighs.

The tunnel is deep, but… there's just a hint of light at the bottom. Enough that Zahn can guess it's probably about a hundred feet or less to the bottom.

"There shouldn't be light down here," Zahnrad notes a bit worriedly, "Unless this is like … hmmm." He keeps going down.

Ten minutes later, the pair are on the ground again, in a hall made of the same material. It's goes arrow-straight for several hundred yards, illuminated by glowing fixtures in the ceiling. Parsley notes the presence of some vents near the top of the wall as well.

Zahnrad waves his hand near one of the vents, feeling for airflow. "Who built these places?" he wonders.

"Skeeks!" Parsley squeaks, pointing at a little plaque next to where they came down. It had been blocked by Zahn's tail before. There isn't enough of an air flow in or out of the vent to really say that it's opened or not.

Zahn turns so he can try to read the plate. "Skeeks aren't smart enough to build complex stuff," he claims.

SURFACE ACCESS 5-8-B

"What do you mean by that?" Parsley asks. "Can you make a fancy party dress?"

"Well … this place is mine now," Zahn declares, though stopping short of actually marking the place. "Let's see where the passage goes," Zahn notes and start walking. "And I can make a dress that dances on its own!"

"What's the point of that?" Parsley asks, referring to the dancing dress, no doubt. "It's a good thing Amy got to you before it was too late, or you'd have built a mechanical girl or something!" she giggles.

"Hey, that's not a half bad idea," Zahnrad says as he rubs his chin, looking thoughtful.

"Hey!" Parsley says, and tugs on Zahn's tail. "How can you think like that when you've got me right here?" she asks. "Plus, I can cook."

The far end of the corridor is faintly visible now. It looks like a door.

"Because it makes you all possessive and it's cute!" Zahnrad claims as he leans over and nips Parsley's ear lightly. "Oh look, a door!" he says next and promptly digs in his pockets for he thin keys he has.

Sure enough, there's a slot in the wall next to the door, which itself has a basic handle on one side.

Zahnrad pulls out the card he found at Abner's and inserts it into the slot, then tries to turn the handle.

The handle turns with a click, and the door slides free.

Zahnrad draws the key-card back out and tucks it away. "Well, shall we venture into the meeeesterious lair of ze infamoooouse Abner?" Zahn cackles.

"After you?" Parsley offers, chewing on her lip.

Zahnrad pauses to snog Parsley, then walks through the doorway.

Secret Workshop
Tubes in the high ceiling illuminate this large workshop, which is a good fourteen feet by twenty-four. While the door to the south serves as the underground entry, there is another door in the middle of the north wall, and one in the west as well. The east wall is broken by a large recessed alcove. The walls and floor are made of fused material, like the walls of the underground apartments and tunnels. More conventional wooden furniture is used for tables, chairs and cabinets – and not a single surface is without a pile of papers or tools or other objects cluttering it up.

"Ooooooooooooooooooooooo," goes Zahn as he takes off in a mad flurry around the room. No paper is spared from his eyes as he scurries about, checking everything that's still legible. "This is great!"

Parsley is more careful, although she does manage to find a big jar full of… goo. "What's this stuff?" she asks. There are more of the shiny ceramic-metal tools, lots of diagrams on paper and translucent plastic, and piles and piles of… well… junk.

Zahn goes zipping by, coming to a skidding halt near Parsley. "Let's see," he says and takes the jar from her for a closer inspection.

The alcove in the east wall turns out hold a hatch in the floor and one in the ceiling, and a quick look at the contents of the jar remind Zahn of the jelly-like 'permanent lubricant' found in the assembly shop underground. Maybe that's why nothing squeaks or sticks.

"It is lubricant," Zahnrad explains as he gets a tiny bit on his fingertip so Parsley can sniff it, "Really good stuff."

"Oh?" Parsley says, getting a thoughtful look. "Hmm, well, for machines you mean right?"

"Well, I'm not sure it can be used for other things. What were you thinking?" Zahnrad asks, looking confused.

"I'll tell you later," Parsley promises, and goes for the north door. "This one doesn't have a lock," she calls out.

Zahn puts the bottle down and heads over to join Parsley. "Better let me open it in case there's a monster behind it," he jokes, then tries to open the door.

There's a bathroom, just like the ones in the underground apartments. There are even a few jars on the shelves, but their contents look to have dried out and solidified.

"Hey, this is a converted apartment!" Zahnrad realizes! "There must be a whole complex of these here. I wonder if the alcove leads to other levels, then." He goes to check that next…

The other door opens up into a small bedroom, which is still furnished. The dresser is wood, and looks familiar enough to have been made in town, while the bed is something else. It's a platform made of resin on four legs. The sheets are gone, but the mattress is still there, looking like some sort of giant sponge.

"Hah! I wonder if ol' Abner used to have trysts with his secret lady!" Zahnrad remarks, laughing. He charges in and jumps on the sponge-bed.

There's no sign of a kitchen at all though in the lab and connecting rooms.

The bed should have disintegrated into a cloud of dust after so long, but it bounces the Kadie once, and then he sort of sinks slowly into it until it's conformed to his body.

"Oooooo, comfy," Zahn declares rather muffledly.

"He had trysts?" Parsley asks, looking curiously at the bed. As she comes over, she nudges something just under it with her toe. Looking under the bed, the doe comes back up holding a resin box. "I found a box," she notes.

"Yes, he had a special lady. I think one of the Kettenrads, but I'm not sure who," Zahnrad explains as he pushes himself up from almost certain comfort. "And let me see that?" he asks, holding out his hands.

Parsley hands over the box and takes her own turn sinking into the bed. "It's like… floating on… pillows?" she tries to describe.

"It's great, isn't it?" Zahnrad notes as he checks the box over for obvious locks or possible traps.

It appears to be a simple box, with a fitted lid. No hinges or latches at all – the sort of thing anyone would make out of heavy paper or light wood or fabric in town.

Zahn, therefore, tries to open it.

The lid comes off, and the contents rattle and clink. It's full of rectangular glass plates.

"How odd," Zahnrad remarks as he carefully lifts one up and peers through it.

It looks just like one of the ones found in Dr. Pike's wine cellar. A glass plate with a very detailed picture painted onto it by, according to Orifice, a very fast working little homunculus. The image itself is from one of the apartments, since the back-lit day-night mosaic-wall is in the background. This apartment isn't empty – it's got a couch and table, and a smiling Skeek woman dressed in a style Zahn's never seen before.

"Wow, its one of those weird quick-paint things," Zahnrad says as he turns the picture this way and that as he looks at it, then offers it to Parsley before getting out another one.

"I've never seen a Skeek like this," Parsley notes. The second plate uses the same setting. The woman is laying out on the couch now, without a stitch of clothing. She's pure white, with red eyes.

"Oh dear," Zahnrad says next. "I've never seen a Skeek look like this… " That one is offered to Parsley next and Zahn goes for the third.

Next is a picture of the crystal grotto at the apartment complex. There are several Skeeks in view, including some children in the pool. All of them are the same albino-white, and wearing colorful but utilitarian clothes.

"Are these paintings of real places?" Parsley asks Zahn.

"Yes, they are," Zahnrad says, a hint of somberness in his voice, "But of people long gone now." He puts those three plates back and draws out the next one.

The next one contradicts what Zahn just said. For there is the Skeek woman again, and sitting next to her with an arm around her shoulder is none other than Abner Wingnut, smiling goofily and with a bit of string holding the two halves of his spectacles together.

Zahn blinks a few times. "This can't be right," he says as he peers close at the picture. He then shows it to Parsley.

"What's wrong with it?" the doe asks.

"There's no way Abner could have known them," Zahnrad insists.

Zahnrad checks for another plate.

The next one is a group shot, taken someplace unfamiliar. There are lots of shiny surfaces and tubes in the background, and Abner and several white Skeeks stand together wearing long white coats, all smiling proudly. Hulking behind them is a red-eyed, furless giant of a troll, with wires running from its head and back to somewhere off frame.

"Abner, you didn't help create those, did you?" Zahnrad asks the picture, his expression falling more as he remembers everything he's found; and the dead bodies in the apartments … and the dead child's head.

"What?" Parsley asks, taking the plate. She holds it up to the light to get a better look. "That… that thing has wires coming off it," she says quietly. "Just like when we went into Clover's mind."

"She wasn't the first to have that happen," Zahnrad says as he takes the plate and puts it away, then checks for more. "I don't know if they made them, or found them."

The rest of the plates were taken right here in the bedroom, from the look of it, and are of a more candid and personal nature. It isn't clear if the woman with Abner is always the same Skeek, since there a few where he's with two of them.

The last one, however, has an odd illusion or trick of the light that the imp recorded: the female Skeek's eyes aren't just albino-red.

They're literally glowing red.

Zahn puts the plates back, then runs his hands through his own hair. "Abner, what did you get involved in? What happened to your friends? Did any survive?" he asks the room around Parsley and himself. "What did they do to themselves? What did they do to you?"

"I can tell you what these two are doing to him," Parsley notes, holding up one of the plates to the light.

"Yes?" Zahn asks as he looks over.

"Well… " Parsley says, and then grins at Zahn. "When Clover's feeling stronger we can explain it better."

"It'll involve lubricant, won't it?" Zahnrad jokes as he stands. "Want to wait here a minute or so? I want to check the alcove hatches."

"Okay," Parsley says, and sets the box and plates aside.

"No getting naked," Zahn teases as he leaves the bedroom for now and heads to the alcove. Once there he first checks the ceiling hatch first … and like he others, he tests it for sound before trying to open it.

The sound now is very different. There's clearly not air on the other side, and the hatch itself feels cool to the touch.

"Ah, probably flooded," Zahnrad decides and leaves that hatch alone. He checks the floor one next.

The floor hatch sounds clear as a bell, but there's something odd about it. Where it seals to the floor, there are blobs of something dried and sticky looking.

Zahn scrapes one of his claws on the dried stuff, then sniffs his claw.

It's old, but the scent is recognizable enough. It's glue, made from tree sap. The hatch was glued shut.

Zahnrad tries to see if he can open the hatch. Maybe the glue has long since dried. "Why would Abner seal away his friends?" he wonders.

The seal is pretty tight and firm. This is the same stuff used up on the dam itself. But… there's also a solvent used to soften it back up, if it's the same stuff.

There's a sudden gurgling sound, and then a rush of air followed by water (and a bit of sulfur) from the bathroom.

Looking moderately annoyed, but not frustrated, Zahn just sits by the hatch. He pulls out one of his wrenches and starts tapping on the hatch. A series of taps, separated by pauses, each time increasing by one tap. A mathematical progression. This, of course, causes Zahn to look up. "Is that you, Parsley?" he asks.

"I'm not naked!" the bunny declares from the bathroom. "I just wanted to see if the shower worked. I've got my bathing suit on." After a moment, she adds, "Well, half of it, but that still counts, right?"

The raps of the wrench echo faintly through the hatch material, but nothing responds to the sounds. Not yet.

"Oh go ahead and get naked, you want to," Zahnrad comments, laughing. He waits another minute, then repeats the pattern on the hatch.

Still nothing. But then Zahn feels some fingers running through his hair.

Zahnrad blinks and looks up, expecting to see Parsley standing over him.

The fur is white, but the face is wrong. Glowing red troll-eyes looking unblinkingly down at Zahn from a distorted Skeek face. The lips pull back to show big, silver-coated teeth as the apparition says, "Abner. You've come back to us… "

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" goes Zahnrad as he rolls to the side and scurries backwards on all fours, fur sticking out in every direction. "I'm not Abner!" he says quickly, chittering in near panic "He's dead. Been dead for a long long long long time. I'm just his descendant. Sort of, maybe! It's unclear! Who are you!? Don't eat me!"

---

GMed by BoingDragon

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Today is 4 days after Unity Day, Year 25 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6124)