Chapter 17: Another One in the Dark

"It's just...I don't even..." Doc slowly rubbed at his face with both hands, staring at the floor as he sat on the edge of the couch while Mahihko patted his back reassuringly.

"It's okay, pretty normal for most guys to end up speechless after meetin' me," the wolf reassured while grinning at Riffraff over the back of the overwhelmed chupadore. "It ain't so hard to believe in aliens once ya met actual angels 'n demons 'n shit!"

"But I haven't met angels and demons!" Doc complained before lifting his head to look awkwardly across the room at the literal demon who was scowling at him from where he and Graceful Melody were stacking and reloading various magazines of ammunition. "O-okay, I've, but I'm still trying to wrap my head around it! I don't understand how all the rest of these guys are so...calm!"

"To be fair, only one of the guys here is a native to this world," Riffraff offered with a helpful and ultimately useless smile, considering the way Doc groaned and grabbed at the back of his head.

"And you said your commanding officer met all these aliens and was fine with it, too?"

Donut tapped at the end of his muzzle thoughtfully. "Yeah! In fact, Sarge even told them to help me out around here...Mahihko and I have been hard at work with our endurance training!"

Doc stared at Donut, his features strained as he very likely parsed the true meaning behind the soldier's words. "I...I don't even know where to start. The possible foreign infections alone means all of them should have been quarantined!"

"Rude." Mahihko crossed his arms and then grinned coyly at Doc. "Y'know, you're more'n welcome to give me a full 'n thorough exam any time! I'm always open for appointments!"

Doc leaned away slightly with an uncomfortable expression. "I think I'll pass. I am just a medic, after all. The House, on the other hand..." He glanced at Donut. "Did you or any of the other soldiers call this in? I was just sent out here on a routine check, not because of any weird, um. Disturbances." His look to Mahihko was rather pointed. "But I can't imagine the House wouldn't send, uh. Someone else if they knew there were aliens..."

Graceful's gravelly voice floated across the room. "Tell me more about this 'House'. You 'n the other fuzzy lizards keep mentionin' it and ain't in a way that brings me any kinda comfort."

"Tucker actually told us about it already!" Mahihko chirped, gesturing to Riffraff. "Ain't that right, big man?"

"Yeah, though I haven't exactly had time to relay all of that to Grace and Dusey..." the horse explained lamely.

Graceful grunted in agreement and Doc shifted a bit as all eyes drifted back to him. "We'll be here all night if I try to explain the whole history of this world to Aliens. But I guess as concisely as possible, the House is the organization in charge of anything and everything on Sirca. It's the government, it's the religion, it's responsible for keeping law and order and they essentially have a hand in just about every aspect of life here."

"Sounds like hell," Graceful muttered, pausing in mid-reload of a handgun clip as he glowered at the chupadore. Even from across the room, Doc couldn't help cowering under the withering gaze.

"I...I mean, I have nothing to do with it!" he protested nervously.

"May I remind you I spent the equivalent of seven-hundred and twenty-six of your years in actual Hell," Amdusias interrupted brusquely. He sniffed and reached for an oily rag to start polishing one of the dissembled weapons. "The bureaucracy is far more expansive than that which appears to exist on this strange ring."

Graceful rolled his eyes and then fixed his stare on Doc again. "You said you ain't got anything to do with it -- but you were sent here from 'em, weren't you?"

"Not exactly..." Doc mumbled. "The Holy War is extremely regulated. So a medic like me is responsible for providing first aid to both sides, but I'm only a part of the House as much as your average soldier. It's just our job."

"'Just your job'...I've heard that shit before," Graceful growled dangerously before whipping his head around at Amdusias when the demon placed a hand on his shoulder.

"He is responsible for providing medical assistance to these soldiers, perhaps he is not as deserving of your wrath, little one."

"Yeah, you're right, he's just responsible for patchin' up the poor fucks so they c'n get dropped right back into the meat grinder," the pony muttered as he returned to his self-appointed task of preparing the small cache of ammunition.

Mahihko offered a smile and nudged Doc's side gently. "Don't worry 'bout him, he's grumpy at everyone."

"This is a true statement," Riffraff added lamely. "I'm gonna go convince him to have another one of those 'special' cigarettes..."

"We should go back to singing and dancing!" Donut cooed, clasping his hands together while bouncing a bit on the couch. "Everyone was so happy and gay, and no one was even shooting anyone else!"

"Yeah, Doc, look what a great time ya ruined by showin' up!" Mahihko teased before he hopped up to his paws and offered his hand to the shell-shocked medic. "I know what'll help ya out -- a good meal! We been sittin' here chattin' for hours, and you had yourself a long-ass walk, sounds like, so c'mon! My treat!"

Doc gave the wolf's hand a wary look before sighing and accepting it to let himself be pulled up from the couch. "I guess I am kind of hungry. And I also guess I shouldn't be surprised that we can eat the same things...I imagine our biology must be similar."

"Oh hell yeah! We might look a li'l different, but I bet we share all kindsa similarities. Eat some'a the same foods, drink some'a the same drinks, share all the same desires!" Mahihko winked up at Doc, who leaned away slightly.

"Probably not all the same ones," he mumbled before pausing as his muzzle wrinkled. "Is that...smoke?" He stared back across the room where Graceful was lighting up one of his hand-rolled joints. "What in Omega...are...are you setting that on fire?!"

"Oh shit, right, keep forgettin' y'all don't do the whole...smokin' thing, so fuckin' weird," Mahihko rambled, waving a hand briefly. "Don't worry, it'll make the tiny pony less angry."

"Yeah, we're the weird ones," Doc replied with a confused look. "It smells like snatchgrass. So on top of burning it and..." He stared for a moment as Graceful took a deep draw. "And...inhaling it, you're also doing it with the one plant that the House regulates use of." He rubbed slowly at the back of his head. "We are so screwed..."

"Welcome to life with aliens!" Mahihko announced cheerfully as he and Donut nudged Doc from either side to push him toward the kitchen. "Ain't a dull moment!"

Doc was soon seated at the table, nibbling at a sandwich while Mahihko cleaned up at the sink. Donut and Riffraff were seated across from the medic, taking turns to pepper the newcomer with inquiries -- he was unsure who had the harder questions, the alien or the fellow chupadore.

"I mean, yes, I'm qualified to give physical examinations," Doc replied slowly. "Are you feeling sick or something?"

"Donut ain't got no performance issues as far as I c'n tell!" Mahihko called out from the sink, making Doc's expression shift to one of discomfort again.

Riffraff cleared his throat and politely interrupted before the other two could continue their assault of innuendos. "Ah, it's pretty obvious you've never seen any, um. Aliens. But...are chupadores the only species on this world that, well. That you've ever treated? I guess a better question is whether or not any other species are as evolved as you guys."

Doc's features immediately loosened and he took a relieved bite of his sandwich. "That one's not so strange. As far as we know, yeah -- we're the only species to have evolved this far. There are, er. Rumors of other species but no proof." He tilted his head a bit, giving the horse an odd look. "Don't tell me one of you needs help."

"Pretty sure we could all use help in one way or another," Mahihko chuckled as he wiped his hands on a dish rag. "Us aliens're weird-ass folk, fer damn sure."

"I think we're all fine for now, I guess it was just more of a 'planning for the future' kind of thing," Riffraff explained.

"For aliens, I think you're all very fine!" Donut added. "Could you imagine if Sirca's first aliens weren't so cute?!"

"Such a tragedy that would be," Amdusias grumbled, ducking under the doorway so he could stalk into the kitchen with Graceful Melody at his side. "Furthermore, should any of you ever refer to me as 'cute', we will have stern words."

The pony grunted and elbowed Amdusias, which scattered ash from his cigarette across the table and made Doc jump away in surprise. "Mmm, sorry, Doc," Graceful muttered, allowing a sliver of kindness thanks to the haze of his elevated state. "Anyway, you cheeseballs better stop yer yappin' for a minute. Dusey felt a disturbance outside. Could be our friends poppin' by for another chat."

Mahihko gave a rare frown, standing behind Donut and idly rubbing one of the chupadore's shoulders. "You sure?"

Graceful took a deep pull from the joint before blowing the plume of smoke across the table so the entire group leaned back awkwardly. "Can't be sure 'til we take a look. But would you rather it be some other dipstick who can hop between dimensions?"

Doc looked concerned. "Do you mean another one of those...things you guys found at the Blue base?"

"One'n the same," Graceful replied as he patted the back of Riffraff's neck. "C'mon, hoss. You get to lead the welcomin' party."

"Oh gods no, not again," Riffraff mumbled, dropping his head and slowly rubbing a hand across his muzzle. Donut and Mahihko glanced at each other curiously before watching the gigantic horse sigh and push himself up from the table. "One of these days, this is gonna backfire horribly..."

Amdusias scowled moodily. "You mean as it did literally the last time you attempted this bold, idiotic charade?"

"I just love listening to you talk!" Donut exclaimed. "You do such pretty things with such fancy words!" He turned around to peer at Mahihko. "Are we gonna go with them? I love meeting new people!"

"We probably shouldn't let 'em go alone...but might be some shootin' involved, hon -- ain't tryin' to get my favorite alien all full'a holes, now!" Mahihko winked and tugged at the t-shirt he'd borrowed from the soldier. "I better go find some actual clothes, myself..."

"Ain't got time to wait on you fuzzy boys gettin' dressed," Graceful intoned, waving his arm dismissively and sending a swirl of smoke drifting around himself. "Doc, you might wanna be ready to patch up a thing or two." he called over his shoulder while leading Amdusias and Riffraff out of the kitchen.

Mahihko and Donut shared another look before the chupadore beamed and announced: "Clothes race! Last one dressed has to stay dressed!" He giggled and scampered out of the kitchen, leaving the wolf to blink and then laugh amusedly.

"Goddammit, that's some fine motivation!" he called after Donut, tossing a wave to Doc and then prancing out as well.

Doc sat there for a few silent moments, looking confused and bewildered all at once. "I...what!? I don't think any of this is regulation!!"

"...and those crazy-ass pirates had fuckin' bullets for days!" Mahihko expounded, cheerfully throwing his arms up and causing Amdusias to flinch away. On his other side, Donut gasped and laced his fingers together under his chin.

"Omigosh, did you guys survive?!"

Doc gave a strained look as he followed the three out of the base. Graceful Melody and Riffraff were walking several meters ahead of them, but he was sufficiently distracted by the story being told...and the reactions to it. "Well, I feel like they had to, since...he's here telling the story," the medic replied slowly.

"Your mortal perceptions of life and death would be endearing were they not so short-sighted," Amdusias grumbled. "It would hardly be an impossibility for those two idiots to have perished on their infernal quest for lost treasures, and then have found themselves back among the living. Such a feat is child's play in the realm of the supernatural."

Doc blinked a few times. "I. I uh. Keep forgetting that you're supposed to be...a...a..."

The enormous reptile peered down at the chupadore with a snort. "This wretched planet believes a single 'god' is responsible for the entirety of its existence, yet the notion of angels and demons are simply unfathomable."

"Mr. Demon, why aren't you up there with the two ponies?" Donut inquired curiously while automatically looping an arm around one of Amdusias's.

The demon blinked and attempted to jerk his arm free, but his immense muscle was no match for the soldier, who continued to hold onto him with a beaming smile. He sighed and rolled his eyes. "Because the two 'ponies' enjoy their foolish, ill-advised ploys. And despite my incredible power, they would prefer to rely on chance and relegate me to 'protective duty'." He spat out the last words in a sour staccato, his muzzle curled into a displeased scowl.

"An' 'cuz you wanted to hear the rest'a my pirate shanty!" Mahihko provided with a firm slap against Amdusias's rump.

Amdusias yelped and hopped forward before whipping his tail out to wrap the split ends around Mahihko's neck and roughly jerk him into the air. "So help me, I will rip you asunder, you insolent bandit!" The wolf hardly seemed affected, merely grinning enormously as his slender frame swung in the grip of the demon's appendage. "Stop that damnable smiling, this is no trifle! Even with your inexplicable fetishes!" Amdusias grumbled and then slung Mahihko back down to his paws as he added: "And furthermore, that was no shanty. There was hardly a lilt in your cadence at all."

Mahihko shrugged easily as he loped alongside the taller trio, his eyes locked with intrigue onto Graceful and Riffraff. "Hey, folks love the way I talk. They say it's like listenin' to warm molasses runnin' down yer spine..."

"It sure is!" Donut cooed, pressing close to Amdusias's side. "Even if I don't even know what you're saying half the time, it sure sounds nice!"

Ahead of them, Graceful Melody was walking directly behind Riffraff. The horse's barrel-like form made the pony nearly invisible, though it didn't stop him from talking to Riffraff like they were side-by-side. "Aw, stop yer fussin'. When's the last time you even got shot, eh?"

"Like. Two weeks ago?" Riffraff retorted, glancing over his shoulder and down at the pony as they wandered toward the middle of the canyon. "That isn't even an exaggeration."

"Ah, you're bein' a big baby, everything about you is an exaggeration, ya giant meat locker," Graceful reasoned, flicking the base of Riffraff's spine lightly. "Eyes forward, don't make it too obvious you're hidin' the negotiator."

"Yeah, you're a prime example of a good negotiator," the horse mumbled, shoving his hands into his pockets as he eyed the Blue base and noticed a shadow or two moving atop the structure.

"Call it a winning argument if the other party ain't able to argue their point no more," Graceful replied easily. "Negotiating with corpses always gonna be easier than with some asshole still supplying oxygen to a brain they ain't usin'..."

Riffraff shook his head. "One day, your idea of 'good business' is gonna get you shot up."

"Oh please, like it ain't already," Graceful retorted, poking his companion's rump a few times. "What'dya see out there?"

"One, maybe two figures on top. Don't see a, uh. Portal or anything. No sign of how they got here."

Graceful grunted quietly. "Maybe they're testin' it. Forward team to check things out. They see you yet?"

Riffraff opened his muzzle to respond...but instead winced as a bright beam of light cut through the darkness. "Contact! Equine, non-military!"

The voice echoed across the canyon and Mahihko paused in his story-telling with a frown. "Think they found someone at the other base," he rumbled as he took a step forward. But a large hand fell on his shoulder and he glanced back as Amdusias gripped into him silently. "We should go help."

"We should. But we will not. Not unless it is necessary," the demon replied in a low voice. His amber eyes gave off a faint glow as he stared across the inky expanse, toward Riffraff's muscular silhouette outlined by some artificial light.

"That's stupid," Mahihko muttered while fidgeting under the reptile's hand. "Yer li'l pony's a real selfish fuck, ain't sharin' none of the action with us..."

"Don't worry, I've still got some action left!" Donut sang out.

Doc's face scrunched into a grimace, trying to ignore the predatory grin Mahihko shot toward Donut. "But if the Blue Army guys abandoned their base, then...who is that with the flashlight? More...aliens?"

"Yeah, but these ones ain't likely to cuddle after they finish unloadin' in you," the wolf replied pointedly.

Doc widened his eyes but remained silent as he peered past the others into the darkness, staying half-hidden behind the trio.

Riffraff lifted his arms slowly. "Hey now, friends -- I'm not armed, just as lost as you two are," the horse announced carefully.

The shadow of a figure didn't lower the light as it called to the other: "He must not be from this world either, sir. Orders?!"

"Incapacitate. He might have information, and probably knows where the others are."

The first figure replaced its initial firearm and produced another, pointing it at Riffraff's chest and then pulling the trigger. A muted spit made the horse wince as a projectile glanced off of a button on his tattered dress shirt, the small dart tumbling down to the ground below.

"What the..." The figure cursed and lowered its light briefly to struggle with the weapon. A moment later, the pistol was raised again...but this time only offered a dry click as the trigger was pulled. "Oh what the hell..."

"Take the target down, soldier!"

"My weapon, sir, it's jamm--" Another muffled fwip as the weapon discharged the next dart directly into the figure's wrist. "Ooh...oh shii--"

As the figure collapsed, its leader snarled and rushed to the edge of the roof to level a much-more lethal looking gun at the horse. "Don't move!"

Riffraff shrugged amiably and remained still...only to scowl as a firm prod against his spine encouraged him to roll his eyes and bend down to pick up the dart at his hooves.

"I said don't move!"

But the horse sighed and continued down to snag the dart as a brief burst of gunfire barked from the roof.

Yet each of the three rounds whispered past Riffraff', one scraping a shallow cut in his arm as he stood back up with a moody expression, the tranquilizer dart held tightly in one hand.

"That's enough'a that shit," Graceful muttered, hopping out from behind Riffraff and drawing his pistol.

The shadowy figure cursed and moved to shift his weapon, but Riffraff moved faster than them both, slinging his arm out firmly and releasing the dart. And before Graceful could pull his hair trigger, the needle soared through the dark and buried neatly into the gap between the figure's helmet and armored collar, dropping it in a boneless heap near instantaneously.

"That was my kill," Graceful muttered, gesturing with his pistol as if still contemplating whether or not to fire a round or two at the limp figure. "They're just gonna wake up and try to shoot us again, ya dumb lunk."

"Not if we prevent them from doing so. We don't have to kill everyone we meet," Riffraff chided lightly as he rubbed his hands together and then followed Graceful Melody when the pony stalked toward the ramp leading onto the roof.

"Easy for you to say, lucky bastard, bullets curve around your prissy hide," Graceful retorted, kicking the flashlight up to his hand and quickly skimming the scene.

"Not always," Riffraff grumbled while rubbing at the blood running down his arm from the near-miss. He nudged one of the armor-clad figures with a hoof, though he didn't have to examine it too carefully. "Definitely two more of those tail-less guys..."

"Really gotta figure out what they're called," Graceful muttered as he shoved a joint into his muzzle and lit it. He traced the flashlight between the two limp bodies, then moved it toward what looked like a hard-shelled attache case. The pony frowned and wandered closer to it while puffing quietly on the cigarette. "Huh..." He poked at the latch and it popped open without resistance, revealing a complex panel laden with buttons and knobs, along with a few meters and what looked to Graceful like small glass labels. "Some kinda technology from their world. Don't recognize it, but guessin' it's either a beacon or something meant to get them back to their side..."

"Maybe Mahihko will recognize it, their world was more advanced with their machines and stuff than ours," Riffraff suggested, bending down to peer at the case before tilting his head. "Perhaps he and his partner could use it to get back home -- we have you and Amdusias, but they don't."

"They got them crystals, ain't they?" Graceful replied gruffly as he pointed his handgun at the case and then fired a few rounds into it.

Riffraff yelped and stumbled backward, immediately glowering at the pony as sparks and bits of metal showered them both. "Dammit, Grace!"

Graceful Melody sniffed and then took a hit from the snatchgrass. "Couldn't take the chance it was sendin' some kinda signal. Ain't about to throw caution to the wind on a gamble that long."

"The odds aren't that what if it was some kind of beacon and now it's broken and you can't turn the signal off? And maybe Mahihko could have figured it out?"

"Y'know, you give a lot of credit to a fella that spends 'bout sixty-percent of his brain power figurin' out how to get into each 'n everyone's pants at least once." Graceful blew a cloud of thick smoke toward Riffraff before grinning and adding mildly: "He's more than welcome to hop on up here and take a look at what's left."

"Really mature," Riffraff huffed while looking around in the darkness. "Let's see if we can find some rope to tie these two suckers up with..."

Graceful grunted and moved toward one of the invaders. "Good plan. I'll start with this one." He pointed his gun at the soldier's head, then pulled the trigger idly as he used his other hand to shield from the small burst of bone fragments and cranial tissue.

"Wh...what the hell?!?" Riffraff sputtered, his eyes wide as he threw his arms out. "I said tie them up not...actually, there's nothing that sounds similar that would give you a reason to --" He was interrupted by another loud crack from Graceful's handgun, his horrified expression met with a pleased grin on the pony's features as the other unconscious figure met the same fate. "...Why?"

"I dunno, shootin' up a briefcase wasn't all that satisfying," Graceful reasoned with a shrug, tapping a bit of ash onto the now-corpse below him.

Riffraff sighed and slowly rubbed at his face. "And what if more guys still end up coming through? And find their equipment...and their men...all shot up?"

"At least they'll know we aren't messin' around on this side of the gateway," Graceful replied impishly, twirling his large pistol neatly before tucking it back into his coat and sighing contentedly. "A'right, we better head back before our worrywart of a demon starts frettin' his pretty li'l head." He booted the nearest body lightly. "Might as well apologize to the fuzzy lizard folk for the shit we dragged through the door with us..."

"Just once I'd like to go somewhere new and not bring trouble with us," Riffraff mumbled as he kicked moodily at a random piece of equipment before leading the way back down from the roof. "Don't blame the wolves. They were after us, first."

Graceful snorted amusedly, sauntering past Riffraff in a haze of the sweet smoke. "Betchyer ass I'm blamin' the wolves..."

Amdusias sighed in relief as the two approached the Red base. "We heard the shots -- did trouble befall either of you?"

"No," Riffraff answered with a sour expression. "But someone had to get his gun off."

"Hey, that ain't the whole truth," Graceful retorted as he poked a finger into the wound on his companion's arm. "Lookie here, ol' Riff got shot! Had to defend my buddy."

Riffraff only sighed as he looked at the demon expectantly. "Amdusias, do you mind?"

"Very well, if I --"

"Let the baby rest," Graceful interrupted with a grin up at Doc. "Should let the doc prove his worth."

"I've already told you, I'm just a medic," Doc replied awkwardly. "I mean, I could say the same -- while you are a very large, very strange looking...creature..." He gestured at Amdusias, who was still stuck uncomfortably between Donut and Mahihko. "I could say that I don't...believe you're a demon, but I'm not asking you to prove it."

Graceful's grin spread wider. "Do the thing, Dusey."

The demon rolled his eyes. "No."

"Awww, c'mon', just do the thing, get this over with so Doc can slap some gauze on the big bleedin' horse."

"I do not wish to 'do the thing'," Amdusias replied pettishly.

"Oooh yeah, do the thing!" Donut chimed in as his eyes widened. "I wanna see the thing!"

Amdusias groaned and then gestured idly with the arm that wasn't currently wrapped up in Donut's embrace. "Oh, very well!" His fingers glowed a dull amber for a moment before he dropped his arm and looked at Doc patiently.

The chupadore stared back mutely for a few seconds. " something supposed to happen?" Everyone except Amdusias continued to peer at him curiously, and he shifted his weight a bit. "Um. Okay, well. If you all want to stop staring at me now, that'd be nice." He reached for his first-aid kit. "How about I just patch up --" As he produced a sanitary wipe, he paused and looked at his hand for a moment. "Um." His head tilted slightly at the weird sensation...

...Before his eyes suddenly bulged as the fur along his fingers rapidly turned a sickening dark green before rotting away and falling off in thick clumps. He yelped and jumped backward, dropping his supplies as he held up both hands and then gave a weak moan of denial, watching with horror as the flesh and muscle below began dripping off his bones while the blunt claws atop each finger cracked and shattered to dust like pottery left in a kiln too long. "Oh...oh g-god make it stop!" he howled miserably, closing his eyes tightly and waving his arms desperately.

And an instant later, the sensation stopped. He hesitantly opened one eye...and found both his hands perfectly intact. He wheezed loudly and gripped into his own wrist before shaking his hand out firmly and flexing his fingers. "What...what did" he stammered, staring up at Amdusias with fear in his eyes.

"That was the weirdest dance I've ever seen!" Donut interjected, his eyes sparkling. "I wanna try! Do me next!"

"I will not 'do you next'," Amdusias replied stiffly. His expression betrayed a hint of pride at the way Doc seemed so genuinely shaken. "Perhaps we are finished with questioning my authenticity, however."

"Y-yeah, I'm...I'm v-very content believing whatever you say," Doc managed to get out as he shivered uncontrollably.

Riffraff sighed. "Maybe you could have done that after he fixed me up?"

"Aw, it's not like his hands actually melted, all just a mental trick...demon mind games," Graceful reasoned, waving his cigarette around. He paused and peered up at Amdusias. "You did just his hands, right? Didn't go meltin' his brain or nothin'?"

"I showed the utmost restraint," Amdusias answered mildly.

Doc's whimper was impossible to hide and he busied himself with picking up the dropped supplies. "I...I think perhaps...I should take the, uh. Patient. Somewhere else. For sanitary reasons."

Riffraff sighed as he bent down to help collect the last of the gear before placing a reassuring arm around Doc's shoulders and guiding him back into the base. "I appreciate it, Doc. C'mon, let's leave these mean bastards to themselves."

Mahihko grinned after them, his expression almost matching Graceful's. "Damn. Now all I c'n think about is how much goddamn fun I coulda had with Lone if we'd had our own demon!"

Amdusias sighed again as he once more tried unsuccessfully to free his arm from Donut's grip. "The small amount of time we have already spent in your presence reassures me you need no supernatural assistance to make Lone's life a living nightmare. Now then." He glanced down at Graceful Melody. "Do tell what you and the gambler found that required a response full of such gusto?"

Graceful's expression tightened a bit as he leaned against the outside of the base. "Ain't good news. Le's just say we better go inside 'n make sure we ain't lackin' for lead-based supplies, mm?"

"Wonderful," Amdusias muttered, allowing Donut to happily parade him back into the base. "Business as usual, indeed."