When Amelia finally managed to log out Thompkins from MKC Online had already been ringing her terminal. She had set her stream to transmit hour clips to upload to their server. It wasn't as good as livestreaming, but it was adequate for them because it allowed them to see hour long clips before she had a chance to log out and upload it all at once.
She decided to preempt him this time since she was learning from experience that the man was obnoxiously persistent. She pulled up his contact on her terminal and pressed the talk icon. It had barely rung once when she heard his voice bark at her excitedly. "So. Tell me about today. My team tells me you met a FREAKING GOD."
"Eh. Small g I think. It was pretty cool." Amelia sat down on her bed, tired and exhausted. Vienne seemed like a lifetime ago, even though that particular event had only happened this afternoon. Airu had been an all-encompassing terror for the last hour and a half of her online time tonight. While she knew that Vienne was probably the more interesting topic, she couldn't shake the image of that snarling hooked beak streaking toward her face.
"Pretty cool?! You're probably going to jump up a 100 places in the Hall of Fame as soon as I get this edited out. Her voice was so freaking trippy we had to demodulate it." Elias laughed. "I'm so glad Centra Holdings is paying you. I don't know that I'd be comfortable paying a freelancer for the air time profit you're going to generate me."
"Try listening to that voice on all your channels at once. It was like listening to someone talk when you suddenly had six more ears." Amelia shuddered. "She took Gabriel, and the impression I got was that we won't see him for a while. It's too bad I couldn't go with and watch."
"Khiafin knows him right? You're a friend of Khiafin? Get Khiafin to get him to give me a call and I guarantee screentime for him at our amateur freelancer rate." Elias demanded.
"Yeah, yeah." Amelia probably would, just because she was secretly dying to see the place called 'Haven' mentioned in the quest text. She knew she was being irrationally surly about not being able to go. If she had gone, she wouldn't have seen the Airu boss, or read the inscription on the side of the pool that had appeared shortly after the great bird had died. She had rubbed a page with chalk and stuffed it in her Chronicler so she could read it at leisure later but it seemed to be a description of a mountain near Blutonsi in the Far North Continent, and a brief warning about Void, the Envy god.
"What'd you think about Airu?" Amelia finally asked, interrupting Elias as he was going on and on about Vienne.
"Airu?" Elias asked questioningly.
"Bird," Amelia said tiredly.
"Bird? Amelia, you sent us clips that were delayed, we haven't even been through all the footage because we have to watch it in real time first. There was a bird?" Elias sounded confused. In a 'and this competes with a god how' sort of way.
"I sorta forgot all about Vienne after fighting the last boss. It was really terrifying. I don't know what you're going to do about the deafness though." Amelia said, shrugging at the realization that there would be no audio for a large portion of it. She supposed he would put music over it or something.
"You FORGOT about the god?" Elias demanded. "What was Airu? Besides a bird? What deafness?"
"He killed a lot of people. We almost got wiped out. He deafened us and teleported. Jumped on people. Ate them. It was pretty metal actually." Amelia finally decided, borrowing a Ravenism.
"Metal?" Elias asked.
"Something my dad says when he thinks something is cool," Amelia explained. "Raven too I guess."
"I know what metal is." Elias complained.
"Don't ask then." Amelia retorted. "Look, I'm really tired and Forsythe apparently solo'd a large chunk of their dungeon yesterday so they beat us to the finish. The way I hear it he's already heading to the Brack Kingdom to challenge some Resident Chef to mortal food combat. So I have that crazy to deal with tomorrow. I'm beat, can you let me know if you need anything after you watch all the footage?"
"Sure, sure, for the Blutonsi arc would you be willing to feed live? Well, mostly live. We'll do a 10-minute delay so we can add or cut away if we need to, so it'll be almost livestream." Elias explained.
"Yeah. Why not. Just cut out anything I say if it's dumb." Amelia requested before she clicked off. She was too tired to think about it and just wanted to agree with him so he would go away.
Amelia had started to think about what the color of the back of her eyelids were when her door chime sounded. She groaned and rolled off the bed, glad that she had kept her clothes on instead of immediately stripping them and dragging on one of her normal sleeping shirts.
When she went to the door she was thinking dark thoughts again. It was amazing that the person on the other side couldn't feel the bloodlust. At least she didn't think they could because she didn't hear running feet. Maybe they wanted to die.
"Hi." Aidan was on the other side with a large and unwieldy bag.
"Hi." Amelia stared at him, wondering why he didn't look tired. He looked pretty good actually, freshly shaven, and was wearing a pink shirt that had Raven's favorite slogan 'look out I'm armed'. He even smelled kind of good in an aftershave kind of way.
"It was a gift." Aidan made a face. "Sacrifices were made to appease the nature gods."
"Uh huh. Hurricane Raven rampaging across the coast and ruining lives, or you wear a pink T-shirt." Amelia guessed. "Did you appease the tempest?"
"I fear she is still giggling as we speak." He lifted the bag on his shoulder, drawing her attention. "Would you mind going with me a bit? There's a field about a block away from where your university does something with agriculture. There is no fecal matter, I promise."
"I am always wary of a man who asks me to abscond with him in the middle of the night and his explanation of why I should go includes that there is no fecal matter," Amelia replied dryly. "Is it going to take long? Look, Aidan, I am exhausted."
"I have wine." He bribed, making her raise her head in contemplation.
"Coming." Amelia went behind the door and pulled out some sneakers, slipping them on without socks. She just didn't give a damn enough right now to worry about Future Amelia's sore feet. Aidan looked suspiciously at her feet for a moment, and when she asked, he had just directly told her that he was surprised she didn't have to go through the shoe closet this time. That earned him a punch in the arm.
The walk was much shorter than she would have thought. In the night air, they talked on their way about stupid things, mostly about what Aidan had seen Forsythe trying to stuff through the door of his apartment that looked suspiciously like it might be edible if he managed to kill it once he got it inside. When they were safe across the street she walked with him down and over one of the water irrigation ditches and then up into the field that was really nothing but grass. There weren't any signs, so she supposed it was okay. In a campus town like Urbana-Champaign, everyone was used to having signs up so the pesky kids knew to not be there. Everywhere else that wasn't signed was considered fair game.
"Wine in the dark on the grass in a field. I'll admit I'm curious about what's in the bag but I'm willing to grant you that even if this isn't sleeping, at least it's relaxing." Amelia chuckled. She sat down awkwardly, enjoying the chill of the grass seeping through the back of her jeans.
"You start working on that then." Aidan handed her a bottle with a self-removing cork. "The wine I mean. Did you know the corks remove themselves now? It's a wonder to me we're not all drunk all the time."
"On opening it or…" She muttered, considering just drinking it straight from the bottle once the cork did its thing, lending veracity to his remark almost instantly.
"Whichever." Aidan started pulling metal poles from the long bag, and she stopped and watched him work. She thought at first he might have some sort of small miniature tent. That was pretty brazen, but she didn't stop him, curious to see what he'd say to try to get her into said tent. As more pieces came out and a tripod was made she realized it was a telescope and she dismissed her earlier thoughts with only the slightest of blushes.
"Ah. Some particular heavenly body coming into alignment tonight?" Amelia asked.
"I have no idea. I only read your astronomy book once. What I do have with me, along with my flashlight, is a list of sky that's mostly charted. I thought I could start reading you portions that were uncharted by distance and quadrant, and you could see if you saw anything cool." He paused. "Unless fun for you is sticking your head in a birds mouth to see what's in there exclusively?"
Amelia was quietly amused, and a little taken back by the novelty of the idea. "I don't argue with a man who plies me with wine first. Kudos, by the way, for not making a heavenly body joke. I regretted it the second it left my mouth."
"Oh good. Can I tell you what I thought when you said it?" Aidan asked, grinning white teeth at her in the dark.
"Sure," Amelia answered bracing herself for some awful pickup line.
Aidan straightened for a moment, pausing with the main telescope lens in his hand and mimicked Amelia's voice for a moment. "Waiting for some particular heavenly body to come into alignment?" Aidan paused a beat and laughed evilly. "I DON'T HAVE TO."
"Pfft...hahaha." Amelia held the wine up so it didn't slosh out of the bottle while her whole body shook. "That's so incredibly stupid. Good for you for keeping that to yourself."
"Thank you, thank you. There are glasses here somewhere. I have man work to do, trying to align this mount with this very elaborate rig in the dark." Aidan explained, trying to hold the flashlight pointing upward between his legs as he struggled to spin the main telescope lens onto the tripod.
"You know it would work better if you put the telescope down and spun the tripod right?" Amelia snickered, finding the glasses and pouring.
"But I've already almost figured it out my way." He complained. He put the telescope down and flipped it over, grabbed the tripod and quickly spun it into place. He flipped it over again and placed it. "Alright. Well, that was fun. Ready to go home?" He panted.
"Out of shape," Amelia observed. "Poor Aidan defeated by the telescope tripod boss."
"I have a great body for a … I don't even know what year old I am." Aidan shrugged it off and then looked through the eyepiece. "Mmm. Interesting."
"What?" Amelia handed him a glass as he straightened.
"It appears to refract light, but there is some sort of focusing agent that needs adjusting to get anything but dark blue." He accepted the glass and toasted with her while she snickered.
"I bet taking the lens cap off would help as well." Amelia hmmed along with him.
"Excellent. Our prototype will be ready in three years." Aidan sighed and reached around taking the lens cap off.
"Hey if we find something what are we going to name it?" Amelia asked.
"How about, 'The Raven'," He suggested with a sly smile.
"Hahaha. If it's a comet? Raven's Comet." Amelia added, grinning.
"Blue star?" Aidan asked.
"Blue Raven." Amelia giggled.
"Planet?" Aidan demanded, looking horrified before he even heard her response.
"Planet Raven!" Amelia was laughing again. "Can you imagine when she shows up in the Far North? How many different Raven names can she make for ships before she just starts calling them Raven's Raven. Raven One. Raven Two. Cool Raven. Awesome Raven."
The rest of the night was spent in much that manner, them bumbling with coordinates and trying to get the lens focused to the right focal length, bumping heads once or twice as the wine kicked in. Amelia didn't regret that Future Amelia was going to be really mad at her.
We're all lucky in our way that this book wasn't named Raven's book.
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