oOoOo

Chapter Two

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Terry was lead down a flight of stairs and into another hallway. Looking around, he noted that it branched off on one end, and to his right was another flight of stairs, leading even further down. "What's down there?" he asked, pointing.

"A laboratory," Iris glanced at the stairs. "Do not go down there, the girl that uses it...dislikes being interrupted, and her work involves immense amounts of electricity."

Terry turned to the door. "... she's an electrician?"

Iris laughed. "No, she's a scientist. Electrical engineer. Quite brilliant, but as with all brilliant minds, she has her quirks."

There was a very loud, piercing yell from downstairs. Iris sighed as a girl rushed up and past them, hands on her head.

Her raven black hair was sticking up all over the place as she managed to run right into a wall. Iris winced as the girl slammed into the wood and fell onto her back, dazed.

"You...forgot that you were wearing the gloves again, didn't you?" the fae said, staring. The girl whimpered and nodded.

"So used to wearing them that I forgot about them," she said. Iris eyed Terry as he walked over to the girl and offered her a hand. The reaction he got surprised the young man as the girl went rigid, pushed herself to her feet, and shoved Terry away, hard, before running to Iris and hiding behind her.

Iris sighed. "It's all right, Terry is a new guild member. Zillas herself approved him. See? He has a can of her favourite brand of soda."

The black-haired, green eyed girl in the white lab coat over dark blue denim overalls, red shirt, and black sneakers peered around Iris, staring, wide-eyed, at Terry.

"...he's not a bad man?" she asked in a small voice.

"No, Nichola. Terry is a good man. Relax and go back to your laboratory for now, okay?"

Nichola peered at Terry again before turning and running back to her lab. Terry stared after her. "Um..."

"She had a very abusive father and elder brother. As a result, she's somewhat scared of men. The males in the guild are fine, she trusts them, but it's going to take some time for her to trust you. Don't take it personally," Iris said, and walked off. Terry cast one last glance at the stairs leading down into the laboratory before walking after the blonde.

"Who is she?" he asked. Iris shrugged.

"Ask her yourself. She might tell you, she might not."

oOoOo

The moment she walked into the cluttered, ordered chaos that was her laboratory, Nichola's metallic, gauntlet-like gloves began to recharge themselves. She barely took any notice as she took them off and picked up a hair brush, brushing down her hair.

"Huh, he had amber hair. Just like she does," she said to herself. "No, did. Did. She's not here anymore. Not...not one of us..."

She finished brushing her hair and put the gloves back on, putting her hands together and gathering electrical energy between them as she slowly pulled her hands apart. Around her, the Tesla coils reacted, electrical energy building up, ozone burning from the sheer amount of it all.

She held her hands up, the chaotic ball of artificial lightning between the gloves growing larger as it absorbed the power of the coils. Gritting her teeth, Nichola lowered the sphere and aimed it at the target on the far side of the room. Technically, it was insulated against electrical attacks, as it was based on the power armour used by one of their long-running rivals, the guild of monster hunters known as the Blood Ravens.

The sphere grew, and shot off in the form of a massive beam of plasma energy.

oOoOo

Terry staggered as an explosion rocked the building. Iris barely slowed her walk as they neared another open room.

"Oh dear, it seems that Nichola is working on something big again," the fae said without a care in the world. "I do hope she doesn't drain the generators again."

Terry stared at her. "Does that happen often?" he asked as the lights dimmed before getting bright again. "I mean, her experiments..."

Iris shrugged. "They're not usually so...explosive, but I understand that she is working on something for the guild. Ah, here we go... the main entertainment room."

Terry stopped and stared. It was a large room, with couches lined up in a semi-circle around a massive television screen. There were entertainment systems and video games, a huge surround sound system set up, and there was at least one person on a couch.

Fast asleep. "...wow." Terry blinked. "Just...how much space do you have in here?"

Iris shrugged. "Enough. Come, the kitchen is this way."

"Wait, who is that guy sleeping on the couch?" Terry asked as he followed Iris.

"That?" Iris shrugged. "That's Leon, second in command of the guild and the laziest person in the world."

Terry blinked. "...wait, second in...seriously? And he's just...sleeping?"

Iris shrugged. "He does that a lot. Come on, I'm sure you're hungry, and you'll want to put that can of soda in the refrigerator."

Terry's stomach growled, and he blushed. "Um, yes. Food would be nice. I was going to buy myself a snack earlier, but I was chased out of the store."

Iris blinked. "You were in Centren? That is one of the most intolerant cities on the continent. We don't even have a recruitment office there."

A pause. "Well, we used to, but it was attacked by fools and burned down. You see, this guild doesn't care about race, colour, or creed. We accept anybody that wishes to join for valid reasons. In fact, we had another amber haired person in our guild once."

She turned to him. "She left, though. A year ago. A shame, she and I were friends. Partners on many jobs."

Terry blinked. "Somebody with...amber hair? A girl?" he asked. "I've never met another person with hair like mine..."

Iris shrugged. "This is the kitchen," she said as she opened a door leading to a spacious kitchen. "Our chef is in too."

Terry walked into the kitchen, taking a deep breath. "Wow, it smells good in here. Oh, um...hi."

The chef was a girl in an apron over a cute pink dress. Blonde hair, brown eyes, hourglass figure. She was also currently blinking at Terry.

"Um, hello," she said in a soft voice. "I'm Misty. Are you...new?"

Terry's first thought was that the girl was just adorable, the way she averted her gaze and looked down at the same time. How she twirled a lock of her beautiful blonde hair around her finger as she spoke.

The girl was simply adorable. "I want to hug you," he said, forgetting to filter his words. Misty made a small 'eep' sound and lifted up her apron, hiding behind it. Iris laughed.

"She gets that reaction from everybody," she said. "She's the guild baby, really. We're all incredibly protective of her. She's only fifteen after all."

That explains her height, Terry thought. "So I take it she hasn't got a boyfriend?"

Iris seemed even more amused. "The refrigerator is over there," she said, pointing. "It's a walk-in."

Terry nodded and walked over to the refrigerator, pulling it open and blinking. "It's mostly soda," he said. Iris nodded.

"Yes, Zillas is a soda addict. Just put it anywhere."

Misty turned back to the stove, checking on the food. "I'm making the usual lunch spread today," she said. "I guess I'll have to make a bit more if we have a new member."

Terry walked up to Iris, glancing at Misty. "Is she a guild member too?" he asked. Iris shook her head.

"Her father is. She's just our chef...although she's good at fashion design too." Terry blinked, looking over at Misty as she cooked.

"So, she's...living here?" he asked. Another nod from Iris as Misty turned and nearly ran into Terry. With an adorable yelp she nearly fell. Terry caught her by reflex.

"Sorry about that," he said. "Are you okay?"

Misty blushed. "I'm fine, thank you. Um, I need to get some spices...excuse me..."

She hurried past him and went to the spice racks. Terry watched her. "She's very shy."

"Yes. Misty, would it be all right if Terry got a snack?"

Misty waved to them as she stared at the spices. Iris went to the smaller refrigerator in the corner and opened it. "Any allergies we should know of?"

"No," Terry said. "I prefer chicken to beef though."

He couldn't help but stare as Iris leaned into the refrigerator.

Then he noticed that Misty was too. "She is so hot," the girl said. Terry blinked and stared at her.

"Um..."

Misty blushed and hurried back to the stove with her spices, while Iris laughed, head still in the refrigerator.