The four of them had eventually settled on a game called Star Tycoon to play until they were tired enough to close their eyes.
“Come on, Isamura, it’s your turn.”
“Indeed it is. I’m thinking.”
Tegan laughed. ”Thinking how to use your considerable wealth, I bet.”
“I was considering building a healing centre at each one of these outposts.”
Erica narrowed her eyes as she considered the state of play, particularly the three outposts labelled in red, owned by Isamura. ”I see what you’re doing there. If we stop at one of those outposts with an illness you get to charge us more credits for curing it. Very crafty.”
“There’s nothing crafty about it,” Isamura said with a shrug. ”Do you want to crawl around the board with one dice roll for movement because there isn’t any healing available?”
“No, I suppose not.” Erica tapped her fingers on the board impatiently as Isamura set up the healing centres and paid the credits for them. ”So what’s your motivation for having them then?”
“It is surprisingly simple. If you move further each turn then you reach the start square and collect your earnings sooner. And then you can pay them to me when you stop at one of my outposts.”
“You’ve created a monster, Caroline,” said Erica.
“It was you who suggested that we play Star Tycoon, I just explained the rules.”
“But you’ve been whispering in her ear the whole time!”
“I wasn’t helping her out, if that’s what you were implying,” Caroline said defensively.
Erica raised an eyebrow and turned her gaze on Isamura. “What’s she been saying then?”
“Actually she was saying to watch you two closely for signs of sneaky co-operation.”
“But we haven’t been whispering at all,” Erica insisted.
“That’s what Caroline was warning me about. You two have an unspoken bond,” Isamura said.
“Can we get back to the game?” Tegan asked.
Caroline looked around at them. “It’s my turn, isn’t it?”
“All night,” Erica said, referring to both how long it took for Caroline to realise it was her turn to play, and for her to take her turns.
Caroline set up some new facilities on her outposts, which would increase her income and have other useful effects. On the board, this simply meant placing coloured blocks.
As the game progressed Erica and Tegan traded in some of their armoury and factory buildings for research labs. Their moves ended on outposts under Caroline’s control, but neither of them had any buildings so they paid only a basic landing fee.
Isamura spent a fair amount upgrading her outposts. The others looked worried at this obvious build-up then they smirked as Isamura’s move landed her on one of Tegan’s prime outposts.
“It seems I have just enough to cover the landing fee,” Isamura said, handing over the credit slips with a smile.
Caroline and Erica took their turns, each of them coming into some fortune for a change instead of having to pay an exorbitant landing fee.
Tegan was not so lucky. Her move ended on one of Erica’s most expensive outposts.
“Damn it. Easy come, easy go.” She handed over her slips to Erica.
“That’s just how the game goes,” Erica said with a smile, accepting the landing fee.
As soon as Erica had the credit slips in her hand, she slumped back heavily in her seat, head rolling a little to the side, her eyes closed.
“Erica?” Tegan poked the engineer in the side, but she didn’t stir. “I think that’s her until nightfall.”
Right after those words left her mouth, Tegan’s eyes fluttered closed and she fell asleep as well.
Caroline turned around and stared at Isamura. “What’s going on?”
“It seems as though we’re being influenced by some sort of spell.”
Sighing in frustration, and beginning to feel to effects of this sleep-inducing spell, Caroline asked, “Can you counteract it?”
“One moment.” Isamura chanted the words to a general warding spell, bathing herself and Caroline in a faint purple glow, which faded from view as it took effect.
“That should hold until I can determine exactly what’s causing it,” she explained as Caroline felt the sleepiness recede.
“Who could be responsible for casting such a spell?”
Not orcs. Not their style, sending people to sleep. No, there’s someone or something else at work here,” Isamura said thoughtfully. She rose to her feet and chanted a simple detection spell, which stained the air a nebulous pink as it emanated from her fingertips.
“Ah, there we are. It’s a magical field designed to send people to sleep. Very powerful, I don’t think anyone at the centre of the field could resist the effects. But we’re at the very edge of the field, so it was just weak enough for us to not be affected immediately.”
“So how are we supposed to get closer?”
“I can cast a spell to ward off the effects of the magical field,” Isamura explained, “but I can’t possibly keep all of your companions awake long enough to neutralise the source.”
Isamura stepped out of the shuttle, getting a good look at the extent of the field, which extended outward from the town of Dezhac. “It looks like the centre of the field, the place where it is being projected from, is within the town walls.”
“How can we fight someone like that, if they’re so powerful?”
Isamura mused out loud, “A spell of this magnitude is very taxing. Which causes me to wonder why it is necessary in the first place. What purpose could it possibly serve? Hopefully, if it is a person or creature behind this, we can take them by surprise and disrupt the spell.”
“Hopefully? You mean maybe.”
“Maybe we’ll get close enough before the spell completely overwhelms us, yes. Of course, if you like we could just retreat from the magical field and leave the town at their mercy.”
“No. It’s not a coincidence that this magic suddenly appears and prevents us from returning to the town. Someone is keeping us away from it, and they know why we came here.”
“So who will you wake, to take with us? I can ward just us two and four others.”
“I suppose we should leave Erica and Dr. Macaude here. Tegan and some of the security detail will be our best bet, I think.”
Isamura cast her warding spell on Caroline, Tegan and herself before venturing out of the shuttle to find the others.
“What… what happened?” Tegan asked, rousing with a yawn and looking at Erica, who was still sleeping soundly.
“We were whammied by some kind of powerful magical spell coming from the town,” Caroline explained. “We’re going to head back there and put a stop to it.”
“So what’s the plan then?”.
“I’ll fly the shuttle in to the town square, we go on foot from there and get in close very quickly, take out the spell caster and that’s it – mission accomplished.”
“And if you fall asleep while you’re flying?”
“I’m not going to fall asleep. Isamura’s put a warding spell on us.”
Isamura returned shortly with the rest of the team and the unconscious doctor. Tegan strapped him into his seat along with Erica.
“All right. New plan everyone. Assuming this sleep field affects everyone in town apart from whoever’s casting it, we’ll fly in right now and deal with them. Everyone check your weapons and get ready to deploy on my mark.”