Bad Weather
A Round Robin Collaboration/Battle between DNash and Zakiyah

Round 2 - Zakiyah
Rating: PG

Another step, and Veronica lost her footing entirely. She fell forward, unable to stop herself from sprawling full-length in the gooey morass that had once been solid ground. Groaning, she pushed herself up, shivering as cold mud oozed inside her leather top and squelched beneath her boots. "Ned!" she shouted again. "Why canít you ever stay close when I tell you to?" she muttered to herself.

After what seemed an endless time of fruitless shouting and searching, Veronica had to admit to herself that Malone was nowhere nearby. She backtracked to the last place theyíd stopped, but by the time she got there, the storm had erased any trace of their original trail. Shivering violently and knowing the storm was only going to get worse, Veronica knew she had no choice but to keep on going towards the treehouse and hope Malone had made it there on his own.

If youíre there Ned, Iím going to wring your neck for scaring me like this, she thought grimly to herself as she hurried through the dripping jungle, keeping a sharp lookout for any sign of the missing reporter. Please be there!

*****

Malone opened his eyes briefly, struggling to return to consciousness. It wasnít something the reporter was very good at, and he only caught a glimpse of people in brightly colored clothes and the flicker of firelight before his vision blurred too much to make anything out. That almost looks like… The thought was lost as unconsciousness claimed him once again.

*****

Roxton was in his room changing out of his wet clothes when he heard the rumble of the elevator. He sighed in relief, an unconscious tension draining away from his tired muscles. Theyíre back. Theyíre safe. Scrubbing his hair and bare skin vigorously with the towel Marguerite had given him, he didnít hear the heiress stomp past his room on the way to the common area.

"About time. I bet youíre a dripping mess, too, just like the others," Marguerite snapped as she appeared in the main room, two more towels already in hand. She stopped short as she saw Veronica, alone, covered with mud, shivering in the elevator. Overcoming her surprise, she quickly hurried forward, all her irritation replaced by concern. "Veronica! What happened? Whereís Malone?" She quickly flung one of the towels around her shaking friend.

"Malone? H-heís not h-here?" Veronica stuttered, her teeth chattering with cold.

"No, I thought he was with you," Marguerite replied, helping the other woman into the common room. Veronica was clearly exhausted. She guided her friend down onto one of the makeshift sofas, not caring about the mud and the mess sheíd have to clean up later.

"W-we got separated in the st-storm," Veronica said miserably. "I c-couldnít f-find him…hoped h-heíd made it h-here…"

"No, heís not here, but Iím sure heís holed up someplace safe," Marguerite lied convincingly, trying to comfort Veronica. Privately, the heiress had a healthy respect for Maloneís ability to get himself in trouble, and she was certain that he hadnít lost his knack.

Veronica tried to struggle to her feet. "I h-have to keep looking. Itís m-my fault."

Marguerite snorted and kept Veronica seated with the pressure from one hand. "Hardly. You and Roxton always take entirely too much on your shoulders. Malone got himself lost, and you certainly didnít conjure the weather."

"B-but…"

"No one could find anyone in this weather anyway," Marguerite pointed out. Seeing the look on Veronicaís face, she sighed in exasperation. "All right. You stay here and get warm before you catch your death. Iíll go down to the perimeter and have a look around, just in case Malone forgot how to open the gate or something."

"You sh-shouldnít go al-alone," Veronica protested.

Marguerite gave her a sardonic look as she grabbed her hat and rifle from the pegs by the elevator. "Donít worry, I have more sense than to go wandering off into the storm."

"R-Roxton Ė "

At the sound of the hunterís name, the heiressís lips tightened briefly and her eyes flashed with repressed temper. She gave Veronica a determined smile. "I hardly need his help for this. Iím sure heíll want to go charging off as soon as you tell him about it, but heís soaked to the skin just like you. Try to be sensible when you tell him. Now get dry." With a last cynical tilt of her eyebrows, Marguerite stepped into the elevator and sent it downwards.

"Marguerite!" Veronica called after her, but it was too late. The heiress disappeared from view.

*****

Continued in Round 3
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