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12: Hot Air Balloon Pilot

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"Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship."

~ Omar N. Bradley

~**~~**~

V.C. twisted on her heel to see Jack standing behind her with thunderous eyes.

Luckily, he waited until they were out of earshot of the dumpy guard before he unleashed his wrath.

How thoughtful of him.

"What. Did. I. Tell. You? Sit quietly and observe! No shenanigans! "

Offhandedly, she rebutted his remark, "Calm down, it was a single shenanigan."

When that didn't alleviate the frustration emanating off of Jack, she frowned and continued,"I said that I'd be as quiet as a nun. But I don't make a habit of visiting nunneries or abbies so I really didn't have anything to base it off of. Do you see how that could be a problem? And I think it's more the monks that take a vow of silence."

Fire leaked from Jack's eyes as he bore his gaze into her forehead.

Better wrap this up before he pops a cog.

"So, it really just boils down to communication. We've really gotta work on that"

"You're joking, aren't you?! This has to be a joke. . ." His hand shot to his head, pulling his silky strands. It looked like he was trying to convince himself that this was reality, not a dream.

He had been doing that a lot lately.

V.C. wondered why.

To save him the trouble of an existential crisis, she pinched his bicep.

Hard.

"Just in case you thought you were dreaming," She explained, giving him a smile.

Instead of thanking her for her kind gesture, he placed his hands on his hips and stared at the ceiling, blowing a puff of hot air out of his mouth.

"Hey," V.C. joked, jabbing an elbow into the Commander's gut. "If this detective gig falls through, you could always pilot an air balloon. You've got enough hot air for it."

"I don't even know why I bother." Jack shook his head regretfully and stomped down the hallway. V.C. had to jog to keep up with his long, angry strides.

"Wait, wait, I'm sorry, okay? That was on me. But it wasn't a complete waste. I mean, we did get some info."

Jack whirled around mid-step. "What do you mean? Besides the fact that Emblem gave her jewelry. Crazy, it's almost like they were married." He pretended to think, a single finger resting on his sculpted chin. "Oh, wait, they were!"

"Alright, Chandler Bing, cool it with the sarcasm. I did that to get her to loosen up. People drop their defenses when complimented. Even if it's only for a second. And the metal piece we- " She revised her statement after a look from Jack."You found in her house was the same shape and style. The question is: what was Mateo doing buying pure rhodium ore earrings? It's very rare."

Raising his eyebrows, she watched as Jack's features smoothed from irritation into intrigue. "How rare?"

"Well. Most jewelry isn't pure. Jewelers use a technique called electroplating. It's the common process of using a salt bridge to add a cover of a rarer metal over a cheaper one, most times iron."

She caught sight of Jack's glazed eyes and explained."Like how the U.S. Treasury started to mint pennies in 1982. Most pennies are just made of zinc now, only covered with a thin layer of copper. He must have had to custom order themor buy them from a town that specializes in rhodium."

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