Trading Spaces in the City that Blows

Summary: Vardians and Cirronians and Interior Designers, oh my...

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I don't own them, especially not the real people mentioned. I usually make a point not to use real people in fanfic, and I know the personalities portrayed are a little overblown, but I just couldn't resist

Spoilers: "What Lies Beneath" and the Pilot

Trading Spaces in the City that Blows

EXT SCENE: Paige Davis standing in front of the Watchfire bar

"Hi, I'm Paige Davis. Welcome to another episode of Trading Spaces, where two sets of friends redecorate each other's rooms in two days with only a thousand dollars to spend. Today's episode brings us to the Windy City and the Watchfire Bar."

INT SCENE: Paige, Amy, Doug, and Vern sitting at the bar

PAIGE (voiceover): "Now, as you can see, the Watchfire itself is not in need of our help, but proprietress Mel Porter is desperate to bring order to her cluttered guestroom."

INT SCENE: the war-room, where Mel and Cole are sitting next to each other

"Well, just look at it!" Mel muttered, throwing up her hands. "I mean, if he's going to be spending eighteen, twenty hours at a time in here working..." She trailed off helplessly, gesturing around. "I don't know how he does it."

Cole nodded. "It is functional," he admitted. "But not very inviting."

"It's so sterile," Mel agreed. "It needs some warm colors and paintings, maybe some wood shelving to replace this metal stuff..."

"Windows would be nice, too," Cole decided, warming up to the idea of having the room redone.

"Not sure they'll be able to pull that off in two days, Cole," Mel murmured.

"That's okay. I'm sure it will look very nice when they are done with it."

INT SCENE: the Vault, where Zin is talking quietly to a small, dark woman

PAIGE (voiceover): "Mel and Cole will be Trading Spaces today with Cole's old friend turned nemesis Zin whose subterranean prison is in desperate need of a few homey touches. We'll be springing him for a few days to work on Cole's room. Rounding out our foursome will be Zin's personal assistant Lana."

"I'm still not comfortable having you on camera, sir," Lana muttered, shaking her head.

"Would you relax, child?" Zin suggested, grinning at her. "It'll be nice to get out of the Vault for a few days..."

"Mmm," she agreed quietly. "I'm less interested in where you're getting out of than I am in where we will be going. This opportunity may well prove invaluable."

"Uh, you're supposed to be talking about what you want to see in the room," the cameraman said hesitantly.

"Oh, yes, of course!" Zin agreed, nodding. "Forgive me. One forgets one's social graces in such a place, yes? I would like to see... anything over this, quite honestly. I mean, I may come from a culture that places a certain value on Spartan and Ascetic ideals, but this carries things much too far for my taste. Where is a man meant to relax and plot revenge in a place like this?" he asked, shaking his head ruefully. "Honestly, I don't know what the architects were thinking..."

Lana nodded agreement, then stared at the cameraman. "That is enough. You will turn that off now."

INT SCENE: the bar, where Mel, Cole, Zin, and Lana stand with Paige. Mel is glaring daggers at Zin and Lana is sneering at everyone in the room except Zin.

Paige cleared her throat nervously. The little one looked capable of cold-blooded murder. "Okay, now you all know the rules, right? You have two days and a budget of one thousand dollars. And no trying to find out what's being done to the other person's room. Okay, ready? Let's trade spaces!"

INT SCENE: the Vault

Vern was staring thoughtfully at the ceiling when Mel and Cole entered. He continued staring at it for a few more moments before turning and smiling at them, extending his hand.

"Hi, I'm Vern. Nice to meet you both."

Mel and Cole murmured greetings and each shook hands with him.

"So, this... this is going to be a challenge," Vern told them honestly, shaking his head. "This is definitely going to be a challenge. I think I might have some ideas on where to go with this, but what were you hoping to see?"

"Zin's head on a pike would make a nice center-piece," Mel suggested quietly.

"Mel," Cole protested, shaking his head faintly. "I know you do not like him, but such violent sentiments only reduce you to his level," he murmured reprovingly, stroking her throat. "It is not befitting for a woman like you."

Vern grinned faintly. "You two been together long?" he asked.

Mel flushed and started stammering. "Oh, we aren't... Uh, I mean... I'm going to go see if Amy needs any help!" she managed, scurrying from the room.

"Sorry," Vern said softly, frowning in bemusement.

"Mel often turns that color and becomes flustered," Cole said simply, shrugging fatalistically. "She is not a calm woman." He smiled after her. "But she is always very beautiful," he added quietly.

"Okay..." Vern murmured, blinking and shaking his head. "So, what did you want to see happen with this room?"

"I would like it to be a place where Zin can be comfortable, somewhere that does not seem so immense and sterile."

"Okay, great. Sounds like we're on the same page." Vern smiled at Mel as she edged back into the room. "I was thinking maybe some carpeting, some paint or wallpaper to take that sterile edge off. Maybe some potted plants and a fountain..."

"That sounds very nice," Cole agreed. "Zin likes plants very much."

"Zin?" Mel whispered, raising an eyebrow.

"Good," Vern said, nodding. "And, of course, we'll need some furniture, maybe some bookshelves. It's an odd-shaped room, but I have some plans drawn out already..." He unrolled a sheet of paper, showing it to Mel and Cole. "I thought this pedestal over here in the center would be an ideal focal-point for the fountain..."

INT SCENE: the war-room

"My God what a dump," Doug whispered, shaking his head.

"I know," Zin agreed, entering with Lana on his heel.

Doug's face lit up as he saw the lovely young woman following Zin. "So, you must be Zin and Lana," he greeted them, moving to stand next to them. Draping an arm around Lana's shoulder, he asked, "So what's your vision for this room?"

Lana's head shot up and she regarded him coldly. "Did I give you permission to touch me?"

"Uh..." Doug stared down at her with wide eyes for a moment, stunned by the menace exuding from this tiny creature. Slowly, he withdrew his arm. Clearing his throat nervously, he said, "So, as I was saying, this room's a real mess..."

"Tell me about it," Zin agreed. "For a Cirronian, the boy has no sense of the esthetic."

"What's a Cirronian?" Doug asked blankly.

"Lana, kindly explain."

"A Cirronian is a sentient, non-terrestrial life-form composed of very densely-packed particles of a substance roughly analogous to light, generally defined by the abilities to shape-shift, heal, and manipulate time within his immediate sphere," she informed him with obvious contempt.

Doug frowned slightly. "I see..."

"No you don't. You don't even pretend to credibly."

"Lana, be civil," Zin ordered in a gentle tone.

"As you command," she murmured, bowing her head.

"Shall we begin, then?" Zin asked.

"Uh, right!" Doug nodded quickly. "Well, what would you like to see in this room?"

"Mmm, how about a large explosive charge that detonates whenever there's a Cirronian in its vicinity?" Lana suggested.

"Lana!" Zin chuckled, shaking his head. "The room needs some color," he told Doug. "Cirronians are very fond of warm colors. Reds, oranges, things of that nature."

"Huh," Doug murmured. "Now, you see, what I was thinking for this room was something a little different. Earth tones. Browns and tans."

Lana's lack of anything resembling a smile became more pronounced. "Did the Doctor not speak loudly enough for your inferior auditory equipment?" she asked levelly. "He specifically stated that Cirronians are fond of warm colors."

"Yeah, but..."

"There will be no buts," Lana informed him flatly. "You will comply with the will of the Doctor or you will suffer the consequences."

"Hey!" Doug protested, glaring at her. "Try to remember who the expert is here!"

"Expert in what?" Lana scoffed, shaking her head. "How to apply paint without leaving bubbles? Doctor Zin is your superior in every way, up to and including the fact that he actually knows the Cirronian fanatic. You would do well to remember your place."

Doug glared at the cameraman. "Where's Paige? I don't have to put up with this from some guest's little wh--" He stopped in mid-sentence, clutching his throat and gasping for air.

"Lana," Zin murmured, shaking his head.

Lana ignored him and walked over to Doug. "I find your lack of faith disturbing," she informed him in a low voice. "Doctor Zin said warm colors. Do we understand each other?"

Doug gave a frantic nod.

"Good." Lana smiled. "Warm colors it is, then."

His knees buckled and he hit the floor, rubbing his throat and panting. "I think we can work some warmth into my plans," he said in a shaky voice. "Let's uh... Let's go ahead and clear the room out, then."

"Very well," Lana murmured.

Doug let out a startled yelp as a large bookshelf lurched and started dragging itself towards the door. "I'll just go see about getting the new paint then!" he said quickly, darting from the room.

Zin chuckled and shook his head. "I told you you'd enjoy yourself..."

"How wrong of me to doubt you," Lana murmured, picking up a small, metallic sphere. "Well, well, well, if it isn't the artificial Hyperspeed field generator prototype you... misplaced."

"Ah, so it is," Zin agreed, smiling widely and patting her on the shoulder as she pocketed it. "You've got sharp eyes, child. Are any of these other things I've... lent to Cole recently?"

"Hmm, let's see," she murmured, picking through the equipment on one shelf. She looked up abruptly, frowning at the cameraman. "We are just emptying the room. You should not waste film on such a tedious activity. Turn it off and go!"

INT SCENE: the Vault, where Cole and Vern are doing Tai Chi together

"Ah, there's nothing like starting a design session with a little Tai Chi," Vern sighed happily. "Normally we're too busy moving out furniture."

"It is very relaxing," Cole agreed. "Mel, you should try this."

"No thanks. I'm not that coordinated."

"It's actually pretty easy," Vern assured her. "Of course, maybe we should get to work?"

"Sounds good," Mel said, smiling at him.

"Okay, our major problem down here is we have all this empty space that just creates this impression of a vast, cavernous... well, I guess it is a vast cavern, which is the problem. We need to make it homier. Now, Cole tells me that Vardian society is organized along an Indian caste-system, so I was thinking we'd go with an Eastern theme, area rugs, some throw pillows, drapes hanging from the walls. They'll make the ceiling appear lower as well if we hang them right."

"I think Zin would feel very much at home in such a room," Cole said.

"Great." Vern nodded. "Now, we do have a problem in that we're starting completely from scratch, but I got a great deal on throw pillows and area rugs and on our fabrics, so with Amy building our furniture, we should be able to come in under budget. So, we should probably get started on the drapes. Do either of you sew?"

"I do, and Cole's a really fast learner," Mel told him.

"Wonderful. With three of us working on them, we should be able to finish in no time." Vern left the Vault and quickly returned with several bolts of fabric in tow. "Now, I went with these dark, rich colors to help offset the sterility of the room itself, and we'll be hanging them from the walls like this," he said, pulling out his pad and quickly sketching, "to create the feel of one of those great oriental tents you see. It'll cut down on the amount of usable space, but that isn't really a concern in a room this large. Area rugs and throw pillows, along with a few low pieces of furniture will complete the picture. We'll add a large fountain and the plants to give a more subtropical feel to the room and it'll really be like a slice of the East."

"Sounds nice," Mel said, nodding. "Nicer than Zin deserves, really."

"So I'm guessing Zin is Cole's friend?" Vern ventured.

"Actually, he's my nemesis," Cole explained easily. At Vern's raised eyebrow he added, "But we were quite close until he killed Mel."

"Until he..." Vern gave a bemused shake of his head and glanced at Mel. "I see."

"Oh, Cole resurrected me," she explained. "It's a Cirronian thing. Useful."

"I'll bet," he agreed, nodding. "Uh, okay... Let's get started on these drapes."

INT SCENE: the war-room, where Zin and Lana are sprawled across several pillows on the floor, sipping brandy from snifters and going over a spreadsheet

Doug walked into the room, frowning as he saw them. "Well, come on, people. Those walls aren't going to paint... themselves," he finished as he realized that the walls seemed to be doing just that. Two rollers were spreading red paint across the wall without anyone or anything seeming to guide them. "Hey, the red is just for accents!" he protested.

"There's been a change of plan," Lana informed him sweetly before returning her attention to Zin. "So, you'll see that third quarter earnings are up only marginally from the second, which--"

"You can't do that!" Doug protested.

"I have," Lana answered mildly. "Up only marginally from the second, which has had a significant impact on the rate of progress for our overseas operation," she continued as if she had not been interrupted, sipping at her drink.

"Are you listening to me?" Doug demanded.

"Well, I'm trying not to," Lana replied, smiling innocently up at him and rising. "But you really are a hard man to ignore."

"Lana, be civil," Zin reminded her mildly.

"Of course, Doctor." She inclined her head faintly towards him before returning her attention to Doug and smiling up at him. "After deliberation, Doctor Zin and myself decided that it would be best to deviate slightly from the original plans. You seem a reasonable man, I'm sure you will be able to see the wisdom of these changes."

Doug smiled faintly at her, nodding. "Well, it's not like guests aren't supposed to have any input into the room," he told her, resting one hand lightly on her shoulder. "There's no reason why we can't discuss this."

"You're doing it again, human," Lana pointed out, her friendly expression instantly replaced by a cold one.

Doug winced and immediately withdrew his hand.

Lana shook her head in contempt. "You are not needed here at present; we have things well in hand. You may go."

He bristled, opened his mouth, saw the glint in Lana's eye, turned on his heel, and stalked off.

"What an annoying creature," Zin said softly, shaking his head. "Frank is so much more amiable. Lana, do you think you could arrange for Douglas to have urgent business elsewhere for the rest of the shoot?"

Lana's smile turned sweet again. "I'm sure something can be arranged. If you don't mind, sir, I'll just go see if Amy needs any help on the shelving units..."

"You do that, dear," he said, raising his glass to her as she left. Draining and refilling it, he smiled up at the cameraman. "Good help may be hard to find, but it is certainly worth the effort once you have. Wouldn't you agree?"

"Uh, did you just... put a hit out on Doug?" the cameraman asked uneasily.

Zin laughed, shaking his head. "My dear fellow, what sort of man do you take me for? Respectable scientific professionals do not order assassinations!" he chuckled, shaking his head. "They delegate the task of ordering them to their subordinates. Care for some of this brandy? It really is quite good..."

INT SCENE: Watchfire bar, where Paige is standing talking into a cell-phone

"Yeah, okay. Thanks. No, thanks. Great. Thank you." Hanging up the phone and inhaling deeply, she turned towards the camera, gesturing for him to start rolling and putting on her game-face. "Well, our crew at the hospital tells us that Doug should regain consciousness any day now. In the meantime, we've called in Kia to sub for him. She'll be taking over the task of helping Zin and Lana transform Cole's cluttered war-room into an efficient workspace."

"And cut," the cameraman called.

"Thank God this is a bar because I need a drink," Paige muttered, shaking her head and sitting down.

"And they do both have alibis?" the Detective investigating the scene of Doug's 'accident' asked.

Paige nodded. "Yeah. Zin was upstairs painting and Lana was out back with Amy and Doug. The entire carpentry crew saw it. She was nowhere near him. He just kind of... fell over." She shook her head.

"Okay, ma'am. Well, I think we can safely declare this an accident. We won't keep you from your shoot any longer."

"Thanks. Have a nice day." Sighing, Paige turned to the barmaid. "Something strong, please."

INT SCENE: war-room, where Zin and Lana are arguing with Kia

"Paisley borders?" Lana demanded. "In a man's office?"

"Purple is not a warm color," Zin added, shaking his head. "Besides, you want us to repaint the entire room at this phase?"

"Untenable," Lana told her.

"Look, I'm sure we can come to some sort of compromise," Kia began in a mollifying tone.

"Doctor Zin does not compromise," Lana informed her quietly, her voice cold. "Doctor Zin is a man who gets what he wants and, in this case, what Doctor Zin wants is warm colors and dark woods."

"Well, we can't get dark woods because Doug shot the entire budget on brown paint," Kia told her. "We'll be lucky to pull my design off on the money we have left."

"Listen to me, Kia," Zin said quietly. "I am a very well-traveled man and I can assure that 'purple and green with paisley borders' is an esthetic no-no on any planet..."

Kia sighed and shook her head. "Fine, no purple walls. We can use the green as an accent color--"

"The room will look like a Christmas card exploded," Lana interrupted, shaking her head. "No green." Pausing, she added firmly, "And no paisley."

"Look, if you would just give my vision a chance..."

"No chances," Lana said softly, shaking her head. Her voice and expression took on a hard edge as she frowned up at Kia. "You will submit to Doctor Zin's will or you will face the consequences of your refusal. Doctor Zin is not a man who likes to be crossed. Doctor Lana is not a woman who likes to watch Doctor Zin being crossed. Do we understand each other, Kia?"

INT SCENE: barroom, where Paige is starting to look quite frazzled

"Well, Kia and Zin's team have agreed to disagree, so taking over the transformation of Mel's guestroom will be Frank." She looked up at the cameraman. "You can cut. No, seriously, turn it off now. I'll add the voiceover junk later. Right now I just need to find a dark room to lie down in for a few hours..."

INT SCENE: the Vault, which now looks like a large tent from an eastern bazaar

"Wow, you guys did great on your homework!" Vern exclaimed, looking around with an approving smile. "Don't you sleep?"

"Cole doesn't." She grinned at Vern's bemused look. "This is coming together nicely, isn't it?" she asked, looking around and nodding to herself. "How much do you normally charge, Vern, because I've been wanting to redo my bedroom..."

"We'll work something out after the show," he promised. "You guys are fun to work with, and Cole's got Feng Shui down to a science."

"Where he comes from, I think it is a science," Mel chuckled, shaking her head. "I heard Doug had some kind of accident?" she added, frowning in concern.

"Yeah. He was outside with the carpenters and I guess he got dizzy or something, because the next thing anyone knew, he was on the ground. Hit his head pretty hard, I guess."

"That's too bad."

He nodded. "Paige says he's stable, though. Should be able to return the show in no time."

"That's great. So, what happened with Zin and Lana?"

"Oh, I guess they scrambled to get one of the other designers out here. I thought it was supposed to be Kia, but I saw Frank talking to Amy, so I guess I was wrong." He shrugged. "So, let's go help Cole bring the plants down."

INT SCENE: war-room, where Frank is standing with his hands on his hips staring thoughtfully at the red walls

"This is perfect!" he announced cheerfully, nodding. "In a room with any natural light at all, it would probably be just a little too intense, but it's got a nice, warm feel to it as it is. Now, Amy's almost done with the shelving. You mentioned that you wanted dark wood?"

"That's right," Lana agreed quietly, regarding him uncertainly. Had they actually struck upon an agreeable one? "Doctor Zin wants warm colors and dark woods."

"Okay, well, obviously, the dark wood's going to be a little bit of a problem at this point, but I think we can use the brown paint we have left over from the original design and use it as a wash, kind of a modified stain, to give the wood a darker appearance."

"Splendid!" Zin said, smiling widely at him. "You always were my favorite designer on the show."

"Oh, really?" Frank grinned at him. "Well, thank you, Zin. Okay, if you want to go see if Amy needs any help, I'll start experimenting with that paint and see what kind of finish we can come up with!" With these words and a cheerful wave, he bounded from the room.

"You're right, Zin," Lana said quietly. "He is more amiable than Doug..."

"He most certainly is. More brandy?"

"Please."

EXT SCENE: the carpentry tent, where Zin and Amy are working next to each other at the table saw, Lana glaring at them

"Doctor Zin, such menial labor is beneath a man of your standing!" Lana protested.

"Oh, hush, child!" Zin chided gently, grinning at the lovely human carpenter. "This is oddly soothing." Glancing around at Lana, he grinned and added, "On many levels. So, Miss Pastor, have you been in this line of work long? It hardly seems the logical choice for such a lovely and obviously astute young woman as yourself."

Lana rolled her eyes as Zin worked his magic. Human females were seldom immune, and this one, judging by the smile she was giving Zin, was no exception.

"Lana, dear. Come try this!" Zin suggested. "Just ask Miss--"

"Amy," she reminded him, touching his arm and leaning forward slightly. "You should try this, Lana. It's really very liberating."

"Liberating, is it?" Lana asked, narrowing her eyes. "And how is that?"

"Just try it," Amy suggested.

"Now, please, dear," Zin added mildly. "Amy and I have some... design specifications to discuss."

"Ah. I understand, Doctor." She inclined her head and approached the saw as Zin steered Amy off. After a few cuts, she decided that Zin had been right. There was something obscurely soothing in this act of constructive destruction...

INT SCENE: the barroom

Paige smiled into the camera, her expression relieved. "Well, after two crazy days, we're finally ready for the reveal. Will Cole like his new..." She paused, frowning faintly. "How would you describe the room?"

"Dunno." The cameraman shrugged. "Kind of reminds me of my grandfather's study when I was a kid..."

"Old-world study, that works." She nodded and started again. "Will Cole like his new, old-world study? Will Zin feel at home in his subterranean tent or find it just bazaar? We'll find out after these messages from our sponsors."

"And cut."

She sighed and nodded. "Okay. Let's get this over with," she said, rubbing her forehead. "D-- Uh, Frank, are you ready?"

"Yeah, Paige," he agreed cheerfully. "After you," he added, gesturing for her to precede him up the stairs.

"Hey, this is nice," Paige said, looking around the room.

The walls were a rich red color, and the muted brown of the desks and shelving complimented it perfectly. It really did have the feel of an old-world study, except for the profusion of unidentifiable computer equipment. Of course, Frank had artfully concealed most of that, so the room definitely looked less like a Radio Shack had exploded inside of it.

"Okay, ready when you are," the cameraman announced after a moment.

Paige nodded and turned to face Frank slightly. "Frank, this room is amazing."

"Well, thank you, Paige. I have to admit, I was a little worried at first, coming in half-way through the build like I did, but I think I managed to pull things together nicely. Zin and Lana have been great. They really wanted this room to be perfect for their friend."

"Great. Well, let's see what Cole and Mel think," she said, too worn-out and on-edge to come up with any witty phrases. She could always dub them in later. When the cameraman had announced 'cut', she looked at Frank again. "You know, those two really didn't strike me as the type to have many friends. Especially not friends as laid-back as Cole seems to be..."

"Oh, yeah, you can tell they're really close by the way they're always joking around about him. Lana has the cutest little nickname for him, calls him 'the fanatic'..."

INT SCENE: the war-room, where Paige is standing between Mel and Cole who have their eyes closed

"Nervous?" Paige asked, grinning at them.

"Well, nothing's blown up yet, which I take as a promising sign," Mel answered.

Paige laughed and shook her head. "What about you, Cole?"

"I'm sure it will be very nice," he answered placidly.

Paige shrugged. She was used to guests being a little more nervous. "Well, open your eyes!"

"Oh, wow," Mel said softly, looking around. "It's actually nice..."

Paige gave a faintly bemused smile and glanced at Cole, who was looking around the room with a wide smile. "Well?" she prompted when it became clear that he was not going to speak.

"It is very nice," Cole answered, smiling down at her for a moment before returning his silent appreciation of the room.

Paige waited for a few more moments, frowning faintly. "He always so quiet?"

"Pretty much," Mel said, shrugging. "He likes it, though."

"How can you tell?"

"You just kind of can." She shrugged again.

"Oh... Well, let's go see what Zin thinks of his room."

INT SCENE: the Vault, where Paige is sitting with Vern

"Thank God that's over, huh?" Paige asked Vern, glancing around the room with its delicate draperies, throw pillows, low couch, and plants everywhere.

"Actually, I really enjoyed it. It's nice to have a team so in-tune with me. I'm doing Mel's bedroom for her next."

"Huh." Paige shrugged. To each his own, she guessed, and Cole and Mel were definitely more agreeable than Zin and Lana. And a lot less frightening to be alone with...

"Okay, ready when you are," the cameraman announced.

Paige nodded and turned to Vern. "Vern, this has got to be the most absolute transformation you've ever made. I don't even recognize the room any more."

"Which in the case of this particular room is a good thing," Vern answered with a smile. "I thought it was going to be a real challenge, but it was nice to have a completely blank slate to work from for a change." He looked around again for a moment before nodding. "I'm happy with how this room turned out. I like it."

"Well, let's see if Zin can say the same," Paige said, swallowing hard.

INT SCENE: the Vault, where Zin and Lana are standing with Paige with their eyes closed. Lana looks disgusted with the whole process and has her arms folded over her chest instead of holding Paige's hand as guest's traditionally do

"Okay, Zin, are you ready to see your new room?" Paige asked, glancing uneasily at Lana.

"Well, anything's bound to be an improvement over what this place did look like, but I must confess myself curious to see what the boy came up with for me."

"Other than a subterranean prison, he means," Lana contributed quietly.

"Lana," Zin chastised her, shaking his head. "He really had no choice, Paige," he explained. "It was my life or his. And that of everyone on the planet," he added as an afterthought.

Paige glanced sideways at him with wide eyes, freeing her hand from his and taking a step away.

"Can we get this over with?" Lana demanded, tapping her foot restlessly on the floor. "I have work to do: a business to run, trade negotiations to attend, a rescue operation to coordinate..."

"All work and no play, Lana," Zin murmured, shaking his head faintly.

"Yeah," Paige said, clearing her throat. "So, let's see your new room. Open you eyes," she said, wincing as they did.

"Huh," Lana said softly, glancing around. "Not bad for a Cirronian fanatic and a pack of talking monkeys..."

"It's lovely," Zin told Paige, smiling faintly. "I think I shall almost be sorry when Lana manages to free me. It reminds me of my bedroom at my estate in Kashta. Don't you think so, Lana?"

"You approve then?" she asked, nodding faintly. "I'll see to it that the human responsible is contracted to decorate your estates on this planet."

Paige winced. Poor Vern.

"You do that, Lana," Zin told her, smiling and dropping onto the low couch with a contented sigh. "All that's missing is the sound of children playing outside," he told Paige. "It's lovely. Are Daggon and his pet about? I really need to thank them."

"I'll get the knives," Lana murmured.

"Child!" Zin snapped, raising one hand. "Behave yourself," he ordered. "This is supposed to be fun."

"Of course, sir," Lana said, bowing her head. "But if you'll just excuse me, I really should get back to work. I have several thousand equations to recheck before I can execute your rescue."

Zin sighed and nodded, making a shooing gesture with both hands. "Off with you, then. Go," he directed, shaking his head. "All work and no play, that one," he told Paige with a helpless shrug.

"Uh, yeah..." she murmured, taking a backwards step towards the Vault door.

"Oh, would you relax?" Zin chuckled, shaking his head. "I don't bite. Not without an invitation, at least..." Grinning up at her, he asked, "May I see them, now?"

"Uh, you bet." Paige nodded quickly and made a frantic gesture off-camera.

"Ah, there he is!" Zin said cheerfully, rising as Cole half-drug Mel into the Vault. "Daggon, my boy, Miss Porter, dear, you have outdone yourselves. I stand impressed."

"Uh, thanks," Mel said quietly, edging towards the door.

Cole absently reached out and caught her arm, stalling her progress. "My room is very nice as well, Zin. Thank you."

"You're welcome, boy. It was a pleasure to do. Frank was a delightful fellow to work with." He smiled and glanced around. "Did you have fun? This really is lovely. Feel free to visit any time. Bring a chess-board, we'll make an afternoon of it."

Mel shook her head faintly. "Uh, right. That'll happen. When hell freezes over."

Zin chuckled. "You really do need to explain the nature of our nemesisiocity to her some time, boy. She seems to think we should hate each other for some reason..." He shook his head.

"Well, shouldn't you?" Paige asked, frowning. "I mean, being nemeses and all?"

Mel just shook her head. "Don't even try to understand them. You'll just give yourself a headache."

"Mel, do we have to reseal the Vault right away?" Cole asked, looking up from his quiet conversation with Zin. "Can't we wait a few hours?"

"I promise to have him home by curfew," Zin added with a faint smile.

Mel sighed and shook her head again. "Why not? Paige, offer you a drink?"

"I'd kill for one."

"Lana did that once," Zin contributed.

"Like right now would be good," Paige whispered to Mel, backing towards the door. "For Vern, Doug, Kia, Frank, and Amy, this has been another episode of Trading Spaces. See you next time," she said quickly over her shoulder as the two women fled the room.

The End