1964-10-06 - Astra I: Army of Kings
Summary: Nick and Corvus follow up on Triton's mission to send them down to Penglai (XORRAR-15) to see what they can see see see…
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nick corvus hala 

…. 04:42 local time ….
…. South China Sea ….

A glowing sight off the submerged ruin of Penglai announces the presence of US naval might, a destroyer patrolling seas hostile to American interests. Darkness provides protection and cover to the sailors and airmen trying to rest before another hectic day. Nightfall halts the Viet Cong from launching patrol boats very easily, taunted by the shining city off their shores. Chinese and Soviet-installed radar bases helplessly watch, scouring what they can through seas wracked to storm.

It's typhoon season here, and the weather gods are apparently bitterly angry anyone dares to upset the islands created by mythical Dragons of Heaven who descended to spare Vietnam from another foreign invasion in ancient times. It's miserable to be on a small craft, even one able to go under the waves. The huge swells and turbid water makes descent hard and if you get seasick, well, vomit away.

Penglai is down there under its cap of coral, for the most part, an eerie world lit up somewhat disturbingly at the time of its last departure. The Inhumans didn't it see it from the outside when Chloe carried them back to safety. Now it's plainly obvious, a relic on the seafloor, glowing a faint, ominous yellow.

Clad in his usual dark armor is Corvus as he takes the ship towards the neon ruins. He's quiet, apparently annoyed by the recent events in Attilan and the capture of Triton and the others. With all the final modifications to his gear complete the man is visibly armed this time, a bow slung over his shoulder and a pair of pistols attached to the back of his armor.

"Hopefully we won't have any company down here. But I'm not willing to bet on it."

Nick caught up with Triton before leaving to know what they needed to look for. He has no particular weapons but he has managed to borrow a suit from somewhere, a dive suit of some sort that will at least help him not die on the way down to the place that they had visited before. Once the ship is within range, he begins to put on the helmet portion, not closing it yet for ease of talking. "No telling," he admits with a faint frown. "But, won't know unless we go down there and take a look."

Seventy meters down and there's a damn glimpse of Macau or Vegas sparkling away. Fumeroles and hydrothermal vents release sweeps of black smoky liquid through the water, technicolour flashes visible through the suspended debris. Lights glimmering through patches of dislodged coral outline the Spire, that central tower thinner than its crown-points in a wide ring around the main station. Such is Penglai, the fabled mountain of the gods, waiting for visitors.

The main 'bay' one accesses is illuminated, helpfully. Steering into there is neither easy nor particularly simple, given cross-currents and other nuisances. If they're remotely stationary the Inhumans will feel the sickness induced by the radioactive material spread by a sunken sub. Two, in fact. Penglai is fully capable of defending itself. The hulk on the sea floor nearest them is still many hundreds of meters off, but a stark reminder not to play stupid.

"Kree, probably. Not sure the humans are capable of getting too close." Corvus remarks casually as they pilot past the various sunken subs and metal carcasses. "But like you said, no way of knowing for sure." It was worrysome business, navigating the patrol filled waters and avoiding the radioactive waste, but this was the life he signed up for.

Nick points out the door that they had used the first time to enter as they approach it and says, "Should probably see if we can just head back in the way that we did the last time. Water slide our way on down again?" He glances over toward Corvus for confirmation or denial, seeming content to change plans if needed. He's spending much of his time just keeping an eye out for signs of movement toward them.

Not much chance of avoiding the radiation; it's everywhere in the water, fed by the severed engines blasted to pieces by a particularly irate, unfriendly submarine site waiting for who knows how many millennia to exact its revenge. The long, broad entrance the men seek is still there, an overhanging lip side enough for two semis to pass through sideways. Devoid of its coral encrustation, the shape is much easier to see as a shallow horseshoe. Getting in there should not be the problem if they choose to take the main spiral route down into the main space. History lessons by waterslide; if they taught like that in school, everyone at least would have fun!

"We can give it a try, but the facility could take exception to that." Corvus huffs slightly. "It worked last time though, and we don't know what we're getting into if we take the other route." After a moment of thought he redirects the course for the horseshoe. "Best brace yourself, just in case."

Nick nods and says, "I'd kind of rather the evil that we know, if you know what I mean? At least we're familiar with that entrance and what's inside it. Versus poking random holes in or trying to find another." He does in fact brace himself as Corvus redirects their course and prepares for them to head in.

As before, the mouth of the downward spiralled cone shell that reflects a perfect mathematical spiral has some kind of warded barrier. Transitioning through gives an excellent jolt, stretching the men, a sensation of drag on the ship not so good. Gravity and seafloor pressures, even this shallow, are not their friends either. Water gushes off the craft and it flops on its belly noisily, but none of the seawater invades.

Penglai is as it was before, pale and beautiful, white and starkly glowing within.

"So far so good." Corvus says a bit warily. Thankfully the suits he's provided for them help a great deal with the pressure. "Maybe I should have taken notes last time." It's been rather hectic sicne the last time he was down here, so it's taking a little for the man to get accustomed to the ruins of Penglai.

"The good news is that there wasn't too much to getting in. I can just open things up and we can hop the slide.. provided it's still there," Nick says as he makes his way back in the way that they originally came, provided that they can get in that way. He allows them entry in the same way that he did before, and then takes a look around.

Oh, the slide is there. Walk out of the craft as it is, make it maybe six steps and that knee-deep water on the platform reveals the hard current that literally drags them kicking or screaming or hooting all the way down the churning spiral waterway. The glimmering appearance of the interior panels crawls with shapes that probably don't mean anything, the chiming resonance showing blocks of text that don't at all resemble Tibetan or the similar script used around Attilan in the last century. Not by a long shot.

Down the slide and into the Kree lair the two men go, thankfully not screaming all the way. At least no screaming on Crovus' behalf. Once inside and where he can get a look around the man turns his attention to Nick and says, "Don't suppose you can read ancient Kree, can you?"

Down the slide they go. Nick navigates it with a little ore grace than the first time, knowing what to expect and what lies at the bottom, and so he manages to keep himself from flipping entirely upside-down as they go around and around down into the room below. Dripping, he pulls himself to his feet and takes a look around. Is the archway that he made still there to the army? Has anything moved? He looks around curiously, taking stock from what he remembers from their initial arrival. "Nope," he says to Corvus. "I can read English. I just move walls and open holes and meld stuff into other stuff. I'm an artist and an architect, not a linguist."

History unfolds in all its moonlit grandeur. Luminescent panels depict a procession of scenes from history. Different from last time are the figures ensconced here and there, as far more of the writing in that odd language — Kree — displays. Moreover, there are a host of battle scenes wrought in mobile detail, a ferocious tableau rich with swords, spears, and other weapons employed in stirring assaults.

The room they land within is little changed from its previous state. Limestone slabs demolished by touch previously still show their wounds. The boss atop the entrance the waterslide ends in still depicts a straddling girdle of stars. Water drips across the lapis floor, and the triangular chamber opens into a fully vested army of Inhumans, accuser-style, that haven't been disturbed in any fashion. They all still wait, their hollow terra cotta eyes turned towards the entrance.

What is a week when one is millennia old?

"These things are nothing but trouble." Corvus declares once he's made his way back to the army. His expression is hidden behind his visor, but it's clear from his tone that it likely isn't a positive one. "I'd kill to get my hands on their armor though. Couldn't stand up to an Accuser with my gear now."

He huffs quietly, "I suppose the risk might be worth the reward with them. Maybe."

Nick wanders through the water and makes his way through the arch that he'd made in the stone in order to get a closer look at the army. He moves up toward their ranks, finding the one that looks like him and studies it thoughtfully, gaze moving over the shape of the thing, the weapon that it holds, etc. "Can you even get the armor off these things? They look like sculptures." He examines them to see if the armor and the weapons look like they could be removed or if it is all one piece.

Corvus might well be bothered there's a Corvus somewhere in the rows on rows. Not immediate upfront, however. He might identify a few of his companions, friends of the past, family. Nick similarly can perceive himself if a bit older in a statue wielding a pointed spear. They are particularly elegant statues assembled in painstaking detail. As they've already seen, Crystal and Maximus removed a hammer held by one particularly tall female statue. The others hold their weapons, or armour, or honestly a few odds and ends that don't immediately suggest their purpose other than the occasional bowl.

"Hold on." Corvus blanches ever so slightly as he makes his way through the rows. "Look at this.." He reaches up to touch a statues face, it looks similar to himself. "Cyprian Dominitius. And there, Justus."

Something makes his arm fall slacks however, and he takes several steps further into the rows. "And there.. Corvus Arcadius." Clearly he didn't actually look at them the last time he was here. As he steps back out of the figures he takes a gladius from the hands of his avus, clearly disturbed. "Let's finish up with what we need to do."

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d20 for: 11

"Yeah, I don't think you're going to get anything off of these statues, they're all one piece," Nick says. He reaches out then and lays his hand on the one that looks like himself, and he extends his senses out to it. With his hand upon the material, he can sense what it is, and whether or not he can manipulate it. He doesn't try to manipulate it, more just to get a sense of what it might be comprised of and whether or not it is hollow or solid, something that he would be able to sense if he were about to change it. There's a glance over in Corvus' direction and he says, "Have a look around, see if you can see anything beeping, flashing, whirring, or otherwise doing something suspicious. I can't read any of this but as far as I can tell it doesn't look like anything's changed from the last time that we were here."

Oh so slowly those heads turn. One by one, an entire double row of the terra cotta warriors mildly augment their position to consider this threat to them. One of their own, or by one on another. The gladius pulled free is enough to create a succession of corrections in posture and alignment, though with their eyes not actually painted or shaped in ways of the living, it's hard to tell.

Touching doesn't seem to bother the statue Nick graces, but then, when permanently holding onto a spear or a club or something between, there's no such thing as disarmed.

"Think again, just took a sword from my grandfather. Hopefully they don't have our abilities." Corvus shudders, not just because of the empty eyes falling on him. Careful not to actually come across as threatening he does as Nick asks, moving away to look for any machinery or just anything that may seem out of place. This was just all too weird.

"Well no the weapons seem to be separate, and the shields, bowls, implements that they carry but the armor is part of them," Nick explains as he glances over toward Corvus with the gladius in hand. Then he glances at those that look at him. "They're responsive. When Max spoke to them, they responded. But they are mineral through an through, no organic parts as I wouldn't be able to analyze them, not hollow. Very interesting. Crystalline inclusions, like this entire place.. crystal, glass, stone.. with just the outer shell of coral."

Those strange figures remain as they are: alert. The stripped piece remains the fixed focus of the group and those who watch Corvus have no way to alter their features or expressions. None indicated, however. Whence he goes, all of them watch. It may be a comfort that Nick's senses don't detect anything like a dirty bomb or glinting lights, but the whole of Penglai is constructed of that gorgeous, smooth white stone and crystal that deflects dirt and dust. The immense charge of energy throughout chases along the crystalline matrix, sometimes leaping in ways that make no sense, fueled by a source underground.

"No.. nothing. They're just lined up here, waiting on the accuser." Corvus finally shakes his head. "We should get out of here while we can. Never know when it'll change it's mind about us." His attention turns to Nick now, waiting to see if he notices anything else out of the ordinary, or if their work here is done.

"Says the guy who just took something off one of them. You know they're watching you," Nick points out with a nod in their direction. "You might want to leave it here unless you plan on studying it for some reason." He looks over the weapon and says, "I can tell you about it molecularly, materials-wise." He then leaves the statue of himself, patting it on the shoulder. The initial creepiness went away after that first visit. He moves over in Corvus' direction. "Everything seems to be powered with one big power source underground, which is pretty impressive considering how long it's been down here. I'm not real sure what else to look for, so yeah, we can go for now, let Triton know everything is status quo for the time being.

"I know, just wanted to get a feel of the weapon." Corvus eyes the blade one last time before wading in and returning it to the mineral hands of the Cyprian statue. "Alright. Let's clear out of here."

Nick nods to Corvus and says, "Alright. Now, getting out is a little bit trickier." Since now that they're at the bottom, getting back up requires some creativity. "So, I can turn the water to ice and make steps out of it. It's a long slippery climb so you gotta be careful. Or I can make a hole in the wall, create a kind of airlock/bubble and get us back that way. We'd then just have to swim to the submersible from the outside."

The statue grips the sword and lowers the point to the ground. Yes, Matilda, it can move independently. The others remain watching, poised to a war that hasn't begun, a conflict that may already be raging. Battle exists topside where the waves slap against a destroyer's hull, and droning planes raid the coast.

But the terra cotta army is unphased by the discussion. And clearly?

At least one of them is capable of independent action. Or semi-independent.

"Fac fortia et patere, avus." Corvus says quietly, nodding at the statue. "I can take the stairs, as long as you think you can make it. If you're willing to risk pissing this thing off we can make another hole. Either or." With the blade returned he turns to walk back towards the slide. "Whatever you think will cause the least trouble. Already a war going on above us."

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d100 for: 80

"Let's try the stairs first. I can make a hole at any point in time, but I'd rather not if I don't have to," Nick says with a shake of his head and a glance at the army behind him. He then approaches that waterslide and puts both hands into the water. Changing the state of matter is something he can do, and so he changes the matter just around their feet into steps with channels in them so that the waterslide water can continue to flow effortlessly beneath the more solid platform that he keeps extending and allowing to melt behind them. Only if it seems to be working, does he them begin the ascent.

The volume of water is significant so changing it to freeze will very quickly wear down even a gifted Inhuman. Nick's talents are bound to come along with a hell of a migraine, but those first few steps hold.

It is exhausting work, slowly making his way higher and higher. Each creation of those steps and allowing them to melt behind him takes a lot out of him, and his head is pounding as they make their way up, eyes mostly closed as he gets the up and up the spiral — not to mention climbing those stairs is probably pretty exhausting. But he manages to get them back up after a while, and then leans against the wall, pressing his head against the surface, hoping the crystal is cool enough to feel somewhat soothing.

Corvus follows quietly behind, thankfully not having too much of an issue with the ice thanks to his enhanced agility. "Almost out, ancestors willing." he finally says once they've finished their ascent. "Anything else you're wanting to check out, or that wear you out?" He gives one last glance towards the slide. No doubt he'll have more work to do once they make it back and he gives his report.

Corvus looks back….

…. and there's the terra cotta army down on the frozen stairs, or the meltwater left behind, two by two, a row stretching in a spiral all the way down, down, down.

"Oh. Well.. fuck." Corvus slings the bow off of his shoulder and takes a few steps back. "You're gonna want to go ahead and get out of here. Apparently we made friends." Electric blue energy crackles along the bow as he activates it, probably explaining his lack of arrows. Thankfully he doesn't need the vehicle to escape while in this version of his armor.

"Uh.. that's interesting," Nick says but the holds a hand out when Corvus pulls out that crackling bow and says, "Hold up.. they're not attacking, they're following. You got any comms on that ship where we can talk to someone, figure out where we should go with them? We can't bring them back… to either city. So we either need to figure out how to get them to stay, or where we can bring them for now — but at least maybe we can get them away from here where whoever left them here know to find them? Not to mention out of radioactive waters?" He remains leaning against the wall though, because his brain is trying to dribble out his nostrils it hurts so bad.

It's perfectly unfair that the waterslide current doesn't wash away the murder-goslings cheerfully following behind the two Inhumans. They do not seem to suffer for being in the leaking edges, the ones on the ice also surefooted. It may have something to do with their relative density compared to flesh. All the same, the terra cotta army looks up with whatever passes as a calm manner. No weapons really raised, no menace.

The ants go marching, two by two, hurrah! Hurrah!
The ants go marching, two by two, hurrah! Hurrah!
The ants go marching two by two,
And watch the Inhumans, yes they do,
And they all go marching out of the sea,
To get somewhere neat.

"Yeah, this isn't good." Corvus lowers his bow, the energy fading from it. "They could just be keeping an eye on us, since we didn't show up with Maximus." The visor over his face retracts, allowing him to see the army without the display overlay. "Hopefully they're harmless. If I get killed by sentient replicas of my family I'm not going to be too happy."

"Yeah, I keep in touch with the rest of the guard." he tacks on. "They should have an idea of what to do. Hopefully."

Nick nods when Corvus confirms that there is some way to communicate, "Alright..let's see if we can make it back to the sub, and then we can contact the guard. And figure out exactly what we're going to do with these guys. I imagine that if they can come out the door with us, that they can just walk right along the ocean floor to whever we end up taking them. The problem is we don't really want anyone seeing them, so we should do itin the sub once we figure out where to go." He then begins to head out the door and back toward the ship so that they can phone-a-friend for some idea with what to do with the army of teracotta murder statues.

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