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Leviathan's Lair

The depths of Great Bay, Freedom City, New Jersey

Saturday February 10, 2018

 

Up on the surface of the waves of Great Bay, the winds still whipped the cold that had gripped the East Coast across the water toward Freedom City.  But deep beneath the waves’ surface, the waters were not much colder than they normally were.

 

Along the rocky floor of Great Bay, nestled amongst the kelp and seaweed beds that rouse up dozens of feet, lay the undersea lair that Dr. Tristan Delacroix had created to be his lair as Leviathan.  It was there that the good doctor was currently located.  After encountering the Deep One Aquaria (also known as the superhero Sea Devil) a few months ago, a number of different things had seemed to come up and prevent him from showing the Deep One his headquarters.

 

But finally they had been able to find a day that fit both their schedules, so now Aquaira and her roommate Jessie White would soon be arriving.

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The conversation with Jessie had been an interesting one. Worried about her friend getting anxious about being left alone, Aquaria had repeatedly assured Jessie that she wasn't interested in mating with Leviathan or living in his lair - that all they were going to do was visit his lair underneath the Bay, and she wanted her best friend to meet with her new friend. She wasn't sure if her assurances had actually reassured Jessie, though, especially the first one. So here they were on the beach by the bay, the cold wind coming off the water enough to make Aquaria's blood slow in her veins, preparing for the short swim that would take them to Leviathan's front door. Fortunately Jessie was a strong swimmer, even with her brand-new shield strapped to her back. She hopped up and down nervously on the beach, chewing the imitation crab meat she used as a snack when she was trying to stay awake, waiting for Jessie to finish putting on her wetsuit and other gear. The bottom of the bay was a long way down! 

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As it turned out, they only had to swim if they chose to.

 

From the choppy waters of the bay rose a green, scaly shape that might at first worry the two heroines (or at least Jessie; Aquaria might mistake it for a long-lost uncle).  It had the shape of a bulky monster, but upon floating closer, revealed itself to be a living submarine.  The bubble-like hatch popped open, and up stood Leviathan.

 

I hope this is a good idea, he thought with a tight smile, much as he had when he invited Bonfire to check out his hard work.  Aquaria saw through my cover story very quickly last time; what could she notice after touring the entire lair?  What if she somehow figures out who I really am, even just in a broad sense?  I guess if I have to, I know some of her secrets too.  ...No.  Bad scientist.  That's the wrong way of approaching the situation, and I need to stop.  He shook his head slightly to chastise himself.  Aquaria opened up to me, and that means something.  She already knows I'm human anyway.  She's a friend now, and I can trust her.

 

"Hello there," he waved.  "I thought I would come and pick you up instead of--holy crap, are you Wander?!"

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Jessie was already unhappy about being out on the beach with Aquaria that day. February wasn't exactly prime beach weather in New Jersey, and just because she could survive great extremes of temperature didn't mean she enjoyed them or that they weren't extremely unpleasant. But Aquaria had found a particularly lethal combination of begging and nagging that saw Jessie skipping yet another class to come third-wheel for Aquaria's not-a-date. She zipped up her wetsuit just as the little craft breached the surface of the waves and turned to try and make a good impression. 

 

She stiffened at the first words from Leviathan's mouth, throwing a glance in Aquaria's direction. "No," she replied, forcing her voice to be only a little stiff. "Wander is my sister. I'm Singularity."

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Aquaria ribbeted nervously, her throat bulging. Oh, how could things be going wrong so fast? It was her fault - she should have told Leviathan that her friend had a much more famous sister, but it wasn't the sort of thing that came up much in day-to-day conversation. Why don't more Surfacers know each other!? "Singularity is my friend who lives with me,she croaked to Leviathan. "Wander lives in a much larger place, with things that speak." She hopped up and down, then said, "This is Leviathan. Leviathan, Singularity. She is very tough. She once-" She thought for a moment, casting her eyes in Singularity's direction. "She once kicked a rock monster in the head and his head was in half. The rock monster was all right though, and he is someone we know now. That was when we were in _space_," she added in Levithan's direction, flicking out her tongue to catch his attention. 

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"Oh," Leviathan said, picking up on the tension in the air.  These days he didn't just have to see discomfort with his eyes; he could smell it, which made his mistake hit home all the harder.  He wondered if Sea Devil detected his embarrassment in turn.  At the very least, it shown in the slump of his thin lips and enormous shoulders alike. 

 

"Sorry," he went on.  "I'm happy to meet you, Singularity!  Thanks for coming today, even with the cold."  Aquaria's story--or more precisely, her unusual way of telling it--brought a genuine smile back to his face, and he chuckled.  "Very tough, I see.  I'd love to hear more about your adventures among the stars.  You can tell me more about this rock monster on our way down to my lair, yes?"

 

His submarine's strange, ribbon-like tails spun to propel it forward until its nose ran upon the beach, and he hopped out to assist his new friends.

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Aquaria encouraged Jessie to enter the submarine first, knowing it would reassure her friend to check things out for herself. When Jessie's back was turned, Aquaria gave Leviathan a reassuring smile to let him know everything was going to be all right - a striking look indeed given the mouth of razor-sharp teeth that stretched wide across her face. She even raised her thumbs in the fashion of Surfacers, though her tri-fingered hands made the look a little odd as she hopped into the submarine after Jessie. "Tell him about space!" Aquaria encouraged her friend, "We saw so many exciting things in the Sea of Stars!

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Jessie needed no assistance to hop up into the little submarine, though she hesitated for a visible moment before going in. She sometimes had a hard time getting into small, sealed containers like spaceships or submarines, but at least this one wasn't blank sterile white inside. "There was a rock monster," she said simply. "Or an alien who looked like a rock monster. We ended up on opposite sides of a line for a little while, but it was mostly a misunderstanding. Her lips curved as she took her seat, though there was little real amusement in her smile. "Most people out in space think I'm Wander, too. She scares the hell out of them." 

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"That just means they're smart," Leviathan grinned back. 

 

The interior of the submarine was scaly like the outside, but it had comfortable sponge padding on the seats--which were sized for Leviathan, meaning that Aquaria and Jessie would have to share the single rear chair.  It was certainly big enough.  Up front, they'd see a control panel made of some shiny black material, resembling insect shell.  Leviathan waited until both passengers climbed inside before he followed them and shut the hatch. 

 

"Why did you go to space?" he asked.  "Other than so Aquaria could get that fancy suit, of course."

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"That was why we went to space." Aquaria let Jessie have the seat and scuttled up onto the interior surface of the hatch, clinging with sticky pads on her fingers that clung with a faint schlucking sound when she shifted position. "Powerful foes in space wanted a war in the stars, and they thought a Deep One would fight for them on Earth." Aquaria closed her eyes, and Jessie knew what she saw on the other side - Atlantis at her feet, and the Surface open to the people, until her friend's voice had called her home and away from a war that would have drowned the Deep Ones in their sea. "But Jessie saved me," she said, opening her eyes. "And I use the armor to help those who need help.

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Once again, Leviathan felt like he'd put his foot in his mouth by being so casual about a topic that was apparently very deep.  He listened closely as he turned the submarine around and dived down into the Bay. 

 

"That's very true," he agreed seriously.  "If you decided to stay in space and be a Star Knight, I'm sure you would be a great one.  But I'm glad you came back to Earth; we need you here."

 

The submarine's bioluminescent headlamps glowed in the water, soon pitch black; they scattered the occasional fish, and once Leviathan reached the ocean's floor, he navigated along it, mud stirring in their wake.  This was a trip he'd made many times now; before long, the three heroes came to see his lair's entrance, from the outside appearing to only be a door of interlocking bone petals, partly hidden in the muck.  Leviathan tapped a button on the control panel; slow but smooth, the white sheets pulled apart to grant them passage. 

 

"I meant to ask about the tribe we relocated, by the way.  Have you seen them since then?  Are they doing alright?"

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"Oh, they are fine. Jessie and I visited them recently. You remember them, Jessie, they were the ones who called me those names, but then ate the fish we brought them." She considered, wondering what Jessie would make of Leviathan asking about her spawn and her spawn's spawn - which she assumed he probably would. "Do you remember the one with the smooth skin there, with the teeth? She is actually my spawn. The seas are smaller than we know - and larger besides that." She croaked a little, hoping that the submarine ride wasn't going to be awkward. "Where did you find this lair?" she asked of Leviathan as she watched the doors open for them with wide-open gold-black eyes. "I did not ask before.

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Now it was Leviathan's turn for some awkward vibes.  "I didn't find it, exactly," he hesitantly explained.  Taking the submarine down through the passage bought him a little time to think, for all the good it did. 

 

After their first meeting, Leviathan admitted to Sea Devil that he was actually human (albeit only because she guessed it first), but little more than that.  Had they been alone now, perhaps he'd tell her that he crafted this home himself.  Or, if he was only meeting Singularity, he might go with the cover story he and Bonfire supported for just such an occasion--then again, Jessie seemed like a clever and perceptive lady with no tolerance for liars, and Leviathan would not, in fact, like to learn if she could knock the truth out of him.  They'd all just barely reached his lair, and already his guise was wobbling. 

 

Well...maybe it's for the best that we get this out of the way early.  Aquaria's a friend, and Jessie's her friend, so I won't lie to them, even if I can't tell the whole truth either. 

 

"It's complicated," Leviathan finally said as their vessel descended: they entered a short tunnel with another bone-hatch at the far end.  Given that they'd been to space, and thus presumably visited actual ships like Tristan had tried to mimic, the ladies might recognize this as an airlock of sorts, for decompression or pathogen management.  "And part of...what we talked about last time, on the beach.  Someday I might tell you the whole story, but right now, it's...complicated."

 

Through the lower hatch, the submarine dropped into a flooded, dome-shaped room.  Around its perimeter grew a latticework of something like orange bamboo, a tangle of briars without thorns.  They seemed to come right out of the walls and floor, which were made of scales very much like Leviathan's own.  The fluid in the room began to drain once the hatch above them sealed again, and after the submarine bobbed to the top like a cork, the diminishing water level gradually brought them lower until they sat in a pool apparently designed to hold Leviathan's ride. 

 

"But anyway, this is the docking bay," he continued, and popped open the hatch to let everyone out.  Immediately, they would smell sweet, pure--if presently damp--air. 

Edited by Blarghy

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"Wait, that was your kid?" Jessie asked, startled by the admission from Aquaria. She knew that Deep Ones didn't have the same sort of family bonds that humans did, but to not even know was weird. Then again, she was hardly in a position to criticize anybody else's weird family relationships. When Aquaria had met Jessie's parents, Jessie had been half-catatonic and hiding in her doppelganger's bedroom closet. 

 

She popped out of the ship as soon as the hatch opened, leaping neatly to land on the dock and taking a really good look around at the place. There was no immediate visible danger, but that hardly meant anything. "Does anyone besides you live here?" she asked. 

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"Yes, she is my spawn," agreed Aquaria. "Her spawn are in that tribe too, so my blood will spread. I should have told you," she admitted with a croak, "but you were already being very kind to come there with me - and I did not want to make it more strange." She hopped out of the craft and looked around, peering into the darkness of the bay with eyes adapted to the ultimate darkness of the abyss. "This is quite a place," she added. "And there is only you here?" The thought of being alone so far beneath the waves seemed terribly lonely, but she wasn't going to comment on that aloud. "Hello!" she bellowed suddenly, the booming bass of her voice ringing out. 

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As it happened, the docking bay was quite well-lit, with faintly blue, glowing nodes positioned along the scaly walls.  It did have a nice echo, though. 

 

"Yes, I live alone," Leviathan confirmed, which was true for his human residence too, even if he hardly ever went back to his Midtown apartment these days.  "Well, at least, there are no other people here.  I have animals.  Come on; I'll show you.  I think you'll like the garden."  He walked to the elevator platform at the middle of the room.  Leviathan thought that he should probably skip over most of his lair; last time, he gave Bonfire a detailed tour, but that might be a little tedious now.  If these guests liked his handiwork, he could always show them more later. 

 

"If you want, we can make a quick stop first on our way down.  Did you show Jessie the crown that the tribe gave us?  I have mine in my trophy room.  It isn't too impressive yet, but I'm working on it."

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Jessie flinched slightly at Aquaria's bellow and its echoed response, even as her tactical instincts made note of the probable location of walls in the dimness. She wasn't at all sure she wanted to meet the kind of pets that a half-Deep One kept in his undersea lair, but she also didn't want Aquaria exposed to them without anybody to protect her if necessary. And it would be stupid to come all this way and stand in what was effectively a garage while her friend went on what was effectively (maybe) a date. Awkward third-wheeling it was, then. "I don't think I've seen the crown," she confirmed politely. "It sounds nice." 

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"Sorry," croaked Aquaria, embarrassed when she saw Jessie flinch. But if either of them held grudges about moments like this, they would hardly be friends. "I did not want to boast," she croaked modestly. "Jessie has her own things from those Below," she added, hopping along in Leviathan's company, the blue lights reflecting oddly against her pale green skin and the pattern of blue tattoos on her belly and sides. The elevator was a challenge she didn't expect but one she was quickly able to solve. Scuttling back against the rear wall and clinging to it with her fingers and toes meant that there was space enough inside the cabin for both Leviathan and Singularity - and it reassured the latter that no terrible enemies were going to strike them from behind. It also put her between Aquaria and the door, something she knew her friend would find comforting. It also put her close to Leviathan, who smelled absolutely wonderful. "We have a pet. He is a dog. I did not think he would work but he is a good dog."

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The circular elevator was quite spacious, plenty for the three of them, and dropped smoothly.  "Dogs are nice," Leviathan agreed, "but I wouldn't really call my animals 'pets.'  They live on their own, mostly." 

 

Soon enough, the guests saw for themselves: when the elevator stopped at the next floor, they were at an intersection of four connected hallways.  Hanging vines with beautiful flowers and fruit draped from the walls and ceiling, though none of it seemed native to Earth--and neither did the weird little reptile that clung to one of the vines, eating pale green berries.  Its body looked vaguely like a monkey, but it had fewer fingers, a shorter, stubby tail, a long nose, and of course, scales.  The creature's big, dark eyes turned toward them, and it chirped, but didn't flee. 

 

"Most things stay in the garden, but they use the stairs to roam around sometimes," Leviathan explained. 

 

He led the ladies down one of the hallways and into a domed room similar to the docking bay; this one had lots of golden ivy with a new kind of fruit of the same color.  Leviathan plucked a few, ate one whole, and offered the others to his guests.  If they tried it, they'd find that the skin was nice and tangy, while the pulp tasted kind of like an orange.  There were no seeds inside to worry about. 

 

Other than the food, this room also had two human-sized "statues" made of tightly intertwined vines.  They stood against the far wall; the first was a skillful depiction of a Deep One and wore the crown of beaten metal that Leviathan had mentioned.  The other statue had a suit of futuristic armor made of sliding plates, most of them pretty battered; next to it was an ivory stand with a big, powerful rifle. 

 

"Took those from a guy named Solemn," Leviathan bragged.  "I was working with another hero, Bonfire--have you met him?--and Solemn tried to kill us.  Didn't work out for him, as you can see!  He's in Blackstone now."

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"Are they food?" asked Aquaria, her eyes fixed forward as she looked at the reptile with fascination. Jessie might have been interested in the fruit, but she certainly wasn't. "I mean, uh, I was just asking what they were for, bre-ek-coax," she croaked, realizing that Jessie was giving her what had to be a familiar look. "I wasn't going to eat it. It is a very nice garden. You have found a good place for the crown." she added, rather relieved that she hadn't found Leviathan wearing the crown - for all that he would have cut a very dashing figure in it. At least we aren't talking about Blackstone anymore. Oh I do not like that place! "The plants and the animals, did you get them from space?" she asked. "I have not seen them on the Surface.

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Leviathan also picked up on Aquaria's look, and her question supported his uncomfortable suspicions.  He hadn't thought much about Deep One eating habits, even after witnessing them firsthand; if his guest just ate one of his animals alive, right in front of him, then what exactly was he supposed to say?  Logically, he knew it was no crueler than the nonstop hunting that these lesser creatures did among themselves anyway, but he was very glad that the issue didn't come to a head. 

 

"I don't eat them," he answered hesitantly.  In an odd twist, Sea Devil's followup question was even more unsettling than the first, despite how casual it seemed.  Again, Leviathan had the opportunity to lie and support his cover story, but a combination of friendship and the suspicion that Jessie would catch him made him pause. 

 

"...No, they are not from space," the great lizard sighed.  "I have told other people that they are.  That is part of the story I have to protect my identity.  But the truth is, I made everything here.  This lair and all the life in it."  He gestured around himself and smiled awkwardly at this difficult confession.

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Okay - so they are probably not food. If they are his and he does not eat them, they are not food. She listened as he spoke further, though, and found herself with more questions. Jessie seemed to be content to her her speak - so she did. Aquaria looked from the life to Leviathan, then back again. "I do not know what that means," she croaked finally. "Do you have...flesh-shaping powers?" 

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Something about Aquaria's response made Leviathan chuckle and released a little of his tension.  Less anxious than before, he laughed and said, "Almost!  I am a scientist.  A biologist, and a doctor.  My labs are at the bottom of this base; I could show them to you sometime, if you like.  But for now, we'll start with the garden.  This way."

 

He led the guests back from the trophy room to the central elevator.  The next level it dropped to, Leviathan passed by without stopping, but Aquaria and Jessie could still see it through the transparent elevator walls: it was a big, tall room with a spiral structure in the middle, computer stations branching from the twisting ramp.  Above all that technology was a ceiling full of colorful flowers, which they passed through on their way lower down. 

 

"That's the bridge," Leviathan told them.  "Like on a ship."

 

But he wasn't interested in pausing there, instead continuing on to the next floor below.  This one was even larger; it looked to be about thirty feet tall and as wide as the entire lair.  They couldn't easily look at it from within the elevator this time, as their view was partly obscured by the waterfall that poured down around them.  When the elevator stopped, the door opened outward and upward to shield them from the cascading water.  Leviathan stepped out and motioned for them to follow. 

 

"The garden," he announced. 

 

Almost nowhere else on Earth could they find such overflowing, vibrant, bustling life.  The garden had walking paths, of sorts, where nothing grew except strange red clover--very resilient, quickly bouncing back upright even after Leviathan stepped on it--but all around those routes were bizarre plants from Leviathan's imagination.  They came in every shape and color; the majority bore succulent fruits too, a few of which their creator sampled.  Whole trees grew here too; they were fairly narrow but had long, elegant limbs, decorated by beautiful flowers, in a way that made them look like wooden dancers. 

 

The walls and ceiling here had more glowing bulbs of natural light than the rooms above.  It was pleasantly warm, but not humid despite the waterfall, thanks to a constant circular breeze swirling gently around.  The temperature felt like a nice summer afternoon. 

 

Aquaria might be particularly interested in how the waterfall around the elevator fed into numerous pools throughout the area.  The channels connecting them were a little cramped for someone of her size, but the pools themselves looked comfortably wide and deep enough for swimming. 

 

And of course, lots and lots of not-food shared the garden with Leviathan. 

 

In the nearest pool, Aquaria would see, among other animals, a creature shaped rather like a mermaid.  Its lobster-like tail looked deliciously plum, propelling it along through the crystal clear water.  Crab claws stretched from its torso in place of arms; they clicked together to warn away another passing swimmer.  Its head still resembled a fish, drinking water through a perpetually-open mouth while the gills on the sides of its cheeks fluttered.  The whole animal was a beautiful blue color, as big as a good trout, and would make a scrumptious meal. 

 

So would the bird-thing that landed on a tree limb near the Deep One.  It was fat, had spiny, green feathers like some of the ancient dinosaurs, and regarded Aquaria with either curiosity or skepticism.  Like the other animals here, it was accustomed to seeing Leviathan and his human self, so he and Jessie were no surprise, but apparently Aquaria was a bit of a novelty.  The bird watched her with its big eyes, the color of molten silver, and made a "Quuuuuuuaaack!" sound, snapping its beak shut at the end with a hard click

 

Then it flew away to chase a cloud of red and gold insects.  These were big enough that single bug would fit in Aquaria's palm--several together would be a nice snack!--and each had four butterfly wings.  When the bugs took to the air, their round wings blurred so quickly that their colors did too; the whole cloud together looked like a moving sunset.  When that green bird swept through, it grabbed one of the insects in its beak and scattered the rest through the air, like a handful of rubies. 

 

The air here was sweet, the water was sweeter, and if it was possible to make something closer to paradise in this mortal life, then Leviathan would like to see it. 

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Aquaria hung her head and breathed deeply, nostrils on the end of her snout flaring widely. With her body like this, she could see, smell, and hear everything. She could hear the click-click-click of the crab-creature's claws. She could hear the echoing song of the bird-thing, and the sound of its heart beating wildly in its chest; and watch the scuttling of the insect-things through the leaves and branches of the trees. This really was a perfect place.

 

But then, so had Atlantis been - in the days before the gods had pulled it down into the world.

 

"How...how did you make these things?" she croaked throatily, her voice uncharacteristically quiet. 

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"With SCIENCE!" Leviathan thundered happily, his deep voice echoing off the trees.  He felt a little more comfortable now, and a lot more excited, just like the last time he brought someone to see his favorite handiwork.  Various bugs and beasts around them turned to see why their normally-quiet creator was making so much noise, but then quickly went back to their business; neither genetics nor life experience had told them to be afraid of Leviathan, no matter his quirks. 

 

"I based my work on Earthly DNA, then changed these creatures and plants to be the way I wanted them," he proudly continued.  "And they don't just look strange.  I improved everything I could to make more healthy life, and thus, a better environment to live in."

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