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With All Respects To Max Tegmark, We Like It Here (Terminus Invasion 2018)

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Sloane Manor
North Bay, Freedom City New Jersey

Thursday, July 12th, 2018
4:02 PM

 

Erick Sloane's beachfront villa in North Bay was far from untouched.  The prior day's assault on Kingston left much of the surrounding upper-class neighborhoods in a state of disarray.  And North Bay was no exception.  Especially after an entirely new force from the Terminus emerged to fight against both the Resistance Force and the invading force.  Ironically, it seemed as if for the first time in the history of Freedom City someone could make the claim that the Fens was the safest neighborhood to live in.  Of course, most residents didn't have a sprawling underground headquarters in their villas.

 

A team of heroes had been risking their lives gathering and spreading information and equipment covertly to the Resistance in the city.   The latest transmission pinpointed where one of the power sources for the device generating portals into the city was.  Unfortunately, said generator was currently guarded by what had to be one of the largest armies of the Terminus sighted thus far.  To make matters worse it was positioned deep inside the Raymond Nuclear Power Plant. Which had seen extensive renovations by Daedalus of the Freedom League to convert the plant into a virtual fortress.  In short, any attempts to destroy the generator would be a suicide mission.

Foreshadow sent a recruitment transmission through his headquarter's computer with the hope that anyone nearby would answer the call.  When Sea Devil, Singularity, and Cobalt Templar arrived they found piles of Omegadrone armors strewn throughout the sprawling manor.  The inside of the home appearing as if an explosive had been set off with the stench of entropic energies wafting through the air.  Having to step over the burnt and battered Omegadrones they would find an open bookshelf that at one point covered the staircase that led down into Foreshadow's Forebode.  The computer's holographic display had a Power Pike sticking through it slightly covering the top leftmost point on the 3d layout of the Raymond Nuclear Plant.  A hooded man stood in the center of the room his back turned to the staircase, a dark blue cape flowing in tatters.
 

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"Dagon and Hydra,

Your deep-dark seas are so great

and we are so small,

 

Aquaria had been uncharacteristically subdued since the invasion had begun, particularly since she and Jessie had seen their second home vanish into shadowy darkness. She'd had some inkling of Tarva's plan, or at least her desire to flee somewhere that her ancient enemies could never find her. And so Tarva had indeed slipped the net, for now - but what of them? Sea Devil and Singularity had fought in North Bay, defending the home of Jessie's sister and those protected there, helping the innocent escape from the carnage. But no seas were deep enough or dark enough, to hide them from this enemy. Aquaria's eyes saw things her friends could not,  her skin heard songs that were beyond them, and she understood the gravity of what they all faced only too well. 

 

As they headed into the Sloan Mansion, she and Singularity knew why they were there - to strike at a generator that had opened the way of their enemies to this place. As they headed into the Sloan Mansion, Aquaria's trident spoke to her through her armor. It had been doing that a lot lately - but she had chosen not to share that with her friends. What did it mean when the gods whispered to the living, now when the end of all things seemed nigh? 

 

That is not dead which can eternal lie. And with strange aeons even death may die.

 

She was silent as they went below, staying close to Singularity, making sure her friend wasn't alone. Of course, they weren't going to be alone on this mission either...

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War never really changes, not at the end of the day. Fear, anger, courage, cowardice, hope, despair, death, life, all mixed together and stirred with the sounds of silence and violence at any one moment. This one just had higher consequences than some.

 

Cobalt Templar had been seemingly all over the besieged Freedom City, helping hold the line many times. A few times, he'd laid in wait and ambushed one or two of the "hero killer" Omegadrones that prowled about, using skills honed in decades of war against super-soldiers, mechanical wonders, and worse. Despite his size, he'd found ways to move and not move that kept him from sight until the moment of his choosing. And while Omegadrones were dangerous....they were typically also a little stupid. He'd used that to his advantage, along with his size and power.

 

Now, he found himself at the lair of the new Foreshadow, feeling all the years he had in experience over his peers and friends, his eyes showing more age than his face. He tried not to worry about Quo-Dis, knowing she was with a team of powerful companions out west, knowing that as easy as it would be to see her, this was not the time. There was work to be done. 

 

Cobalt Templar landed, a classic three-point landing as his cape flared. He stood slowly, looked around, and entered the building, just a few moments after Singularity and Sea Devil. Once he landed, he walked with purpose and assurance, quickly finding the staircase and taking it down, his ears catching the sounds of his fellow heroes as they descended ahead of him.

Edited by KnightDisciple

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Foreshadow set four glasses on the table next to him with an open bottle.  Well, open was a rather generous description for a bottle which had been shattered halfway to the top.  But, it was the one the prescient Acrobat had chosen.  "I've been doing some redecorating, you like?  Personally, I think I used a little too much red.  It really clashes with my decor."  Foreshadow joked as he began pouring scotch from the broken bottle into glasses.  "It's more convenient to pretend to be drunk to sneak into a place than to actually be drunk.  All smoke and mirrors, y'know?  But, what use is a fifty-year-old single malt scotch in selling the fancy lifestyle when its container is down to bar weapon status?"

 

Erick Sloane was born the year of the last Terminus Invasion (that he knew of).  To him, they were just the campfire story to pass around.  Sure, Erick knew Galstandard thanks to David deciding to learn the language after he captured an Omegadrone working for the mob.  That still limited his alien involvement to training his Belgian Malinois, Caesar, to respond to commands in an alien language and tracking down computronium smuggling rings throughout Europe.  Dodging bullets over entropic energy blasts was what bred familiarity to Foreshadow even to this day.

 

The invasion was swift and without warning.  Unlike the Communion which gave enough preparation for all of the Vanguard to mobilize.  This time Foreshadow found himself operating alone, much like he started in Freedom City.  Really, he wasn't sure if his message was going to attract anyone.  Much less his chances of keeping them after they heard just exactly how many droves of  Omegadrone were spotted near the Nuclear plant.  Not that it would have deterred him from heading to the plant alone if need be.  He was just glad that it hadn't come to that. 

 

Pursing his lips he smiled with renewed resolve.  Normally this would be the part where there was a formal exchange of figurative business cards.  But, if someone wore a mask or in this case helmets.  That was all he needed to know about their willingness to put their lives on the line.  Besides, it wasn't as if the Omegadrones had shown any degree of subterfuge past cloaking thus far.  So the likelihood of getting stabbed by one of these three was slim to none.  

 

"So, who wants to do something crazy today?"

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"We have the plan from Midnight," croaked Sea Devil, her face still hidden behind her armored mask. "We will close the door the enemy has opened - and cast out what they have brought down to us."

 

Great is the night where black stars rise,

And greater moons circle through the skies,

But greater still is

Lost Lemuria

 

Aquaria blinked, saw no one else reacting, and tightened her grip on her trident for just a moment. After a moment's hesitation, she strode over to the drinks, rolled up her mask far enough to reveal her gigantic mouth - and tossed down one of the shots. It burned - but she'd known the taste of fire before. "Singularity and I have great power - and I have seen the blue one's might. Together, we can do this

 

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Cobalt Templar hadn't met Sea Devil or Singularity. He'd heard quite a bit about them. Erin practically ranted about it sometimes. Well, as much as she ranted about anything, to anyone who wasn't Trevor. Really, these things were relative anyway. Point was, he knew who all these folks were, at least their hero-names. And right now, what else mattered?

 

His body's armor faded for the moment, leaving him wearing his mask, a blue ball-cap to cover more of his head, and a rumpled pair of jeans. And nothing else (visible); when the others inevitably gave him an odd look, he gave a sheepish shrug and rubbed the back of his neck for a second, blushing slightly.

 

"The invasion kind of woke me up, and I haven't had a lot of free time lately."

 

Getting a bit more serious, he came up to the table and threw back his glass of scotch in a single motion, though he took a few moments to roll it around in his mouth before swallowing. He seemed unbothered by the burn.

 

"Good stuff."

 

He nodded at Sea Devil mentioning Midnight's plan.

 

"I haven't gotten word of the full plan, but if Midnight's involved along with you, Foreshadow, I'm in 100%. Just tell me where we need to go and when. I can get in quiet then make some noise. Been a while since I've gotten to wreck Omegadrones. Maybe this time I can show Steelgrave what mortality's like; his boss never did take kindly to that."

 

The fact that he's standing in an underground vigilante lair, shirtless and shoeless while bearing a blue mask (with whited-out eyes) and a conjured ball-cap didn't really seem out of place to him. 

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Singularity had followed Sea Devil in silently, taking in everything without speaking. Her blonde hair, which had gone curly and a little crunchy from ocean water, was pinned close to her head, leaving her face bare and her brown eyes large against pale skin. "It does seem pretty straightforward, she finally offered, "kill the Omegadrones and shut down the power source, right? We can do that." There was no boastfulness in her tone or even confidence, simply a statement of the facts as she understood them. Once she saw everyone else stepping forward to take their drink she did so as well, throwing it back and then making the kind of involuntary, exaggerated yucky-face that belied much of her previous stoicism. "When do we go?" 

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"Midnight, Harrier, Terrifica, probably Madona.  It was a real who's who of one-word names drafting up this collective plan.  I think Midnight or his talking car provided the map.  The when is the moment I stop speaking.  The where...now that's the crazy part"  Foreshadow began typing on his keyboard and the holographic map of the Raymond Nuclear Plant.  He was glad that the trio wasn't lacking for courage.  As he didn't have Ms Britannia's penchant for reassuring a team.  Quickly taking his own shot he began rushing through the plan.

 

"So the summary the Raymond Nuclear Plant has never been successfully compromised by supervillains thanks to continued vigilance by the Freedom League and continued upgrades by Daedalus.  That's working against us because it was essentially converted to one of the very few underground nuclear plants.  Essentially a fortress able to take thousands of tons of TNT and magnitude Earthquakes.  Oh, and it's currently surrounded by an encampment of what might be a couple thousand Omegadrones.  But, as Singularity correctly surmised.  The plan is we beat the bad guys and shut down the power source.  I don't know where in the plant said source is.  But, in my experience, the biggest baddie tends to be hiding near this sort of deal.  So cappie over there may get his wish."

 

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GM

 

The sky around the Raymond Nuclear Plant had taken on an orange hue.  The crackling sound in the air was not dissimilar to the low hum of cicadas signaling the start of the Summer Season.  No, instead it was the sound of the omegadrones hovering overhead.  Their jet boots deafening from above. It took no more than a glance to realize that the outside of the plant had hundreds upon hundreds of Omegadrones flying around in formation.  With the occasional shot rippling from their power pikes threatening to spread the growing flames in the nearby forestry that had been razed, fundamentally clearing the exclusion area of the plant.  In the very center was a massive one hundred foot Terminus Probot.  A  mindless scout that often signaled the potential for an invasion from the forces of Entropy.  A signal long past its experiation date.

 

Plumes of smoke filled the air, conveniently providing the quartet of heroes a degree of cover as they neared the plant.  From the outside, there were three buildings.  Their previous viewings of the map showed them that the left and right buildings had entrance access to the underground facility.  The center building was an auxiliary reactor building which housed support equipment.  The nearby parking lot left much to be desired.  The vehicles had all been badly destroyed, with at least one set of remains telling the story of a failed attempt to escape the massacre in the parking lot.

 

Controversial since its inception, not even the most vehement of protestors would wish this fate upon their enemies.  With the demonic looking figures looming from above, the flames from below, and the foreboding sensation of death all around.  It really was much like Hell had indeed broken open.

 

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Aquaria opened her nostrils and smelled the air, the scent of blood, fire, and things worse than either thick in her throat - then she closed her faceplate. She had smelled dead Surfacer before but never in such numbers, and never with that unpleasant acrid tang to the air that she had learned represented the power of Destruction. The Surfacers named it the Terminus, but she knew the power of the daemon sultan well enough. Any Deep One would. She was glad no other Deep Ones were here, though; sparing them the sound of the anti-song that came from this encampment of death. The safety of her water-filled helmet had advantages besides just blocking the smell. She bent low, and put her hand on the sewer grate at their feet. "We go below " she croaked, the team having worked out their respective ability to fight in darkness and closed spaces - and the vulnerability of the power plant to infiltration through the now-closed aqueduct that pumped fresh water into the plant's reservoir. With a moment's pause, she lifted the grate slowly, carefully, and gestured for the others to go below. 

 

 

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Singularity jumped in first, without a moment's hesitation. There'd been a subtle change in her demeanor since the moment they arrived at the plant. Gone was the diffidence, the uncertainty, the thread of all different kinds of fear that edged Jessie's attitude nearly all the time. Now she was focused, intent, her spine straight, her pupils slightly dilated as she took in everything around her. She was still not talking much, but there wasn't a lot to say. With her bat in her hand, she assessed the underground space for threats before waving her teammates down to join her. 

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On their way over to the plant, Cobalt Templar had donned what looked like a dull blue and grey shaded urban camoflague pattern field uniform, like something the military would use. Just without all the extra gear; his head bore the same soft hat the Army might issue, and the blue mask on his face was the only part out of place. Something in him had changed as well, and his aura, normally a flare of not-quite-fire around his body when he flew, was nonexistent. When they landed, he went into a tight crouch that disguised his bulk, keeping him behind cover as they had a last-minute conference on tactics. Sea Devil proved the decisive voice, and CT nodded at her words. He gestured for Singularity and Foreshadow to follow her and let him come last.

 

"I'll be rearguard and overwatch."

 

As he spoke, the uniform on his person became raw energy, its light tamped down, and it moved across his body, until it was a suit of armor bearing a cloak, clearly designed for moving unnoticed. The blue patterns had darkened, and his chest bore a dulled red rendition of an eagle emblem, one with head pointed to the sky and wings outstretched. His left shoulder bore a "101" in the same shade of red, while his right shoulder bore an eagle's head. In his arms, a weapon that would be over-sized for the average person manifested itself. Cobalt Templar scanned the horizon through his weapon's scope until the other three heroes were down into the waterways below.  Then, and only then, he slip in, quiet as a ghost. 

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In the tunnel below, Aquaria hopped off the walkway to cling to the damp tunnel walls. The water in the channel below was stagnant now, and unwholesome from the smell of things, but the moist air in the tunnel was clean enough. She hung her trident from her back and retracted her armor's helmet, the better to see, hear, and smell in the darkness below. Gold-black eyes peered into almost perfect darkness with clarity, great nostrils sniffed the air, and ear canals adapted for the depths of the sea and the lightness of the air listened to the songs of the world. Slowly the lights faded from her armor, until she seemed to blend into the darkness all around them. "This way," she croaked softly, listening closely as they went forward. 

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GM

 

From the rear, Cobalt Templar could see that they had not been followed by any Omegadrones.  In fact, their trek through the aqueduct remained undisturbed.  The sound of running water and the occasional scraping of Singularity's shield against the tight space was the only noise carried throughout the tunnels.  On point, Sea Devil's suit lit a clear path ahead.  After a few minutes of walking the group found themselves at a split.  There were three possible directions the aqueduct had led.  With no signs pointing to direct access into the underground plant.

 

Of course, logic dictated that they would eventually reach their destination.  But, which path was safest or possibly quickest was not outright apparent.  The left path had claw marks along the stone walls.  They were worn, far from new.  Possibly decades old.  The right path seemed relatively normal aside from a dead mouse floating along the water.  With no signs of any immediate predators.  Not that fauna was rushing to live inside an aqueduct connected to an underground nuclear plant.  As for the path directly in front of them.  Sea Devil and Cobalt Templar's sight, as well as Foreshadow's precognitive senses, cut through the darkness far enough to tell one simple story.  There was nothing impeding them for a good two hundred feet and then the path comes to an end.  Or rather an opening with a direct drop.

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"In the dark wet gloom, Sea Devil hadn't so much changed as evolved. She'd trusted Singularity to take the lead and had taken second place herself, her helmet pulled back to let her hear the sounds of the world above and the world all around them. 

 

The stars 

The stars 

The stars will tell 

The past the present and the future as well 

 

The ancient song roiled through her mind as she cocked her head in the direction of the three tunnels; finding nothing to distinguish between them, she gave a short soft croak as signal to show that she had no clear idea; then slid her trident against the hard tile ceiling of the left-hand path, keeping her sounds quick and quiet enough that they could pass for the natural sounds of the tunnel complex to beings further away. Take you always the lefthand path, for we wait for you between the curves. 

 

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Cobalt Templar found himself...not zoning out, but ending up in a place that was, if not zen, then very calm and remarkable relaxed, all things considered. He was falling back on years of hard-won experience at how to handle combat, putting his nerves aside in the moment. He acknowledge the genuine fear he felt on multiple levels, but coolly chose to not act on that fear.

 

Instead, he swept his gaze down each tunnel for several moments, scanning for threats, before shouldering his conjured weapon for a moment and speaking.

 

"I vote we go left. It doesn't have a drop-off, and the claws suggest a mutate of some sort who snuck around. There's probably some kind of sewer-type entrance they missed. Right side...I'm worried about what might have killed the mouse. I'd say it was paranoid, but..."

 

But the city was under siege by the Terminus, and Corbin had learned his lesson well years ago the lengths the Terminus might go to deceive. 

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