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Dr Archeville

Do you want tentacles? Because that's how you get tentacles.

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Date: April 1st, 2019.  Noon-ish.

 

Freedom Hall, the city-based headquarters of the city's -- if not the world's -- premiere superhero team, had received an unusual visitor.  A man once welcome in those halls, who had worked and played alongside those esteemed heroes, was counted amongst their number... and then who fell, thoroughly and abruptly.  He had retreated to seclusion for extended treatment, of both mind and body.  Now, many years later, he had returned to Freedom, and was filling his former colleagues in on what he had been up to.

 

Well, he hadn't gotten to his colleagues yet.  Doktor Archeville was still in the ground floor reception area, talking with Cynthia, the League's not-quite-sentient robot receptionist.  He was in disguise, as a German tourist (in socks & sandals, with a large backpack), asking mildly inane question vocally, but using his technopathic abilities to have a real conversation with her via radio.

 

"... and it wasn't until I was certain that the Communion was gone from the system that I left that planet and returned here.  Well, not here-here, but here, to Earth.  I went back to therapy, and the therapist remarked how my time away seemed to have done me some good, so we started re-acclimating me to working with the public.  Small steps at first, of course, working undercover as a handyman, posing as an apprentice who was being shown around by his mentor -- and supervisor.  Eventually I did some work as a substitute teacher, again still in disguise, getting more exposure to working with groups, proving some guidance and mentorship to them."  He sighed wistfully, "that felt very rewarding, and made me quite happy.  And now I am here, back in Freedom, to touch base with folks, speak with those I had not spoken with since the... incident -- assuming they even will speak with me -- and admit the exact nature of my wrongs & attempt to make amends to them all.  I know some may refuse, some may never forgive, but I must make sincere attempts at reconciliation."

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"Viktor, hello." The temperature in the room dropped noticeably, and turning around Archeville was confronted by the most famous hero of the Soviet Union - Comrade Frost. Frost had been with the Peoples' Heroes the last time Archeville had been active among the heroes of Freedom City, but he'd heard of the decades-long career of the Russian hero even then. "I am glad you could be here today," said Frost diplomatically, hands buried inside the voluminous parka of his costume. Frost looked a bit like a man dressed for the icy cold, as befit a man with his fantastic cryokinetic abilities. "Have you been well?" 

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"Comrade Frost!  Hello!," Archeville replied warmly, turning from Cynthia and extending a hand to him.  "I have been... well.  Better, is perhaps more accurate, or more pertinent.  I wasn't sure who amongst the League would be here today -- or, indeed, if any would be present.  I know how things can get around here, even on the best of days."

 

And on the worst... well...

 

"So is it just you here today?," he asked, trying to think of socially expected small talk and ice breakers, and then immediately regretting that phrase considering his company.  "I was hoping to meet as much of the team as possible.  If that's alright, of course," he quickly added, "I don't want to presume anything, and I know how easy it would be to come up with some plausible excuse not to see me."

 

His hand was still extended to Frost.

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Frost's grip was strong and cold, his smile ready and just a little predatory. "Oh, well, I am sure they will have much to say to you!" He clapped Archeville on the shoulder. "Is just me and chickens today. Oh and Siren but she is with friend. Come, there is someone I want you to meet." He led the way past Cynthia, winking at the robot as they went, and led Archeville to an elevator - one that went up, rather than down. "Your pardon, Herr Doktor," he said sociably, "but I must beg your indulgence on small personal matter. There is individual of some interest to League who I have long thought you should meet." The elevator led them up to an office corridor, the sort of place the League used for teaching and meetings with the general public rather than fellow superheroes. Everything seemed mundane enough, but a distinct, oddly familiar bass sound was coming through the doors. "After you, " suggested Frost, stepping back to let Archeville enter the room first. 

 

Inside the briefing room, Aquaria was regaling Siren with tales, crouching on top of the table with her hind legs folded behind her. "...and when I woke up, my pillow was-" Spreading her arms wide, she looked up as the door opened, staring at the Surface-Man entering with big goggle eyes, her wide mouth set in a frown. She was all but nude at the moment, her armor under repair by the League, her trident resting against the table as she gestured grandly. The lights were turned down low in deference to her eyes, which glowed faintly with reflected light from the door. She sniffed the air with her great nostrils, the sound like a seal snorting. Well this man smelled bizarre, but didn't all Surface-Men? 

 

The Deep One, for that was clearly what she was, stared at Archeville unblinkingly. 

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Posted (edited)

Much to say to me... yes, that's one way to phrase it.

 

"Oh, I would be delighted to meet them," Archeville replied cheerfully, brushing aside Frost's semi-ominous reply and happy to be included in Freedom League operations, no matter how minor.  "In what way are they of interest, such that you want me to meet them?  Do they possess some advanced skills in some scientific or technological field?  Or are they a new staff psychologist, here to help Leaguers with PTSD and other... issues?  I would be happy to provide contact information for the ones I have been working with, many of whom are highly regarded in their field.  Some are local, but others are in Germany, though I am sure arrangements could be made for-"  

 

He froze once he passed the threshold of the door.  His own eyes, sensitive to a much wider swath of the electromagnetic spectrum than what most humans could see, were unimpeded by the dim light.  And so he could see, quite clearly, one of the things that had served his Other, had served him, fought for him, died for him.  It was there, sitting before Siren, a long-time heroine and member of the Freedom League.

 

He remained frozen, BSoD'd, his mind racing with possible explanations, as horrific memories welled up.

Edited by Dr Archeville

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Aquaria stared and stared at the man, acutely aware that Siren and Frost were looking at her, and the man was looking at her. He smelled bizarre, like flesh and metal together, but why was everyone looking at her? She peered intently at him, hoping that someone would say something soon! 

 

"Hello Viktor," offered Siren, giving him a calm, professional smile that reminded him just how long Cassandra Vale had been a superhero. "I'm glad you're here. This is Aquaria Innsmouth, she's been a superhero here in Freedom for quite some time. Aquaria, this is Viktor Archeville, but you know him as-." 

"I know." This name Aquaria did know, suddenly recognizing the man she had never seen with her own eyes. She leaned back into her crouch and flexed the muscles of her throat involuntarily, producing a noticeable bulge. When she spoke, it was with a distinct hiss. "R'K'Vll." She gave a low, audible thrum after she spoke the words.

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Archeville's heart was racing, he was short of breath, and he felt a tingling in his extremities.  He'd remained still as a statue, though not for much longer.

 

They're back they're back they're here they've infiltrated the League no no no that can't be it one alone would not do so what then April Fool's Day prank no no too cruel for them testing me making sure I do not have any of that Other in me lingering waiting slumbering no no no it's gone it's gone gone gone I am me I am myself maybe this is a metahuman with some mutation that just makes them look like a Deep One look and smell and sound and-

 

And then she addressed him, by that horrifically familiar name.

 

And then his panic attack reached its apex, and he fainted, collapsing into a heap at Frost's feet.

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"Dammit Frost!" And with Siren's words, Archeville fell into a familiar place - darkness. 

 

When Dr. Archeville opened his eyes again, he was laying on his back in Freedom Hall's small clinic. At his side was Cassandra Vale, her Siren guise tucked away, stately in an ageless way that belied just how long she'd been active as a hero. "Hello, Viktor," she said as he awoke. It was quiet in here, but there was activity outside; unlike in a more conventional doctor's office, they at least had the room to themselves. "I'm sorry about that. Your reaction was - not expected." 

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"I hesitate to ask why sort of reaction you were expecting," Archeville replied slowly, rubbing his eyes.  "Though perhaps a more accurate term would be... fearing."

 

Archeville ran a quick diagnostic of his vitals.  Heart rate and blood pressure still elevated, though within tolerable parameters.  Neuotransmitter levels returning to recommended levels.  No foreign agents detected in blood.

 

"I see the logic in it, wanting to make sure I did not experience any relapses, that there was nothing of that Other still lurking within me.  Phantom and Scarab had both given me a thorough metaphysical scrubbing, but I can appreciate the desire to be triply sure.  So," he said after taking a few steadying breaths, "was that... individual one who came ashore during my... episode?  Or did they come later?  What are they like?  Have they been held here, in the Hall, or are they allowed to come and go as they please?"

 

Does the League trust them more than they trust me?

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"Both you and Aquaria were being tested," said Vale frankly. "We only have her word about her activities before she first appeared in Freedom City, which has been a subject of concern - particularly as she still practices the traditional Deep One religion. She arrived in Freedom City shortly after the invasion. She was held in Blackstone for some time  before being granted a supervised release. There were some concerns about a Deep One being active here, but she has defended the city and its inhabitants on several occasions, particularly during the recent Terminus outbreak. All that's on the public record." Vale pursed her lips for a moment, then said, "If you would like to speak to her, she's outside."   

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The monitors showed a spike in Archeville's heart rate when Vale mentioned Aquaria's religious practice, but soon settled back down.  "I suppose I should talk with... her, but not just yet.  I have a few more questions I would like to ask you first, but before I do, allow me to look up a few things."

 

Archeville closed his eyes and shifted his perceptions to the wider EM spectrum, searching for strong wifi signals and from there to the internet.  He ran a quick search on 'Deep Ones' and 'Aquaria Innsmouth'.  The first brought up several accounts of the unpleasantness of June 2011, articles he had read and re-read dozens of times.  Refining that search, combined with the terms of his second one, brought up information on the individual he had just met.

 

"Yes," he said after a few moments, opening his eyes and looking at Vale with a mix of eager curiosity and profound loss, "I can see she has had some impact, though there is much that is still unknown.  So, I would ask you, as someone who has tied to the seas and those who dwell in them: what do you think of her?  And what have you seen of her religious practices?"

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"She told me once that one of the greatest gifts Dagon and Hydra gave their children was the power to love one another," said Vale, a smile tugging faintly at her lips. "And she meant it. Honestly I think she may be the Deep One equivalent of a supervillain, a deviant who's only able to find a home among the enemies of her people. But she's been a fascinating source for post-Deluge Lemurian culture; my next book actually looks at apocalyptic practices in Deep One religion as an outgrowth of their post-Lemurian status..." She shook her head, waving the conversation away. "Deep Ones are fundamentally driven by group instincts. As far as I've been able to tell, the people of this city are her group now. As far as what she's like, well, she can be loud and emotionally labile, but that's not uncommon among metahumans in my experience." 

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Archeville's mouth actually fell slightly agape at Vale's information.  After several moments of muttering half-formed words to himself, he fixed her with a look.  "So, she's a... a heretic?  The enemy of our enemy is our friend?  That is... not unprecedented, yes, but I... hrm."  He went quiet again, slowly drumming his fingers.

 

"One last question, if you will allow, and then I... I will meet with her.  Again.  What was her reaction, when she saw me, and when I fainted?  I was not in the best frame of mind to study her reactions to me, so I do not clearly recall how she looked at me."

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"She said 'is he dead? Oh no!'" said Vale, spreading her hands and popping her eyes in not a bad imitation of a Deep One. "While Dimitri called the health team, I was busy telling her that she wasn't going to go back to prison for this, and that she could let go of the ceiling. I will be speaking to Comrade Frost about that conversation later." 

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Despite himself, a small smile did creep into Archeville's lips.  He slowly disengaged himself from the health monitors and got out of bed, "Alright, give me a moment to make myself presentable, and then I will speak with her."  He smoothed out his clothing, checked his appearance in a small mirror set into the wall, and ran his hands through his hair.

 

Alright.  I can do this.  I can.  I can do this.

 

It took only a few strides to reach the door.  He placed his hand on the knob, took another steadying breath, and slowly turned the handle.  The door opened.

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Outside the door, Sea Devil was waiting for him - this time armored, and with her trident in her hand, butt end on the ground like the staff of Moses. They were in an antiseptic hallway in Freedom but the smell of the sea and the drip-drip-drip of distant waters seemed to permeate the place amid the presence of a Deep One. The faceplate of her armor pulled down, Aquaria faced Archeville with big goggle eyes and a mouth wide enough to fit his whole head inside if she opened it up. He'd seen adult Deep Ones of a certain strain do that very thing, come to think of it. "You are not as the songs said," Aquaria croaked. "Are you well?" Her voice was a deep bass throb, like the croaking of a gigantic bullfrog. 

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"I am... better than I was," he replied, wincing a bit at her voice.  "And very different, as I am sure you can see.  More a being of this world, less of yours.  And blended with our technology, not with your magics."  He eyed her trident warily; he had seen some wielding weapons of similar construction to horrifying effect.  "So... I hear you are not as the other Deep Ones, and that you see the people of this city as your... your clan?  Tribe?  I would like to know how that happened.  And how you came by that armor," he added, taking his eyes off her weapon and face and examining her outfit, "which looks like nothing I have ever seen before, but which I have a feeling is from neither this world nor yours."

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"I heard that a champion had come forth, one who had led a holy crusade against the Surface and built a land where all sang in harmony." She turned her head towards her trident, a motion that required moving most of her upper torso. Whatever else that powerful neck could do, it couldn't swivel as smoothly as a human's. Even so, Archeville could tell those great eyes could still see him. "I had nothing left Below, so I came Above. But the great champion had failed, and the bodies of the dead lay rotting in the dead soil Above. For a time, I thought I would rot too, but I live still, and have many friends." She turned her head and looked back at Archeville. "Why do you say I am different?" she inquired. "I have those I love, and those I hate. I sing to the Gods Below and dance beneath the Sea of Stars, and I have even touched them. I have heard more but I do not think I am different down in my guts.

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Archeville winced at the use of the term 'champion,' but tried to keep his composure.  "Others, whose judgment I trust, say you are different, because you act unlike other Deep Ones we have encountered.  All the ones we have encountered saw humans as nothing but food, or breeding stock.  And that... 'champion'," he said through gritted teeth, "saw all of us -- human and Deep One alike -- as little more than mildly useful animals, amusing pets at best, or food otherwise.  The only songs that would be heard in its wake are dirges, and howls of pain and loss."  He paused, trying to maintain his composure while in the presence of a being that reminded him of all that.  "It fed on and fed into all the darker aspects of my psyche, and the minds of my ancestors.  And that is what you followed?  Knowingly?"

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"I remember, in the realms Below, whole villages with nothing but the spawn and the very aged to feed them," croaked Aquaria rapidly. She had hoped for calm here, she knew how important it was, especially in this place full of mighty Surfacers. "And they sang of the champion who had taken the males and females to war, to build a world where all could eat their fill and where all could sing together. Those songs are gone now, and I am the only one who remembers."

 

She looked away again, stowing her trident on her back, and began ascending the walls, sticky pads clinging as she went. She looked back at Archeville, clinging to the ceiling. "The hungry will follow a champion who promises them food. The faithful will follow a champion who has the blessings of the gods. I am sorry for what was done to you, Archeville - it was an abomination to take the blood of the gods and pour it into the flesh of a Surfacer, fouling both to no end but suffering, but I am the only one who sings for the dead Surface-Men and for the bones of our dead in your dry ground.

"We took all the ones we could find," said Vale mildly, having watched the exchange between the two with interest, "and returned them to the sea, as you requested." 

 

"...yes," admitted Aquaria unhappily, looking away again. "That was kind." She scuttled around above them, then hopped back to the ground on all fours, all kinetic motion. "They call me apostate, because I chose life on the Surface over death, and because I found family here when all below had abandoned me because I thought there was a path to sacrifice that did not run through blood. If they would just listen to me, here and there both, things could be different. But they will not, and so I am the Sea Devil, who traveled on the Sea of Stars and returned to this place."  

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Archeville was quiet, taking everything in -- her words, the way she paced (so very similar to the way he paced with his anti-gravity belt), the brief exchange between the two women.  What she says sounds good and reasonable, certainly, and not outside the realm of possibility.  I've seen friendly neighborhood vampires, rogue Omegadrones,  people with the blood of demons in their veins, all trying to do good.  And there was even that one guy, Kid Cthulhu, who tried using his powers to help others.  Am I being fair to her?  I'm prejudiced, no doubt, given what I went through, but that's just one more thing I'll need to work on.

 

At last he spoke, his tone reserved.  "I am... glad I had this opportunity to meet with you."  He nodded to Vale, then looked back to Aquaria, "you have given me much to think on, and new ideas to consider, which is something I always relish.  And I should like to continue talking with you, and learn more about where you've been, in the Seas of Water and the Sea of Stars.  And... about you."

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"Yes, I can tell you about that," offered Aquaria as she landed alongside Archeville, keeping pace with him as they walked together out of the hallway and back into Freedom Hall proper. "I found my armor when I went into the Sea of Stars with my friend. I was supposed to use it to kill Atlantis, but my friend told me that was bad. So now I use it to do good, and I do not kill Atlantis." Her throat flexed contemplatively as she said, "My friend is Singularity, she is is like Wander, but she is from a different place. Have you ever been to other places?

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There's another Wander running around Freedom?  Oh my.  Wonder how the legal system's dealing with that.

 

"I have been to other places, yes.  Ah, other dimensions.  Many that were like this world, but as it was hundreds of years ago.  One where... some very bad Surface people had taken over," he thought back to the time he & some others helped rescue some Claremonters from an accidental trip to Erde, "I helped Wander and some of her friends get out of there.  I spent months on one where the sun was red and bloated, the oceans had all dried up, and metal was as scarce as the water.  That one," he looked down at his hand, picturing the technorganic matter beneath the holodisguise, "had a very big impact on me, in a very unexpected way."

 

"I have also been out into space- er, into the Sea of Stars.  I would like to go back.  I have considered going back, for longer explorations.  But..." he looked back to Vale and Frost, "there is much I should still do here, I think."

 

"So, I hear you have helped Miss Vale learn much about your faith, and about Lemuria.  Has she taught you much of Surface Worlder faiths, or of Atlantis?" 

Edited by Dr Archeville

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"Yes, Surfacers worship many interesting things," croaked Aquaria politely, hopping along at Archeville's side and occasionally stepping as they went. She got little attention as they went; evidently the Sea Devil (especially with her face mostly covered) was a familiar enough figure inside Freedom Hall that she got no more than the occasional odd look. At the mention of Atlantis, she added, "Do you worship any Surface gods?

 

"Aquaria has worked with several visiting Atlanteans," said Vale gently. "It caused a few diplomatic incidents, but things have improved on that front too." 


"Yes, and only once did they try and strike me dead," Aquaria croaked, irritably. "What do you know of Atlantis, Archeville?

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Archeville wondered who was getting more odd looks, Sea Devil or himself.  "I do not worship any deities, no.  I have worked alongside some," he said, remembering his short time with Thrude, "but... hrm."  Realizing Siren, who was a goddess, could still be lurking about, he tried to remain diplomatic.  "The ones who have made their presence known here on Earth either seem intent on wiping us all out, or are as emotional and fallible as any human -- or metahuman.  And who knows, in a thousand years, some of today's superheroes may be remembered as deities."  He chuckled briefly at that, his first thought going to how a certain immortal Greek inventor would react to such a development.  "Are there superheroes amongst your people?  Ah, sorry, I am getting off topic.  My faith has been in my skills, my technology... but that has not been enough, so I am learning to put some faith in others."

 

He coughed at the exchange between Vale and Aquaria, trying to hide another laugh.  "Atlantis?  I know it was once believed to be a legend, an allegory for a utopian nation, which started as a misinterpretation of one of Plato's allegories on the hubris of nations, mistaken as historical tradition.  And then, in the 1940s, we saw proof of it, when Prince Thallor rescued Lynn Sidon from a boat that had been attacked by Nazi forces.  Thallor and Lynn's son, Prince Theseus, joined the Freedom League in the 1960s, as Sea-King, and Atlantis had more dealings with the surface world, though tensions have always been -- and remain -- strained.  And I know Atlantis and Lemuria were at war for some time, and that Deep Ones were somehow born of both?"  He looked over her armor again, once more wondering where it was from.  "I also know their technology is quite different from surface world technology, incorporating both the advanced technology of the Preservers and their understanding and use of magic... and it was their mis-use of Lemurian magics that caused the cataclysm that sank their island."

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