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Avenger Assembled

Fish Out Of Water (IC)

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Fall 2019 

 

Heroditus knew intellectually what school counselors were - healers who looked after the mind rather than the body. Atlantis certainly had its own share of such people. But being summoned to meet personally with Dr. Marquez, the school's wheelchair-bound counselor, had come as a surprise. So here he was, waiting outside the counselor's office, wondering what had brought him here - but he didn't have long to wait. Pushing himself down the corridor came the doctor, a smile on his face for the student. "Ah, hello, Mr. Stylanios!" He pressed a button on his chair and the office door opened. "Apologies for keeping you waiting. Shall we talk?" 

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Heroditus had just taken another sip from his waterskin when he saw the counselor roll in.  He stood and greeted him as one would any learned non-military elder, bowing and then standing ramrod straight, raising his clenched left fist to his temple in salute.  "Thank you, Doctor Marquez."  He lowered his hand, and clasped both in front of him.  "Doctor, I must confess that I am unsure why I was called here.  Do you meet with all the new students, Doctor?  That would seem prudent."  He glanced at the office door, and proceeded to walk in.  "Or is this, Doctor, because I am Atlantean, and so are concerned that I am unfamiliar with your ways?  I have made some studies of Surfacer culture, to try to prepare myself, but I will admit there is much I yet have to learn, Doctor."

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"I do meet with all the new students, actually," said Dr. Marquez, "so you can consider this the first of several possible meetings." He lacked the physical capacity to give the typical reply to Heroditus, but did nod politely at the younger man's greeting. He didn't roll himself to behind the room's desk, but rather settled into position across from Heroditus on the same side. "This must be quite the experience for you - tell me, what are your thoughts on we surface-dwellers after your first few weeks' investigation?" 

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Heroditus nodded, and sat on the plush couch that had comforted many a student, once Marquez had indicated it was permitted.  "Ah, that is good to know, Doctor.  I can scarcely imagine how busy you must be, with all these students, so many new ones, Doctor, all of them so very different..."

 

He was quiet a moment, looking down at his hands.  "It has been a challenge, Doctor, though largely within what I expected."  He looked up to him, "Atlanteans tend to be reserved and conservative.  Disciplined.  We prefer order and predictability, Doctor -- we eat at the same times, usually the same foods, we dress alike, talk alike, keep to our own social classes.  We have... extensive social codes of conduct and unwritten rules for social interaction.  Even our language is part of this; I sense you are not used to my repeated use of your title, Doctor."

 

"I tell you this, Doctor, to explain my background.  While it is true that, as with most cultures, Atlantean adolescents often chafe against these traditions, and seek to make their own way, my understanding is that the most unruly Atlantean teenager is still much calmer, soft-spoken, and level-headed than the typical Surface Worlder teen."  He looked towards the window, "I do see the efforts you and the other faculty here make to mentor the students here, Doctor, and respect your efforts, but the students here all seem so... unpredictable.  It has been difficult for me to get my bearings, Doctor, to know where I stand with some people."

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"You've traveled from one world to another, a change as great as the ancient mammals who returned to the water and became the great whales." It was not quite the metaphor he'd have used with a surface-dwelling student, but it seemed more politic. "Remember that if you ever feel overwhelmed - you're undertaking a remarkable journey." He smiled. "As for predictability, I will admit that's a quality that we on the surface lack - though I hope you'll find that's a quality you can enjoy as your time here goes on. On that subject,:" he added, "I wanted to speak to you about the question of surprises. You're currently enrolled in, ah, Ethics 201, I believe. Are you familiar with the Ambassador Lectures, where members of unfamiliar nations come and talk to the students about their people?" 

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Heroditus nodded.  He is good at this.  "I appreciate your words, Doctor, and will strive to keep them in mind.  I am... learning how to... appreciate the differences here."  He offered a smile, though even he was not sure how sincere it was.

 

"That is correct, Doctor, Ethics 201, yes.  I felt it would be a useful way to learn about Surfacer ethics, how they compare and contrast to Atlantean mores."   He flashed another smile, this one much brighter, "they seem very compatible, I am happy to say.  My family is known for their work with technology, but we must always bear in mind why we do what we do, lest our work become corrupt.  I have heard of the Ambassador Lectures, yes, Doctor" he nodded, then his eyes went wide, "oh!  Did you want me to speak, about Atlantis?  I am not a diplomat, by any means, but I would certainly be willing to share information about Atlantean culture!"

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"That's a very kind offer," said Marquez with a smile, "and it speaks well of you that you're so civic-minded. I'll certainly pass that on to your instructors." He considered, then said, "For the moment, I want to speak to you about a different matter. This year, we've invited an Ambassador that may be a challenge for you - and I want to hear your thoughts on the matter. The heroine who calls herself The Sea Devil has agreed to come to speak to our students about her nation, as they are generally hostile to humanity and many of our students know very little about them. I believe the Atlantean term for her nation is the-" His pronunciation of the Atlantean word for 'Deep Ones' was obviously phonetic - but understandable enough. 

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Heroditus bowed his head and permitted a self-satisfied smile.  I have pleased the Counselor.  And he shall pass this along to the other Instructors.  This is good.  I-

 

At that last word, his head shot up and he stared past Marquez.  His brows furrowed, and a few syllables of Atlantean escaped his lips, bright and sharps, with some dolphin-esque clicks and pops.  He clasped his hands together, squeezing them tightly, and rocked back and forth slightly on the couch.

 

This went on for half a minute or so, then he suddenly stopped, blinked a few times.  "Doctor, I... appreciate your effort to learn my language.  Though I must, respectfully, correct you, Doctor, on one error: the term you used refers to the... individuals known as Deep Ones.  Their nation, Doctor, is Lemuria.  I also appreciate you letting me know in advance, so I might prepare myself, and decide if I shall attend or not."  He hesitated a moment, "do... do you know what I was involved in, shortly before coming to the Surface?"

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"Surface-dwellers know very little about what happens in Atlantis," admitted Marquez. "I know you were called up for a special assignment by the Atlantean military, and that it nearly delayed your arrival here. The officer in charge has taken an interest in your work here, by the way, the Headmistress has had several conversations with him about how we respect the privacy of students here."

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Heroditus' eyes widened again, "General Dalekos?  Has been keeping a line on me?"  More squeaks and pops, and while the exact translation was unclear, his concern and worry was.  "So, Doctor, there are some aspects I cannot divulge, being military and state secrets, but there are some I can.  That I must, Doctor, if you are to understand my concerns.  The assignment, as you say, the project I was called to help with, concerned one of the oldest aspects of the conflict between Atlanteans and the Deep Ones.  The originating aspect, one might say."  He shifted uncomfortably in the couch, "please, Doctor, if you would, what do you know of the relationship between us?  The conflicts between Atlanteans and Deep Ones?  What has this... Sea Devil told you?"

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"I've only met her once, over the summer. The headmistress invited her to a holiday function so she could meet the faculty. She spent most of her time talking about the food," he admitted. "I know that Atlanteans see Lemurians as a hostile nation, one driven to continued raids against their borders with bloody consequences - which does match the experience of many surface-dwellers. From what she said, the Sea Devil's people see things in much the same way - that Atlanteans are enemies of their blood, who seek their destruction out of spite. I want you to understand, Heroditus," he added seriously, "that The Sea Devil's temporary presence here does not mean the school is taking a side against your people. This is a safe place, and you are among friends." 

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Heroditus suddenly felt quite parched, and took a long swig from his waterskin.  "I appreciate the clarification, Doctor.  There is... some truth to what Sea Devil says.  We do see Lemuria as a hostile nation, and have for millennia.  And I am not surprised they see us the same way.  But what you must understand, Doctor, is that Deep Ones are... unnatural.  They are the descendants of Atlanteans who were corrupted and twisted by," he paused again, unsure how much Marquez knew, "by ancient magics, from an ancient race that would conquer, enslave, and consume all life.  Some Deep Ones are born as such, but they also have... techniques where they can change modern Atlanteans -- and humans -- into Deep Ones."  He paused again, this time to allow what he'd said to sink in.  "The project I was helping with, before coming here, was an attempt to reverse that, to change Deep Ones back into Atlanteans."

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Marquez set down his pen and looked at Heroditus, his eyes wide, and for the first time the Atlantean teen had the idea that he had genuinely surprised the surface-dweller. "I see. That is very helpful information. Thank you for providing it." He was silent for a moment, then said, "That sounds like a remarkable process. Where did they find the volunteers?" 

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"That is... a classified military matter, Doctor" he eventually replied.  "But when a local tribe of Deep Ones learned of this" -- the tribe Dalekos' men had captured members from for their experiments -- "their objections took the form of assault on our research station, murdering the scientists within, and kidnapping the researcher's children, leaving them at the edge of a trench to be eaten by some manner of kraken."  He shut his eyes, remembering the sights, and the smells.  "The children were saved, with some help from Princess Thaelia," he made a gesture of respect, "whom I believe the Surface knows as Glamazon."

 

Another moment of silence, then he opened his eyes and regarded Marquez.  "Despite what I have said, Doctor, I do not fully blame the Deep Ones for their actions.  This may be my mother's influence, but I see them as victims, of that ancient race that warped them, of the malevolent entities they serve, of their unnatural instincts and hungers.  While I have some... reservations concerning the experiments Dalekos' agents performed, I do agree with the end result: restoring them to their original Atlantean form, cleaning that corruption, is a good and noble goal, Doctor, much better than simply writing them off as monsters."

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Marquez listened with sympathetic concern during Artificer's tale. "I'm so sorry, Mr. Stylanios, I can only imagine how difficult that experience must have been for you. Your encounter does...fit our understanding of Deep One culture, yes," agreed Marquez, who had taken up his pen and was writing with great vigor. "I had the pleasure of working with Princess Thaelia during her time here at Claremont; I am sure she was a credit to her name." He hmmed. "Thank you for your candor, Heroditus - it's been very helpful. If you were a few years younger, I would simply make a recommendation to the Headmistress, but you are old enough that your opinion carries weight in this conversation. I hope that you will continue to be candid with me - do you believe that you will be able to conduct yourself appropriately, based on Claremont's code of conduct, in the presence of a Deep One?" 

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A great debate raged within Heroditus, though externally this manifested as some more rocking and murmurings in Atlantean.  After almost a full minute, he finally replied.

 

"Doctor, I do not wish to act in a way that would bring shame to this school, or my instructors, or you.  More importantly, Doctor, I do not wish to act in a way that would bring shame to Atlantis, or to my family."  He paused to take another drink from his waterskin, "which is why I believe it would be beneficial to hear what Sea Devil has to say.  So that we may learn about Deep One instincts, and drives, and how they can be weaned off their more... deleterious hungers.  And, in time, get them to want to turn away from the malevolent entities they've worshiped, and return to Atlantis, not as assailants but as distant cousins who had been lead astray but have seen the errors of their ways, and broken free of their controllers.  So, yes, Doctor," he nodded, "I shall comport myself in accordance with Claremont's code of conduct."

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"Excellent. I'm very glad to hear that, Heroditus," said Marquez after a time. "I will keep what you have told me here under the veil of confidentiality between therapist and student, and suggest to Headmistress Summers that you be allowed to attend The Sea Devil's talk. There is one thing I would...suggest," he said frankly. "I do not believe that Ms. Innsmouth believes that her condition is in need of 'curing', and it would be...discourteous of our school to allow any of our guests to feel attacked here. Do you understand?" 

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He nodded curtly, "of course, Doctor.  The addict does not want to be told they're an addict, they must realize that for themselves before any healing can truly begin.  This was actually one of the reservations I had about our project: though the change into a Deep One may have been forced upon them, mentally, physically, spiritually, a change back would work best if they want to change, to accept that such change is both possible and desirable.  And, as I lack the psychological and counseling skills necessary for such a feat" (was he hinting that Marquez should talk with Innsmouth about her "condition"?) "I shall refrain from engaging in such discussions, and focus my efforts on the mechanism of change for when and if a subject is ready.  After my Claremont work is completed, of course."

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