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Left You Here Above (IC)


Avenger Assembled

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Fall 2019 

8PM 

The night of Sea Devil's talk in Dagon the King 

 

The reception had mostly, but not entirely, cleared out. Aquaria had seriously considered skipping it but the food was free and she never would turn down free fish. She'd stood by the snack table, picking up kippers and eating them like a Surfacer would eat canapes, and chatted with a few faculty and students who were interested in what she had to say. By the end of the evening she was feeling, perhaps not perfect, but better. Some few of those who had come had been willing to listen, and even that Atlantean prince had been willing to sing to her for a little while. Even if he has no manners. Sweetest of the Fallen indeed! But now the Atlanteans were gone and it was just the monster and the men, and some of the students were milling around with the knowledge that curfew didn't technically apply if you were attending an on-campus event  like this. 

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After getting a firm talking to from Headmistress Summers (in retrospect, maybe it had been a bit much), Lulu had opted to hang around for a bit after Aquaria's presentation. Adam had some homework to do, but agreed to 'talk' to her later, so he kissed her goodnight and headed back to his dorm.

 

She wasn't quite sure what she wanted to say, but Lulu felt compelled to seek the aquatic heroine out and say... something. So she filled up a plastic cup with punch and made her way to the Deep One's side.

 

"Um, hi. Thank you so much for comin' so our school. Ah'm guessin' it didn't go quite the way you hoped." Then she held out her hand. "Ah'm Lulu, if you don't remember."

Edited by Heritage
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Aquaria extended a hand - her grip was wet, cold and just a little slimey when she closed a three-fingered hand around Lulu's. "Hello," she croaked softly, her voice higher when she wasn't trying to project to a whole room. "Yes, the folk-tales, and the question. Thank you for your words. They were kind." For her part, Aquaria had gone through most of a whole jug of water by herself just during the party. She sipped from her cup, which required pouring it down her throat, then turned her upper body so she could watch Lulu with one big eye. "They had reason to be afraid."

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It took all of Lulu's willpower and Southern manners not to wipe her hand on her pants; it was an instinctual response to touching something slimy, but it felt hurtful to do it. Finally, she gave in, but did her best to do it quickly and without comment, and pray that Aquaria would understand.

 

"Who had reason to be scared? The Atlanteans or the Surface-dwellers? Or both?"

 

Suddenly she felt like every white girl in every bad science fiction movie, trying so hard to make 'frey-ends' with an alien.

 

I feel so stupid. Why do I have to help everybody?

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"Deep Ones have raided the Surface and they have killed your people. And the Surface has raided my people and killed them. Atlantis is...different." Aquaria had sometimes wondered how relations between the Surface and her people would have been different if Atlantis hadn't taught generations of Deep Ones that anyone who looked like an Atlantean was an enemy of their blood who would kill them and burn their eggs in the burrows - but there was no point in such speculation. She considered her words carefully, then said, "When there is a...fight, it is hard to be the first to stop. Like when your people tried to kill all the ones with dark skin.

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Lulu let out a long, slow whistle of air and looked deeply uncomfortable; you didn't need to go back very far to see some very unpleasant branches on her family tree. "Ohhhh, I don't know if that ones over just yet..." Then a thought occurred to her. "So you're up here, spreadin' the message of peace among the Surface folk, right? Has anyone from our side ever attempted a diplomatic mission to the Deep Ones? Or set up any kind of embassy or anythin'? 'Cause it seems to me that would only be fair."

 

As she pondered these questions, she began to send visions of marine life swimming around them, like she'd seen in the big aquarium tanks in Vibora City as a kid, sharks and mantas floating majestically through the air.

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Aquaria pictured the results of such an embassy in a series of quick, vivid flashes in her mind - and supposed some of the superhumans she'd met could probably survive the effort. But then she realized what was the most serious problem. 

 

"With Lemuria lost, we have no kings and no masters save the Gods Below - so there would be no one to hear them. Atlantis can send its diplomats and sing of peace, and Surfacers can come and be fed by them, but there is no one to sing for us. Except me. Even when there is war, it happens because someone like R'K'Vll thought of a war, not because we were told. We are free."  

 

Aquaria paused for a moment as the illusions appeared, sniffed the air curiously, then said, "You are not magic. You are psionic. One of those helped my friend - she took the bad thoughts from her head and put good thoughts there. But she still has some bad thoughts, so it did not fix everything Have you ever done that?" She sounded curious, not fearful. 

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Lulu looked a little uncomfortable again as she sipped her punch, trying to figure out the best way to answer that. "Well, ah think ah can, but that sort of thing makes me a bit nervous. Because, like, who decides what's the right way to think? If ah change someone's memories, ah'm changin' part of who they are, know what ah mean? And that just feels...wrong to me."

 

She finished off her punch, but still held onto her cup, slowly rotating it with her fingers as she stared into its depths. "Ah took control of my daddy, when he...asked me to do somethin' awful. He threatened me and my brother, ah told him to f### off, and then he swung his hand back to hit me-" And now Lulu held her own hand up in a warding gesture, her dark eyes looking into the past. "And ah stopped him; ah reached into his head and pulled his strings." Then she closed her hand into a fist, before slowly dropping it to her side. "Ah don't really like to think about it."

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"That is a sad story. I am sorry those things happened to you," croaked Aquaria sympathetically, though it was mostly in the abstract because of the distress it seemed to cause the young woman. She had very little frame of reference for understanding the story and its implications. She considered telling the girl about how Deep Ones had no fathers the way Surface-Men did, but she figured that conversation would be difficult right now. "When my friend was at the other Claremont, the ones with those powers put bad thoughts in her head and they made her kill many people. But people from this one put good thoughts in her head and she is better now. Her father-but-not-her-father lives in Seattle. We visited there once. The children called me the Christmas Frog." It was obviously a happy memory, and Aquaria hopped up on the table so she could crouch comfortably while looking  Lulu in the eye. 

 

"The Christmas Frog is a frog who delivers presents at Christmas. I still have the hat." She sipped from her water and said, "Do you believe those tales that you told? About the dead god who will return and take his vengeance? I know many here do.

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Nick pulled a disappearing act soon after the finale. Sharp-eyed observers noted his brief reappearances and equally quick departures. Each time he snagged something from the snack table, glanced at Aquaria uncertainly, and was gone. Now that the crowds thinned he appeared again. He hit the snack table for another round about the time the Christmas Frog topic began. He looked over in confusion but didn't approach.

 

Now the funny part came bit-by-bit. Slowly but surely, Nick edged his way around the snack table. Oh, he'd stop and graze a cookie or two. Soon enough though he'd turned the corner across from Aquaria and Lulu. A minute or so later he'd reached the halfway point. At that point he was close enough to easily listen, but conflicted about not being rude for eavesdropping, so to speak. He settled on having another double-chocolate cookie and tried to avoid being noticed. Standing right out in the open.

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Lulu smiled at the thought of Aquaria bringing gifts and holiday cheer; despite the awful things Ben had said in his frustration, she could sense that the Deep One was at her heart a gentle soul, though like any human probably capable of terrible violence if pushed.

 

As to Aquaria's questions about religion, here the redheaded teen had to pause as she leaned against the table. "Ah'm...not sure where ah stand with the Southern Baptist Convention. Ah mean, ah believe there's more to this world than we see, but ah'm not a big fan of all the hypocrisy on display in its Sunday best." She sighed and shrugged. "Guess ah'm still tryin' to figure out my own personal faith."

 

Suddenly several curious illusionary fish began to gather around Nick's head; meanwhile, Lulu rolled her eyes and looked up at the ceiling. "You know what's not the best way to sneak up on a telepath? Thinkin' 'ah hope they don't see me' really loud in your head." She looked over her shoulder and offered the newcomer a friendly if somewhat mischievous smile. "Howdy, Nick. Why don't you come join us?"

Edited by Heritage
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"I could see you because my eyes are very large," croaked Aquaria cheerfully in a voice that echoed deep into the infrasonics. "I can see behind my back." She didn't seem adverse to Nick's approach, and indeed was not - he was the boy who had asked (through the other student) about her voice. "Do you ever worry about that?" she asked Lulu. "What will happen when the dead god comes. I call him the dead god because my friend said I should not keep talking about him in public.

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That's when Nick did something really unexpected. Aside from going crossed eyed looking at the illusionary fish. He smiled brightly, stood up straight, and almost jogged the short distance to the two. Was this all part of his plan? Nah, probably not. He did offer the plate of cookies to the two though.

 

The plate proffered with one hand, Nick reached under the back of his shirt, withdrew a battered tablet, and held it up. The pre-typed message read, "Thank you."

 

He hesitated at further introductions, and his demeanor became more somber. His appearance, after all, was mid conversation. Probably thought it best to let them continue.

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Lulu took a cookie with a smile and a sotto voce 'thank you', then took a bite of it as she pondered Aquaria's question. After a few moments chewing, she shrugged. "Mmm, I don't know; if the Good Lord comes back to this Earth, ah think a lot of the folks who claim they serve him will be quakin' in their boots. Ah think a lot of wickedness and hurt is done in His name, which is a shame, because the Bible is full of such beautiful things; it really is 'the Good Book' if you read it right. But ah think a lot of folk, at least where ah come from, use it to justify their own worst behaviour."

 

Then she turned to Nick as she popped the rest of her cookie in her mouth. "What about you, Mister Nick? Any questions for our distinguished guest?"

Edited by Heritage
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Nick shifted uncomfortably at being the center of attention. He looked back-and-forth between Lulu and Aquaria. Now that the opportunity presented itself, all of his questions fled his mind.

 

Quickly, a review of his thoughts were conducted. Standing there, he seemed to be staring off in thought for a moment or two. A lot of them focused on convincing himself to even ask Aquaria anything. Probably one of the reasons for his vanishing act. Others approached from the angle of what sorts of questions to ask. He didn't want to focus on trivial, though to him very interesting, things lest he annoy her. Conversely, he didn't want to get lost in the clouds with big picture questions. The central thread was that he had a lot of questions.

 

Taking a slow breath, he began typing on his tablet. He held up the resulting question for them to read, looking a bit bashful. "Why exactly is Lemurian unhealthy for Surfacers?"

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Aquaria wrung her hands together wetly, then croaked, "It is bad for the brain; there are too many sounds that are too loud or too soft for you to hear. When humans learn Lemurian too well, it is bad for them." She hopped down from the tabletop and stood erect again, standing in the half-slouch that seemed to be the natural posture for an upright Deep One. "That is why s-humans who learn Lemurian do bad things sometimes." She croaked softly and said, "It is like your words for us, but only in the throat." 

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Nick cocked his head to the side as his face scrunched up in thought. To Lulu, and perhaps Aquaria, he looked quite confused. Vague hand gestures, half-formed ASL words, punctuated his thought process. Finally though, he typed a reply and held up the tablet. Now looking both bashful and curious.

 

"How could a language have such a profound effect? Your Lemurian was translated in real time, and I can hear the components outside of normal human range." He didn't add the tongue-in-cheek rejoinder about going mad from the revelation.

 

Once they finished reading, he turned the tablet to begin typing but stopped. One thing at a time as he concentrated on Aquaria for her answer. So many more questions.

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"It is words that go beyond your words, and speech that goes beyond your speech." Aquaria had by now secured what appeared to be a two-liter bottle of ginger ale - and as she spoke, she unscrewed the lid wetly. "Your language hurts my throat. If I speak it too long, I could even bleed. Why would mine be any better for yours?" She opened the bottle and poured it down into her gigantic mouth as she spoke, making direct eye-contact with both Lulu and Nick by means of large eyes that could indeed look in two directions at once. 

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Nick couldn't help but feel amused by Aquaria's mannerisms. The chameleon eyes especially made him smile. That didn't subtract from the conversation, but for lack of a better term, actually "humanized" her somewhat for him. She was already a person in the philosophical sense, but the more he interacted with her, the more she real she felt.

 

Her seeming defensiveness though did subtract from the conversation. The reply reminded him of the talk earlier. She had to carefully phrase and dance around certain subjects. Didn't always work given the reaction from some of the students. The Atlanteans he understood, even if he didn't understand the history. But curiosity remained, and Nick hoped he could find a way to continue the conversation. Constructively and politely.

 

"That's the issue," he wrote on the tablet, "That's what I'm asking. The mechanics of human speech that hurt your throat can be quantified. Understood on a physical level. Adapting for language outside of your normal range."

 

He ran a finger around the edge of the tablet, and after they finished reading, presented another message momentarily, "You are saying that Lemurian has deleterious effects on the human brain. I want to know the hows and whys."

 

"I'm hearing is that understanding the words is the problem. What are 'words that go beyond your words' then?" He munched on a double chocolate chip cookie as he presented the message. Offered the plate of cookies to the two again as a cover for creeping anxiety.

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"I do not know how your brains work," croaked Aquaria. "I know that sometimes they do not. I did not have a school when I was young." She scratched the back of her head, with her back leg. "I only know what I have seen, and read sometimes. I learned to read from your books," she offered. "There was a book for boats, that did not melt in the water. It had fish, and their names.

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Lulu had let the two chat back and forth a bit, in part because she felt both of them could benefit from more social interaction, but here she felt the need to step back into conversation as she took one of the offered cookies. "What ah think Aquaria might be referrin' to are maybe mystical aspects of the language? Because ah can tell you that magic is very real! There was that incident on campus last Halloween, plus all kinds of historical cases involvin' the Master Mage and whatnot. When you're dealin' with magic, words have real power, things like 'true names' and such." She took a big bite out of her cookie and shook her head. "And that, mah friends, is where ah draw the line; mah powers are weird enough without bringin' spells and s### into the mix!"

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Nick shifted a bit uncomfortably at Aquaria's response. She either didn't know or wasn't about to divulge information. Frankly, how to differentiate those two avenues was beyond Nick. Maybe a social butterfly could manage it, but verbal fencing did not suit his strengths. His face falling in disappointment, he nodded in understanding. Although the talk of books did bring up other topics...

 

Lulu brought him back from reality. As she spoke, a gamut of emotions crossed his face. The first, at the mention of "mystical", emotion looked to be simple confusion. Then skepticism. His face lit up in shock next, and his eyes widened further as she continued. Her closing comments though pushed him over the edge.

 

Nick discovered early on that not talking included things like laughing, crying, even grunting. He also discovered that some of those sounds were easier to suppress than others. Laughing silently, for example, came naturally to him. So like a muted video, Nick stood there with a big grin on his face and nearly doubled over bell laughing. All without so much as a giggle.

 

This went on a for a bit. Eventually, slowly, he gathered himself together, rubbed his eyes, and through a couple of silent after-giggles, typed a message, "Never even occurred to me! The mystical side messes with the brain, Ms. Innsmouth?"

 

Something about that phrase, "words have real power", resonated with him. He'd said as much describing his own abilities. Now his research would include super science, aliens, cosmic entities (ie deities?), and magic, specifically words of power. The last item still made him skeptical, but hey, he'd already seen some strange, strange stuff at Claremont. Some of which could, he guessed, be called magic. Why not magic? So much to learn. 

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