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December 2019 

Dutemps Tower 

 

I AM GOING UNDER THE SEA. I WILL BRING YOU A FISH. Aquaria considered what else to say, then added HAVE FUN AT THE ART GALLERY! It was only a day trip out to the art museum with the glass with her other friend, but Jessie had been looking forward to it and that was good. She didn't want to spoil her good time, so she added a note on the refrigerator that said CALL HELP IF I AM NOT BACK SOON. 

 

With her job done, Aquaria headed to the closet where she kept her armor. She climbed inside and throbbed with satisfaction as the space-metal closed around her, the warm liquid that emerged from every crevice inside immensely more satisfying than the cold, dry air of their apartment. She and Jessie had special windows that actually opened, something Eve had said was the "superhero" model and because sometimes the claustrophobia in this little dry space was terrifying.

 

With her armor on, she hung her trident over her back and began climbing the sides of the building, up towards the castle. Was anyone home today? She certainly hoped so. 

 

December 2019 


"Would Heroditus Stylianos please report to the headmaster's office? He is being picked up." The rather odd PA announcement seemed to make Heroditus' art teacher very worried, and right in the middle of watercolors no less. Heroditus had never actually heard that particular phrase said over the intercom before, at least not when it came to him. 

 

"Oh dear, oh dear, well, ah, Mr.Stylianos, we'll take care of everything," said Ms. Zinzendorf. She walked him to the door, a sympathetic expression on her face. "Don't worry about a thing." 

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Heroditus had been working on a desert landscape, with a palm tree-shaded oasis off to one side.  Squadmate Danica is sure to appreciate this!  He still didn't know why she seemed so uncomfortable around him, and hoped this gift would smooth things out a bit.

 

Then the announcement broke.  Picked up?  By whom?  There are several days yet left of classes, and examinations.  And Poseidonia is weeks away.

 

The young Atlantean voiced none of these thoughts, instead moving with the precise and formal grace that he'd become known for.  He rinsed his brushes, gathered his belongings, bowed to his fellow students, bowed slightly deeper to Ms. Zinzendorf, then headed off to Headsmistress Summers' office.

 

I hope everything is alright!

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Everything was not all right - not from the look on the headmistress's face, not on the look of the face of the Atlantean general sitting in her office. 

 

"Ah...Mr. Stylianos, good." Dalekos rose, his imposing height and muscular build briefly making him tower over Summers before she rose to her feet too. She was still more slightly built than the big Atlantean, but had a fire he couldn't match. 

 

"Heroditus, I'm so sorry. Will you have a seat?" 

 

Dalekos glanced at her dismissively and said, "The boy doesn't need to have a seat, he needs to be told the truth, woman." 

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Oh, maybe Theodora got accepted to study with the witches in Atlit Yam!  That would certainly be reason to get the family together and celebrate! 

 

Heroditus' happy train of those abruptly stopped when he entered Summers' office.  "General!," he exclaimed, quickly raising his clenched right fist to his temple in salute, then lowered his fist and bowed to Summers, "and Headmistress."  He looked back and forth between them, "what is going on?  Has something happened in Atlantis?  To my family?"  He tried to keep the worry from creeping into his voice, to suppress his emotions, as all good Atlanteans should, but he did not do a very good job.

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"There has been an incident in Atlantean territory," said Summers firmly. "General Dalekos has voluteered to take you home to help care for your family."

 

"Get your things," said Dalekos firmly, not even looking at Summers - or volunteering further information. "We'll speak on the way, as men of Atlantis." 

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"Hello, Aquaria," a pleasant voice hummed from just over the edge of the castle walls. Indira had been busying herself with the snow, it seemed - she'd claimed some of the outdoor space for herself, and used the snow there - and, one suspected, snow imported from elsewhere - to form a group of snowmen.

 

Or, at least, what could be charitably called snowmen, if one were very charitable indeed. Snowpeople? Snowcreatures, at least - patient metal hands had shaped December's precipitation into forms too organic to be random and too alien to be human, too many eyes on this one and too many legs on that one. They were probably fighting, or talking, or randomly placed like half-finished sculptures in a workshop; it was hard to tell.

 

Indira was not much of an artist with any medium but herself, but she seemed rather pleased none the less. She brushed her hands off, body inverting to face their guest instead of just turning around. "What brings you to the castle?"

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Sea Devil cocked her head and studied the sculptures for a moment, seeming to draw some deep meaning from them. "I need your help with a problem," she croaked. She hopped closer to Wraith, leaving behind three-fingered tracks in the thick coating of snow on the roof, glad she was armored against the frozen water. "I am not going to jail," she added with a vigorous bobbing, "and neither is Jessie. Not because we have done crimes, but-" She paused, then rested her trident against the snow to take a moment to calm herself. 

 

"My spawn has sent me a message, through eldritch arts. Something has happened Below." She could not for the moment remember how Wraith's divinely-guided species mated, but she knew it could not be in the same way Surfacers did. "She has asked for help.

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A string of mild Atlantean profanities streamed through Heroditus' mind.  "What happ- ... are father and moth- ... was Theodor-"  He clenched his fists and tried to control his breathing, and suddenly found himself very thirsty.  He retrieved his waterskin and took a long drink from it, which calmed him slightly.

 

He looked to Dalekos, "so I am being brought back to... help care for my family?  I take it, then, that there was an attack, but the fighting is over?  That this is an after-combat mission?"  He knew the General had just said they would discuss it on the way, but he wanted answers now.

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Miss Grue

She’s telling the truth.” said Daphne’s, hovering just a few meters from Aquaria

 

Hello Aquaria, sorry about that but your broadcasting you thoughts quite loud!” she gave a guilty little smile and a shrug

 

Would you like me to give you a lift up to the building, you can tell us what you know whilst we wait for Baby. After all if you want out help we’ll need some kind of transport!”

 

Daphne gave a little smile to her friend, she was most definitely going to help whatever the full story was.

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Sea Devil 

 

Sea Devil squatted low for a moment, figuring that was probably Wraith's question as well, and spoke. 

 

"My spawn is at a great meeting of tribes. There is another tribe there that has prisoners - Atlantean prisoners." Her croaking song fell silent as she considered exactly what to say next. "If we go and get them, it will make everyone happy. If we do not go and get them, many people will probably die." The Atlanteans first, in ways Aquaria remembered all too vividly. Deep Ones did not typically take captives in their raids - and those that did were generally taken for some purpose that her friends would not like. 

 

Dalekos 

 

Dalekos all but pulled Heroditus out into the hall; evidently he did not want this conversation being overheard by the schoolmistress - or perhaps he didn't want to drink from his own waterskin in front of her, which he took the chance to do as they moved. 

 

"There's been an attack," he said to Heroditus in the Atlantean tongue. "Deep One raiders - they came for your father at his work. Your sister was there, and fought them. He lives, she is missing. I am assembling a party for vengeance." They were out on the quad by now. "If you are a free man of Atlantis, come and join me."  

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"That is...concerning," Indira admitted, following the others up. She was rather in favor of transport - she wouldn't say it out loud for fear of hurting feelings, but she'd rather take a vehicle than cling to someone else as they flew. It was uncomfortable to say the least. "I am happy to help, of course, and glad that you thought to come to us for that help. Your spawn must be very kind," she added, more of an afterthought than anything. She knew little of the mutual distaste between Aquaria's people and the Atlanteans, but it was enough. "I would guess that not many would take such a risk for their enemies."

 

She was silent for a moment, humming to herself, then said, "Though I do not imagine everyone will be happy; prisoners are not often taken for no reason, and prison-takers do not much like being made to stop. Perhaps the help coming from a source on neither side will keep things from getting worse."

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"<What?!">  Heroditus had known of Deep One attacks on Atlanteans, even seen their aftermath, but he'd never imagined one might happen to his family.  A dozen scenarios raced through his head -- especially concerning his missing twin sister -- and he had to place a hand on the nearest wall to brace himself.

 

The shock quickly wore off, and he stood ramrod straight before Dalekos.  "<Of course, General.  I shall need a few moments to gather my gear, including some experimental devices which may prove useful.>"  Dalekos may have blanched at the last bit: this called for tried-and-true methods, a bulwark of conformity and tradition against the chaos of the Deep Ones.  But technomagic is what the Stylianos clan excelled at, and innovation was what Heroditus excelled at, so perhaps there was something useful there.

 

I was supposed to have drills tonight with Green Squad, but I am sure Headmistress Summers will tell them of- oh!  My squadmates may be able to help!  That is what we are training for, to work together.  Oh, but there is only one who could survive in Atlantis, and he...

 

He saluted the General, and turned to run off to his room, but suddenly stopped and turned back. "<General, I... I have been made part of a small squad of students while here at Claremont, who are also learning and testing their special abilities.  One of my squadmates in particular may be able to assist us -- he can survive in our world as well as we, and is a highly proficient warrior -- and I feel he could be a valuable asset to our party.  May I bring him in?>"

 

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Dalekos scowled at that - more noticeably than he had when Heroditus suggested he might bring his own work along. But after a moment, he relented, dark brows unfurrowing.

 

"<You've proven yourself reliable. If your young man is the same, that's all I need to know. I'll wait here for you>" He seemed to consider, then said something that made perfect sense given the emergency - despite how unusual it was. "<There's no time to wait for the embassy. We'll take my personal craft.>" 

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Miss Grue

I’m with Indira here, you are a credit to you spawn mates and we should help free the prisoners. And I’m obviously happy to help.” Daphne has much less success with her own kind being more or less evil to a fault.

 

Do you have a plan as to how you want to us to proceed, I will admit I’ve had very few encounters with your kind.”

 

As she spoke the large egg shaped craft of Miss Grue floated though the sky, it silver skin somehow not reflecting the sunlight. It was more use to the harshness of space, but like most Grue created things it was very adaptable.

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"I have never been to a gathering of clans so big," Aquaria admitted. "But we will do what we must." She dropped to all fours as she cast her gaze up at the spaceship - then with a single smooth leap, bounded upwards and grabbed on, the sticky pads on her fingers and palm making a _slap_ as they connected. "We will show them we are strong, and that they should do what we say." She considered Wraith's words, then decided it was best to tell the truth. "Naia said the tribe sang a song of victory and vengeance - and had mighty champions. We will fight them to show we are strong. It is Dagon's Law - eat, or be eaten, and follow those strong enough to eat."

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"A deeply concerning philosophy," said Indira, evenly, "though I suppose I am not one to judge. A trial by combat is not exactly unknown to my own people, though it is...more ceremonial, perhaps."

 

Her back sprouted a third arm, a long jointless tendril that grew longer and longer still until it could grasp the ship and pull the rest of her up with it. She'd considered a jump - certainly it wasn't that high, all things considered - but she had an awful habit of bracing with claws and it wouldn't do to scratch her friend's belongings. "I will follow your lead, then, so long as it requires no killing. Let us hope that we are more than a challenge for your clans."

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Heroditus had run back to the dorms to gather his belongings.  He'd already had most of his gear on him -- he didn't like being apart from his tools and certain devices he'd been tinkering with for months -- but many of his more experimental devices he'd left on his desk or in his closet.  He gathered them up and crammed them into the pockets on his belt and bandolier, scribbled a quick note to his roommate (gone home family emergency hope to return soon), then ran to the door of the room across the hall from his.  A melange of electronic sounds -- musical and otherwise -- could be heard on the other side.

 

Appearance and certain mannerisms aside, he is a skilled warrior with a good heart, and I am certain he will be eager to assist me.

 

He pounded on the door to room 213, "Octo-Ben, attend!  I... I request your aid.  With a family matter.  In Atlantis."

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Octoman

 

When Heroditus finally tested the door, it was unlocked. Room 213 was filled with competing noises. Ben's fingers furiously hammered at his mechanical keyboard, the constant CLICKing and CLACKing reminding Heroditus of the pincers of a giant crab. While he enjoyed the tactile sensation (Ben would rant at length about how, once you got your hands on a "proper" mechanical keyboard, using the more common "membrane" style felt "like pushing your fingers through Jello"), Ben was indifferent to the sound. The electronic music blasting through his speakers, he couldn't possibly have heard, but the baseline was enhanced enough by the subwoofer at his feet that he could feel it, and the smartwatch on his wrist vibrated along with the beat closely enough that his head nodded and bobbed roughly in time with it. Heroditus was already through the door by the time Ben had noticed that his watch's vibrations were no longer keeping time with the music, and the color of the blinking notification light had changed from blue to red. He glanced down at the face, which was flashing "KNOCK" at him repeatedly, then turned toward the doorway. He grinned and pointed twin finger-guns at Heroditus. "YO, Squaddy, what's the word?"

 

Quote

"I... I request your aid.  With a family matter. In Atlantis."

 

Ben's eyes widened. "Atlantis?" He pointed a finger at the ground. "Like, DOWN UNDER?" He reached out, grabbed Heroditus's hand, held it up over the amphibious teen's head, and then slapped his own palm against it. "HELL yeah! Let's get our SURF on!" He ran past Heroditus out the door, but then doubled back, took off his watch, and emptied his pockets onto his bed, including his mobile phone. "Guess I can't really get this stuff wet." He shoved a fist into the air and shouted as he left the room. "REGULATORS! Mount up!"

 

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Miss Grue

With a thought from Daphne the hull of Baby formed a hatch, close enough that the other two could enter the craft. She began to float over to the craft

 

My people are much more Machiavellian but they1m, have much the same kill or be killed attitude. It’s a shame our people are so much the same.”

 

A good host she gestured for her friends to go into the ship that had been her home for almost two decades.

 

I’ve been tinkering with her if we want we can alter her shape to something expected, or go full stealth depending on how you'd think we’d been greeted on arrival.”

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"'Regulators'?" Heroditus called out as he chased after Ben, "is that what Green Squad is calling itself now?"

 

He filled Ben in on what he thought would be most necessary while not giving away vital Atlantean secrets.  "Some months ago, shortly before coming to Claremont, Deep Ones attacked one of our research outposts.  General Dalekos brought my father and I in to investigate, to see what could be salvaged."  He pushed the memories of blood and gore and unspeakable runes away from the surface of his mind.  "Deep Ones recently attacked again, at one of my father's worksites.  He was injured, and Theodora -- my twin sister -- has gone missing.  While I have no doubt she would have fought valiantly, and pursued the raiders as they retreated, I fear she may have been captured, and... changed."  Ben recalled him bringing that up at Aqauria's lecture, and understood why he now shuddered.  "I need to see to my father, and assist General Dalekos in chasing down the raiders and locating my sister.  And I know I can do this better with assistance from my squadmates."  Ben detected some actual emotion creeping into the Atlantean's normally stoic voice.

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Octoman

 

"Aaaand so you rounded up the one other squaddy who's got gills." Muscles flexed in Ben's neck, and scars suddenly appeared on either side in sets of three parallel lines, which then flexed open before vanishing entirely. "And the one other squaddy who won't HESITATE to put webbed foot to fish-monster ass. Good call." He slapped Heroditus on the bicep. "And you KNOW I got the skills ta pay the bills. I'm strong, I'm fast, I'm tough..." He raised his arm, flexed his own bicep, and slapped it with his other hand. "I can do this..." He vanished from sight, then re-appeared just as quickly. "...I can LITERALLY smell 'em comin' a mile away, I got so many powers I find a new one every WEEK. ONE MAN ARMY, right here. Well, one-man NAVY I guess. Besides," he counted down on his fingers, "Johnny Cash Junior can't bring a lightning bolt down into the water without frying everyone around him, PHYSICS'D, Flag-Girl's international incidents count for the year is already x-greater-than-zero so she probably doesn't wanna add plus one, I don't think Teenage Magic Granny-Scooter Turtlegirl can swim...can she even float? Wait, what was I...RIGHT, yeah, and sure, Ronnie Dangerously can shake up a can of whupass and pop the tab in a fool's face with the best of 'em, but she'd wanna make a big PRODUCTION out of it, bring out the COMPANY BOAT and all her little minions and take over the whole thing, her and your buddy General Scaryvoice von Crazyeyes would spend the whole trip fighting over who's in charge, THAT'S a headache we don't need. Besides, she's cool and all, but for her, this ain't PERSONAL. But for me, for you, like obviously way more for you but also kinda for me..." He cracked his knuckles, angled his head down but glared up under his brow at nothing in particular, and dropped his voice as low as he could. "...It's PERSONAL."

 

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Aboard Miss Grue's ship 

 

Once they were on board, Aquaria squatted down in the position in which she was usually the most comfortable. Resting on all fours, her legs folded beneath her and hands out in front, she mounted her trident on her armor's back. As the ship made its way to their destination out in the mid-Atlantic, she croaked, "Beings like you have...they will say you have the blessings of Hydra." She swallowed nervously, inflating and deflating her throat. It was of course trivially true that the Kinigosi and Grue were clearly species blessed by the power of the Dark Mother, proof that surely the stars were right that so many of them lived among them, but she knew neither Indira or Daphne believed that about their people. "If I land in this ship, with you at my side, it will show that I am strong, and not...alone," she added, the last word an unhappy squeak. She did not like being alone. 

 

Aboard Dalekos's ship 

 

Dalekos was actually glad to see Octo-Man, smiling and shaking his hand in the Surfacer fashion. He felt drier and harder than Heroditus did, and smelled distinctly of what were probably the Atlantean equivalent's of men's cologne. Perhaps surprisingly, given the circumstances, their ride back to the Atlantean embassy turned out to be what on the outside looked to be a Surface limousine parked out in front of the school's main gate. The inside of the limo turned out to be more like an Atlantean craft than a Surface one - all shining white and silver, with sealskin seats and a warm, humid atmosphere inside. 

 

Dalekos studied the boys as they went for just a moment, then said, "Enjoy the ride, young men. We will be at the embassy soon enough - and from there, we'll take a speeder to my troops in the field. One of your sister's teachers will be joining us; he'll be able to find her with his spells. With an enemy that favors human sacrifice, there's no time to waste." 

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His phrasing may be a touch vulgar, Heroditus nodded along to Ben's rundown of their squadmates, but he is not wrong.

 

"General, now that we are out of Headmistress Summers' hearing, could you reveal more of what happened, exactly?"  He glanced at Ben, then back to Dalekos, "my squadmate will need to know, to, so that he can be prepared for what we encounter."  He glanced again between the two, "you said that Deep One raiders attacked father 'at his work.'  Did you mean in his workshop, within the city?  Or at the facility which you brought he and me to a few months ago?"

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"You are strong, and you are not alone," said Indira, the affirmation firm but calm. "I do not like impersonating part of the religion of another, but I suppose it is for a good cause. Perhaps I can simply avoid speaking unless necessary." She shrugged, though the way her shoulders moved betrayed both a lack of bones and the social comfort to not pretend to have bones. "It would not be the first time I was disguised as a strange creature or enforcer, and no one expects the mouthless to speak, anyway."

 

Her eyes narrowed in amusement, but it was brief enough; they tilted back down in thought as the alien flowed down into a seated position. "Is there anything we should know before we get there? Is there a form we could take that would make more of an impression?" Her body flexed, brief impressions of horns and fangs and blades running across her surface as she pondered. "If it is more than mere shape Daphne may be better at it than I am, but I will do what I can."

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Dalekos 

 

"I have little to tell you," said Dalekos frankly. "Your father was engaged in the business of your family when he was attacked. He and a few others were the only survivors aboard the vessel that was attacked, near one of your family's aqueduct projects." He fell silent for a moment, then said, "That in his condition, he could tell us about your sister, and ask me to find you, tells me that he is a remarkable man." Evidently knowing what questions that would prompt, he said, "This is hard to hear, Mr. Stylanios, but they...they took his left arm below the elbow." He squeezed his own left hand into a fist for a moment, then put it on the younger man's shoulder. "We will gain justice for him, and for those who died." 

 

 Sea Devil 

 

"If you show what you are, and that you are not Surface-Men or Atlanteans, that will show them your power." Aquaria occasionally said "Surface-Men" when stressed, away from human ears, or both - it was the literal translation of the thing that Deep Ones called the soft-bodied beings that lived above Terra's oceans. (The Deep Ones, of course, simply called themselves "Men" or "People" in their own language.) 

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