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Vaster than Empires and More Slow

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It was a little while after the various melees of the day that the Knights came together, all of them united behind the common mystery of the familiar-yet-strange superpowered individuals they'd battled. Everyone came to the Scarab's Tomb in their own fashion, guided by the experienced of previous visits or under the watchful eye of the Scarab herself. But they were a team, and together they were confronting a very large mystery indeed. The sun was bright as Avenger made his way down to one of the entrances that he knew Elena preferred, thoroughly glad to find himself in the protective cover of darkness. It was impolite to let his friend know how easy, or hard it would be to trespass on her domain; so he simply preferred to let her see him enter. Most of the time.

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The heroes gathered in the audience chamber on the second floor down. They passed through an antechamber adorned with carvings in the style of Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. They depicted some sort of ongoing battle between a priest and a king or prince. The priest's wore a red robe with stylized black lightning bolts, while the prince was identified by a golden scarab beetle, also set against a red field.

The audience chamber itself was lined with massive lotus-style pillars. The Scarab sat on a throne at the far end of the great hall. Several large cushions lay on the floor below her, and as each hero enters, she motions for them to take a seat.

"For those of you who haven't met me yet, and don't know your history...I am The Scarab. This is my Lair...and my tomb. If you are here, then you've earned the trust and respect of one or more of the Knights of Freedom. For that, I commend you.

Abuse that trust, and I assure you my usual polite restraint will fall by the wayside. I won't hesitate to rip out every memory of this place, and the people in it, from what's left of your mind. But enough pleasantries - let's get down to business. Avenger, you called this meeting, so you can start the briefing."

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The last few weeks had been....strange for Grim. She'd been sleeping in a small room underground, in a freakin' tomb, and it was starting to get to her. Sure, it was nice not having to worry about the rats anymore, and she had probably never been more safe in her entire life, but this place gave her the creeps.

She was told it belonged to the Scarab, who was back now, but she never saw her; Wes and Avenger talked about her in the present tense, which made the place seem almost haunted. Wes' room was down the hall, and she invited him over to watch movies on her little TV a few times a week, which almost made it feel like a real place. Except it wasn't; it felt more like she was living in a museum, hiding from the security guards after hours. Her sensitive ears picked up all kinds of strange humming and thrumming noises, and the cats never seemed to settle down.

She still worked, as ridiculous as that seemed, partly because she was saving up to get her own place, but more importantly for the sanity factor. Normal people had jobs, grabbed lunch on the go, and rode bikes for a living; normal people didn't live in the Egyptian Wing of the natural history museum.

So her pleasant Memorial Day outdoors was brought to an abrupt halt by the bizarre and violent appearance of Columbia in the veterans' cemetery, which was fairly sad, but then Avenger told Grim she was going to meet more of the Knights, including the Scarab herself...

- - - -

She'd always avoided this room because it seriously freaked her out; how can you feel agoraphobic indoors? But now she was sitting on her cushion like a good girl, sneaking peeks at the new faces, and when Scarab spoke she found out that there was actually someone scarier than Avenger.

A lot scarier.

Sorry, Avenger.

She waited patiently for the black-clad vigilante to speak, and desperately wished for a Diet Coke.

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Phantom floated along in the wake of Knight, her face under the dark cowl expressionless as she examined the throne room with a curious eye. Egyptian had really never been her forte. Personally, she'd favored the middle east as her area of expertise. The throne room with assembled cushions earned a raised eyebrow and an almost sardonic smile flickered on her face before she smoothed out her expression once more. At least she wasn't the only one in the room with a flair for the melodramatic.

The ephemeral figure floated over to one of the cushions before folding her legs up under her cloak into a crosslegged position that hovered a good foot or two above the pillow. She steepled her fingertips under her chin and gave her attention to the impromptu gathering and the man she presumed to be Avenger.

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Avenger made a noise that might have been a cough, the gritty, monosyllabic vigilante momentarily at a loss for words. For people who'd never met Avenger before, there was something distinctly odd about his voice, a low, undifferentiated choking growl that seemed to go on without pause for breath. "Yes. Was involved in that encounter with 'Donar' other night. Doppleganger of Captain Thunder on the news?" It had been a fairly big story earlier in the week. "And now encounter with 'Andrea Atom' in the Fens; and whatever happened here." Avenger gave that odd little 'cough' again. "Behavior was odd. May have been a situation with invasion from other dimension. Only a theory. Not actually that familiar with other dimensions." He trailed off for a moment. "Rest of you?"

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Phantom stirred at that, turning her attention back to the group from frowning at Grim.

"Not quite." She replied with a voice that echoed eerily. "The Terminus incursion was much more pervasive and the dangers of that particular dimension are much greater than what we face today. From the looks of those we fought I would guess that they are from a near dimension. A world like ours where a few changes have resulted in a different present. Trust me when I say that the Terminus is nothing like the world we know."

She paused and that white, flat glance flickered to Grim as she said pointedly, "There are many in this world that do not belong here. Some for more noble reasons than others. Without knowing which dimension these individuals came from specifically, it could take some time to return them. 'Magpie' cried out something about not failing. Did any of the others say anything of interest?"

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Okay, why is Miss Floatypants giving me the stink eye?

It was really hard to focus on what people where saying when she could clearly see Phantom glaring at her out of the corner of her eye.

"There are many in this world that do not belong here. Some for more noble reasons than others. Without knowing which dimension these individuals came from specifically, it could take some time to return them. 'Magpie' cried out something about not failing. Did any of the others say anything of interest?"

And now it was clear; Phantom had some mad-on against other dimensional creatures or something, and obviously Grim was a suspect in her eyes.

Fan-freakin'-tastic :roll:

Grim held up her hand, doing her best to ignore Phantom.

"Um, yeah, when I was dealing with 'Andrea Atom', she was just fulla information. I made myself look like Vickie Atom, who she obviously recognized, and she made all kinds of references to events that went down differently in whatever version of our world she came from. Also she had powers, which I don't think the real Andrea Atom had, like her hair changed for no apparent reason and bullets bounced off her face."

Finally she decides she has to say something, and turns to address Phantom with some annoyance.

"And yes, since it's clearly a problem for you, I am an advance scout for the Jewish Pixie Overlords."

The shapeshifter's skin turns pale green, her ears grow long and pointed and antennae sprout from her forehead; at the same time, a yarmulke forms on the back of her head and and a prayer shawl unfolds to drape across her shoulders. She hold up her hands in a mock-threatening gesture.

"Take me to your lox and bagels! Oy!"

The comical disguise melts back into mist, revealing Grim's seriously pissed off face beneath it as she crosses her arms defiantly across her chest.

"I was born in New Jersey and I have the birth certificate to prove it. You want me to go get it? I think it's in with the spare towels." :evil:

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Phantom turned her attention fully to the agitated shifter, her expression flat and unimpressed, "I really don't think this is the time to have origin discussions. Obviously there is a larger and more pressing matter at hand."

She straightened up, uncurling herself from her relaxed position, "However if we must, we must. Let me make one thing perfectly clear, I can feel, without a shadow of a doubt that you are an extra dimensional entity. Whatever imbued you with your gifts no doubt, and that came from a source that is non native to this plane of existance. My responsibilities, " she gestured with one arm back to the outside, "Are to keep such traffic to a neccesary minimum. Olympians setting themselves up as gods, Nazis deciding one dimension is simply not enough. Not only does it play havok with the balance of our world, but each passage through leaves the veil weaker. Glare at me all you'd like but I'd appreciate you leave the accusations and ridicule outside."

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"Grimalkin is trustworthy. Have dealt with her before," replied Avenger evenly. "But not you," he added, giving Phantom a level look. He was supremely glad he was dealing with superheroes, where such conflicts could be resolved equitably and reasonably, not with violence. When new vampires met, as a given rule, often they had a fight to determine dominance. Thank goodness superheroes didn't fall victim to such a silly trope. "How detailed is your knowledge?" he asked Phantom. "Can you name the dimension that homes the enemy? Describe it? Send us there?"

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Grim's eyes look like they're about to pop out of her head by the time Phantom is finished speaking, and she can hear the blood rushing in her ears.

Did she just compare me to an extra-dimensional Nazi?

Her first desire is to lunge across the intervening space and belt her, but she knows the mystical heroine would probably laugh off such an attack, and the others would be drawn into the fracas. Her second thought is to draw upon the pool of verbal venom she inherited from her mother and really let loose and tear Phantom a new one, but she hesitates for a moment.

Is this the way you want the rest of your new teammates to remember you, as the nasty girl with the foul mouth who can't work well with others?

While she's trying to formulate a somewhat less vile remark, Avenger speaks.

"Grimalkin is trustworthy. Have dealt with her before," replied Avenger evenly."But not you,"

Suddenly the anger is transformed into something warm and bubbly in her head and gut; she barely hears the rest of the vigilante's remarks as she smiles and stares off into space.

He stuck up for me; Avenger, the dark bad boy of the night, stuck up for me!

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Behind her helmet, The Scarab closed her eyes, letting her awareness of her allies' squabbles fade away. Time is being wasted. Let's see what I can do about that. She exhaled and relaxed into the cushions of her throne. The tapestry of space and time connects us all. I merely need to concentrate on a particular set of threads, and follow them in a particular direction, past or future. This is not over. More rifts will appear, bearing more invaders. We need to know where, and when...

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When Scarab opened her mind to the dangers of other dimensions, she found first a burning city. The consciousness of Heru-Ra had seen plenty of cities aflame in four thousand years, but never before had any of Elena's previous lives seen such an explosion of misery and disaster. Freedom City was burning, and the people there were dying. She pushed forward automatically, but found her impressions unable to go any further than the day of the grim and terrible disaster alarmingly near in the future. Something was blocking her. Pulling her mind further back, she found impressions of a city taken by surprise on all sides, sudden attacks on the Goodman Building, Freedom Hall, and Claremont Academy that struck every hero in the city like Pearl Harbor. The enemy's forces wore black and grey; soldiers with blaster rifles and jetpacks mixed with superheroes who were bizarre reflections of the heroes Elena herself knew. If only there was some way for her to peer between dimensions and see where they'd come from...

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They certainly were a warm and welcoming lot, here. Phantom turned those glowing eyes on Avenger, "I can travel between dimensions, yes. The only way for any of you to travel with me, however, would be the same sort of transport that I'm carrying Rant and Rave in currently. It works in an emergency, but it is not a pleasant ride for anyone to experience."

Her cloak writhed in response to the statement as Phantom tilted her head to the side under her hood, "It usually takes a bit of deduction work to figure out what dimension any individual comes from. My knowledge of the possibilities is expansive, but there are near limitless numbers of dimensions. If I were working alone, I'd start by questioning one of the prisoners."

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"Am unaware of any prisoners," said Avenger. "Believe they may have returned as Donar did. Did you speak to yours before they left?" He cocked his head in Grimalkin's direction, understanding that Scarab's silence probably meant that Elena was busy casting her consciousness around for something to help them. That left him to direct the conversation...God help them all. "Grimalkin, any further evidence? If not, suggest we contact our scientific advisor. May be best person to open doorway between dimensions for us."

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"Actually," Phantom said, fixing her frown on Avenger as he began to delgate the rest of his band, "I have two prisoners."

She gestured to the folds of the cloak, spreading it enough to show that the inside of the cloak, rather than mere cloth, was a stark black field that crackled with lines of eldritch lightining.

"I can transport all of you the same way. Its just not pleasant."

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"Grimalkin, any further evidence? If not, suggest we contact our scientific advisor. May be best person to open doorway between dimensions for us."

Grim screws up her face in thought as she tries remembering every detail.

"Uh, well she mentioned a 'he' a lot, sounded like a guy she worked for or had power over her...she seemed very emotional about the whole Vickie Atom thing, and she regretted doing something to save her family, which I kinda sensed hadn't worked out well. And the hair changing thing was really weird, going from long and blond to dark and kinda puffed up. There was no advantage in doing that, not like a disguise or anything; it almost seemed...I dunno, like she wasn't fully in control of herself or her powers."

"Actually," Phantom said, fixing her frown on Avenger as he began to delgate the rest of his band, "I have two prisoners."

- - -

"I can transport all of you the same way. Its just not pleasant."

Grim stands up suddenly when Phantom opens up her cloak.

"Whoa, whoa, what are they, floating around inside your clothes? How kinky is that?"

She looks about ready to chuckle for a second, but after glancing at Phantom she goes back to business.

"So can we talk to them in there, or do they have to come out? Do we have a way to like restrain them, or are there any interrogation rooms down here in the Creepy Dungeon of the Pharaohs?"

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Avenger steepled his fingers, the gritty vigilante dealing with the sudden outbreak of mysticism with surprising grace. "Have encountered this phenomenon before. What knowledge have you gained about the prisoners by enclosing them? Necessary to visit them inside to speak to them?" He rose to his feet, fingers spread out on the table. "How long can you confine them? Banish them in the aftermath of interrogation?"

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Phantom shrugged her shoulders, sending the cloak rippling closed around her once more and did her best to answer the questions efficiently, "No one is able to do much while trapped inside. Scream, I suppose. Sometimes they whimper. They are mine until I chose to release them once more. Were you to join them, you would not see them or anything else save for the void. As I said, it is not a pleasant ride. It is intended to be used to deal with criminals."

Other than a quelling glance, Phantom let the 'kinky' comment pass. Nor did she clarify that the actual portal was her body, not the cloak. The cloak was sadly a more comfortable explanation of the ability than the actual fact of the matter. "Were I to release one of them for questioning, it would have to be someplace secure and we would have to restrain the individual so that I could retrap him once more. I can keep them from using any dimensional travel abilities of their own if we do release one."

Finally, she finished answering Avenger's questions as she turned her face up to him, "It teaches me nothing about them, to be honest. It takes no strength or even attention to hold them once contained. I imagine I could do it for an eternity if I had to although time passes at the same rate within as it does for me and they have no food or water."

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Avenger met Phantom's eyes levelly, the look in the tiny squares of his face just visible behind his double-mask distinctly odd. "Yes. Am familiar with the void. With Scarab's permission, suggest you disgorge at least one now for interrogation." He flexed his gloved fingers, the creaking leather one of the few involuntary noises the assembled heroes there had heard him make. "And then return them to homes. Possibly with a message for their employer about our dimension's extremely negative response to infiltrations on our territory."

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"Yes. Am familiar with the void. With Scarab's permission, suggest you disgorge at least one now for interrogation."

Grim flicked our her claws with a wicked grin and took a defensive stance.

"I'm ready if you are, Miss Magic Cop."

She signaled Wes with a jerk of her head.

"Hey, do that cool thing where you bulk up, like you did back at my place that one time."

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Wesley walks over to Grimalkin with a smile. His aura glows dark green as he approaches her. When he reaches her, he stands next to her and slowly begins to grow. By the time he is done, he is a good two feet taller. Standing behind her, he picks her up slowly then kneels down. He sets her on his thigh and wraps his arms around her waist.

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"Yes. As a matter of fact, my Lair does come equipped with holding cells. Follow me."

The Scarab led her allies out of the audience chamber, into the central shaft. There, with a flick of her wrist, she brought the great stone slab that served as an elevator rising to meet them. Once the heroes were all on board, she slowly lowered them all the way to the bottom floor.

She floated into the great hall, past the rows of priceless artifacts, and into the ultra-modern command center, the one room in The Lair free of any faux Ancient Egyptian facades. It looked more like the bridge of a fictional starship. She sat down at the center station in the row of computers and typed in a few rapid commands. The subtitled news broadcasts disappeared from the large central screen, replaced with a three-dimensional rendering of The Lair itself.

She highlighted a pair of cylindrical chambers. They were surrounded on all sides by solid rock, and did not appear to connect with the rest of the complex. Surveillance footage from cameras hidden in the stone walls appeared in a sidebar, showing each cell from several different angles.

"They are accessible only by teleportal. Phantom - you have demonstrated the ability to teleport through solid matter." She pointed to the console. "These measurements are precise and this map is to scale. This should be sufficient information for you to enter and exit safely. Feel free to, as our colleague put it, 'disgorge' one of your prisoners in each of these cells. They are equipped with devices which should suppress their powers, which I will engage once you are clear. Once they are secured, I will interrogate them."

"And after, I will require your assistance on another matter. While the rest of you have been engaging in this...spirited discussion...I have been attempting to extend my awareness beyond the boundaries of time and space. But the extradimensional nature of our foes has been clouding my senses. I believe if the two of us combine our gifts, we may be able to pierce those barriers."

Grimalkin heard The Scarab's voice echo inside her mind. The voice was noticeably lighter and softer, but still distinctive. I apologize that I have not done more to make you comfortable during your stay here. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help set you at ease.

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Phantom's lips flattened in annoyance at Grim's sarcastic commentary and actually looked ruffled for a moment.

Now I remember why I work alone, Phantom thought sourly. No one ever wants to understand the delicate intricacies of the multiverse when they can smart off instead.

Once Scarab started talking, Phantom turned her attention to the scarlet and gold heroine. Phantom floated up to take a better look at the map and added, "Can you also nullify their ability to 'port back to their home dimension? I can, but I have to be close enough to touch them. Once we are finished with them, and the situation has concluded, they will have to be returned home. They cannot remain in this world"

Once the mystic had received her answers, she teleported away from the group, her cloak collapsing ever inward until it vanished completely. She reappeared the same way on the camera in the cell, her cloak flaring wide as the male of the duo was released onto the cell's floor. It had been a little over an hour for Rave locked in the sensory-less void of Phantom's cloak.

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