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Here There Be Dragons [IC]

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USS George Washington

March 12th, 2013


Across the sea was the place where the monsters dwelt. 


Captain James Tremont looked out onto the horizon. At this point, he could see the edge of the island just crowning over the sea. He was just fine with keeping his distance at this point, though for all he knew, he would have to advance. This was not his operation. This wasn't even Uncle Sam's operation any more. This was pure UNISON. 


Kaiju Island. It was a bastardization of the Japanese, to be sure, but it had a gravitas that "Giant Monster Island" didn't. Or perhaps it just kept the secret better. Tremont wasn't exactly happy about coming here, but those were his orders. His family had a... history with the island. His grandfather had been on the crew of a bomber in the Pacific Theater; they'd been shot down over the Kurils, and had the bastard luck to crashland on the island. Of the six who walked away from the landing, his grandfather had been one of only two to make it off the island. His father had been part of one of the serious joint-force efforts in the Eighties to do something serious about the kaiju problem, after a disturbing number of them had made it to Hokkaido. All that resulted from that was severe damage to several American and Japanese ships until the Atom Family had come in to do cleanup duty. 


And now here he was. On the edge of one of the last places he want to be. He'd been keen to just let it sit where it was. Let it rot. But if the UNISON scientists were right, then the island was going to be a lot of trouble for a lot of people, and very fast. Hopefully, these experts would be a lot better suited to stop it.

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Velocity was already aboard the George Washington, having arrived a short while ago.  She had given the others a good head start, having only left Freedom City about thirty minutes ago, and five of that had been spent searching several thousand square miles of ocean for the carrier once she had gotten to where it was supposed to be.


Currently, the yellow clad speedster was in the hanger of the massive aircraft carrier.  Just back on New Year's Eve, she had been in the hanger of one of the George Washington’s sister carriers, the USS Carl Vinson in the Gulf of Aden.  Part of the hanger had been converted into a dance floor, to host the New Year’s celebration for the crew that she had attended to see the turn of the New Year.


Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, Velocity’s attending the New Year celebration on the Carl Vinson (as well as her New Year's stops at US military installations on Guam, Diego Garcia and Yuma, Arizona that same trip) had become known among other service members, as she was currently among a small crowd of men and women, signing autographs and posing for pictures.  The speedster was more than happy to spend a bit of time with some of the US military’s men and women, but, she was hoping the others would not be too much longer in arriving.  They were out here for a reason after all, and likely a rather serious one at that.

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Gaian Knight and Tiamat had shown up with little fanfare only under Tiamat's protest: she'd wanted to make an appropriately grand entrance, an idea that had been immediately shot down when Gaian Knight pointed out that a dragon swooping down on a ship that was on its way to a place called 'Kaiju Island' was a recipe for disaster.

They'd found a spot where they could look out over the water - the hero talking a bit about the science of the ocean and its myriad of interesting features, and the dragon pretending to listen (and, privately, admitting that the ship itself was quite impressive).

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Gabriel had mostly succeeded at not making a scene when arriving on board. He'd made sure to take care with the proper boarding procedures, and gotten away from the flight deck as quickly as he could. Honestly, for all that he tossed sound around as a weapon, the flight deck was a bit loud for his taste. 


He was currently down in one of the galleys of the ship, having a light snack (while it hadn't taken him overly long, the flight over had been rather intense, and he'd had to circle a bit to properly find the ship itself). He needed to "refuel" a bit, and he found he enjoyed chatting with the military personnel. It seemed like having a superhero sitting down for lunch with them was not an everyday occurrence, so if nothing else it broke up the monotony of life for them a bit!

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"Aaah, brisk!" Comrade Frost had only grown more and more convival as the ship had headed deeper into the warmth of the tropics, leaving his parka's hood off and leaving his short white hair to fluff in the breeze. He came up behind Tiamat and Gaian Knight with a hot coffee in his hands, the steam rapidly fading from the cooling liquid. "You know, the last time I was on Kaiju Island, it was fifty years ago! We were chasing scientist-criminals who were using their biological science to make Green Dragon King to enslave the monsters of Kaiju for their own ends. But instead, they met a _chilly_ reception from the beasts with our help." He smiled. "And you know, there was an American aircraft carrier in that story too, but I had to sneak my way on board that one!" At that, he actually laughed. "Times change, and enemies become friends. This is delightful coffee." 

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The single potted palm tree looked rather out of place on the deck of the ship, and even in a position shielded from the wind, it didn't seem well-suited to the windy conditions. It looked like an afterthought, something put on board at the last minute on a whim... or as a door. Even though no one was near it and no gust of wind hit it, suddenly the little tree bent forward, its broad leaves falling forward like a fan and lengthening till they brushed the ground. After a moment they rose again, sweeping aside like a curtain to reveal the arrival of Fleur de Joie. She was in her uniform but had eschewed the mask today, as she often did. It just wasn't very comfortable and seemed a little silly. After all, when she was recognized, it wasn't because of her face! 


Walking across the deck, she saw Gaian Knight and Tiamat and began to head in their direction, right up until she saw that Comrade Frost had insinuated himself there already. She turned her steps and headed to the other side of the deck, wondering where they ought to be meeting up for the mission. 

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Captain Tremont nodded to Velocity; she'd heard about her trip around the world from the men on the Vinson, and she'd made quite a good impression. The others... he trusted them. He knew they meant well. But there was always a part of him that was nervous about treading the same ground as them. But something like that wasn't going to get in the way of the mission. He went around to the various heroes and said the same thing to each of them:


"Dr. Sato is expecting us below deck, in the briefing room. Let's not keep her waiting."




A middled-aged Japanese woman in a UNISON uniform stood at the head of the briefing room, the model of composure. She waited for everyone to file in - in addition to the heroes and Captain Tremont, a number of the higher-ranking officers - both US Navy and UNISON - were there to listen to the plans.


"Greeting," she said. "I am Dr. Hitomi Sato, UNISON Disaster Relief Attachment. I should get this out of the way - you are all here for a worst case scenario. Hopefully, it will not occur... but signs thus far do not look good." 


She clicked a button, bringing up an image on the screen at the head of the room - a satellite image of a large mountainous structure. "This is Kagu-tsuchi, five hundred meters off the coast of the island. As the name might indicate, it has a history of volcanic activity, but no known eruptions within the last three hundred years and only minor seismic activity. However... within the last few weeks, there's been moderate seismic activity, occurring with greater frequency. Given the size of Kagu-tsuchi, and its proximity to Kaiju Island, this would be a problem for more than just Kaiju Island itself. Estimates based on time since last eruption and frequency of activity put Kagu-tsuchi's possible Volcanic Event Index around 6 or 7 - for reference, 6 was Krakatoa, and 7 was the Santorini eruption, which drowned Crete. But what's more frightening is that the vast amount of the seismic activity seems to travel along a fault line that runs directly under Kaiju Island, and passes along the peak on its southwestern side. Were that mountain to crumble and collapse into the ocean, it would trigger a tidal wave that would be 50 feet tall by the time it reaches Hokkaido." 


Dr. Sato shook for head. "For obvious reasons, we cannot allow that to happen. Our primary objective for this mission is to shore up the fault lines and find some way to bolster the island so that, if Kagu-tscuhi does blow, it doesn't send half the island toppling into the ocean. But there's a secondary objective. We sent a UNISON field team to trace the seismic activity and confirm whether or not the risk to the surrounding islands is more than a fancy. We lost contact with them early this morning. If we can find them and get them off the island safely, we should do so. But our main goal here is to ensure that wave does not crest." 

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Gabriel was quiet during the briefing, though the explanation of the full impact of this upcoming event was enough to make his already-pale face look almost unhealthy for a moment. He also seemed unusually nervous, fidgeting in his seat now and again. When Dr. Sato finished her initial explanation, he spoke up.


"Begging your pardon, ma'am, but...part of me wonders about my particular presence here in regards to stopping the eruption. Gaian Knight is an obvious choice, and I'd wager Fleur de Joie and Comrade Frost present unique options if the need arose. But...well, unless you want me to try blasting holes in the sides of that volcano with sound, something I have no idea of the impact of for good or ill, it seems to me like a search for the missing team would be a better use of my talents. I could perhaps try speaking with them on the island, if they're conscious. I don't require radio waves to do so, and at most I'd only need to get a bit closer. It wouldn't spook the..."


His nervous pause was rather obvious.


"Inhabitants. I can be subtle in that way. Speaking of which...are there any..."Do's and Don't's" with regards to the creatures for which this island is named? I realize we theoretically shouldn't end up facing them, but my experience says there's at least a chance we might. Any insight would be appreciated."

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Velocity had given the carrier’s captain a nod when he had indicated that it was time for the briefing to begin.  Looking back to the various crew members she had been talking with, she gave them an apologetic smile.  "Well, I am afraid I need to be going."  And with that the yellow clad speedster was off to find the briefing room in question.


Though among the first to arrive, Velocity opted to stand along the edge of the room, leaving the seats for the various UNISON and US Navy officers, as well as any of the other Freedom League members who choose to sit.  Part of the reason was that while in costume, she often found it harder to just operate at a more normal speed, and the idea of sitting down for awhile was not too appealing.  At least standing she could feel slightly closer to being in motion.


As Dr. Sato's briefing began, it did not take very long at all before the speedster’s typical smile began to fade and the true severity of the situation become completely apparent.  When Gabriel spoke up first, he voiced exactly the same thing that Velocity had been thinking herself.  Once he finished, she chimed in as well.  "Dr. Sato, like Gabriel, I am not sure there is a lot I can do about the faultline or the volcano.  But I can certainly help with finding the missing field team.  I can cover a lot of ground, or even ocean, pretty quickly."

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Fleur sat with her hands folded neatly on the table, listening to the briefing with a look of concern. There was fresh dirt on her hands, as though she'd teleported in from working in her garden, a not at all unlikely scenario. Spring was a busy time for plant controllers and gardeners! "It's obvious that Gaian Knight is going to be our main asset today," she finally said, "with the rest of us acting as support. If Gabriel and Velocity are finding the missing people, I can go with Gaian Knight and Tiamat and do what I can to bolster their efforts. Depending on what the soil conditions are like, some deep-rooted plants could help stabilize the ground. At the very least, if something goes wrong I can teleport us to a safe distance." 

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"Treat them as you would any dangerous animal," replied Frost to Gabriel. "Some are capable of limited form of communication, but is best not to trifle with them in any case." He frowned. "We lost trained, armed men in last campaign. Our powers will protect us, but battle against Gigantosaur or one of his brood would only distract us from this vital task." He folded his hands on the table in front of him. "I have successfully contained volcanic eruptions before, but only on the surface. Gaian Knight is the best candidate for the job," he agreed with Fleur. "I will join you, Gabriel and Velocity," he said, "I can track in the jungle, especially with certain arts of my devising. With many hands, the work will be done well." 

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Gaian Knight couldn't entirely suppress the involuntary wince at the idea of blowing a hole in the side of a possibly active volcano, but the idea had roots in something reasonable. In his head he was turning over research papers and journals, recalling what he could of research into the area. The problem had always been not being able to drill in far enough, but that'd be less of a problem for him if he was careful of the fault line and could keep himself from getting roasted alive.... "I'll certainly do what I can; it'll be easier to evaluate the state of things once we're on solid land, and I can get a better, ah, 'feel' for what's going on down there. I'll leave the fault line itself alone if possible - they're awfully touchy - but maybe we can bleed some pressure off that volcano before it takes matters into its own hands."

Tiamat shook her head and shrugged, arms crossed as she listened to the plans. "I'll go with Fleur de Joie and the stick-in-the-mud," she said, grinning a grin that contained entirely too many teeth. "I dunno how much I can do about volcanoes, but if we're near an island full of monsters it's worth having a monster keeping watch."

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Dr. Sato nodded. "I'd say 'Don't make any sudden movements or harsh noises,'" she said, "but given the nature of your work on the island, that would probably be an impossibility. So instead, I'll say this - do not engage unless otherwise engaged. Gigantosaur, as well as most of the other 'prominent' fauna on the island, have previously been tagged; most of them don't stray towards that end of the island, but if any do decide to go about on sortie, we'll radio you and let you know about imminent threat. Should you have flight powers or means of taking to the air, I'd recommend either coming in high or coming in low - no middle ground. Most of these predators come up to average altitude for most fliers familiar with urban tactics, and then there are the aerial predators themselves. I would recommend avoiding average altitude if you don't want to end up a meal."


At the back of the room, Captain Tremont cleared his throat. "I'd hate to add more crap to the platter, but Weather Service says a storm front's popped up. Should hit Kaiju Island within a couple of hours. We're ready to deploy if you are."

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Velocity smiled slightly as Dr. Sato offered some suggestions on how to avoid stirring up the various inhabitants of Kaiju.  "Well, avoiding sudden movements is a bit impossible for me, but I can at least do my best to stay at sub-sonic speeds.  And I will be coming in right at ground level."  She offered.


When Captain Tremont spoke up with the additional bad news, the speedster frowned slightly.  "So much for a nice run in the tropical sun."


"Do we have an approximate location where the team was when communication was lost?"  She then asked.  "I should probably start my search pattern there, and just fan outward on the island."

Edited by Thevshi
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Gabriel studied the maps on display for a moment, thinking through some things in his head.


"I can listen to about 20 square miles at a time, if one or more of them is conscious. If they are, I can then communicate with them without disturbing island inhabitants. It's not foolproof, but it might just save us some time. And worst case, Velocity will be searching on foot. No matter what, we can be set. But if we can save time, with that weather heading in...I'm all for it."


He smirked a bit at Velocity's comment about staying sub-sonic.


"Yeah, we should probably either stay well below Mach 1...or break Mach 5."

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Fleur looked over at GK and Tiamat. "Gaian Knight, we'll probably be better off if you drive for this one. I don't know what the plant situation is like near the volcano, and if we fly over, we'll get a better look at what we're dealing with anyway." Gaian Knight's rock platforms weren't as fast as some means of transportation, but one could easily hold the three of them. "If it starts to rain, I can always add a canopy," she suggested with a smile. "Are we going to need any special equipment? I've never tried to piece together a volcanic island before." 

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"Neither have I, but I guess there's a first time for everything," Gaian Knight admitted, chuckling. On the one hand, seeing something like this - the island and the hopefully dormant volcano - wasn't something one got to do often. On the other hand, even a team like this one might run into issues if the island lived up to even a fraction of its reputation..... "I think we'll be okay without tools for now - one of us should be able to make a quick jump back here or back to the city if we end up needing something on short notice."

He frowned at the satellite map for a moment, idly resting a hand on the hilt of his sword. "....probably take us in high, I guess. I want to get a better look at Kagu-tsuchi before heading down to see how the fault line's doing."

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"In any case, I will proceed to island's beaches and begin casting "Grandmother's Recipe for Lost Children," said Frost as he rose to his feet. "Between Gabriel's ears, Velocity's legs," he winked at the speedster at that, more like a grandfather than a man who looked close to her age, "and my magic, we shall have your lost scientists found soon." Taking a commlink for himself, he headed for the door. "I shall be incommunicado on way there, but I will be easy to find once we have arrived. Come, let us plan," he said to the others, "we can deal with our crisis on way to beaches."  He'd picked up on the chilly relationship between himself and Fleur de Joie from the start, and saw no reason to linger there now that they had their seperate assignments very far from each other. He adjusted his white hood and mask as they stepped out of the briefing room, once again disappearing behind the mask of the parka-clad Comrade Frost. 

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"The science team was examining plant specimens five klicks out from Cracktooth Bay," said Dr. Sato. "The last communication came about six hours ago; it was mostly garbled by static, but what bits we did get didn't exactly say good things. Lots of panic, lots of talk about 'monsters'..." She shook her head. "Redundancy, I know. But we had a number of civilian researchers who'd applied to join the program. Many of them only had experience with the inhabitants at a range of half a mile."


"If you're looking for special equipment," said Tremont, "UNISON brought their own toys to the party. We'll provide you with a sat phone and a line to the bridge. If you need anything on demand, we can arrange a drop. Likewise, I understand the Kagu-tsuchi matter takes priority. Should it come to a head, and you need to get those scientists off the island, we've got some SEALs who are looking for some action. Just get the scientists to Cracktooth; they'll be able to arrange the extraction." 




Outside, on the main deck, Kaiju Island loomed in the distance. There wasn't much to distinguish it from any other desert island at this distance - trees looming high, faultless beaches, and a peak or two. But something rose from those tiny trees, something that dwarfed them, and let out a shriek that could just barely be heard over the waves. Either it was stretching its wings, or something had disturbed it...

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"Sure, hypersonic and high hypersonic  speeds are not a problem either."  Velocity replied to Gabriel's mention of the other possibility for trying not to needlessly disturb the local wildlife.  The speedster then gave a small smile at Comrade Frost’s comment about her legs, accompanied by a grandfatherly wink.  "Sadly, I don't think there will be any pina coladas on these beaches."


As Dr. Sato provided the rough location where the team had last reported in from and Captain Tremont mentioned having a SEAL team ready to extract the science team if needed, the young woman gave a small nod.  "Okay, looks like I know where I am going to start my search."


Glancing over to Gaian Knight, Fleur de Joie, and Tiamat, she added, "I think the three of you have the trickier assignment.  Good luck."


Moments later, Velocity was up on the carrier's flight deck, looking out over the water at the approaching shape of Kaiju Island as the others made their way up as well.  "Okay, see you ashore."  She stated to the others over the comm. before she was off in a blur, speeding down the side of the carrier and the out over the water as she accelerated to hypersonic speeds and made her way towards Cracktooth Bay.

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"Well, that's...hmm."

Gaian Knight sat cross-legged on his stone platform, floating not too far off the surface of the would-be volcano as a piece of stone (carefully liberated from near the top of Kagu-Tsuchi) spun lazily through the air in front of him. "....hmm," he repeated, rubbing the back of his neck before standing back up.

"Well, I've got some good news and some bad news, ladies and gents," he announced over his communicator. "The good news is that Kagu-Tsuchi's sleeping peacefully - I'm sure it'll blow up on us some day, but barring interference it's not likely to be anytime soon. Not that they're terribly easy to predict in the first place, but...well, you know. The bad news is that means our seismic activity now has a mystery cause; speaking as someone who can feel it down there, that's making me a little nervous."

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"That doesn't sound much better, honestly," Stesha commented as she sat on the edge of the stone platform, carefully belted in with a harness of vines. "But I think you're right. I'm not a volcano expert, but the soil all around the area seems to be disturbed, with no extra disturbance on the mountain. I might get more from a mental link with the plant life down there, but we'd have to land." She sighed, looking a bit uneasy even as the vines around her lengthened and began to coil up around her arms for easier access. "But I suppose that's what we'll have to do, if we want to figure out what's going on? At least we know that we probably aren't risking a dip in lava." 

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Gabriel had followed close behind Velocity as she made her way to the island. But whereas she continued inland, he found a sheltered stretch of the Bay's shore to land on. He needed a few moments of focus, and dodging monsters larger and small precluded "focus" quite a bit. The spear was just there to help prop him up, and completely not a psychological aide to ease his nerves about being here. Totally.


His eyes closed and his ears "opened" as he swept his hearing across large swaths of the island, until suddenly his eyes snapped open and he smiled. His voice echoed in the ears of Comrade Frost and Velocity.


"Found the scientists. Getting coordinates now. Probably ought to escort them back to the bay."


He closed his eyes again, and this time his voice was just above a whisper, heard only by the stranded scientists.


"Ladies and gentlemen, please do not be alarmed. This is the hero known as Gabriel. I am part of a rescue party here on the island to bring you to safety. What is your location; speak, and I shall hear, and no need to shout or even speak loudly. If you can give us GPS coordinates that would be most helpful, but some landmarks and rough distances will work well enough. Just hold on a little longer, and you'll be back on the ship."


He waited for their response, hoping they didn't panic too much. 

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After reach the beach of the bay, Velocity continued onward into the surrounding jungle, moving in excess of 15,000 mph.  The yellow clad speedster started at the location the science team had last reported in from and fanned out from there, weaving between trees and around massive boulders and rocks. 


Just as she heard Gabriel's communication about hearing the team and trying to find their location, she speedster had spotted some seven kilometers from where they had last reported in from.  "Yeah, I just spotted them."  She replied over the communicator as she turned towards the group and started to slow her speed.


The young woman then came to a sudden stop a short distance from the group, the long brown ponytail of the wig she wore while in costume swishing out to the side.  "Hi there, I'm Velocity from the Freedom League.  Is everyone okay?"

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"How delightful to be redundant today," said Frost with all seriousness, scraping away the circles of mystic power he had sketched on the sand around him with a stick. The tropical ocean breeze did feel remarkably good on his chilly skin, and the ocean was wide and deep enough that swimming would be no challenge despite the usual formation of ice all around him...with a sigh, he returned to his communication. He shoved his hands in his parka pockets and stared at the forest, remembering for a black moment his previous trip to the island decades before. His voice on the line was warm and polite despite his accent. "Describe condition, if you please. Am physician. Can also transport back to carrier if necessary." 

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