Aikiko… had quietly slipped away from the Deathknight after she’d started to explain the details of super-accurate clocks. Maybe it WASN’T an intentional attempt to bore her to death, but it was still pretty unbearable – and she wasn’t looking for Deathknights anyway.
Most of the list from the tabloids was still looking good though… that HAD to involve Sidereal meddling SOMEWHERE. How else would normal human being find out so MUCH?
Wait… Had someone just put an astrological inclination towards “publishing accurate reports on magical occurrences” on them and made it broad enough to cover every step of reporting, writing, and editing? If you ran the writers random fantasies through enough stages with that effect going – like the way that the tabloids picked up and “improved” each others stories – you’d eventually start… pulling meaningful information out of random noise. Even better, while you’d probably only get partial and confused clues with any reasonable number of cycles… there was almost no way to block THAT. They weren’t even divining at anyone in particular!
And across the universe, mortals who studied thermodynamics, physics, encryption, and information theory found themselves abruptly troubled.
Hm… that bit about the Antarctic seemed the most meaningful at the moment!
Satellite Surveillance had revealed a massive structure in the antarctic after a massive iceberg – some 115 miles long and 16 miles wide at it’s widest point- had cracked off of an ice shelf. It had apparently been buried under the ice for millennia, and appeared to be made of crystal. Current speculation was that the pictures have been doctored to add a “Fortress of Solitude” for publicity for the new Superman movie; it would be twenty-seven (nineteen now) days before the satellite was back in position for more decent shots.
And… there wasn’t usually a lot of activity in the Antarctic. Sure, that would probably keep – but there had to be a dozen human expeditions getting ready to head that way, along with a terrestrial concealment effort – and not even the gods would know what the Raksha might be getting up to; hadn’t there been some of them living down there?
She’d need a ship though. Of course, that was easy… although she had to turn down Doc Smith’s offer of an Invisible Atomic Zeppelin with Electro-Rays. As amusing as that sounded… he had to admit that it wasn’t nearly as fast as a regular shuttle.
She took one of those, albeit one with a cloaking field installed. If there was something that required an electro-ray around, Skoll could provide!
Heh… no doubt the mad-scientist Deva would GLADLY have provided her with a whole pile of mad-scientist devices – which would no doubt malfunction and have all sorts of crazy side effects. Ah well! Maybe next time if he was extra put out – or when she investigated Scotland or the Beavers!
The Doc wasn’t especially put out; he was well aware that not EVERYONE liked mad science – which put him well ahead of 95% of his field.
Aikiko got to the Antarctic in short order – and Skoll handled the environmental problems quite readily. It was nice carting around what was essentially a miniature vehicle; it was SO handy for exploring Neverborn remnants!
And – not entirely unexpectedly – somebody was already there. It looked like another expedition rather than some antediluvian survivor of an elder world though. That was something… It could even be some normal scientists! After all, the region had a LOT of international research stations.
Nah. That “geodesic dome” was showing an essence-aura of considerable potency – and at least one human-looking individual was currently examining the top of the structure ih his or her shirtsleeves – at -40 and windchill of -80. That was kind of impressive really! Some kind of thaumaturgic warding, Air Aspect Survival, some other Exalted Survival capability, or not at all human – and the aura from the dome was… very similar to the one from the guy who was poking about, carrying weird overtones of lightning and iron. DEFINITELY not a familiar aspect!
Possibly Autochthonian or Alchemical? She didn’t know that much about them… Charles had a few visiting though; he’d probably share if she asked.
That at least identified the auras as Alchemical – albeit with a serious hint of something nasty about them!
(Aikiko) “Charles, didn’t you have to talk down some of them?”
(Charles) “Well, yeah! They had something called “Gremlin Syndrome” – a corrupting insanity! Rather dangerous really; it infects the physical side of exalted artifact bodies, and machine spirits, and so on…”
(Aikiko) “Ew! Could I get a detailed comparison of the essence signatures?”
(Charles) “And then they lose all empathy, and get REALLY arrogant – at the toxic level really – and they tend to go berserk whenever anything confuses, upsets, or annoys them… And sure!”
(Aikiko) “That’s horrible! That sounds like pretty much the opposite of what Autochthon would want.”
(Charles) “I kind of think so! Hm… Judging by what Yu-Shan said, I think it’s an expression of his neverborn aspect starting to creep into things now that he’s so sick… I’ve got to work on him after Yu-Shan!”
There was an awful lot of white and blue – and occasional small avalanches along the face of the ice cliff where the ice-shelf shift had left things unstable – but no apparent signs of environmental trouble from “Gremlin Syndrome” (if it even did things like that outside of Autochthon). The structure itself appeared to be made of pure crystal, symmetrical and beautiful, an iridescent white, with a trace of an inner glow. There was, however, no obvious entrance. Assuming that it was some sort of geomantic construct, it probably opened only for attuned individuals, or at an attuned individual’s command.
The guy up on top seemed to be searching, and occasionally using some sort of probe. So they might not be connected… well, it had worked with the Abyssal! She walked right up to the top of the dome.
(Aikiko) “What’s up?”
When the structure had been exposed it had radiated a VERY powerful signal for those attuned to machine-magic – and there were a few alchemicals around who were desperate for anything which might help them recoup their recent setbacks. Harmonious Smith Of Accords was busy deploying his system probes to tap into the apparent artificial intelligence of the manse. While this newcomer was obviously some sort of Exalt (and did bear some resemblance to an Orichalcum Caste Alchemical!), she would be dealt with if necessary! Already the primitive defenses of the AI controlling this structure were failing before his system probes, and it’s resources – including a small swarm of rather high-end combat/engineering constructs – would soon be theirs. It would not make up for their vanished companions, but it might well help to recover them!
And if this intruder got in the way of that… well, Celerous Dart Of The Heavens had the firepower to help out with any such difficulty! It would be best to determine what it was she wanted as quickly as possible!
He employed The Demanding Multitude (a computerized charm that flurried a social attack in combat time and made four rational-sounding, urgent, persuasive, demands at once!
(Harmonious Smith) “Identify Yourself, State Your Purpose, Reveal Your Nature, and Stand Down!”
Aaargh! Skoll was no use at all against THIS! The man wasn’t USING any UMI to block! He was just… persuasive and somehow speaking in many voices at the same time!
Aikiko… found herself answering the first three questions before she really even thought about it!
The fourth demand “missed” – but the player, as a non-social character, elected to save her will on the others. It wasn’t critical, so why not capitulate?
(Aikiko) My name’s Aikiko Tanaka! I’m here investigating some disturbances I heard about. And yeah, you’ve got me. I’m Exalted.”
(Harmonious Smith) “What sort of Exalt? I think that there is little here for anyone save one of us!”
(Skoll, privately) “Warning! Entropic cascade! Possible compromise of systems with continued exposure!”
(Aikiko, privately) “Oh oh… how long do you have? Give me an estimate.”
(Skoll, privately) “At current rate of progression… 2.78 minutes. Increase in exposure may accelerate this progression. Direct contact not advised. From earlier conversation, possibly “Gremlin Syndrome”.”
(Aikiko) “I’m not sure it means anything, but… Solar.”
She prepared for an emergency, as-fast-as-possible exit! She couldn’t risk Skoll getting infected by THIS!
(Harmonious Smith) “Solar? Have you come to take control of this planet? We could combine our efforts, and at last bring efficiency and proper order to this world!”
(Aikiko) “Oh, for the Primordials’ sake, if you say you’re my father…”
Aikiko engaged the thrusters!
(Harmonious Smith, with some astonishment) “What a peculiar person!”
He wasn’t well versed in earths popular culture. Why bother? It was all silly non-Autochthonian media valuing individual heroism over the collective…
Skoll flashed into the air, leaving behind the corrupting mist of void energies which had been sinking into his systems.
Harmonious Smith lacked flight capabilities – but it was a tossup! Ask Celerous Dart of the Heavens to pursue or continue attempting to gain control of this powerful resource? A tough choice!
Hm… not so tough after all! The visitors thrust-systems were powerful, and additional, potent, acceleration magics were being deployed. Celerous Dart… probably would not be able to catch her while remaining in the atmosphere – and sending her up would blow their cover for sure unless she used a remote – and that was too limited to have much chance of success. The odds… favored gaining control of THIS resource as quickly as possible, before effective interference could be deployed!
Harmonious Smith redoubled his efforts – and the AI’s barriers crumbled before him.
And Aikiko… was worrying! No one-manse computer intelligence was really likely to stand up to a pair of Alchemicals – and from what she’d been able to get on it… that place was likely to give them quite a power boost! It had a guardian force of first age automatons, massive computing power (at least compared to current earthly systems), and plenty of reserves of machine-magic… NOT a good thing!
Maybe somebody else would show up before they got it sorted out?
Yeah. Alchemicals dealing with a machine-magic manse. SURE someone would make it before they could take control… She called Charles since he was looking for them anyway!
(Charles) “Oh boy! And with access to a Yu-Shan gate too… Drat it!”
(Aikiko) “Yeah… now they’re after me instead of you, but if they realize what you are…”
(Charles) “Urm… Maybe I can get the Celestial Lions to help out? This IS sort of their thing…”
(Aikiko) “Wait, the place is a Yu-Shan gate too? Oh yeah… this WOULD be a hole in Heaven’s security.”
(Charles) “I’d say so… Botheration! I did NOT need any more complications at the moment! It’s almost time and I still have manses to build and artifacts to make!”
Charles called the Celestial Lions – and found that they were QUITE unhappy about having a set of high-end Alchemical Exalt Sidereal Hunters seizing control of one of Yu-Shan’s gates and a set of guardian constructs to go with it.
They were definitely interested in coordination. Shining Barrator and the other senior lions did NOT need known Sidereal hunters coming up to Heaven and wrecking stuff while a major geomantic operation was going on!
They deployed assorted forces, let Gothmug put up his impenetrable barriers to keep Celerous Dart Of The Heavens more or less grounded, had Aikiko return to wade through the automatons (since she could easily handle a LOT of them that way and she’d always been more overtly combative anyway) – and coordinated with the Celestial Lions pouring through the Gate.
It was loud, and messy, and brought down a lot more ice – likely a good thing; burying the place again once they let the wards down would probably be a good idea – but two Alchemicals and a Manse were no match for the Celestial Lions, Aikiko and Skoll, two of Charles’s Devas (Gothmug and Seiden, Master of Energetics), and Charles’s supporting staff and troops. They were simply far too outnumbered by creatures of similar power.
It was still more of a hassle than was needed at the moment – but getting the last couple of the “Starbreaker Sponsors” in for treatment was something Charles had been working on for a good long time now! Aikiko had done him a great favor!
Aikiko, however, had messages waiting afterwards…. Toho Studios was calling in it’s various actors! It seemed to be their version of “Circle the Wagons!”.
Well, she DID have a contract! Best answer the call!
The Japanese Government was wanting some explanations… that thing flying towards Tokyo had been identified via several different systems – photo enhancement, satellite imaging, radar, and more – and it had been bloody MOTHRA. Just like in the movies. Ergo, Toho presumably knew something. Toho – which didn’t really know anything – was calling in its actors, consultants, and staff for briefings, pooling of information, and setting up a movie which would explain why they were NOT to blame.
And then there’d been reports of King Ghidorah being spotted. And even before that… there had been reports of Mechagodzilla. There were even rumors that the governments of the world were sitting on Godzilla sightings!
Whaaa… stupid Cauldron-Born! Even CHARLES was more discreet than THIS!
And checking with Mechagodzilla… HE’D been out and about in Oregon stopping a variety of local disasters.
Quite a LOT of people were getting nervous; if Toho monster movies were prophetic instead of entertaining… things could be getting VERY weird! And very dangerous too!
And Aikiko… was left wondering whether she should admit that she knew something. It seemed pretty unfair to stick Toho with this mess without doing what she could to help them. It would be hard to convey it without seeming crazy or blowing her cover though.
Oh well! She’d blow her cover if she had to.
(Aikiko): “Yeah… there’s some truth to that report. Blame the Americans! (Thinking) “I think. I know there are some Americans involved.”
(Yuichi Ueno): “I’m fairly sure that those scriptwriters were NOT prophets! Much less all the costume makers and such… So… stuff that people IMAGINE is coming to life? (Muttering) A bad day to be named “Sarah Conner”…”
(Aikiko) “Not so much coming to life. More like you’ve got really powerful beings using it as inspiration. I know that anime does things with the Fair Folk sometimes. It’s like that, except they’re not QUITE as amoral and alien.”
(Yuichi Ueno) “A two-hundred foot high monster is a bit more than INSPIRATION!”
(Aikiko) “This is going to sound crazy… but I can get you in touch with one of these things! He can even get here without the government noticing.”
(Yuichi Ueno) “Hrm… well, that makes at least as much sense as the rest of this! Who is he?”
(Aikiko) “Mechagodzilla! I met him in Oregon… it’s a long story.”
She sighed and revealed Skoll to add some credibility.
And there was silence! Evidently she’d learned the Sidereal art of Assorted Endings, and had reached “Slay Conversation”” (A perfect defense against social skills). To be fair, that really wasn’t unexpected (and that WAS the sort of thing she’d expect a Sidereal to come up with).
She sent Mechagodzilla a prayer… was he free for an interview?
He could stop by in a few days – if they didn’t report her to the mental health authorities first.
Mechagodzilla arrived at Toho Studios, “accidentally” putting a hole in an (unimportant) wall because it had a Godzilla poster on it…
(Aikiko) “Hey, that’s no way to treat your temple! Um… I guess you would consider this a temple.”
(Mechagodzilla) “Of course!”
And MechaGodzilla removed the silly hat and put on six feet of height to help him glare at the security guards – who were pretty startled by the sudden growth, and fell back in confusion (not to mention more than a bit of panic; they weren’t equipped to handle Mechagodzilla!
(Aikiko) “Don’t worry, he’s quite friendly if you don’t attack him.”
Mechagodzilla cheerfully explained (with Aikiko interpreting where necessary) that the world was changing, and the direction of that change… would be decided in a battle between many of the mighty! Amongst those… the great dreams of men would stand as champions of humanity. He suggested sending at least six film crews to get the raw footage – and a dozen would be better!
(Aikiko) “Though considering where you’re likely to go… film permits might be a problem. I bet the God of Blockbusters would be all over this, though!”
Fortunately, anyone who might be checking permits would be well-distracted!
She offered to get them access. The filming would be dangerous, but some of the scenery, before and after the battles, would be to die for!
Toho… was more than a bit intimidated and confused – but if this was a battle to determine the fate of mankind and the Earth… they wanted it. Sure, that might be all that they could contribute – and documentaries were not really their speciality – but they wouldnt miss it for ANYTHING.
Besides, if it went badly… presumably they were all doomed anyway! But… shouldn’t they warn the military and such? Or perhaps the priests? Or the new-age mystics? Or SOMEBODY? After all… they had an interest in the survival of the Earth too!
(Aikiko) “Hrm… I have an associate who’s probably put out the word in the occult community. But yeah, we should let the military know. I expect a lot of this to take place elsewhere, but it’ll probably spill over to Earth.”
(Director) “Oh that’s just WONDERFUL… Oh dear; is this going to be like “Final Wars”?”
(Aikiko) “Ergh… it wouldn’t surprise me.”
(Yuichi Ueno) “Oh boy. Well… at least half the governments are already presuming that we have some special source of information, so they should be willing to give us a hearing at least.”
(Aikiko) “I’ll see what I can do off planet. If it makes you feel better . . . It probably won’t leave the solar system!”
Sadly, MechaGodzilla was no prophet, and his details were sketchy; still… he knew some things, and the bit about dark powers rising from the underworld was ominous anyway – whether it was Deathlords or Neverborn Kaiju or both.
The Director was considering Skoll…
(Director, sighing) “I take it that YOU will be participating in this great battle directly then?”
(Aikiko) “I don’t have much of a choice! The universe getting destroyed goes against this guy’s (patting the breastplate) interests too.”
(Yuichi Ueno) “Not just armor then… (Looks at Mecha-G)… will you be growing into a giant robot to battle Kaiju too?”
(Aikiko) “Hey… Mechagodzilla, can you really do that? Skoll and I might need it!”
(MechaGodzilla) “That power is available through prayers to me!”
(Aikiko) “Yeah, I think so!”
(Director) “Huh… can that suit of yours record?”
(Aikiko) “Ohhh… I see what you’re getting at there. Yes, he can.”
(Director) “Well, that should be pretty interesting if we all live!”
(Aikiko) “I hope so!”