2019-09-18 - False Heir


Following the lead of the second stelae network, Koa and Keiko make a horrifying discovery.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Wed Sep 18 03:14:31 2019
Location: WAND

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WAND is equipped with a number of heavily warded 'safe rooms' for use when dealing with unknown mystical phenomena. Koa has appropriated one today. Without exception they are plain rooms of bare concrete. The walls are lined inside with silver, etched with wards on the interior and exterior and run through with a cold iron rebar cage. The only furniture is a plain metal table, a few chairs and a single hanging lamp.

Keiko is still an Agent Probate. Someone who is being given a trial period and assisting Koa in his cases - which she'd been doing anyway so it's not much of a change other than she has some equipment and a badge.

In the center of the table there is one of those Nightfall seals, the one that Keiko had bled on when she'd experienced something unusual in Limbo.

"Alright." Koa says as he shuts the steel door and latches it. "That is as safe as I can make us. Are you ready, Keiko? Any questions?"

"It doesn't matter if I'm not ready, does it?" Keiko answers, eyeing the table and the seal … and then the door. "You want me to bleed on that again, yes? And if things go wrong … we'll deal with it."

To her it's sort of like 'all things normal'. At least they're not likely to get stuck in Limbo together for seven years and have a child. Are they?

"Do *you* have any questions, Koa?" beat "Actually, I do have one. Are you going to lose your cool today?"

Koa folds his arms and gives Keiko a look. Sassing the senior agent is definitely not on her to do list, though one might be forgiven for thinking that it is. She does it so often.

"I don't know." He responds to the Peruvian woman. "Are you going to give me a reason to?"

Because that's the only reason he'd lose his cool… right? The question makes him rub at his neck, hand sliding across those three filled in teeth. His eyes gleam a little and he reaches for a flip knife, opens it and hands it over to Keiko.

"Whenever you're ready then. If it doesn't put you completely out I'd appreciate knowing what you're seeing."

"I think my breathing sometimes give you reason to." Keiko answers lightly, slitted eyes watching as he rubs neck, one eyebrow quirking. Yes, her giving him reason is the *only* reason he'd lose his cool. Of course it is. It's got nothing to do with his heart or those marks.

Or the fact he's not sleeping because of Nightmare.

Taking the knife, there's not pause as she pricks her finger. If it hurts, there's no indication of it. "Here we go…" Turning the disc, Keiko presses the welling blood to it - waiting for the effect to take her.

It doesn't take long. The effect of 'feeling' something attached to her physical being is much stronger on Earth than in Limbo. There's a brush against her skin in multiple places, like walking through a cobweb. Slowly it comes into focus. She can feel 'points' about her and knows their location. It's all around the earth. South America, the Mongolian steppe, the Congo river valley in Africa, the shores of the Mediterranean, the Great Plains. Much of what she can feel feels… stiff. Damaged possibly. If she concentrates on any one sensation she gets a sense of what's around it.

And she also feels… full. Like the Stelae have been storing things and they're ready to be drained or harvested.

How far can she extend her awareness like this? It is, for a moment, sort of like being an all seeing eye.

Actually… she MIGHT be able to take Koa and herself TO one of those Stelae if she concentrated on it enough.

Koa will think that the connection has put Keiko out for the moment, she goes so still and quiet. All he can hear is the soft gasps as the sensations take her and see the small twitches as the sensation of cobwebs affects her.

"It's … weird. I can feel the whole thing and it's touching me but if I concentrate … I can feel exact parts of the network. This one feels like it's not working properly - like it's chugging, trying to work but it's labouring."

"A lot them feel … full, I guess? I … don't know how to describe it. Oh, look at that. Hold my hand, Koa. I think we can 'step' through."

When she feels his fingers close around hers, the peruvian spirit caller focuses her attention. The sensation of cobwebs grows much, much, stronger as she does and it's getting somewhat warmer.

It's not like Illyana's stepping disks. Nor Elena's teleportation. Space around them twists and compresses and then expands to reveal them somewhere hot, dry and sunny. Lots of exposed rock and…

"Namib Desert." Koa says looking around. Spoilsport. They're at the entrance to a cave miles from anywhere and there's a Stele right next to them. It has the same general shape as the ones used by the Lifeless, but it's more slender, it has a large circular emblem mounted on the top - a moon eclipsing a sun - and it's entirely made of stone. There's no obvious tech on or in it.

Koa kneels down and runs his hands along an area that looks like it was scraped or chipped.

"Something was scoured off here along the base with hand tools." He murmurs. "Does this one feel full?"

It does. And it's hard to say what… but they feel more than a little bit like it feels when she calls her spirits back into her. It's not ENTIRELY clear that tapping it is a good or safe idea. There might be other ways to figure out what it was doing.

This is not a way that Keiko would want to travel generally. It's uncomfortable and it makes her tattooes itch and burn a little. "How on earth do you know that?" Keiko's knowledge of the world is limited - mostly to pop culture and what she's seen on TV.

The eclipse moon motif on the top of the stelae has her hand lifting but she stops short of touching it. "I guess this is Nightfall made, then." She doesn't sound happy about that.

"Yes, it does but that's all I can tell you. The same sort of binding that my own spirits use. Gossamer perhaps? I don't know enough to know what it's doing …" Keiko's a soldier, a bit of a blunt instrument and she doesn't really have the resources to know how to do much else. Yet. "I … could touch it. With my hand or staff … "

"First lesson is always to look. I know because I've been in this desert before. Not this part of it, but still." Also the time of day, the heat, the angle of the sun. He's travelled. He knows what different parts of the world feel like.

"Look." Koa notes on one of the faces of the trapezoidal base, there's a small round hole. It's JUST large enough for her staff to fit in, or something of a similar diameter.

"Nightfall did make this if I had to guess, but… someone or something has defaced it. I wonder…" He runs his hand over the scratching again. "Grid pattern… Blood of the Machine, possibly? Someone's been by to clean it all off." A long time ago from the feel of it.

As Koa is talking and examining Keiko can feel a brush against herself. Like there is another part of this network she's just now feeling. Or, if she had the background, maybe like she's just detected another wifi signal?

"I know a desert when I see one, Koa. Just not the area." Keiko grumbles a bit. She's aware her education and experience is severely lacking.

She's examining the stelae trying to work out what to do. Hitting it is always an option in her books. "Do you have you paper and pencil? You could try shading over it and see if it's any clearer." The answer is vague as the hole is examined. "It might be that - we know the Nightfall used it and stopped - why wouldn't they …" she sighs "Maybe this is how they used it. I'm less inclined to want to touch it now."

"Are you doing that?" The small peruvian has her staff out, fitting it to the hole as she talks. "There's something else her. Like another channel on the radio … "

"Doing what?" Koa looks up as he fishes for his sketchbook. Taking a rubbing - that's what it's called don't be like that - is a good idea. Keiko DOES have good ideas. He starts to do that but his answer should be all that Keiko needs. He's not doing it.

When she puts her staff into the aperture she feels something 'click' beneath it. Like she'd pressed a button. Then her staff begins to warm and abruptly a bolt of energy shoots up it as the Stele itself produces a beam of white light that lances into the sky.

Suddenly she can feel EVERYTHING. It's like her consciousness is implanted into the Stelae network. She has memories, thoughts, records from thousands of years pouring into her head, far too fast to make sense of any of it.

And she can sense something else. Another… network? Or part of a network? It wouldn't be too hard to connect to that too.

"There's another …" Keiko isn't paying attention to Koa as her staff makes the stelae 'click'. "Oh, that did someth——"

Koa should be distracted by the beam of light - that can't be good, can it? And Keiko standing there, fingers grasping the staff tightly.

"Too much … too much…" Keiko mutters, her eyes blazing bright yellow as the tattooes writhe on her arms in response to whats happening. "So much information…."

"There's something else here, I can …" she doesn't think when she should, just reaches out to touch it…

"Keiko!" Koa rises, looking alarmed when he DOES notice, which is to say when she starts talking. She can barely hear him though. When she connects to that second network her consciousness expands from being a network that spans the WORLD to one that spans into another DIMENSION.

She gets flashes of vision. Forests of bone white trees with pale leaves. Meadows where wan sunlight filters down peacefully onto washed out grasses. Sluggish rivers surrounded by faded reeds.

And then she gets a face. For just a moment but the experience is so intense. Like someone is looking right at her. A demon. A demon she recognizes. One that had tormented her. It's in here. With her.

Too late. Keiko staggers, only held upright by her grip on her staff and sheer will. Whatever is happening in the namib desert, she doesn't know and right now she can't care about that.

"G'rfn…. " The one demon she had hoped never to see again. The one who had tried his darnedest to have her killed or worse when they were in Limbo.

With everything rushing through her mind, Keiko gives a very human response and squawks before her training kicks in and she pushes it all away, focussing on showing this thing she's not afraid "Is this your doing? The Blood of the Machine?"

YOU! GET OUT! The demon shrieks and she can feel an almighty push to eject her from the other Network. It's hard to maintain her hold on it all so she may very well lose her grip. Doubly so because Koa is now trying to pry her hands off her staff or failing that yank her staff out of the base of the device.

"Keiko." He's saying in a quiet, almost deadly calm manner. "Stay with me. What are you seeing?" She's not getting many answers but there is ONE thing that should be fairly clear. She could operate the Lifeless Stelae network just like she's doing to this one, if only she could get the right 'key'.

"Don't…" Keiko tries to shrug off Koa. "… G'rfn. Is. Here. Another.network. Looking." The trees, pale leaves, washed out landscapes are described as she fights against the push of the demon.

"Tell me, G'rfn." Keiko had survived in Limbo for seven years, keeping the demons grasp on his faction tenuous. "The stelae have key like this one, Koa… I need to see them again, work out what it is. I think G'rfn might have it or … something."

"G'rfn? The demon that wanted Piotr to find another lady?" Koa has heard some of this story. He hasn't met the demon personally that he's aware of but then again a lot of the damn things look the same. Except K'nert. And that damn green one.

"Why is a LIMBO demon operating a network being used by one of Illyana's enemies?" Has G'rfn defected? And if so… why?

"If he has it then others have to as well. Those mutant kids, maybe some of the lifeless. We need to get one." Because if they can disrupt or control this network they can delay.

I will not tell you, false heir! The demon snaps back in demonic. He looks a bit… washed out. And larger. And stronger. Much more so than he used to be. GET OUT! G'rfn lashes out with a wave of energy that makes the staff spark and heat dramatically.

There were some stories that Keiko hasn't shared. Not even Piotr knows the extent of this one. "Yes. The same one. Later, Koa. Maybe." Maybe she'll tell him the full of it. Or maybe she won't.

Koa can feel Keiko tremble as the fear of the demon washes through her, yet she's resolute. "I am not heir at all, The Rasputin is and after him, my daughter will sit on that throne. You'll do well to remember that I'm her mother when that happens… " Keiko growls, letting out a grunt of pain as the staff sparks and heats. "You.will.tell.me how you access this network and what you are doing. Were you trapped by Sifror and too weak to resist?"

I will tell you nothing! You will burn and limbo with you! G'rfn snarls and the attack on Keiko redoubles. The staff and stone beneath it start to smoke.

"Alright. That's enough." Koa actually growls, puts both hands on the staff and yanks. It slides free and the connection breaks but not before both Keiko gets an image of a small icon. Something about the size of a fist, shaped roughly like an X, bleached white and inscribed with odd characters. That might be an image of the key.

"Ow…" Koa lets go of the staff as soon as it's loose and shakes his hands. Burned, of course, but not badly. "What did you get?"

Keiko whimpers in pain as the staff sears her hands. There's the scent of burnt flesh before Koa pulls the thing free. "No. I almost have i…." The small peruvian collapses when she's free, breathing heavily.

"Paper, pencil. NOW!" When he gives it to her, she sketches what she saw - not well unfortunately, she's little skill and her hands are certainly worse for wear.

"Does that look like the X that Illyana wears on her belt?" The characters make no sense to her, not yet.

Koa, rather than arguing, just hands her his sketchbook. He'll see to her hands when they get back, which they will be shortly. When she's done he leans over to see what she's made.

"No. The angles aren't steep enough. It looks more like… crossbones or something like that. But without the bones. Or the skull. It's not very big. You could clip it on a belt or hang it off a pack and most people wouldn't notice it."

He crouches down and looks her over. She's worse for wear, but how much is hard to say. She was connected to something and that's always dangerous.

"Did you feel any other presences, influences? We have no idea who is using these or what they left behind." This is quite risky really. But it's also one of their best ways to get information. Which is why Koa is going to try to figure out if they can find one of those 'keys'.

"Skull and Crossbones? Do you recognise it?" It's not something that Keiko recognises at all. "We need to get back, check the WAND library, see if Illyana recognises it." She's a little freaked out, though not showing it overly.

Koa is going to have a time working out just how affected she is.

"It was … another dimension. I didn't feel anything else but I was … focussed on G'rfn. It's a pity we can't kill them - him, I should have done at the beginning."

"He's a limbo demon, you can't kill them permanently. And no I don't recognize it per se. Just the general shape profile, but yes we should check it out." Koa mutters. He's learned that much though thankfully not by experience. Not yet at any rate. "Anyway I think we should-"


Koa turns to look down. There, peeking out of the shadows behind the Stele is K'nert. The WAND Agent's eyes narrow. "And what do you want?"

K'nert hisses something that Koa doesn't quite get but Keiko does. G'rfn just tore out of the citadel with a pack of demons on his heels. He was making for the hinterlands, where Belasco's rebels lurk. And he was pale. Way, way too pale. And bigger.

Why is he telling Koa and Keiko this and NOT Illyana?

Keiko's eyes are so yellow and they aren't reverting back to their warm brown anytime soon. "I know that Koa. It's why he's still alive. When I find Illyana I'm going to ask her to make him my pet though. I'll dress him in pink frills and make him carry drinks."

"K'nert …" Keiko hisses in return, taking up her quarterstaff in ruined hands. "Where's Illyana. Have you told her?" The peruvian translates for Koa absently. "He's going to join Belasco, I'm sure. But he's … taken in the energy of that dimension."

This isn't good. The spirit caller struggles to her feet "We need to get back… By the Darkchilde … " with great deliberation she speaks. Koa had said if she was serious enough, maybe she'd summon Illyana.

That's what you're for. K'nert responds. You're her loyal pets aren't you? Prove it to her.

Koa's demonic isn't quite good enough to catch it mangled by K'nert's kind of beaky mouth and clipped speech. He may want to work on that. She can see by the way his eyes narrow that he probably will.

"Come over here." Koa motions. She may be serious but she doesn't, at least this time, summon Illyana with her oath. Instead Koa snaps a stone wafer, light flashes and they're both whisked back to WAND.

First stop, though, will be the infirmary. For some burn cream.

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