2019-10-07 - The Network Grows


Illyana is late for her weekly check in. Koa takes himself and Keiko to Limbo

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Mon Oct 7 06:15:33 2019
Location: Limbo

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'Hold the coffee. Don't spill it.' That had been Koa's commentary to Keiko as they left the the Starbucks and headed to an empty part of the parking lot. She might have been slightly confused as to why he then pulled out what looked like a sat-phone and started punching numbers. If Keiko had asked 'What are we doing' the answer would have been 'Illyana missed her coffee appointment.'

Keiko probably knows by this point they have a standing appointment, mostly so that Koa can be aware if he needs to go looking for her. Either way, there's a bright flash around them and then nothing.

Out at the edge of Limbo there is a small issue. It's called a stele. It's one of now several dozen that are scattered throughout the immediate area, some within sight of one another and all of them are oozing a black-gold 'circuit grid' onto the ground in circles of varying diameter. It looks WRONG set against the typical blasted hellscape of Limbo and it feels ALIEN. Like it shouldn't be here. That's where Koa and Keiko appear, coffee in hand - well in Keiko's hands - on a small hill overlooking two such stelae.

Of everything, it's the phone that gets Koa a look. She knows Illyana isn't here, she's aware on the periphery, that this is something they do. She's rarely at the house, so it's probably not a bad thing. But the phone? He's not shared that with her and she wonders.

She knows better than to ask questions though.

"Something tells me we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto." Is all she says as she looks at the stelae.

Time in Limbo is more of a suggestion than a rule. Illyana's managed to make it run at a similar rate, but that means it's not at 7 years in Limbo to 1 minute on Earth. 'Closer' still often means that Illyana can be hours, or even days late without realizing it until she gets to Earth. That's compounded by the fact that Illyana herself has a very bad sense of time. That whole 'time flies when you're having fun' can be sort of literal for her.

In this case, it's not fun but it's definitely something that's had her attention. Namely, trying to root out the stele. She's tried gentle. She's tried finesse. Now, she's worked up to the hammer, throwing raw power to try to tear them free of Limbo.

Around one of the stele, she's completed a magical Circle, and the 'pool' of circuitry that's rippling outwards and almost to the edge of that glowing, powered Circle. Horns, tail, hooves, the Darkchilde stands at the top of the Circle, clawed hands wrapped around her staff, the butt of which rests on Circle as she powers it.

"Oh… hell…" Koa murmurs next to Keiko as he stares. He's only seen her like that a few times and Keiko not at all. He glances sidelong at Keiko knowing that she rather reveres the Darkchilde. Well. There she is.

Koa takes one of the cups from Keiko just to make her load a bit lighter (it's his) and starts down the hill toward the Stele where Illyana is 'working'.

"Can you feel that?" He asks the other agent. He knows she can't see it as he can, the flaring of power around the realm's ruler but he's POSITIVE she can feel it. And something else too. It looks like the black circuitry is leaching power from… the ground? Leaching it from Limbo itself it seems. That's not good.

"There shouldn't be this many Stelae here in Limbo unless…" Unless there are ALSO that many in New York.

Finally the two of them reach Illyana and stand off to the side waiting for her to be done and waiting to see if it'll work or not.

And Koa's sort of wondering if Keiko will just… kneel. To be honest he wouldn't blame her. And might join her.

Keiko blinks at the Darkchilde. She's not seen the full transformation yet she recognises it and it doesn't give her pause like it might others. "Not good." She rarely talks much and being Limbo brings out the terse nature. Fewer words can get you into less trouble.

"Too many Stelae. More than we've seen or found." She notes, glancing up at Koa as they walk towards Illyana. Her eyes are slowly turning yellow, the pink/silver lines through her collar pulsing faintly. "There is always magic in Limbo. My tattooes crave it. If there's more than that …" she shrugs not admitting directly she doesn't know.

When they reach Illyana, Keiko does kneel. There's no thought to the action, it's something to be done and she does it.

The gold and black circuitry creeps its way out… out… and finally it hits that glowing Circle and sparks and flames crackle up, the edge of the liquid-like pool burning away… only to be replaced by the flow of new. More flames and sparks flare up where circuitry meets Circle, but none of the gold and black crosses the line.

Closer, Koa and Keiko can see that the glowing Circle is actually a band about six inches wide of intricate spellwork and the glow ebbs and flows a bit as the liquid circuitry touches it. After nearly a minute, the Darkchilde finally lifts her Soulstaff and steps back, watching the Circle.

It's about then that Koa and Keiko come up, and those burning white eyes shift over to the pair, spade-tipped tail lashing behind her in agitation. It stills though, as Keiko goes down to her knees. Settling her Soulstaff across her back, Illyana walks towards the small Peruvian, the sound of her hooves striking the dry, parched ground an audible *thud*, *thud*, *thud* that finally pauses as the horned blonde stops in front of Keiko. A clawed hand reaches out, brushing Keiko's brow lightly. Tucking back some of her hair behind her ear. "No more kneeling for you, pet. I'd rather have you at my back than at my feet." There's a pause. "Also the coffee is a lot harder to reach down there."

In a flicker of eldritch light, the blonde they're more familiar with emerges and there are heavy boots instead of hooves. Black leather instead of armor. She holds herself almost rigidly upright, but there's a sense of exhaustion around her that the pair of them, so close and knowing her so well, can pick up on.

Koa does indeed join Keiko. It's interesting that she's so… ready with that. Willing. He's spoken to Keiko before about that, of course. She's told him that she's never been more free than in her service to the Darkchilde and he believes it. In a way Illyana rescued her. Not from the Nightfall, but from devotion to a being that would have used her with or without the cult. The formerly-younger agent gets a tight smile from Koa. She's done the right thing so far as he is concerned.

"We thought you might want some." Which is… true insofar as it goes. And is much much better than 'you were late so we came looking'. A demon queen is never late, after all. Neither is she early.

"How many have you found?" He asks after a moment. Stelae he means. Both women can see his curiosity. The ones he's seen on earth aren't doing this. At least… not that he can see. The gears in his head are turning though. Fast. One might almost imagine smoke rising from him.

It's the right thing to do because that's one does. Keiko … it's simple for her and she hasn't been this free, ever. If the price is a devotion to someone she calls … family, then it's a small price to pay.

When the Darkchilde approaches, Keiko looks up with those yellow eyes, leaning into the touch on her brow. Easily rising to her feet, she hands the coffee over and looks at the Stelae. "Always at your back, Darkchilde."

The frown deepens as she stares at the arcane devices. "I can use them."

Coffee is so much easier to sip in travel cups without the fangs. Which is what Illyana does, turning a bit to look back at the stele she's been dealing with while slipping her free arm around Keiko's waist. It helps to hide how she leans into the other woman a bit. The blonde crooks a finger at Koa, granting permission for him to rise as well.

"I could definitely use it." Illyana sighs. "I've been at this for…" She shakes her head. "Too long. I can't get *rid* of them. At best…" A gesture to the Circle. "I don't know how long this is going to hold, and I've found… too many."

Koa rises to his feet smoothly and just watches for a moment. He can tell Illyana is… tired? Possibly? If she's been here for that long, well, it makes sense. He doesn't say anything though. Just draws close to the two women and looks out over the Stelae. He watches the pool of circuitry try to get out of the circle and fail to do so over and over but he can also see the power going in and out of it. He can see the way it eats power from the ground and from the air and frowns.

"Keiko… has an affinity for the things yes. They're linked in some kind of sympathetic network and…" He sighs.

"They're being operated by a rebel demon, we think."

He pauses and looks back at Keiko and Illyana. "It's… drawing in power. But it isn't storing it. It's sending it somewhere."

There's another, longer pause before he speaks up again, choosing his words carefully. "What would you have of us?" Not 'how can we help, since that would imply she needs help. No, just two of her pets asking her what she wants them to do. Perfectly natural. For Limbo.

And for them, at this point.

As Illyana slips her arm about Keiko, the smaller woman shifts to offer a shoulder, sliding an arm about the blondes waist without looking like she's making a claim - the picture of perfect obedience. Something she's practiced at.

"Koa is correct, I do and it is." the peruvian confirms. "The rebel does not like me and was … unsatisfied I'd worked out the connection. If I connect again, now I know, I can see where the power is being drawn and perhaps … destroy them from within."

That has to be a risk but it's worth it, at least as far Keiko is concerned.

Illyana takes a few deep swallows of the coffee and then draws in a deep breath, standing a bit straighter but she still keeps that arm around Keiko, fingertips tracing absent circles against her side. "Awesome." Illyana's tone is flat, which also bespeaks a bit of her tiredness as she comments on the rebel demon controlling the stele.

"They're sucking power out of Limbo, yes. I'm going to try to drop containment circles around them to slow it down, but…" But that still doesn't *stop* them. When Keiko says she might be able to destroy them from within, Illyana gives her a Look. "And come back out alive?" A shake of the blonde's head. "We're not risking you on a 'perhaps'. How do we stack the odds that you survive?" Illyana's being blunt. She's not writing off the fact that they might have to put Keiko at risk. Might even have to sacrifice her. But the hell if Illyana's going to spend Keiko's life cheaply.

"I'm not sure yet but I have a theory and I don't know if you're going to like it…"

Koa has, Keiko is aware, been working on this case more or less day and night. Aside from the odd calls to deal with immediate situations, this has been his primary focus. And he's been getting close to something, but the closer he's gotten the less happy about it he's seemed.

"The reason they're draining power from Limbo is to make it easier to tunnel into when they finally try to smash into earth. To prevent that we need to destroy the stelae network, but to do that we need to be able to weaken the dimensional bindings that give it reality in all three dimensions at once."

His cut over to the staff peeking up from over Illyana's shoulder.

"There has to be a locus. A single point where this Gordian Knot all comes together. And we'll never be able to pick it apart, but with a sharp enough blade we can probably slice through it. That locus HAS to be some place on Earth because when they gather their thirteen mutants to enact the ritual to collapse the dimensions, they won't be able to project that THROUGH Limbo. It's going to have to be from the other side. We need to find it and I think I know how."

Koa takes a deep breath and looks Keiko squarely in the eyes. "Your tattoos were designed to operate from a similar network. And I don't think there can be that many locus points on earth that can do what I just described. So odds are good that whatever the Nightfall built, Siffror's loyalists took over. And if we were to pick apart your tattoos, get down really into the meat of their spellwork, we could probably get that knowledge. That, I'm fairly convinced, was part of your 'ascension'. But I can't do that. And no one at WAND can either. It'd take someone with a Splinter Lord's power to pull apart that weave and reorder it to push you to that final state."

Well. He said they weren't going to like it.

"I might not." Keiko admits. "It's not something I was planning on doing straight away. Going in to look around though, I could do that now. I owe G'rfn for the last time and for the dreams I've been having since." The spirit caller is quiet, muted, but that's nothing usual - she keeps a tight reign on her emotions.

"It … isn't a price I want to pay but I will if that's what it takes." Illyana might not see it, Koa will - the look that passes over her face. She'll … start making provisions for Elena. Planning.

"You … want to dismantle my tattooes? What will that do to my spirits?" Not to her. That's not important. She's been torn apart before. She'll do it again. "And you want me … to ascend? To complete the ritual?" Yeah, she needs to make plans.

Illyana has been busy in Limbo, part of why they had to come looking for her. Like Koa, she's been burning her candle at both ends trying to deal with this.

The blonde gives Keiko a glance as she suggests she could go in and look around. "And is there any way for someone to play backup for you? Any way to pull you out if something goes wrong? I want to know we're not going to loose you before I sign off on something like that." Because Illyana's stepping disks certainly can't get Keiko out of a magical network.

Koa's words have Illyana frowning over at him. "Which means me. Because we don't have another friendly with that sort of power." She ponders a moment. "Maybe Strange. As Sorcerer Supreme, he can call on a lot." Illyana pulls her arm from around Keiko now so she can wipe her hand down her face with a sigh. "That's gonna be a hell of a Working. Could we temporarily move the spirits into something or someone else? If she's got to fight them on top of what this would do to her…"

"Not dismantle, reweave. Right now, Keiko, your tattoos are layered one on top of another magically speaking. They're not optimized. If they were properly harmonized they'd grant you and your spirits a LOT more power. I think that was always the point with Plokta. Searching for people who could handle a certain level of power. Maybe he never ate them. Maybe he tried to convert them into something beyond what they were." And maybe he never succeeded. Such a thing would HAVE to take a toll on the body, Koa knows that.

Illyana's suggestion of moving Keiko's spirits gets a nod. "They might start acting up if you begin rennovating their houses around them. Throwing them temporarily into other hosts isn't a terrible idea. We know some people who could take them." Well, Koa knows some and Keiko and Illyana know more. Piotr. Caden. Hank. Catseye. Laura, maybe?

Not Koa. He could definitely take a spirit but there's no way of being sure of getting it back. The predator within him might well consume any spirit placed inside him as either a free meal or a threat.

"But yes. Ascension, Keiko. One that you survive, ideally. If you ascend, and I'm right about this, you'll know where to go, where the network all comes together. You can guide Illyana there and between the two of you, you SHOULD be able to destroy it. That done… we have a fighting chance at taking apart the stelae network with more than just a suicide mission."

It'll still be difficult and dangerous. Siffror and his minions are sure to react and react badly. But it'll be possible.

"Take my spirits?" Neither of the two will miss the tattooes as they ripple and writhe, responding to Keiko and Limbo combined. "I …. " Even as Illyana lets her go, the blonde will feel how tense she is. "… if it is necessary, it will be as you say, Darkchilde."

"There may have been some that passed that ritual. It's what became of them… , Koa. We've guessed…" She won't say they don't know. But they don't.

She's given her answer. She'll do it. She might not like it but she doesn't see another option - and they're here in Limbo.

"Koa helped get me out last time, sort of. I can be careful and not go far until I'm sure. Though if that was me on that side, I'd be expecting me and have a trap prepared. I'm not sure G'rfn is that smart though."

"Not take." Illyana tells the smaller woman. "Just… move temporarily. The spellwork is going to be tricky and I worry that if I do it while they're still part of the 'matrix', I might damage them. Now, maybe I'm wrong. I start to crack into things and hey, easy peasy. I'm thinking through precautions."

The blonde sorceress gives another sigh, and they can hear the exhaustion. "I dunno if I'm thinking straight. I need to take a nap." Which is likely to end up being about 12 hours of her out cold, given how rarely she sleeps. A wave of a hand and a stepping disk opens. "So no going off and doing something that dangerous while I'm asleep, hmm? C'mon."

As Illyana starts to head towards the disk, she looks back at them. "How did you guys *get* here, anyhow?"

"WAND has teleporters. I asked them to try to home in on you using our collars." Koa says with a chuckle. That phone he had was a direct link to the teleportation office.

"Normally they're more polite than to just send agents to a splinter lord's domain unannounced and with no invitation but… I convinced them that you might not skin us alive for showing up." With coffee. The coffee might have been a key part in convincing them.

Twelve hours out cold might mean Koa is checking in on her later to make sure everything is okay. But to be honest, Keiko will probably beat him to that. Either way, they both know where she lives.

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