2020-01-09 - Divide And Conquer


Keiko and Koa are set upon when checking the pillar network

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Thu Jan 9 04:42:24 2020
Location: Brooklyn

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Koa had been showing Keiko some of the finer points of investigation at one of the columns they've been watching when the attack came. They'd had to check on it and she needed the work - little does Koa know what Pandora Peters had directed the small spirit caller to do.

Attacked from above by flying winged creatures and on the ground by pale demons that look like Limbo demons gone wrong. Koa is currently being dived bombed by two of the winged beings whilst having to defend against two more of the ground creatures - they seem intent on trying to separate him from Keiko, who is using her staff to effect against another, slightly bigger one.

Koa has his chain out. It whips one of the implings as it tries to dive bomb him and wraps around it's waist. He swings, using it's momentum to turn it's flight path into a ballistic trajectory, aiming it at the OTHER thing dive bombing him.

"Keiko?!" He calls out. He's busy and this is serious. He knows he's only being distracted while more effort is focused on her and he is trying to get himself clear so he doesn't wind up clawed and bitten from behind to potentially deadly effect.

They shouldn't have been able to get in here but the wards have clearly seen better days. Someone tried to overpower them, he's sure.

They shouldn't have, but they have and whilst that largest of the demons is trying to get hold of the peruvian, Koa finds himself the centre of attention. The flyer he chains swings around and clocks the second one - the WAND agent feels the inertia of the collision. Entangled in each other, the flyers flap and struggle, tying themselves even more in Koa's chain.

Just as that happens, one of the ground ones leaps for him, as a huge black shape knocks it flying. There's a lot of growling and snarling as the figures tumble and roll … that's Conner and he's clearly not happy.

At the same time, Koa feels the chain go tight, starting to lift in the air. With an unnatural scream, Onyxia has latched onto to the flyers and is climbing, shaking and pecking at them.

They can be tangled up in the chain. That's just fine. All he has to do is focus his will and trap the two things in it. Or at least that was the plan until something tries to blindside him. He turns with his gun out and then is yanked back as Onyxia grabs one of the flyers. He has to let it go or risk being dragged around the chamber.

Which at least lets him focus on shooting. The rapid rapport of gunfire sounds in the room like rolling thunder.

It's rather crowded in here now. The demons and the WAND agents were more than enough. With the three spirit creatures - yes three, Koa will recognise Bella as she rips into one of the demons attacking Keiko - it's crowded indeed.

Onyxia screeches again as she drags the flyers higher, shaking them so the end of the chain whips around - right near Koas head.

Conner and his demon are tumbling and growling and whilst Koa can focus on his shooting, he has to watch for that … dog fight … as it draws closer to him. His gun shots take down one of the ground demons - the pale corpse dropping to the ground. It's dead - at least for now.

That leaves two trying to corral Keiko back towards the pillar, as she lands strike after strike with her staff, her body now covered in obsidian scales and wings flaring at her back.

Koa does finally manage to get to his feet and while he has to keep an eye on the dog fight he is most decidedly not shooting at it. No. He's shooting at the ones near Keiko. It may have just been good tactics to try to separate him but even if that was the case he sees no reason to let them continue to do so. And accordingly…

Crack. Crack. Crack. Crack. Crack.

That should buy her some space.

Above Koa, Onyxia continues her fight - screeching and keening as the chain whips around. Koa can feel something hot and wet land on his head, slide down his face to land on the floor with a splat … It's an ear and part of a skull, torn free.

His shooting is true though, hitting one of the demons and bringing it low. At the same time, Keiko spins and delivering a killing blow to her one.

Conner is just to Koas left growling over his kill and feasting on it, Bella raises a bloodied muzzle from her demon and howls.

Onyxia? She lands in front of Koa, laying the entangled, mangled, mess of flyer bodies before him. Delicately starting to tear them apart with her claws.

"Koa …" Keiko growls, eyes glowing bright yellow.

"Keiko…" Koa says carefully as he lowers his weapon. His silver eyes are impossible to hide right now. They practically gleam in the low light. "Stand down."

He's not sure she can pull back enough to make the demon disappear but she should be able to at least calm down. With the calm, the demon will recede in time.

"Look around for any scorch marks or burning. These things came through the wards here and some of the wards should be burst. I want to know where."

Keiko growls, showing fangs as her wings flex behind her. Her spirits - already restless - keen, croon and howl as they rip into their prizes. This is a terrible situation for the pair to be in - the spirits are strong at the moment, and Keiko's demon spirit is likely shining like a beacon.

Those yellow eyes of the peruvians fix on Koa as she snarls more. It's the warming of her collar that has her backing away, slowly, turning on her heel to look around.

Koa will find it, the burnt patch of ground. From what he can tell, these were destroyed from the inside. No demon could have done this.

Koa starts to move away but he turns to look at Keiko a couple of times just to make sure she's not coming for his back. Which she might. They're both in a hierarchy and she might decide to go for dominance. It's a very demonic thing to do.

"Someone sabotaged the wards. That's why they're weak. It was done from the inside and it couldn't have been a demon…"

He looks back and frowns. Who, though? Specifically who would sabotage a ward, to set a trap presumably, but NOT sabotage the pillar? If you have access to the place, why not just do that?

There's a detritus and dust on the floor, much of it has been disturbed by the fight but Koa can see one section that has only been disturbed a little. In in is the heel print of a foot - a very human foot judging by the size of it.

Keiko is still growling as she prowls about the area, the demon spirit isn't receding at the moment, it has her in its grasp and when Koa glances at her, those yellow eyes are fixed on him - judging, he can tell. Will she go for him?

The other three spirits start to tussle with each other, trying to take the kills and claim them for themselves. They really are unsettled today.

Koa kneels down to look at the heel. Barefoot. Who goes around barefoot these days. The sudden snarls have his silver eyes flashing and he rises and turns in one fluid moment. His hand goes to his side and he draws his weapon to fire it in the air.

"ENOUGH!" That's mostly to the three tussling spirits but Keiko will observe it of course. Those are hers. So it's a good question as to whether or not she'll try to argue with him over it. After all. Bossing hers around implies he can boss HER around.

"Leave them alone …" Keiko mutters, yellow eyes glinting as Koa stands there. The three spirits turn and stand shoulder to shoulder in front of Koa, dragging their kills with them. It's not a pretty sight at all, with all the ichor and remains covering them. "I'll stop them when I'm good and ready."

Right now, Koa might know what it's like for Piotr with her. Koa, however, doesn't have the same kind connection with her - how he takes that is going to be interesting.

"I don't know if I felt the wards when I entered…" the peruvian finally says. "What have you found? And what do you think?"

Judging by the condition of the ward, it was physically destroyed but could that be done without destroying the magic of the ward to begin with?

Koa has a resort that Piotr doesn't have or at least doesn't ever use. He fires his weapon right at Keiko's feet. "Stop them now." He says flatly.

This is not entirely calculated, in truth. This is partly Koa being corrupted. Which he is. He has a demon heart and a predator's impulses. He starts walking toward her and unlike anything he's ever done before, his weapon is pointed at her.

"Stand down, Keiko." This is most decidedly NOT WAND protocol.

"When I'm ready and not before." Keiko answers flatly, eyes flashing. She didn't even flinch when Koa fired that weapon, bits of cement and dirt flicking up and hitting her scales. Her staff is held loosely at her side but Koa has seen this before - she won't back down.

She can't. Not now. He's challenged her and triggered the survival mechanism that was cemented in her seven years in Limbo.

The spirit animals form up behind Koa, spreading out to hiss and spit at the two of them.

Keiko hisses at them but holds Koa's eyes, extending a hand to the spirits - back first - and encouraging them to join her. They shuffle forward. "Down …" is all she says - as the two canines lay on their bellies and Onyxia ducks her head.

Until that weapon is off her, Keiko's not likely to budge - she has no desire to challenge Koa. Well she *had* no desire - but put her in a corner and she'll come out fighting.

Koa's silver eyes flash and he eyes Keiko for a long time. Then he slowly lowers his weapon…

And busts out of his body. He goes through her, solidifying behind her and making a grab for her. That will probably set her beasts off but at full power like this, Koa isn't worried about them. That's a little sad… and probably a testament to what Limbo has done to both of them.

These were prices they both paid willingly. But there were costs that neither could foresee and this is one of them. It's not clear if Koa is deliberately going for dominance as part of some considered plan or if she's just triggered something predatory in him. Either way… now he's a beast.

Koa has no need to be worried about her spirits. He'll just eat them if they get out of hand - Keiko *knows* this and even in her current state of mind, she won't risk them. The grunt that comes from her as Koa goes through her is punctuated by a couple of other words.

The spirits dissipating to smoke and forming tattooes on her arms. The only spirit left active is the demon.

As Koa materialises behind her, a wing strikes out to hit him as Keiko staff swings up behind her. At the same time, the woman folds forward, hopefully taking the taller man with her into a roll.

He wanted to fight. He's got it.

The thing about fighting Koa like this is that he can phase and he can fly. She does manage to take him into the roll but he just phases out of it and flies upwards. While he is phased he can't hurt her either. But he's free to maneuver.

Of course so is she. He can't stop her while he's phased.

He comes right back down though, swooping in a dive bombing like maneuver, claws outstretched. He snarls, his shark/canine like face distorting with his agitation.

Keiko is skilled at moving. At her size, she has to be. With the wings on her back she's even more so. Rolling to her feet as Koa rises, the peruvian turns holding her staff and faces him. She's like a cat, a hunting cat, sizing up her opponent and waiting ….

There it is … the dive. Waiting until he's nearly on her, Keiko's wings beat down powerfully and lift up as she swings that Gossamer staff to connect with him.

It doesn't take long for her to land near his body, bringing the end of the staff down to rest on his neck. The threat is clear but she's not quite so far gone that she'll hurt him immediately.

Is there enough in the animal intelligence of the predator to recognise the threat that is presented?

Koa is thrown by the staff strike, tumbles in the air at rights himself to come at her again. This time he phases through her and grabs at his own body coming out the other side. Almost daring her to do something about it as he snatches himself away from the staff she has laid right on him. She COULD do something about it.

Is she willing to?

Either way the body gets pulled clear, injured or not, and Koa stuffs himself back into it. Then he throws a hand out to call his chain back to him. His chain… is behind her.

The other hand is rubbing at his neck.

The body isn't injured. It was a threat and it worked.

There's another grunt as Koa phases through Keiko, the staff twirling in preparation for another strike.

When he stuffs himself back into it, the smaller agent does something he probably doesn't expect. Her hands drop to her side, staff held loosely - no threat but not entirely submission.

She *must* be able to hear that chain rattle as he calls it to him. It will hit her in the back - while she's wearing the demon spirit armour.

The ends of the chain seem to be under some kind of power or control because they wrap around Keiko quite tightly when they hit. It's a good question whether the chain itself would hold her if she really tried at it.

But she can also feel power bite at the spirit. Koa uses this chain to imprison spirits. In the chain. What that might do to her is also a good question.

Koa doesn't speak. Just watches to see if she will continue standing down or start to fight as he gets up.

If the chain causes Keiko any sort of pain, she doesn't show it. Her yellow eyes gleam as her lips curl at the agent. The demon spirit recedes though, rather being sucked into that chain - the chitinous scales flowing from her skin and disappearing.

Soon it's just Keiko, yellow eyed still, standing stock still wrapped in the chain, staff in her hand. "Feel better do you?"

"Depends. Do you?" Koa picks himself up and holds out his hand to call the chain the rest of the way to him. He shrinks it down and loops it at his side, then clips it.

There's no lecture about to begin here. Koa just folds his arms and watches Keiko carefully. She's much less demonic at the moment. The same cannot be said of him. He is, sadly, roughly the same level at all times and his increasing predatory nature just isn't helping.

"This is going to get awkward."

"I was just fine." Keiko answers, flexing her shoulders as the chain releases.

Collapsing her staff, the small peruvian moves to collect her backpack. "I'll request reassignment. It won't be awkward." Pandora Peters is going to have to get someone else to do this.

"No. You won't." Koa rubs his shoulder and gives Keiko a glare. "There isn't time to bring anyone else up to speed on this and you're still my rookie. That means I get to make the decision on whether or not we call it quits."

He's being quite forceful about that, which is partly him being predatory, and partly him being a senior agent talking to someone drilled to be a soldier.

"You know how this works, Keiko. We've got a job to do. We've got orders. We execute. Doesn't matter how difficult or awkward it gets."

The best Koa gets is a flat look from the Peruvian. Keiko is so well known for being emotional - not.

The stubborn set to her jaw is something he's familiar with but the tone gets through to the soldier. The woman doesn't like but the soldier just obeys.

"Fine. What did you find?" No. It's not fine. When a woman says 'fine' it rarely is that. If he wants to follow through on anything else, he's going to have to bring it up.

Stubborn Keiko is stubborn.

It's not fine, he knows that, but it will do for now. He can deal with the rest of it, and Keiko's sort of general emotional constipation, later.

"Someone has sabotaged one of the wards. Probably more than one if I look around. And here… there's a barefoot heel print on the floor." He points.

"So. The question is. If you can get in here and know enough to sabotage the wards, why do you not just sabotage the pillar. Think, Keiko. If this were your mission, why would that be?"

Keiko hadn't really been like this before Limbo. She'd been quiet and withdrawn, but that was more out of necessity. She'd not shown pain or hurt because that had been beaten out of her. But she had smiled and she had joked around. Then Limbo happened and she came back like … this.

"Barefoot? Who goes barefoot in New York?" The woman frowns, casting a look at Koa as she touches the tattoo of Conner. The huge Barghest bursts forth, forming right by Koa's side. "Show him. He might be able to get their trail…."

"Why not sabotage the pillar? Why do it when you know that people are checking on them? Tell me about the attack we just fought off, what did you notice?"

"No one, really. Especially not in the middle of winter." You'd freeze. Koa knows that well enough. That probably means they didn't arrive by… normal means.

"Track this, Conner." Koa says pointing as he listens to Keiko.

"The demons portalled in. Ambushed us. Separated us." He thinks. "There was definitely more pressure on you." He's not sure these particular demons were lifeless, though they might very well have been. The trouble is he doesn't know really what a corrupted Limbo demon looks like. The concept doesn't even make sense. Limbo demons are MADE of corruption.

"Not even in Summer. The chance of stepping on something is too high." Keiko adds. Conner sniffs the foot print and starts to move, round the chamber and towards a wall where he stops. Much like he had when they found the first stelae.

"Right. I wasn't sure if the pressure was on me, they were pressuring you fairly heavily from what I could see." Keiko frowns. "That's what G'rfn looks like now, by the way. All pale and washed out. Those were his, I'm sure … the question is why. What do they get from attacking us, me, like that? They could be certain that it was us who would check on these, eventually…"

"Good point." Koa nods about the summer, and he stands up. "That wasn't enough demons to defeat either of us alone, let alone both of us. G'frn has to know that. He isn't an idiot. That means the attack was a distraction for something else…"

Koa looks at his phone. No messages. "It wasn't long enough to really tie us down here. So it has to be in here. Spread out. See if you can find something out of place. Take a close look at the pillar too. They've left or removed or sabotaged something during the fight and hoped we'd be too worked up to notice."

"You were, are. I was." Keiko says flatly, frowning at the other Agent. "Maybe they just wanted to divide and conquer. They set us at each others throats." Almost literally. They'd also called her demon and she'd embraced it. What would G'rfn do when he realises how corrupt she's becoming?

It takes some doing to find it and there's no way Keiko would see it. Something gleams faintly and small at the base of the pillar. Just a trace of magic, but enough for Koa to see. A mark on the base of the structure.

"That could have been the intent but I don't think…" Koa finally spots something at the base of the pillar. He motions Keiko over and points to it. It's small and delicate. Just a tiny little button of carved stone with a rune or sigil in it. It's not in any earthly language.

He picks it up and then tosses it to Keiko. "Look like demonic to you?"

"What is it?" Keiko comes over and takes what Koa tosses to her, turning it over in her hand as she frowns. "Yes but his flourish, I think that's what you call it, is strange."

She's still turning the stone over as she thinks. "I know I've seen this somewhere, but I can't think where. Not *in* Limbo - the runes and markings there weren't like this."

"Something you saw in the Nightfall then? Or elsewhere?" Koa gets out his sketchbook and starts to sketch the sigil in Keiko's hand. He frowns as he goes through his memory.

"It's a single phrase. It's enchanted. And it's ever so slightly leaching from you, Keiko. I don't think it will do anything to you in the short term but if it were left against that pillar for long enough I think it might have grounded out quite a bit of the magic left in it."

Which would render the pillar useless for generating the shield that is currently protecting New York.

"Anything coming to mind?"

"Let me think…" Keiko answers, pacing around the room, her yellow eyes glowing. "Not the Nightfall, no. It was more recently than that. After Limbo, cause I recognised it as demonic …."

Turning to look at the pillar and then Koa, the peruvian grimaces. "When I went into the Pillar network that time. That's where. G'rfn … It was … I got a glimpse of it. I think."

Being indecisive and unsure is dangerous.

"Mmmmm…" Koa frowns. "Possibly demonic corrupted by the proto-malachian language of the Lifeless Lands…" He murmurs. That would explain why he doesn't recognize it. He keeps sketching.

"Where in the network. You described a lot of things in there. Was it on the stelae? Or in the… spell communications in there? Or did you actually see it in the Lifeless lands?"

The location could be key. Though it's clearly a sabotage of some kind.

"Perhaps. If this sign wasn't to have this flourish, I'd say it meant 'cache'." Keiko takes the pencil from Koa and sketches from memory what she thinks the demonic rune is. It's a childs hand that she works with - with no education, there are skills she barely has.

"No, not on the stelae. I … I was so busy fighting G'rfn. It was on the ground - a distance off - with something else marked about it. Not a circle, overlapping triangles."

"Right. But because of this marking here… it's a bit more like…" Koa struggles for the right word. "Smuggle, is the best thing I can think of. Hiding something from someone. Stealing it and hiding it." There isn't a single word for that concept in English at least not that Koa can think of.

"Triangles." Koa quickly sketches out a set of three. "Like that?" The marks he's made are very specific so odds are it means something very specific.

Keiko nods at Koa, that makes sense. "They're draining the power and hiding it? Why though? Why drain it and hide it? Why not just get rid of it?" She can think of a good reason why and she doesn't like that answer *at all*.

Looking at the sketch, the peruvian nods again "Pretty much. It was hard to see, given I was fighting not long after I saw them, but I believe so. What are they, that's not a pentagram, is it?"

"Only two reasons, really. Either because they want it for something else or they can't get rid of it. Both are possible, depends on the nature of the spell they're using." Koa folds his arms once more to think.

"Mmm. No. It's a deconstructed nine pointed star. See. If you draw them all together like this…" Nine points.

"It's used sometimes in very specific kinds of rituals, but not very common on earth because it's inefficient for most things. It's the way to go if you want to manipulate life energies and don't have a necromancer about, though."

Manipulate life energies. "You say you saw this IN the lifeless realm. That doesn't make much sense. Siffror can do anything he wants there. The only reason to do that would be if…"

He pauses to work that through. "… if you were manipulating something beyond Siffror's control. Someone from Earth."

"Right." Keiko agrees with Koa's first assessment. "Neither is good, no matter which it is."

"Oh. Right. So they're draining the magic from the network and storing it, using a symbol that manipulate life energies to do it, in the lifeless realms."

"Manipulating someone on Earth? Like … who? Not me…."


"You'd need whatever or whomever it was to be physically in the complex so if you didn't see anyone it either was being prepared or the person or thing they're manipulating isn't in it all the time. Either way they'd need physical possession of their victim."

He'd worry it was Illyana but given all the news they have he rather doubts that it is.

"Not on Earth." Koa says, pontificating with his pencil. "From earth. Someone that Siffror can't just command. Probably someone with some protection against the fairly godlike powers he has in his own domain."

"From Earth? Like the kids that are missing?" Keiko mutters, eyes following that pencil as Koa pontificates with it.

It doesn't make sense, but much of this doesn't. Peters telling her to learn all she can seems like an impossible task.

"No, they wouldn't have protection would they? So who are we thinking about?"

"Possibly. The kids would be good candidates for that. But you'd wonder what Siffror needs that much life force…" Koa stops and his eyes widen. "… for."

There's a long, long silence as Koa starts flipping through his sketchbook until he comes to pages he drew months ago when they were examining the blood of the machine. "We need to deal with this Stelae network. Soon. Because I have a horrifying theory about what they're for and if I'm right… Siffror isn't going to bother with taking this shield down. He's just going to use those kids to power something that can smash right through it."

Keiko scowls as she sees the sketches for the blood of the machine. It's not something she's fond of, having been infected by it before and after seeing what it did to Limbo.

"Is that what happened in Limbo? Illyana channeled power- hers and yours - through that thing and … it … collapsed? With enough power, doing that to here would be possible."

Keiko is having trouble comprehending that much power. "Those kids will die, Koa."

"You'd have to ask Illyana." Koa says with a shake of his head. "But if I had to guess I'd say that wasn't quite it. Illyana hit some kind of reset button on the entire dimension. I don't think Siffror could do that here. But he COULD use their life force, and enough anchor points on Earth to drop a big old dimensional bridge."

There are old techniques for doing so that WAND has collected. They're from an older, darker, more chaotic period of Earth's history. One everyone with magic is mostly glad doesn't happen any more.

"Those Stelae are acting as anchor points. We need to banish or disable them before there are enough of them that Siffror can execute anything like that." It's a guess, but it fits everything they know so far.

"Yeah. They very likely will."

"We can't let that happen, Koa. Not the bridge and not the kids. Not even as horrible as those kids have become." Keiko's jaw sets, eyes glowing brighter - they're still to return to their usual brown.

"If I could, I would destroy all the stelae." but she can't. Glancing at Conner, who's taken their distraction to feast on demon, Keiko murmurs something - the hound dissipating to smoke and the tattoo forming on her arm again.

"Let's go put these three into storage. If we don't find Illyana soon, I'm going into the pillar network and sabotaging what I can, while I can."

"I don't know that we can rescue the kids, Keiko." Koa sighs. "I don't think they want to be rescued."

Koa, after all, had tried to rescue Ananym. And it had nearly gotten him killed. It had gotten him worse than killed by some ways of looking at it.

He looks at the tattoos on her arms and nods. "Yeah. We need to finish that up. Lets go. We'll call someone to clean up."

"Dont care, Koa. We have to *try*. It's what sets us apart from Siffror and the demons, no matter how corrupted we become."

Grabbing her pack, Keiko turns and heads out. She'll die trying to the 'right' thing.

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