2020-03-25 - Darque Times


It's time to return Keiko's tattooes to her

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Wed Mar 25 01:22:20 2020
Location: WAND Offices

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Magical hacking. Who knew it was a thing. Who knew that Keiko was going to be the one to have to do it for WAND? Proof that life is sometimes stranger than fiction. That obelisk network is, for the moment, cracked. Keiko's influence in evicting it's demonic caretaker the last time she was in it - which granted was some time ago - seems to have rendered it a far less ideal tool for the people using it and they have shifted their focus elsewhere.

All of this means that it is probably time for Keiko to recover her limbo-tainted spirits before they start doing permanent harm to the people bearing them. Koa has sent a message to both Steve Rogers and Pepper Potts to meet him in one of the WAND 'magistariums' where there is a containment circle, some arcane tools and lemonade.

Because people need refreshments.

"Magistarium," murmurs the Captain to himself as he travels through one of the many near-labyrinthine hallways of the WAND sector of the Triskelion. He's got one button at his neck of his plain sky-blue dress-shirt undone to show proof of a white t-shirt beneath it; comfortable Oxfords gleam and slacks make near-silent schuffs as he walks briskly.

A knock-knock of knuckles at the doorway to the room Koa listed in his message and then Steve walks in. His eyes fall to the containment circle and then slide to Koa and Keiko.

"Didn't know this kind of business required lemonade," he notes, eyebrows lifted in mild curiosity at the whole affair.

Keiko sits quietly in the middle of the circle, cross legged on the floor as people enter. She doesn't smile but acknowledges the others as they arrive. Her spirits respond to her presence with … vigour.

"I'm told lemonade is good for what ails the soul." She says with no sense of humour evident. "Koa thought you might need it before we're finished here." Good way to put people at ease, Keiko.

Being led through this admittedly unusual facility, Pepper really wants to look at everything curiously. But she knows better, and thus she follows the agent escorting her to the prearranged 'magistarium' while only occasionally glancing to one side or the other.

She steps into the room a few moments after Steve, and oddly round half-red and half-white zippered bag in one hand. It really doesn't coordinate well with her current teal and champagne skirt and long-sleeve blouse or the clearly high-end leather bag slung over one shoulder. "Hello, Agent Turner, Ms. Keiko, Captain."

For Steve who has been here a few times this is probably odd. For Pepper? Well it's an office and command center… but it's magical. There are beings wandering around that are clearly not human. There are people working at computers next to people working at crystal formations. There are golems walking around and storage rooms that say things like 'Class 3 Cognitohazard. Do Not Enter Without Director Approval.' And also one that says 'Beware live tiger.'

There's even a guy walking around who sort of looks like a tree.

Anyway the room that Koa is waiting in is normal by comparison, with just a magical circle of the sort that one might see on TV but much more detailed. And Lemonade.

"It is, Keiko, and all work is improved with Lemonade, Captain." Koa even has a glass. See?

"So, we're prepared to return Keiko's bound spirits to her. I'd like to thank you both for helping out with that and I hope they weren't too much trouble, but we really should get them out before they have permanent after effects." Beat. "Well. MORE permanent after effects." Because they probably left some as is.

"So. This should be painless though it will no doubt feel odd. In order to make the transition easier I'm going to phase you all astrally, slightly. Which means that you might see, hear or experience strange things but you won't be in any danger. Any questions?"

Koa had very likely only explained this in a very cursory manner to Keiko.

Glydril sets up an absolute wriggle-fest on Steve's back the very second she senses her original owner nearby. Koa's probably uesd to see the Captain suddenly get to rolling his shoulderblades out of the blue, but maybe not how he huffs an awkward laugh or two as the ink begins to lift from his skin.

"Easy, girl, easy — EASY — geez, look, shh — listen to the guy," the man hisses to the tattoo. Glydril only BARELY manages to control her fervor. There's still a transparent growl that echoes beneath Koa's explanation. Steve only has the one question when the explanation concludes:

"When you say 'phase astrally', you're talking about separating something akin to our souls from our bodies? All I ask is nobody tell Barnes about this process."

Koa gets a flat look from Keiko. Good for the soul - ha! The two of them have absolutely no room to talk. "Captain. Miss Potts." The peruvian is polite but it's 'finish'. She barely emotes as it is. "I trust they've been well behaved for you."

She means her spirits.

"And yes, that's what Koa means. Something like an outer body experience. Why wouldn't you tell Barnes about this?"

Setting the red and white bag down to one side of the door, Pepper seems to accept Koa's explanation with a possibly surprising amount of aplomb. Either working for Tony has taught her to handle just about anything calmly, or she's read enough Harry Potter/Harry Dresden/similar fiction to think that this is all more fascinating than scary. Probably the latter.

At Glydril's abrupt squirming, Pepper looks over at Steve, and then seems far less affected by Arananet 'climbing' out of her left shirt sleeve and settling on the front of her torso. In fact, her only reaction is to give the over-sized tarantula a small pat on one scaly/fuzzy leg.

"She was perfectly well behaved once we came to an agreement on what was and what wasn't appropriate behavior, especially when I was at work."

"Glad to hear it." Koa nods to Pepper. "And yes. I mean I'm not going to move them far. You're staying in this room and the room is warded but the Astral is weird. Anyway, grab some lemonade if you want it and make yourselves comfortable. I'll begin the transfer momentarily. And we'll keep this off the official record so Barnes doesn't see it."

Once everyone is settled Koa lifts up a little rod, gives it a wave and everything seems to get misty and hazy. The walls fade out. Koa fades out. And the spirits, those seem so VERY much more solid. And Keiko? Well Keiko seems almost… hollow. Like she's missing things. Off in the distance odd sounds can be heard. Snippets of conversation. Children laughing. Horns honking.

It's all very ghostly and maybe just a little bit creepy but… not frightening at the moment and only middling amounts of weird.

"No no, let me clarify. I'll be telling Barnes about this. Don't make it a big deal otherwise," the super-soldier explains, thumbs still slung on his pants pockets. "If it needs to go on record, then it does."

Given the lemonade's been offered more than once now, Steve takes a half-glass of it for himself. It's not too tart, not too sweet, and he knows it'll keep him comfortable if this takes longer than expected. Magic is timey-wimey weirdness now and then, in his experience.

After unbuttoning his dress shirt, the blond settles himself into a seated position, legs crossed, and places his hands on his knees. Koa does his thing and…

…Steve blinks and looks around. His back feels…vacant. A glance over his shoulder has him shifting his weight to one hip and a braced palm on the floor. WHOA: Glydril is there, wings stretching in freedom, her head curled up and towards her true owner. Every scale glimmers and the Captain figures he can see the dragon's chest expand in breath. Air moves with a flap of her wings, ruffles his hair, and he looks around again. Where are these kids he's hearing? His hands are translucent.


Pepper does take a glass of lemonade as well, and after seeing Steve settle on the floor steps out of her red-soled heels and sits on the floor as well. She apparently has practice at sitting properly on the floor when wearing a pencil skirt.

As the walls fade out and sounds filter in, she looks around curiously but then focuses her attention on Keiko. That's … not normal, right? She looks toward— Koa's not here. Looking at Steve again, her eyes widen at seeing Glydril more completely than she has at any point before. Okay, then.

She lets Arananet scurry off to hook the red and white bag and drag it back over to her but doesn't open it immediately, despite the somewhat emphatic taps on the bag from the spider's frontmost legs.

"Ah." Is all Keiko says to Steve regarding Barnes. That makes perfect sense to the woman. "I'm glad they've been good guests to you both. I am looking forward to getting them home though." Appropriate behaviour? Koa knows of everyone here that Keiko worries the spirits might not want to return to her.

As Koa performs the ritual, the world seems to stop for Keiko - the other two can see the holes and voids where she's been hollowed out. They can see where their two spirits will fit though.

More than that though, there's one bit that is part but not part of her when they look. That part is bleeding into the rest of her and it's hard to tell when that stops and she starts.

For the first time in the longest of whiles, a smile lights Keiko face. She almost shines at the sight of the spirits and how magnificent they look.

Her head cocks though at the horns and the children. She hadn't expected that.

"Come to me …" she says to the spirits.

Fortunately the spirits do seem to want to. Glydril flows off Steve to Keiko though Araranet seems to be waiting for something before she scuttles off to rejoin the tattoo mage. There's a screech and then a crunch of metal. An accident? Then something off everyone's collective (more or less) left darkens. The white mists turn black as if from thunderclouds. And then there's a voice.

"Avengers… yes. They could be a problem." There's no source for it. It just comes floating out of the mists as it were. "Let us see. Yes… Stark Industries. That might do nicely."

Glydril takes off with a strong wingbeat to leave Steve turning up a shoulder or else be blasted in the face with air dried by her immediate aura. He watches the living tattoo descend back to Keiko with a quiet awe. Slowly, he then sighs. Very good, no more midnight arguments about wanting this or that or playing tag with Barnes or nibble on his metal arm.

Momentary relief is shattered by the sound of the accident. Steve is on his feet in a hearbeat even as some force dims the lights. He's readied by his stance of feet and fists, wishing he hadn't left the shield leaned against his desk back in his office.

"Whomever you are, identify yourself!" His own voice seems to both echo and muffle against the darkened mists.

Pepper smiles as Arananet abandons her and the bag to return to Keiko, as it should be. It's not like the bag and the toys inside won't be going home with the woman and her tattoo spirits, after all.

The screech and crash startles her, and she stares at Steve with wide eyes and one hand on her chest. It's the voice, though, that changes her expression from startled and worried to calculating as she moves to stand as well. If that voice has anything less than entirely honorable intentions toward Stark Industries, she will make SURE they realize their folly, no matter who or WHAT they are.

Keiko is overwhelmed as Glydril envelopes her - her small astral form eclipsed by the larger dragon one. The dragons body and tail curling around the peruvian in what looks like a big hug before the spirit slowly starts sinking into Keiko for good.

Arananet doesn't do quite the same, though those huge legs circle Keiko's slim wrist and the two become once more … Both Steve and Pepper will hear Keiko sigh before that voice floats out from their left.

Keiko snarls and turns in that direction, the dragon and spider both sticking their heads out and looking as well. "Darque." the peruvian growls. "Master Darque. He was in league with Plokta the last time we saw him… I …. don't think he can hear us. That we can hear him is …. interesting."

A shape swirls into being, formed of dark mists. The features are indistinct but the outline of a bald man in a cape bending over a table is quite clear. He's got something in his hand. A lamp maybe. And he's looking at something on the table.

"Stark is a technology company. Science. They've built their name on making the world go round. Many of their people will have more faith in that than anything else. That's useful…" He's talking to himself? It's impossible to tell if this figure is supposed to be addressing anyone else.

"The Avengers… now there's a wrinkle. Earth's Mightiest Heroes. They'll resist a direct attack. They're strongest when they're united. So there must be a way to get at them from the inside……"

The mist figure looks up, right at Pepper though it doesn't seem to see her. "Not yet, no. Plotka threw us into exile for a betrayal we did not commit. We were let out by accident but we dare not reveal ourselves too soon. Not until we've found a way to deal with the Avengers. And I think the key to that is the work of Stark Industries…"

The mists swirl again and instead of a single man there's a whole crowd of shapes. Big ones. Small ones. There must be hundreds. Maybe thousands. The mist-play makes it hard to tell. It's already indistinct to start with.

Keiko's spirits are riled. They do NOT like this. And she can feel something else. A presence. Very much like Plokta's.

Whatever is going on they are very near to something that has his attention.

Keiko's commentary soothes the Captain but a touch. He continues to listen to the slippery voice muse on about the pitfalls of science and then the Avengers themselves. His fists clench hard at his sides, but Steve schools himself to silence and stillness as their world remains enveloped in the darkened mists.

He can sense, in some remote manner, how Glydril is disturbed by the entire affair, as one might feel the heal of a breath exhaled at night. It brings his jaw to grit.

Oh HELL no someone isn't going to use Stark Industries to their own ends. If he thinks Science is the be-all end-all of SI, she'll just have to start proving him wrong. SI is already in the habit of using specific hallmarks on all of their manufactured parts in case any get used inappropriately, maybe she can—

She goes still like a deer in headlights when the bald man seeming looks right at her, but then after a moment she realizes he's not looking at HER, but someone in the same direction as her. It's still unnerving, though, so she sidles over to stand closer to Keiko. Or maybe Arananet.

Keiko glares at the mist figure. She's thinking and the newly reunited spirits are rippling under her astral skin. "Shhhh. Soon enough." She tells them. Soon enough they'll rip that creature limb from limb. "He's talking to another. It's interesting we can only see and hear him… I don't recall making a connection with him the last time we saw him. Then he was with Doctor Eclipse. That's probably who he is talking to."

"Plokta is near … I can feel him. We … need to go."

Arananet reaches a leg out from the spirit caller and rests it against Peppers arm when she draws near.

The mists move suddenly as if blown by the wind. They evaporate away, the room coming back into focus. Koa sets the rod down and takes a sip of the lemonade. He notes the spirits as they too fade away into ink on Keiko's arm.

"So, that seems to have gone well, yes? Anyone got any lingering vertigo or sudden urges to run off to impossible cities under the waves?" That seems to be a favorite joke of his along with 'are you feeling a sudden urge for human flesh' though that one is less a joke and more a question he needs to ask from time to time.

Air abruptly shifts. To Steve, it feels like the shift in atmosphere before a storm and his Astral form stumbles back —

— into his cross-legged and seated physical body. His form jolts as he presses a palm to one pectoral, blinking in surprise and recognition at his surroundings.

"More an urge to get to Fury ASAP. You both heard all that?" he asks of Pepper and Keiko both, eyebrows imperative. "Something about Plotka 'nd the Avengers? Stark Industries?"

The sudden shift back has Pepper blinking in surprise, still sitting on the floor as well with one hand reaching for a spidery leg that's no longer on her arm though that brief contact had been ever so endearing. She is definitely making sure that the red and white bag goes home with Keiko.

Koa's mostly joking questions earn him a very level look and then a slightly pointed comment in return. "And I have a sudden urge to commission you to design a protection sigil that can rendered as a vector graphic and reproduced down to the micron in size. Oh, and can be stacked with other identical sigils without incurring reduced, negated, or unintended effects." At least she's confident that none of SI's current products are made with cold iron, if that could potentially be a factor.

Keiko exhales slowly, rolling her shoulders and checking her arms. The tattooes of the dragon and spider are back in place, bright ink a contrast to her dusky skin. "Just an urge to find Master Darque and kill him." She says with her usual understatement.

"I heard it. Plokta was near him as well…" Poor Koa. She decides to take pity on him and details what they heard. "What I don't understand is how we heard him. Either one of us has a sympathetic tie or that was deliberate. I'm not sure which one I like less."

"Those are all very specific and strange urges and bear in mind a WAND agent is saying that." Koa says slowly as he's filled in. He frowns and glances about at the room.

"Probably neither, Keiko. The Astral is a strange place where things like time and space are concerned. You might have just managed to 'hear' the echoes of the conversation. A more disturbing possibility is that an astral entity sent it to you deliberately. Either way, for that to have gotten down here there must be something very strongly affecting the Astral Plane. This room is well insulated."

Koa sighs and runs his fingers through his hair. "I'll put someone on it and… do you actually want me to give you an industrial ward, Pepper? Because I can if you really want though you're going to use a bit more platinum than you would be using otherwise."

But hey platinum is used in circuits anyway.

"We haven't detected any major concentrates of the kinds of power that Darque wields, but that doesn't mean he's not in this realm plotting. Of course he might be hiding out elsewhere." Like in the Astral.

"Do the Avengers have that kind of thing handled, Cap? We can lend you Keiko."

He's joking about that but only kind of. If they really did need someone to slap around things magical, Keiko's a good choice. If on the other hand they need a general spellcaster… er, neither of them.

On his feet now, Steve fusses with his buttondown as he readies to slip back into it. He looks between all present, that familiar stitch of concern between his brows.

"Possible we might need you, Keiko," the man agrees quietly. "Haven't heard from the Doctor or the Witch for long enough. Nobody on active duty has a good sense for magic, not even Thor. This's an opportunity we have to take advantage of. Forewarning like this doesn't come often. Question is, can we trust it?" That pertinent question is asked of all present.

There's no hesitation at all to Pepper's reply. "Yes, I want an industrial ward, it will be worth the extra platinum." She'll make sure Tony approves it. "I would also like to ask that we start setting up protection wards on Stark Tower and ultimately every SI owned or operated facility internationally." She might actually ask Loki and Sigyn to help with that, it might be more their speed anyway.

"Captain, when you get a chance, please go through all of the current equipment the Avengers' teams are using even if they're just something as minor as a flashlight and get me a list of everything manufactured by Stark Industries." She moves to stand, doing so in a manner that seems practiced before stepping back into her shoes and negating about half of the height difference between herself and Steve.

"Oh, Keiko, this bag is Arananet's." She offers the red and white bag to the tattooed woman.

"We can see about getting you a resource, Miss Potts. We're spread thin but I'm sure Captain Rogers can impress on people how important this is." Keiko murmurs. She didn't like this, not at all. Darque is a … dark … player in this drama and he's already caused problems for Koa.

"If you need me, Captain, I will be available. Koa will be too." Keiko is in denial about what she shared with him the other day. They're both reasonable at putting magical bad guys down.

Looking at the bag, Keiko frowns. "Arananets?" The spider on her arm actually wiggles and pops out. Keiko looks at the spirit arachnid, then at Pepper and then the spider again. "Uh. I'm sure she'll appreciate it." Keiko doesn't say 'thank you'. Koa often has to translate for her.

"I'll draw something up or have it drawn up for you, then." Koa says with a nod to Pepper. "And we can help set up wards. It's going to be a LOT of wards though. There's a lot of ground to cover in that tower alone to say nothing of any other properties you might want to protect."

The WAND agent folds his arms and shakes himself a little, thinking before he looks over at Steve. "We'll make both of ourselves available, then. As to whether or not we can trust it, that's a really, really good question. The answer is at the moment 'as much as we can trust any questionably magical bit of information.' I wouldn't bet the farm on it but we can't afford to ignore it either. For what it's worth we saw Darque about a couple of months ago. Haven't heard a peep from him since but it was only a matter of time. If he's targeting the Avengers it's because he wants you out of the way for something big. Whatever you're working on, Cap, I'd make an effort to see it through. Because this might not hit for a while but when it does all hell is going to break loose."

There's a short pause because even now, Koa decides that lemonade is too good to pass up. "Feeling better? We should round up the rest of your spirits. I've got those jars in storage, we can start there."

"Don't intend to leave any loose strings," the Captain confirms to Koa. "That, 'nd we'll prep as we can in the meantime. Rather the loosing of hell be metaphorical 'nd not literal." His true-blues flick to Pepper. "As Keiko said, we're a bit thin now, but it shouldn't be too difficult to round up the options. Figure larger protective wards can make do while the smaller items're getting tagged."

He buttons up the last pearl disc of his dress shirt and works to tuck it beneath the waistline of his slacks now. "Glydril was a delight to babysit by the by, Keiko, even if we didn't see eye to eye at first. 'll miss her." Keiko is given a small half-smile despite the gloomy portents surrounding them all.

Pepper smiles as she sees Arananet reappear, and offers the red and white bag to the spider. It's like they've practiced it, the bag ending up fitting nearly perfectly on the spider's back and held in place with the second-front set of legs through the shoulder straps. While Keiko didn't actually thank her, she seems to understand what wasn't said aloud anyway.

"Thank you for trusting me to take care of Arananet, Keiko. I'm glad I was able to help." She steps back again to reclaim her own shoulder bag from the floor, then offers both WAND agents a polite bow of the style common to Singapore. "If there's nothing else, I should probably be going." She does want to try and catch the Cover Story before they close for the day.

Keiko takes Koa's lemonade and drinks it without thinking twice, letting Arananet take the bag from Pepper. "Koa got you both those gifts over there." She says to the two. Please, thank you, showing weakness - these are not things that Keiko can do anymore.

In the box marked for Steve is a pendant. A little silver dragon that is reminiscent of Glydril. For Pepper, a brooch in the shape of a spider. Both are lovely. It's possible Koa suggested them and told Keiko she could get them.

"You will see her, Captain. Come and visit if you want. I'll bring Arananet to visit as well." It's the only concession Keiko can give to politeness.

"Let's go get the others, Koa. Then I want to them hunting …" It will be interesting to see how they interact.

Koa did no such thing. Well Koa paid for them and helped pick them out but they were from Keiko. Of course no, she doesn't think like that. She's broken very much like that.

"Well, we will talk to you both soon. And don't worry I won't say a word to Barnes."

STEVE is going to have explain his sudden premonition of deadly danger. He's sure that Barnes won't be suspicious in the leaaaaast.

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