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|Rita Ma|| You are on a boat that doesn't have a bottom, breathing air that isn't air. "Pure neox atmosphere, to outgas all the nitrogen in your blood," Renata had said- it smells somehow 'crisp' and plasticky, and feels chilly on the skin. The seats you're sitting on are arranged around a central hole in the floor, through which the bottomless ocean is visible.
Anybody who can't withstand the pressure and lack of air naturally is offered a nondescript pill for dissolving under the tongue- "it helps with the bends" is Renata's succinct description- and a specialized diving suit in a selection of colors, with a pseudo-glass helmet, puncture-resistant armor, two oxygen tanks ("for emergencies"), and a gas tube connected to the ship's supply. They offer a bit of protection, but are likely to moderately impair your agility.
The Vice Commander's role seems to be limited to helping you get suited up once you're near the destination, and watching the ship while you're gone. She does have a selection of harpoon guns on offer for anyone lacking an underwater-suitable ranged option, though: full-auto compressed air guns firing pencil-sized metal spikes, available in "handgun" or "rifle" forms.
She's largely silent on the way over, only perking up when someone knocks on the neox diving chamber's door from outside. "We're here. Tres Cruces Massif. People built a city here, hoping the water wouldn't rise this high. It did. Get to the old reactor, put buoyant harnesses on the parts, and bring them up. Don't get killed."
Once you're suited up (or not), there's nothing left to do but plunge into the water.
|Rita Ma|| The suits are conveniently weighted. You fall-
-until the boat is a distant shadow overhead, silhouetted against the steadily dimming sunlight. The first part of the Tres Cruces Massif you see is a peak, still close enough to the surface to have seaweed and coral.
It's colorful and almost beautiful, save for the hundreds of human skeletons intertwined with the growth. Of course- this was one of the highest land-cities ever built. When it finally flooded, they would've had nowhere else to go.
Off in the far distance are the massif's two other peaks, visible only as vague shadows. It's probably for the best that you can't get a good look at them.
The city itself, nestled between the three peaks, is eerie and unwholesome. Relatively few skeletons are here- not many people simply laid down in the streets when the waters came- but as you descend past the still-standing skyscrapers, you can glimpse a few on the rooftops. The city was walled, and the walls were still in the middle of being built higher when they were overcome; people tried to flee on boats, but the rusted hulks crashed nearby show that not all of those survived either.
If you're wearing a diving suit, you'll touch down on one of the cracked, abandoned roads; the weight of the armor makes it feel like moon gravity. Cars and buses still line the streets. Fish swim lazily through convenience stores and apartment buildings. The architecture is surprisingly intact, lending everything the feeling of a ghost town.
But there's no time to soak up the atmosphere. You have to keep moving north- that's where the reactor is. There's no sense lingering in a place like this.
|Rita Ma|| The nuclear power plant you're after is surrounded by high walls of concrete, but they're embrittled by age; easy to swim over or batter down. Inside are the looming hourglass-shaped cooling towers, halfway crumbled, and the still-intact, relatively squat cylindrical containment building. No seaweed or coral grows here, so far from the sun.
Fist-sized orange pulsing eggs are stuck to the scattered concrete rubble and the cooling towers in dense carpets, with indistinct dark shapes unwholesomely squirming inside them. Walking too close causes the squirming to quicken alarmingly- do they double as some kind of warning system for the nest?
At first the two-story containment building seems to shimmer like a mirror; on closer inspection, thousands of forearm-length silvery lamprey-like hatchlings are stuck to it with their mouthparts, refracting the light as they sway idly in the current and bask in the ambient warmth.
The good news is that if they have a parent, it hasn't noticed you yet. The bad news is that if they have a parent, you haven't noticed it yet. But it doesn't seem possible to get at the reactor parts you need without disturbing them. The only question is: how are you going to disturb them?
|Redshift Operators|| The Redshifts have arrived. The gunman accepted a rifle and handgun, while the astronaut requested a marksman harpoon system, and the cyborg got most of her gear refitted, with a proper headpiece, using the giant's help to integrate local technology. The whole team hang on to each other during the descent. This is a place humans were not meant to go -- or rather, it was once where they were meant to be, and now isn't. The whole team touch down simultaneously, slowly. Dirt swirls at their feet. This is uncanny. So far from the sun that gives life, so far from the vents where life was born, this is a place where nothing ought to be.
There are, still, fish here.
They make their way north, slow and steady. They've done a few OSHAN operations before, but nobody can get used to depths like these. The cyborg stops the others before they advance too far. "An early warning system. The nest scales its security naturally." She gestures to the eggs. "Let us strike first, with all fury." She grabs the giant's hand and squeezes. "First, through the wall. Then, launch me at the mirror."
"Okay! Don't get bad luck from breaking it!" The giant can smash a hole in the brittle wall, with his absolutely unimaginable strength. Nearly immediately, though, he fastballs his own ally, launching White Dwarf straight towards the swarm on the surface. She can use her own position to slightly adjust her trajectory due to water resistance... A shotgun spray of future selves blasts into the relative future, trying to find a future position where she'll have an advantageous position against the arrival of the threat. And, for now, diving in blade-first, with the intent to carve up as much of this swarm as she can, as her allies, the gunman and astronaut, begin to open fire with the pencil-shaped projectiles against the mass, the former with perfect suppression and the latter with perfect precision.
|Midway|| While Renata assists others with diving gear, the great figure of the Midway Princess makes no such maneuver. She reclines against one wall, her legs folded up underneath the voluminous frills of her stark white dress. In her hands, she turns over the gauntlet she had produced the day before, and then places it in the vicinity of Hibiki Tachibana. Its partner, the right glove, is placed down a moment later.
"Wear it over your suit's arms. Your fingers will find the controls within." She demonstrates by raising her arm, fingers curling. It may appear unintentionally threatening due to the black steel forming the braces up the back of her hand which end in talons.
She then rises, shifts, and simply sinks into the water bereft of any diving equipment whatsoever. She descends quickly, turning over to float placidly downward. A ghastly white figure rapidly disappearing into the shadowy depths until only those half-masted crimson eyes glow in the deep.
At some point in her descent, her parasite joins her, such that when joined at the bottom she is accompanied by that colossal white sphere from before. Its maw is already open, the interior glowing with ominous crimson. She drifts through the ruined streets, a ghostly and unnatural sight that simply ascends the wall rather than plowing through it.
Up here, she plants her feet atop the wall. The parasite behind her yawns its mouth open, ejecting a cluster of glowing red spheres in arcs. These resolve into cylandrical canisters as they reach the apex of their arcs, then begin tumbling down into the egg-infested courtyard. In rapid succession, upon reaching a set depth, the canisters burst. Anti-submersible weaponry. Depth charges.
|Kukuru||"It smells funny." Kukuru replies to Renata as she breathes in that weird gas she's already forgotten the name of, wrinkling her nose a bit at the plasticky sensation to it. She resists the urge to snack on anything as the boat takes the group out to the site of their dive, although she does make sure to pass out some water bottles that she takes out of her pockets that are clearly too small to fit bottles even half that size, never mind several of them.
Also, claws. They're definitely too small to be holding the nearly torso-sized claws she just extracts from them somehow, but there they are, and she just slides her hands into them before wiggling the claw tips a bit to make sure everything's in working order. She opts to go without the suit or helmet, instead just wearing the same black and slightly purple-ish getup she had been dressed in at the briefing earlier.
"Put the harnesses on the reactor's bits so they get up, and don't die. That should be fine even if some of you do, but make sure you don't get stuck where I can't find you." She warns everyone with a stern look that's more like a light warning rather than someone that's actually concerned about the very real risk of death in the depths.
It's time to go down, and Kukuru flicks her claws forward. They go into the water first, and the rest of her body follows as she just sinks like an anchor. She doesn't look upwards on the way down, but it's not as though she really can with the way she's pointed straight down with her arms sticking straight past her head while the weight of her claws handles the actual diving part so she doesn't need to put any effort into it herself.
Instead, she gets to actually looks at that beautifully morbid sight. It's all rather sad to see, but there's a slight glint in Kukuru's eyes as she observes all those fish simply living their lives in the ruins of this once above water city. Her sightseeing is rudely interrupted when her claws finally hit the road, and she starts dragging herself along by those same claws along the road for a while until she can finally get her feet down to move along on all fours instead.
She doesn't seem to find the power plant quite as picturesque as the city, though, as Kukuru's pace quickens the closer they get to their actual working zone. She raises a hand/giant claw as she sees the eggs, squinting and nudging her glasses briefly before just taking them off and slipping them into a pocket so as to not lose them. She gestures at the silver hatchlings next as her gaze starts shifting about, trying to find whatever spawned all these things with her SPECIAL EYES while approaching the covered containment building.
"Don't worry. She's a master at handling curses!" Kukuru reassures the Giant while breaking into a slight sprint, hurling herself at the base of the structure to smash both claws right into it so she can start tearing away at it from the bottom, fully intending to disturb the very thing that the multitude of creatures are feeding upon and draw their attention by being so damn close to the thing.
|I4||I4 could survive many places others could not...but not in an environment where he could not breathe and against crushing pressures. So in the suit, he goes with the connection and bonus air tanks. The suit is...bulky, compared to its relative size, and harder to move in full gravity. Thankfully, the water will give him some extra freedom once he's down there.
In the water he falls, which seems to last longer than it actually is. Eventually hitting the streets. With him is POD, which normally would be crushed by the depths, but I4 spent the last day upgrading it so that it could withstand the depths. Which was making sure it was sealed, the air pulled out of it, and areas reinforced with some mobility options for the water so that it would retain its function, even if the water slowed it down.
The eggs were a warning system, huh? Was it that they were a hive mind..? Or perhaps it was a result of the bio-luminescence? Regardless, their first reveal was the fish biting on to something. There didn't seem to be a larger one around, which means what? Were they alone, or was there a larger one?
I4 starts his scans, but he can't ignore the fact these things do have to go. "POD, barrage mode. Use air element." With that, bubbles of air would appear, before firing out in spikes, driving through the water like spears aiming to try and attack the monsters.
His eye still keeps an eye out. Something else had to be here...
|Candy|| Candy has taken the pill, the 'rifle' configuration harpoon gun, and the pink diving suit. He's also left a playing card in one of the chairs.
He's never been in one of these, before--never even considered the possibility of diving. The slow approach of countless human skeletons as he descends causes his fingers to tighten on the grip of the harpoon gun, his brow furrowing.
When he speaks up to lighten the mood, to his credit, it sounds convincing, even over the local radio frequency. "Your name's Midway? How about sometime soon, you and me get 'midway' through a bottle of wine and see what happens, ah?"
*Even as tall as these buildings were... it still wasn't enough. Guess this is what decades of nonstop rain'll do. Poor bastards.*
It takes him a moment, after he touches down, to get used to the 'hop-skip' kind of movement that's most effective in these suits, and he only attempts it at all because he realizes just walking as normal is too cumbersome and time-consuming.
*That's gotta be where the reactor is.*
Candy simply vanishes from his spot on the street, appearing on top of one of the crumbling walls, then stops before making another jaunt. Eggs with squirming shadows inside limit his available areas for approach--he carefully selects a spot releatively free of them to land.
Rubble in mid-sink hangs suspended in water, bubbles rising in dense blue-white clouds. Streaks are frozen, painting a trail towards White Dwarf and her drawn sword. Smaller streaks trace towards Red Dwarf and Neutron. Explosions from Midway's depth charges light up pockets of water, membrane from burst egg sacs in mid-tear.
*That's the ticket.*
-Water swirls in a circuitous path, as if someone had been very busily swimming across the battlefield.
-The Redshifts, Kukuru, and I4 all have playing cards with 'Crush Me to Crush Them' printed on the back. In case of being swarmed, these cards will create a violent 'get off me' explosion.
-Candy's diving suit appears to change color. It's kind of off.
Leaving behind an illusion that's liberally spraying the area with harpoons, the real Candy is looking for ways to get into the building. If that means through the hole Kukuru is digging, so be it--but ideally, some crumbling wall, window or door revealed by what's sure to be the massive exodus of lampreys.
|Hibiki Tachibana|| Hibiki is about as ready as she's going to be. She's opted to get equipped with a DIVING SUIT (in dull orange for no particular reason) albeit with no harpoon gun. Probably because she's attentively looking up towards the Midway Princess with no sign of concern despite the (unintentionally) menacing gesturing, following the flexing of her fingers and the shifting of the metal.
She takes both pieces of equipment as they're put down, carefully sliding them over her suit. It takes her a moment, getting used to the extra weight and finding where her fingers should be, but it's not long before she's gotten the hang of it. Her head lifts, and she flashes a grateful smile and a confident nod up to Midway.
They're more than good enough. "Thanks, Princess. I mean it. I'll put it to good use." Her helmet comes on, and then it's time to dive.
Diving deep into the depths of a sea far larger than any she's ever known is a distinctly alien experience. Much moreso than heading into the emptiness of space. Seeing entire mountains buried under the waves is enough to put a plunging feeling in her gut, even before she catches sight of the morbid remains still left down here. She does her best to, but cannot entirely, put them out of mind on the descent.
It's unsettling. She doesn't like it. The feeling of abandonment and all the death that's happened. But she presses on nonetheless towards the reactor alongside the group with long hops - and upon reaching the power plant's outer walls, she puts the gifted equipment and Matias' advice to use by grabbing onto a sturdier section of wall and punching the a cracked portion straight inward in one go with her free hand.
"...That's a lot of them," she remarks flatly once she can get a better look at all the sealife crowding the area.
But they're not going to get anywhere if they don't move them--which makes it the perfect time to throw both fists forward and trigger the black metal gauntlets' torpedo tubes, sending a small volley of the ballistics into the densest clusters of eggs she can see!
|Staren|| The deep sea.
Staren seldom goes here. It's not that, strictly speaking, robotic tools to explore the ocean floor aren't possible -- but it needs special design, and most of Staren's gear is good in vacuum AND atmosphere AND shallow water -- some of it's even good down to a few hundred feet, but there's only so much engineering you can squeeze into a single device. At least, with Staren's experience, knowledge, and priorities, anyway.
She could trust in local gear, in the suits and the neo-air (fascinating, actually, and she asks questions about it anyway to make sure she understands how it workes), but... the thought of something going wrong and being suffocated and crushed is frankly terrifying, enough to make Staren seek another solution to the problem.
This isn't the first time, though, and so a purpose-built body has been dusted off and tuned up: A metal golem body a little over 5'8" tall, humanoid, with slightly bulky limbs, especially oversized lower limbs reminiscent of vambraces and boots. The face has a sort of visor-eye with two lenses behind it if you look closely, and there's a speaker grille for a mouth. A golem, after all, is mostly solid-state, aside from the device inside that allows Staren's mind/soul to attach to it, and the various externally-mounted sensors.
Externally-mounted armor is slightly curved to provide a more feminine appearance; It's cyan-blue with white trim and includes straps and attachment points for carrying gear. There's an energy pistol holstered at her right hip, an energy rifle strapped to her back, and two short stabbing blades sheathed behind her waist. Also, mounted torpedo racks. And underwater movement gear, but she isn't really more agile than the people wearing bulky suits. She took one of the spike handguns and holstered it on her other hip. There are also a number of lights -- on the head, chest, hands, and feet, so that she can see what she's walking on and generally have lots of light -- relatively speaking -- to work in.
Staren's not sure why Midway is here, but obviously an Abyssal is a great ally to have underwater. She giggles good-naturedly at Candy hitting on the princess. Hibiki and Kukuru are here too... with friends here, she feels safe, despite the cold airless depths. It perhaps helps that this body isn't made more uncomfortable from cold.
Staren sees others go on the attack, and... hesitates. After what happened with Mothra, and I4's world... how can she be sure these aren't peaceful, intelligent beings? ...Oh right, minhdreading! Staren just FREAKING CHECKS.
And then follows the Operators' lead, using her pistols to put lasers and spikes through the lamprey-things before they can latch onto people, hopefully. Letting her sensors map the area as she walks around, keeping an eye out for any sort of entrance... or momma sea-monster.
|Xion||In the deployment boat, Xion sits, watching the water through the glass and waving her sandal-less feet at the depths. When Renata moves to her with suits and pills, she raises her hand with a smile, and tugs at the harsh-black collar of her one-piece, revealing the thin two-dimensional plane's interior - a roiling-magenta smear of glimmering stars in some nebula - that she then snaps back quietly flush to skin.
"I'll be fine, thanks." She suggests, and makes a quiet sigh. "And it's better to not have to spend a loaner or a pill for looks isn't it?" She ruminates, shoulders coming in as she winces. "Between kindly accepting the gifts you'll give me and spending your thin hospitality, and honestly saying I don't need them and making you more anxious about my help... Well, I'm sorry. I think this world asks too many hard questions already."
THE DIVE TO THE BOTTOM...
...is rather uneventful for Xion, as she puts on a fishbowl helmet and joins the dive with her own little definition of gravity and fluid dynamics until she lands among the party in her FLANNEL ''DIVING SUIT'' (this makes her an advanced and late-season diving sentai squad member), to look out at the golden, wriggling eggs.
"Aww, it's kinda cute, actually. The colors are nice, they're a little--" She announces as I4 starts directing his POD to just start blasting. "Wait, wh--" She gasps, in her tankless fishbowl, fogging slightly as she tries to spot the silver lampreys advancing. With the scanner's help, of course, she can figure it out! The scanner and his bubblespears.
And Midway's torpedoes. Those too. Really, it's hard to miss them. "Maybe a faster plan is best? Let's go with--" Xion decides, following Hibiki's torpedo blasts with bursts of purple magic that, on contact (or combo-detonation) create implosive blasts that shear the force back in -- and limit the damage to the surroundings! Maybe one *can* fight with huge bombs and not ruin everything, with the power of friendship!
|Vantablitz Remnants|| Ahn is in the narrow slice of people with a good reason not to suit up in local fare that isn't simply borne out of pride or apathy. This is because if she is wearing a wetsuit, she cannot also wear Lotus. Though the latter has lightly complained of not getting to stretch her legs, last time she'd merely been present in the capacity of spare biomass forming an imitation set of clothes so as not to panic the locals. This time, they are together in the capacity that Lotus describes as 'Diving into Hell'.
Ahn is wearing something like a bodysuit made of 'solar cell black' form-fitted silk(?) up to the neck, mainly underpinning perfectly shaped plates of white enamel like an exoskeleton as much as a power suit, abstract flowing red markings banding the upper arms and thighs and blossomed out on the breast. She receives the gas mixture tank gladly, but only straps (sticks?) it to a 'belt' at the small of her back for later. A gas gun is gladly taken, and kept in hand. She seems strangely calm about the whole thing, up until the exact words, 'hoping the water wouldn't rise this high. It did.', at which her fingers ball into tifight fists. "I understand. Not being killed is something I'm better at than most." she says, trying and utterly failing at levity.
<<I wonder if everyone else is going to be okay? No, I hope I don't drag them down.>> <<Now now, give at least *myself* a little more credit than that. Even if you pass out from fright, I'll happily show them up for you~>> <<Did you get enough rest? Plenty of sunshine? Half an hour after eating?>> <<That last one doesn't apply. Or are you being facetious? I'm fine, I'm fine.>>
When the drop signal comes, a 'mask' of seemingly solid white, with two burning eye glows and a few more red markings, simply 'snaps into existence' around her head, a vantablack lotus blooming from the lappet-like sheets of pseudo-hair. Sinking gently into the water, she says "You're going to need to adjust bouyancy like so-- 500MSW is at--" and then she begins to accelerate quite significantly, having to bend her knees a little to land on the dusty peak.
Amidst a heap of skeletons.
<<Ahn?>> <<They really came up here. It went over the walls and they-->> <<Ahn.>> <<--obviously nothing they could do so, did they really just grab everything they could and walk to-->> <<Ahn . . .>> <<--What were they even supposed to do? What could they have done differently? Didn't they do everything right? It's not like a boat would necessarily-->> <<Ahn! What happened to 'verdant texts'?>> <<. . . We'll float these up after. So they can finally get above the water for good.>>
For the time being, as the safest possible open strategy, the two stay up at relatively high ground. A faint beam of blue-green light sweeps across the fields of eggs, and briefly refracts through the cloud of lamprey-oids, scanning right to left for one full swing. The harpoon rifle is brought up, and sharp, slightly wet 'clicks' stab into the rock around their feet. When the monsters begin moving in a straight line, Ahn tries firing the weapon for as long as it will keep going on uninterrupted full-automatic, walking her fire as much as possible, to fully take in the ballistic physics of the new environment, based on trust that obviously the local tech would work fine.
|Rita Ma|| The harpoon guns, laser blasts, and the POD's wind projectiles are decently effective on the silvery swarm of lampreys: each shot can pierce through multiple, but against such numbers, even on rapid-fire, that only thins them moderately. Midway's and Xion's explosives are a better-suited approach, rupturing eggs and crushing lampreys with the shockwaves. The cyborg ninja follows up a moment later; slashing weapons aren't ideal underwater generally, but they're good for hewing through a swarm like this.
That, and Kukuru's wild charge, stir the still-vast surviving school into activity: peeling themselves off the reactor containment building, they form into a cohesive three-dimensional blob still easily larger than a whale and menacingly orient themselves towards the intruding party, moving in that self-coordinating collective way that flocks of birds do. In that time, it's easy for Candy to get inside the concrete containment building through a crumbling wall- the reactor's definitely in there, visually intact, and not prickling his skin with radiation. It doesn't house much else.
The school of hatchlings look like they're about to plunge down over everyone like a breaking wave. Before they do, an uncanny earsplitting sound pierces the sea. It's somewhere between whalesong, a snake's hiss, and a piteous human scream. "KREEEEEEEEE!!"
The ninja's precognition, Staren's scans, and Kukuru's super-senses locate the source of the noise, but the forewarning is almost superfluous. Hideous, bulging, uncannily humanlike eyes- each the size of a beachball- crest the top of one of the coolant towers. For a moment it seems like you must have wandered into the domain of some terrible underwater giant. Then the rest of it emerges, rocketing upwards at blurring speed: a long, glinting eel-like body with saw-like fins above and below, the foremost two of which have been adapted into eerie hand-like graspers.
It rounds on the party, facing down, and reveals awful yawning double-jointed jaws. There is no feeling in its eyes, but the human mind construes the shape of its mouth as a ghoulish grin.
A whip-like lash of its tail sends globules of bioluminescent goop flying towards the party with startling accuracy. The globs are only a moderate impact themselves- but wherever they strike, its school of rapacious young instinctively swarm, threatening to gnash through diving suits or flesh with their rasping jaws.
(Up close, the forearm-sized hatchlings have tiny humanlike eyes too. It doesn't look any prettier on them.)
|Midway|| The Mother has made itself known in response to the threat presented to its offspring. Atop the containment wall, the Princess of Progress' scarlet eyes narrow, a resonant sound echoing from her that is clearly audible through the water, even through dive helmets. Midway is laughing. She raises her hands, holding them out to either side and presenting herself as a large and unmistakable target. A fellow monster of the deep, notably smaller but by her confidence far more dangerous.
Luminescent slime splatters on her. She ignores it. Juvenile eels attack her, teeth scraping on bare skin with the same sounds they would make were they trying to bore through steel. Only thin black marks appear, stark against her pale skin. A pain that the Princess ignores.
Her parasite closes its mouth, then opens it once again-- swiftly, this time. The sudden suction yanks a large number of eel-bodied offspring off of Midway, into the yawning chasm of her parasite's maw, which clamps down over them. The visible holes that might resemble eyes, glowing dimly, erupt in crimson flame.
The orb opens its mouth again, releasing a far larger gout of red flames into the surrounding water for several seconds. When this bright light in the depths fades, she points. In response, the orb behind her vomits out a pair of torpedoes which rapidly spin up to maximum speed. One pursues the eel monster's projected path, while the other seemingly sails wide-- directed at where she predicts it would attempt to evade to, should it have some dim realization of what danger these steel fish present.
|Candy|| The fake Candy is splattered by goo, outside of the building. With the lampreys gone from the exterior, the real one, creeping around inside, is splattered by residual splash from the initial expectoration.
He watches as his double is run through by countless tearing mouths, which rapidly turn in one conglomerate mass to swarm towards the windows.
*I don't fucking think so, you little sons of bitches.*
A brand-new pink diving suit appears, with no connection to the submarine, but an extra oxygen tank. It is empty, sat in the corner of the room like just another one of the many corpses that litter the Cruces. The internal lights are off.
The goo-stained pink diving suit sinks limply through the window above Kukuru, absent any diver. Lampreys tear it to shreds but find no one inside.
Back inside the building, Candy waits--remaining perfectly still. When it's safe to move again he does, rising up and getting to work on the building itself--which he'll need to do, if the reactor is going to be moved.
*I need to get this thing floated out of here but it's heavy as shit. Boys, any ideas?*
The way which drawssss the leassst attention.
Building too strong! Knocking over takes too long, too noisy. Take reactor apart, float needed pieces one by one!
The whole reactor is unnecessary--one of each part will do. Excepting, of course, the neutron reflector. We shall play for a set of tools, boy. Water-proofed, naturally.
-A curiously high number of bubbles trickles out from the side of the building.
*FUCK! I hadn't thought about that.*
-The reactor partially disassembles itself, with crude, bulky early-twentieth century tools littered around the floor of the building, not floating off only for their respective weight.
-Candy hurries to take cover against a wall, after floating one or two components up through windows on the opposite side of the building.
|Kukuru||The swarm is disturbed, and its mother is aware of their presence. Or, if Kukuru's eyes aren't tricking her, it had been awake the entire time. Staring right into the giant creature's humanlike eyes, she shifts around uncomfortably while tearing another chunk of the base out and gripping it in her claw tightly.
"... Sorry. But my friends need this to survive, and you're not part of my family. Maybe in another life, huh?" That's the closest thing to civility she expresses towards the creature regardless of whether or not it actually understands her, and then the battle is underway! With so many of the creature's young swarming at Kukuru, she kicks off the ocean floor to start swimming upwards rapidly despite the apparent weight of her claws. She can't quite outrun them, but she can lead them around into a more advantageous position.
<<"Try getting them closer to me, everyone. If we can bunch 'em up, we can clear them out real quick-like.">> As Kukuru offers that plan, she tries to eyeball where the rest of her allies are. She recalls Candy had gone inside through that hole, and she eyes the card sticking out of one of her pockets.
This is probably as good of an opportunity as any. She brings her arms up to protect her head as the spawn swarms into her, as they nip at her limbs and torso, some even managing to latch onto her while she makes a show of thrashing around in the water. If they take the bait, then she can move onto step two: Waiting for more of them to swarm her position.
It certainly helps to throw some blood around, making it look like she's some kind of wounded creature just ripe to get gobbled up. She fakes some anguished gurgling yells as she does that, too, really putting her all into selling that act. Being able to heal herself as she does that makes it far easier to stick to that act, too, even if getting gnawed on isn't a particularly pleasant feeling physically. Once there's a sizable pile of weird miniature human-eyed creatures surrounding Kukuru, she crushes that card Candy had given her to trigger the explosion packed into it.
Into it? She's not sure how it works, precisely, but an explosion centered on her should be sufficient for thinning their ranks if it works as well as she thinks it will.
<<"Say... These reactor parts. Do you think they're gonna help the people up there? I mean...">> She pauses, taking a few swings with her claws to try and catch one of the giant's spawn in her grip. <<"They've been soaking down here for so long, right? And... I dunno. It sounded like the Council didn't even want anyone down here. You think the Commanders'll be okay if the Council found out they went around them?">>
|Hibiki Tachibana||HOW IT STARTED:
"Nice followup, Xion!" Everyone's favorite flannel-clad hero of the heart gets an approving waterlogged fist-pump. Good combi. And environmentally friendly! Mass destruction with none of the downsides. She really thinks she can get behind Midway's gift here. It's at that moment that the head-throbbing scream fills the sea.
HOW IT'S GOING:
After getting caught head-on by a blast of glowing goop, Hibiki is sent tumbling back, only to briefly get obscured in the swarm that follows up behind it. She's still getting used to fighting underwater and with far less agility than she's used to, so her reaction time is considerably off - by the time she even begins righting herself, baby sea monsters are biting and tearing at her suit from multiple angles at once. Those eyes--
"Hnh...!" No panic. She's glad she remembered Matias' advice about leverage, or else she'd be stuck here. Because she's still against the wall, she has a surface to use; bracing a hand against it, she pushes full force to launch away in the opposite direction, further into the courtyard. She's not as strong as when she's transformed, but the oversized equipment does plenty to help get her moving at a good pace. Of course, those things are going to be right on her tail.
Which is fine. "Incoming...!" She's throwing herself in Kukuru's direction specifically, baiting them in for whatever Concord Mom has planned. Hibiki herself catches herself on the ground nearby with both hands to right herself again in a movement that looks like it's in slow motion thanks to where they're fighting, before meeting the following school of young with punch after punch.
They'll be a lot easier to manage when they're coming from one direction instead of all around her--and she does her best to thin the ranks before long-hopping away from Kukuru's explosion!
|Staren|| The mother is here. Not a person either. A sea monster... with eerie eyes and eerie grin. Staren feels a brief tenseness at the screech, and when it looks for a moment like a giant human... But she has no muscles to tense, no skin to get goosebumps. No gland starts pumping adrenline through the blood she doesn't have. She fires at the creature with her pistols, but they won't do much to something that big.
It spits gloop. She can't dodge well underwater, so a fair bit gets on her. It's soon apparent the way it draws the babies... Staren fires torpedoes, programmed to detonate at the optimum distance to catch herself in the edge of the blast, taking out hatchlings and blasting the goop off herself!
And then she fires several more at the mother, before holstering her pistols and making her way around Kukuru, trying to position herself so hatchlings will have to go by Kukuru to get to her.
And... oh shit, the pink suit is torn to shreds! "Candy!" Oh. He's not there. He can do that. At least she has no heart that now needs to stop beating so damn fast...
Kukuru asks a question. <<"That's the idea. And if anyone tries to interfere and stop us from helping people... We're the Concord. We'll protect the commanders, and getting in our way is a mistake the Council won't get to make a second time."
|Redshift Operators|| The team can't get away from the globules. Even the cyborg's spread of future selves can find no future where she isn't struck by the wide spray of goop. The best she can do is rejoin her squad. It's the giant of the crew who stands in, grabbing and wiping the goop off the others as much as he can and letting it settle on his own body if he needs to. He endures most of the pain, emitting growling grunts. His heavy power armor's internal mechanisms scream with the strain of his sudden motions to strike each one approaching, swiping his hands at them with so much force that it could instantly crush most things that dare to be made of bone.
The ones that attach to him, the ninja goes after with great enthusiasm, using careful strokes of her blade. Those teeth might sink into his flesh, but the giant can endure, and he has spare blood; let's hope the monsters aren't tuned to that. "Don't worry, I've got the mirror-things!" He yells to the rest of his team. "Try to get the mom to leave here!"
The space-case for the team is the one who loads up a fresh magazine into their marksman rifle and begins a particularly dedicated work. After pulling the bolt on the weapon, they lay down a stream of fire so constant, so repeated, so aggressively drum-like, that it's like percussion. They get some distance from the giant who's heading nearer to Kukuru with the cyborg, so that this cluster tactic can be worked on. The astronaut needs their space, to repeatedly blast those two big eyes, again, and again, and again, and again, on that horrid eel. It takes some time to adjust to the new rifle, but only several shots. Eventually, this becomes the astronaut simply magdumping their gun directly into the eyes!
The gunman's belt of grenades becomes considerably lighter all of a sudden. He can't get one to that eel, it's moving too fast. But he can get it into the bombing that Kukuru is planning, turning it into a cluster-bombing. "Watch shockwaves in the water!" He calls out. He can't use his high-explosive types right now... gotta keep it to shrapnel. Hopefully he can clean up what Kukuru's blast isn't getting, and pull the giant out of bitey hell.
|Vantablitz Remnants|| "Oh God look at them! Th-they're awful! " "These? After everything else you've seen?" "You wouldn't understand! They're . . . those eyes are . . ." "They look like normal human eyes." "They're *soulless*." "Oh, so they won't feel pain? Too bad~"
Ahn wobbles in slow motion with the unfamiliar motions the weapon on her shoulder underwater. Then she tenses her abs, swings forward, and hunches into the rifle as if blocking the stock's attacks with her shoulder. Lotus laces and snaps taut black threads across the metal, a single black needle punching into the gas tank itself from behind without a single bubble escaping. The train of fire levels out, tightens up, and then becomes a raking curtain of whistling seafoam slicing up the lengths of shimmering eels and stroking repeatedly over their heads. Rather than firing in lead-adjusted bursts like a pro, it's as if she's 'painting' them to death.
Up until the mother shows up, anyways. Goo splatters all over the pair of them, still anchored to the ground and unable to do more than duck. A side of the shoal flashes and goes dark all at once as it orients towards them with the eerie, mechanical precision that emerges in swarms of fish. Ah continues to fire while Lotus reels back in, but the magazine clicks empty too soon. Weighed down by the water, they're swarmed in moments. Ahn crushes the skull of one with the butt of the gas gun, and jams the barrel down another tooth-filled maw, venting the gas alone into its brains. She turns and elbows a third, breaking its neck, and reaches out to grab a forth and do the same in her grip, but she's trying to bail out the ship with a thimble. They're soon covered in a massive, wriggling ball of tearing teeth and thrashing table.
"Lotus! It isn't working!" "Hhhss--! Ah! This is awful! We're breaking out!" "Take the gun! I'm trusting you!" "Give me more then!" "Right! I'll need both hands!"
The feeding ball of lampreys, starting to trickle green-glittering vantablack ink, is abruptly broken from within by an explosion of geometric, ferrofluid-like black spikes, piercing and throwing back the solid spherical wall of tiny sea monsters. Lotus-Ahn stands in the center, drooping and bloodied with that black liquid, spines extended from almost every seam in the suit. The next moment, the perfectly geometric spikes pulse with peristaltic motion, and the bloodlessly skewered lampreys visually tarnish like silver, blackening and turning to ash. Awful, wet 'gulping' sounds flow backwards into Lotus-Ahn, and the myriad toothy holes in the carpace begin healing in seconds. The spikes retract with a slick snap.
|Vantablitz Remnants|| Ahn crouches and bursts from the mountaintop with a full bodied leap, soaring through the air in a flat parabolic arc. She releases the grip of the rifle, and then massive, quasi-amorphous jaws spring from her elbow down over the length of her arm and hand and crunch down around the weapon. The fluid black mass shakes with the sound of snapping metallic bones, and then withdraws into a newly refashioned vamrace, the bone white exterior bulked up and slotted with narrow, organic grooves.
Ahn points downwards, and a weighty storm of pencil-length black spikes slashes through the water. Pale gas sharply vents through the back of her forearm mount like a recoilless rifle. Her fire comes out in four densely packed columns. Where the lampreys are struck, the spikes turn them the hue of charcoal and cause fast-creeping organic disintegrations. The gun is gone.
The two are also pretty vulnerable 'in the air' like this. Ahn has made sure to angle them to pass as close to directly over the reactor as they can, and then as the swarm closes again, Lotus unfolds organic 'boosters' from the shoulders, vernier flaps blossoming exactly as her namesake, and fires white hot energy into the water, which accelerates the two downwards at such speed as to simply pulverize the creatures in a straight line. "Throw me something!" Ahn calls out, taking the first heavy load chucked her way. "I'm working on something for that mother monster! Is everyone okay?!" "Mmmm, their insides are . . . interesting . . ."
|Xion||Xion looks up, her chin rising with her eyes in her fishbowl 'helmet', as the swarm-school rises up like a crashing wave. Taking a motion halfway between treading water and taking a half step back, Starlight appears in her right hand with a quiet metallic glub. Disturbing the water around her is petals and waveforms of force, slipping through the fluid in a seafloor-blooming sunflower.
The keening-screaming starts, and Xion disappears in a bubble-slosing motion of water displacing into an emptied hole.
Reappearing frames later mid-'flight', the globules of fish-tracer part about her as the petals reorient into guiding hands and defensive shields of water contrailing force.
While Candy whoops at her combi, Xion catches the (dark synth)wave from Midway, and veers off-course towards the wide-cutting missile and lands bare feet on the water-slicing munitions.
And so, surfing the torpedo, Xion falls in line with Midway's master battle plan, her blocking shields doubling as topedo screens.
'Oh' Xion realizes. 'I should check the new girl'
Xion away from surfing a Torpedo, Dire to glance as ferrofluid explodes colorfully - underwater!
"She's doing fine." Xions smiles, guiding the torpedo with her feet gently while she readies herself in a thrusting posture at the tip.
When Torpedo #2 reaches the Mother Lamprey's escape pattern, the built up momentum stutter-stops in time as Xion disappears in a static glitch.
Once the boiling detonation of torpedo bursts out, her pausebuffered Aqua Stinger reappears in realspace, and follows the boom with a glubby-shwink! of a piercing strike with a blunt weapon that does <cut> damage.
|Rita Ma|| The sea monster has no awareness of weapons like Midway's, either inexperienced or too dumb to learn- it ignores the dull, smallish torpedo until the thing explodes, tattering fins and cracking bony scales. It locks eyes with her briefly, and she could swear its tongue runs along the backs of its teeth.
The other would have simply sailed wide without Xion's guidance. The monster does seem to have learned, on a basic Pavlovian level, to try and avoid the second one- but it notices too late. The second detonation wracks its body, opening up a chink in its scales Xion can strike before it flinches away.
Candy manages to get a good fraction of what they came here for- the buoyant harnesses inflate ballons when a ripcord is pulled, propelling the parts surfaceward- and distract a portion of the swarm for a good few moments besides. But, as he'd anticipated, he can't fully evade their wrath- the bubbles draw more lampreys instinctively, and in that confined space evading them is going to be all the more difficult.
Kukuru's cluster tactic, in conjunction with Red Dwarf's ample supply of grenades, works beautifully. They do seem to be drawn to her plentiful blood, and the resulting series of explosions knocks a hefty fraction out of their numbers. Staren's torpedoes are likewise effective, and her and Hibiki's followup attacks neatly butcher those far enough from the aquatic shockwaves to merely be stunned rather than killed outright.
Ahn and Lotus's new concoction works wonders, too; the harpoon guns were already a one-hit-kill on the small fry, but the improved volume of fire and piercing disintegrations slice through the silvery swarm with ease.
At some point, the direction of the battle hits a tipping point. All the surviving hatchlings- still more than a third of their original numbers- break and scatter like roaches at some invisible signal. They're gone, and not even dropping everything else to hunt them down immediately could catch every one. (How many years until they're fully grown, too?)
But even with pencil-flechettes protruding from its eyeballs, even with scales shattered by explosions, the sea monster's ghastly leer is undimmed. It shrieks again and plunges towards the seafloor like a swooping peregrine falcon, pulling up to weave through the party with those sawblade-like fins at alarming speed.
The end of the monster's tail even strikes the reactor containment building, which begins to crumble. It'll drop tons of concrete and steel on top of your objective if someone doesn't stop its collapse!
|Midway|| Torpedo hits. Even with a steering and magical assist courtesy of Xion. Midway draws her arm back, holding her hands out to either side in a blatant 'come at me' posture. As the beast is surrounded in bursts, magic, and other obstructions, there's a sharp sound that rings through the water. A distinctive, melodic ring that vibrates briefly through the hardsuits. Those familiar with technology would recognize an active SONAR ping emitting from Midway herself. She does not relax, for she knows the monster parent is still very much alive.
When it hurls itself out of the bubbles and sediment blocking it from normal sight, the Princess is ready. It slams into her, one fin slicing across her middle with a flash of sparks. It finds more purchase on her parasite, slashing open the side of the orb's surface in a spray of oily black ichor. The second fin impacts more solidly and she grabs onto it. Her body twists, fingers hooking as she drives her talons into the bony scales covering its body. Drawing herself up, she digs her other hand in, and in this fashion, crawls up the monster's eel-like body while it thrashes amidst the rest of the group.
When at last she reaches the head, Midway hauls back and raises one arm. Her fingers straighten, held tight together in the shape of a spear when she drives her arm down into the skull, leading with metal-tipped talons. Her eyes burn crimson, the emotion unmistakable. In spite of her placid expression, the Princess of Progress is quite clearly furious.
|Staren|| Staren realizes too late, as the hatchlings swim off, that each of them may grow up to become more of these things... This situation is just not conducive to tricks that could stop them, though, so she focuses on her objective:
Well, she thought her objective was making sure they get enough of that reactor, but the sea monster reminds her that doing that requires *surviving*. The armor plating she's wearing is smashed and rent, much torn away, and the body of solid metal underneath is sawed *worryingly deeply* into. Fortunately there is no flesh, blood, bone, or even wires and fluid lines and motors. It's just metal and magic!
She was hoping to deal with the monster first and then have all the time in the world to deal with the reactor, but the monster reminds her that it has some say in that outcome too. Hydrojets on her armor propel her towards the building, while her torpedo racks, having warped in fresh ammo, fire again, Staren not sparing a thought for the self-propelled projectiles as their guidence systems home in on the creature before detonating them!
What she IS focused on is making her way to the reactor -- she's already most of the way there by the time she hears Candy on the radio, so she figures it can't hurt to help! She rapidly warps in blocks of concrete on top of eachother to function as makeshift support pillars around the reactor, and only once verifying it's safe does she take a moment to carefully attach some adhesive metal strips to *herself*, like bandages over a gaping 'wound' to support her weakened body and lessen the chances of a followup attack snapping her in half as long as it doesn't directly hit the same place!
|Kukuru||With Hibiki and Staren luring those creatures closer, Kukuru's taking a few more risks than she normally would to make sure she can catch as many of those things in the explosion and get them into position for Red Dwarf's mass of grenades. She loiters, she lets them swarm, and she can feel herself losing some non-negligible mass from her body as the creatures bite at her, but it's worth it when their numbers are thinned out enough that they end up scattering instead of swarming again.
That doesn't quite give Kukuru enough time to fully recover, however, before the giant monster swoops in with its massive fins, and she only manages to twist herself enough that its fin slashes firmly into her side rather than cutting her in half completely. Kukuru lets out a legitimate scream as she's stuck on the monster's fin, digging her claws into its fin out of reflex to stop it from cutting all the way through her side, but...
She can work with this. She's making uncharacteristically pained noises as she's dragged through the water by it and bleeding all over the place, but she can work with this. Following Midway's lead, Kukuru pulls herself off that sawblade fin first, then starts pulling her way up along it while making sure to really squeeze in with those claws and her stupidly powerful grip to tear them apart on the way to center mass.
Unlike Midway, Kukuru is angling to work over a wide area instead of focusing on one main spot. She digs both claws into its flesh, then starts running along it while dragging and sweeping her claws around herself, aiming to rend as much of its surface as she can. It's not unlike someone engaging in low-till farming and disturbing just enough of the soil, but in this case it's less soil and more any undamaged surface flesh she can find on the creature.
It might not be the most glamorous way of securing the destruction of this creature, but it should certainly help prepare it for everyone else's more devastating maneuvers.
|Candy||*I knew it.*
Candy fends off the lampreys as best he can, pencil-sized harpoons flying rapidly from the business end of that rifle-configuration harpoon gun. He's not used to fighting things so small--so numerous. Even blinking around the room, the uniform swarm is able to catch up with him.
There's a tear in his suit. Water begins leaking in. A spread of playing cards appears before him, floating serenely in the water, bursting into violent currents to scatter the lampreys. Then...
Then they take off. One arm holding the tear in the suit, he's now unable to defend himsrelf. The gigantic sea monster's tail crashes into the building like a bomb, shaking rubble loose. One large chunk strikes his reserve oxygen--and his main two tanks are running out quickly. He's pinned.
Candy blinks out from under the rubble, just in time to see another massive chunk bearing down on the disassembled reactor parts.
*I didn't put on this fucking thing for you to blueball me like that, you big bastard. Eat shit, ah?*
All around, bubbles are frozen mid-rise. The floor sits at a concerning angle. Walls are cracked, mid-buckle, jagged portals into the expanse of blue, submerged city skyline. Through one, Candy can see the culprit--the monster's tail, mid-whip. Through another, higher up, larger in size, skewered eyes.
One by one, Candy gathers the needed pieces, sans of course the neutron reflectors. It's difficult work--some of them are quite heavy, and must be dragged across the floor in fits and starts. The only saving grace is that the water has stopped rushing into his suit, frozen in place as it is.
Breathable air is still at a premium. By the time the last of the pieces hangs frozen outside the nearest unshattered window, and the last ripcord has been yanked, Candy's sole remaining tank is almost spent.
-Golem!Staren enters in time to see all of the reactor parts scoot bizarrely across the floor and out the window in jerky stop-motion.
-Staren's rubble-towers hold up the ceiling, preventing any further impacts.
-A flurry of deployable floats activate in quick succession, a small gaggle of parts competing with each other to race to the top.
-Candy's back is turned to Staren. She can see his remaining tank's needle drop dramatically towards the red end of the gauge, despite the fact that there's no obvious damage.
Candy turns, faces Golem!Staren and points up, three times. "Let's get the fuck out of here," comes his voice over the radio.
|Hibiki Tachibana|| The swarm is thinned, but they're not the real problem here. They're scattering now--she doesn't even want to imagine if they'll grow to the same size as their mother--while the biggest of them all is angrier than ever. There's not even a chance to think when another deafening theme rocks the seafloor and briefly leaves her stunned as the environment shakes and the water churns.
It's supremely bad timing given the massive creature is bearing down on them right after. She'd never be able to move in time; its fins shred into her diving suit cleanly, ripping apart metal and material to slice into flesh beneath. Blood mingles together with the water that surges in through the gap, and the sudden pressure difference hits like a truck - it's probably only Hiromi's blessing of healing and her own pulling back a split-second before she was cut into that makes it a lot less gruesome than it could be.
But as it keeps going, Hibiki isn't left behind. She used those huge metal gauntlets to grip onto the fins and be brought along for the ride, though maybe it's more like she's holding on for dear life. "Oh no you don't...you damn--!" Wincing and clenching her teeth, she forces out that much...before her hands slip out of the tight grip of the mechanics, and she's left to fall away from the beast.
"Balwisyall nescell Gungnir tron..."
In a flash of gold, Hibiki's damaged diving suit and clothes beneath vanish, replaced by her Symphogear, the thrusters of which ignite and superheat the water behind her to propel her back after it. She might not be able to breathe, with her cheeks puffed out to hold as much air as possible--but she can handle the weight of the ocean depths on a straight course to /smash/ her hands back into Midway's equipment by force (because her own don't really properly fit), regain her hold now with double the kung fu action grip, and with the frankly ridiculous amount of strength granted by her mahou shoujo transformation...
She arches her back and pulls. Really hard. Not just on the fin, but bracing her legs against its body and firing her armor's boosters full blast while everyone is ripping at it, she's attempting to divert its course.
Down towards the ocean floor. She's just gonna try slam it into it with all her strength and all of its momentum. Really hard.
Really really hard, while firing the rest of the gauntlets' torpedos into its wounds point-blank just because.
|Vantablitz Remnants|| "Look out! It's collapsing!" "We're moving!" "No we're not! I made a promise--!" "Fine. Lower chakras please." "Got it!"
Being in position to start hauling away parts, Lotus-Ahn is in right in the middle of the giant sea monster's attack path. And yet, lotus flower verniers twist open at the heels, waist, and back, and with a sound like dull, underwater thunder, and a white hot flash accompanied by bubbling steam, they streak foward into the collapsing reactor instead. The carapace shifts with a series of wet cracks, and pure black arms, direct copies of Ahn's, naked and in flux, erupt from their back and sides, and are all set against the crumbling walls in unison, catching, hurling, punching, shattering, bracing, and holding back tremendous slabs of concrete and metal rubble as it falls.
Amidst half a collapsing building, with all hands occupied, the best they can do when the monster *itself* ploughs through is to retract them all together and hunker down behind a thick guard. Ahn screams as they're struck dead on and hurled away, even Lotus making a garbled vocoder hiss as the sawblade fins rib into so much un-plated biomass and spray her vantblack 'blood'. The pair crash into a thermal exchanger together, briefly driving the air out of Ahn and causing them to float limply above the ground, just before Lotus asserts full frame control, and shoots the both of them up and out of the way.
"We can't even think of doing anything about that reactor you want to badly as long as that thing is still alive." "Y-you're right." "Still caught up on looks?" ". . . No! This is more important! Those people need us! Rita is . . ." "Then I'll help you~ It's been a while, right?" "Yeah. Yeah!"
The pair fall back to the inner city with a lightning swift series of acrobatic leaps and swings, bouncing weightlessly off of wire-thin crumbling architecture and zigzagging through dense clutter with whiplash air-boosts and running thrust-assist until they have a vantage point that Ahn likes. She extends her arms ahead of her, capturing the mother monster in a view window between her fingers. Lotus' black support limbs crowd around them, clutching and bracing and lacing fingers, until she looks like a particularly dynamic deva statue.
That beam of blue-green shines out from her again, this time in a rapidly flickering scattered cone that is focused on the sea monster; one which intensifies as it shrinks, growing fewer, thinner, brighter, and 'sticking' to various parts around its head and chest cavity. Twelve rays in total. They curve and distort underwater, as if they were glowing threads attached to the monster's skin. One by one, a circle of glowing undersea flames begins lighting up in a halo around the pair.
"Establishing local luminal tensor matrix."
"From Sankhara Vinnana, and from Vinnanna, Namarupa."
"Blueshifting calculated eigenvector."
"From Namarupa, Salayatana, and from Salayatana, Phassa."
"Adjusting C constant for collection and acceleration through liminal abnormality."
"From the eleven nidanas, Jaramarana, and from Jaramarana, pass into Samsara.
"Charged. Locked. Maxed out."
"Like winter to spring, and spring to winter, you too, are impermanent~ Ahahaha~!"
A quarter second period is filled with a sound that evenly mixing gunfire, chirping birdsong, and clapping bells. Sun-hot flashes strobe in chained sequence from Lotus-Ahn, and unerringly streak at high velocity along the curved 'guide lasers', punching countless neat molten holes through ancient buildings that get in the way. Then, into the sea monster. And then, exploding into blue-green suns all over again.
|Redshift Operators|| "Down! Move!" The ninja can see what's coming before it arrives. Shouting her warning, she charges through a phantasmal field of future-images of her allies sawed in half, yanking and tugging them aside. Gouges in the body are shallow, not bisecting. in spite of Neutron staring the thing down as it approaches and just continuing to fire. Once it's pulled away from this divebomb, the two Redshifts can stand... Wait, two?
The missing pair, White Dwarf and Red Giant, have pulled themselves onto the thing. Crawling along it, one uses her katana and the other uses his raw strength like ice-picks. During the climb, the larger of the two does a short, friendly wave to Hibiki. Midway and Kukuru get a narrowed, studying look from the ninja, trying to figure out how to work with this.
"Wow! This is really awful. I don't know how fish do this!"
"Hydrodynamics, my friend. Now, assist me in halting this."
"Shouldn't I go help make sure the building doesn't fall?"
"<Candy-chan> has claimed it is under control. Have faith in our ally."
Holding onto the creature as it glides through the water, they make their way towards the head, or rather, to the neck.
"Help me with this next part. Rip this open." The giant obliges the ninja, doing his best to tear open one of Kukuru's lacerations and give the smaller of the two an opening. She digs in deep until she can find a thick tendon, and sticks her hard-light katana into it, gripping the blade with her robot hand and the hilt with her natural. "On my signal, pull me back, with all force... NOW!"
The creature should be dazed, at minimum, by Midway. And... when the precognitive Operator views the future, she can see a grand attack coming in. Knowing all kinds of biology facts, she intends to make sure it lands with great impact. She's going to try to force a muscular contraction, a sudden turn straight towards Ahn's attack, which will make those piercing shots pierce so much more of the long, thin body of the beast.
It takes a few seconds for Neutron to stop firing their rifle. They walk a little clear of the collapsing building, shouldering it. Blankly, they stare at the light show, with something that must be fascination, right? Well, there it is: the astronaut finally got to see that laser. He just says, to nobody in particular, "Good." And nods once.
|Xion||Stingering through the mature lamprey, Xion's silver blade-length alights into a glowing cone of pale chrome that shatters into bright motes after she tears along the length of the creature and spins to a stop. Limbs spread out, she turns in the water while braking, following the creature as it rampages around with her eyes. First, the tail through the reactor building's housing -- prompting a dully-fishbowl-echoing 'no!' that doesn't carry past her ears.
Conjuring a current to carry her forward, Xion sparkles with dripping blue motes of light as she follows above the thrashing creature, guiding her motions using her shoulders and hands to make small adjustments on her aquatic trajectory.
Then, over the creature when it bucks and swings its spined body about, Xion follows the motion of the center-arch of the back of the creature with narrowed black pupils on pools of cool blue.
Following it through the gouts of ocean-dirt kicked up from the passing of the blasted currents, or through the wreckages of the buildings.
Her hand lifts to her neck, and pulls at the band that she had earlier claimed would render her proof against the water, with her insultingly cartoonish helmet. Tugging the black band clear, her glass bowl holds the little bubble of air now through fluid dynamics, then rises clear of her neck, breaking her aiming concentration for a moment as it sails clear, buoyed up by the air Xion had once been breathing just fine. Her gaze tracks down, waters opened unhindered into the sea water. Pools of blue re-acquire the lamprey's position, directly beneath, and Xion's band of black resolves into a twisted length of matte-black material more like a helixing set of carbon rods, capped with a cardinal globe in place of a key-tooth in blood-sworling captive liquid effect.
Upon summoning it, Xion is compelled directly down, the water simply disappearing underneath the hungering sword as she slackens and rides her twisted pylon of an alternate (key?)blade down into the back of the lamprey, to violently stab the consumptive sword into the (to-her) glowing, throbbing INTERACTION POINT.
She sticks there, mashing through a riding prompt while the sword drinks from the monster and Xion's energies flare abundant.
Rrrrrrright up until the Smartgun's path flashes in Xion's head like a windchime twinkle of a HOT EXCITED PARTICLES IN YOUR AREA alert.
Once again, like before the detonation of the torpedo, Xion - and her hungering blade - disappear in a static glitch that does not neatly resolve.
Probably because of how long that smartgun SFX takes. You Have To Watch The Whole Cutscene The First Time, That's The Rule.
|Rita Ma|| Midway and Kukuru can find ample easy handholds and footholds along its battered body: the overlapping scales remain irritatingly hard and slippery, but by now they're cracked in almost more places than not. The sea monster has a thick skull and proportionately tiny brain, but Midway's lance strikes true. When it breaks through to something softer beneath the bone, the monster abruptly shifts from crisp aggressive movement to blind thrashing.
Kukuru's raking clawing attacks expose some gribbly organs beneath the scales and flesh, but it's harder to say what impact they have on its health. More substantial is the enormous blood loss from the mangled tissue, pinking the seawater around her and shading deeper into red by the second. Staren's guided torpedo barrage, whether via algorithmic brilliance or pure chance, strikes that already-bared meat and detonate inside, mangling organs and briefly bulging its body grotesquely with the pressure wave.
As the monster flails in a panic to shake off the people clinging to it, Ahn and Lotus's shimmering laser-threads bend and tangle around each other; the relative position of its body-parts is shifting wildly from second to second. That wouldn't save it, but White Dwarf ensures optimum effect anyway with her anatomical knowledge: Red Giant's strength pulling on the tendon contests the monster's convulsions, forcing it to stare straight down the oncoming laser-threads. Hibiki, Midway, and Kukuru's resolve to hold onto its body is tested as flesh ashes and water boils under the heat of those suns, leaving behind deep blackened cavities surrounded by sous vide flesh.
Finally, under Hibiki's malign Kung Fu Grip influence, the thrashing sea monster plunges and slams straight headfirst into a piece of concrete with a resounding CRACK. It's hard to tell how much of its continued writhing is panicked struggling and how much is the misfiring nerves of a dying animal, but they finally stop when Xion slams into it from above at speed bladefirst. There's a second, quieter crunch when she impacts it and indirectly slams its head into the concrete again, and then it goes slack.
|Rita Ma|| Lotus-Ahn, Staren, and Candy's efforts conspire to ensure all the reactor's vital components are salvaged: the toku-suit pair hold the collapsing buiding together just long enough for Staren to buttress it, and the buttresses hold just long enough for Candy to get the precious parts out.
As concrete crumbles and steel dully shrieks in the background, the simple work of fixing buoyant harnesses to the parts can be started: gadolinium-alloy burnable poison pins, diamondoid heat transfer contacts, an osmiridium fuel rod assembly... all kinds of horribly complex and exotic parts, the elegant details of whose engineering are only tantalizingly hinted at by their shapes. Why those grooves? Why that folding? All that will be put under a microscope later.
The sea monster is still oozing blood into the water. A few dozen of its young, who evidently hadn't fled too far, brainlessly return to its corpse and begin to hungrily rasp at its mangled and charred flesh without a care in the world.
|Kukuru||With the power of TEAMWORK, the giant beast is defeated! Red Giant gets a reassuring claw pat on the head from Kukuru before she focuses her efforts on closing up that big gaping wound at her side, and she doubles over briefly as her body starts stitches itself back together. Hopefully, all the seawater and other undersea gunk that got in won't be too much of a problem for later.
If it is, she can just cheat with more healing processes later.
<<"Good job, everyone! Oh, is anyone dead? Or needs treatment to not be dead? I can get to you once I get myself closed back up.">> She asks aloud to nobody in particular, although she does take note of the rather wide range of injured to non-injured states for many of her friends and otherwise present. Requests for first aid are met with surprising haste (considering it's Kukuru), and her healing is actually rather precise once she can identify the injured locations. Staren gets preferential treatment by nature of being a fellow Concord member, of course, but Hibiki and Xion get some preferential treatment as well for being the (visibly) youngest members of this group!
Or possibly shortest. Either or. Candy, Midway, and Lotus get some extra attention as fellow weirdos, of course, with the first getting some confused looks when he doesn't look quite as completely shredded as all those other shredded suits from earlier might lead her to believe. Otherwise...
Her attention eventually falls on the returning young eating their parent's dead deceased corpse. Knowing full well that these things could turn into that thing, she drifts by slowly, letting the undersea current carry her until she's in range to just impale several at once.
<<"Do you think they're really as poisonous as they said up there?">> Yes, she's going to take some of this back to cook and eat if nobody stops her.
|Midway|| Upon finding something expectedly puny and squishy inside the monstrosity's dense skull, Midway immediately closes her fingers around it. Her grip tightens, squeezing the organ as the beast thrashes, and she wrenches it free in a spray of gore, dispensing blood and viscera into the water amidst that already dispensed by the beast from its numerous injuries. She releases it as it succumbs to concentrated violence, glowing crimson eyes sweeping from the thrashing corpse to the reactor housing, and then to the allies. Her parasite, wounded as it is, drifts back to her side and she reaches into it without bothering to look.
Moments later, she moves, gliding through the murky depths like a ghost. Coming up alongside the stricken Hibiki, Midway simply snatches the girl, turns her around, and shoves something against her face.
A deep sea breathing mask. One that doesn't seem to give one crap about depth. The mask utilized by the Ka-class Abyssal submarines.
The Princess simply glares silently while the rebreather-shaped device starts doing its thing, releasing it once she is confident Hibiki knows what it is.
|Staren|| Candy did SOMETHING that almost used up his air. Problematic. "I'll carry you out. Try to relax and conserve your air. If you run out I can buy you a little more time."
Staren picks him up and hoverjets out of the collapsed building... Only to hear that now HIBIKI is in trouble and-- "WHY THE HELL ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR SUIT?! Don't answer. I'm sure you're in for a rough time but I think I can keep you alive. Someone else take Candy."
Staren sets Candy down and hurries to Hibiki, agonizingly slowly with her lack of good underwater movement.
Midway beats her to it... with a breathing mask. Oh. That's WAY smarter and simpler than what she was gonna do, actually. Unpleasant images of Hibiki and Candy filling their lungs with seawater when they can't resist the instinct to breathe any longer, oxygenated blood or not, pass through her mind.
She swim-flies back to Candy to carry him back towards the boat.
|Candy|| Candy grins impishly at Kukuru and Staren, then winks. He allows Staren to carry him for a moment, but wiggles restlessly. "You know, it's not the same with you in that silly contraption," he teases, and then abruptly vanishes, water surging to fill the space left behind. He's back in the submarine, sitting down, that same instant. The simplest option, indeed.
Water leaks from the hole in his suit, sloshing in the boots where it can't escape through the tear in the arm. He removes the helmet, coughs, and then eagerly strips out of the diving suit.
Leaning back in the chair, wearing an early twentieth century red and white one piece bathing suit, Candy breathes a sigh of relief. "Reactor stuff oughta be at the surface by now," he advises Renata.
"I'm having a beer, and if you shoot it out of my hands I'm gonna pop you in the mouth, harpoonist."
|Rita Ma||"Fuck you." Renata doesn't get up from her seat. She's tinkering with her sword, doing something with the gas capsules on it. It's the kind of restless maintenance that might as well be twiddling her thumbs. "And congratulations." She pounds on the wall behind her and people up top start to move.|
|Hibiki Tachibana|| The big fish who makes all the rules meets a thunderous end, and she keeps her iron grip until it's finally done thrashing and comes to a stop thanks to the down aerial finish. Yeah. That did it. This is the part where Hibiki would let out a sigh of relief after all of that.
Except, even if she's able to cope with the pressure down here, she still can't breathe. Going back to normal would bring the diving suit back from whatever inexplicable realm a magical girl's clothes go to when they're transformed, but that doesn't change the fact it was damaged and breached. Oh. Thankfully, she doesn't have long to worry about that when Midway grabs her up and slaps an Abyssal breathing apparatus to her.
She blinks once, then twice, then three times, and then--lets out what she was holding and breathes back in. All the tension leaves her body right about then, aside from the hand resting over the partially-healed wound along her stomach, and she gives the Princess an extremely grateful nod.
"...Thanks. I owe you twice now. I dunno what I would have done otherwise." Floating in place, she holds up both gauntlets she force-equipped over her usual ones. "And these /really/ are perfect."
She looks towards Staren as she briefly stops to swim over, giving a dry chuckle and rubbing at the back of her neck with a giant fist. "...Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time..."
|Vantablitz Remnants|| After frantically radio checking for everyone's current state of health and ensuring that everyone is being taken care of, Ahn finally allows herself to breathe a sigh of relief. Figuratively.
"That wasn't so bad!" "It was trash." "Well, I mean, for our first deep sea run." "I hated it." "E-especially our first Multiverse--" "It sucked and you know it." ". . . Yeah. I wasn't as . . . prepared as I thought." "So, normally I'd go there myself, but if I detach from you now . . ." "I know, I know. But you have to do something for me after." "Deal~"
First, the pair bounce over to the bleeding corpse at half-gravity. There, Ahn extends her arm straight, places her hand to its side, and a thick lance of Lotus biomass effortlessly glides straight through it. The simple geometric shape rapidly branches outwards in all directions, tracing blood vessels, nerves, and wound channels without discrimination, and growing deeply rooted in the cadaver. Slightly nauseating gulping sounds follow a bony crack and a carbonated hiss, as if someone were drinking a soda. "Did they really have to go overboard like that? There's hardly anything left." "Just gather up mass if there's nothing good." "No, no, it's . . . interesting . . . Pah, if only they hadn't done so much damage to its brain."
As the giant corpse shrivels up, Ahn aims her gas gun arm towards the peaks, and intermittently fires bursts of black ammo, which arc sedately to the mountaintop and splash gently on landing. There, they spread their roots into the tangled heaps of old skeletons, finding those few surviving sorry souls left behind, and then simply gluing to the bones and inflating, like the bulb of a water plant, gradually carrying them to the surface. Ahn won't even be around to see it all, given that there *is* still a mission clock, but the dumb bio-shards will eventually tangle together in a sea raft after a few hours, and leeching nutrients from the bones, result in a floating wild lotus garden in the sun.
She is definitively last to get back on the diver, sounding out of breath when she gets there. "Sorry! I'm here! I'm glad everyone is already too! You were all really, r-really strong."
|Xion||Kukuru intends to lavish some extra attentions towards Xion but, for long moments after the big fish who makes all the rules is felled, she's nowhere to be found. Just a static haze and two dimensional voxel effect.
When Kukuru goes to impale the young, from the water near the corpse there is a gasp of a pressure pop as Xion re-appears in space a bit off from where she had left liquid reality and expressing as a current that expands outward gently in every direction.
"Wow!" She glubs, bubbles rising around her cheeks as she carries on speaking, in the middle of the abyssal depths of the ocean, with the <wet> modifier applied.
"That was going to fry me! Close, close." She further bubble-burbles, watching Hibiki get facehuggered by Midway.
And carrying right on, as her sword glows with a oddly-dripping blue phosphorence that, instead of wicking off into the water, retracts into the blade in attracted waves.
Blinking off her blue-on-blues for a moment, she looks to Kukuru. "Tell me how they taste! You should probably get them all. If this area is good parts and stuff, clearing out the local encounters might be good drops, and save the people some headaches later? I..."
Xion dismisses her sword as the definite three dimensions of the blade begin to simplify down to two: A straight black line.
Interestedly watching Lotus, she makes a fingerwave with her empty left hand as she treads water.
"Oh, sorry, is there some left for you?"
LATER, ON THE DIVER:
"And you did pretty good for a first time, Ahn."
|Redshift Operators|| When the Redshifts re-emerge on the diver, they're... well, not covered in blood! It all got washed off, after all. They settle in place and talk mostly among themselves, rather than to the others. The cyborg unfolds a robotic arm full of surgical tools, getting to much-belated work on the giant's many wounds, as well as helping out with some of her allies' own. Kukuru is invited to help, but, "Such matters need no urgent attention. Attend at your leisure."
The only-slightly-wounded person in the spacesuit turns to look to Ahn when she arrives, staring for several seconds and being silent at her question. It takes them a few seconds, but eventually they placidly say, "I liked the laser. It was good." Then they're back to sorting out returning that rifle, and unloading the breaching gear that it seems they didn't need to mess with.