Cedric had a feeling Novy's friend Eisenhower was long dead, and the story seemed to have confirmed that for him. He didn't exactly seem to be all there as it was, losing Eisenhower may have sent the man over the edge. That didn't really explain the giant spider though. A side effect of Novy's unique abilities perhaps?
"Do you know if Arthur Rockefeller has the authority to fire us? Hearst organized our group didn't he?" asked Novy. Cedric moved to answer but was cut off by Novy repeating the question to their superior above ground, and adding a request for a rulebook to the end of it.
He's a bit twitchy at that. Cedric thought to himself.
"I'm fairly certain he doesn't have the authority to fire us." Novy said to Cedric, not even waiting for an answer from Arthur. Again Cedric tried to respond but this time Eisenhower seemed to grab Novy's attention. Novy's eyes narrowed. "... Perhaps you have a point."
"Then I suppose we'll consider the matter settled." said Cedric inclining his head in the direction of the large spider, "Thank you for your input Mr. Eisenhower." Cedric realized it might have come off somewhat rude, but he was sincere. If the spider kept Novy focused on the task at hand then he saw no harm in at least humoring the man.
He could overhear Arthur giving out formation assignments topside. If Edward is coming down here I best get out of his contraption's way.
"Watch out Novy, Tesla's steel golem is about to make his entrance." He said as he exited the tunnel.
Topside it seemed that the rest of the team was assembled and ready to go. "Evening Arthur, I see your disposition is sunny as always."
Marika sneered at the order chosen by the "leader". Of course she would be in the back again. It was always the back. "Fine," she gave the slighted acknowledgement to this order. "I vill vait den."
Edward had offered to assist her down into the tunnel. While it did look like a steep drop down, she was sure that she could handle it solo. If nothing else, it would show she still able to handle the tough stuff that Rocky didn't seem to think she could. "Tank you, but I vill be fine. You go, you clear de vay. Ve vill be behind you."
((Posting this for Mechamorph, who is having 'net issues))
Edward acknowledged the words of the three ladies with a polite bow, well as much as a bow as he could perform under the circumstances. "As you wish ladies. I will see you down in the tunnels."
Giving a lazy and decidedly unmilitary salute to Arthur to show that he had heard the man's orders, Edward grabbed a spare torchlight which he clipped to a belt and strapped one of the miner's headlamps to his helmet. Refastening it to his head with a click and a sharp hiss as the pressure seals built into the suit from its first incarnation activated, Edward noticed that both the priest and Novy seemed to be a safe distance from his landing point.
With a faint hum the magnetic levitation technology built into the suit came online, reducing his effective weight to a small fraction of what it was. With a few steps, Edward went into a controlled fall as his boot rockets slowed an undignified tumble into a relatively safe landing. Nodding congenially to the trio already down in the hole and utterly forgetting that they could not actually see the motions of his head very well under his helmet, Edward got on his hands and knees to estimate if his bulky suit could pass through the tunnel. Thankfully it seemed like only a relatively small about of excavation was required. The enhanced strength the MASC armor granted him was hopefully enough for him to simply tear the rock aside with his hands as Edward proceeded through the tunnels, the miner's headlamp lighting his way.
Crow Girl blinked, once with each eye, before straightening from her position at the edge of the crater. "Yessir, after Edward, okay!" Follow the big shiny follow the shiny follow follow follow.
After Edward began his descent, Crow Girl stared down after him, wearing a faint grin. That was always so neat to see. And maybe it might explode and rip all his limbs off in a horrible shower of blood! That'd be neat. Bad, but neat to see. Maybe sometime it'd happen later. But he has those cool guns that liquify things too which is always neat. Crow Girl wondered what a zapped mutant tasted like.
But such concerns could wait for later! After Edward made his neat landing-- to a small talon-on-talon applause from Crow Girl ("Well done!"), she crouched at the edge of the pit once more.. and proceeded to scrabble down the side, talons digging into the concrete with ease. It was not long before the be-scaled blue mutant was down in the tunnel area with the other team members. She leveled a wide, sharp-toothed grin to them. "Oh this is exciting! I've never seen what's down here before oh woah that's a rat with eight eyes that's weird." Her infamous attention span strikes again, before something inside Crow Girl twitched and she snapped her head toward the scraping of Edward's suit against rock as he excavated his way through the tunnel gap.
"Well! I guess now it's my turn," she said happily before acrobatically bounding from rock to rock until she slid neatly into the wider opening Edward left behind. She'll scrabble reeeeal close up behind him, staring at the various sights illuminated by his torch.
Which is when she detects.. Something. Movement. Sound. Something only she seems to hear-- big blue eyes snapping to point to point, as she suddenly looks.. fearful. "L-liar? I'm not.. I.. what.." She hisses to Edward ahead of her, "I'm -hearing- and -seeing- things.. I don't like this at aaaaall..." It's all fun and games until the scary dead things start looking at you.
"Alright, well it seems the game has begun." Angela said before climbing into the hole.
'Okay, small spaces, nothing to worry about. I have an escape route this time, I can turn back. Unless something happens like a cave-in...no I can't start thinking like that. This isn't like Menlo, nothing like Menlo. Just keep moving and soon enough I'll be out.'
She wasn't sure if she was hiding her fear and nervousness or not and was too busy following similar lines of logic to care. The explosion at Menlo Park had left her scared in more ways then one. It had left her with not only guilt and sorrow for the colleagues she'd accidentally killed but the explosion had left her buried under rubble, unable to move until rescue crews had found her. After the experience she had taken months to have anything but a crippling fear of small spaces and being underground. She had worked through it with help so that it wasn't crippling, but by no means was the fear gone.
She turned on the flashlight in her hands and started to move through the tunnel in her assigned position. A part of her was eased by the fact that at least she wasn't alone in the tunnel. Had she been alone she probably would have much more strongly considered simply leaving the tunnel. But the combination of being with others, having worked through her issues to an extent, and the promise of money and at least some small amount of influence convinced her to simply keep going.
Edward emerged first, soon followed by Crow Girl and the rest of the group. They emerged inside a strange cavern filled with luminescent crystals that seemed to bend and twist as they looked at them. The crystals twisted and morphed depending on what angle they were viewed from, but they all shared a unique feature - from any perspective the crystal appeared to be blade-like, the outline a pair of parallel lines that impossibly came to a point. Their eyes seem to block out the strange sight, blind spots forming in the instant after perceiving it, and a painful throbbing begins in the back of their minds.
As the eldritch crystals are blocked from their vision by their own mental defenses, the rest of the cavern becomes more notable. It appears to be stone, but it's no stone you've ever seen before, a pale white stone shot through with pale blue material. It's smooth to the touch, and even seems to give slightly under pressure. It has the texture and feel of rock, but it also seems similar to plastics.
Then your eyes fall upon the being there. Something sits at the center of the room, in the shadow of the crystal formations your eyes refuse to see. It appears to be Humanoid, but the limbs are too long, perhaps half again as long as the Human norm with an extra joint. The being's head is lowered, and it appears to be talking to itself, a faint singsong tune that reverberates in your ears. It's a pleasant tune, but all the same it seems to drill into your skull. Their molars begin to throb as they move closer to the being, getting a better look. The creature appears to be a pale green in the ghost-light, which means under normal light it would likely be chalk-white, and is naked, although the folding of its legs makes discerning the being's gender near-impossible. It is drumming it's fingers on the floor, the fingers long and slender. The being looks impossibly frail despite its size, like a good thump would shatter half the bones in its body.
As they move within earshot, it begins to speak. Its head is bowed, they cannot see its face, just the hairless head, shifting with the words.
A taste of blood in the mouth, the scent of copper in the air. This, combined with the ill visions, put Crow Girl in a poor mood, unnerved and irritable.
Arriving in the cavern did not improve matters much. Trying to look at the crystalline formations hurt, so Crow Girl hid her eyes, focusing instead on the back of Edward's suit, something solid and real.
".. this place is too big. Too, too, too, big," she whispered, mostly to Edward, but to any nearby who can hear. She's scared. And it shows, as she jumped as her talons dug into the plasticine stone.
Reaching the creature did little to improve Crow Girl's mood. A gangly, long-limbed thing, with too many joints, ghastly-pale skin and a frail form. Odd, Crow Girl thought. It's shaped kind of like me. She found the thought little comfort, though it was a distraction from the pain in her head.
And it gave its welcome.
Crow Girl could only offer a weak, ".. Hello? What is this?" in return.
The soft screech of stressed metal alerted Edward to something seriously wrong. As he entered the tunnel with his Tesla Coil Capacitor at half port, the technical specialist felt his suit tighten on him slightly. The suit was built to withstand the freezing depths of lightless fathoms under the waves and thus had few moving parts or seams but the pressure was most apparent on the joints as it made it ever harder to move with ease. The geiger counter Edward had installed as a means to detect radiation leaks began clicking like crazy and the inbuilt barometers showed an intense increase in atmospheric pressure. Normally such a gross change would have been all but impossible but Edward knew that sometimes in these places the physical laws that governed God's creation became merely suggestions.
Ignoring what he hoped was not the smell of burning circuitry Edward murmured to his pseudo-avian comrade reassuringly, "stand fast Miss Morrigan, strangeness is afoot. Stay behind me and keep your eyes on the person before us." First out of the tunnel along with Frank and Morrigan, Edward took a risk and placed the diode of the Tesla Coil on his left elbow as he fiddled with the torchlight he had appropriated earlier. What looked like just the random toyings of a nervous man was actually Edward's attempt to send a warning to his fellows still crawling up the tunnel.
The light flashed in Morse code using conventions that Edward hoped they could understand. "+Pa, +R, sic." The code repeated itself over and over, warning of an increase in atmospheric pressure and radiation. Hoping not to draw any attention to himself as the rest of team seven crawled into the cavern, Edward kept his silence. Morrigan's reply, tentative though it was, would still be preferrable to bluster or threats which was something Edward was thankful for. It may be true that one could get more done with a gun and a kind word than just simply with a kind word but it never hurt to try diplomacy. After all you could always shoot them later.
Murphy had just enough military training to recognize morse code, though not enough to read it. It was enough to trigger an instinct to slow down and proceed with caution. As he walked into the cavern and saw it's immense size and looked at the impossible blade-like protrusions, which continued as fields of mind blurring pain. His eyes were drawn to the the sole reprieve from that agony which was too look at what sat in the ahead of them, and that image stung his mind with it's own grotesque nature it looked so frail he imagined he could sever a limb with just the Butcher's knife at his hip. But still it awoke a deep primal fear inside of him, that set his teeth on edge, and made his hair stand on end. He walked into the chamber, slowly, and got closer to his team mates. His gun was at his side, he didn't even dare flick off the safety, but he also didn't dare holster it. He noticed and incessant ticking... His pocket watch was going mad. He could hear it suddenly whir furiously in his pocket, then suddenly slow to a glacial pace. He walked in mid way through Crow Girl's reply, unsure of what exactly had transpired in the moments just before he arrived there. Gripping the handles of his pistol and brief-case, and stood there, looking at the Being with a gormless expression. And a little blurb slipped out, "We, haven't traveled that far..."
"This is this. My, my, don't you even know where you've come?" A strange, clicking noise came from the being that seemed to reverberate in the air, followed by a deep belly laugh. Oddly, the creature didn't really move as it laughed, the laughter just seemed to emerge from it. "Silly Humans, lost in the sea. Silly Humans, come to Faerie." The creature looked up, showing that it was eyeless and lipless, only a stubby nose and rows of shining white teeth that seemed to glimmer, almost like they were metallic.
"You've fallen a long way down the Rabbit Hole, but don't worry, you're not as far from your lifeboat as you might think." The creature seemed to smile, but without lips or eyes it was pretty hard to tell.
Angela did not like what she saw as she came out of the tunnel and into the chamber. Between the sudden onset of a headache and a creature with no lips or eyes. If there was one positive to come from this it was that she was at least in a larger area. Still she was feeling more and more like turning back was the better option. Hopefully whatever this thing was it wasn't going to attempt to kill them.
"Wonderful, it talks in riddles. Just what my day was missing, more things that I can't even begin to explain." Were the first words to leave her since she had entered the tunnel. She knew they would be too low for the creature to hear if it's hearing was anything like a normal human's. But seeing as the entire city of New York was obviously not even on Earth anymore, and had been placed in a world with magic and a sea of black ooze, who knew what to expect anymore.
She decided she may as well ask a question since they hadn't been attacked just yet.
"What are you and where is here?" To her it seemed like the second question really should have been answered a long time ago, but as far as she knew this strange realm they had entered hadn't even been given a name by the people trapped in it.
"I am -" A horrible cacophony of syllables and clicks that no Human being had ever heard before nor could any creature hope to replicate filled the room for about a second. "But you may call me Cu Loch. I am what was once your dream." The creature paused. "This is here. What is where, you have no frame of reference for this world, small one. Would you like directions? You're eighty-one thousand miles from the Pillar, due west-northeast. You're twenty-one million leagues from the city, but if you turn around and go back through the passage, you'll get there in a few minutes. How do you explain when there is no frame of reference?"
The creature rose to its feet, standing perhaps ten feet tall. Without the limbs obscuring it, it was apparent that the creature lacked genitals, and indeed that trying to compare it to Humans was rather problematic. While it had the same number of limbs, they were horribly disproportionate to the size of the body, the legs being more than twice the length of the rest of the creature and the arms hanging down to what would be the knee on a Human.
"What do you seek, small ones?"
A cavern this large was the last thing Marika expected to encounter in this tunnel, and yet here it was, all sprawled out in front of her. She looked up at the stalactite-like structures but immediately had to cast her gaze back down on the ground. The throbbing pain from looking at the strange formations above overwhelmed her head.
Then something spoke. The thing in front of the group, whatever it was. It had bid them welcome into...wherever the heck it was that they had been dropped down into. Then after some murmured comments form the group, it started to laugh, an eerie laugh as it showed it's face. The look of teeth across the body with nothing but a rudimentary sensory organ was just unsettling.
Angela seemed to be the one asking the questions on Marika's mind, so she just let her go for it. No need to stick herself out there if there was someone else willing to do it. The thing's answer just raised more questions however. This was proving to be difficult.
"Cu Loch?" Edward thought to himself. "Sounds like something out of the Lebor Gabala Erenn or the Annala na gCeithre Maistri; something Gaelic or Celtic."
The scientist's mind buzzed with thought, where ever they were and what ever they were talking to were unknowns. They were probably operating on speculation that someone set off a bomb. After all, why would a street blow up? Considering where the tunnel lead to, it could conceivably be that someone did not create a hole to enter the tunnel but rather to *leave* it...
"Oh Tall One, we came here because a large explosion ripped through our lands and created a hole in our streets. We investigated it and the tunnel lead us here. You would not happen to know anything about the tunnel, the explosion or anyone responsible would you?"
"If you know what you're doing, you can get just about anywhere through the tunnels that honeycomb this place." The creature made a bizarre chittering sound for a moment. "I saw someone. They've recently appeared, although they've always been here. Follow that route." The creature pointed a long, bony finger at another crawlspace behind him. "But be prepared for...unforeseen consequences if you should follow."
"How can they be unforeseen if you seem to know what they are?" The thought raced through Edward's head and make a valiant attempt to escape it; only his innate courtesy and the very real suspicion that not only would this person before them never give them a straight answer but he or she was far more sinister than presented.
"Thank you very much for your candor, Tall One. I hope you don't mind if we intrude on your... domicile for just a little while longer as we have a little chat among ourselves."
Clipping the torchlight back to his belt, Edward addressed the rest of the team without turning around. Even if this particular entity proved to be not hostile, there was no sense in allowing one of the vanguard to have his weapons pointed in the wrong direction should any danger arise. Also addressing their leader directly would essentially be making the man a target. Something he hoped Rockefeller realized. "Your thoughts everyone? I have to warn you that prolonged exposure to the radiation can't be too healthy for us."
"Not my domicile...you are inside me." The creature laughed, this time a low titter that developed into an almost insane cackle that abruptly stopped. "As for how I know you will face unforeseen consequences...existence is unforeseen. But you would not understand...you will all die if you go down that pathway, but then, you'll all die anyway...choked by the gnawing vine of your mortality."
All the cryptic nonsense, all the laughter and chittering from the creature, wore ill on Crow Girl. The gangly mutate cowered a bit further behind Edward. "Inside.. you? But--" Those huge blue eyes bugged out a little. "I don't understand I don't understand.."
It's obvious that Crow Girl didn't want to be there anymore. Fighting crime? Doable. Being confronted with physics-breaking and mind-breaking anomalies? Not so much fun.
"Cu Loch," Arthur said, moving to the front of the group. "Thank you for your assistance. We'll be out of... you... shortly, but if I may ask, what was it you mentioned earlier about a pillar? What is that? Is that what we're heading toward?" As he was saying this Arthur snapped his fingers, sending out a light magnetic pulse he used to determine if there was anything he could manipulate in the immediate vicinity. The pulse caused a few shards to flake off of some nearby crystals, but otherwise had no effect, should something happen Arthur only had what he brought with him.
"How the fuck should I know?" The creature started forward, looking aggressive, then stopped. "I'm just the observer. Where you're going is your concern. But the Pillar will find you eventually."
Marika was glad the group would soon be taking their leave of this place. The being before them was talking in riddles, being outright creepy, saying they were inside it? Disgusting.
"So, vat are ve doing den?" She asked the "leader". "Are ve heading back out de vay ve came or ve actually taking dis ting at face value?"
Crow Girl, lacking much else to add in this situation (and a bit afraid of the towering Creature), said nothing, remaining cowering behind Edward's mechanized bulk. Crow Girl was a writer, not a scientist, and when things start disobeying what she knows of physics, her imagination tends to run wild.
Which, when dealing with something like this, leads (as expected) to near paralysis from fear and alarm.
Edward tensed and nearly shot the creature when it adopted an aggressive posture. The beauty of the half port posture was that he could spray an entire area with his Tesla Coil simply by shooting from the hip. Arthur's magnetic pulse did little more than add a faint buzz to the burning smell in the suit as the Faraday's cage Edward wore nullified the energy discharge. The first time Edward tried to use the MASC's magnetic levitation technology without some form of shielding for all his other devices was the kind of lesson you only want to learn once. After all one's hair can only grow back so many times before the scalp simply quit and burns tended to be quite unsightly if they were located in prominent locations.
Edward grimaced under his helment; the MASC armour which, while responsible for his protection, did make the man inside it feel somewhat claustrophic in these tight tunnels. In his eyes the sooner they were gone the better. Apparently the "Pillar" was mobile and was more likely a person rather than a thing if it could find them under its own violition. Tunnel fighting was a poor prospect in any case, few of them had much in way of projectile weaponry and as physics seemed to be somewhat warped in this strange place, Edward would not be too surprised if the laws of magic were similarly estranged from what they normally knew. Agent Morrigan seemed to share his unease as she took shelter behind the mobile wall of titanium that was his suit. At least Marika was trying to resolve the impasse by referring it to their appointed leader. If he wanted the title, the man ought to be able to live up to it.
"It seems choice is something of an illusion in this place if cu loch is to be believed. What with it saying that the pillar will find us anyway no matter where we go, question is do we face it now or later. Really the only questions I can figure are what is the pillar; is it after just our group, every human in this realm, or simply everything; and why is it after what it is after? How many of those questions have answers that aren't just another riddle though, who knows?" Angela said to no one in particular as she kept an eye on the creature. The aggressive movement had her wary of the creature, and this strange area underground of all places had her extremely on edge.
While the others talked, Murphy turned his attention to the strange protrusions from the ground. As his eyes traced the outline of the crystal nearest to him, he suddenly realized he was no longer looking at a line, but rather a single point. He wasn't entirely certain when or how his field of view shifted, or if it shifted at all. But it seemed like the only two parts of the crystal that Murphy could observe where the perfectly outlines of the shaft, and the impossibly small point at the end. No where could he observe a bend or kink that caused the lines to meet, but as soon as he shifted his focus, there they were, angled to a point. Murphy's brain was aching, as his mind tried to rap itself around the alien geometries. In an attempt to achieve some manner of clarity, Murphy prodded the crystal with his flash-light.
To his surprise, it made no sound, in fact it felt like he had struck the flash-light into a thick pool of mud. He pushed slightly harder, and to his surprise it began to get easier and easier, until it felt like he was pushing nothing at all. Then he felt a faint pull, Murphy tried to draw the flash-light back but to no avail. Faster and faster the flash-light sunk into the crystal, pulling Murphy's hand until the last minute where he finally let go. The flash-light disappeared into the crystal, leaving no trace of it's passing. Murphy looked at his hand, more confused then ever, he turned back to his team-mates. "I'd advise against touching the crystals, though I doubt any of you where thinking about doing that." Murphy told them as he grabbed the Flash-light he had stored in his brief-case and waving towards their entrance..
" I'd suggest we go back, back through that tunnel, and back to Manhattan. If this 'Pillar' really is coming for us I don't want to risk meeting it here."
"The Crystals, yes. Best to avoid them. Not good for the skin. They'll freeze you to ashes." Cu Loch made some kind of chittering sound, drumming its fingers and toes together on the stones. "Make your move fast, think fast, little gentlemen - and lady." Cu Loch dropped onto all fours and ran away, scurrying into the passageway the creature had indicated prior.
"I'd have to agree with that assessment. I don't think we are nearly ready to take on whatever the hell this thing is." Angela agreed. She was already making her way back towards the tunnel. Their leader wasn't giving orders, and if he wasn't willing to lead then she was more than happy to act of her own accord.
Marika was looking over at Rockefeller, waiting for an answer but the aristocrat seemed to be at a loss for words. Typical rich boy. Doesn't know vat he is doing. It was hard to think though. The pressure of the cave saw to that.
"Vell, if our leader has no suggestion, I propose ve go back out of dis cave," she offered. "I do not know vat dis is here dat ve are dealing vith, but dis is not de time nor de place to start guessing." With that she turned back towards the entrance of the cavern.