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Malachite

[Plot Thread 2.2] Stars in the Water

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The plunge into the ocean was cold but not bone-chilling thanks to the DeezyTech. It got dark quick and LED lights winked into existence around Emily - who could feel where each of her companions were the same way she could feel the fish or other obstacles in the water. The light was nice though, as the weird currents in the water made that sense sort of melty as they sunk down farther and farther. Minutes passed as they made their way downward, then longer as they oriented began a sweep of the chaotic ocean bed. A dozen false starts led to small fissures in the rock bed pulling water in or spewing it back out. Most deep-dwelling marine life had already vacated the area, though the more curious or dizzily lost still wandered past them on occasion. Finally, they stumbled into the right location by literally stumbling into it. The pull of the current was less than the eddies and whorls around it, but it was consistent and the space was large. Large enough to sail a galleon through, if they were still in the sixteenth century and not thousands of feet under the water.  

The side of the tunnel were perfectly smooth, with the persistent pull of the water so far keeping the unnatural floor of the tunnel free from most sediment. About twenty minutes and most of the group had little sense of up or down anymore. Emily could feel tiny eddies in the water that trended down, giving her a little firmer grip of direction as they moved; Ryan usually had a perfect sense of relative location and absolute location since the Storm. Even Deezy had a compass and gyroscope on her Rig. None of that mattered the father they went in: the water started having little corkscrew swirls and tendencies instead, while Deezy's instruments decided to waltz inside their confines. Even Ryan found himself vaguely disoriented - like he was on the slowest barrel roll ever inside a jet that was also tumbling over pitch and yaw as well. Not enough to stop the group as a whole, it was still disconcerting. 

Cassandra - already completely confounded on direction and so not quite as affected by the additional disorientation - spotted the imperfection first. Flashing her LED lights to get everyone's attention, she then swam down to the floor of the tunnel, next to what looked like just a bit of flotsam that had made it's way up. . . down?. . . .through? . . . through the tunnel. She seemed to disappear under that flotsam. When the other brought more light around they could see that the tunnel had grazed the top of another open space and left a hole. This close, Emily could feel the stronger tug of water moving down again. It was gentle enough though that either the space below was mostly flooded now, or it was really small. Cassie swimming back up to motion them to follow her showed that whatever was down there was certainly filled completely with seawater. 

The space under the Utopian tunnel is smaller, the water ricocheting more forcefully because of the "cramped" quarters. You could still easily get a tanker truck through the space, but after the massiveness of the Utopian show of power, it still feels small.  Emily was able to tell with her underwater senses that this was another tunnel-like space that went crosswise to the space above. Also, the walls were different from the hollowed-out and smoothed rock above and yet also not cave walls. They'd found. . . .something. Maybe what Memory had sent them after, maybe something else. Either way, they had a choice now: keep going in the tunnel above, pick a direction and move in the new space, or take some time to explore before moving on. 
 

Spoiler

This is a spot for you guys to pause, talk over what's going on, and decide which branch of actions you're going to take. 🙂 If you want to make rolls for things (looking around, doing tests, convince the others to go one way or another), please let me know in DR Discussion on the site!

 

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"Welp, this looks like the kind of thing the jellymind was talking about," Deezy said as she waved the little searchlight on her suit around the underwater chamber. "Whatever they did to make this channel for the waterflow hit pre-existing underground structures and flooded them. As long as nothing goes wrong, they might never notice. But sooner or later I'm guessing this imperfection in the tunnel wall will make turbulence in the waterflow which will erode more of the tunnel wall, which will make more turbulence...and they'll realize that there's something going on down here. Then they'll come down and find this."

 

"What I COULD do is just patch this hole up. Give it a sturdy backing material that won't be corroded by seawater, then coat it with the same stuff that lines the rest of the tunnel...and they'll never even know it was here."

 

Even in the dim light the others could tell she was grinning.

 

"But I think we should check this thing out before that."

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Counting herself lucky that she had managed to spot the entrance and themselves collectively lucky they hadn't need to swim through God knows how many miles of dark, swirling water before finding their alien tunnels, Cassandra's illuminated expression behind the oh-so-thin diving mask showed wary concern. Her thoughts whirled between raw excitement at the fact she was swimming at the bottom of the ocean and  paralyzing dread at the fact she was swimming at the bottom of the ocean. All thanks to the miracle of Deezy's Stormer Tech which had absolutely no chance of suddenly failing and leaving her helpless beneath who knew how many atmospheres of pressure, her body devoured by some glowing overly-toothy horror. 

 

"If we're 100% sure this is one of the alien tunnels we're after, I say patch it to cover our rear," she offered over the coms, lips pressed into a thin, bloodless line, "I don't want to deal with whatever happens when you suddenly flood ancient alien tunnels in front of us *and* more Stormers coming behind us curious why their big project is being messed up. One less problem, right?"

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Emily had dove into the lower tunnels with everyone else and useing her senses and her mobility swam around coving more area quicer than they could reveal with their lights. Indeed this set of tunnels was different than those above.

 

She listened to her companions, even though she wore no suit, Deezy had set her up with a tiny  earphone which fit in her ear so she could hear what they said and at the base of her jaw a tiny mic of Deezy's design, miraculously adhered to her skin even under water. With it through her use of a process called internal vocalization or subvocalization, that when you say words to yourself in your head, there are tiny movements of the muscles around your vocal chords and larynx. the device picks these movements up and translates them into sounds that it transmits to the radios her friends wore. It almost actually sounded like her too.

"It's a good bet that your right Deezy and that these are the tunnels Memory spoke of. I agree with sealing them but make sure you make it so we can find where you seal it and that we can get out in a hurry.

 

I'm curious to see how sophisticated these sun people were, maybe if we stop the inflow the tunnels will drain."

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Ryan scowled inside his suit, he didn't like feeling disoriented, it wasn't something he felt pretty much at all since the Storm, and it was odd to say the least.  "Mark the location, and let's continue.  Altering the flow in any way is likely to alert them to our presence.   I'd like to avoid that at the moment."
 

He thought for a moment, shrugged, and nodded.  "But you do raise good points.   Do as you will."
 

Ryan swam on with them, alert to any danger, and paying close attention to the walls of the tunnel they were in.

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Emily could feel the smooth protrusions and bumps along three quarters of the tunnel as she swam; it took a moment to realize they were carvings, decorations on the sides and ceiling of the tunnel and the smooth section was the floor. She couldn't quite "see" what the carvings were of, but it was telling that there seemed to be little wear on the sharper angles of the carved surfaces and absolutely no growth of encroaching life. Save for the water filling the space now it seemed pristine. The current of the water split in two directions, showing that there was somewhere for it to go down either end of the tunnel. 
 

Spoiler

So, staying to make a patch or no? Pick a direction, left or right!

 

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"Don't think I should seal anything before we're ready to go," Deezy commented as she shone her light around. "This is a system in equilibrium at the moment. Mess with that, no telling what'll happen. Prooooobably nothing. Also, if we have to beat flippers in a hurry to get out, I'd rather we had a clear exit, you know?"

 

She swam behind the others, playing her light over the surfaces of the tunnel walls, recording everything she saw.

 

"Man, I wish I had my STD gear up and running," the lanky inventor muttered, just loud enough to get sent over the comms.

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She obviously didn't mean that THAT way.  Ryan thought.

Even so, he had to say something, if only to head anything else off.  "Deezy, don't ever say that out loud again."   He was suppressing a chuckle even now.   "Let's avoid changing anything until we have to.   That's a sure way to alert them that something's up and someone's here."

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Cassandra did snort in amusement, and seeing as getting flanked was the order of the day apparently, decided to just roll with it. 

 

"First rule of mazes: keep going right until you reach a dead end or an obvious clue, right? Let's go, Stormers! I'll try not bring the tunnel down on our heads if we get jumped by angry ancient robots," she offered with a grim laugh, face illuminated behind her diving mask. The brunette bombshell acted on her own facile wisdom, scooting down the right branch of the tunnel with a few determined kicks and a boost from  Deezy's wonder tech. 

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"Wait." Emily's subvocalized voice rang in every ones ears, "I want to make a record of the writing on these walls. We will need better light and some camera. Gather here in front of the wall and wait while I make a bubble."

 

After the team gathers at the indicated spot,  Emily, concentrates and pushes the water away from the group and from the section of the wall near them leaving them and the wall in and empty bubble, while she was still submerged outside the bubble. "Stay in your suits as there is no breathable air in the bubble but it is clear now for you to take pictures once you make enough light."

 

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As lights were turned on and focused on the bubbled section, enormous murals revealed themselves running in both directions along the wall. 

 

image.png.ac6bb9329b48af5c8034334e0639059c.png

 

The figures were dozens of feet tall and depicting some sort of ceremony or celebration - the small piece they could see wasn't enough to figure out the details. Towards the floor of the tunnel, at roughly shoulder-height, was either a fairly strange scroll-work or actual writing running below the mural. 

 

image.thumb.png.f806667045ed763664a2b8e9cb3e3563.png

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Cassandra snorted, the dismissive noise audible over the link, "Someone thought highly of themselves. Can we go destroy their shit now? I'd rather not be down here one minute longer than we have to."

 

Seriously. Unknown aliens ahead of them. An unpredictable threat of Utopian intervention behind them. This was not the time to Indiana Jones this crap when the word of the day was 'don't touch the shiny toys that might provoke the end of the world'. Find it. Kill it. Get out before anything permanent happened.

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Posted (edited)

"Never seen a script like that before," Deezy remarked absently as she recorded the mural, making special care to get the 'writing' at the bottom. "You can see it has grammar. Need to find something that has it paired with a terrestrial language though...or a bigger sample maybe..."

 

She glanced up at the rest of the mural.

 

"Feels a little appropriate though, that kind of image on a passage. Line of folks, gifts in hand, waiting to see some kind of king figure. Almost like instructions."

 

Deezy nodded at Emily.

 

"Okay, got it. We can move on now. Let the water back in slowly, not all at once okay?"

 

Emily gave Deezy a wry look...as if she was going to crush them all as water imploded on them...and with a gesture allowed the water to swirl back into the bubble she'd made. It filled gently, and finally they were all buoyant again.

 

Deezy gestured up the passage and started swimming along it again.

Edited by SalmonMax

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"Take pictures, I'll see if I can decipher it all later."  One of his little abilities was deciphering languages, and he'd take a crack at it when they weren't in the Tunnels of Ancient Doom under the Sahara.

The swim began again, and he chuckled.  "Talk about out of your element."  he muttered just loud enough for the mics to pick up, without knowing it.

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