Jump to content
Csl

hardest choices; strongest wills [artifact]

Recommended Posts

“Cornerstones,” Anatase Mafic repeated, staring at the messenger boy. The boy squirmed under the man’s silver gaze, looking equal parts awestruck and uncomfortable.

Awestruck, for he had been tasked to deliver a message to House C’zirqonia’s most skillful artifact-hunter who was now standing before him, wrapped in a blanket, leaning tiredly against his housing unit’s doorway. Uncomfortable, because the wiry, dark-haired man before him was staring at him like he had a fish growing out of his neck.

The messenger boy cleared his throat. “After what happened—”

“I know what happened.” There was a trace of anger in the artifact-hunter’s voice that made the messenger boy flinch. Anatase blinked. “I—” the man stopped, then sighed. Running a hand through his hair, he seemed to steel himself, resignation dawning on his face. “Fine. Direct order from the old lady herself?”

The messenger boy nodded. Anatase sighed once more. “Is Cel coming?” Another nod. He groaned. “Fine. Tell them I’ll be there in half an hour.” The thirty-year old man looked more like a sulking schoolboy as he shooed the boy away, retreating back into his housing unit.

Dutifully, the messenger boy jogged down the hallway, excited at the prospect of delivering the message of an artifact-hunter, half of the famed pair ONYX, prodigy of the Order of the Magn—

BANG.

The poor boy nearly fell flat on his face as Anatase’s door slammed shut. Shaking his head, he continued down the hall, the dim glow of the sunstone ceiling slowly brightening to reflect the sunrise several hundred meters above their heads.

@King

Edited by Csl

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Celestine Felsic lifted the weights high above her head with effortless ease, an eyebrow raised in mild curiosity towards the door. “Cornerstones, you said?” The messenger girl nodded, returning the woman’s stare with an impassive one of her own, because the Way of the Radiant drilled focused placidity into their apprentices and left dry detachment in their wake. Thank the gods she didn’t lose that brilliant spark when she underwent her own training, decades ago.

She hummed in response, dropped the dumbbells onto the training mat and exchanged them for a towel to wipe the sweat from her brow. “GIve me a moment,” Celestine murmured, waving the girl away for a moment of privacy as she picked up her comm and snapped it around the curve of her ear. Ringing up her partner was the next logical step, then.

“Anatase? You en route?”

“Yes,” Anatase said glumly, his voice nearly drowned out by the sound of running water in the background.

“Slowpoke.” Celestine snorted, her gaze flickering to the messenger still hovering in the doorway, that youthful face twisted in faint distaste; she must have already figured out who exactly Celestine’s receiver was on the other end of the line. How uninspired that reaction was, she thought, her attention returning to the man waiting for her reply. “See you there in a few. Don’t slip on your way out.” With that parting shot, she moved to the washroom to implement the third fastest shower of her life before wordlessly following the messenger—the very paragon of patience, Celestine considered—out of the room and into the sprawling complex beyond.

 

@danzilla3

Edited by vielle

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

“The rumor’s been around for long enough,” Anatase told Celestine through a mouthful of toast. The pair made their way through the Apeirogon’s glass hallways, heading to the long-distance diaschismic portal nexus. “Something like… stones that control the forces of the universe. Like ours, but instead of channeling energies from the planes of existence, they’re the sources for those things. The stories on them can never agree how many there are or the properties they have—hell, I didn’t even know anyone believed they existed!” His expression darkened. “Until… a few days ago.”

Celestine’s eyebrow climbed to her hairline. “That other team, IVRY. Right.” Her eyes were dull as they flickered back and forth between her partner and the direction their feet were moving in. “I heard. I knew some of them.” A moment of silence was shared: a brief, weary sort of grieving. In this business, everyone was fair game for fate, no matter who they were or where they came from.

“If the old lady thinks she’s got a lead, though… well, we can’t argue with the Matriarch. Might as well get up top and dig around for it a bit before the Weakening’s over the Rising West.”

Celestine tilted her head, rolled her shoulder to smoothen out the kinks left from her training a few moments prior. “Well, if it’s the Matriarch making the order, sure. No complaints here,” she smirked.

Edited by Csl

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Ahead, the hallway opened up into a huge room bustling with activity. Huge metal rings, each wide enough for a cart to pass through, were set into the walls at evenly spaced intervals. Each doorway had a laser at its base, shining focused beams of light through the gemstones embedded into each ring. The light refracted at specific angles, passing through each gem in the ring and weaving a web light around the perimeter of the ring, opening a diascismic portal. Each ring opened out into a different landscape - the stone walls of Mezthaluen, Union City’s shining towers, Joran’s metal skyscrapers, the cliffs of Raven’s Landing. People streamed in and out the portals, entering or entering the nexus through the room’s many doorways.

Anatase shuffled over to the left, approaching one of the spindly hardlight constructs that stood quietly near every portal. “Custom destination. Mount Fulgur, please.”

“Fifteen minutes,” the creature said in a voice that sounded far too synthetic to be human. The hardlight construct looked vaguely humanoid. It stood on two legs and had a head and torso, but the resemblance ended there. From its shoulders sprouted ten slender arms, each tipped by a delicate hand. Its entire body was a featureless, dull red, apart for the cylinder-shaped crystal embedded where its face should have been.

Anatase dug his hands in his coat’s pockets, doing a last-minute check of his equipment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Celestine was born and bred prepared, straight from the womb, and so she did nothing but stare vacantly into the general space in front of her, in the ten minute window between. She did, however, take one long glance at her gauntlets, studying them for any left over damage from the previous mission the ONYX completed with flying colors, as they always did.

What sort of mission awaited them? The Cornerstones, whatever they were or what their powers entailed, were inevitably an anomaly they had no idea how to face, especially with another team perishing when they made contact with one in the first place. Nevertheless, Celestine found herself rather nonplussed; there was a damned good reason why ONYX was considered House C’zirqonia’s finest pair of operatives.

The hardlight construct’s hands flickered over the gems in the portal, making minor adjustments, rotating facets, and finally activating the light source. A fraction of a second later, the portal was looking out into a dull grey landscape of greys and browns. “A treasure-hunting we will go,” Anatase muttered.

Celestine smirked over at the man, wordlessly tapping her temple with a finger. She watched as he hefted the scythe blade strapped to his back. Then, the two artifact-hunters stepped through.

Edited by vielle

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A pair of mining specialists sat on a rock, basking in the sun, their equipment on a neat pile below. As the diaschismic portal before them activated, depositing ONYX, the oldest—a grizzled man in his late forties—gave his companion a knowing look.

“Told you so. Must be a pret-ty dangerous thing down there if they sent those two.” His gaze lingered on Celestine, his smirk widening a fraction. The female artifact-hunter countered this with a calm, murderous look of her own.

Anatase strode in front of the pair, hands in his pockets. Whether his glower was a reaction to the man’s stare or the tail end of his bad mood, one couldn’t tell. “Well?”

The man tore his gaze from the woman. “We were surveying an exalta deposit down there, they say, but there’s also some machine. Thought it was best we wait around until they sent us a hunter, don’t want to set off no traps.”

“Well, we’re here,” Anatase said flatly. “I hate dark holes, so let’s get this over with.”

“Dark holes, eh? S’pose you prefer light ones?” The man elbowed Anatase’s side, sniggering, gaze fixed on Celestine once more.

The other mining specialist, a boy who looked barely out of his teens, shot a nervous look at Anatase. To his surprise, the artifact-hunter met his gaze, shrugged, and stepped back, hands clasped behind his back.

The older of the men suddenly found himself dangling off the edge of the cliff’s edge, his feet without any purchase. The only thing keeping him from plummeting into the rocks below was the hand enclosed in an unyielding crystal gauntlet. “Best watch your mouth before you fall into a dark hole, mister,” Celestine deadpanned, as casual as if she were only out on a stroll in the bright midday sun. She kept him in the air for a few more seconds before she put him back down, pale and shaking.

“So. The machine?” Anatase asked the young mining specialist cheerfully. His mood seemed to have improved considerably.

“I’ll lead the way, sir.”

Edited by Csl

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Despite the prior almost-altercation, Celestine still sailed on a rather serene mental lake, if only to calm the inappropriate excitement building under her skin, the highlight of every mission ONYX took upon its shoulders.

The boy took them to a place along the mountainside where the rock sloped upward, forming a near-vertical surface. Small indents in the stone fitted another diascismic arrangement of gems arranged in a crude circle. Celestine moved forward to study it; the execution was crude and a far cry from how they would've done it, but it would have to do.

The boy fished a laser out of his pocket, turned it on, and placed it into a hole in the ground. The beam of light hit the bottom-most gem in the arrangement and refracted through the others. The diaschismic portal now opened into a dark, cavernous space. What sunlight streamed through the portal illuminated a tightly-knit forest of stalagmites and stalactites, gleaming bright like stars in the darkness.

Celestine tilted her head, observing the scenery before her with approving eyes. “How pretty.” She gave her partner an enigmatic smirk as they stepped through the portal.

The group walked past crystal fields, seas of endless glittering stones laid down at their feet. When the halls narrowed down into tight spaces, they squeezed through with relative ease. The light emanating from Celestine’s gauntlets were aided at the very least; at various points throughout the journey, heliodor crystals lodged between stones provided faint illumination, marking the areas the mining specialists had mapped.

“This isn't so bad after all,” Celestine remarked, pushing on forward into the gloom.

Edited by vielle

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What he’d said was true. He hated dark holes.

Anatase kept his tiger’s-eye lens fixed flat against his skull, his left eye seeing every curve and edge of the rock tunnel, his right eye near-blind in the darkness. What illumination Celestine’s gauntlets gave was barely enough to light their path.

The man glanced to his side. The young mining specialist was wearing a pair of goggles crafted to have the same dark vision his lenses gave him.

“How come they don't give us dark vision goggles?” Anatase grumbled, perfectly aware of the reasons why. “At least those won't fall off and would actually cover both of our eyes.”

Of course, Celestine still answered, unable to keep herself from retorting to his little outburst. “Don't be such a baby,” she replied, her eyes rolling in the lowlight, “or would you rather we relinquish all the fun our gizmos can do?”

Their lenses were more specialized, could record and transmit images long distance, and, of course, were required to be perfectly round. One eye adjusted to brightness, and the other to darkness: perfectly balanced, as all things should be.

“But if you really want one, I'll gift you a pair of goggles for your birthday,” Celestine muttered almost absently as she peered into the darkness beyond.

Anatase clutched his chest in mock delight, “Oh, Cel, you're the best.”

“You know I am,” came the smirking retort.

Edited by Csl

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

“There,” the boy said from somewhere up ahead.

Anatase rounded the bend in the low tunnel and felt the walls and ceiling of the cave open up. The man shuffled forward, looked up, then took a step back.

Less than five feet away, the tunnel abruptly ended in a metal wall that stretched in all directions, extending beyond the edges of the cramped space they stood in.

The metal was dark and discolored. Green, black, and brown covered what seemed to be its original blue-grey sheen. Intricate carvings covered its surface- angular shapes, lines, and strange symbols, with several seeming to cut deep into the surface.

In the center of the wall was a door.

“Huh,” Anatase said after a moment of silence. “Cornerstone or not, this thing’s worth checking out.”

“You're only getting to the genuine interest now?” Celestine snorted, but otherwise nodded in acknowledgement, shifting forward to study the door itself.

Anatase glanced behind them. “You fine making your way back on your own, kid?”

“U-uh, yes?”

“Go wait up top,” Anatase said, stepping forward to examine the wall. To the side, a few stalactites had grown against the metal, looking very much like fangs clamped over some metallic animal’s hide.

“This thing’s pretty high-technology. Looks like it's straight out of Antigone. But judging from how the limestone’s grown around it, it’s been here for hundreds of years. Maybe thousands.”

Edited by Csl

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Celestine shrugged nonchalantly; there wasn’t much left to do but move onwards. She placed a hand on the door and carefully pushed it open. After some resistance, the door gave way with a resounding CREAK.

“Stupid ancient high-tech structure couldn’t be bothered to have lights?” Anatase grumbled from behind her.

“What, you expect every ancient machine lying around to be ready for you with open arms?” Celestine rolled her eyes. “Of course it doesn’t have a power source anymore, you idiot.”

The faint glow from her gauntlets pushed forward into the darkness, light spilling out onto the entryway and into the space beyond.

ONYX fell into formation, weapons at ready, covering each others’ blind spots, sweeping their lens’ views across every surface.

They found themselves at what seemed to be the beginning of a corridor. It stretched on for some distance, beyond the reach of Celestine’s light. Vents were set in the ceiling at certain intervals, wiring and pipes snaking around and into them. Most of the array bore the scars of abandonment; severed wiring hung down like vines, fallen vent covers clanged underfoot, and the greenish-black tarnish coated almost every surface.

Each step they took echoed through the silence, reverberating through the hollow metal hallway. The pair passed a few doorways, but most were either covered by debris, rusted shut, or activated by some electronic mechanism. Each door, however, had a panel fixed in the wall beside them. The script was foreign, but their purpose was clear enough: labels.

Celestine and Anatase took care to record the script for each door they passed. Their lenses would process the symbols, comparing them to the C’zirqonian database of known languages.

As they traveled, the signs of deterioration decreased. The dark walls became sleek silvery, blue-tinged metal. The wiring overhead was more intact, arrayed in neat rows. Celestine managed to force open a few doors, though those detours yielded little information: most led to sleeping chambers or storage areas, all empty.

Edited by vielle

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One door, however, lead into what appeared to be a weapons chamber.

Anatase let out a low whistle. Hands on his hips, the man stared at the rows of strange devices on the walls. The look on his face was akin to a child in a candy store.

“We need to send some of these back.”

A few minutes later, the pair had assembled a diaschismic portal on the floor, the gemstones held a few inches off the ground by an array pf magnets. Anatase tapped the comm pearl in his ear. “ONYX here. Requesting a two point four-one-seven, Mount Fulgur.”

He slotted a heliodor at the base of the arrangement. The portal flared to life, opening up into the base of a C’zirqonian storage facility with a hardlight construct peering down into them.

Working in tandem, Anatase and Celestine cleared the room, removing the weapons from their stands and passing them through the portal to the hardlight construct on the other end.

Anatase held on to the last one—a strange, sleek white gun with three prongs protruding from its barrel—for a few moments longer than necessary, looking morose.

Celestine glanced at him and then the weapon, gaze unrelenting as she extended an open hand in his direction. “Hand it over.”

Anatase sighed, gave the gun a last longing look, and tossed it into the portal.

As they were disassembling the diaschismic arrangement, a short message flickered in the crystal of their tiger’s-eye lenses.

Anatase’s eyes widened. “All the text on this ship is Genesarii.” His hand flew up to the lens, tracing the rim of the device. The screen scrolled through the images of the door labels they had viewed earlier. Mess hall. Engine Room. Lightning Catcher. Escape Carriages.

“It’s an old form of the language, really ancient,” Anatase continued. He stopped at one image, grinning, then sent it to Celestine’s lens. “Jackpot.”

Their lenses displayed a door they had passed not too long ago. Control Room.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The control room was huge. The pair split up to cover more ground, with Anatase walking along the perimeter, exploring the edges of the room. On the other hand, Celestine made a beeline towards whatever seemed most like a console of sorts, standing in front of it with her gauntlets perched on her hips.

“Not exactly our usual tech, this one,” she muttered, gazing about the numerous buttons and switches present on the control panel. Were she alone in this endeavor, Celestine wouldn’t have dared to try fiddling around with unfamiliar machinery, but Anatase was here doing—whatever he was doing behind her, and so she forged on, placing wary fingers on the trackpad before her.

Anatase’s voice came from the other side of the console. “I found a power source! Hand me a microexalta, would you?”

Without looking, she tossed the aforementioned crystal over her shoulder, trusting her partner to catch it with relative ease. After a moment, the machine hummed to life. The buttons and modules under Celestine’s fingers lit up.

“Well, let’s see what we have here.” Celestine swiped once, twice against the metal and pushed the biggest button on the console. It seemed to do the trick: the various screens around them lit up simultaneously, bathing the room in a cold green glow. “Checking for data on Cornerstones,” she announced, scanning the stream of information for anything of value pertaining to their primary objective.After a few moments of occupied silence, Celestine snapped her fingers at the screen; she found it.

“There’s data here on the stones,” she told Anatase, beckoning him forward, “but everything is corrupted save for two: the Reality Stone and the, uh, Time Stone, it says here.”

“Whoever named those things was feeling very original, weren’t they?” Anatase said dryly. Still, he looked interested. “I also found a thing that’s supposed to hold them, I think?” He held up a small metal box with an intricate lock mechanism on its exterior.

“Well, how…convenient,” Celestine mused, stepping aside for her partner to take a closer look as she pulled up her tiger’s-eye lens to record the information on the screen. “What do you think?”

Edited by vielle

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

“Let me see.” Anatase took her place before the console, laying his hands on the controls.

The screens flickered as he sorted through reams of data. Celestine was right—most of the data was corrupted. With how advanced the machine they were in was, they also had little idea how to download the information to better decipher it.

He focused on the stones, scanning through the files in the database… Dates of acquisition. Containment procedures. Properties. Resistant materials. Experiments... Documentation.

Anatase selected the file.

… range of effect spa……. continen…. In th... high elevation… arcano-atmosphere, attracted to th… Zare… similar source of pow… cyclic weather phenom… causing reality shifts, anoma…. Lies in a tesseract at…. nter…. of the vortex…

“Magestorms?” Anatase mused. He continued navigating through the pages. “Oh, look, there’s a picture. Carvings on a wall?”

The pair stared at the picture for a moment as the translation program in their lenses decrypted the words. The silence lingered a few moments as they read the text.

Anatase took a deep breath. Slowly, he let it out. “It says here that the stone that controls reality was pinpointed to be—”

“In the center of a magestorm?” Celestine said incredulously, shaking her head in dismay.

“Yup.”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Anatase continued browsing the other files, picking up bits and pieces of information. After a few minutes, he spoke.

“I have a theory,” Anatase announced. “Twelve percent of a theory, anyhow.”

He brushed a fingertip against the rim of his lens, sending Celestine a display of a transparent orb on a narrow, rectangular platform. A few dozen metal rods were speared through the orb, each sporting a small, slightly-curved disk on their end, leaving an oblong space at the center of the device

“I found this behind this console a while ago. See those?”

The ends of the rods were each connected to a wire that was placed flush against the sides of the platform. Upon reaching the floor, the wires converged, connecting directly to the console they now stood in front of.

“This place—or this ship; the console says it’s a ship—was made thousands of years ago when humanity was still sitting around on their butts around bonfires, scared to death of lightning and thunder. But how?”

Anatase returned to the files about the Cornerstones. Mind. “Pretty easy to skip a few decades of technological advancement when you’ve got one of the pieces of existence, eh?”

Anatase tapped his lens. “That glass ball back there held one of them. I don’t know which. Mind, maybe? Power?”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The hairs at the back of Celestine’s neck were on edge for some reason, and she always trusted her own instincts. They triggered something; she just knew it.

“Careful,” she murmured to Anatase, taking a wary step back, “this is too easy for—”

And of course, this was when the ship’s self-defense systems kicked in.

She sidestepped the barrage of projectiles, raised her gauntlet to deflect the few she didn't have time to parry. The two artifact-hunters moved in synchronicity, the attuned dance of well-oiled gears working in sync and working well. They didn't always believe in the same ideals, didn't always see eye to eye when getting things done, but one truth was certain: ONYX worked damned well together.

The world whined with the sound of the barrage of futuristic artillery, and in the chaos, Celestine’s ears pricked, alert enough to hear the low hum of the ship systems—

Self-destruct in…

Edited by vielle

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...