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[Fiction] Deep of the Ancients

Sakurako Hino

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Endeavor patiently watches a security screen, looking for her guests. She knows Neil and Codex are on the premesis. Neil admires the Hokuto, and wanders about near the pantry, and Codex quietly reads in the study.

The others will arrive soon.

She knows that Signy is riding in her modified hummer towards Endeavor Point. Hammerhead and Walker should be porting in with any other newcomers shortly, and Vixen, the Kitsune, will be arriving in due time.

Sakurako starts changing her clothing, and prepares to meet her guests...

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Regan examines each of the books in the study, using her powers to make small repairs or render the books newer. After she has finished with one, a single touch sends it hopping back to its required place. Books know where they belong, especially if one explains it to them.

She looks down at the knee-brace that Sakurako has designed for her. It is much lighter and stronger than her old, clunky ones, and doesn't look as embarassing with the black eufiber suit she had bought for her travels.

She sends the last book to its place and leaves the study, heading for the meeting area.

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Sphere sat on a bench in Hyde Park, smoking a fag and staring into the middle distance. Off in the distance Big Ben struck one in the morning.

Give it another hour, and then I'm off. Sophia wants to sound out these people, why doesn't she go herself? I'm not a sodding diplomat.

The freezing night air didn't bother Sphere, his body adjusted to whatever environment he was in. But he was wearing a massive overcoat and a hat anyway. He was a wanted man in England, and he wasn't about to rely on his recently manifested teleportation powers to get him out of trouble if the law was in the area.

When Sophia Rousseau had heard about the meeting she'd asked Sphere to see if he could attend. She pointed out he talked to these people often on the opnet message boards, and the Aberrants were still very much a fledgling organisation, vulnerable to attack from many enemies. Allies would be useful in the coming years.

Besides, Sophia had pointed out with a smile, it'd do Sphere good to get out and talk to people.

Sitting here in the middle of an empty park, with only the rats and the squirrels for company, Sphere was growing less convinced by the minute. But he'd agreed, and had contacted Walker on the message boards to ask if he could tag along. Promising he'd behave, and that he'd leave if anyone was uncomfortable with his presence.

Should have brought a sodding book...

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She arived in her large brutish "truck".It looked like normal humer.Sounded like one too.It wasn't even close to being one.

The back left door opened up,Signy stepped out of her mobile lab.Anyone looking closely inside would see that the insides of the that thing had no lights,only two chairs and a lot open space.

Signy was wearing a evening dress, that looked to be made out of gold.She caring a bag in one hand,and a book in the other.She made her way to sphere.Handing it to him.It was 'Snow Crash'.

"You should have done this yourself.I hope you like it."

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The car was the fabled Beamer, unaccustomed to life this far south, and it mournfully sang its displeasure as it pulled up close to Endeavor Point.

Inside were two: one man and one woman. The man had a look of eccentricity and flair, intelligence hidden in eyes that were in turn hidden behind thick glasses. An old faded jean jacket hung on his shoulders.

The woman was wearing her green sunglasses and her orange blazer, and had startling white hair. She examined the dust trail the car had left. "Thanks for letting me drive, Mitch," she said with a grin.

"Thanks for not killing us, Roxy," replied Mitch.

And the two walked the rest of the way.

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Neil was accustomed to growing up among the stuffy haunts of New England's old money. This hi-tech/retro seventies/future-tech was something else. He admired the small touches of Oriental traditionalism hidden among the chrome and ceramics.

"Odd choices, unless you want to make a bullet-proof home", Neil pondered.

He smiled, catching more of the fortified design hidden among the open-air, artsy look. He had heard about this guy named Ronin ...

What drew him was the bits of life hidden among the tech. Fish and bansei circumvented around the steel and concrete. Life among the lifelessness. Still, there was something tragic and sad about this place that he couldn't put his finger upon.

He walked out and looked over the sea.

Regan had arrived earlier and had gone to see Endeavor upon his arrival. Regan looked better than their last meeting. A tad more direction, perhaps.

His host, beyond the glitter and shine of her life was one of the odder novas he had come across. Child-like, yet old. Not old like his father, who always seemed to be worldly and wise, but like someone who had a lifetime full of mistakes and regrets. Her body looked so young, and certain mannerisms of her seemed to certify it. Neil's senses were harder to lie to, though. Old scars, mostly healed. Her body felt older than her less than twenty years.

Endeavor's aura was pretty badly scrambled, that much was sure. Nothing he had seen before, though, and something he wanted to learn more about.

That mysterious node and the wonders in the world he had awakened to.

Neil turned back and looked into the house. It would be good to see Vixen and Walker again. Good to meet the newcomers as well.

Neil walked back in.

*Was that a door I heard?*

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Sphere had gotten tired of sitting around, and was in a opnet cafe sipping coffee, muttering to himself and taping words into search engines.

Suddenly he sat up and yelled "Yeeess!"

One high-definition printout later and he was staring intently at a photo shot of Endeavor Point. He chuckled to himself, who needed underworld contacts when you can get what you need from a Nova-obsessive fan's website?

Gasps errupted from opnet booths as Sphere's trademark energy aura flared into being around him. It began to pulse brightly, then it and Sphere vanished.

He reappeared standing by a gate. After a quick look around to confirm he'd actually arrived on target. He pressed the intercom button and waited for a reply.

Paranoid as he was though, he kept an image of Waterloo Bridge in the foreground of his mind. Just in case.

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Sakurako's security pager alerted her of Sphere's arrival. But, she was feeling generous, and being able to see Sphere on camera lowers her defenses.

She opens the gates, after a cheery "Hello, Sphere. Welcome to Endeavor Point. I'll be with you in a few minutes. I'm getting decent."

Sphere scratches his head at her response.

Sakurako then activates the com-system of the house, and over the speakers, greets her guests.

"Hello all, Sphere should be walking into the place any minute. As for I, I will be down in a moment."

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Regan's head jerks up at the sound of Endeavour's voice, then her blue-grey eyes narrow. Sphere was wanted in England for, among other things, escaping jail. But she wasn't here to make a judgement call on anyone, rather to get away from it all and have an interesting time before she started her new way of life.

She grabs a black leather vest from the back of her seat, the length concealing several kevlar panels that ran from neck to knee, and reconfigures her eufiber into the black tunic and pants with the T2M logo on the right sleeve that she intends to have as her uniform. She dons the vest and stands up, leaning against the wall as she waits to meet the newcomers.

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Neil will perk up at Endeavor's anouncement and head for the door.

"I'm on it, Endeavor," he says to the air.

Neil opens the door and looks out to the newly-arrived Englishman. He walks casually forward and offers Sphere his hand.

"Greets, Sphere. I'm Neil. Neil Preston. Welcome to Endeavor Point."

{{If Sphere takes the offered hand, Neil will shake it vigorously and motion that they go inside.

"You're one of the early arrivals. Want to come inside?"}}

{{If Sphere doesn't, Neil shrugs and says, "I understand. You don't know me from Adam. Welcome anyway. Want to come inside?"}}

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Sakurako slowly walks down to the main meeting hall that overlooks the straight between the Japanese islands of Honshu and Shikoku. The Seto Bridge spanning the gap is perfectly visible on one side, while the lights of Okayama on the Honshu side and the lights of Takamatsu are visible on the Shikoku side. This hallway is Sakurako's favorite, it's white ballistic polymer plating has built in display monitors and every once in a while a computer terminal or two mixed in with the porcelain decorations. A mix of artistic and architectural design she's particularly fond of. Not to mention it is the main hallway to both Endeavor Points main navigation room and to the dock storing the Hikari Maru II.

Originally, Sakurako wanted Endeavor Point's construction to be more modular, like a space station, but wanting to keep with the aesthetics of the original docking area of the island near Catalina between LA and San Diego, she decided to mix an artificial island with a residence worthy of a tech-head like herself. The upper levels above the "ground" of the island are her home. The lower "decks" are designed more like a ship. With engineering shops, labs, extra room and board for guests, and for the massive magneto-hydrodynamic engines that power the massive island platform through the ocean when moved.

But all of the tech in the world don't matter a hill of beans right now. Only meeting her guests and fellow adventurers matters right now. Tucked under her arm is a new set of robes, ornately weaved with golden hinopolymer thread, the robes themselves looking like something from Japanese legend or fantasy. Clothing suitable for a Kitsune. With the carefully folded robes, she has a direct antipode to them. A fully modified and programmed lap-top computer. About as powerful as a supercomputer. Within it is the data Sakurako took earlier of the area they'd be exploring.

She's no more than 100 meters from the meeting hall, her shoes lightly tapping on the highly textured faux-marble flooring. She brushes a couple bangs of her noticeable pink hair from her eyes.

"God... Why did I have to wear this stupid hat with this outfit? I know this joke will be priceless, But They're gonna be calling me gilligan... If they look past this sailor outfit..."

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(Sphere shakes Preston's outstretched hand and smiles ruefully).

"Alright Preston? How's it going?"

/Sphere is a stocky, well-muscled brute of a man, with intelligent brown eyes and closely shaven brown hair. He's wearing a black t-shirt, jeans, and DM boots. He's carrying a heavy leather jacket./

He looks around at Endeavor's place.

"Bloody hell. Talk about your lifestyles of the rich and famous."

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"Alright Preston? How's it going?"

Neil laughs and says,

"Call me Neil, if you don't mind. Everyone calls my dad Preston. It would kind of suck if the wrong somebody confused me for him."

"Bloody hell. Talk about your lifestyles of the rich and famous."

A slow nod,

"My man, wait til you see her yacht. Almost makes me thing I'm doing something wrong with my life. Almost, that is."

{{Somewhat liberated from an earlier fiction:

Neil is of moderate height and slender build (1.85 meters and about 75 kg.) He has dark brown hair, lightened by long exposure to the sun, with dark eyebrows and lashes. He is very handsome in a baseline kind of way, but seem imbued with an exceptional zest for life. His accent betrays him as a well educated young man from New England in the United States. A ring on his right hand is a gradute ring from Harvard University, Class of 2012.

He is wearing battered tennis shoes, worn jeans, and a 'ThunderGod' t-shirt.}}

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Regan enters the room, nodding to Neil with a smile and regarding Sphere intently.

"Hello, my name's Regan McLachlan," she says politely to him. "At T2M they call me Codex."

She pauses, then adds, "So long as we're here, I honestly don't give a damn about you or what you do."

{{Regan is a tiny woman, just over 150 cm in height, dressed in a black eufiber suit with a black leather vest over the top, the T2M symbol logo clearly seen on her right shoulder. Her tawny-blonde hair is cut at the chin, framing a strong-boned oval face that is striking if not beautiful by baseline standards, and her grey-blue eyes are sharp. She has creamy-yellow skin like aged parchment and wears a sleek-looking knee-brace. (I have no idea what Endeavour's design looks like. smile )

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Sphere nodded politely to Codex, he could see she was a little uncomfortable. Not surprising really considering he was an ex-convict and member of the Aberrant group.

"Don't worry," he said "I don't bite."

He rummaged through a pocket in his jacket and pulled out a packet of cigarettes and a cheap Bic lighter.

/ Sphere looks around for an ashtray, trying to work out if Endeavor minds people smoking in her house /

"So, either of you done this kind of thing before. Gone sub-aqua I mean?"

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Neil looks at Regan to see if she wants to go first. After a second or two, he turns to Sphere and begins,

"I was with Walker and company when we went to the moon. That was this spring, and it was Fan-Tastic! So, I understand you teleport, as well as through around some serious quantum death. Can you survive underwater, or are you going to need some diving training?"

"I don't mean to be nosy, but it looks like I will be mission-doc on this one."

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Sphere chuckles to himself.

"Yeah going underwater's no biggy. As a matter of fact it was how I got out of England when I erupted. Sodding Directive were all over the airports, and I hadn't got my 'porting power then. So I got myself a sturdy GPS handheld and walked across the bottom of the channel to France. Bit dark down there, but tons of wrecks. Saw a U-boat on my second day."

He drops his jacket onto the back of a chair and takes another look around. Shrugs, then lights up a cigarette.

Then it hits him.

"The moon? You kidding?"

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Jacques steps through the shimmering portal and arrives at the gate. He waves to any visible cameras and takes the same way in that Sphere used earlier.

His skin is a dark bluegrey, his eyes are black like a shark's and he is completely hairless as far as can be seen. Jacques is two meters tall and heavily muscled. Buendida sunglasses perch atop his forehead, a white tanktop, baggy black shorts, Marten boots, a big camera case and a giant backpack completes the dress. Attached to the backpack straps is a chip-player and two loudspeakers from which the 2007 Supernova Remix of KMFDM's Godlike blares. Trailing beside him, seemingly floating in the air, is an open box filled with bottles of whiskey.

Reaching the others, Jacques shuts off his chip-player, smiles at everybody present (all teeth looks human), and greets them:

"Hi all, I'm Jacob, Jack, Jacques... Hammerhead. Glad to finally meet you. Please call me Jacques. Walker had some stuff to do, so he sent me through first to get rid of me." He smiles even more widely at his last words.

Jacques proceeds to pump hands, taking care not to hurt anyone.

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"The moon? You kidding?"

Neil gives a shrug and calmly says,

"Moon? Yeah, no biggie."

He looks away for a moment, then turns back with an impish smile,

"Hell MAN! It was AWESOME! You have got to talk Walker or Endeavor into it at some time."

Neil seems absolutely thrilled with the idea of moonwalking and space travel.

Seeing Hammerhead come in,

Hi all, I'm Jacob, Jack, Jacques... Hammerhead. Glad to finally meet you. Please call me Jacques. Walker had some stuff to do, so he sent me through first to get rid of me."

"No problems, Jacob ... What do you want to be called?"

"I'm Neil Preston. Call me Neil. Welcome to Casa del Endeavor."

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As the people in the meeting hall start kibitzing, an automatic door is heard opening behind them.

"Ahem. Neil, the proper name for this place is the Endeavor Point Mobile Research Platform." Sakurako chimes out this as she steps into the room.

She looks over the room as she steps into the large room overlooking the compound, and the various landmarks in the area. Her entrance wasn't shocking, just as she intended. She only means to be somewhere precisely when she means to. Not to mention she wanted to give people time to arrive at Endeavor Point and navigate themselves through the hallways of the massive compound.

She adjusts her "silly" sailor hat with her index finger a bit before adjusting her glasses. Which seem a couple of sizes larger than needed, although the glasses are meant as a wearable visual computer display and not for her eyes.

Her white sailor collar blouse is par for the course, but the white slacks with it are somewhat out of "costume" for what is typically envisioned of her. She's usually known for skirts. The black patent leather shoes she wears make a soft noise as she moves toward the table. She has her usually long pink hair done up in a bun near the nape of her neck, and for her young physical look, she does look mature.

She takes her lap-top and plugs it into the table and warms up the table's internal projection display, then sits down adjusting her scarf.

"So ready to find out what we'll be doing?" She says, knowing that there will still be introductions, but she's too used to being "professional".

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"Jacques it is too bad, walker is not here yet.He is the main reason I am here.But, still it is good to be in such company.Wouldn't you agree?"

Her words were calm,sweet...Even motherly.It sounded as if she truly cared,about what he thought.

"Now Neil,remember I could be your mother,and your father hates me,because that he sees himself in me.Now, keep those two things in your head,and I think we could be good friends."

She could say something to Endeavor,but not yet.After she was given the chance to look at the devisees already.She wouldn't scan them now.

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"Ahem. Neil, the proper name for this place is the Endeavor Point Mobile Research Platform."

Neil gives Endeavor a bashful smile, then adds in a jokingly sulky voice,

"I still prefer Super-Battle Fortress Endeavor, but she's your baby."

"Now Neil,remember I could be your mother,and your father hates me,because that he sees himself in me.Now, keep those two things in your head,and I think we could be good friends."

Neil blinks and pauses while he thinks about what Signy said.

"Signy, it would be better if you didn't refer to my mother. She is still a sore subject. As for my dad, I don't think he hates you. He may disagree with the work you do, but then there is his feud with DeVries and Project Utopia, so you are in good company."

Neil shrugs.

"Besides, I just met you. I will form whatever relationship we end up having with what I learn about you in person."

Looking over to Regan, he adds,

"I am getting a little worried about women telling me you're too young. It really can get to a guy. I am 23 years old, ya know?"

Neil shares a sly smile with Regan over that.

Turning back to Endeavor,

"So ready to find out what we'll be doing?"

"Lead on, Endeavor ... as long as you aren't going to tell me that I'm too young, as well."

Neil seems irrepressably happy.

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"I still prefer Super-Battle Fortress Endeavor, but she's your baby."

She adjusts her glasses for a moment, thinking about his remark. It was obviously a joke, but Endeavor lately has been... machine like when it comes to humor. "I'm sorry, Neil, but I'm not interested in developing a battle station. This place is purely for research and development of technology beneficial to Human and Nova kind... Er... You were joking werent you?" She finally caught it.

After she sits down, and everyone gets some words in...

"Lead on, Endeavor ... as long as you aren't going to tell me that I'm too young, as well."

"That would purely be my intent. I will go over the basics shortly. The system is still loading the specifics on the dive site. So, the basics should be fine and dandy. I would just like a few stragglers to pop in." She pats with her left hand the new robes she made for Vixen. Then, with a sheepish tone...

"So, how is everyone today?"

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On Endeavor's security system, at the entrance to Endeavor Point, two individuals are sighted.

One of them, the man, is wearing a faded jean jacket and jeans, and a Banzai Institute T-shirt, think glasses on his face. The other, the woman, is smartly dressed in an orange blazer and pants, white blouse and black gloves and boots. Green sunglasses hang on her nose as she waves into the security camera.

The man presses the intercom button. "Pardon us - party of two arriving?"

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With a bit more seriousness,

"Yes, I was joking. Are you feeling okay? I mean, beyond having most of your powers stripped away by some kid."

Neil scans Endeavor. Quietly he mutters,

"I wish I had a preliminary reading to go off of."

Then, he shrugs, hears the doorbell, and heads back to the entrance. Looking over his shoulder,

"Do you mind if I get that?"

{{Unless stopped ...}}

Neil opens the door wide. With mock formality,

"Ah! Doctors Lang and Richardson, I presume."

Neil bows and steps back and to the side.

"Greetings. We have been expecting you."

As the two (hopefully) step forward, Neil will extend his hand to Mitch and say,

"Hey. I'm Dr. Neil Preston, MD. Call me Neil, please. Cool Banzai Institute shirt. What's your Blue Blazer rank?"

Neil gives Mitch a wink.

He will take Vixen's hand if offered, and add,

"Hey there. I'm Neil."

Neil gives the impression of a very happy guy with a zest for living. His accent is New England and his ring says Harvard. Let the old school rivalries begin!

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Sphere takes a drag on his cigarette and nods to Endeavor.

"Cheers for letting me tag along on this. Nice place you got here."

He looks at the rapidly growing group of Novas with some curiosity. His node's humming in the presence of so much quantum activity. But he's feeling calm and, for the first time in a while, relaxed.

"Lot of people. You expecting any Terat-types? It'd complete the set" he chuckles.

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Regan inclines her head to the various newcomers and introduces herself. Her accent is clearly Australian, but nevertheless educated and precise, and her manner is subdued yet intent, as if she is trying to stare into everybody's bodies and read their minds.

{{The staring-at-people thing is one of my biggest sins as an Aspergers' person, so why shouldn't my PC suffer from it? wink }}

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"Endeavor,you ever hear the saying,the only thing you can't and don't choose,is the fact you have to choose"

Signy looks back to Codex,her smile widening,as she lets the woman look into to her mind.Letting her see,the worse parts of the future and past.From, slaughtering of pagans, burning of witches,blind hate towards those who are different,the sight of mushroom shaped clouds,cities reduced to ruble,starving children.

"So, Miss McLachlan,do you like what you are seeing?It is all real,and what I wake up to everyday."

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At Neil's remark, Mitch laughs. "I am Professor Mitch Lang, Blue Blazer Irregular in training, on call to help the Banzai Institute For Biomedical Engineering and Strategic Information in tracking down the remaining suspects in the explosion at YoYoDyne Propuls-"

Vixen rolls her eyes and takes Neil's hand. "Now you've done it. He'll be in Buckaroo Banzai mode for the next ten minutes. Hello again, Neil. Seems we wind up exploring all the fun spots, first the moon and now this."

Vixen smiles warmly at the other group members as well. "Good to see you all again... or for the first time. Woah, Sakurako... you wern't kidding when you said things had changed..." She looks sympathetically at Sakurako, and then even more sympathetically at Regan.

"So, uh. This is my first dive. Believe it or not I only just learnt to swim a couple months ago. How deep are we going?"

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Sakurako straightens out the scarf of her blouse, which is neatly tied and knotted, still uncomfortable with her new situation. She knows most people would die for becoming young again, but this was... unexpected and a little over the top, even for Sakurako's past history.

Sakurako then slides the robes she made for Vixen over to her. A smile on her face.

"Well, Vixen, I thought I'd do a better one. I think the gold accenting was a nice touch. And it is great to see that you are up and about nicely. I'm sure you're looking foreward to getting wet with everyone else. We will be about 120 feet deep, and don't worry, we have enough people here to keep an eye on ya if anything happens. You know me, I always have a precaution for most situations."

Sakurako then brings up an oceanic contour map of the Japan region, and highlights the large triangular island that is one of Japan's most recognizable features. Hokkaido.

The screen then zooms into a region that is under water just off of it's coastline.

"Ladies and gents, it's time to get down to business. Here is what we're looking at."

A sonar composite appears over the contour map, revealing the ruins of an ancient settlement.

"This is where we will be making our dive. Our primary goal is to get as much photographic and scientific data as we possibly can of the region. There is a secondary goal in mind."

Sakurako's facial expression turns grim as she moves the focus of the display windo to a location just outside of the archaeological zone.

"There is something that my government has asked me to help them with. There was an incident no more than a week or two ago involving a medium-sized boat being operated by the marine biology department of Tokyo University."

The wreckage of a boat, plain as day, taken by sonar survey takes resolution.

"Onboard is a black box. It's a video record of the event that happened that sank the boat. A Nova was involved, but he has since been apprehended. Why the Japanese government wants the video data is to see if this was the work of a lone terrorist, or a group."

Sakurako tugs on the bottom part of her blouse, straightening it.

"If anyone here wants out, or has doubts about this secondary part of the trip, Be sure to let me know because I will be retrieving that box. Let's just say I have a personal involvement in the case. I won't think any less of you if you take a rain check."

Sakurako then smiles

"But at the very least, I'm sure those here won't want to miss the archaelogical site. So, who's in, and who's out?"

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Neil will joke with Mitch until the conversation turns serious.

"So we are going to be poking around in an area that maybe some terrorist organization has an interest in?"

"Sound dangerous. Count me in, but I warn you, my black belt is from Macy's. It will definitely be a plus to have some people along who can use more than harsh language, incase someone tries a repeat performance of that poor vessel."

"Were any people onboard the research vessel killed?"

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"Neil, he was only interested in the boat. The reason I do not know and neither does my government. Also I do not have reason to believe we ourselves will be in any danger other than those provided by nature."

Sakurako sighs.

"The thing that is personal for me, is that a friend was onboard. She survived, infact it was the trauma of seeing all her friends die before her that caused her eruption. Her eruption caused my current state."

Sakurako then slumps back into her chair.

"The reason why this is personal, is she is looking for just as much info on why her boat was attacked as I am."

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Sphere steps forward.

"I'm in. Not too sure how much use I'll be on the boffin side of things, but if some nonces turn up looking for trouble I'm sure I can convince them to walk away."

He clenches his fist and a spitting football-sized globe of white-hot plasma appears momentariy around it. Simultaneously a faint blue sphere of light, approximately 6ft across, appears around him.

He steps back and nudges Preston.

"S'not like the Aberrants hired me for my good looks."

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