Dark Light

December 01, 2018:

Kang encounters Enchantress over a rift in Metropolis. Things are surprisingly not explosive.

Suicide Slums - Metropolis

"Slums may well be breeding grounds of crime, but the suburbs outside of here are incubators of apathy and delirium."

Welcome to the Suicide Slums, also known as Southside and The Simon Project. This area is the dark recess of Metropolis, where every corner you take can likely be your last, and the glimmer of hope that glistens off the skyscrapers ceases.

The high rises here are in shambles and disrepair, the markets seem shadier, pretty much verging on that of Black Markets, and the malice is a palpable feeling in the air, if not coming from the looks of the local residents.

Those that benefit from this neighborhood are the ones who can make money from nothing, or come from nothing and seek to have that glimmer on the other side of the pipe-lain wall. Prostitution, gambling, drug dealing, criminalizing - all of this is where most start and never find their way up and out, and if they do, it is likely running the business they started at or heading the gang they ran with, though tales are told of those that have broken free.

Streets bear potholes, newspapers roll across the roads like tumbleweeds and an old lady dumps trash from the upper story of her flat to splash into the dark alley below where a stray cat growls and runs from it all, even the rapid fire of bullets.


NPCs: None.


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

When the demons and their portals came to terrorize New York, all of the other cities on the eastern seaboard, whether they openly admitted it or not, and not least of all, Metropolis and Gotham, breathed a sigh of relief. Not their city, not their problem. Let New York bear the burden of whatever the hell, literally, had been unleashed up there.

But now the demons were gone, and the portals with them. And in their wake, rising panic. No city was safe. All along the eastern seaboard, rifts has winked in and out of being. people had disappeared, popping in and out, some had not even come back. Not yet. Possibly not ever again.

Perhaps there were people who were actively searching for the lost, the missing, and others who were trying to discover their secrets and work out the solution to this new terror. The dusky skinned woman standing in front of a rift which glowed bright enough to illuminate nearly half a block of the slums was, probably, not that sort. or perhaps she was. She stood close enough to the rift that if it had been a solid thing, she would have been able to reach out and touch it. And perhaps, in her way, she was, as her fingers danced in the light, the way a person, robbed of sight, might feel something to learn the sense of it. And, in some odd way, she seemed to be at war with it. She stood, in ragged cloth and metal, wreathed in a swirl of dark smoke and bright embers, which seems to be in some sort of silent competition against the light of the rift. Dark light on one side, white on the other.


Nathaniel spent the weeks of the Inferno in Europe, embroiled in scientific and diplomatic troubles of bizarre nature and unable to communicate with the other Avengers -not they were responding given the state of Stark Tower, the long coma of Stark himself and the lockdown of the Avenger Mansion.

Now everything is back to normal, but the Avengers are still in disarray. He has been unable to talk with Tony in person, too busy with rebuilding and diverse projects. Nathaniel himself is also busy, but he organizes his time better. And needs less sleep.

Current project. The study of the rifts. Which Nate is conducting from Metropolis because Tony is covering New York. Also, his armor sensors are still finding a good deal of extra-dimensional static in the Big Apple. Lingering energy from the so-called demon invasion, he theorizes. Metropolis is more stable.

Except for the Suicide Slum. All kinds of weirdness there. Including one of the largest Inhuman communities of America. A good number of mutants and a smaller but not irrelevant number of illegal extra-planetary aliens. Iron Guard generally avoids this neighborhood. It has its own Guardians.

Not today, he is rift-chasing and one of them just opened here. He is detecting all kind of exotic particle streams and the armor is not responding as smoothly as it should. Interferences in the hyper-flow power transmissions warnings.

The armor is still quiet enough thanks to the antigrav systems, so it is possible Nathaniel spots Enchantress before she does. And man, she is an odd one. Even for the Suicide Slum. Nathaniel runs a search-and-recognizement protocol right away. The result is a bit baffling. Enchantress is classified as a super-criminal, yet not wanted by the US justice. He almost blasted her right there. Instead he lands a few yards from here and raises a hand, palm out, as greetings. "Good… morning." Yes, he is more polite than the typical super-hero. Ironic that too.


Enchantress' hands stilled on the rift, the war between her darkness and its light simmering down until it was almost incidental, as though the woman had been actively agitating it, the way one could make ripples in a pond by repeatedly sticking their fingers into the smooth surface of the water. She did not lower her hands, but she did turn her head far enough to taking in the armored man that just set down not but a few feet from her. "You smell familiar. But you stink of time. You are much more interesting than the one you remind me of."


Time smells? That is a peculiar statement that gives Nathaniel a moment of pause. "Of all possibilities for enhances senses… detecting time-travelers by scent was not one I had imagined, much less cataloged."

That is science humor, or something. "It is the tachyon signature? Yet it must be almost gone after three years. Or perhaps the vibrational d-string?" He sounds genuinely curious now. Hard to judge since the helmet hides his face.

On the other hand he is quite aware it is an excellent survival trait to develop for the man that would-be-Kang to be able to spot other time travelers before they see him.


"I do not know your science, though I have seen many make use of it. The words you use have no meaning for me. Time is. It settles like dust on your shoulders. Like snow in winter. It collects in the secret places and can be gathered or torn apart, but it always leaves a wound where it was broken." Enchantress looked away from the young man who both looks like and not, like the one who believes he is the lord of his domain, hidden away in his tower. "It is like this…both here and not here, like smoke on the water." She reached out, tapping her fingers against the rift, which rippled, giving off a burst of light and a sound that was high and almost forlorn. "But you do not want to go where this one leads."


"Science is not mine, science is everything - all the questions and all the answers," replies the armored man. Time 'settles like snow in winter' is -really- different. Then again Enchantress is… quite the character, according to the file he receiving from the UN databanks through the neural interface.

Definitely not someone to provoke. His armor reacts poorly to 'magical' attacks.

"Ah, yes, the so-called rifts," he agrees. And he finally can study one up and close. "But no, I suppose the focus is how to close them and prevent more to form. They are a threat to human life. Someone or something is diverting much energy to this… hmm, sensor readings provide no obvious point of origin."


"Science is neither the beginning nor the end of all things. Much exists in the world that what you call science cannot explain. That has always been the truth at the core of all things." Enchantress paused a moment, as if she were trying to recall something. When she spoke again, there was something almost lyrical in her normally slightly abrasive voice. 'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.' She smiled, though there was something inward facing in that smile, as if it were not meant for the armored man. "My June taught me that." She does step back from the rift, "If you wish to examine this one, you may approach."


Nathaniel tilts his head at the statement. "You quote Shakespeare, and a good one," remarks the armored man. "Yet I came from a time where all the things in heaven and earth are dreamt and turned into mathematics."

He steps forward, "which does not mean I hold all that knowledge right now, of course. This spatial breach is quite the mystery. I sent drones through one of the Rifts and… they are gone from space-time. Reports of survivors are nonsensical."


"Yes, that is what she called him. The man who spoke those words into being." Enchantress stepped back from the rift, the dark cloud that surrounded her pulling away from the light of the rift like salt water taffy. "Perhaps in your time it is different. Or perhaps there are simply no more beings remaining who remember what it was to embrace those things which science cannot explain. I would have to travel there myself to see it for myself." She left more than enough room for the iron man (lower case) to study the rift without fear that she would spring on him when his back was turned.


Now Nate bites his tongue. Physical reality is not defined by memories and beliefs, although he is acutely aware there are planes of reality where it does. Maybe Enchantress comes from one of those. He is not sure she is human/meta-human. As usual with supernaturals his armor is no help. He lacks the knowledge to understand the readings. (Yet!).

But he is not so trusting as not to keep an eye on the Enchantress. The woman being behind him does not mean he is not watching. He never relies on his eyes while inside the armor.

A minute of silence. "I believe I can close it, but… that is not enough. I do not know how to prevent a new one from opening." He pauses a few seconds, then decides it is too important to not to ask. "Do you?"


Enchantress is, in reality, neither of those things, though perhaps her host might now be, now that she plays host to the witch. Enchantress, however, seemed to give little to no reaction, as the armored man studied the rift. She simply waited, as if she were interested in whatever information he might glean from it, "I can close it. Or I could open it wider, if you wished to look beyond, but that way lies madness for you. You would look into the heart of a dark star and be lost." She gives a moment of consideration, before she responded to the question, "Not yet, but each one I encounter…I learn from it."


"Yes, exploring several rifts seems the right method to approach the problem," admits Nathaniel. As for her statement about madness, he will quietly disagree. His mind is far better prepared to deal with mind-blowing concepts than your average 21st Century human. By design, not evolution. "We close it. Do you want to make the honors, or should I?"


Enchantress nodded, as she stepped up to stand beside the armored man. As soon as she approached, that same odd play between its light and her shadow began again, not quite like oil and water, but close. "I do not yet know if there is a single intelligence behind these rendings or if they are simply something gone mad in the fabric of the world. But it is curious, is it not, that it seems only to take or effect sentient beings? That it takes some and returns others. It is almost as if it is hunting for something. Like a creature tasting a morsel and either consuming it, if it finds the taste to its liking, or spitting it out again, if not." She lifted a hand, her fingers seeming to dig into the edge of the rift, "I will close it." She paused, looking over to the man, "If you are certain you are finished with it."


"I would assume it is a hostile intelligence, pretty much for the reasons you mentioned," points out Iron Guard. That is, targeting human beings. "I have taken all the recordings I need except for the way it closes on its own. But I will not wait here. This rift has opened in a too densely populate area. It needs to go as soon as feasible."

His right arm is already reconfiguring, growing and shifting like a living thing. If the Enchantress can't close the rift he will by shattering the boundaries with particle pulses.


"Very well." Enchantress raised her other hand, the darkness that swirled around her congealing around her fingers as she worked. If it had been hair she was working on, it would have looked as though she were braiding the strands together, the light disappearing in time to the working of her hands, as she moved from the top of the rift to the bottom. "If there is some intelligence behind it, it might also be worthwhile for you to investigate those whom have been taken, and consider who has come back and who has not. And what they may or may not have in common." Enchantress was many things, but she was not unintelligent. "They call me the Enchantress. But you already knew that."


"Unfortunately, because of the recent raid to New York, such information is not yet reliable," they are still finding some corpses in odd places all over the city area, after all. But also thousands left for Metropolis and other cities and have yet to tell the government where they are right now.

He waits for the rift to close, taking some more readings for his own research. Enchantress might not be the enemy today, but she has a reputation. "I did know… although I do not know if that is how you want to be called," he remarks.


"One does not need to have all of the information to begin to search for answers. Begin with the things you do know and continue from there. The newspapers and television are reporting these rendings, and the time when these began to appear is known. My June reads the news every morning and they seem to have taken an interest in reporting these abductions and reappearances. And no doubt the police and other such services know more than these reporters." She only shrugged, as the man confirmed her comment, "A name is only a thing. This is the one they have chosen for me."


Again Iron Guard opts to keep quiet. He has access to many databases to keep tabs on missing people. There are better detectives than him on the case, too. "Of course. I am not working alone in this matter, Enchantress. But your advice is welcomed." He nods to the sorceress and hovers up slowly. "Farewell for now."


If Enchantress felt affronted by the fact that the man had not introduced himself to her, as she had done to him, it did not show on her face. "I should make a note of this moment, for it will not come again." It was very rare that anyone thanked Enchantress for anything, "Farewell."

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