Rifts In Reality: Between

January 05, 2019:

Avengers…and others assemble to hunt the the source of the rifts.

Avengers Mansion, Later Between

The rift is super spooky. Avengers Mansion, not so much.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Charles Xavier, Bruce Banner

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The portals have shown no signs of stopping. And to some thinking, they are getting 'worse'. Worse, in that they are starting to dump out bizarre interdimensional creatures onto the very streets of the city. Creatures that are confused and vicious and have no idea what world they are in (or are no longer in). The fights have been ongoing.

And worst of all, perhaps, many heroes are still missing and unaccounted for. The enormous lists available in the Avengers HQ rooms are not small, by any means. Heroes that noramlly would be called to action are nowhere to be found.

Today, though, a call has gone out to a trusted few, from Tony Stark. He has a stable portal (in theory) that leads to where, he says, the entity is that is causing all of the problems.

Avengers, Assemble.

And others, too. A few of those!

The staging area is at the Avengers mansion, in the back yard. A huge arc made of literal 'high tech gizmo insanity' made physical is present, with one Tony Stark near it, poking at his mobile tech machines that have been brought outside. Within the arc is a misty, swirling white and gray nothingness, tendrils of smoke shuddering through and out of it ever so often. It doesn't look exactly 'safe'.

-
On the comm frequency Clint Barton's voice is heard as he stands there with arms folded over his chest, talking sidelong towards the inventor billionaire. He touches a fingertip to the ear piece as he talks as if to make sure the link is good, "So Tony, how big of a barrel did you have to find to scrape off the bottom of it for this shindig?"

Not exactly the best way to win friends and influence people. Clint smirks sidelong as he offers this observation even while he keys his quiver through a few cycles, making sure the arrowheads match what he's expecting.

-

Natasha Romanoff is here in the Avengers backyard, she's not doing a lot at the moment though. In full suit and gear, the redhead is walking around the perimeter of the yard and talking with a member of the property's security unit (Even the Avengers need a property security team focused on that one goal!).

Her eyes are occasionally flickering over to where Stark has his 'thing'. "It'll either make things way better, or way worse." She quietly tells the tall security officer she's walking along beside.

-

The woman who crossed the grounds, after being scanned and having permission granted for entry, was no Avenger. Nor did she seem to have come from any group, at least to judge by the simple black clothing she wore, any particular superhero affiliation. Black urban style combat jumpsuit and a long black leather duster was about as covert as she seemed to get Because really, the rose-coloured glasses she wore did nothing at all to hide her face. As the walked, the duster flew open enough to reveal the weaponry, guns mostly, that she carried with her. Once she was close enough, though, a small also matte-black pin seems to have been stuck onto the lapel of her jacket as an afterthought. A less garish version of a 'hi, my name is…' sticker. That at least was familiar. It was the X that had so often put the X in X-Men. The name was Sage, but she didn't offer that either.

-

Nathaniel has been working with the team of Pym Industries and in contact with other scientists and brainiacs all over the world. Including some probably most Avengers wouldn't approve.

But science is science, right?

He also sent all the data to Tony, since the older man is usually faster at figuring out solutions for problems. Dangerous solutions usually. The kind Nathaniel has been trained to avoid since he was in the crib.

But he is trying to get over this kind of thinking. It will start doing dangerous engineering and mad science soon!

Stepping into the labs of the mansion in full armor, he pauses at seeing the arc. "Mr. Stark? Er… that portal is not stabilized." Pause, "but I suppose we can't wait anymore, right?"

-

"You know, if you poke at things, they tend to poke back." Oracle speaks through Tony's comm units, having gained access to them earlier. The green mask of the feminine form gives no real clue as to who is behind the mask - just that she's trusted by Batman - which should speak to her skills. "I have my scanners going. Though the fluctuations are already rather — all over the place at the moment."

Sitting up in the Clocktower in Gotham, Barbara is looking at all the screens and the feedbacks that are coming through as she agrees with the new voice. "..stable is not the word I would use." she admits.

-

Standing nearby Clint was the Sensational She-Hulk. She had her arms crossed as she eyed the portal that had been set up. Her expression showed exactly wary she was feeling about this but, honestly, she wasn't one to keep her opinions to herself. Thus, she spoke up.

"I saw an old TV show with one of these in it. Every time they used it, things got screwed up worse than they were to begin with." She gives a shrug as she lowers her arms to her sides, breaking into a big smile. "Right up my alley. Do I have to wait or can I just go start the festivities and you guys can catch up?"

-

While Nadia Van Dyne isn't an Avenger and her history with the Red Room mean she's probably drawing the attention of a good portion of the security team she's also on the invite list for this excusion between dimensions. After all she /is/ a supergenius whose area of expertise is in theoretical physics and has been acting as the main liaison between Pym Industries and Nathaniel.

She's come prepared in her Wasp costume and is making the final adjustments on a whole suite of specialised scientific equipment. "I'm sure the portal will be fine," Nadia re-assures, with a hint of a Russian accent. "But if something does go wrong I'll be bringing everything we need to try and force open a portal from the other side. Along with field rations to last six months." She glances at She-Hulk and frowns. "Providing everyone has a fairly standard metabolic rate."

-

"I scrape, and hey, here you are," Tony answers Clint offhandedly with only part of his attention, smirk lofty. He's busy, as usual. He does pause to start to count heads, and then changes his mind. "Barton, since you're clearly keeping track, see if they're all here and ready to go," Tony says, tossing a handheld tablet at him with a smooth underhand motion. "While I make sure this doesn't implode the yard." A pause. "The nature of the beast is instability. I'm winging it."

That's got to give everyone all sorts of cozy warm fuzzies. But then, Tony almost always wings it. And things get blown up sometimes, but the rest of the time…..

"I'm not going inside, because if, ha ha, something goes awry, you'll want me fixing it here. Oracle, I've got a toy for you, for inside, if you're up for it. Full remote access. I'm sending you the control permissions now…." Tony pauses, attention now fully into his hologram control board. A robot unfolds nearby: the armored character he's offering to Oracle to remote-pilot.

"Hey, let me give my speech first? Wouldn't want to miss out on seeing me live and in person giving a proper uplifting and entirely not-doomsday speech," Tony teases She-Hulk.

-

"That's been my finding as well," Clint replies to Babs even as he covers the small microphone with his hand as he tilts his head towards Jen and gives her a half-grin and a shrug as if to cop to the charges likely placed at his feet. But it's a half-grin that probably earns him an eyeroll form the green gal. He does keep out of the way of the big brains, however, keeping close enough as to react if needs be.

For now is operational parameters are hold tight, keep eyes open, and if something goes pear-shaped to shoot it.

Also he snorts a bit at Tony's comment, but leaves it untouched. That tablet is taken up and he turns to look over the assembled and the still arriving. He starts to make check marks where needed and then when he doesn't recognize someone. Like Sage. He cocks an eyebrow at them pointedly.

-

Natasha separates herself from the person she's walking with and she moves to stand near to the back patio's staircase edge. Her arms cross together over her stomach and she just stares at the activity that Stark is up to, though of course her gaze drifts over to the others who've arrived, Sage and Nadia in particular. She-Hulk's comments get a slight smirk from the redhead as well, who otherwise just stands and remains on-alert and observant.

-

"What, I don't get my own Iron Man suit? I might be offended." Oracle's voice teases playfully, even as in the Clocktower, Barbara is using the controls, once the permissions are acquired to slip into the control schematic. It's not much different than remotely controlling many of the Bat-themed robotics and machines that she is used to handling from afar. "We'll see if Stark Wi-fi is intradimensional." she points out.

"And it will make a good anchor point for Miss Van Dyne, should we find the door closing behind us." Barbara offers, as Oracle's protocols finally take over, and the robot stretches out before offering a bow towards Nadia and the others.

-

At the eyeing by Nadia, Shulkie can't help but snicker a bit, nudging Clint with an elbow. Which likely will mess up whatever he's doing on the screen so—bonus points!

"Do I look like there is anything fairly standard about me?" She glances down at herself pointedly then looks to Nadia and then to the assembled Avengers and whoever else they might be. "And if anyone says yes to that, I will cry. Loud, blubbering, eyes swelling and the whole shebang." She doesn't sound the least bit serious about it.

She does give Tony her attention. "Tony, I thought the uplifting speech department was covered by the star-spangled member? But sure, give it a go. Might be entertaining to watch."

-

"Sage." Was offered in return, as Clint looked her way. But she offered nothing else beyond that. Hey! She had a nice shiney button and everything. She did glance towards Natasha as well as She-Hulk though, as they did, in point of fact, seem to be assembling. "Quite a small group, for such a grand adventure." All offered in that deadpan voice.

-

"Yes, we have been working on transdimensional transmission," explains Iron Guard. "We kept sending drones through the portals without success, but I think we got all the bugs out. It is not quite omni-wave, but it should work with the proper relays, which are in place."

He offers holographic schematics for the scientistic types to peruse. They just hover in there, complex equations scribbled among them.

-

With all her gear packed and ready, Nadia can't resist the urge to flitter in the air on her suits wings and check Tony's work as he adjusts his portal equipment. "For some reason I thought your math would be more…" she crosses her arms and sighs. "Elegant. But I suppose it seems functional enough."

She spins around in the air and beams a smile at Mecha-Babs "I do not know if they will work between the destination dimension and the quantum realms, but I'm going to leave at least two of the Pym Industries dimensional beacons. Hopefully this will give us plenty of redundancy when it comes to getting back." She glances again at the security team. "I will leave you with the specifications so you can confirm no bugging devices are present."

-

Sage turned, as she saw a familiar figure entering into the protected compound, moving away from Clint and towards the approaching X-Men, who actually was likely to be much more familiar to the group, one would think, than she was. "Stark believes he has found the source of the rift disturbances. he will be monitoring the gateway he's created, while we travel inside to try to determine the source of the rifts and find a way to correct it. If we are very lucky, we may find some of the people who have been lost." Which was a hell of a hope, but hey. "These are…the rest of the team."

-

"Seeing as there are no stars or spangles here, you'll get the rare treat of hearing me," Tony replies to She-Hulk, without looking up at first. He then finishes inputting the settings, pulls down some bright blue tinted glasses off his forehead to his eyes, and visually examines the portal as if expecting it to erupt. It doesn't, and he smiles smoothly to those gathered. A raise of brow is given to Nadia. Why everyone feels a need to belittle what he's doing, what a mystery. "You're one of Pym's, aren't you. There's 'elegant', and then there's raw power and speed. Live a little." The racing stripes on things mean something.

Abruptly, some of the speakers channel his voice; no excuse for anyone to not hear him, as he faces the group. "All right, everyone. Avengers and various guests, and others. The portals, as you know, are linking places together, but the cause of it is in this place between portals. We've got to make contact with it, possibly smush it, but if it wants to talk, great. I'm expecting some kind of intelligence, based on the behaviors so far."

"We know a few things about this between area: you can't interact with either side of the world: this one, or wherever you are going, so don't bother to try. There are others stuck in there with you, possibly hostile, but we're looking for something that looks more like a giant white and pink dust-bunny. I've got some equipment via that robot that Oracle has, which has some tracking. I'll share those signals to you, Iron Guard, Wasp. Should be enough to triangulate, even if it's moving. Sage, carry a spare, in case someone gets wrapped up in fighting or turned into a pot of petunias. Questions?"

-

"We does what we cans with whats we gots." Clint replies even as he keeps fiddling with the tablet to keep up the roster and complete the busy work given to him by Stark. At least it keeps him most likely out of trouble for the most part even as Jen nudges him with her elbow and he scowls at having to go back a few lines to make sure he's got Nadia keyed in.

Tilting his head as he looks up and he says in no direct reaction to anyone in particular. "Everyone pays for their ticket." For some reason it might make sense in his own head.

Once that's done he keys the ready button after everyone is signed in for the monitoring and comms, then initiates the group comm link to start a few check ins and clicks. It's just all to get the right ducks in a row. Towards Babs he'll comment, "So you serve as a wifi hub? Was figuring on catching up on some Netflix."

-

As Psylocke approaches the others, each gets a cursory glance. Her gaze rests just a little longer on the familiar face of Sage, whom she remembers from an unorthodox meeting some time ago. Then, she turns her eyes more intently on this portal. If there is trepidation within her, it doesn't show. Only determination. Spoiler alert: Oh yeah. There's trepidation.

-

"You try that, and I'll show the team your PornHub history." Oracle responds. Whether or not Tony has one, Barbara is coy about, however, the mecha Oracle waits for the others to set. "I suggest sending in the robots first - in case you know, it's not exactly friends waiting for us on the other side."

-

"We can't discount the creature responsible for the rifts may also be hostile and exceedingly powerful," adds Nathaniel, stepping closer to the portal. "The power to open so many space-time rifts so quickly speaks of great power levels, and the fact it has targeted living beings hints a certain disregard for the lives of others. I suppose we will know soon," he concludes, moving into the gateway.

-

Natasha's green eyed gaze turns when Psylocke appears. Thats an X-Men face she recognizes even if she doesn't know the woman that well. "Charles still missing?" She asks Betsy then before she gives a glance back toward the others, ready to follow their lead on this. "I feel like I saw this movie once, and it ended poorly for everyone involved." That is said in a much grimmer tone.

-

"I'll be there for you…" Psylocke replies to Tony, utterly deadpan, as she adjusts bracers and thigh straps that apparently seem to do nothing but draw attention to her thighs. Then, to the others, "Like…I've been there before…"

-

Sage nodded to Tony, as she finished giving Betsy the short short version of the mission, stepping away to pick up one of the spare transmitters, and then snagged a spare, which she carried back to Betsy, offering it to the woman, as she attached the one she'd taken for herself to her belt, "If electronic communications go down, we may need to do this the old fashion way." The mention of Xavier earned Natasha another look, but Sage left the answer to the woman to whom the question was offered. "I'm ready to make entry."

-

Nadia Van Dyne nods to Tony as she flits around the Avengers Yard. "He is my father, although I've never had the pleasure of meeting him. But I imagine he would probably get very annoyed with your implications. Our tech is just as quick as yours Mister Stark and we spend a lot less on reconstruction." Of course as everyone begins to move towards the rift she closes the visor on her helmet. "Personally I hope we can resolve this issue peacefully. We should do everything we can to stop our dimension from getting an unsavory reputation. We still haven't ruled out that this could be a misunderstanding."

"What we are facing on the other side isn't likely friendly. It is likely overwhelming, angry, screechy, and very bitey," Psylocke adds. "Think of it as a weekend retreat with a rabid Gilbert Gottfried."

-

"Or my last couple of Tinder dates." Oracle bot deapdans.

-

Suddenly the whole misty white and gray portal twists and drop away, leaving a view of the mansion windows and walls past the portal, instead.

Tony looks at it with zero surprise, just annoyance. He consults his screens, taps a button. With a flood of gray, the portal resumes.

"It's fine," Tony assures with confidence. He picks up the soft drink from the side of the console, sipping it while he keys in some modifications with his other hand. He shows a thumbs up to the team. And is distracted by some Psylocke thigh.

-

Stepping around and grabbing one of the electronic gear carriers, Clint draws it around and turns it about so he can drop down and sit on it It makes a faint scraping sound as it's drawn about and with little ado he's slouching forwards almost petulantly as he holds up his chin with one hand. He makes a loud mouth smacking sound and then says sideways towards the billionaire. "Any time now, Stark."

-

"I'm going with the robots." Shulkie doesn't ask. She just opts to be in the front lines. It's really her sort of thing, after all. Taking lots of damage but still managing to stay in a fight. She heads to the front of the group just as the portal flickers off.

As it comes back on, she glances to Tony. "Not inspiring confidence there." Then she is with the bots ready to go through.

-

"What is a Gilbert Gottfried? Or a Tinder?" Wasp wonders aloud before shrinking to insect size and hovering over Clints shoulder so she can inspect the arrows. "Typically I would assume you mean a fire lighter but I have no idea why you would bring that on a romantic outing…"

-

And with that, Oracle-bot leads the way. "Dial the other world." Barbara says to herself at the Clocktower as she leads the bot through, keeping her eyes on the readings, and her fingers dancing across the keyboard to share the information back to Tony and Nadia in real time.

-

"You should have seen it before you got here. Strobe," Tony teases She-Hulk, but then immediately gives the command to the robots to begin entering the portal, except for the one he'd given over to Oracle, of course; they follow that bot in. Small scout drones disappear into the portal: fwip fwip, fwipfwipfwip, all five.

"Looks clear from initial readings I'm getting. Go ahead, away team. Bring me back something nice," Tony says, though his focus is on the readouts: he even put his drink down.

-

In the portal…..

The world is enveloped in gray and a damp, wet sensation. The humidity is through the roof, in fact, those that enter will find water up to their shins, though it isn't cold. It's a warm, swampy feel, that slows movement for those that have to walk. The place is somewhere else, a different city, and ghostly shapes move here and there: echoes of things that the 'between' could have led to, if it weren't stuck in this middle place between the portals.

Sound echoes to the left down a city street, the 'river' of water softly flows from there. It isn't stagnant.

-

Once she had everything in place, Sage stepped towards the portal, her mind already segmenting into sectors to handle the information that was being fed into her system, the network scrawl that flew along one of the displays inside her glasses, the people moving around her, the comm chatter that came through as she hooked the transmitter to her ear. Each process came and went as necessary, sometimes in the front, and at other times running in the background. Once the stepped through the portal, she began a simple rotation in place, taking in every vector of the new environment.

-

Over his shoulder Clint tells Nadia, "Ask yer pops."

But then he pushes himself to his feet, unslinging his bow and testing the string with a faint 'twang' before he steps in line to head on towards the portal and once the big tough types are through, well then he'll hop on along as well.

Just as he passes Tony, however, he says, "Clear my browser history if I don't come back." That said he slips into the space between worlds and dimensions.

And through.

The sound of Clint's footsteps faintly splashing as he enters the shin deep water. He grimaces and announces on the comms mission important intel.

"It's gross."

-

"You should have done that before you left." Oracle responds to Clint. "And my last couple of dates? Nearly made me use my phone as Tinder. I'll show you when we get back." the bot steps into the portal, and Oracle is checking to see if she has lights on it. "Getting a lag of a few nanoseconds, Tony." she reports as she tries to bring up the cameras. "I'll have a feed for you in a moment."

-

"I second the gross," Shulkie says as she looks down at the water. Being taller, it isn't quite as deep for her but that doesn't change the nastiness of it all. "This humidity is going to play hell with my hair." She sighs briefly then glances off in the direction of the sound.

-

Psylocke's mind is segmenting, too. But that's nothing new. Hers is segmenting not to take in new information so much, as to argue amongst itself over whose bright idea this was. Both segments bicker, as her boot buries up in water. Some days it pays to wear boots above the knee. "Glad I wore my waders. It's getting deep in here." She follows the others doggedly, determined to let the segments argue it out. And finally, they do, and settle on blaming Tony. The trek can continue.

-

Natasha's eyes look down to the watery ground that is up to her knees, she sloshes around in it a bit, sways to side side for a moment to test the ground beneath it all and then just looks up once more and listens to the other's speak while her stare roams around at the haunting appeal of this place. Needless to say, her half-gloved hands remain near to her holstered guns upon her thighs.

-

With her previous questions forgotten thanks to a wealth of exciting new data Nadia Van Dyne follows through into the portal. "As I said, we've never had the pleasure of meeting. My father is.. currently unavailable." She hrms at the raw data, flying well above the water level. "Thankfully this data seems distinct from the data I viewed regarding the demon portals. It's unlikely we'll have to deal with that particular breed of slavering monster. And I'm not getting anything dangerous in the air samples." She hovers lower and dips a tiny vial into the water. "I'll run some checks on the water while we search too. We wouldn't want to bring interdimensional contaminants back with us after all."

-

Inside his neurokinetic suit Nathaniel is quite safe from humidity and whatever else the alien cityscape can bring. They did know it was not deadly to human life, after all people often returns from the rifts in good health. "We should have come in environmental suits. But I doubt humidity is the main problem here. Give me a few seconds, I am run a full-spectrum scanner," he states, directing his armor systems to reconfigurate and analyze the bizarre environment.

-

"So, I'm hearing it's moist? If that's the least of the complaints, maybe I should have come along," Tony comments with amusement into the comms. He can, of course, see and get a great view of what they are doing from his equipment.

"Let's get the tracking going; this isn't a pleasure cruise," Tony reminds them. "But if you need a raft, I can get that for you. As it is, I'm getting several locations for you, including downtown Los Angeles and, uhhhh, somewhere outside of the Bahamas."

-

** In the portal….**

The water leads down the street, flowing from a higher location, the streams of it going into buildings, following the land that is lower. There are shapes moving in the water, big ones, but they are ghostly, strange. Cars? Something else? It's hard to tell, from this between-place.

-

Starting forwards, walking a bit down the street and in the direction of the sounds and where the streams head towards those several buildings, Clint says as he steps past Natasha. "You take me to the nicest places." It's a casual offhand comment, but the tension in the man is clear by the simple fact that he keeps the bow at the ready and keys up a particular arrowhead on the quiver.

Once the quiver whirs faintly and he withdraws the arrow, he nocks it and makes ready as he moves on. "Nobody get distracted and wander off." He comments over his shoulder.

-

"Nice places." Oracle says dryly as she works on the triangulations. "While I'm all for going up the waterslide, everything I have is telling me that the noises are downstream." The appearance of the shapes in the water has Barbara giving pause. "I'm going to let one of these images pass through the robot, Iron Man. Be ready to collect the readings." she offers, before she moves the machine into the path of one of one of the approaching figures and bracing it.

-

"I'm just glad we didn't have a welcoming committee this time," Psylocke utters absently as she has stopped to look upstream. Her gaze is curious, as she turns toward the source of the water. "What do you suppose…" And she takes a few steps in that direction.

-

Sage was entirely and utterly silent as they moved, save for the sound that her legs made as she waded through the water. She was not, as a rule, given to being the sort of person that was much good at useless chattering, and so she did not attempt it now. She simply studied the environment, using her eyes, her equipment, and her mind, which she began to allow to stretch out as if trying to sense of the shadow figured were in any way able to communicate.

-

Natasha knows Clint's voice like few others, so she doesn't even look over to him after hearing him speak. "We've been to worse. Smells nicer than your apartment at least." She replies before continuing on ahead, giving him a slight glance and a little smirk before she returns her eyes ahead and around. There's a Wet Bandits joke somewhere here, from a movie she'd recently seen again during the holiday rush, but Nat keeps that to herself. She instead just listens to the others and observes the crawling creepy shadows.

-

Iron Guard floats up and forward, keeping watch over the others a few yards over the 'streets'. "This is interesting. I am reading life signs all around us. Most are human, but some are not. They are in phase. I am now trying to get a solid fix of the non-human signatures and see if I can track down the one responsible of the rifts."

-

Shulkie starts upstream with the others until she hears the words from Barbara. Then she stops still, waiting a moment. "I'll be over here in the pedicure soak," she mutters as she glances to the big brains of the group while reaching out a hand to try and catch Clint's shoulder and stop his forward motion. At least until someone with readings and tech can tell them the right move.

-

When any of them move into the path of the ghostly shapes, the shapes react. They move! One of them dodges the shape of Oracle's robot, and smashes into another one of the ghosts. The shapes start to react in a mixed, silent panic: they react not only to the apparent crash, but also to where all of the group is located, as if there was something to fear there.

-

"I'm not getting much of anything, other than that visual. They aren't there. They're in another plane or place. Ignore them?" Tony suggests.

-

"I wonder how people are being moved from the entrance sites to their emergence sites," Nadia wonders aloud. Already rather distracted by the science of it all. "Are they just walking? It seems unlikely unless the flow of time is different here… We aren't getting any temporal disturbances in the data you are seeing are we?" She flies a little higher to get away from the ghostly panic the rest of the gang are encountering and reverts to regular size. "I'm going up high for an aerial view." As an afterthought she adds "Don't worry I won't stray outside of visual range."

-

"Let's try not to cheese off the locals quite yet," Clint frowns to himself as he walks. He goes out of his way to step around and clear of the ghostly shaped beings, even going so far as to nod towards one that might be reeling in a moment of supposed terror. But he carries on on the decided course, heading in the direction where the streams seem to flow. If that doesn't serve as a point of interest, perhaps the origin will be better.

"Good thought, Dyne. If this doesn't pan out we might want to think of deploying a few dozen drones and letting them map things out." He frowns as a few more ghostly shapes rush away. "One thing is clear though, we are making an impression."

-

Then, Psylocke freezes in her watery tracks, catching up swiftly to the others and uttering a soft "Shh." Why, she couldn't begin to say, because what she hears is nothing heard by human ears. Perhaps just…the focus. "There /are/ people," she whispers. "They're…" She scans the street, and her gaze pauses. "There. And they're afraid of something…and seemingly unaware of us."

-

"Curious. While they are unaware of us, as Psylocke says, they are aware of us - they moved when I got in their paths." Oracle responds as she turns her attention towards their surroundings. "I'd love to test how it reacts to different stimuli." she admits, but this isn't her show at the moment.

-

Sage still seemed intent to keep ehrself to herself, and as no one was attempting to directly engage with her, that seemed quite alright to her. She had not, in point of fact, come on this little hunting expedition to do right and save the world. She had come, in the end for one person and one person only. This time though, she had no idea of the sort of cave she was wandering into. She continued her probing, a name that would have been familiar on the lips of anyone in the group winding like a thread through her thoughts as she skirted the ghostly figures that seemed to be clogging the street on which they were moving.

-

"You might be causing harm to an innocent sentient being," Nadia points out over the comms, still flying higher and starting to look around with her suit visors vision magnification. "It's possible we're slightly out of phase but close enough they can sense when we intersect. Like the saying about the walking of people on graves. I forget what it is."

-

"The ones I mean, they're inside," Psylocke replies distractedly. They weren't the figures in the water. They are…hiding? From something." She continues to focus in the direction of the psychic energy that she has sensed. With the longest attention span she's had since they embarked. "They're afraid of somethin', but it in't us."

-

Nathaniel halts his flight, "Ms. Van Dyne, wait. Now… I am reading quite a bit of neuronal activity in this building," he points out. "Might be worth checking out," he adds, since everything else it looks the same. And long range scanners are not yielding much due to the out of phase interference. 5r

And although he is not familiar with the powerset of the X-Men with them, Psylocke at least is hinting she has psychic senses. "I suppose we should investigate this. Mr. Stark?" He asks for instructions.

-

"Psylocke." Finally, a word from the woman's mouth. Whatever else was coming in, all of the scientific data the team was reading, that was being filed away to be processed in another sector of Sage's brain. Whatever it was that was in the front of the woman's mind, that seemed to be driving her, causing her to quicken her pace, her body avoiding the figures as if on reflex. "Charles. I felt him. Just for a moment." Her pace slowed, showing that she was actually paying attention to what was going on around her, waiting to here the answer to Richards' question.

-

"So, are we… going to follow the signal to the creature?" Tony asks dryly over the comm. Very dry, since he's not wading in the water at all. "People? Got it, I can see them here in my scan, Iron Guard. Split the party, check them, but let's not wait all day to at least locate the monster. Psylocke, Sage, Wasp, investigate the building, while the others continue to triangulate."

-

From above, Wasp can see a great deal: though the land starts to warp, as it gets further away. It is as if this 'world' were a patchwork of other places, things pulled in from these other portals. This is a strange hub of places, all together in a mash of images and not-quite-theres.

The water does flow to what is roughly the 'east', towards another section that is forested.

-

Across the comms, Clint's voice comes through as he continues to move on. "Roger that." He pauses a moment to watch after the X-ers and Wasp as they're likely to split off for that building. As for him and any others that might be heading downstream he'll spare a nod and keep on keepin' on. Less levity in is tone, but the focus is ramping up. At least the other SHIELD types might be able to read that.

Sidelong towards Nat he'll give a nod and gesture towards his left assuming with the silent rapport they've established over the years that she'd read his intention as he takes up point.

-

"If it's not us they fear," Nadia muses, hovering in place. "It could be the things in the water." She shares a few pictures with the group. "Ah I think I understand how people are moving such vast distances. The topography here does not match our world, some could even be from other planets or time periods entirely. That could also be where the water is coming from… A nearby region is in phase below the water level and it's overflowing into the surrounding zones."

With her scanning complete she flies over towards the indicated building. "I'll take point if you two don't object?" Wasp offers to Betsy and Sage over a direct comms channel. "At micro-size I'll hopefully be much harder to detect."

-

Natasha picked up on the bit about Xavier and she looks over toward the two X-Women. She lets her stare linger a moment but its Barton's motion that draws her eyes away, she takes the point as he indicated and otherwise continues to walk and observe the oddities of this place. She certainly has her ideas on what this place is and might be, but its likely way from what it really is, she's not one of the science types after all.

-

Barbara frowns at her readings, and she has a thought. "If we're going to be splitting up, I can keep the robot here to be able to give you all something to triangulate back to - noone's getting lost if I can help it." Pushing her glasses up on her nose back at the Clocktower, she reaches over to grab a slice of pizza - this is going to be a long night, and she's going to make the best of it."

Psylocke gives a "go ahead, be my guest" gesture to Nadia, and proceeds with caution keeping her mind focused on the energies she feels and "hears" in the building.

-

Nadia Van Dyne almost seems to disappear as she reduces in size. The wasp sized Wasp then makes a bee-line for the keyhole on the buildings door, hopefully they didn't leave a ghostly key in the lock, and wriggles her way inside to scout.

-

Sage was back to being silent, as she allowed Wasp to precede her and then Betsy as well, falling back to a drogue position behind the other two women. «Hell of a thing you've gotten yourself into.» Those thoughts also filtered out, sent out along the same net she had cast when she first arrived. With her attention now focused on the building, she left the rest of the team to forge ahead on their own mission.

-

Nathaniel nods, flying up to try to have an idea of the size of the strange warp-space they are in. He also attempts to map the layout of the buildings and streets and compare with the real life counterparts, trying to find patterns. "Scanning again," he states, "I am getting unusual readings ahead, it might be our quarry," he double checks and then flies down to join the others.

-

Ahead of the party, as they approach the forest, is something very unusual. The forest is where this world ends. Past that? There isn't any ground. There isn't any anything. It is as if the patches that make up this world stop there. And then, suddenly, a new piece of something appears, as a new place is added to the patchwork. Empty, open space: a desert, that starts to immediately settle into the trees, as sand is flung into the branches. Water drains into the desert area through the trees, making an awful sludge on one end, but much of it is twisted off into a channel to the north, away from the desert. All signals point to going that way, to where the patches are being added. And to a sudden thick glint of white, fringed in pink and gold, that shimmers across the desert dunes!

In the building, there's movement. Something hisses, a deep, low growl, warning those who approach to get away. The humans inside fall flat where they are in the room. They are inside the front office of what might be a psychiatric office, along with the thing that growled. In their minds is now hope and fear. Will they be rescued?

-

Forwards ever onwards, Clint steps along and frowns at the otherworldly events around him as the terrain seems to have a mind of its own. He continues to walk and says on the comm freq, "Think we may have something here." He shifts a bit to try and get one of their sensors a clear view of the glint of white to at least feed that intel to Tony.

-

Natasha's stare falls upon the desert being combined with the flow of the waters from where they are. She stares at that sight for a few seconds before she just looks over to the others. "I think it wise that we not venture into… what appears to be a location far away from where we started. We may end up unable to get back here and be far too separated from the others." This is all just far too strange for her, well out of her wheelhouse, so to speak.

-

It doesn't take a psychic or a telepath to know that something doesn't want them in the building. "Something doesn't want us in this building," Psylocke muses. Which is precisely why she reaches for the door to walk inside.

-

"Yes, I think perhaps that I am not alone in here," Nadia ventures as she flies further into the building using picture frames and posters as cover. "The noises are animalistic. Running a sound comparison now." Perhaps unwisely she heads towards the hostile sounding noises, right until she's under the door to the room people are hopefully inside. Then ever so carefully she'll peek inside. Energy weapons at the ready.

-

Sage proceeded into the building, ignoring, for the time being, or at least setting aside, the human-esque minds that were in here with them. "Psylocke, how confident are you, that if I draw out whatever it is in here that's causing this disturbance, that you can destroy it?" It seemed an easy enough fix to her. Get in. Get out. Complete the mission.

-

"Wait? What?" Shulkie eyes that white pinkish thing in the distance. "Isn't that what we are supposed to be looking for? Shouldn't we go…apologies for any copyright infringement…smash?" She looks to Natasha who is suggesting caution. She might be right but that doesn't meant that Shulkie likes it.

-

The source of the growls turns out to be a creature that is not of the earth. It is more alien than anything else. It stays low in the water within the building, like a large black crocodile of multiple legs and spines. Thick black spines, striped and tipped in a luminescent white, bristle as it guards it's area. There are two corpses there, and the other humans are huddled in one location near a table, just aside from the corpses. It would appear they are trapped by it, and the predator is now warning off Psylocke and Sage away from its meal.

-

Overhead, over the desert, the ghostly shape grows, and moves: laterally, along the edge of the forest, into an area where there is nothing, and in that area, new pieces fill in: another area of habitation, a town, with dirt roads and small buildings.

-

Now on the ground Nathaniel points a street ahead, "this is a copy of a section of Bludhaven, Goldman street. The creature responsible seems to be trying to find something, maybe someone. The substance seems to have proto-matter qualities, but adapted to a different continuum physics. They are persistent structures, yet not permanent, I don't think so. In any case we are closing to the originator." So yes, do we smash?

-

The thought never crossed my mind that I could not," Psylocke replies wryly to Sage. Not as an affront, but as utterly and overly confident. Psylocke reaches over her head to draw one sword from her back. With her other hand, she moves likewise, but the sword rather materializes in her hand, as she makes a motion to draw it from an empty scabbard that crosses under the first. Standing now, facing the sounds, she mouthes a silent phrase over her shoulder to Sage. <Bring it…>

-

Slinging the bow over his shoulder, since it's unlikely shooting the terrain with an arrow will be the solution to their problem, Clint grimaces as he observes the shifting and adapting gleaming thing. "Think this is a dead end if we can't figure out a way to advance here with some reasonable way to make it back."

He shoots a glance towards Nat and Jen, then touches his hand to his ear piece. "How are things going down with you guys?"

-

Nadia Van Dyne takes a few photographs of the scene and uploads them. "We've got some bodies here. Can we match them with missing persons reports?" she wonders. "It doesn't seem to have noticed me yet. I'll get around to protect the people while you two move up, yes?" She doesn't wait for a response before taking to the air and beginning to sneak her way across the room containing the crocodile-esque thing. Whispering she adds "I have concerns about whatever is causing those limbs to glow.. It could be some sort of glowing chemical or a natural energy weapon."

-

Natasha draws in a breath that sounds like she's not entirely happy about, any of this. She puts her stare onto She-Hulk then and she shrugs her shoulders. "Smash if you wish to smash. Though, I warn you this doesn't… look… right to me." Her eyes go over the others with them and she just takes a step back off to the side and yet remains as-is, she doesn't ready any weapons either as she sees no threat pending that warrants it, but she sure as shit believes there's danger here, likely near.

-

Sage waited barely a second, after she heard Betsy's mental command, moving at best speed towards the creature. She was already reworking her internal framework, turning off her pain receptors, slowing her breathing to conserve energy, as she brought her hand up, a blast of psionic energy erupting in an invisible wave from her hand, intended to do two things. First, to ring the creature's doorbell, in order to make certain that it would focus on her, and, if she was lucky, only her, and second, to push it away from where the humans were huddling. With a bit more luck, it would lunge at her and leave itself vulnerable to Psylocke. Now if only things would go to plan.

-

"You're on the site, does it look like something to fight, or something to try to communicate with? How about a flare up it's nose?" Tony asks through the comms. "So far, I— wait. I take it back. It's reacting to you: it's stopped doing what it was doing," Tony reports. All of the energy values start to spike on the equipment.

Indeed, the strange ghostly serpent, the size of perhaps an airplane, has stopped, and is slowly starting to orient and turn towards the forest.

-

The crocodile creature reacts quickly, almost instantly, with a speed it shouldn't possess.

It teleported.

It blinked to the side and lashes jaws quickly at Sage's side, though the reflexes of the X-man means she did clip it, across the spines, with energy. It sizzles and cuts many of them off, they go flying into the water to the side. The creature bleeds with a dark red thick ichor. It has its back to Psylocke now, positioned well by Sage, even if she may not have known it could teleport. It starts to glitter again: preparing another teleport, perhaps.

-

Clint frowns s he speaks into the comm again, "Ok it's… looking more like a… thing now." Descriptive. Hawkeye takes that bow back in hand and steps to the side, trying to perhaps get a different angle to eyeball the serpentish thing. "It's pretty big. Glowing. Weird. Few hundred feet long."

Arrow meets string and he looks over at the others with him then gives a shrug as if telling them to come up with their own descriptors for the thing.

On the off chance, Clint lifts his voice. "Hey. You. With the face!" As if trying to get its attention.

-

Psylocke doesn't hesitate. As the croc-creature teleports, she immediately reorients and leaps toward its back, aiming her psi - sword in a plunge downward toward the center of the creature's skull, and slashing her other upward in an attempt to cut its throat, if not behead it completely.

-

As the two X-men burst into action The Wasp also enacts her (hopefully) cunning rescue plan. A capsule of pym particles hits the desk being used as a barricade and, providing the laws of physics in this place allow it, enlarges it until it blocks off that corner of the room. Even as the capsule is flying through the air Nadia reverts to normal size, then as the table hopefully grows she will too. Until she's large enough to shoulder barge her way out of the building with the three civilians. Wasp SMASH. Or at least Wasp try and smash. After all she's not entirely sure what the building is made from! She does at least pick an area with a window so the wall probably isn't load bearing.

-

"I am trying to analyze…" replies Nathaniel. "No, I cannot find anything matching this creature in my databanks. Either it is from a very distant continuum or unique. Or extinct in the future."

So no help for communication here. Where are the telepaths? Oh yeah. Fighting alligators. Thanks Tony!

And then he says the FAMOUS LAST WORDS: "I suppose we can let Hawkeye try diplomacy first."

-

Sage's mind was working at superhuman speeds, calculating and recalculating attack vectors as she moved in, so quickly that it was likely that as much as the control she had over her body that left the spider-crocodile whatever it was with only a large swath of her jacket torn and dangling from its teeth and not half of her side. She spun, as soon as she was clear, moving to flank the creature, this time orienting her blast to try to pin the thing between her blast and the leaping Psylocke's blades. It was the best that she could do to try to keep it within Betsy's attack vector.

-

The flying ghost serpent doesn't seem to have a face, but it does orient. And swiftly move towards them.

"Move. Urgently important that you move," Tony says into the comm.

In front of the glowing ghost, a string of portals begins to pop up, all around the team. Glowing orb gates, much like the one they arrived through, that Tony is still holding open for them back where they originated. The gates continue to appear, closer, a few right in their midst! …..Wasn't Iron Guard standing right where that one portal opened?

-

Back in the house with the creature, Psylocke's blade slams into the head, but the creature doesn't die from psychic attack. Indeed, it doesn't have much of anything psychic going on: Psylocke didn't sense it in the first place. However, the cutting part of the attack does work. Sage and Psylocke, between them, tear the creature into two pieces. The jaws leap and bite, but it finally goes down, limp in the water. Wasp is able to save her three humans, who are all dressed very differently, and screaming in different languages. One of them is Russian; the translation is 'please please save us, I want to go home'.

-

Darting to the side, Clint lifts his voice as he gestures with his free hand, "Scatter, get set to counter!" And once that's said he's sprinting to the side to ruin the attack angle of the serpent as it starts to make its rush towards them. He tracks it steadily, bow coming up and the arrow being drawn back as he takes aim but he doesn't fire. At least not at first.

"We've got lots of portals opening up here, whole mess of crazy goin' full tilt."

-

Natasha yet still doesn't draw her guns, she does however look to the portals… to the creature that seems to be angling toward them now and then to Clint. "We're not fighting that thing. Its above our pay grade, Barton." She warns him while she herself makes for one of the portals, but doesn't enter into it yet. She looks to the others first. "Come on, we've learned enough to figure out a better strategy."

-

As the thing orients on them, Shulkie is ready to plant her feet and take it head-on. Until those rifts start opening around them. She quickly dives to the side, into a roll, coming back up on her feet. There is a portal where she was a moment before. "Oh, that's just rude! C'mon and face me like a monster already!"

Even as the serpent is heading toward them, she is heading toward the serpent although she makes sure to keep her path to it zig zag and random in the hopes of not being teleported away before she gets to it.

-

Sage slid to the side, to avoid the remnants of the body of the creature as well as any forward momentum from Psylocke's blades. That would be a terrible way to bite it. No pun intended. Because you know, crocodile monster. As soon as they were clear of the thing, Sage moved to engage with the humans who were all babbling, speaking to them each in their own language, the message was simple. 'We're getting you out of here, we're going to get you home, you need to do as we tell you to do.'

Nadia Van Dyne tears herself out from the wall of psychiatrists office, still growing in size until she can scoop up the three civilians and run back to the meet up point Oracle-Bot was marking. Thankfully she's fluent in seven languages and can manage at least basic re-assurances in a bunch more, so calming the people down shouldn't be that hard.

-

Psylocke stands as Sage rushes the giant wasp and civilians. Between the voices in her head, there's no telling how many languages she can speak, but they'd just end up arguing amongst themselves in all of them. She shaves a smear of sticky red ichor off her thigh and adjusts her armor. Leather wedgies are the /worst/. On that, the voices can agree.

But then, there is another voice. This one residual. Psylocke dashes through the hole in pursuit of the beeg wasp, and calls out to Nadia. "WAIT. One of them has spoken to Professor Xavier. That one!" A woman, probably named Rachel.

-

The ghostly serpent starts to pass over them. At this range, it's easier to see through it. It is not a fully corporeal entity, by any means. With a surge of effort, another flood of portals come into existence around the group that scattered, as it loops around for a slower pass. It seems to have trouble with the moving targets.

-

Sage moved as soon as she felt that ghostly presence. She knew it too well to miss it, and she fell into a run beside Psylocke, and where Betsy chose to speak to the woman in the real, as it were, Nadia would feel Sage's voice in her head, not a battering ram, but insistent. "Nadia, stop. We need her." She could have said 'I'm sorry', but she didn't. This was important and time could well be running out, if what she could hear through the comms from the other team was any indication.

-

A portal manifests itself right in front of Clint, but he avoids it with a quick scuttle to the side. He frowns sharply as he follows its flight path with the tip of the arrow, moving around and trying to simultaneously keep it in view and gain some distance from it. Yet now and again more and more portals open.

"I Think this is definitely. The Thing. Behind all the portals. Or something like this. It's not… trying to kill us…"

Another portal appears with a /whom/ and he ducks back. "Maybe this is just how it… lives?"

-

"Well now we know where it is!" Natasha shouts over to Clint and then looks to everyone else. "Come on, hop into the portals. We can have the brainiacs come up with a plan to fight… or just deliver it a nice gift basket and ask it to send our people back. But either way, we can't stick around here and wait for it to decide we're a threat." With that said, the Black Widow turns, gives one more glance to the 'thing' and then departs through a portal hopefully back to where they came and not to some other weird location filled with equally odd manifestations.

-

Fifteen foot tall Wasp pauses, looks down at Psylocke and ducks down. "Talk quickly then," she says into the comms via a subvocal microphone. Her own voice would be far too loud at this size after all. "I'm going to shrink them and use an emergency extraction drone to return them through our original portal. You have until I've prepared the drone."

The civilians have little choice but to hang there. Held up out of the water by a giant size arm as if they were children. It's not exactly comfortable but it's better than being trapped by a horrible alien monster.

-

Of course it's above her head. Shulkie lets out a faint growl of annoyance then she simply /leaps/ up at the serpent in an attempt to bring this to the brawl she's been waiting for.

She goes right through it.

The trip through wasn't painful but it was the weirdest feeling she'd ever had in her life. Considering her life, that was saying something. Her whole body tingled as she fell through the other side, slamming into the ground as she landed. "That must be what doing acid feels like," she mutters as she shakes her head before frowning as she looks at the beast. "Wait a second. It's…sad. Very sad and lonely." She looks to the others. "Do you think it's alone here and that's why it draws beings to it? To try to not be?"

-

Psylocke senses more that Charles had spoken to this woman with his mind, and perhaps not physically at all. She cannot get a sense of whether the woman has even seen Charles. Perhaps. Perhaps not. The woman's strongest impression is that the man spoke to her without words. <A man spoke to you this way?> Psylocke urges gently. <We are looking for him. Do you know where he is?> But before the woman can even respond, Psylocke sighs. <His presence in her mind has already begun to decay. It has likely been a week or more.> she sends to Sage as the woman replies.

-

Sage took Nadia's warning to heart, and she moved quickly through the woman's mind, scanning her memories for any trace of Xavier that had been left there, trying to search for memories that would give her some clue of where he was. Where had he met the woman, what did she remember about her surroundings, was it in this semi-city or in some other location. Every ounce of information she could glean, she stored away. Once she had gotten everything there was to get, she turned to to Psylocke. "I'm not coming with you. The rest of the team seem to be leaving. I can't do that. Charles is here. He's lost, in this darkness. And if I leave now, we may not be able to open a portal back to precisely this place. This…in-between. I will help the rest of the team get clear, but I think it's time I walked back into that cave."

-

Psylocke shakes her head vehemently. "I'm /NOT/ going back without him if he's here." There is no room to misinterpret her words, or her tone. She turns to Nadia and takes a deep breath. "Please make sure Banner knows…" She swallows hard. "Where I am. And that I /will/ be back, when we find Charles."

-

"Sad and lonely? Not attacking, then. Let's withdraw for now. I …." There's some work from Tony's end. Taptaptap. "Those portals led to near… lower Manhattan. I don't think it's aggressive, guys," Tony reports, agreeing with the other comments. "Let's get some time in on this data. Come on back, or risk a ride on one of those portals, I guess, if you're feeling lucky."

-

The woman with the link to Xavier has some other images they can find: locations, a place. It could be a start, of where to look….

-

"No, Nat. Wait!" Clint extends a hand but it's too late. He scowls to himself, muttering the whole time as he shakes his head but then his attention is snared by She-Hulk. "What are you…" And then she's leaping through the creature, but at least relaying more of her train of thought.

From below, as he still ducks away from some portals, Clint says on the comm link, "Are people taking crazy pills or something?" He takes cover off to the side behind a perhaps too temprorary tree. "Tony, the thing doesn't seem to be attacking us just sorta… I dunno. Trying to help us go somewhere."

Another sigh, "Nat's gone into one of the portals. I'm…" He shakes his head and then breaks cover, leaping right into the portal as well. At least the one he thinks she took. "Gonna try and follow her…"

And then /vwip/ he's lost in the portal too.

-

Nadia Van Dyne blinks a few times. "I do not know who you mean by Banner," she points out. "But I am sure someone will be able to pass on the message for you. My suit has cameras." She begins deploying the equipment needed for the evacuation drone and, with a shrug, dusts some of the damaged building clinging to her suit into sample tubes. It can't hurt to have some of whatever this place is made out of to study after all!

Wasp then proceeds to enlarge some of the gear from her belt and hands it over to Betsy and Sage "If you are both staying then I insist you take all of the beacons and tracking tools. That way you stand a better chance of getting back to our Earth. It's all designed to be used without training, but the instruction manuals are inside." With that done she begins loading the civilians into the escape capsule.

-

When Sage heard Psylocke's vehement refusal, she made no attempt to dissuade the woman. Perhaps because she understood how much Charles meant to the X-Men, perhaps to Betsy personally…she did not, after all know the woman well. And perhaps it was simple practicality. Psylocke had powers far above and beyond anything Sage herself possessed. And perhaps, in the end, it was simply because two together were better than one alone. "Then we should get started. I think we have everything we can get from her to begin searching." She stepped forward, as Nadia moved to hand over the equipment, sincerity in her voice, "Thank you. We'll see you soon." Or not, it was relative. And then, as if she were attempting a poor joke, "I do enjoy a good manual."

-

"Thank you," Psylocke says simply as she takes what Nadia hands her. Then, as she turns to Sage, she replies. "This isn't THAT kind of field trip. Let's go…"

-

"I will also leave a stash of food for you in that building, but it will not be very exciting… My Pym particle food pills are still in the testing phase, nutritionally great but they all taste like bubble gum." And with that Nadia launches the rescue drone and begins making her own way to the exit point. Promptly but taking every possible chance to take physical samples. It's not every day a girl gets to explore weird and wonderful… well weird anyway alternate dimensions.

-

"Well," Sage offered, as Nadia went about her business and she took the time to attach the equipment to herself wherever she could, "At least when we encounter the next monster, we will not be out of bubblegum."

-

Psylocke nods. "And that's fine. I accidentally swallow my gum all the /time./" But her expression suggests…she's serious.

-

"I'll tell Bruce for you, Psylocke," Tony says into the comms. "And I'll be staying with you on comm as long as I can keep this open. Or, well. Me or an assistant."

-

Sage: "That is so very reassuring."

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