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Síocháin's Scuba Shell
Ahsa settled from a long journey within an undersea cavern, pocketed by air. Síocháin surveyed the mix of ancient rig foundations and natural stone. It seemed quiet enough, and Sloane needed rest. No Hive barnacles grew there. Ahsa had swam far from the largest concentrations of Hive and Taken and hid away in a cove tucked beneath Golden Age wreckage. Ahsa filled the yawning space. She slipped through gaps and wrapped herself around plunging stalactites, her serpent-worm segmentations gripping the stone, her face half-submerged in slick methane liquid. Síocháin floated down from Ahsa's back and turned to see Sloane slide and crumple to the cave floor as trails of steam seeped from the cracks in the ground beneath her. Sloane closed her eyes. "It's cold here, but the steam… it's warm," she said weakly. The worm coiled a section of her body around Sloane, trapping in the heat around her. Síocháin watched every exchange between the two and drifted out of Sloane's earshot to the worm's gargantuan face. Ahsa's attention snapped to the blades now protruding from the Ghost's shell. The Ghost got good and close. "I don't know why you helped us. You seem nice. I hope you stay that way. If you're using her, if you turn coat…" Síocháin sliced the air. "I'll gut you." Ahsa's massive eye dialed in on Síocháin's iris. The two stared unblinkingly until the worm's eyelid gently closed. She emitted a tone of contrite harmonic equilibrium: |I am not your enemy| The Ghost scanned the worm's face, and upon seeing its benign softness, retired to the coiled shelter Ahsa had woven them. Sloane sat in meditation within, radiating a sense of peace that Síocháin hadn't felt from her in months. The Ghost let herself pretend for a moment that even she felt almost safe. *** It was morning before Sloane woke. Ahsa met Sloane's eyes through her visor. The tilt of her enormous head signaled a sort of greeting or eagerness. Sloane removed her helmet. "Need something?" |Aiat| Aiat |Ahsa| Aiat |Aiat| Sloane stumbled backwards into the cavern wall. Síocháin perked up into the air. "Boss?" Sloane inhaled sharply and dropped to a knee as her Ghost swooped in front of her and turned to the creature. Before she could speak, Sloane's hand was on her shell, patting her. "It's fine. It's… Ahsa." "What's an Ahsa?" Síocháin questioned. "Some kind of… proto-worm?" "Like HIVE?!" Síocháin deployed her blades. "No… the Hive were something before they were Hive, right? The… worm gods were too. Ahsa is… her name, I think." The Ghost turned to Sloane, then to Ahsa. "What does she want?" "To not be alone," Sloane responded. "To be… known?" Síocháin retreated closer to Sloane and sheathed her blades. "Right then. We like big powerful allies… let's hear what they have to say." A joyful shiver trundled from Ahsa's head down through her coiled form, rippling the methane pooled around her, sending tremors through the stone, causing crumbled dust to rain from overhead. Ahsa turned and focused on the pair; her massive eye spanned well beyond Sloane's entire body. The worm's sympathetic iris flexed and shimmered in hypnotic fluctuations, drawing Sloane into a dissociative state. |Aiat| Aiat |Ahsa| Aiat |Aiat| Sloane tumbled through timeless alien remembrances. She was shown them; spoke of them, as if they are her own. Origins and sorrows she now shared. "Witness… offers… powerful curse… a lust… masquerading as love." Sloane exhaled hard. But Ahsa maintained her gaze, and Sloane was swept back into the current. "A blade… with ambition… I don't… I don't understand." Flashes of fratricidal frenzy ensue: a slither-mass carnage. Those once ever-bonded now drive fang and lash of tail; proclaim Deep magics once thought too cruel to utter. All in pursuit of a sacred, gifted logic. Vortexes that drink empty fathoms of encrimsoned Fundament sea churn above the fray. Ahsa cannot escape the writhe without unraveling from her captors with violence. She stains her fangs with the flesh of siblings turned rivals. "Blood… betrays blood. To prove strength. Survival… is pain…" Ahsa flees, familial aftertaste fresh in her mouth. She would never know love again. This gift sours theirs, makes it vicious and hungry. "Rejected logic… hunted as traitor… lost like you." Ahsa dives into an ascendant dream. Cosmic language bathes her as she ventures—radio-songs and magnetic roars that bellow across space. She slips between worlds across great distances, breaches back into space to glide along the curvature of galaxies, chasing a distant point of Light. A solar opposite to that which Takes love. Sloane gasped for air. "She came here for a chance to live." Ahsa crashes through Titan's thick skin and into its methane sea. The expansion of Humanity across Sol unfolds as she mourns. Within a Golden Age a bond is found. The Collapse found them; a bond is lost. She wages a battle of grief, fights against nightmares of despair. "The Disciple… of Fear… struck Ahsa. I…" Síocháin piqued at the title. "Lost, retreating… love wanes." The ebb and flow of hope. "Bonded… we live…"
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