Suited up in our hydro-pedal armor, filling our oxygen infused cores, and preparing ourselves within their new mobile suits, we embark within their ship dubbed The Mariner. It charts the course to an additional 3,000 leagues from Aurora Marianus's facility. During the trip, my mind began to wander with several questions. Despite the otherwise friendly demeanor most of the Iron Coop gives off, some of them looked considerably enveloped on the mission at hand. Striking a conversation would seem to be but a fruitless matter, yet thankfully, Bucky seemed welcoming to the idea, and began to strike it up for me.
“Sooo, anyone wanna fill in Joel here about what kind of catch we're about to get wranglin'?
Hollins impassively speaks out.
“Well, considering the pendant he's been fidgeting with, I'd say he's answering his own question.”
Surprised doesn't even cover the multitude of emotions I've felt from Mr. Otes' prior statement. Let alone Hollins being able to recognize my pendant. I can't help but stumble in my reply.
“It...I-It's just astonishing to me, really. A lifelong fable we were told as kids...How is it possible we, well, we're going to find out what it holds?”
The friendly atmosphere soon dims by the concise tone from Capt. Even.
“Well, if you'd been paying attention during your training courses with your UDT training, you'd also know about your studies related to the marine life itself.”
He pulls out a holographic projection from his watch to show the presentation of their findings.
“Out near the North Pacific Basin, we caught word from some fishing vessels making their shipments from between Necker Ridge's ports, to the Solomon Islands that they had caught some rather unusual fish, to which most would normally only be shown in the Abyssopelagic Zone."
Now that's unusual indeed. I properly interject.
“Wait, but aren't most fish usually within that zone adapted by Abyssal gigantism?”
“Well, you're actually a bit smarter than I initially thought, Alistair. Yes, but here was the asinine part...their size was doubled to what their initial count was upon surfacing. To add to that, they had strange blue illuminated carvings to them. Not like what you saw back at the facility.”
Wait...weird lights? It hit me. The description matches perfectly to what Joyce found on one of the dolphins on our ocean trip.
Capt. Even then switches viewpoints from the top down levels of the global shores, down to the varied levels of the ocean.
“Upon careful inspection from several sonar trackers from our submersible division, we picked up intervals to massive waves of activity between July of 2025, to just now within this central location, i.e., the one we're about to reach our embargo to soon. We believe it's related to the amounts of large fish gathering within the aforementioned points of interest of the Pacific Ocean. It very well could be your fabled underwater city come to life.”
Charis feels the need to chime in on the discussion.
“Oh! The one with the Under Treasure? Where we can wish for anything?! Oooh, I want to get some new jewelry talismans!”
Jenee then feels compelled to do the same.
“Oooh, a new farm for my chickens to grow and prosper!”
As the others continue to boast of their wants and needs, before I can crack a bigger smile, the captain puts that to a screeching halt to inform us of our destination.
“Quit yammering on like squawking fu*kin' parrots! We're about to head out!”
The Mariner stops 400 feet away from what looks like a large, pulsating glow of pink light. It presents the darkened outline of what looks to be a massive, monolithic castle sanctuary.
Capt. Even then punches into the ship's computer instructions before speaking into the intercom.
“Launch the orbilites around the outlined site. Commence lighting procedure.”
“Verifying site of interest. Scanning for active life.”
The Mariner begins to transmit a neon blue light to begin its scan of the entire structure, then launches from its side ports hundreds of orbilites to shine upon the nearly pitch black seabed. Amazement filled our whole crew. Lifelong erosion aside, it was unmistakable even to our eyes. A picturesque depiction straight from our children's books. The once glistening coral tower structures on all five points of the castle walls. The intricate snail shell foundations around the walls of the city. The wonderment of the bizarre statues of strange sea creatures even we have not understood by modern science, chiseled in the towns and statues of a once teeming civilization. It's right before us.
“I'll be damned. It's more awesome in person!” as Bucky excitedly put it.
Jenee adds to the wonderment. “Y'all think there'll really be treasures waiting fer us?”
Like a prayer to the Gods, The Mariner's central comms come online, with Fabrice helping to answer our call, as everyone begins to gear up in the mobile suits.
“It is precisely why we've sent you all here. Your mission is to not only immerse yourselves within the central confines of Ballistire's lost city, but to seek out the source of its rhythmic pulses of energy. We only hope it will help quell the sudden change in marine life throughout the upper levels of the ocean, and possibly help finish Mr. Aurora's dream.”
Whoa. Seems like I wasn't the only one who wanted to know what lies beyond the fairy tale's walls. Before we dock ourselves in place, I notice Bucky kissing a small statue. “Good luck charm?” I ask him.
“Heh, sure is. His name is Shadow, and he helps me go through all forms of darkness, no matter where I end up going to.”
“You not a fan of the dark?”
“Eh, not really, but there's another reason why, but I'll tell ya later.”
Hollins can't help but inject to the conversation.
“It's because he loves horses a bit too much.”
“Well screw you too, asshole!”
“Now now children, don't tell me I gotta spank your asses red...” as Jenee passively snips at them both. With everyone strapped in. Capt. Even once again puts the chatter to an abrupt stop.
“Y'all stop acting like steers, and cut the bullshit! We're dropping in T minus ten seconds!”
After he counts down to zero, our mobile suits light up, and proceed to let our own drop docks submerge us into the murky black waters. Just like how I was taught in their UDT department, let the suit sink until indicated by the buoyancy gauge to turn the chest valves, and allow for free flow floating. Thanks to its propulsion tech, we simply take the sides on the pack mantles behind us, and steer ourselves into the open gates of the city walls.
The inner architectures are even more whimsical, despite the bleak ruin. We see to our left the townscape which was once bustled with hermes and hermitels, including the School of Reefs. To the center is the metropolis of Coralpia, filled with the miles long marketplace to Plank Tons with statues of King Primo and his subjects. To the right, spanning an endless amusement park to Atinterraria, one where all can get away to awe in the flying whale acts, the roller coasts of whirlpools, and of course, The Monsunami Dome! As we venture through the underwater graveyard, we notice the pulsating light is closer to the ground level across the end of Coralpia. As we reach its brightest source, we gather around it, realizing what it entails. Capt. Even, despite his blunt remark from the comm breathalyzer, was even shown a sign of ignorance in this situation.
“Well, what are you gawking at? What's it telling y'all?”
We look to one another. The utterance of a singular, collective phrase is all that we muster.
“To all kind, be fish or man, unlock thine seal, unveil what once began. Illuogh ut aquus, ued aquus ef illuogh!”
Every kid knew the story. If you came across its sigil near the center of its city, it would unveil the greatest kept secret of all time. So long as you knew the ancient code. Illuogh ut aquus, ued aquus ef illuogh. It translates to “I am water, and water is I.” The sea floor quaked at our words. It would etch in the same intense pink light of the sea-rune of Ballistire's proud insignia. It then flashed to break apart its ground, and shifted outwards to show the long, winding staircase to the bottom. Entranced by its warm aura, we all propel ourselves once more into its depths. What awaited us was both excitement, and curiosity. We closed in on the horizontal gated door. As we are in hands reach, they look to me to pull its handles apart.
“You....you want me to pull it?”
They all nod. “...Well...here goes.”
As soon as I turn the elongated shell knob, we then find ourselves swirling into a watery vortex down into the mass of light!
We then reach impact, as sudden darkness swallows us...