Descendants #101 – The Battle of Freeland House Chp.3

This entry is part 12 of 55 in the series Current

The free-lev systems of another Tome carrier exploded as a series of red beams from Lady D ripped through them. Half the attacking fleet had dropped their cloaks to divert power to their own standing field generators. A good quarter of them were now already on the ground or slowly sinking in that direction.

Rebound leapt out of the cockpit of the craft he’d attacked and was caught by a vortex called up by Zephyr. A moment later, a blast of air cannoned him into the side of another carrier. He struck the standing field and rolled to standing atop it.

“Looks like my trick’s not gonna work twice,” he reported over the comms, “I’m going to try and hammer my way through like they’re doing to the Freeland House shields.” Dropping to a knee, he began pounding the shield with rapid-fire blows with his fists. The shield flashed and rippled, but failed to give. “No good.”

“Move back. Let me try something.” Darkness flew overhead, a flickering glaive made of compacted black heat particles held fast in her hands. Keeping her breaths slow and steady, she turned her thoughts inward, toward that tiny section of her brain that she tried to ignore even as it grew more solid with every passing day; the part that was a grim reminder of her darkest hour.

Dredging it up was always painful even in training, but in live combat against carriers filled with actual living human beings, it made her gut clench. But that was Freeland House down there: her home, now filled with her friends and allies desperately trying to keep its secrets out of Tome’s hands. She was left with no choice.

There was an incantation that ran through her head, but aloud, she only had to call out the name of the spell. “Black Drill!” The black heat glaive erupted into a spiral of dark matter, which she directed at the spine of the carrier Rebound was standing on. It struck dead on, particles splashing in all directions before the drill won through, tearing apart the Van Der Waals forces that gave the field its integrity and leaving a frayed, crackling hole in it five feet across.

As the particles cleared, the hole began to heal, slowly piecing itself back together. Rebound didn’t have to ask twice. He leapt into the gap and hammered the armored back of the carrier, transferring all the force into it. Doing so revealed a seam large enough for him to grab on to, which he did, pulling it open and revealing the inner workings of the craft’s ventilation system.

Another leap and he slammed through the thinner metal of the ventilation system and into the cargo-slash-troop transport area. There were a dozen Moreau Corps soldiers strapped in on crash benches. They would have been a challenge if they hadn’t been restrained and without weapons. Half of them were knocked out before they even started to unbuckle their harnesses.

Back outside, Shade’s Apprentice was riding side saddle on her giant feather, streaking between carriers and using her witch’s hat to catch coilgun fire out of the air, the tungsten rounds disappearing without a trace as they passed into the shadows inside her hat.

“Okay, you nasty shits,” she said, replacing the hat on her head, “Let’s see how you take it!” One hand rose to point at the coilgun bank of one of the carriers and from it issued one of the tungsten rounds she’d captured. Then she raised the other hand, thumb touching its opposite on the other hand. Then she separated them sharply. “Eat up, my minions.”

The round, moving slower than normal, split into a dozen pieces and reshaping into strange insectoid creatures with long, curled bodies, four dragonfly wings, and faces split into four mandibles. Though they had no eyes, they homed in on the coilguns and tore into them with their mandibles, ripping chunks of metal and ceramic apart and consuming them. As they ate, the minions divided like cells, doubling then quadrupling their numbers as they feasted.

Soon, a second swarm, the spawn of the first, broke off to go after the carrier’s second coilgun bank.

“That’s… terrifying,” Said Occult, watching out of the corner of her eye as she launched a Cosmic Crackle into the side of another carrier.

“Don’t worry,” said Shade’s Apprentice, “Once they fulfill my commands, they turn into ordinary non-magical scrap metal. I’d teach you the spell, but I’m not sure if I can teach any of my magic. It just… happens. Like a descendant power only with magic.”

“I think we need to compare notes with Lady D and the Magi Club once this is done.”

Shade’s Apprentice watched her minions tear apart the carrier’s other two coilgun banks, then fall from the sky like chaff. “Sounds like a date.”

***

Inside the disarmed craft, the pilot desperately radioed to base. “We’ve been disarmed! Sixty percent of our forces are downed or disabled. We can’t hold off all these heroes and still take down the house’s defenses. We need to pull out or we’ll be slaughtered!”

His call was answered by a cold laugh. “Have you forgotten who you’re fighting? Heroes. None of them are going to kill you; they don’t have what it takes for that.” It was the voice of Simon Talbot.

For a moment, the pilot balked at having been connected to someone so high up. Then he remembered his situation. “That might be the case sir, but we’re still falling from the sky like flies. We need to change tactics.”

“I agree,” replied Talbot. “Is your ship still air-worthy?”

“Yes?”

“Good. With so many ships disabled, we’re going to need a lot more mass transferring a lot more energy to finally break that standing field. Pilot…” he paused, apparently checking a roster, “Fogel, the Project appreciates your service and the service of your gunners and the Moreau Corps soldiers on board. Goodbye.”

The pilot shook himself out of his confusion. “What?” Before the words were out of his mouth, the lights on his control console went dark and his yoke become unresponsive.

“It’s very simple, Fogel. Your ship is twenty-seven tons of mass capable of a top speed of Mach 1 and equipped with advanced scram jets for rapid acceleration. In a pinch, it can do as a giant bullet. And it can be piloted remotely. It’s simple math, Fogel: what’s behind that shield is worth more than you. Now, as I said: Goodbye.”

Then the forward engines came online. And the scram jets fired.

***

“What the hell is that one doing?” Chaos asked as the disarmed carrier began to surge forward toward Freeland House. “Oh my god… everyone focus fire on that carrier right now! It’s going to ram the standing field!”

“Never expected Tome’s guys to be suicidal,” said Zero Point, flying out ahead of the ship and sending out a blast of psychokinetic force as large as he was at its incoming prow. The carrier struck it, splitting the beam ahead of it and losing speed, but not stopping.

From above, his wife poured on fire with shells and railguns alongside Occult’s fireballs and Lady D’s blood rays. None won through as all power not going to the engines was being sunk into the standing field generator. Then Chaos added Chaos Novas and Rebound, once again at the helm of a carrier, turned it coilguns on it, both to no avail. Finally, Zephyr summoned up a hurricane force wind against the oncoming ship.

None of it was to any effect. The carrier, though slowed, plowed forward, forcing Zero Point to throw himself to the side as it thundered by. Seconds later, it impacted the Freeland House standing field. There was a brilliant flash and for a moment, the while of the dome was visible as the linked generators overloaded. The carrier crumpled and its nacelles exploded, turning the craft into a blinding fireball. Then the generators failed one by one and the standing field dissipated like the seed head of a dandelion before a child’s breath.

The instant the shields were down, the carriers’ orders changed. Coilgun fire stops as the crafts lurched forward, making for designated landing zones in the Freeland House parking lot and the back yard. Below, the downed ships opened their cargo doors, allowing Moreau Corps soldiers to spill out and charge through the Hills neighborhood toward their objective.

“House teams, this is Chaos. The shields are down. Repeat: the shields are down. Field team, our job is the same: stop the ships, stop the soldiers. We’re still in for a long fight.”

***

Renaissance was crouched under Laurel’s main desk, pulling hard drives out of the network hub and dumping them in a plastic foot soaking basin they’d taken out of the hall closet. “You heard him guys, hurry up. Improv, Kali, please rush these down to the mirror gate and get them back to HQ.”

“How are we doing on stripping out the important parts?” Whitecoat asked. He was tasked with unhooking Laurel’s Vimes news server and getting it ready for the others to move.

“Once you’ve got that server, we can wipe all the other computers,” she informed him. “That just leaves the costume and weapons stores. That should fit in two bins and I can carry that.”

“I should be down defending the gate instead of up here packing clothes,” groused Geiger.

Kali giggled and hefted the server as Whitecoat handed it to her. “You’re too impatient! We’ll be fighting soon enough. Now we’re supposed to be concentrating on the mission, right? That’s what Kronos said.” She rapped herself on the temple with one of her spare arms before slithering off to do her part.

Letting out a low growl, Geiger continued packing away the parts and supplies from Laurel’s vaults into the bins.

“Hey.” Whitecoat said, coming over to help him now that he was done with the server. Geiger looked up at him and grunted. “Look, I get it. You wanted a fight against these descendant-abusing assholes and it looks like it’s not going to happen. I wanted that fight too,” Hastily folding one of Chaos’s capes, he stuffed it into an empty space in the bin. “But this is important too. If Tome gets this stuff, they might find a new way to hurt the Descendants. And I don’t know about you, but these guys have done enough that I consider them friends.”

Geiger roughly stowed one of Codex’s modular tonfas. “Point. But I got into this to protect my friends from people like Tome. Mari especially—she’s all our little sister, after all. This doesn’t feel like protecting her. Or anyone.”

“I’ve read up on you guys, you know.” Whitecoat said, seemingly ignoring him. “You’ve got your hearts in the right place, but it never seems like you ever actually have any plan besides rushing in to kick ass. Maybe it’s time to stop and think things through.”

He merely stared back when Geiger shot him a glare. Behind his bandanna, he smirked, then added, “And after that, you can run in kicking ass. Because that comes after protecting all the highly sensitive information from the evil rogue R&D firm.”

***

“I thought that Alloy’s power was metal control,” Umbrage was sweeping Alloy’s tools and ores into a trash can, “Why does he have blacksmithing equipment?”

Facsimile shrugged. “He’s weird that way. He says it helps him learn how to work metal with his powers to understand how it’s worked normally. I think he just thinks he looks awesome standing over the forge pounding stuff with a hammer.”

“I’m must more worried about the ‘magic lab’.” Stunner was on Occult’s side of the boathouse, carefully looking over the various reagents and half-constructed devices lining the benches and tables. “Is there a special way we’re supposed to handle these things?”

“Just don’t let anything mix,” said Facsimile. “Occult said she doesn’t leave anything laying around active, but some things react to others.”

“Got it. Just pack it carefully like chemicals.” She found a cooler under a work bench and started putting things away carefully.

Glass moved over to help her, frowning slightly as she started encapsulating magical baubles in separate spaces inside her semi-solid glass body. “The problem is, now that the standing fields are down, isn’t this going to take too much time?”

That gave Facsimile pause. “That’s a good point. Luckily, we’ve got the two best distractions possible. Everyone else, keep packing crap up so we can try and rush it to the mirror gate. Captain Makes-Bad-Guys-Pee-Themselves—” she laughed and snorted, “–Sorry, I mean Umbrage, you’re with me. We’re going to make anyone who thinks they can come to this boathouse do a lot more than just pee.”

“What if we run out of time to get to the mirror thing?” that was Noah.

Facsimile reached into her forearm and pulled out a black metal ammunition magazine before tossing it to him. “One of Renaissance’s explosive ammo mags she rigged to explode. Just twist the top tab off and drop it on the stack. Given the crap Warrick stores here, plus the magic mumbo-jumbo and the boathouse should basically cease to exist.”

“Jesus. You said that so casually,” Noah looked up at her from where he’d been pulling metal samples out of the chest of tiny drawers where Alloy kept them. “You superhero types are actually pretty terrifying.”

“Aw, you’re adorable.” Facsimile gave him a wink. Once this is done don’t let me forget to tell you about the time I may or may not have murdered a parasitic universe.”

***

A more thorough analysis of Tome Site 22 would reveal that it started life as a CIA black site in the 1960s. In fact, it was the site where the original Project Tome was housed; a place where the CIA held and evaluated captured examples of other nations’ super-soldier programs.

So, while above ground and in the first basement there really was a data processing operation, down below there was still the means of holding and experimenting on human subjects and deal with those first, rudimentary powers that emerged.

The staff topside knew nothing of what was there, or of the fact that after almost one hundred years of being shuddered, it had been quietly pressed back into service and staffed with Moreau Corps soldiers and fitted with new state of the art restraints.

One sub-level 2, a squad of Moreau Corps soldiers was rushing to the concealed elevator shaft they used to access the level in order to guard against the superhero incursion going on above when a five-foot wide plug of steel reinforced concrete dropped out of the ceiling into their midst.

The dozen-man strong squad scattered, dodging the plug as well as the cloud of shrapnel it became upon shattering on the floor. A rolling cloud of concrete dust filled the air, obscuring everything. Highly trained, they immediately switched to infrared goggles.

What they saw was a humanoid figure straightening up from a crouched position. Reacting with the superhuman reflexes the Moreau Corps treatments gifted them, they opened fire on the intruder, only to be treated to the sound of ricochets off metal.

“It’s Alloy!” The squad leader barked—which considering the amount of wolf in his particular mix of the serum was more literal than normal. “Switch to plasma lan—” He didn’t finish because a tentacle came through the swirling dust and knocked him off his feet into the wall behind him hard enough to crack the plaster.

This was followed by taser rounds cracking out of the cloud, striking several other squaddies. Then a second tentacle whipped out and looped around one of their torsos, trapping his arms so he couldn’t fire and dragging him to the center. There, he came face to face with a rather demonic visor.

“Let’s not draw this out,” Alloy snarled, “A group of people were brought in here today. Where are they being held?”

“Where you’re gonna be held, freak.” The soldier flexed and with amazing strength, managed to wriggle his way free of Osp’s grasp. He dropped to the ground in a low crouch and lashed out with claws that extended through his gloves, raking an X pattern in the armor over Alloy’s belly.

That it even made a scratch against his power-hardened armor gave Alloy a moment’s pause, but not Adamantine, who stepped past her partner and delivered a straight punch that bowled the man over and broke his nose for good measure.

“Are you guys serious about calling me a freak?” Alloy asked the room. “In case you haven’t all noticed, you’re a bunch of manimals working for kidnappers. And I can’t imagine Tome is the kind of organization that compensates you for pain and suffering—which is what you’re gonna get if you don’t hand over the hostages: pain and suffering.”

The tromp of boots on concrete signaled the arrival of a second squad at the far end of the hall.

Though a little unsteady, the leader of the current squad got to his feet laughing. “We can all just stop taking the serum and go back to human. Meanwhile you’ll always be a freak until the day you die. As for pain and suffering…” The back-up squad set up a defensive position, all raising plasma lances and grenade launchers. “We’ll see who among us will be asking for mercy in the next few minutes.”

To Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< Descendants #101 – The Battle of Freeland House Chp.4Descendants #101 – The Battle of Freeland House Chp.2 >>

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

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One Comment

  1. I don’t think IR would help against concrete dust?

    Typos

    Van Der Waals
    Van der Waals

    Rebound didn’t have to ask twice.
    Rebound didn’t have to be asked twice. (I think)

    Coilgun fire stops
    Coilgun fire stopped

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