Descendants #101 – The Battle of Freeland House Chp.6

This entry is part 9 of 55 in the series Current

The downstairs commons of Freeland House was a war zone.

As Anura worked to help chip Improv free of the ice holding him fast, Urban Ranger was ducking and rolling around the room, drawing fire and ice from the Moreau Corps and Shiver respectively. With her own hand still frozen to the grip of her bow, she’d been forced to draw her back-up: an air pistol loaded with bear repellent pepper balls. The stinging chemicals couldn’t win through their face masks, but it could stain their visors enough to make it difficult to see.

As she evaded attacks, she moved from cover to cover, inviting taser bullets and ice blasts to tear into the couches, the pool table and everything between. She wasn’t doing The Descendants’ home any favors, but she was buying her fellow heroes valuable time.

“Hold on.” Improv’s legs were now clear enough from ice that he could kneel down next to Anura. From one of the many compartments on his person, he extracted a palm-sized round tin. He screwed off the top and a distinct petroleum smell stung his attempted rescuer’s nostrils.

She raised an eyebrow at him, getting a good sense of his plan and not liking any of it. “Is that seriously…?”

“Yup.” With that, he poured the gelled camp stove fuel over the ice covering his boots. “This might hurt,” he muttered unhappily. “Go help Freemont.”

Anura was more than happy to comply just so she didn’t have to watch and see if his boots caught fire as he drew out a match and struck it. A flash of orange told her the fire was lit and a crack of ice told her it was starting to work.

Hopping low, she made her way to Freemont, having to avoid the coffee table between the two couches. She’d just reached him when the one of the Moreaus spotted her and called out, “Hey! Focus on the toad! She’s trying to free the others!”

She couldn’t help it. Ever since she manifested her powers, she’d been mocked and insulted for her similarities to certain amphibians. This despite how powerful and useful her powers actually were. Sure, grabbing things with her tongue was unsanitary, but that’s why she had her tongue sheaths—which made her powers even more versatile. She’d even started taking pride in her froginess since she’d formed the Outliers with her fellow protomorphs.

But there was one then she still couldn’t stand being called.

“I am a frog!” She spat the words with utter indignant, “Not a toad.”

The Moreau soldier responded by cocking his rifle, thus charging the taser bullet in the chamber. “Oh yeah? You know what happens to a toad when it gets hit by one of these?”

He didn’t get to finish what was sure to be an inane attempt at a one-liner because suddenly a rose-colored glow filled the room and he fell through an expanding pool of astral light. It was enough of a surprise that all the advancing Moreaus and Shiver stopped their attack to stare for a split second.

Then the screaming soldier was thrown out of the pink abyss, crashing into two of his fellows and knocking them down.

A figure in blue and white emerged, lashing out the second she was waist-high out of the astral with a tonfa that cracked one of the Moreau’s kneecaps. As he went down howling, she slammed the end of the tonfa into his mask, shattering the visor and sending him to the ground in a heap.

“Attention Tome operatives,” Codex announced, drawing her second tonfa and using it to direct the fire from an adjacent soldier into the ceiling before pivoting and striking him with the other one in the wrist with an audible snap. “You have trespassed and wrecked my home and belongings. You have assaulted my allies and kidnapped the loved ones of my friends. This will serve as your final warning: get the hell out of my house.”

She punctuated this by stepping fully out of the astral portal to drop low and sweep the injured man’s legs out from under him before bringing both tonfa down on his helmet splitting it. The ends of the weapons shined with silver lights along a pair of magic circles scribed on them.

“I really wish I could, but… no.” Shiver raised his hands and directed his power at her. Frost formed not on Codex, but on the Big Stick as Improv used it to interpose on the heroine’s behalf. He turned his gaze on the ice villain as his free hand dipped into his belt. “Hey.” he half-said, half-grunted.

“What.” Shiver deadpanned.

“I’m sorry too.” And then Improv threw a second can of gelled alcohol at him, chased by a match.

Even insulated as he was by his frost, Shiver was still human and humans tend to panic when set on fire. Screaming and flailing, he tried to flee, barreling into more Moreau soldiers while shrouded in a curtain of flame and steam.

Two of the soldiers trained their weapons on Improv, only to have their legs yanked out from under them. They hit the ground hard and were replace by Barn Owl. All but forgotten since the start of the fight, the New York prelate had recovered himself and now made sure the pair of soldiers were out of the fight with a mighty sonic scream.

“Hey, Codex. Hell of a party you throw here. Reminds me of some of the ragers I threw back in college.” There was laughter in his voice as he added. “And now that I know who you are? Probably reminded you of the same parties. I think we made out once.”

Codex ducked the butt of a swinging rifle and struck the attacker with a palm-heel strike that sent him reeling. “Is this really the time?”

“There’s always time when it comes to trying to make Urban jealous.” An arrow flashed past him, clearing his beak by less than an inch before slamming into a soldier and erupting into disabling foam.

“Mission accomplished.” Urban said, flexing her newly-free hand. “We’ll have a long talk once we’re done mopping up here.”

Not far away, the coffee table went flying courtesy of Anura’s exceptional leg strength, striking a soldier with such force that his helmet burst through the wood, leaving him trapped in a rudimentary set of stocks. “Sorry! I can pay for that!” Anura squeaked, seeing the damage she’d done. Then a thought hit her. “Oh no! Mari! She’s still trapped down in the basement with the dragon guy!”

“I’m fine! Won my fight! Now who’s the little sister!” Kali called back up. Notably, Beowulf did not say anything.

***

Now even full automatic weapons fire, the combined howls of the surviving inugami and a giant wolf, and Moreau officers shouting orders could overcome the almighty roar of a tyrannosaurus rex in terms of power or decibels.

Despite so many other threats around them, the goliath dinosaur commanded the attention of the Tome forces, especially as their weapons seemed to have no effect on the beast.

In its shadow rode Lucian the Ape Knight and his protege, The Damsel, aboard their huge mounts, all four as well as the T. rex awash with golden light that came from the driving music that boomed out over the battlefield.

“I don’t know where that music’s coming from, but we’ve got to play it during our sparring sessions, Uncle Lucian!” Damsel shouted over the din. The four mechanical tentacles sprouting from the pack on her back darted out, grabbing, throwing, disarming and otherwise taking down Moreau soldiers both armored and not, dashing them into the grass.

“Strike!” Lucian thrust with his lance, sending a pulse of force into the chest of a man in powered armor, sending him sprawling. “Indeed!” He replied with vigor, “My mind hasn’t known such clarity since I was first freed from the witch’s control. Strike!”

Another pulse struck another enemy, but this one blocked with rows of metallic limbs. Metal X. “And it looks like we will need to make the most of it against this foe.” Even as he spoke, a dozen spider limbs raised their enemy off the ground, while murderous spears extended from his shoulders.

“Randolph Woo,” Damsel ground out as she spurred her mount, Shuck, forward. “Metal X. One of the big ones.” The tentacles on her back retracted into their housing. “He can take anything metal apart and adds them to his weapons and defenses. I’m not sure if it works on magic, so you’d better stay back. We wouldn’t want you to lose your Strike Lance. I’ll take him.”

The Ape Knight narrowed his eyes with concern. “Are you certain? You said he was one of the ‘big’ ones.”

“Not yet.” Damsel grinned and leaned forward. “Let’s sic ’em, Shuck!” The wolf accelerated, teeth bared, before leaping at Metal X.

Gnashing teeth were met with a pair of crossed spider legs. The power of their collision forced Metal X back, the spider legs digging furrows in the soft ground. Giving a grunt of effort, Metal X managed to force Shuck away. “I didn’t put up with being beamed out of California just to lose to a dog. Now roll over and Play. Dead.”

The blocking spider legs shifted into a pair of scythes that swung down toward the recovering wolf’s neck.

There was a screaming sound of metal tearing and his scythes were cut off at the first joint, falling useless into the grass. His shocked gaze was met by a hardened one form Damsel, who was holding what appeared to be an empty sword hilt. She leveled the lack of weapon at him and said with the deadly seriousness of a mother standing between her children an danger.

“You do Not. Hurt. My Dog.” With that, she leapt out of the saddle, slashing with the empty hilt. Another spider leg was sliced off before Metal X could regroup.

“What the hell was that?” He launched his spears at her only to have them cut out of the air by a sword blade that wasn’t there.

Damsel took a low combat stance. “This is you making the mistake of coming to fight in a big, open field with no other metal to draw on.”

He snarled in reply. “I’ve got more than enough metal to overcome whatever trick you’re playing. Let me guess: another metal controller? One that can target my nanites directly?” He lowered himself to the ground and used them to form a pair of pistons.

“Would you believe it’s magic? You’re lucky actually: it’s the first time my Uncle’s letting me use it.” She smirked at him under her mask. “I’m not good with actual spells, but put any equipment in my hand and I’m a whiz. So let’s just see who’s got enough metal, tough guy because I’ve got metal in my blood.”

Metal X raised his pistons for the attack only for a dissonant horn to blare over the back yard of Freeland House. A new wave of Tome transports shimmered out of cloaking and began to descend. These were lighter, faster craft with no weapons and larger engines. They dropped from the sky like sullen bricks, stopping only a few feet of the grounds with bay doors open, their VTOL engines kicking up clouds of debris.

“There’s the call to retreat,” Metal X growled. “You got lucky, kid. I’ve been getting tired of all these little surprises popping up. I was gonna make an example of you.” Then without warning, he hurled the pistons at her.

Shuck was there instantly, the massive wolf slamming one of the mammoth weapons out of the air with his shoulder. Damsel took a running start and ran up her pet-slash-mount’s hind leg and bounded off his haunch, using the extra height to land on top of the second piston and run three steps along it before vaulting off it and coming down on Metal X with an overhead slash.

By the villain was already in motion, using what remained of his metal to sprout a set of actuators shaped like grasshopper legs that allowed him the leap backward almost twenty yards, well out of harm’s way. He didn’t stop there though, continuing on toward the nearest transport alongside the remainder of Tome’s routed forces.

The T. rex performed a mock charge to keep them running, while not far away, Lucian astride his own mount, the transformed rhinoceros, Embarr, was slaying inugami with impunity.

The music that had provided a soundtrack to the battle faded away, replaced by a jaunty victory tune that somehow soothed their aches and fatigue. From back near the boathouse, Facsimile and Chords came dashing up to help complete the route.

As each ship picked up their charges, they fired their engines full burst and took off, throwing up their cloaks along the way.

Facsimile landed next to Damsel. “Well here’s someone I haven’t seen in a while! The fangirl from the thing with the golems and her puppy!” She reached up and ruffled Shuck’s ears with an elongated arm while tousling Damsel’s hair with the other. “Still hanging with Lucian, I see.”

Before the younger woman could reply, Chords trotted up and here eyes went wide. “You!”

For the first time, Chords reacted with shock. “Huh? I… what?”

“You know her?” asked Facsimile.

How do you know me? I just debuted!” Chords whined.

Damsel paused, seeming to come back to herself. “Oh. Um… my mistake. You look like someone I used to know.” She motioned for Shuck to come and swung herself up into his saddle. “We should do a sweep to make sure Tome didn’t leave any surprises, huh?”

Facsimile gave her a measuring look, then nodded, reaching up to her comm. “Back yard’s secure. They’re running. How’re things at the house?”

It was Urban who replied. “We’re secure. They’ve pulled back to their transports. They got their ice guy, but we’ve got the dragon. Question: if Mayfield doesn’t have a police response unit for powered people, who do we call to deal with him?”

“Oh, we’ve got connections. Now let’s just hope the heavy-hitters do their job. I don’t want this day to end on a downer.”

“Except your home being shot up.” Chords pointed out.

“Yeah, besides—WHAT?!”

***

“You know, I’m usually the one carrying people,” Alloy remarked. He’d switched to lighter armor, but it still amazed him that the relatively lithe Adamantine was able to carry him aloft. She had her arms locked around his torso while her back had opened up to extend a set of stubby stabilizer wings attached to a rocket pack.

“Normally, I do not carry others long distances. This is an effective stress test on my flight systems.” She let that sink in a bit before adding, “But don’t worry; I won’t drop you.”

Alloy chuckled. “Much obliged. Are you sure this is the right truck? I mean it’s not gonna look good if an out of town superhero wrecks a truck on the Indiana interstate.”

This is the only truck on the satellite data that fits the parameters for distance from the escape tunnel, make of tire that left tracks in the tunnel and tonnage. I could always be wrong, or have missed another match on the data, but this is the best candidate. The speedsters are already registering heat signatures in the trailer. They could be guards and hostages. Coming up on it now.”

It was the same kind of refrigerated box truck Tome used under their front Brilliant Frozen Foods to transport captured students across the country. This one was bearing a blue heart logo with the legend ‘Good4U’ on the side.

As they drew closer, Alloy closed his eyes and concentrated. Tome had long stopped using major metal parts in their armor and weapons, but non-metal conductors were still to expensive to use to outfit every mook with specialized anti-Alloy comms, taser ammunition and the like.

Two years ago, he never would have been able to pick up on the tiny wires and circuits. But he’d had lots of practice honing his metal sense. Now, it only took him a few moments to pick them out and identify them for what they were.

“Shouldn’t have doubted you. That’s them. Ready to drop?”

“Ready. Just remember to limit damage to the trailer. Nothing to cause the driver to lose control.”

“I have done this before. You know that, right?”

Adamantine laughed, an odd buzzing sound since she wasn’t using the more advanced synthesizer that made her voice sound totally human. “Just a reminder. Dropping by in 3…2…1. Drop.”

She let go of Alloy just as she passed over the truck. Isp and Osp snapped out and grabbed the edges of the roof, anchoring him in place as he hit it. Almost predictably, gunfire came through the sheet metal surface, pinging off his armor.

With the scream of metal tearing, part of the roof folded down, slamming the gunman against the side of the trailer and pinning him there. Isp followed up by reaching in and grappling another, throwing him hard into one of his fellows.

Alloy dropped into the trailer, surging his power into the metal walls, causing strips of it to tear loose and wrap up the remainder of the guards.

Breathing hard, her turned to the other occupants of the trailer. Three people were seating against the wall nearest the cab, bound with zip ties and gagged. Three sets of eyes looked on in fear of the calamity that just interrupted their already tumultuous day.

“Don’t worry folks, we be the cavalry.” He said, trying to lighten things up with a reference. It didn’t seem to help, so he just started freeing them, starting with Alejandro Keyes.

“Thank you,” the older man said once his gag was off and Alloy had moved on to Malcolm. “These men stormed my restaurant and took me. Does this have something to do with…” he hesitated.

Alloy spared him the long explanation as he started on the bonds of the youngest. “Yeah. They wanted you… four for hostages.” He looked around, hoping to find one more person. “Except there’s three. Where’s Desiree Sweeny?”

To Be Concluded…

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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. Have Damsel and Chord met out of costume, or is time travel involved, other magic or what? Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

    Anyway, typos

    weapons shined with
    weapons shone with

    froginess
    frogginess

    were replace by
    were replaced by

    him the leap
    him to leap

    here eyes went
    her eyes went (also, it might be worth rewording this since there’s 3 women present. The reply makes it clearer whose eyes they are, but it’s momentarily confusing.)

    This is the only
    “This is the only

    still to expensive
    still too expensive

    were seating against
    either:
    were sitting against
    or:
    were seated against

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