Descendants #105 – A Sound Like Thunder Chp 2

This entry is part 55 of 55 in the series Current

That transition was jarring, agonizing. Every muscle in Kareem’s body felt as if it were cramping; every nerve as if it was being cut free from his body.

MayComm’s astral gate had not been designed to transport physical beings across the boundary between worlds. So however it had been reconfigured to do so, it did in the same way a cube of gelatin could be transported through a straw.

He marveled at how the process hadn’t been fatal even as he collapsed from his reeling senses. Somewhere, someone was screaming in pain. It was as an afterthought that he realized he was joining them. Then, mercifully, he passed out.

***

A full-body ache greeted him upon waking. It hurt so much to just open his eyes, it felt like a heroic effort to do so. There wasn’t much to see: the ever-present rosy haze of the astral plane prevented seeing whether or not there even was a sky there.

Turning his head was absolutely out of the question, so instead he tapped into his power and sent his mind questing for signs of sapience around him. There were two people relatively near him.

One was a dim constellation of thoughts that crackled with random connections and eruptions from deep within the subconscious. Whoever it was, they were asleep and dreaming. The other was a violent little storm that flickered from dim to bright to something approaching level; signs of someone dazed or emerging into wakefulness.

While he marshaled his mettle to brave moving through the protests of his body, the dazed mind came fully awake. In the waking world, he heard a groan that turned into a sharp mewl of pain. He could tell it was a female, but be couldn’t tell if it was Lily or Vamanos without actually touching their mind. For a moment, he balked, but necessity once again to his shame trumped morality and he reached out.

Lily?

Kareem? Where are you? You sound like you’re talking to me over my shoulder, but I’m lying on my back.

We are speaking telepathically.

Is that what it’s like? I thought it would be more echo-y. A sharp send of discomfort and pain played through their psychic link. Ugh. What happened. Did the building explode? What is everything Persian pink? Did I burst blood vessels in my eyes? Am I about to go blind?!

Kareem did his best to send soothing feelings over to her. No. We are on the astral plane. The local atmosphere simply is this color. He tried to sit up, but his body protested with a fury he couldn’t deny, sinking back to the ground.

The astral plane? That’s like… another world! How did this happen? Why did this happen? You’ve got to get us out. I was NOT ready to travel to another world today.

There were far more things to be worried about than whatever Lily thought might make her ‘ready’ for extra-dimensional travel, but Kareem didn’t mention this to her. Making her panic wouldn’t help anything—and could actively make things worse.

I promise I will find a way back to the material plane, Lily. We simply must remain calm. Now: can you move?

Another mewl of pain followed, which quickly turned into a full-on scream as Lily clearly pushed through the pain. He couldn’t help but wince.

It hurts. God, it’s worse than the morning after a full day at the gym. But yeah, I can move. Well I rolled over? Why are there trees?

The short answer? That would be because the MayComm building is still relatively new. There isn’t enough emotion invested in it to manifest on the astral, so we see the original, natural form of the world on this side.

Deciding that if Lily could make herself move despite the cramping and aches, he took a deep breath and tried again to sit up. It was something he immediately regretted, but with the pains slowly fading from blinding to simply terrible. After far too long, he managed to force himself to sitting up fully.

Apparently the MayComm building had been constructed on the site of an orchard. The trees Lily had reported were arranged in orderly rows. Each was loaded with large, ripe apples and the ghostly outlines of aquaculture machinery followed the lines of trees with larger tanks visible in the distance.

With some more effort, he turned his head, spying first Lily, lying on her side facing away from him and then Vamanos. The team speedster was on her stomach. She was motionless, but still clearly breathing.

Then he noticed something that demanded all of his attention: an impact crater.

It wasn’t deep, but there was a clear impression in the soft dirt where something heavy landed. It occurred to him that some of the bruising pain he was feeling might not have just been from a faulty transition across planes of reality, but from a fall.

He silently blessed astral physics that falling four stories from where the MayComm building’s lab had been hadn’t been fatal. It had still be enough for something very heavy and extremely durable to dent the earth though.

And whatever or whoever that had been was likely the very same thing that caused the astral disruption that drew them to MayComm in the first place.

No one could claim that Kareem’s mental acumen was limited to his powers. Swift deduction concluded that it was now gone, meaning it was mobile. Given that some mentalist was waiting for them at MayComm, it was safe to say the whole thing was a trap. However, since the one who served as bait had moved on to another objective instead of waiting to attack them when they were forced through, it meant there was something larger afoot.

Panic made him move against every protest his body raised, scrambling to his feet in a cacophony of groans. “We…” his throat was dry and the words came out scratchy and rough. Swallowing a few times didn’t seem to help, but still he persisted. “We have to get moving. Something… something else is happening.”

Limping over to Vamanos, he knelt next to her. Laurel had made sure they all had basic emergency medical training, so it didn’t take long to ascertain that she wasn’t badly hurt, and a quick application of his power confirmed to him a second time that she was somehow asleep and not injured.

“Oh god, Callie!” he looked up to find that Lily had maneuvered herself onto her hands and knees and was clumsily scrambling to her friend’s side. “She’s not moving—is she dead?”

Kareem carefully rolled Vamanos onto her back. “No. Only… sleeping. Not even knocked unconscious; sleeping. Dreaming.” He closed his eyes and concentrated on her, reaching out to touch her mind and draw her back to the waking world.

By then, Lily had reached them and had ceased her friend by the shoulder. “So wake her up, we need her. Callie! Callie can you hear me?” She didn’t give her any time to respond before turning to Kareem. “Do something! Aren’t you like… a god or something here? A reality morpher or whatever Kane calls it?”

“Reality warper.” Vamanos murmured. Her eyelids fluttered a moment before she tried struggle out of Kareem’s arms. “Hold on. Where’s the guy? The one I was helping. Is he okay?”

Holding fast to her arms, Kareem shook his head. “He didn’t exist, Vamanos. He was a mental illusion.”

“But he seemed…” she blinked, “Wait… is there something wrong with my eyes? Everything’s pink.”

“Yeah. We got sucked into the astral plane.” Lily said bluntly. Before Callie could react to that,s he added, “But we’re totes okay because—like I was saying when you woke up—Kareem is like completely unstoppable and in control of everything here.”

She turned and looked at him expectantly. “So… what? Are you going to psychic us up a car and drive us home?”

“We have a bigger problem than being in another world,” Kareem continued explaining to Callie, “Someone or something arrived before us—lured us here—but did not wait around to ambush us. That implies they have more important things to attend to than us.”

Showing no signs of the aches and pains the others had, Callie sat up the rest of the way and rubbed sleep out of her eyes. “Ugh. Well… what kinds of things can someone do from here?”

“Assuming they have something akin to my powers or other astral-focused abilities or technologies?” Kareem asked, expression becoming tense. “The possibilities are endless and terrifying. Access to the astral plane is the ability to move around to any location without being detected.”

“Except by you,” Callie put in.

Lily threw up her hands at this point, “Okay, so you make a tank instead, blow up whoever this is, then we go home.”

Catching her eye, Kareem pursed his lips. “I feel that you have been grossly misled about how my powers actually work.”

“Then you…. can’t make a tank or a car?”

“I can make constructs, yes. But…” he paused a moment in thought before continuing with, “If you had the ability to create any steel and rubber and plastic and ceramic materials you wanted in any shape you want it, do you think you could create build a car from them?”

Indignation marred Lily’s features. “Hey. I’ll have you know that I do my own maintenance on my car.”

“No offense intended, but could you put together an electric motor from scratch?”

“Oh… so you can make stuff, but you have to know how it works and everything first?” Lily asked.

He nodded. “And there is another complication: I have only ever manipulated astral matter while projecting myself into this plane. To be honest, I am not even certain I can do such a thing while physically here.”

This earned him a dull stare from Lily. She blinked once, twice, and then she started trembling. “Then… then you don’t have any powers here? We’re actually trapped here? Can we even get back?!”

Making sure Callie was steady, Kareem put a soothing hand on Lily’s shoulder. When that didn’t have the intended result, he used his other hand to gently take her chin and turn him toward him so she had no choice but to look him in the eye. “Lily, you must remain calm.”

“Calm? You just told me we’re trapped in another world with nothing to protect us! How the hell am I supposed to stay calm?”

For a fraction of a moment, Kareem considered explaining that her rampant emotion could alter the astral terrain and attract predators. He rapidly discarded it because once she knew that, there would be no calming her. So instead, he looked her in the eyes and said, “I said no such thing. For one, I said I wasn’t sure I could use that aspect of my powers at the moment. For another, that is not the extend of my powers or my ability to aid us in returning home.”

“Or mine,” Callie piped up. She got to her feet and struck a heroic pose. “Don’t forget me, Lil; I’m the fastest thing on any world.”

“Lil?” her friend asked, panic temporarily forgotten.

Callie’s bravado melted immediately and she lowered her head, poking her fingers together meekly. “Sorry, Lily. I just thought… well it sounded cool in my head.”

“In any event,” Kareem got to his feet. The pains were fading, but still present as he offered Lily a hand up. “We will have to deal with escaping this plane later. Something worse is afoot here and we need to put a stop to it.”

Lily took the offered hand, but eyed the pair of heroes suspiciously. “You can’t mean…”

Callie grinned as she grokked to what Kareem was saying. “Oh yes. Come on, Lily—we’re going to go fight evil!”

***

Elsewhere on the Astral…

“I’m impressed. Smooth operation, excellent latency, immediate response. You’ve really created a marvel here: remote neural control with almost zero lag.”

“I can’t take all the credit. Laurel Brant’s work with boosting signals and rendering images with neural control were revolutionary and essential to this design. I hope you don’t mind that I added my own dramatic flair.”

Servos whispered as mechanical arms extended and retracted experimentally. Standing on the astral version of a terrace in one the old town neighborhoods in Mayfield, a humanoid machine with six mechanical insectoid arms extending from its back flexed and tested its range of motion for the tenth time since its arrival on the astral.

“Just can’t wait to put it to a more rigorous test. Like the one I wanted to once I had Utt pulled into this world.”

“Ah, ah, ah.” Admonished the more authoritative of the two voices. “You can use this wondrous machine for your own purposes once you’ve rendered payment. This protects you as well. After all, don’t you want to see if my entirely theoretical cross-planar weaponry actually works as advertised?”

“True enough.” The machine started walking again. “And really, I am curious what Mr. Liedecker’s policy on descendants is…”

To Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< Descendants #105 – A Sound Like Thunder Chp 1

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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3 Comments

  1. Vaal still lives! Though he may be less enthusiastic about writing these days…

    Callie/Vamanos sounds like she somehow isn’t hurting the way the other two are, is that right?

    Anyway, typos.

    A sharp send
    A sharp sense
    (I’m almost sure that’s correct.)

    still be enough
    still been enough

    she tried struggle
    she tried to struggle

    not the extend
    not the extent

  2. Vaal still lives! Though he may be less enthusiastic about writing these days…

    Callie/Vamanos sounds like she somehow isn’t hurting the way the other two are, is that right?

    Anyway, typos.

    A sharp send
    A sharp sense
    (I’m almost sure that’s correct.)

    still be enough
    still been enough

    she tried struggle
    she tried to struggle

    not the extend
    not the extent

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