Descendants 107 – The Baroque Revival – Chapter 02

This entry is part 28 of 39 in the series Current

With a muffled beep from its electronic lock, the rooftop access to the fifty-second floor of the Sentinel Insurance building swung open.

Anyone standing among the HAVACsystems and solar panels up there would have seen an overweight, red-faced man with cauliflower ear and a Breeze-E Heating and Cooling uniform on stepping through it, but the reality was quite different.

Instead, the intruder was a woman, standing around five-foot-nothing wearing a maroon motorcycle helmet and matching long, leather coat, split into tails at the bottom. Beneath it, she wore a black armored shirt, black military-style BDUs, and combat boots with a trim to match the coat alongside equally matching fingerless gloves.

Over one shoulder, she carried a duffel bag sagging with weight, and a green glass marble slowly orbited her head, emitting glittering particles colored to match the white and blue uniform of her disguise.

Inside the helmet, Violence Museum’s Battle Battle was playing loudly while a map of the city overlaid part of her vision. Three GPS markers lit the screen; two stationary, one in transit on Welker Boulevard.

It’d really suck if they took a detour now,” she mused, stepping up to the railing at the edge of the rooftop. With one hand, she gestured, manipulating the interface on the screen to show the status of the local traffic lights, making sure the program keeping all the right ones green was still working its magic.

Everything was still on track luckily, so she dropped the bag with a heavy thud.

A smirk split her face beneath the helmet as she pulled open the zipper. “Let’s have some fun then.”

***

So how’s the streaming going, Jamie?” asked Meghan. She was in the back seat of Tink’s car; an older model police flight-capable the young engineer had salvaged and restored.

Jamie, in the passenger seat and tapping away at her palm-top grinned brightly. “We got over 2100 viewers on the last BuildWurld stream, around a thousand dollars donations. Not a lot split four ways, but the replays on OmniChannels are doing pretty good.”

Any sponsors yet?” Tink chimed in.

The blonde wrinkled her nose. “Only shitty mobile games. We’ve got too much integrity to advertise that kind of crap.” She leaned her head back against the headrest. “It’ll come though. Maybe. Whatever. It’s just nice making a little pocket money having fun with my friends and big sis.”

She turned her head to smirk at Tink. “But you better watch out. I might be more famous than all the Descendants put together someday. NougatCanon, queen of the BuildWurld and Hexlet streamers!”

Tink started to reply, only to have her attention captured by an odd shadow falling across the windshield.

Most people wouldn’t have had time to notice, but the nanites within her body increased her nerve impulse conduction velocity significantly. It was nothing compared to Callie’s reflexes, but it was just enough that her gaze flicked upward just in time to see something falling from above.

She jerked the wheel, but it was too late. Something slammed into the roof and windshield. Safety glass exploded into the cabin. Something flashed past on her right and Jamie screamed, high sharp and painful. Then the air was full of grit and darkness.

Panic made her slam on the brakes, the car’s mav-lev system decelerating them to float stationary in air. Whatever was filling the air scratched at her eyes, forcing her to screw them closed. Jamie wasn’t just screaming now, but sounded like she was crying. Meghan was cursing and calling out to the others.

Wiping away the grit in her eyes, she looked over into the passenger seat. Everything lay under a thin layer of what appeared to be sand, with Jamie clutching at her arm where a dark stain was marring the floral print of her sleeve.

There was nothing in evidence to show what had caused the injury, but there was enough blood to start caking the sand.

Oh my god—Jamie, stay calm. Keep pressure on it,” With one hand, Tink turned on the emergency blinkers and with the other, she reached between them and flipped open the car’s armrest. Inside was a first aid kit. “Meghan?”

The other young women cut off her own tirade. “Y-yeah?”

Can you see? I need to get us parked. Jamie needs first ai—” The car rocked as something heavy struck the roof, denting it in next to Meghan’s head. Meghan shrieked and lurched away as a blade stabbed through the ceiling.

The light on the passenger side was blocked as a torrent of sand started running off the roof.

Shouldn’t have stopped.” Tink muttered to herself and it clicked with her that they were under attack. “Hold on.”

Hold on?” Meghan squawked, “What’s going on?”

No idea,” returned Tink, throwing the car back into motion. “We need to get out of here. Call 911. Jamie needs a hospital.”

A shadow passed by in the rear-view, then another off to their right. Now she could make something out; human forms, plunging past, all dressed in black and maroon with long coats and helmets. They all held large hunting knives.

As much as part of her wanted to stop and analyze just what the hell was happening, Jamie’s pained cries spurred her to stomp on the accelerator and ascend. People were trying to attack them from above, so the best course of action was to go above building level. It was a risky move with the sand hazing the windows, but sitting still would be fatal.

Nothing.” Meghan muttered. “I’m getting nothing. No reception, no internet. Nothing. I can’t get through.”

What’s going on?” Jamie offered her first words since being wounded.

Tink didn’t answer. She hit the center console and turned on the main screen. All of the signal gauges were reading null. Something was jamming communication. She touched her D-icon, disguised as an emerald spindle pendant. The comm activated, but connected to nothing.

That sent a new shock of terror through her. Laurel had designed the comms n the D-icon and they used astral plane ansibles in the event of signal jamming. Either their attacker was an astral scientist or they knew magic.

It’s going to be okay,” she said, hoping it wasn’t a lie. She tried the wiper fluid, turning the sand on the windshield to sludge that was only a modicum easier to see through. At least she could make out the canyon of buildings around them more easily. She blared on the horn to warn anyone nearby.

Without reception, she couldn’t connect to GPS and find a hospital. She needed to get the fight away from her friends.

I’m going to try and find someplace to land,” she finally supplied.

Okay,” Jamie squeaked. The weakness in her voice was worrying; it could have been fear or shock—neither option characteristic of Jamie.

With the windshield a lost cause, Tink rolled down the driver’s side window. It didn’t take long to spot a sky-way spanning two towers of an apartment complex and steer for it, blaring her horn. People on it scattered as the former police cruiser came in for a hasty landing.

As soon as the tire hit concrete, Tink pulled the first aid kit out of the center console and tossed it to Meghan. “You need to get her arm wrapped and get as far from the car as possible.”

Meghan caught the kit, but goggled, stuck in the middle of still trying to get signal on her phone. “What bout you?” she asked breathlessly.

Tink threw the car into park and turned off the engine. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m going to keep whoever it is focused on me.” She then unhooked her seat belt, threw open the door, and stepped out.

Behind her Meghan fumbled open the first aid kit and leaned into the front seat with it. “Right. Right. Come on Jamie.” She reached for her friend’s blood-soaked sleeve, ready to render aid.

That was all Tink heard before touching the D-icon around her neck and switching to her Renaissance costume. The familiar weight of the suit’s gauntlets and boots along with the laden utility kilt replaced the light tank top and jeans she’d been wearing, and her cowl and goggles encased her head.

Immediately, she wished there had been a better choice of place to land. They were in the middle of a big, concrete span built over eight lanes of traffic with the only cover being in the form of the safety railing and a few benches. At least a dozen buildings loomed overhead, giving great vantage spots for their attacker.

If whoever was behind the assault had a mind to, they could easily snipe them from afar.

That didn’t seem to be the case, however, as she quickly spied a roiling cloud of dust two blocks away, sweeping along the side of a parking garage attached to an insurance company building. From the dust formed spars and struts and slabs—a long, narrow bridge that began to stretch across from the garage to the hotel tower nearest it. Through the dust, figures with knives could be seen running along the forming span.

Okay,” Tink, now garbed as Renaissance, breathed, trying to center herself. She wasn’t normally so easily intimidated, but whoever this was had blindsided her in public, with her friends, and then proved capable of defeating Laurel’s multiple fallback methods to keep comms open.

With a flick of her left arm, she cycled that gauntlet’s weapon system around to her grapnel launcher. Then she did the same with the right.

First thing was first: she needed to keep the enemy away from Jamie and Meghan. With the team, someone would stay with them. Alone, the best she could do was draw as much attention to herself as possible. Course of action set, she took off, running full out toward the edge of the sky-way.

A short hop got her foot onto the railing; then she put her considerable strength into it, launching out into open air thirty feet. Before she hit her apogee, she picked her target and fired a grapnel into the side of the nearest building. Between her own strength and that of the gauntlet’s reeling motor, she was pulled into the wall, kicking off immediately into a twenty-foot vertical leap that reached a small balcony, which she ran across a few steps to propel herself into another mighty leap.

By now, she could see the figures on the bridge and in the parking garage more clearly. They were all dressed identically, all with the same build. Most wielded knives, though some carried other weapons; truncheons, hammers, and chains with cruel hooks and spikes along their lengths.

One, however, stood out: they were standing on the junction between the bridge and garage, gesturing expansively. Just having been around magic users for years, Tink could tell they were responsible for the dust storm and the bridge.

Now she had a target. Another grapnel sank into the concrete edifice of the parking garage five stories above and started to reel in, altering the direction of her jump into a swing. Just before impact, she brought her feet up into a kick…

And somehow missed entirely. The spellcaster went from not paying her any attention to twisting and bending over backward at the same time, allowing Renaissance to swing past at speed.

Instead of the impact she was looking for, Renaissance skipped off the hood of a nearby sports car and slammed into the side of a panel van, leaving a deep dent. Pain narrowed her vision as her bones and muscles strained against forces that would have broken a normal woman’s.

It didn’t take her long to regain her footing, but by the time she did, there were at least seven red-clad forms in biker helmets standing around her, brandishing various weapons.

One of the least skilled fighters on the team. Just like we calculated.” With the helmets and the bad acoustics in the cavernous garage, it was impossible to tell which one was talking. The voice was low, menacing and if Renaissance had to guess, feminine.

Renaissance resisted the urge to correct the fighting stance she’d dropped into after standing up. “Who are you? Why did you attack us?”

The same voice answered with a sardonic laugh, “Let’s go with Myriad, since there are as many of me as there are grains of sand on the beach,” she said. “As for why I attacked you? Boredom.”

What?” Tink tried to figure out which of her attackers were speaking, watching their movements carefully. Myriad suggested some sort of multiplicity-based power. The identical outfits and builds bore that out, but she couldn’t rule out some kind of misdirection.

I got tired of recon,” the voice carried on as airily as one might explain why they decided to take a walk in the park. “Why you in particular? Because you’re the one I respect the least.”

Keeping them talking was the best strategy at the moment. It would give Renaissance an opportunity to learn more about them and what they were doing ‘recon’ for. “Really? And why’s that?”

All of you are hopeless with the superhero shtick, but at least the others have conviction. You’re just Alloy’s fame-chasing girlfriend who either won the genetic lottery or got someone to give you magic.”

Behind her goggles, Renaissance narrowed her eyes. Was that what people thought? She fought that line of thought down. It didn’t matter what this person thought anyway, considering they were the kind of person who attempted murder. “I think you’re wildly misunderstanding a few things. And even if you weren’t it doesn’t explain sending people jumping off buildings to kill me and my friends.”

You’re just digging yourself deeper,” scoffed the voice. “No way you’re smart enough to get into Cambridge without backing from Laurel Brant. Was that the point of ‘accidentally’ losing your cowl? Got frustrated with the secret identity?”

It was hard to tell if ego or jealousy was more at play. Or maybe it was all just manipulation. Renaissance would be lying to say that last barb hadn’t hit close to home. Knowing intellectually that none of the team thought that didn’t prevent her from fearing it on an emotional level.

That’s not what this is about,” Renaissance said, trying OT keep her tone even and conversational. She couldn’t help but think that Facsmile would be mocking Myriad so hard it put her off kilter by then, but banter, like the technical of fighting weren’t her strong suit. “You’re just making excuses for why you’re going against the plan. Someone’s going to be upset.”

Not so much,” Myriad laughed again. “You’re not all that important to the whole thing. Really, I figure the others will appreciate the experiment.”

She couldn’t help but ask, “Experiment?”

Another laugh. “Ever hear of Women in Refrigerators?” She didn’t wait for a reply. “It’s when a writer kills off a pointless character to develop one of the real protagonists through their grief. I want to see if Alloy actually wakes up from his idiotic idealism once you die.”

There was no cue. Not exclamation in her words, or visible signal. But all the myriad Myriads lunged forward at once.

To Be Continued…

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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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One Comment

  1. Typos

    (the whole chapter’s in this small font)

    “What bout you?”
    (possibly, the missing a might be intentional)
    “What about you?”

    the comms n the
    the comms in the

    trying OT keep her
    trying to keep her

    the technical of fighting
    (probably)
    the technicalities of fighting

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