Issue #42 – Metal X

This entry is part 7 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 4: Confluence

Part 5

When Warrick was eight, he’d fallen out of a second story window after an incident involving an extension cord, a grappling hook made from a piece of wood with nails driven through it, and a burning desire to be a tightrope walker.

He’d broken his arm and for more than ten years, it had been the most painful experience he could remember.

In the first few moments after the impact, the bar for agony had been set much higher. His whole torso, front and back, his shoulders and even the back of his head ached, but they couldn’t even begin to compare to his right side.

A sharp, hot, stabbing sensation brought stars to his eyes and an unpleasant electrical odor to his nose. Unlike the other hurts, this one didn’t die down to a dull ache; renewing in intensity every time he breathed. He’d broken a rib, maybe more than one.

Metal X was screaming at him, but he couldn’t hear it over the pain and the panic coming from Isp and Osp.

The tentacles ignored X entirely, both forming bladed edges with Isp cutting away the car wrapped around him, (When did he get hit by a car?) and Osp cutting away the armor over the damaged area itself.

Alloy tired to ask why, but the tentacle didn’t find much reason to bother answering. It flattened out into a wide band and settled over the area all the way to his spine. Once in place, it tightened, forcing the rib to be still.

The pain receded and even though he couldn’t find the strength to stand, at least Alloy could see what was going on.

Whitecoat had arrived. He stood in a basic fighting stance, watching the window he’s kicked Metal X through.

It wasn’t long before Randolph Woo, Metal X, recovered. “You.” His voice was filled with hate as a dozen spidery legs extruded from his liquid armor lifted him out through the window. Two hammer tipped whips like the one that took Alloy out of the fight trailed from his shoulder blades. “How dare you hit a man that’s not looking. Is that the kind of hero you think you are?”

Whitecoat thought it over. Then he nodded. “Yeah, I think that about sums it up. I don’t have the strength of a thousand chimpanzees and I can’t belch sonic booms, so I’m pretty okay with fighting dirty with a spider… man… whatever you are. Also, being admonished about my heroism from the guy that just came into my city and went after my ex-sidekick? Really?”

“I only went after him to find you, Whitecoat.” Metal X started to circle to the left. “You see, I’m Metal X now, but my real name, is Randolph Woo.” The helm over his head drew back to reveal his face. “Do you recognize me?”

Whitecoat let him circle and only pivoted to follow, never dropping his guard. “Can’t say I do. And I think I’d recognize that gold hat and ugly mug, you know?”

A tendril streaked from X’s hand to strike a car behind Whitecoat. The paint pealed and the non-metallic components shuddered as the frame suddenly boiled away beneath. The mass of the metal shrugged off the remnants of the car, forming a lopsided hammer which swung down mightily at Whitecoat.

It was far too slow and the hero smoothly leapt aside, watching as the hammer pulverized the road and sidewalk for five feet around where he’d been standing.

“Don’t make this a joke!” Roared Metal X, He withdrew the tendril and left the hammer to solidify into a monolith in the middle of the street. “My father died because of you. And then you went and destroyed the last thing that mattered to him: the work that kept him alive.”

Whitecoat took a few steps back. He’d leapt into the fray without knowing everything about the situation, or his opponent. Metal X wasn’t a street level thug with super strength or a blaster; he was a serious threat. A threat that had come for him—but why?

“Died because of me?” He asked, “I don’t get it, I’ve never destroyed anything but arms caches and…” It finally came to him, the pieces falling together and with them, memory. “Wait. The scientists; an old man and a college kid—the Type VII.” Horror entered his tone. “You’re wearing the Type VII nanites!”

“Type VII was Caldwell’s work. My father and I were kidnapped and worked for months to replicate and improve them. What my father created—what you destroyed—was type VIII.” Metal X was losing concentration again and his armor and weapons were starting to retract into the mantle around him. “I’ve been working for two years to recreate—and then perfect it.”

He remembered himself again and raised his arms, sending tendrils out in a veritable storm that struck into parcel boxes, cars and storefronts all around. Where they struck, silver spread out over the surface of the metals and they began to deform.

“After two more iterations, I finally perfected it; a nanite colony that uses human thought as a command interface and can react at nerve conduction velocities. They reproduce voraciously and can form complex structures from memory.”

The taken metal flowed back to X and began to undulate in a circle around him, bergs of metal solidifying and dropping off here and there. A handful of cars, traffic signals, and lamp posts remained of the metal on the street corner.

“What you destroyed, Whitecoat, is what’s going to kill you: the third generation removed from Type VII: Type X, Metal X.” The roiling mass formed up into a dozen hammers and all streaked toward Whitecoat.

***

Tink stripped a short length of wire in her teeth. There wasn’t time to get fiddly and precise with her multi-tool. While one hand was twisting the wire into place, the other was tapping on her computer.

Nervous eyes glanced at her through the rear view mirror. “This isn’t some sort of terrorist thing is it?” Asked the cabbie. He was a wide shouldered man with a Russian accent and hands so big that they hid the steering wheel.

“Opposite.” Tink said absently. Her attention was on the screen where progress bars slowly ticked up to one hundred percent and frequency numbers flashed as they synchronized. In another window, serious math was being crunched in the background. The problem was that it might be wrong math if the manufacturers of any of the products lied.

The cab driver grunted.

“Oh!” She said, shaking her head as she recalled the question. “No, it’s not terrorism. It’s heroism, actually. Maybe. I hope.” Except if it turned out to be heroism, that meant Warrick was in trouble. “I mean I don’t hope.” She amended. “Um, look, it’s complicated, but I’m trying to save someone and I hope they don’t need saving, okay?”

This seemed to satisfy the cabbie. At the very least, his eyes went from nervous to smiling in the mirror. “You’re a hero then, yes?” He nodded, “Like Urban Ranger.”

“Uh… yeah.” Tink replied, spooling out one last loop of duct tape. They were getting close to Warrick’s location. She looked down at her ‘solution’ and hoped more than ever that Warrick didn’t need such an insane and only barely scientifically sound device. Of course, the trick had worked once before.

“The Whitecoat.” the cabbie said.

“Yeah, like him too.” Tink looked around. Traffic had come to a halt so thoroughly that people were running between the cars. She frowned. Maybe it was best if she walked the rest of the way.

“No, no.” The driver insisted, pointing. “Not like him, it is him. There look.”

She did. And was just in time to see a number of serpentine hammers strike out at him.

***

Alloy grit his teeth against his aches as the barrage came against his former mentor and continuing role model. His concentration was shot through from the pain, but he forced himself to press his power against at least some of the projectiles.

Here, a hammer-tendril turned aside into the path of another, both trajectories fouled so that they went harmlessly past. There, the tendril to another was severed, causing the leading edge to solidify into a chunk of iron and clatter to the ground. One last weapon was simply nudged ground-ward where it buried itself in a trench in the asphalt.

That left eight hammers still in the air for Whitecoat to deal with.

Whitecoat met them head on. The first two, he dodged, rocking sideways to avoid them, then performing a full back bend to let the next pass over him. As it passed, he stood and lifted his right gauntlet in a sideswipe that simply punched the fourth off course.

He turned sideways and let the next two pass within an inch of either side of his head. Then, in less time than it took for Metal X to see what he was doing, he grasped the trailing tendrils of those two and used their significant strength in conjunction with his own to pull himself into a vertical handstand as the final two hammers passed under him.

As Metal X stood stunned and Alloy looked on in reverence, Isp took the opportunity to sever the connections between the tendrils and X, reverting them to common iron.

Whitecoat nodded in the tentacle’s direction as he landed in a fighting pose. “Ready to give up now?”

A frustrated snarl came from Randolph and he thrust out a palm. A rod as thick as his thumb extruded from it with the velocity of the bullet.

But Whitecoat knew how to deal with bullets. He stood perfectly still and waited for the ricochet. The nanite-bullet didn’t even do that much. When it struck the stiff leather of his coat, it splattered like a paintball and started to run down the front of it.

Whitecoat pretended not to be surprised by this in the slightest. “Yeah. Bulletproof.” He lectured the villain.

Randolph’s eyes narrowed. “Now I know what makes you bulletproof. You’re using magnetism to interlock plates inside the coat.” Streamers of silver lashed from his forearms and looped around past Whitecoat, seizing the back of his coat and viciously pulling it from him, dashing it to the ground. “Let’s see you be bulletproof now.” He raised his hand.

“Stop!”

Even before he fully registered who the voice belonged to, the sense of foreboding that Alloy felt when this battle began returned. “No.” He muttered. “No, get out of here.”

Metal X paused. “Another sidekick come to suffer for you, Whitecoat?” He looked in the direction of the voice.

Christina “Tink” Carlye was standing behind a parked car, wisely putting the engine block between herself and danger. She was holding a crossbow.

A lot of things were going through her mind. Questions along the lines of ‘what was she even doing there’, ‘was she losing her mind’, and ‘was this how she was going to die’ were at the forefront, but those got muscled aside by the question of why Alloy wasn’t getting up and fighting and why a massive chunk had been carved out of his armor.

Her resolve steeled even if her knees refused to stop shaking. “Don’t move.” She ordered, leveling the crossbow against the car hood while her other hand went to three heavy devices duct taped to her waist; camping generators.

One generator, the packages claimed, could power five devices for fifteen hours. They were currently hard wired to charge capacitors taped to the crossbow, which fed into an ‘over the air’ power delivery system meant to let a cordless mouse or keyboard to be powered from a computer instead of batteries.

Five of those were arranged around the modified head of a crossbow quarrel which contained another cluster of small capacitors and a magnetic ring. The entire rig, in her estimation, could deliver a significant amount of wattage thanks to some creative tinkering with the safety mechanisms. But only for one shot.

Metal X knew none of this and ignored Whitecoat for the moment to call up several dozen spears in a threatening display. “You don’t tell me what to do.”

Tink swallowed, then looked at Alloy. “Remember your silver armor?” She asked, and took aim.

Alloy remembered. Once, when he’d been under the mental control of the villain Thunderhead, he had attacked Tink, only for her to stop him with a giant electromagnet. He’d only escaped from that by transmuting his armor to diamagnetic silver.

And suddenly, he knew what she was going to do. It wouldn’t do what she was expecting, but given what happened when the nanites struck Whitecoat’s magnetic armor plating, it would be better.

He nodded to her. He didn’t need to change his armor this time, it was made of aluminum. As was the car he’d landed against, which Metal X had passed over when he was summoning all available metal against the Whitecoat. As was the ruined traffic light he’d used to attack, which Metal X dodged instead of assimilating with his nanites. As was the windmill housing X shielded himself from. Another epiphany hit Alloy and he had a whole new appreciation for his chemistry classes.

Tink wasn’t privy to any of this. She took careful aim and let the bolt fly. Metal X sneered and sent two tendrils to intercept it in air. Three inches from the powerful neodymium ring magnet, they lost cohesion and spattered like rain.

The bolt struck home in the side of a streetlight behind Metal X. There was a bright white flash as a miniature lightening bolt arced from the bolt and into the lamp post. For a moment, it looked like nothing had happened. Then the tendrils started to melt and slough off.

It wasn’t enough. Metal X, gaping at what was happening, hastily backed away from the source of the interference. His nanite armor was only half as bulky as it had been at the start, but it was enough to strike back.

Eyes wild, he made a fist in Tink’s direction, sending a trio of spears right at her. Alloy and the Whitecoat both flew into action.

Alloy threw his power at the projectiles, but this time Metal X’s will was only split between three instead of a dozen. He only caught two, thrusting them into the ground.

Whitecoat caught the other. Without his signature and protective coat, off balance and unable to reach the spear in time running, he only had one option: jumping in front of it. The spear hit him in the belly and kept going, slowed only by his weight. His legs hit the side of the car Tink was sheltering behind and he was thrown into her. The spear scored a cut across her stomach in the process.

Silence reigned on the street.

Series Navigation<< Issue #41 – MachinationsIssue #43 – Love You Madly >>

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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