Descendants #99 – Huddled Masses Chp.2

This entry is part 34 of 55 in the series Current

“Camp Hero is under the ROCIC’s official purview, so we have special security clearance,” Ian explained as the jet made its final approach on the base. “General Pratt has been good about making allowances for other superheroes, but I’m not sure how he’s going to feel about reading civilians into all this so Kay and JC are going to have to stay on board.”

“So sidekicks don’t count for anything?” Kay asked, feigning annoyance.

“We’ll discuss that when you wear the Witch Girl costume, snarked.

JC held up both hands. “Not a sidekick. At best, I’ve played mission control. Plus? More than happy to hide in the plane when there’s faerie stuff happening.”

“That’s the spirit.” Ian gave him a nod before pulling out his D-icon. “Alright, everyone into costume and let’s go make nice with the Camp Hero folks.”

***

The Karasu no Yūrei set down on the Camp Hero helipad at the north end of the base. It was an elevated structure with a retractable dome that sealed the moment they landed. Codex opened the rear loading ramp and the Descendants, now all in costume, arrayed themselves at the base of it, awaiting the Camp’s welcome.

After ten minutes, a door built into the side of the dome opened and a tall, well-built man with dark skin wearing a marine pattern woodland uniform entered, flanked by a pair of marines armed with assault rifles.

“Are they serious with the guns here?” Facsimile asked, leaning over to Zero. “If we were going to start something, they’d do better with baseball bats.”

“It’s probably SOP,” said Codex, “or it might make them feel like they at least have something to defend themselves with however unlikely.” She frowned after saying that, then added, “Or they might not fire your average everyday bullets.”

The exchange didn’t get any further before the presumptive welcoming committee reached them. Now that he was closer, they could see him more clearly. He was in his fifties with a stern expression that seemed to be his default one, enhanced by a thick mustache.

He took a deliberate stance in front of the group of superheroes, hands clasped behind his back. The two armed marines stood at ease just a few steps behind them.

“The Descendants, I presume.” He spoke in a deep, resonant baritone. “Welcome to Camp Hero Alpha Site. My name is Two-Star General Jaxon W Barrett and I am in charge of this facility, reporting directly to General Pratt. I’ve been instructed to give you every courtesy, but be aware that the existence of this facility is a state secret. Divulging any information it, the residents or any ongoing operation run out of this facility will be considered treason. Are we clear on that?”

Codex stepped forward, Darkness and Chaos falling in behind her. “Rest assured that we’re old hands at this by now, General. More to the point, General Pratt has already read us in on why he requested us to come in an support your search. We’re at your disposal.”

General Barrett lifted his chin, acknowledging the due respect. “Perfect. I think we can get along just fine. Of course, I’m sure General Pratt hasn’t told you everything because I’m given a certain amount of autonomy here and he’s good at maintaining that. Let’s head to the parade ground and I’ll introduce you our team.”

“Team?” Zero piped up, raising her hand like she was in class.

The general’s eyes fixed on her for a beat, obviously put off by the soft, sweet quality of her voice given her dangerous reputation. “Yes. Our Team. Camp Hero was commissioned before the ROCIC was given operational jurisdiction over the crossovers and subsequent refugee crisis. Our original and ongoing commission is training a fielding our a powered response team.”

“You’ve set up a government super team then?” Alloy asked, deep concern bordering on revulsion in his voice.

General Barrett’s reaction held an almost equal amount of disdain. “The Powered Response Team is not composed of ‘superheroes’. Powered operatives do not wear costumes or respond to situations of their own accord. They will be deployed specifically against powered threats such as hostile faeries or rogue descendants rather than blanket patrols for mundane crime or emergency response.”

He gave Alloy a sober look. “General Pratt’s working definition of the difference is this: your folks are meant to save lives. The Powered Response Team is meant to incapacitate, capture or eliminate enemies.”

Darkness folded her arms and bowed her head thoughtfully. “Then on this mission, we’re meant to…”

“Recover and secure any faeries who haven’t gone hostile.”

“And your team…”

“Will deal with whoever took them or whatever hostiles there are.”

“By that you mean kill them,” Darkness surmised. “We don’t kill.”

Chaos, hearing the timbre of her voice, put a hand on her shoulder and matched her stride, presenting a united front to the general. “Nor do we stand idly by and let others be killed.”

General Barrett’s nostrils flared as he chose his words carefully. “The faeries inbound to this site are refugees under the protection of the United States. Protecting them is our priority. But if they or anyone else involved presents a willful threat to any of our operatives—including you—they’re authorized to use lethal force.”

Now Codex joined in. “And we will do everything we can to save all lives involved. Please make sure your agents know that.”

“If you interfere with this operation,” General Barrett started to say, but was cut off by Codex.

“We won’t. But if something comes up where we feel the need to interfere and have to abstain, that’s it for our partnership with the ROCIC and you will have to explain that to General Pratt.”

Slowly, General Barrett nodded his head. “Understood. Now let’s meet my team.”

Said team was there to meet them when they reached the parade ground, standing in a straight line in front of the camp’s flag pole. The effect of the line was ruined by the huge variation in size between them. Of the five team members, one was in a set of powered armor twice as tall as the average man and another was about eight or nine feet tall and almost that wide at the shoulder. It made the other three look like children by comparison.

As they came closer, some of the members started looking very familiar to some of the Descendants.

Facsimile nudged Zero in the ribs with her elbow. “Is that the ogre we saved from that Tome base or another ogre?”

“Tydir Woodhewn,” said General Barrett picking up the observation, “Good agent. He’s become a leader of sorts among the larger faeries. Plus, he was very happy to hear he’d be working with you.”

Chaos barely even noticed the ogre as his eyes were fixed on one of the human-sized team members. Closer inspection revealed that what looked like a cape and headdress were actually a pair of green wings folded along the figure’s back and spines-for-hair that he doubted anyone else in the world had.

“General,” he said, trying hard to hold on to his temper, “That dragon lady there is a criminal. I’ve fought her before.”

“We’re well aware of that; it’s how we recruited her.” The team stood at attention now that they were within shouting distance, something that made General Barrett swell just a bit with pride. “Tome called her Maleficent. Her real name’s Mary Ann Gold. Her work for Tome was involuntary, as were the circumstances of her transformation along with her brother’s. She’s working with us in the hopes of tracking him down and getting him out.”

Codex studied the dragon woman carefully as they drew closer. “You don’t think that’s an issue that might compromise her?”

“It is a conflict of interest, but the fact remains that she was one of the best candidates for this team thanks to her additional skills as a former burglar. You’ll appreciate that we are utilizing stealth as well as more lethal and direct tactics where applicable.”

The sound Codex made didn’t suggest she was convinced, but she let it slide for the time being. General Pratt was going to get a phone call once the mission was over.

General Barrett however had turned his attention to his team. “At ease, agents.” He broke away from the Descendants to stand before his team. “As you’ve no doubt been made aware, your mission today will be a joint one. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the Descendants… all of the Descendants. Sound off to let them know who you are.”

Tydir was the first to step forward. He was huge and broad with a jutting jaw and long, wild, orange-red hair down to the small of his back and formed mutton chops along his gray jawline. Unlike the last time he’d met the Descendants, he was not dressed in a loincloth, but instead a set of no doubt custom made BDUs, combat boots, and a tactical vest Someone had also given him a pair of visor-style sunglasses and what appeared to be a small I-beam that was slung over his back.

“Hello once more my friends. Again thank you for saving me. You know I am Tydir Woodhewn. The General says that I am a ‘hand-to-hand specialist’. It means I hit things to stop them. They gave me codename: Gray Guard.” After delivering that, he stepped back, allowing a Caucasian man with a crew-cut and a military bearing to step forward.

“Arnold Partlowe, codename: Haze. Formerly of the United States Army. Scout/Infiltrator,” he reported with rapid fire efficiency before stepping back.

Mary Ann Gold was next in line, stepping forward and stating her name while never taking her eyes off Chaos. “Security Specialist. Codename: Maleficent.” she added, then dropped her gaze. “I understand if you don’t trust me. If so, keep an eye on me, but I swear I’m here to do the right thing.”

No one replied as she stepped back and the figure in powered armor replaced her, giving a salute before speaking in a deep, highly digitized voice, “Monika LaFontaine, pilot of the Overwatch. Spotting, reconnaissance and fire support.”

Codex made sure she was looking directly at General Barrett before asking. “Does your suit have less-lethal capability?”

“Fully loaded with taser rounds, sonic deterrents and entanglement shells, ma’am,” replied Overwatch’s pilot. Codex nodded her head approvingly. When she stepped back, the last member stepped forward.

Like the others, she wore BDUs and a tactical vest. Her skin was a dark, woody color that didn’t seem to match any human skin tone and her eyes were all-black except for a ring of iridescent blue. Hair the color of steel was cut to chin length and her over-long fingers gripped a long, twisted length of wood with a wide end resembling an oar. When she spoke, twin rows of sharp, translucent teeth were visible.

“I am Tahnda of the Yagah tribe, a great witch among my people, I am known as a specialist in the mystic arts of Faerie here. I have heard much about you who have given name to your kind, and am honored to meet you.”

Before anyone could ask the obvious question, General Barrett supplied an answer. “She’s a demon—or so that’s the best our translations can offer. They’re some sort of astral side creature bonded to a separate species they cultivate called a daemon.”

“We’re familiar with the species.” Chaos said warily. “What do we know about these ‘daemons’? Are they sentient?”

The general set his jaw. “For the moment, we’re trying to work out some of the moral implications of some of our new arrivals’ life cycles. What happens if a newborn demon is born and there are only humans to inhabit? Not something we want to be caught ignorant of, but at the moment, we only have her assurance as the only demon to cross over that they are not.”

“Well that’s worrisome.”

“Time to worry is later. Now it’s time for you to saddle up: troop carrier is lifting off in ten,” said General Barrett.

“I’ll be following in our jet,” Codex added.” It has equipment that can help in this.

The general nodded. “Alright then. But we need to be in the air ASAP. The longer we wait, the farther away that airship might get.”

***

Gideon Giomatti, the Nightmare King, climbed the gantry to the airship’s entrance past workers who gave both it and him a wide, terrified berth. The cape of his living armor fluttered on a breeze that only existed in its own mind and his pixie ally flew a slow orbit around him in case anyone took exception to him.

The door into the airship had already been forced open, so the stepped easily through it and into the carpeted hallway beyond. Inside, the former cargo hauler had been converted to a bargain budget attempt at a hotel atmosphere, only the locks on all the rooms were on the outside and were in various mismatched sizes and were clearly shod in steel.

“Do you see this my friends?” He said the words aloud as he mentally broadcast them alongside the images of locked doors to the faeries within those rooms. “Locked in behind burning steel. Are those the actions of friends to your peoples?”

He made his way along the main hall, between the doors, mentally checking off who and what was inside. The majority of them were spriggans alongside a handful of gremlins and trolls. All could be of use to the new Kingdom of Nightmares.

Most intriguing were two species he hadn’t encountered yet: a small group of one and a single specimen of the other. The latter’s mind spoke of a powerful intellect and an ancient power. He chose to deal with them second when he could concentrate on honest discussion rather than applying the brute force of his power.

Instead, he started focusing on the group. There he found immense strength along with a refined edge backed by keen cunning. He also found mounting impatience slowly compacting into frustration and anger. These he stoked like an expert blacksmith preparing the fire of his forge.

From the outside, the doors unlocked easily and despite how much they weighed, opened easily. The one Gideon chose opened into a sizable but spartan room featuring only a pair of over-sized padded benches, a sink with large handles, and an open cupboard formerly filled with packs of jerky and cans of nuts, now filled with the empty packages.

As soon as the door opened, Gideon’s view was blocked by a very hairy and equally chiseled chest with pecs the size of his head and abs each larger than his fists, all covered with thick, brown hair and dusky skin. He looked up and up into the face of a bull with an oddly-shaped, almost human muzzle.

The beast—a minotaur no doubt—glared down at him and spoke in a guttural, but precise tongue that Gideon translated by picking up the meaning directly from his mind.

“We ceased moving a great deal of time ago, Mankind. Why have we been delayed? My children and siblings have eaten all they were given and they hunger.”

The Nightmare King raised a hand and inserted the meaning of his own words into the minotaur’s consciousness as he spoke. “Peace, my friend. I know that my fellow Mankinds have betrayed you, but now you are in the lands that are rightfully mine. And the Nightmare King shall provide proper hospitality—provided you help defend us against those who offered only lies and imprisonment.”

With his powers, he smoothed away all the questions, all the detailed and doubts. This left only his words to stand alone as truth.

For a moment, the mighty bull-man wavered, but then he snorted and flicked his ears. “You have an accord, O King of Nightmares.”

To Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< Descendants 98 – The Precocious Prodigy Chp.5Descendants #99 – Huddled Masses Chp. 3 >>

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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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3 Comments

  1. Typos

    Witch Girl costume, snarked.
    (The sentence needs a name after snarked)

    training a fielding our a
    training and fielding (then delete either ‘our’ or ‘a’)

    you who have given name to your kind
    (I’m not sure if this is intentionally awkward speech due to having English as a second (or later) language, or a mistake. I don’t know what she’s saying either way.)

    ” It has equipment that can help in this.
    “It has equipment that can help in this.”

    all the detailed
    all the details

  2. Yay Mary Ann being back!
    Just fyi, the general would introduce himself as Major General not 2 star (two star is not the rank, it is just the insignia). It goes Brigadier General, Major Generally, Lieutenant General, General in order of stars. (Memorized with Be My Little General back in my ROTC days, lol)

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