Descendants L.A. #7 – Ensemble (Part 1)

This entry is part 7 of 13 in the series Descendants: LA Volume 1

Sirens wailed behind him as he stopped to catch his breath. The chase had led him to one of the many bridges that led over the Los Angeles River. Actuators whirred audibly as he opened a compartment sunk into his arm and double checked its contents: a brass colored box with a glass front containing a maze of golden circuitry. The aurum-trilithium battery prototype. Once he had it charged and installed, he’d be the most powerful spark jockey on the west coast thanks to his frequency modulation technology.

A powered armor unit appeared overhead and hit him with its spotlight. The police officer powering it ordered him to power down his systems and get down on the ground.

He had no intention of doing so. Shoving the battery back into its compartment, he made a rude gesture to the cop and leapt over the railing.

The fall would have killed a normal man, but he wasn’t normal. The light exoskeleton he wore was bolted to his skeleton and it granted him incredible resilience; resilience to take a five story fall and land on his feet shaken but unharmed.

It wouldn’t shake the cop in his powered armor, but it would make his pursuit harder.

Another light fell on him, coming from the side this time. It was followed by a green glow and then a red one. Turning, he was forced to squint through the glare of a motorcycle headlight to see five figures: two were hovering in air, supported by a platform of green light and a ring of red lightning. Another was astride the motorcycle, and the last two stood to either side of it.

One of the former stepped forward; a man in red with a helmet. “Sorry, Clawful, but we’re about to pull the plug on your battery heist.”

The criminal cyborg called Clawful shifted into a fighting stance. He wore a brown and black body suit with chrome plating over the otherwise exposed exoskeleton attached to him. His head was shaved on the top and back to accommodate a copper skull-cap, but he grew it long on the sides with huge mutton chops.

“Was wondering when I’d have ta tangle with you.” He grunted. Cuffs around his wrists reconfigured and compartments between the radius and ulna of each arm opened to unsheathe a pair of wickedly curved blades each, which in turn extended to well over a foot past his knuckles. The unsheathing made a distinctive, metallic sound. “Let’s see what you punks got.”

“Let’s finish this quickly.” Icthiani regarded Clawful from beneath her hood with an expression reminiscent of someone finding a dead bird on their doorstep. “I wish to return to dinner.”

Of all the days to pull his heist, Clawful picked the night the gang ordered in Italian; a cuisine very close to that of the plains earldoms she spent most of her life in. Icthiani didn’t like many things, but it was unwise to come between her and any one of the ones she did.

Trailing the index and middle fingers of her left hand into the lightning wreathing her, she drew some of it out of line until it formed an arc going above her head. She then snapped her arm forward, pointing at Clawful with those same fingers. Crimson lightning struck from them, raking along the ground and tearing up the concrete.

But Clawful dodged with technology-assisted dexterity and in the next moment was leaping at her, clearing a twenty-foot standing long jump with ease.

A screen of green energy shoved her aside even as Lydia screamed “Watch out, Lady D!”

It was a good thing too. Clawful had managed to leap over Ray, Felix and Loshuia to get at her and he passed through the area she had occupied at speed. There was a pylon for the bridge directly behind her and Clawful raked his claws on it.

The cuffs around his wrist set up a vibration along the extended claws as he did. The claws ripped deep into the pylon, throwing up dust from the destroyed concrete in the process.

“Just like I warned! Spread out and stay away from those claws!” Ray shouted, trying to hide his complete lack of surprise that Icthiani hadn’t listened to his briefing on the way to intercept Clawful.

The others did as he said; Felix jumped off his bike, Loshuia gripped the hilt of his sword and dashed out wide, and Lydia lifted her board to teen feet above the ground for a better vantage point. A full unit of LAPD powered armor was flying above them, shining their spotlights, but holding to give the Descendants space to work.

As Clawful rounded from his unsuccessful strike, Felix’s right hand split at the palm and slid aside to reveal his grenade launcher. There was a hollow pop and a white canister tumbled through the air toward the criminal cyborg. It exploded into quick setting foam a foot in front of him, but again, Clawful evaded, this time with a diving shoulder roll.

He came up with his sights set on Loshuia, but Lydia caught his arm in a web of telekinetic force, pulling him into the air.

Snarling, Clawful twisted and slashed at the green bonds that held his other arm. The frequency modulator kicked in just as it had to allow him to cut through concrete and his blades sheared Lydia’s energies. The backlash struck her like an instant migraine and she fell from the sky.

Ray saved her from striking the ground with a diving catch, but that left them both sprawled on the ground at Clawful’s mercy.

“You five are really getting on my nerves now.” growled Clawful, walking toward them with claws outstretched. “What I’m gonna do to you isn’t gonna be pretty, but I’m gonna do my best at it.” He lunged forward, only to be parried by Loshuia’s sword. The swordsman moved so quickly that the modulator never had time to formulate a frequency to cut through his blade.

“You’ll do nothing of the sort, common thief.” Loshuia pushed him back and performed the third form of the wind talon technique from the Flying Raven School of Blade Mastery.

Clawful backed up and leapt as the three pronged fusillade of concentrated wind tor up the ground beneath him. But he didn’t aim for Loshuia; instead he directed himself at the only member who was both within reach and alone: Felix.

His fellow cyborg was loading a second foam canister into his grenade launcher and barely had time to bring the barrel of the weapon up to ward off the blow.

The modulated claws buzzed angrily as they tore through metal and plastic, sheering off Felix’s mechanical limb just below the forearm. Error and damage messages overwhelmed the teen Machine armor systems, leaving him temporarily helpless for the follow up strike that Clawful raised overhead.

A blood colored lightning strike put a stop to that, entering through the raised claws and earthing itself through the exoskeleton bolted to Clawful’s bones. The man himself didn’t even scream as he crumpled to the ground.

Less than a second later, the emergency error dumps kicked in and Felix got control again, only to look down at Clawful who twitched and breathed in shallow pants at his feet. “Whoa.”

“He’s captured now?” Icthiani asked without moving from where she hovered.

“I’ll say.” Felix marveled.

“Good. Then I’m going to finish my dinner.” She brooked no arguments, disappearing in a flash of red energy.


The rest of the team didn’t make it back to the apartment for another twenty minutes.

Felix was carrying the three pieces of his grenade launcher arm, having switch the broken thing out for one containing security circumvention equipment instead. The phantom pain sensation that went with the error cascade finally relented when he saw Icthiani sitting at the kitchen table in her sweatshirt and track pants, eating his manicotti.

“Hey! That’s mine!” He protested.

She glanced up at him and the others as if to say ‘took you long enough’, and then deliberately took another bite. “I saved your life tonight, correct?” He nodded and she nodded along with him. “I’ve been informed by a number of sources that one is traditionally rewarded. So I’ve chosen this as my reward.”

“That’s not…” He started to protest, but she was looking at him with a piercing stare that made him feel terribly alone despite being surrounded by his friends. He was getting to know that look all too well. It often showed up in his lab at three in the morning when he thought he was alone.

“There were other things I could have chosen.” She said flatly, “If you would like to discuss it, we can.”

Felix wasn’t so hungry any more. He just wanted her to stop looking at him like that. “Fine.” He muttered. “I’ve got to go get out of my armor anyway.” Avoiding her gaze as best he could he headed for his room.

When his door closed, Icthiani found herself the target of a particularly potent look herself.

“Ani.” Loshuia folded his arms and shook his head in disappointment.

She scowled. “Am I misunderstanding the tradition?”

“Are you actually being serious?” Ray asked.

“Of course I am.” She pushed the plate away, seeing as how she wasn’t going to be allowed to enjoy it anytime soon. “You’ve forced me to learn to use that;” She pointed to the television in the living room, “To learn more about your world. One of the common themes is that saving the life of another results in rewards: often money, marital rights, or a feast and often a combination of the three.”

Loshuia looked to Ray with a shrug. “She’s right. That is how it’s presented on television. At home, saving a life got your name inscribed on the Sainted Cliffs, but nothing ostentatious.”

“I prefer the Blue World method.” Icthiani said. She made no move to protest when a green glow wrapped the plate and lifted it. This was almost expected.

“Sorry, Ani, but here on Earth, we don’t steal people’s food as a reward.” Lydia still had her wig on as she took the plat out of the air, intent on delivering it to Felix. “And we’re not supposed to expect rewards either. Especially not us. We’re heroes; saving lives is what we’re supposed to do. Especially the lives of our friends. Just a ‘thank you’ should be enough.”

Icthiani’s eyes flashed and it was hard to tell if that was literal, given her proclivities. “He did nothing of the sort.” She jumped up from her seat and walked briskly to intercept Lydia. “Therefore, he must pay me a grievance.”

Ray stepped forward to block her before she took the plate back. “Okay, Ani, that’s enough. Felix is an easy going kind of guy and lord knows that makes him easy to pick on, but I’m not letting you do that, understand?”

Her eyebrows furrowed. “Pick on?”

“Antagonize, harass… steal food and coffee from.” Ray clarified.

Lydia frowned at the confrontation. “Look, Ani, I got manicotti too. How about I trade you half of mine for half your Chicken Marengo?”

But Icthiani was focused on Ray now, her glare almost enough on its own to punch a hole through him. “I do not ‘pick on’ Felix.” She looked, for a moment, as if she was going to add something, but instead she stalked back over to the table and sat down in front of her own plate.

The remaining three west coast Descendants exchanged looks, but Ray finally shook his head. “I’ll try and convince Felix to stand up to her later. Let’s see if the news footage is up; I’m kind of anxious to see the video.”

“To see why it took us so long to take down a guy with a name like ‘Clawful’?” Lydia guessed. The television came on with a wave of her hand. It was already tuned to News Provider 10, the LA affiliate owned in part by D3I. It would, as always, be the one that got the best and longest footage, as they were alerted whenever the team responded to something.

“Mostly. That name was so bad, I’m kind of traumatized. But the other part is, I’m trying to keep an eye on Our Friendly Spin Machine. After the hatchet job they did on the LAPD powered armor division after we stopped that airship-jacking, I’m trying to get dad to keep a leash on them.

They were just in time to see the tail end of the coverage. On screen, Icthiani’s lightning struck Clawful down with a vengeance before the image shrank and was pulled back to hover of the newscaster’s shoulder. The primly dressed, raven haired woman was smiling as if the footage contained kittens and puppies rather than crime and punishment.

“And so once again, the day is saved by our local chapter of the prelate team, The Descendants, the tenth such act of heroism the group has performed for our city since their debut just after the new year. In two short months, this cadre of crime fighters has made a splash in LA’s justice and public safety scene, partnering with police, firefighters, and even the national guard to protect us from the threats beyond the scope of normal law enforcement.”

“Better.” Ray said, “But I wish she hadn’t taken that last jab. We have to work with these guys; we don’t need them thinking we’re trying to make them look bad.”

“Make who looked bad?” Felix came out of his room sans armor, and with his ‘civilian’ arms and legs. The broken arm was in a duffel bag over his shoulder.

“Police, other civil servants.” Loshuia explained.

“Wasn’t your dad gonna fix that, Ray?” Felix sat down on the couch beside Lydia.

“I told him we need to do something about it, but you know how Dad is.”

The newscaster continued. “And in other Descendants news, the original Descendants returned to Greenview Ridge today to help with the clean-up following the psionic originated earthquake that nearly leveled the town during an altercation between the Descendants, Southwestern prelates, Majestrix and Zero point; and alleged source of the earthquake, Ethan Braylocke earlier this month.

LA’s own Descendants will be attending the Society to End Human Suffering Ball next week to raise money for the victims of Greenview Ridge.”

“We are?” Lydia asked as Ray goggled at the screen. “You didn’t tell me. I need to get dresses for Ani and me, and are we supposed to bring a date? Is it formal?”

“Assuming ‘balls’ are the same on both our worlds as I understand the meaning of the word, I believe they are formal be default.” Loshuia said.

“I am not leaving this place.” Icthiani asserted from the kitchen. “Even if I wished to, my sangrelogos makes me instantly recognizable.”

“That’s not really a problem here.” Lydia insisted. “We’ll be going as our hero-selves, so you could go as Lady Demon.”

“And don’t be so sure of being recognized. I’m playing with some tech down in the lab right now; it’s supposed to be active camo, but it’s not there yet. With some adjustments, I’m pretty sure I can make your skin look different.” offered Felix.

Ray huffed and stood up. “Guys, no one is going. This is the first I’ve heard of it: Dad and d3I are trying to screw us over for publicity again. I’m going to go call him and give him a piece of my mind.”

Lydia made a face. “Wait. But what if we want to go? Fancy party, free food and it’s for a good cause too? I don’t see a downside about that.”

“Yes,” Loshuia said. “I do miss the balls from back home. I would very much like to attend.”

“Military.” Icthiani muttered in response and glared at him. There were no balls in the Sanguine Halls, and at home, she’d been too young to see them as anything more than boring political functions.

“Do what you want.” Ray shrugged, heading for his room.

“So… you’re not calling him on the big screen?” Felix called after him. When Ray shook his head, Felix grinned at Lydia. “So. Who’s up for a little dog-fighting in Ace of Wings: Classic?”

Lydia grinned and gave him a high five. “You’re on Mr Mostly Armless. Just let me go change.”

To Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< Descendants L.A. #6 – Above the Line pt. 3Descendants L.A. #8 – Ensemble (Part 2) >>

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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