Descendants: LA #13 – Fiends and Falsehood Part 1

This entry is part 1 of 13 in the series Descendants: LA Volume 2
Sharing commuter pods made the trip less expensive, but awkward, thought Mike Reese as he tried to keep his eyes directed out the window at the stalled traffic outside instead of the two beautiful, young co-eds he was sharing the pod with for purely economic reasons.
Unfortunately, he could see their reflection in the window, so that wasn’t working out for him. He could also see his own reflection and was increasingly disappointed with what he saw. Twenty years ago, the girls he went to college with would have called him a mahogany god; he’d been tall, dark and buff as hell even though he’d turned down offers to run track for a scholarship in favor of throwing himself bodily into economics class.
Two decades, a divorce and way too many donuts later, and he was pretty sure that the giggling coming from the other side of the pod was at his expense. Where was the justice?
In an effort to keep from going to a dark place, he focused on the traffic. LA traffic always had been and likely always would be hideous—that’s why he never drove. But the standstill below him was ridiculous even by the city’s standards at that time of day.
Suddenly, the pod jolted to a halt.
“We’re sorry,” a recorded female voice droned from the overhead speakers as the same message appeared in three languages on the screen next to the doors, “This pod has been ordered to comply with a temporary stop order from the Los Angeles Police Department. Please remain calm and service will resume shortly.”
Mike grumbled under his breath, but his plans for the evening was just some bar hopping with the boys later.
Across from him, the girls were reacting with despair. “Oh no! We’re going to miss our tutoring session!” said one of them, an Asian girl with a round face and long, glossy black hair.”
Her friend, a redhead with freckles to spare that Mike guessed was Irish, hung her head. “I don’t know what you’re so worried about, it’s my parents who are going to make me come back home and go to State if I don’t pass this Econ course.”
Mike’s eyebrow raised in spite of himself. Two beautiful girls in need of an economics tutor? He wondered who he had to thank for that.
And no sooner than he thought that than the distant roar of a powerful engine sounded. Only it didn’t come from below them on the road, but some somewhere above—and coming closer. The noise reached its peak and a shadow passed over the sunroof.
A split second later and a green motorcycle, bristling with weaponry, with a green armored figure astride it landed on the rail the pod had been following. Bursts from retrorockets helped it balance on it as it sped away.
“You almost hit the pod!” a shocked voice blurted over the comm channel as Felix Park, also known to the world as Teen Machine, opened his throttle up full.
“No worries, Mo.” he calmly replied. “My jump jets are a very exact science and I had the computer do the math twice before I got up here.”
This didn’t seem to calm her down in the least. “And why are you up there?”
Felix shrugged, forgetting she couldn’t see. “The cops were really on the ball today – street’s cordoned off and that means twenty blocks of totally still traffic in all directions. And I am not driving Gertie on the sidewalks. I’m nervous enough rolling all these guns on surface streets.”
“Alright, I’ve got it.” sighed Ramona Getty. She was a relative newcomer to the team, and still not used to their methods. From her console back at their secret base/apartment, she cross-referenced the maps. “Follow the pod line five more blocks, then turn east. The streets are blocked there, so you won’t have to do anymore stunts. Based on the others’ ETAs Lady D will be the only one there before you.”
“Cool.” Felix grinned under his helmet. “So what is this place and what’s the bad guy want from there?”
Ramona brought up the incident report sent to them by 3DI. “It’s a bank; Hollister and Hyde. I’m guessing money.”
“It better be a lot of money to justify and giant robot like in the police radio chatter.” Felix said, more to himself than her. “Hmm… Hollister and Hyde—why does that sound familiar?”
Moving a few windows around on her screen Ramona ran a quick internet search and chuckled at the results. “You’ve been there before. About three months ago—before I moved in with you guys. Looks like you took out a bunch of goons with heavy weapons who were trying to empty the safe deposit boxes.”
By then, Felix had reached the turn and hit a set of switches just as it came up. The jump jets engaged, launching the bike into the air while two nozzles on either side opened, blasting hissing fonts of white steam. The flow of both alternated in intensity, causing the bike to both slow and turn in midair while the jump jets throttled down, softening the fall to the pavement below, and allowing it to land just short of the police barricade spanning the street.
With a wave to the officers there, Felix gunned it down the street toward the bank.
“Sorry about that, Mo. Had to do some navigating. So do we know if this robot if going for the safe deposit boxes too?”
“I don’t think so. There’s not a lot coming in and out and I can’t just hack security like you can, but from what I can find, it smashed in the front, then went down through the floor. The safe deposit boxes are in a vault on the twelfth floor.”
“What’s in the basement?”
“No idea. Blueprint says offices, server room—but I wouldn’t put it past those guys to lie about what’s down there.”
“Me neither…” Felix trialed off as he reached his destination.
Now he remembered the place: the plaza that had once held and APC carrying men with rockets, the stairs previously infested with machine gun nests, the ranks of windows where there had been snipers. Now there was none of that. Instead, the front approach had been demolished: two pillars had been taken out, causing the portico to sag dangerously. Beyond, the doors and the surrounding wall had been smashed in. From the size of the hole, Felix guessed the robot was around fifteen feet tall.
At the bottom of the stairs was a figure in red.
Icthiani, or Lady D (the ‘D’ was for ‘demon’, but the group and the press releases hadn’t used that for months) sat on the empty air, her legs folded up and to the side as if riding side saddle. The noise of Felix’s approach astride Galloping Gertie didn’t draw any response from her, and as he came closer, he could see that her eyes were closed and her forehead was wrinkled in concentration.
Dismounting, Felix checked his choice of cybernetic limbs for the occasion: one arm was a heavy machine gun loaded with hollow point rounds filled with solder to cause short circuits in electronics they hit. The other was loaded with mini rockets with shaped charges designed to crack heavy armor.
“What’s up?” He asked. “Everyone get out okay?”
Without opening her eyes, or turning her head, Icthiani spoke, her voice tinged with the constrained anger that came with using her powers. “The bank was evacuated before I got here. I could have defeated this threat already, but I’m tired of being admonished for not waiting for the rest of you.”
Felix shrugged casually. “Not all of us can teleport. But you’ve gotta admit, we’re better as a group, backing each other up. The others’ll be here soon though. Until then, we just make sure he doesn’t hurt anyone or get away.” He leaned sideways to get a look at her face under her voluminous hood and immediately regretted it.
There was a single, shallow cut above each of her eyes, allowing tiny trickles of blood to drip onto her eyelids, where it inexplicable spread out and undulated in an unsettling manner. He knew that if he looked closer, he’d be able to see it forming minute patterns and strange letters.
He quickly looked away. “So… what’re you doing now?”
“My sangrelogos gives me the power to see the movements of energies. Normally, this is used to detect magical power, but I have learned to adapt the spell to the power you call ‘electricity’. I am watching the machine move inside the building.”
“Oh.” said Felix, knowing better than to hope there was any science at all involved in what was going on. “So where is it?”
For the first time since he arrived, Icthiani moved, stretching out her long, pale arm, stained red from her sangrelogos, and pointed down. “It is directly below us. Five floors down.”
Felix looked down and frowned. This far out under the plaza? That’s not in the blueprints.”
“Are you doubting me?” she fiercely demanded.
“Never in a million years.” Felix said without flinching. “More like I’m doubting this bank. Secret rooms deep underground aren’t exactly on the list of security measures people on the up and up go for. Do you know if there’s a pilot—uh, a guy inside driving it?”
“I don’t have a way of knowing that.” She admitted, eyes still closed. “Why does it matter?”
Felix jerked his thumb toward Gertie. “If there’s no guy in there, I can really open up on this bot, take it down sooner.”
“And you cannot do this if there is a ‘pilot’ inside?”
“All part of the ‘thou shalt not kill’ deal.”
She nodded as if being told the periodic tables. “Yes.”
Felix sighed. “I thought we’ve been over this.”
“We have. I still disagree and only participate because the rest of you are so adamant.” She shot back. It was hard for Felix to tell if her tone was just her sangrelogos, or if she was really angry with him. It seemed like the ground was shaking with her mounting rage.
“Okay, I can live with that… for n—“
He didn’t get to finish, because Icthiani’s eyes suddenly flew open, wide with alarm and she threw herself into him with force granted by whatever spell she was using the levitate. It was enough that, even with his incredibly heavy artificial limbs and armor, she pushed him ten feet to the side.
It was none too soon because what had felt like that earth shaking turned out to actually be the earth shaking right beneath their feet. A powerful tremor rattled the ground, sending fissures spreading across the ground. Bulges formed in some places, while other places collapsed, including the place where Felix had just been standing.
Within seconds, everything fell in, except at the very center where a pulse of force hurled dirt and concrete twenty feet into the air.
From his back, where Icthiani had knocked him, Felix watched as a three fingered, mechanical arm rose up and gripped the edge of the new crater. Beside him, Icthiani got to her feet, her eyes were fixed on him instead of the robot dragging itself out of the earth.
“Thanks, ‘Ani. I owe you one.” He said, forcing himself into a sitting position. Using his muscle control, he caused the finger of both arms to fold back and the palms and forearms to split open to reveal their weaponry. ”But right now, I think it’s time we do that ‘make sure it doesn’t hurt anyone or get away’ thing. Until we’re sure there’s no pilot, go for the legs and arms, do whatever you can to cripple him.”
Icthiani regarded him intensely for a long moment before nodding. “’Whatever I can’ encompasses a great deal.”
By then, the robot had half emerged from the crater. It was just under fourteen feet tall from the top of its hockey puck shaped head to it’s huge, over-built feet. Little thought had been put into the arms, which were mostly naked steel with plastic and ceramic covers over the joints and weapons welded on. Those met at a wedge shaped body that was heavily armored and dotted with ports for heat sinks.
Strangest of all, the robot’s back was a nest of mismatched arms and clamps that tightly held a steel cylinder that trailed snapped cables and continually shed crumbling concrete as if it had just been ripped out of the ground.
“Good. Now show him.” Felix tried to smile at her, but it was useless with his helmet, so he nodded instead. That said, he leveled his machine gun and began to pour hollow points into the robot’s arms in hopes of keeping it from escaping the hole at all. Unfortunately, the plastic was tougher than it looked and most of the bullets deformed against it instead of punching through.
At the same time, he tried to access Gertie’s fire controls remotely, only to receive cascading error reports in his heads-up display. A quick look back revealed that the bike had been knocked over and then buried in the robot’s initial push to the surface.
“Aw man! That totally sucks!”
Beside him, Icthiani was ignoring his distress. In her right hand, she held a short, obsidian knife with the other arm was extended out from her at a forward angle, parallel to the ground. With a quick, practiced move, she cut a line up her arm and flicked the dagger in an arc in front of her, causing droplets of blood to spray into the air.
With an alien syllable, each of those blood drops flared red and issued forth a crimson beam that raked the robot’s legs and lower torso, blistering the plastic and warping the metal with its intense heat. One of the clamps holding the cylinder in place was sheared off, causing the whole thing to come unbalanced.
The tire-like head of the robot turned completely around, bringing it’s sensors to bear. After a moment to analyze its situation, two panels opened on the thing’s shoulders and a pair of pulse cannons emerged. The air rippled as the guns spoke with otherwise invisible fire.
The two heroes had seen such weapons often enough to easily evade, moving in opposite directions to keep the machine from concentrating fire.
“Rebound!” Felix shouted into his comm. “Where are you guys? This thing is tough and Gertie’s not in a position to help.”
“Not far.” Raymond Fayth, Jr, who was also the team leader, Rebound, replied. “We just picked up Zephyrus and we’re on our way.”
“Can I get a time on that?” Felix dove to avoid a pulse blast and rolled to his feet in time to see the robot finally pull itself completely out of the crater. It turned to sight on him, then its torso split open, revealing a nasty pair of multi-barreled guns linked into nests of hoses and tanks that frosted over as they were exposed to air. “Crap. Forget it. No matter what you say, it won’t be soon enough.”
“What’s going on?” Ray asked.
“The good news? This thing definitely doesn’t have a pilot.” Felix was already leveling his rocket launcher accordingly. “The bad news, the room they saved, they used to mount six-barreled photo-synthetic mass emitters.”
“I’m guessing that’s bad, right?”
“Oh, right, you’re not a science guy. Let’s just call them ‘gattling lasers’ and you’ll understand why I’m going to need to change my shorts.” Felix punctuated this by firing off a rocket, aimed for said deadly guns. The robot rotated its entire torso to let the projectile got by before righting itself and spinning up the PSMs.
“Hang in there, buddy.” Ray tried to sound less worried about his best friend than he plainly was. “We’re on the way.”
Felix didn’t reply. He had to focus if he was going to stand a chance of doing that. The best only place on the plaza to hide was behind the overturned Galloping Gertie, but that would position the robot so that all its misses would be firing away from the bank and onto the street where the police were holding the line.
That left the bank and its remaining pillars, so he broke left and made a run at it.
The robot ignored a lash of red energy from Icthiani and opened up with the PSMs, sending bolts of alternating bright red and blue light streaking through the air after Felix. Where they hit the plaza, the bored into the ground several inches, leaving smoking holes behind.
While the PSMs fired, nothing else did, nor did the robot move more than to turn its torso to track him. Felix’s technologically adept mind quickly realized why: photo-synthetic mass was concentrated, high energy plasma, and even with a heavy duty power source, twelve barrels blazing with it would tax energy consumption to the max.
The practical upshot was that while the robot was focused on him, it could do nothing else, like escape, or target Icthiani.
Of course for any of that to mater, he had to survive.
It was only a few yards and too many stairs to the protection of the columns now. Felix triggered mechanisms in his cybernetic legs that extended the backs of his calves outward, exposing rocket nozzles. They wouldn’t last as long, or produce the force that his bikes’ jump jets, but they had one burst each and they might be enough to get him to safety.
The jets fired, hurling him skyward ahead of the hail of PSM fire. He hit the top of the stairs in a roll, aiming for the pillars. In fact, he thought he was home free when it happened: a blue lance of plasma struck him in the arm, right where hardware met biology. Before he even knew what was happening, he was blinded by pain and heard himself screaming.
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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