Descendants: LA #24 – Wolverine Publicity (Part 6)

This entry is part 12 of 13 in the series Descendants: LA Volume 2
Felix gaped at Icthiani for a moment. They’d never come up against a Faerie creature they couldn’t send back before, so her explanation, that it was now ‘acclimated’ to Earth, didn’t make a lick of sense to him. “Um… how?”
“The same way as my brother and I have: by living here long enough.” She replied. “But that doesn’t make any sense…”
“Watch out!” A narrow band of green telekinetic force caught both of them by their midsection and swept them aside at the same time a second band shunted Alloy in the other direction. An instant later, a fireball boomed against the roof where they’d just been standing.
“Whew.” Felix said, looking at the scorch mark and shallow crater left behind. “Thanks Boarder!” he shouted over to Lydia.
“No kidding.” added Alloy. Reaching out a hand to them, he caused the tin doors of the pool shed to deform, extending a tongue of metal into his grip. Once he had a hold of it, he drew all their material into his hand, shaping it into a crude, oversized sword. Then black flecks began to fall from what had been tin as it was transmuted into steel and forged by his powers into a claymore.
He brought the weapon up on guard while the tentacles writhed at the ready. “So what’s plan B if sending it back to where it came from is off the table?”
Felix checked the progress of the Sally B’s flight across the city in a Head’s Up Display in his helmet before answering. “You know, it’s never come up…”
“We destroy it.” said Icthiani with grim certainty. Sensing incoming protests, she glared at both men. “And do not give me a speech about not murdering our foes. You kill animals for food, clothes and sport. This is less than an animal. This is… what do you call them? A robot. It can only follow the instructions of another being. It has not will, no instincts, only reactions impressed upon it.”
“Like a golem in Deathgate.” said Alloy, starting to circle around the monster. “Why is it always the monsters that are real and never the buff spells or awesome magic gear?”
“Because that would make things fiar for us?” Facsimile suggested on comms. She extended a gold-sheaned blade from each fist and stalked toward the shattered windows, ready to join in the fight.
Movement out of the corner of her eye made her start and she whirled to find Paul Reagan, the owner of the place, standing in his windblown living room, taking video of the scene unfolding on his patio with his palmtop. “This is fantastic…” he murmured to himself.
Facsimile’s eyes narrowed. “What the hell are you doing here? I thought you ran when the vortex kicked up.”
“Sh’yeah.” He flicked a dismissive hand at her. “Ran to get something to get video of this. Do you have any idea how much the news providers pay for exclusive footage of your battles?” He turned the palmtop’s camera toward her as he spoke.
The golden heroine’s eyes narrowed. “Is it enough to pay for a stay in the burn ward or a funeral if that thing comes barging through here?”
For just a second, Paul didn’t truly hear what she’d said because of all the cash registers chiming in his head. Then that gave way to the sounds of an EKG machine beeping and gravediggers’ shovels thudding into a fresh cemetery plot.
Slowly, the hand holding the camera lowered. “I’m… going to leave now.”
“Good boy.” said Facsimile, turning back to the battle. Icthiani and Lydia were in the air again and the locus was trying to keep track of the four heroes bedeviling it, hurling fireballs at them. Her attention, however, was on the cluster of red diamonds in the thing’s core. Even without years of knowing Alloy, she would have seen that it was an obvious weak point.
And with the locus distracted…
A minor effort of will caused her skin to go from smooth and golden to red and covered in pebbly scales. Going fireproof was one of the first tricks she’d learned with her powers and one of the more useful to boot. Moving as quickly and silently as she could, she charged at the locus’s back intent on seeing if those diamonds could be damaged by the super-hard metal in the claws poking through her knuckles.
Two yards from her target, she leapt into the air, bringing an arm back for a slashing attack.
She didn’t make it. Without even looking, the locus brought one of its own flaming stone arms around and hit her with a force that would have pulverized anyone else’s shoulder and ribs in a decidedly fatal manner. Facsimile went crashing, rolling and bouncing along the roof, right to the edge.
If not for good reflexes and an unbreakable claw lodged into the roof at the last minute, she would have gone over.
Not far from her, however, a low hum announced the arrival of the Sally B.
In flight mode, the bike extended free-lev nacelles from beneath the foot wells, deployed booster rockets outt he back, and retrorockets at each corner of the vehicle. Normally, it was also fully enclosed with a plexiglass canopy closed over the rider.
The canopy was left open because the Sally B was currently overloaded with passengers: Ray sitting in the seat, Ephemeral riding behind, and Josh balancing impossibly on the starboard nacelle. The latter didn’t stay aboard one second longer than it took to sight the enemy.
Leaping from the bike, he drew out his sword and executed the third form of the Flying Raven School technique, wind talon in midair. A fist of air impacted the locus just as it was about to launch another fireball at Felix and temporarily blew out the flames on the monster’s fist.
Ray maneuvered the bike onto the roof and dismounted along with Ephemeral. “If you create a vacuum like you did with the fire, will that snuff it?”
“Only about as well as water.” said Josh. “One usually disposes of Vhati’s furnaces in particular with battle cadres with spellcasters in supports, not with brute strength.”
“Isn’t that exactly what we are?” Alloy asked. He tried to move in close enough to direct the tentacles to attack the core, but the locus warded him off with another fireball. “I see a mage, I see like a bunch of tanks and hard hitters—what’s the problem.”
“The problem is that there are different types of spellcasters, trained for different situations. I am none of those. Every spell I know is basic or self-taught and I have no spells that attack from the astral plane powerful enough to make it vulnerable on this one.”
Felix took the monster’s fixation on Alloy as an opportunity to rush to Sally B and open up its hidden compartment containing replacement arms. “If we hit it hard enough, maybe it won’t matter.”
He shoved the arm containing the grenade launcher into the empty compartment and a series of catches and clamps detached the limb and exposed the connector cap over his amputation. Without a second thought, he slotted that into the open port of another arm and pushed, locking the new arm into place.
When he withdrew the new arm, it emerged, looking bulkier than the grenade launcher with a display screen on the side and twin strips of what looked like vents running down the sides. Two radial cooling fins unfolded from it as he stood up.
Icthiani looked unimpressed. “If the spiritual component isn’t disrupted at the moment of the core’s destruction, the locus will be able the reconstruct itself with time. Your toy means nothing to it.”
“Toy?” Felix huffed. “Particle beams are not toys. Rebound tells me that every time I try and take it out for target practice.” To emphasize his point, he reconfigured the arm. The elbow locked straight out more cooling fins unfolding as his hand split in half, the fingers lengthening and fanning out to surround the barrel in the wrist. Green indicator lights came on up and down the appendage.
“It won’t work.” muttered Icthiani.
“I do not think we have to worry about that.” said Ephemeral, watching as the locus easily weathered Lydia bombarding it with chunks of masonry and evading Alloy’s tentacles. “I am able to mentally enter the astral plane and command it to an extent with my powers. I can attack from the Astral side in lieu of a spell.”
Josh sent another wind talon, this time the second form, a sickle of sharp air that split one of the locus’s fists in twain, forcing it to regroup and regenerate the damaged appendage. “I grow more and more impressed with descendant abilities every day. Astral projection is the purview of powerful spellcasters in Faerie.”
“I cannot say that I am as skilled with it as they might be.” said Ephemeral. He moved to the relative shelter of the pool shed and sat down, preparing to project himself. “But I hope it is enough to win this fight.”
There was nothing between his feet. That was the first thing Kareem noticed upon opening his eyes to the rose haze of the astral.
That was how it was with towers: even when they were inhabited, they were often too new and their tenants too transient to give the whole thing an astral form. Apartments that had become true homes and the scenes of high emotion floated below him, cubes of solidity in the ephemeral quasi-structure of the building. The penthouse and the patio attached to it simply weren’t there at all. Whoever the owner was, he realized, they didn’t even throw parties there.
What he did see were the azure figures of his friends and the other team. Most of them anyway. When he looked at Icthiani, he saw a female figure outlined in paler blue and entangled in the form of something monstrous. It was an amalgam of squid and snake; a long, sinuous body from which hundreds, perhaps thousands of tentacles ranging in size from as big around as his finger, to as thin as a hair, emerging from its translucent, hot pink body. The tentacles attached to the woman, burrowing under her skin.
Worse, the thing’s head rested atop the woman’s. Its face seemed to have started out serpentine with insectile mandibles, but blue veins were emerging from the top of the woman’s head and twisting it—twisting it to resemble her instead!
Both struggled against each other, neither seemingly content with their arrangement, but hopelessly intertwined.
Kareem’s gorge might have risen at this if he hadn’t been distracted by the sight of the locus itself. Even on the astral plane, it was a creature of flame; a maelstrom of flame the size of a delivery truck centered on something that gleamed so intensely white that he couldn’t make it out.
What amazed Kareem was the complete lack of the astral plane’s usual symbolism. The locus, he realized, was not being represented on the astral; a part of it actually existed on the plane itself, much like the astral monsters he’d encountered during Warpstar’s attack at Dayspring College.
It was surrounded by real, killing fire, so Kareem’s favored weapon, a spear in the style of his ancestors’ favored weapons, would put him too close to survive the encounter, Luckily, he’d been given inspiration before projecting there.
He exerted his will upon the surrounding astral matter and held out his left arm. The swirl of rose colored particulate began to rapidly accumulate on the extended appendage. At first it took on a shape nearly identical to Felix’s particle beam arm, but Kareem kept building on it.
Free of gravity, he was able to extend it and add weight until the thing was over six feet in length, resembling a gnarled tree trunk wrapped in heavy vines and sprouting a series of vaguely winglike fins along its length. All the while it gathered more particles into its barrel, charging for a massive single shot.
When his weapon was ready, he reached out to the darting astral figures of his friends and allies and made them aware that he was ready.
“Hit it with everything you’ve got!” Ray led the charge alongside Josh. He came at the locus from the right side just as a gale force wind from one of his teammate’s sword techniques blew out the flames along that one stone fist.
Even without flame, the monster swung with that fist, a downward blow that was meant to splatter Ray all over the patio. Ray, however, didn’t even try to dodge. Planting his feet, he met punch for punch. He didn’t even try and store the tidal wave of kinetic energy imparted to him, just sent it right back through the narrow point of contact of his knuckles.
The locus’s own strength turned against it as the redirected force turned against it, turning its entire arm into an explosive burst of flying gravel.
A huge, golden tiger bounded at the locus from the left. Again, the locus, being only an engine of destruction, merely lashed out without thinking. Extending that arm made it a prime target of Alloy’s tentacles, which honed their edges to impossible thinness and proceeded to saw the blazing limb away from the body.
The final barrier to the core, the stones orbiting it, were then encased in Lydia’s telekinesis and forced aside, leaving the core exposed.
“Teamwork.” Felix said happily to Icthiani as the magnets meant to guide his particle beam revved up.
Icthiani said nothing, rising into the air behind him and slashing shallow wounds in her biceps. With an incantation on her lips, she flung the blood into the air where the droplets hung unnaturally. The spell ended and each of those drops flared with energy before discharging a scintillating crimson beam aimed directly at the locus’s core.
Felix fired the particle beam just as she let loose. The beam itself was invisible, but where it passed, the air ignited into a line of blue plasma that plumed out like neon smoke.
Acting at the speed of thought, Kareem took aim at the locus’s bright center and fired just as Felix and Icthiani There was no fire or light when his outsized arm cannon unleashed its power, only a pulse of pure, concentrated will, Kareem’s powers focused by the astral construct into a deadly beam. It plunged into the hear of the flame and pierced it through.
Despite the intense energy brought to bear on it, the locus’s core didn’t burn or explode. It shattered like a champagne flute dropped on a ballroom floor, a high tinkling sound belying the massive destruction one might have expected after such an attack.
The creature’s flames went out with a deep, resonating thump as the ceased to be and the surrounding hair rushed in to fill the space. For less than a second, the stone head and stubs of its arms hung in air before crashing down onto the pavement.
This time, the flame did not reignite. There was nothing left of the spark that kept it going. Now there was only a heap of alien rock scattered across a rooftop.
Felix whooped with joy as he converted the steaming particle cannon back into a functional arm. “Oh yeah! No matter which coast your’e on, the Descendants are always the best heroes around!” He high-fived Josh with the hand that wasn’t currently hot enough to cook bacon and eggs on.
It wasn’t long before Ephemeral was back in his body and the two teams fell to congratulating themselves and each other. Whatever aloofness had been between them vanished in the post-battle afterglow and everyone was feeling good.
Everyone that was, except Icthiani.
Ray noticed it before anyone else. “You okay there, Lady D?” He asked, coming to stand with her, lookig over the combined teams conversing.
“No.” She said harshly. “And none of you should be either. It takes quite some time to acclimate enough that you cannot be pulled back through a gate.” She watched the others intently. “That locus was meant to destroy, armed with orders to do that. It could not possibly have remained unnoticed in this world for that long…”
A small scowl came to Ray’s face. “…unless someone only gave it new orders recently—someone who is on Earth right now.”
To Be Continued in Descendants: LA Annual #2
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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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