Descendants Special #6 – Things to Come

This entry is part 8 of 16 in the series The Descendants Vol 6: Returns and Departures
I read enough comics as a kid to know that once I decided to become a costumed adventurer and go out at night to put my boot in the collective asses of the criminal element, my life would never be normal.
 
Actually, I stepped over the ‘normal’ threshold by being born a descendant with an incredible immune system. Then I stomped all over it by accidentally getting infected with a strain of nanomachines that have restructured my biology above and beyond the normal human limits of strength, speed and endurance.
 
And so, donning a cheap duster with bulletproof ceramic plates sewn inside, a set of boots and gloves that let me run up walls, and my very fine hat with a video screen in the brim, I patrol through New York City as the overworked and under-appreciated Whitecoat, isn’t so much abandoning my normality as admitting that I never really had any.
 
Every once in a while though, even I have a weird day.
 
Today is one of those. Holy God is today one of those. It started with me in an Engineering lecture, pondering how I only have a few more months left in college, before I got a call. Most people get calls about pets being sick, kids being in trouble at school or the like. Not me: I got a call that magic robots made of clay were attacking Mayfield, Virginia and their local prelates (read: superheroes) were asking for help.
 
I have a lot of history with the Descendants. One of their members used to call himself my sidekick until I dimed him out to his parents for his own good. It turned out to be both a good and a bad thing. On the good end, his parents got him some training with his powers. On the bad, that training came from a front for a group called Project Tome who ended up kidnapping him for a year.
 
He’s surprisingly not bitter about the whole thing.
 
Since he resurfaced in Mayfield, I’ve worked with his team a few times; taking down some local bad-lads in New York, rescuing one of their own from Japan and the like. I even shot a PSA for their descendants rights organization.
 
Needless to say, I didn’t think twice about going to help. Not only that, but I brought friends.
 
See, there is only one prelate that matters in the Big Apple: John Harding, AKA Infinity; the flying brick who spends his non-flying time in the mayor’s pocket. He’s sponsored by the same corporations that make hefty donations to the mayor and his patrol route happens to encompass the neighborhoods of her top private supporters too. In return, he’s the only one of use that doesn’t get hassled by NYPD and every time he sneezes, it gets good press.
 
Me? I’m one of the other guys; the also-rans whose best press come from black market T-shirts praising us, or comic book artists making up stories about us. A couple of years ago, I was part of an accidental team-up with a guy called Barn Owl and another mayor’s office stooge by the name of Stunner. That was the start to an unofficial pact and a poker game that’s grown to include two other heroes: Urban Amazon and Improv. When one of us needs help, all we have to do is holler.
 
And since the kid, Alloy still feels partly like my responsibility, I hollered and we took a high speed train down to Mayfield to lend some helping fist to their magic robot problem.
 
Which is why I now found myself staring down three of them alongside Improv on a street off Mayfield’s riverfront. The damn things bypassed the defenses at the shore and punched their way up through the storm drains. Now, no one deserves to have their home or business destroyed by some super-villain’s plot, but the homes and businesses right on the water? They’re wrapped up in layers of insurance and the owners have more than enough money to bounce back.
 
The street we were on was lower rent though; a strip back off the river with small stores meant to cater to the people that lived and worked at the marina. Having those flattened would be financially fatal to the owners and probably the employees as well. Once again, me and Improv were in a position to save lives.
 
And once again too, there was good news and bad news. Good news: my ex-sidekick figured out the secret to taking one of those things down once and for all. Turns out they were golems—genuine Jewish mythology golems, which meant that just scratching off a symbol on their foreheads shut them down.
 
The bad news: I specialize in kicking and punching, two fighting styles that are not known for scratching. And without doing that, the golems can regenerate from anything and are strong enough to bring buildings down with enough punching.
 
“Right.” I said as one of the golems bore down on me with a double-fisted, overhand blow that promised to pound me into the ground like a railroad spike, following the fine tradition of many cartoon characters, “Scratch off the first symbol he says.”
 
I dove and rolled as the blow landed. The pavement buckled and splintered under the impact, sending chunks of it flying all around me. I came up running laterally in front of the thing because as much as I didn’t want to be punched into a long-pork flavored custard, it was just as important to keep it focused on me instead of the buildings.
 
“Hey Improv, please tell me you’ve got something to scratch up these things’ faces.”
 
It was hard to tell if Improv was worse off than me. His primary weapon was a bat shod in ceramic and steel with a lot of extra gizmos built in called the Big Stick—not exactly a precision cutting instrument. But unlike me, Improv didn’t seem to need to dodge fists all that much either.
 
The golems would swing at him and he’d stand there in his old wool coat with the many pockets and duct tape and ceramic plate armor, swinging the Big Stick like he was trying out for the Yankees. All attempts by the golems to knock his block off ended up with them drawing back broken pottery stumps.
 
If it wasn’t for the swirls of white energy the came out of those stumps, picked up the broken bits, and reassembled them, Improv could have put down the whole golem attack on his own. But there it was, and there he was. Eventually, he’d miss a swing or get tired.
 
Option ‘A’ wasn’t on the menu yet, because he effortlessly pulverized another incoming fist into a cloud of dust and flying debris before looking at me and grunting, “Nope.”
 
Such a chatterbox he is.
 
Not to be out done (although, I have to admit he was fighting two while I was dodging one), I sized up the golem attacking me and timed its next attack. When it went to punch me, I leap up onto its arm and ran up it, sending my own fist crashing into its face.
 
After hearing the explanation, bits and pieces of the golem story were coming back to me. My girlfriend is Jewish and while she’s about as serious about her religion as I am (and I couldn’t tell you what denomination my family is even though we do have Christmas dinner), she’s very enthusiastic about her heritage. I was feeling like a bad boyfriend for ever forgetting.
 
The words on the golem’s head was the Hebrew word ‘Emet’, written backward; a total of three characters. To shut the thing down, my target was the first letter aleph. Obliterate the aleph and ’emet’, meaning ‘truth’ became ‘met’, meaning death. And some kind of mysticism meant the golem would shut down for good.
 
I punched the aleph dead center, but unfortunately, sometimes I don’t know my own strength. The thing’s forehead caved like an eggshell, taking way more than just the first letter. And that meant the golem would just shrug it off.
 
“Guys.” I said into the comm, at the same time leaping back away from the golem. “It just happens that Improv and I are the worst possible guys to be fighting these things. Is there anyone near the corner of Luther Avenue and Snow Road that can lend a hand?”
 
It didn’t take long for Codex, one of the leaders of the Descendants to get back to me. “I’ve got help coming to you, Whitecoat. ETA thirty seconds.”
 
“Thirty seconds?” I asked. I was pretty sure that not even their fliers were that fast, though there was that girl I’d heard about in the so-called Mayfield Irregulars that was a speedster…
 
While I was pondering, my golem had gotten itself back together again. I’m still not clear on if golems have emotions, but I liked to think it was pretty pissed because that’s how I like my enemies: nice and enraged so they don’t do too much thinking in a fight. With dumb enough guys and enough chatter, combat goes from a life or death situation to a high cardio workout that keeps me looking good.
 
I reached out blindly and snapped off a parking sign a few inched from where the post went into the curb. My new plan was to spear that damn aleph off ts face, but that proved unnecessary.
 
A bright spotlight lanced down from about twenty stories up. I looked to find a black and white set of flying powered armor with the letters MPD stenciled on its chest hovering there. Blue and red strobes flashed on its feet and the top of its head as it leveled one arm that ended in a long rifle.
 
“This is the Mayfield Police.” A male voice boomed out of the suit’s external speakers. “Please stand clear, I am hot with lethal ordnance.” After a pause, apparently to make sure I wasn’t going to jump into the line of fire from his huge sniper rifle, he opened up with a single precision shot that drilled right through the aleph on my golem’s head.
 
The clay monster suddenly went still, the light in its eyes flashed green before going out entirely. One shot, one kill. I was pretty impressed, seeing as how the NYPD powered armors opened up full-auto on anything they could even pretend was a threat.
 
Two more shots put down Improv’s playmates as well.
 
“Hope that helps, guys. Battery’s getting low. Returning to base.” the cop inside the armor said before jetting off.
 
“Now my day really is weird.” I said over the comms. “Cops that actually help superheroes instead of acting like we’re scum? Toto, I don’t think we’re in Brooklyn anymore.”
 
***
Codex looked over at the Urban Amazon as the other woman worked to trace Warpstar’s steps. His trial had vanished at the place where Codex and Vamanos lost track of him, but they were backtracking to see if they might find where he’d come from.
 
“Are things really that bad between NYPD and the local prelates up there?”
 
“Whitecoat likes to be hyperbolic. It’s part of his whole natter-heavy style.” explained Urban. “But things are very chilly. We don’t expect help from them and they won’t accept help from us. Plus, Mayor Raymond is a bad influence: they tend to assume prelates are a threat. We’ve all been on the wrong end of a nervous and trigger happy cop in powered armor arriving on the scene and just seeing two powered criminals as far as they’re concerned.”
 
“Don’t you have any recourse?” They, with Vamanos tagging along quietly behind, had followed the trail back to the median strip where Urban was examining a new set of footprints in the soft earth.
 
“What? Public opinion?” Urban asked. “They like us but they love Infinity. I used to think ‘Coat was just jealous, but Harding is one hell of a propaganda tool. His endorsement last election shifted the polls four points in Raymond’s favor.”
 
She held up a hand to cut off the conversation. “He has a partner. Not a fighter… maybe the one really behind the golems? Whoever it was spent a lot of time shifting their weight and shuffling in one spot here, probably through the whole fight.”
 
Codex crouched down to see for herself. “We don’t know enough about Warpstar to rule it out.” As she started to relay that to the rest of the heroes, a shadow passed overhead. Moments later, Facsimile touched down on the road in front of them. She had Augustus in a fireman’s carry.
 
“We can rule it out now.” the golden heroine announced, setting Augustus down on his feet. She needed to grab his shoulders to steady him. “Warpstar was after Augustus here again. Unfortunately, he got away—he can teleport now. But not before I grabbed this.” She held up to amber stone she’d liberated from the villain.
 
Shades of a similarly colored mystical stone came instantly to mind for Codex. “Fax, set it down and get away from it. Remember Mad-Mad?”
 
If it was anyone else telling her, she would have argued with stone in hand, but since it was Codex, Facsimile set it down. “That thing had an eye in it though. This is just a rock. Kinda warm, but that might be from being socketed in his chest.”
 
“Still,” Said Codex, “It should be contained. And seeing as the last time something like that went with a Superhuman Intervention Unit, it escaped, I’ll see if Occult can work up a magical containment for it.”
 
“I wish I had that around three months ago.” said Urban. “Some tourist in Little Italy bought an antique dagger from a shop and went nuts with it. Cut up five people really bad before I could knock him out. I wasn’t going to risk it getting anyone else, so I tossed it into a caster at a construction site.”
 
Codex looked thoughtful. “It sounds like you guys up there could do a lot more good if you had resources like we have here.”
 
“We do the best we can with what we have.” said Urban, standing up a bit straighter.
 
“I didn’t mean that in a negative way. But if you had known about Occult and the Magi Club, you could have called them in for containment, thus making everyone safer. And for that matter, if we gave your information broker access to my webcrawlers and all of us could call on him, we would all be that much better off.”
 
“And.” Vamanos cut in shyly, “the Descendants control their likeness rights. My fr… manager says that’s how they can afford a jet. Think how much you could upgrade your hero gear if you did that too.”
 
Codex nodded. “If we all put our heads together, we could come up with a lot of ways we can help one another. And not just the New York heroes: Umbrage and his apprentice in Chicago, Zero Point and Majestrix in Arizona, and the other group going by ‘The Descendants’ in Los Angeles—even people we haven’t had much contact with like the prelate communities in other cities. We could all benefit from one another’s knowledge and experiences.”
 
“Not to mention how much having a hundred new pairs of eyes on the lookout for Tome.” Facsimile added.
 
They were interrupted by a nervous cough from Augustus, who had finally gotten over his vertigo from flying. “S-sorry to interrupt, but I think you should know…” Instead of explaining further, he simply held up the Book of Passions.
 
Codex and Facsimile cut off immediately, much to the confusion of the other two women.
 
“The first information we’ll need to get out there,” Said Codex after a pause, “Is the existence of the Magical World.”
 
***
Across town, a laboratory tucked away deep in the Westinghall Building was in chaos as researchers scrambled to and fro, struggling to collect and parse data that was now suddenly pouring in from one of the objects they kept under twenty-four hour observation.
 
It was situated in the center of a four-inch thick, optically transparent cylinder of material originally designed for spacecraft windows. Just inside that cylinder, a circle of white sand had been carefully paid down, and inside that circle, another circle, this one covered with complex formulae and annotations had been drawn in red sidewalk chalk.
 
At the center of all there, a solid steel piston formed a pedestal upon which an innocuous looking, red leather bound book was set, surrounded by a hive of sensory devices. What looked like a mechanical hybrid between squid and spider hung down from the ceiling, sanding ready to turn pages. It wasn’t needed at the moment, because the pages were turning on their own in rapid succession, pausing briefly every few seconds before resuming at the same dizzying speed.
 
The researchers were all hard at work trying to work out how the pages were turning and what the significance of each pause was, among other questions.
 
All but one. Virgil Mosley stood back, watching. He was middle aged, dark skinned, and intensely focused on the turning pages. Dressed in a modified lab coat with magic circles stitched on the back and on the cuffs, he looked disconcertingly out of place.
 
But he knew that the truth was that he was the only one who had any hope of interpreting the Book’s actions to his boss, Vincent Liedecker.
 
The Book of Madness was sending him one message loud and clear: the book of Passions now had its Chosen. Something as old as magic had started. As to how and when it would end, the Book said nothing.
End Descendants Special #6
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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. While coming from a cop it’s basically a valid pun there’s an important difference between ‘ordinance’ which means laws, and ‘ordnance’ which means military supplies, though ignorance of said difference is painfully common.

    I find that it says sad things about the operating procedures of law enforcement.

    • I’m sorry, that came out sounding mean which was definitely not the intention.

      Was just trying to point out a typo and be funny about it. Failed at it.

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