Issue #10: All Saints and Spirits

This entry is part 11 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 1: Welcome to Freeland House

Part 3

“So what costumes is everyone going to wear tomorrow?” Alloy asked. Ostensibly, Life Savers, Inc was patrolling the city to keep it safe. But Facsimile’s scanner had been silent and there had been little in the way of activity save for one purse snatcher who had the scare of his life running full tilt into the city’s well known protectors as they happened to be passing by. The man had actually personally carried the purse back to his would be victim and presented himself to the responding police officer for fear of being on the business end of the prelates’ powers.

The drought of actual peril had led them to take a breather on top of a skyscraper whose upper precipice seemed to be crawling with gothic style gargoyles.

“I think you guys have already seen the Princess Symphony costume I’ve been working on.” Zero said. The trio plus Melissa had all gone to see Fantasy in Black and White, the latest animated epic from Japan earlier in the month and Juniper had become enamored with the feature’s song-magic weaving protagonist.

“I’m interested in what you’re going to do with your face and hair for a character that’s only shown in black and white.” Facsimile commented. She was perched beside a gargoyle and had shifted her feet and wings to mimic the stone creatures’. Until she had spoken, she’d also been aping the statue’s pose.

“I’ve got some makeup stuff and Kay’s loaning me her white hair gel.” Zero answered, shying away from the edge of the building. Unlike her associate, she didn’t have the means to stop a fall should it happen.

“What are you going to be?” Alloy asked Facsimile. “I mean, shapeshifter and all, you could be anything you want…”

“I prefer the classics.” The golden skinned heroine said, matter-of-factly. “Vampress, bride of Frankenstein, 2020’s era club girl… though I’m not sure I can do body mods that well…” she shrugged. “The list is endless. I’ll just make up something before party time.”

“I’m guessing yours is still a secret?” Zero directed her question at Alloy.

“Yeah,” Facsimile interrupted the reply. “You’ve got some nerve asking us about our costumes when you’ve been keeping us in the dark all week about what you’re going to be.”

“I want it to be a surprise.” Alloy defended. “Plus, I’m kind of bummed that the boys can’t help me this year. Last Halloween at the Academy, they were my special effects crew for my Professor Mental costume.”

Facsimile snorted. “You played the part of a bad guy?”

“That’s just how good my acting is.” Alloy chuckled. His cell phone chirped with its alarm tone. “Oops, we’d better head for the Dungeon to meet the guys.”

“No sense in wasting time.” Facsimile said, standing precariously on the edge of the building. “Let’s head over there the fun way. We can cut past all the traffic around Westinghall Plaza that way.”

“Good idea.” Zero said. “Isp?” she inclined her head toward the forenamed tentacle and it encircled her arms in a makeshift harness. With no means of rooftop locomotion of her own, she depended on either the tentacles or Facsimile to carry her on their cross city travels in costume.

His passenger secure, Alloy nodded to Facsimile and they were off.

***

Brill felt rather than saw the beast leaping toward him from its third story perch. He had been a bodyguard far longer than he had been in Liedecker’s service and one develops a sixth sense about some things in his line of work.

He slammed the car door and drew his gun in a single, smooth motion. Turning, he only had time to see the inugami lower its head and slam headlong into him, sending him flying. He landed a yard away in a shoulder roll. Even before he stopped moving, he fired three rapid shots into his attacker.

Bullets ricocheted off the orihalcite armor, not even warranting the monster’s attention. Snorting contemptuously, the inugami set its claws into the side of the door and jerked backward. Metal screamed as the door was ripped free.

Giving an eerie, air rippling howl, the creature lunged into the town car after its prey.

A muted explosion sounded inside the car and as quickly as it had entered, the inugami was launched backward out of the car. It tumbled end over end until it collided with a parked car across the street, shattering all its windows and setting off the alarm.

Red faced with fury at the audacity the monster had to attack him, Vincent Liedecker emerged. In his hands, he wielded a wide bore rifle with many joints worked into its barrel. Blue motes of light shone in the joints as heat rippled along the weapon’s length.

“This.” Liedecker addressed his would be assassin. “Is a Morton Defense Works C-42 pulse cannon equipped with state of the art recoil damping technology. It packs about the force of a tractor trailer hitting a coyote.” He pushed in a tab and the weapon whirred as it charged for a second source. “Purely for self defense, of course.”

The inugami wrestled its way out of the twisted metal wreck. Its armor was still intact, but through its narcotic fugue, it could perceive broken ribs and its unprotected lower jaw was clearly dislocated. Snarling as best it could with its disfigured mandible, it gathered itself and leapt.

Liedecker sneered, raising his weapon. But he didn’t need to take the shot.

A flash of gold filled his vision and the inugami’s flight was redirected sideways into the street by a flying tackle by Facsimile. The murderous animal skidded several yards down the street on its back. The orihalcite armor tore a furrow in the pavement two inches deep.

Denied his kill, Liedecker scowled at the golden skinned prelate. There was a hollow clang and Alloy landed near him, one of his tentacles lowering Zero to the ground. “Oh good.” Liedecker scoffed quietly to himself. “The heroes.”

“It’s another one of those things the news was talking about.” Alloy said, taking a step forward.

“And it’s attacking V. T. Liedecker!” Zero added with a tinge of star struck glee. She had just recently read an article about his rise from the son of an already well known industrialist into one the most beloved philanthropists in Mayfield.

“Get his autograph, Z.” Facsimile said, flexing her hands into vicious claws. “I’ve got this one.” She stalked toward the inugami as it righted itself. In doing so, it scraped its jaw along the ground, popping it back into place. Howling, it rushed to meet its attacker.

Facsimile screamed as the beast closed with her. Her form wavered and writhed unnaturally. Thus distracted, she gave little resistance when the inugami collided with her, clamping its jaws around her neck and dragging her to the ground.

“Fax!” Alloy shouted. Even as he moved to help, Osp lashed forward, dug into the asphalt and launched him bodily at the creature savaging his friend. The armored hero slammed into the inugami, throwing it clear of Facsimile.

The golden skinned woman shivered as she stood. “What in the high holy hell was that?” The howl from the thing felt like it had torn her apart.

“No idea.” Alloy said, “But I’m going to make sure it doesn’t do that again.” He charged the still reeling creature, grasping at the metal armor encasing it as he came. To his horror, the armor didn’t yield to his power. Before, when he had attacked Morganna’s enchanted blade, his power had simply been turned away. But the metal that formed the monster’s carapace was simply not responding to his efforts.

His confusion gave the inugami time to launch an offensive. Its claws raked across his chest, cutting through the power-reinforced metal as if it was cloth, but luckily only shredding the shirt beneath.

“Holy shit!” Alloy exclaimed as the tentacles encircled the monster and dashed it hard into the sidewalk. “It cut through my armor!”

“I would’ve killed it ya’ll hadn’t got in the way.” Liedecker muttered to Zero. But she wasn’t listening. Her eyes had unfocused and she was staring at the sky above the monster. A slight chill ran over the crimelord’s skin. Ignoring the sudden drop in temperature, he swung the pulse cannon around toward the creature. For a moment, he considered ‘accidentally’ blasting Alloy, but the armored hound was the threat of the moment.

The cannon roared, its segmented barrel compacting and hissing out steam. A scintillating wave of force collided with the inugami. This time the monster was ready for it and lowered its head. The wave of energy washed harmlessly over the orihalcite armor and tore up the street in a wide arc behind it.

“What ever that armor is, it’s tougher than anything I’ve ever seen.” Brill said, coming to stand beside Liedecker.

“I know.” The secret master of the Mayfield underworld said. Silently he added; I want it.

Zero was the only one close enough to hear the exchange, but still wasn’t listening. Instead, she gestured downward toward the beast. The very air congealed. Humidity in the sky coalesced into a solid bubble of water which then became ice so quickly that it didn’t have time to even crystallize.

The inugami was sealed in a vertical cone of solid ice. It glared balefully from within its cryogenic prison.

“Y-you okay, Mr… Liedecker?” Alloy asked, simultaneously trying to recall Zero’s earlier comment, while tearing his gaze away from her handiwork.

“Any idea what that thing was and why it went after you?” Facsimile chimed in.

Liedecker shook is head to clear it and shouldered his pulse cannon. In an instant, he slipped into his ‘jovial statesman’ facade. “No idea, my dear, but I’ll certainly have my people look into it. Thank you ever so much. If there’s anything I can do for you…” He didn’t mean it, but as Life Savers, Inc had yet to interfere in his dealings, he could manage being civil.

“Nothing at all, Mr. L.” Facsimile said, “Aside from maybe and autograph for—“the ice pyramid erupted in a white cloud of sudden steam. At its core, the inugami had been consumed by an orange fireball which had quickly dissipated its energy in converting Zero’s ice into steam.

“What the hell?” Alloy peered through the expanding cloud. All that was left of the monster were bits of its armor. He strode over and picked up a segment of metal claw and examined it. “Did that thing just teleport away?”

“Doubt it.” Facsimile said. She waved a hand in front of her face. “Smell that? Smells like burning hair. Looks more like it was a kamikaze – blew itself up rather get dragged in by the government to study.”

“We’d better get this to…” Alloy stopped himself, remembering civilians were present. “back to base to study.” He finished. The others knew he meant taking it to Laurel. He turned to the crime lord. “Mr. Liedecker, would you mind calling the cops to clean this up?”

“We’d better call ahead.” Facsimile said after Liedecker had consented to Alloy’s request and they were moving away from the scene of the battle.

“Good idea.” Zero nodded. “And I’ll call Kay and tell her we can’t make the Dungeon.”

As the heroes disappeared from view, Liedecker nodded to Brill and then to the remains of the inugami. “Get it all. I want this marvel of engineering in the hands of my people at Solomon by this evening.”

As Brill moved to collect the scorched armor, Liedecker stared in the direction the prelates had left. His pulse cannon had failed to put the rampaging monster down. Given time, it would have eventually killed him. It was possible he owed the interlopers in his territory a small debt of gratitude.

He made a fist. “As for whoever sent that overgrown coon dog to try and tree me… I owe him hell.”

***

“I know we’re not supposed to talk about it…” JC started quietly. With Juniper’s call, and Lisa’s earlier exit, he and Kay were alone for the night. They had retired to the arcade down the block from the Dungeon to waste time. “But ever sense the whole… thing a couple months ago, Lisa’s been more of a no-show than usual.”

Kay looked up from the screen where her avatar had just thrown JC’s through a window and frowned. “She’s just having a hard time with things is all.” She assured him. “I’m not even going to guess what effect having a medieval witch wreak havoc with your body, then kidnap your aunt would have on a person. And now her Aunt’s just totally missing? Give her time, JC.”

“I know.” JC said, “but I can’t help but feel she’s being secretive about something…”

“About what?” Kay asked. “I’ve known Lisa since third grade and trust me, if she was keeping anything a secret, she’d tell me.”

“But would you tell me?” JC asked.

Kay smiled mischievously. “Probably not.” She smirked at his look of surprise. “But believe me when I say there is nothing your perpetual girlfriend is hiding from you.

***

Laurel flipped her cell phone closed and placed it back in its holder at her hip. For this venture, she’d donned her own costume; a light blue body suit with white highlights. A white harness encircled her waist and held a tactical pack containing her tablet computer and various other bits of technical equipment. A utility belt, bearing her phone, a multi-tool, several pouches of mundane, but potentially useful odds and ends, and a slim loop of cord with a grappling hook at one end was buckled around her waist. The outfit was completed by a cowl that covered her head and a set of bulky goggles that glowed a soft blue around the edges.

“That was Cyn.” She said quietly. She, Ian and Alexis, all in their pseudo-prelate costumes, were standing in a secluded area of Wagner Park, near the site most frequently mentioned in reports of paranormal activity in the past month. “You were right, Ian. The disappearance of one of the entities was caused by them defeating one – all the way across town near Westinghall Plaza.”

“Are they okay?” Alexis asked. She was holding the clipboard sized device that served as both a focus for Kareem’s signal booster as well as a means for him to communicate with them.

Laurel nodded. “Yeah. They’re a little weirded out by the experience though. The thing was able to claw through Warrick’s armor and its own armor was in turn immune to his powers.”

“That’s pretty damn powerful.” Ian said. “We better take them down while they’re napping. Kareem, lead the way.”

“I am trying to focus on them, but it is very difficult.” Kareem answered. “Their auras extend a great distance on the Astral.”

Ian frowned. “How about finding this Occult person? She’s probably the best solid lead we have on the things.”

“You don’t have to find her.” A voice said. The assembled elder residents of the Freeland House turned to find Occult emerging from the underbrush. She held a glowing pendant by its chain in her left hand and regarded them quizzically from within the perpetual shadows of her cloak. “But I can tell you right now that I know exactly as much as you do.”

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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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