Issue #12: Here and Now

This entry is part 14 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 1: Welcome to Freeland House

Siege Part 2

“You should see this.” Edward said gruffly gesturing to the television in the downstairs commons as Ian entered, still tugging at the visor of his Chaos costume. The Enforcer had offered his assistance in dealing with the cybernetic canines and Laurel and Alexis had grudgingly agreed before heading off to get suited up.

“Okay, first rule if we’re going to work together, matchstick;” Ian glared, “You don’t tell me or any of us what to do. You aren’t the leader here.”

“Who is the leader?” Edward asked, not really caring, but hoping to avoid unnecessary arguments about chain of command.

Ian shrugged. “We haven’t discussed that, actually.” He folded his arms, “But it’s not you.”

“Good.” The older man stated, “Now that we’ve had this enlightening conversation, just look at the damn TV, greenhorn. Unless picking fights with me is more important than your kids there.”

Shooting Edward a murderous glare, Ian turned his attention to the TV. On it, the news provider was replaying the altercation between Shine and Facsimile, followed by Wolf’s transformation and the start of his chase with Zero. The whole thing set Ian’s teeth on edge.

“I know them.” Edward said, trying to remain stoic. “Latonya Haynes and Trent Kinsey – they’re two of the agents whose promotions I opposed.” His iron features melted into a glower of anger and concern. “It appears I was right.”

Ian was transfixed by the images he saw as a creeping horror brought itself to the forefront of his mind. As much as Alexis had appointed herself protector and surrogate maternal figure to the teens, Ian had also developed a fondness for having them underfoot, even considering himself a kind of mentor for LSI in particular. Now, the Academy had come to bring it all crashing down. He verbalized it in the most simple, straightforward of terms. “Shit.”

“Shit what?” Alexis came down the stairs, adjusting the scarf of her costume. “Did they land?”

“Worse.” Edward beat Ian to the punch even as images of War-torn plowing through a police car flickered on the TV screen. “You were right and now your worst fears are confirmed.” He gestured at the television. “The Enforcers have sent a squad to take the children; no doubt on orders from Project Tome.”

Alexis froze in shock. Every muscle tensed, as her fight or flight reflex tried to deal immediately with the external threat. “No…” She murmured, shaking her head. “No, we need more time. They need more time. It’s only been a week…”

She would have stumbled off the staircase if a hand hadn’t caught her shoulder.

“Laurel, they’ve—“the raven haired woman began.

“I know, Alexis.” Laurel said in calm tones. “I know. I just found the alert on my computer.”

“What are we going to do?” Alexis demanded of her friend.

Laurel helped her friend down the stairs and looked over to Ian and Edward. “What we planned to do when this eventuality came up. Fight.” She let her eyes rest on the Enforcer. “That’s what we’re going to do. All three of us. What about you, Prometheus, it’s time to pick a side. Are you with us, or do you get the hell out of my house?”

A look of stern determination set in on the older man’s features. “You can’t trust me. I’m one of ‘them’, after all.” He gestured at Ian. “As I’m constantly reminded, I’ve personally caused great pain and strife to you people. Even when I come in peace, I’m assured in no uncertain terms that I’m not welcome.” He let his words sink in. “However, I can’t let that keep me from putting down this mockery of everything I’ve been a part of in the last two decades. I’ll fight with you—If you’ll have me.”

Ian started to say something derogatory, but Alexis interrupted. “Ian, no. Please, not now.” Her eyes were shimmering with tears as she walked over to him and embraced him. “Save it for the bad guys.”

He returned the hug, then pulled back looking into her eyes. “Let’s get to them then.” He started for the door which led to the kitchen and the driveway beyond, but she pulled him toward the front door.

“No.” She said, quickly. “Flying will be faster.” Already, her black heat was engulfing her.

“We’ll meet up with you as soon as we can.” Laurel assured them as she hefted a duffel bag from the landing and came down into the commons. “Come on, Prometheus. We’ll have to hurry if we’re going to get to the high school and on the trail of these guys before it’s too late to make a difference.”

Edward gave an incredulous snort. “High school? Why are we going there?”

“Because.” Laurel said, heading toward the kitchen door. “With these guys combined with those cybernetic dogs my astral monitoring is detecting; I’m betting we’ll need reinforcements.”

***

Facsimile practically (and literally, to some extent) melted against Alloy’s side as she clung to his armor while the pair swung via tentacle several stories above the city. They were following Zero’s impromptu luge course and Wolf’s trail of destruction on its direct course through back alleys. So far, they hadn’t caught up, which meant, judging by the speed at which the tentacles carried the pair, that Zero was packing speed neither had ever seen in action.

“Question.” Facsimile piped up after some minutes of silent swinging.

“Shoot.” Alloy encouraged.

“Back there, you said that calling their dog-things ‘inugami’ made them sick and twisted…” She said, pensively. It was a dumb question and totally not germane to the situation at hand, but she felt a compulsion to make conversation and didn’t want to discuss who these people might be and why they were after them. “Why is that?”

“It’s pretty graphic.” Alloy warned.

“I can make a functioning eyeball appear on the palm of my hand.” Facsimile help up her hand, as if to threaten doing so.

“Point taken.” The armored prelate nodded. “I first read the word in a Japanese comic my aunt gave me and after a little research, it turns out to be real folklore.”

“Isn’t that an oxymoron?”

“I guess, though now they’re real.” He shrugged. “Anyway, an inugami is like a super-ghost that does whatever its master tells it to do. But to make one—“he blanched inside his helmet, “You’ve got to raise a dog for ten years. Then you’ve got to bury it up to its neck with food just out of its reach so it can smell it, but can’t eat. Then, just before it dies—“He stopped abruptly. “You get the picture, the poor thing dies hating you and since all it wanted to do before that was eat, it turns into a slave ghost in exchange for the food offering.”

Facsimile’s features contorted with disgust. “I ask again – what is wrong with these people?!”

“I’m impressed you know that legend,” a rasping voice called. “Both looked up to see Shine leaping at them from the top of a billboard. “But you left out my favorite part!” She slammed into them with jarring force that caused the tentacles to lose their grip and the trio to fall.

Ignoring her own impending demise; vis-a-vis the sudden stop that characteristically accompanies a long fall, Shine raised her claws to tear into the gorget that protected Alloy’s neck. “When the dog is near the end of its life,” She said, as if quoting, “begging for the morsel of food that it is sure its ‘loving’ owner will grant it—you saw its head off with a bamboo saw. The pain and the betrayal is what transforms—“

“That is it!” Facsimile screamed in feral rage, also heedless of the deadly drop. “You people are sick!” With that, she extruded her wings and launched herself at the white, scaled woman. The pair sailed on golden wings over the roof of an apartment building and roughly onto the platform of the local elevated train tracks.

Meanwhile, the tentacles, being the only ones aside from Alloy that remembered that their friend and organic mode of transportation was still in mid-peril, did the best they could to save him. Forming fearsome rows of saw teeth along their extended forms, they tore into the concrete flanks of the buildings flashing past them.

Twin clouds of sparks and cement dust raised plumes on either side of the street the two apartment complexes faced as Isp and Osp fought to slow Alloy’s descent. For his part, the young prelate focused below him and forced a street lamp to melt into a thin metal awning over the street. Only by their combined efforts was Alloy spared a painful fate.

“Whoa, it’s Alloy!” someone said. The exclamation was followed by murmurs of surprise from passerby who had just seen his descent.

Alloy looked around to see a crowd starting to form. “Uh, sorry folks. No time for interviews and autographs.” He asked the tentacles to swing him toward where Facsimile had fallen. Torn between his desperate desire to help his friend, and their desperate desire to bask in the public’s adoration, Isp and Osp reluctantly lashed out to swing Alloy over the heads of the onlookers and down the street toward the L platform.

It didn’t take long for him to find Facsimile. She and Shine were locked in another fruitless exchange of attacks before startled commuters who were trying to make their way to lunch. Their need to board the departing vehicle was preempted by the two super powered femme fatales slashing and flurrying on the platform.

“I’m coming, Fax!” He shouted, the tentacles launching him the rest of the distance toward the platform.

“No, you’re not.” Alloy felt something loop around his legs and pull. As he fell short of his mark, he saw a long, ceramic chain binding his feet and holding the other end of it, he found Manriki. The chain wielder and his powered armor wearing ally were standing atop the departing train.

Momentum being what it was, Alloy felt him self suddenly hurtling through space on the end of the chain. At the lowest part of his descent, just before the chain pulled taunt and the train started dragging him behind it, he had to lurch violently to the side to avoid colliding with a woman in red and black who was in the process of paying her cabbie.

For their part, Isp and Osp realized that trying to anchor to the street would be very bad for Alloy and so, they opted for climbing the chain instead. Moving like snakes, they scaled the ceramic weapon, pulling Alloy up with them. With a final tug, they deposited him on the top of the moving train. Too late, they realized their miscalculation – their plan had just landed them and Alloy directly in the middle of two dangerous villains.

Reaching down, Alloy formed a sword out of the roof of the train. He was breathing hard from all the close calls he’d had in the last few minutes, but he only had one thing to ask. “How the hell did you guys get ahead of us?”

***

Furious swipes from fists and wings wafted past Shine as if they were light breezes. Atop the elevated platform, she could feel the sun’s radiation ramping up her reaction time to even more super human levels and with it, her confidence.

This fight wasn’t really necessary. She only needed to get a tissue sample from her opponent and she probably had more than enough under her claws for that. But the golden prelate had pushed her buttons one too many times and the time had come for her to pay for it.

Letting herself fall backward before another fusillade of blows, Shine rolled back onto her shoulders, her palms pressed flat against the ground. Facsimile grinned as she pressed her attack, oblivious to Shine’s own sneer. The white scaled woman drew her knees up to her chin, then kicked upward, using her shoulders as leverage. Facsimile was sent flying.

Before her enemy even hit the ground, Shine had kipped up into a crouch. Her hand tapped the receiver in her ear. “Now.” She ordered.

Almost immediately, a loud whine approached, bringing with it a stiff, warm breeze. Those few civilians too slow, or too engrossed in watching the battle to evacuate the platform looked up to see the air ripple and change.

Where there had been clear air, glowing lines of orange appeared, tracing in air the shape of a hovering military style transport. It dipped low over the train track, turning the gaping maw its cargo area to the platform as the orange faded to dull grey metal. Launch stood in the center of the maw, flanked by two huge cargo containers shot through with ventilation holes.

“Sorry, little heroine.” Shine said, “But like you said; a fight between you and me could take a while. Your healing is a real bitch to deal with, tactically speaking – stabbing, shooting and good, old fashion pummeling means even less to you than it does to War-torn.” As she spoke, Launch pulled the locks out of the seals that held the containers closed. Their faces rolled upward to reveal a pair of evil, green glares. “But I’m willing to bet that you can’t regenerate from being ripped to shreds.”

Heeding a sharp hand signal from Shine, the two inugami threw themselves from the hovering transport. Their snarling jaws exposed metal lined teeth as they flew at their target.

Globo de la fuerza!” The first beast hit the sphere of force and slid right over its slick curve, colliding with the platform’s guard rail, which tore free and allowed it to plummet four stories to the ground below. The second’s orihalcite claws tore through the magical protection before it even knew it was there. It only lost a little speed as if clamped its powerful jaws down on Facsimile’s wing.

Regardless of how superficial the injury was for someone with her power set, the shearing of her wing hurt as keenly as if someone had torn one of her arms out of its socket. Even as her body closed the wound, Facsimile screamed her agony and fell to her knees. Fighting being knocked out from shock, she saw a woman in red robes with a black cape charging up the last few stairs to gain the platform. Between the loss of her limb and the surprise appearance by the magic user Laurel had told her about, she didn’t notice that the monster that had taken her wing was coming for the rest of her.

Occult saw the monstrous hound drop the severed appendage and reel, charging back at the dizzied prelate. It was too close for another globe of force. She had to take more direct measures. She only hoped that the new trick she had concocted actually worked.

She shook a bauble out of her sleeve and into her hand. It was only about three inches long, carved of ivory. Bits of adhesive still clung to it from where she’d peeled the cheap broach pin’s backing from the tiny, ivory ankh her aunt had given her as a souvenir from a trip to Africa.

She needed no words for this one, just some rapid visualization. As her mind’s eye drew the picture, shadows leapt up around the ankh, cocooning it in a black miasma that grew and contorted in her hand. When the shape she wanted was gained, the miasma faded to reveal pale ivory. Occult stepped forward and swung the staff she now held in her hand, its ankh shaped head cutting a vicious downward strike toward the oncoming monster.

Her voice rang out loudly moments before contact. “Fuerza de veinte toneladas!” The head of the staff seemed to drop faster crashing down upon the green eyed monster’s champron and smashing its head to the deck.

Breathing hard, the magic user took a bit too long surveying her handiwork; time Shine took to deliver a backhanded blow to the jaw.

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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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