Issue #12: Here and Now

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

Part 2

“Hello, Occult.” Shine said, delivering a palm heel strike to the newcomer’s ribs. “I was wondering when the other heroes would arrive. Especially you, actually. I’ve watched the videos of your fight with the inugami in Wagner Park.” She accompanied the words with quick, disorienting punches. “And frankly, I’ve got to ask – what the hell are you?”

Occult didn’t need to answer because Shine suddenly found herself occupied with keeping the thorny vine that wrapped itself around her neck from throttling her. “Like I said,” Facsimile panted, breathing through her pain as she re-assimilated her remaining wing, “You just can’t dodge what you can’t see. That’s your weakness.”

“It’s over.” The spellcaster said, managing to give the impression of a glare from within the shadows of her hood. “Your dogs lost, you’ve lost, and in a second, your partner in the transport is going to lose too.”

Shine cackled with the precious breaths she managed to force past Facsimile’s vine garrote. “You think a crack on the head is going to keep an inugami down?” She sneered as she looked over Occult’s shoulder. “Even funnier, you think a little fall will kill one?”

Senses Occult didn’t fully comprehend kicked in and she suddenly detected a malevolent presence behind her. She turned to see the massive, grey hound clinging impossibly to one of the platform’s massive vertical beams. Apparently, there was more to these new inugami than just a change in aesthetic.

She locked eyes with the beast just in time to witness it leap from its perch at her, claws extended. It was only a feint. The second she turned to deal with the inugami, Shine reared up, using Facsimile’s grip on her neck as leverage, and kicked the spellcaster squarely in the back. Occult went down, but thankfully, the momentum sent her rolling beneath the lacerating claws of the inugami.

Coming out of her roll, she had time enough to see Shine tuck, roll and throw Facsimile off her, slamming the prelate into the side of a vending machine situated on the platform. The inugami that had leapt at her turned to finish the job, while the one whose skull she’d hoped she’d caved in stood shakily.

“Everything looks in hand here.” Launch said from the transport. “I’m going hunting. Ciao, Shine.” He leapt from the transport and sprinted a short distance up the track before blasting off with such a force that he shattered sections of the rail.

The villainess paid no attention to his hasty exit. Stretching the kinks out of her muscles, she stood up, delivering a hand signal to the inugami that told them to hold back. The transfigured canines let loose with low, rippling growls as they returned to her side.

Shine gave a feral grin to Facsimile as the golden heroine regained her feet and shifted her arm into a more natural shape than the strangling vine. The two would be white hats had ended up hemmed in on two sides by a four story drop to the pavement.

“Now, as much as I’d love to keep up our fight, Fax, I’m on a tight schedule. So you get to play with the doggies, while Occult and I get acquainted.” She gave the hooded woman a pointed look. “Any last nonsense Spanish phrases?”

Occult wavered on her feet. The blow she took to the jaw still had her unsteady. She glanced over at Facsimile, who also looked shaky. Even to her unfamiliar eyes, she could tell that shapeshifting wasn’t coming easily to her anymore. Behind her, the railing torn free by the passage of the first inugami creaked in the grip of gravity, reminding her how high up she was.

“I’m done.” Occult muttered, letting her staff melt back into its true form before dropping it into the pouch at her side. “I can’t beat you. I don’t even know any offensive spells.” She confessed.

“What?!” Facsimile glared at the robed woman. “That’s it? I thought you were charging in here to back me up, not to totally puss out!” Her vision was going blurry around the edges and hunger rippled through every cell of her body.

“Pipe down, ‘chica’” Shine mocked. “The girl’s laying down some wisdom. Maybe you can learn from her.”

“I don’t care what this chick says.” Facsimile snarled, putting up her fists. “I’m not going down without a fight, baldy.”

“And you wonder why I’m siccing the dogs on you.” Shine glared.

Occult’s hand grasped Facsimile’s shoulder. “I didn’t say I was giving up. I said I was done.” A tight lipped smirk appeared below the concealing shades of her hood. “By which I meant I was done being trapped. Come on, we’re going to get some distance.”

Before Facsimile could struggle free of her grasp, Occult stepped off the platform and into empty space.

***

Strictly speaking, Alloy, Isp and Osp had Manriki and War-torn out numbered three to two. In reality, however, neither man was in any way aware that the blur of metal attached to Alloy’s upper arms were actual, sapient beings and full participants in the fight. If they had, they might have directed some of their blows at them rather than focusing everything they had on their lone, humanoid target.

Manriki had three chains in the air, bobbing and lashing furiously only to have them struck down before they could find their mark. War-torn’s ponderous sweeps of the fist were having similar trouble connecting as Alloy dodged, ducked and scrambled out of the way of blows that could easily do permanent damage.

Forced on the defensive from the start of the battle, the metal controller hadn’t even swung his sword, instead planting it in the roof of the speeding public transit to keep himself from sliding off and kissing the track at sixty miles per hour. He just hoped the blade wasn’t threatening any of the screaming passengers below their battle.

“Just give up, kid.” War-torn drawled between punches. “You’re getting tired. Sooner or later, you’re going to slip and either I paste you to the top of this car, or Manriki puts a chain through your empty skull.”

Alloy didn’t reply. He was tired. Despite being in the best shape of his life as a result of being dragged around the city on foot by his zealous best friend, that shape still wasn’t what health experts would call ‘good’. He’d never needed to be physical; the tentacles could lift a truck and could reach across a room; all he’d needed to do was get them there. Now, he was badly out of breath trying to dodge the meaty fists that sought to end him.

As it was wont to do, his mind wandered. War-torn’s only contribution to the fight had been his strength. But that pretty clearly came from the powered armor frame he wore. All of the other Redeemers were psionics though and it seemed unlikely that War-torn would be the odd man out. The frame style armor was the clue. He watched another slug aimed for his face go by and a plan formed. At the speed of thought, he relayed it to Isp and Osp.

“It’s not going to be that easy, big man.” He finally breathed. “I am tired, but I know I’m going to win.” With a smile of smug confidence that War-torn couldn’t see because of his helmet, he pulled his sword out of the roof and leveled it. “Because the good guys always win.”

Before War-torn could retort, the young prelate span, still standing directly in the path of the oncoming fist. The sword came up to catch the chains Manriki commanded, letting momentum wrap them along its length. At the same instant, War-torn’s fist connected with solidity that made him feel like he’d just punched a missile silo.

The tentacles had caught his fist and hurled it violently backward. Resin molded plastic squealed and metal screamed as War-torn punched a fist into the train to keep from falling off. The panic from the passengers below surged again.

“You just made your last mistake, hero.” Manriki said darkly. He had already released control of the ceramic chains now hopelessly wrapped around the sword. With a flick of his wrist, the orihalcite chain bounded out toward Alloy. The razor spike at the leading edge of the weapon drew a burst of sparks along the young prelate’s ribs.

Wincing under his armor, Alloy dropped his sword, allowing it to meld once more with the train, pinning the trapped chains there. He felt warm blood leaking out of the shallow wound the chain had managed to cut. Luckily, Manriki wasted valuable seconds disconnecting the mired chains from his costume. Behind him, War-torn struggled to regain his footing as the tentacles rained hammer blows down upon him.

The orihalcite chain darted out once more, this time biting though Alloy’s armor to open a gash across his calf. The pain made him take a knee. Sensing his pain, Isp reversed direction, intercepting the chain’s next strike before it dug into Alloy’s shoulder.

The victory was short lived, however as War-torn rolled under Osp’s pummeling and raised his fists to drive them down onto his armored foe.

***

“He’s going to kill him!” Alexis, now Darkness cried. She had just pulled even to the train with her arms threaded through Ian’s and was following the aerial police cruisers that were trying to keep up with the train. Apparently, no one had managed to override the transit system’s computerized conductor, which meant it wouldn’t stop until it reached City Central.

“No, he’s not.” Ian said. In his Chaos persona, his voice was cool with anger at what was happening. “Can you get ahead of them?”

“Yeah, but what good is that…”

“Get ahead of them and drop me.” Chaos instructed.

“What? Ia—Chaos, are you nuts? It’s a five story fall to the tracks alone and the train’s doing sixty. You’ll be killed!””

“I wouldn’t ask you to do it if that were the case.” He said, watching Alloy roll out of the way of War-torn’s overhead smash. “Trust me on this, its part physics, part powers. Besides, you need your hands free to do those heat bolts.”

Darkness made a distressed noise and gripped him closer. He was nearly weightless with the aide of the black heat. She could keep the fall from killing him even if his powers couldn’t. But the train was a different case. But she trusted him and he was right; they were both useless as they were. She didn’t say anything as she accelerated past the aerial patrol units.

***

City Central was looming toward them, a cluster of ominous looking government and public buildings that formed the city’s heart. Alloy only had enough time to notice before he tucked and rolled to his left, avoiding both the deadly chain and the crushing fist that were heading his way. Isp anchored him just before he tumbled off the side.

“Nowhere else to run to.” War-torn declared as he and Manriki closed ranks, cutting off any escape that didn’t involve plummeting to a gruesome end. “Our orders are to capture you. We don’t have any interest in seeing you go spla—“He was interrupted by a flurry of black specks that fell upon him and Manriki. Where the specks landed, searing pain followed.

Manriki cursed and looked toward the head of the train where the source of the attack would be. What he saw had him diving to the deck with an oath. A roar of wind washed over him, carrying at its heart a figure in a red and black body suit. But Manriki hadn’t been the target. A solid fist of congealed air struck War-torn in the hollow of his stomach, followed immediately by a flying tackle from the newcomer.

The big man left his feet long enough for three cars to rocket by under him before falling to all fours and digging his armored fingers into the roof. He managed to stop his slide with only inches to spare. A gulp sounded in his throat as he noted the track paying out at frightening speeds behind the last car. His attacker had landed a few yards away amid twin whirlwinds that seemed to emanate from his fists. A soft pallet of congealed air dropped him softly to the roof.

“You.” War-torn spat. “One of the unknown prelates command warned us about.”

“The name’s Chaos, meat bag.” His assailant said, mouth turning up into a sneer beneath his visored face. “Pleased to meet you. Or beat you, as the case may be. I think I heard something about giving up before I knocked the wind out of you?”

Manriki glared at Chaos’s back, then at Alloy, who had managed to position himself toward the front of the train in the confusion. “Damn.” The Redeemer growled. “Even odds. The other way’s more fun…”

Alloy’s metal sense made him aware of the overpass approaching his back at sixty miles per hour. It was high enough that there wasn’t any threat of fracturing his skull, but it did give him an idea. “That’s what you think. The odds were never even.” He had time to see Manriki’s look of confusion before Isp and Osp enacted the plan.

Looping around his torso once to cushion the coming blow, they speared outward just as the support struts of the overpass flashed by. The buildings on either side were too far for even their malleable forms to reach, but the overpass was well within reach. As they pulled taunt, flexing to reduce the sudden loss of momentum, Alloy rolled back, pressing his full weight onto them so as to bring both feet up.

Simple physics took care of the rest. Alloy had slowed considerably, but Manriki was still moving forward at sixty miles an hour. Two metal encased feet planted themselves in his torso. If not for the ceramic chains wrapped around him, which shattered on impact, all his ribs would have been broken instead of the one that now decided to take a guided tour of his chest cavity.

The fact that he was unattached to the roof was a blessing and a curse. He rolled with the blow, but found that he was now also moving slower than the speeding train. The drag of the air combined with the forceful blow he’d just taken to the chest put him into a painful roll down the length of the train.

Chaos leapt over him and gave War-torn a wry wave as Manriki plowed into him, knocking both off the back of the train and onto tracks below. War-torn’s giant frame tore a hole in the track bed as the pair plummeted to earth, crashing down on the front steps of the city library.

Almost as quickly as they had caught the overpass, the tentacles let go, returning Alloy to his feet, not far from where Chaos was standing. “Holy crap am I glad to see you!” The younger man shouted.

“Don’t be glad yet.” Chaos said. “The big guy’s definitely not out for the count and the other guy landed on top. We need to get to them before they hurt anyone.” He pointed. “Swing us down!”

Alloy nodded and gave a sharp salute as Isp wrapped his mentor’s shoulders. “Yes sir.”

***

High above, Darkness heaved a sigh of relief as she saw the two Redeemers go flying. “Thank God.” She said aloud.

“You’re welcome.” Someone laughed. Before she could turn around, rapid fire bursts from Launch’s pulse guns slammed into her. If not for the ballistic cloth that made up her costume, she would have been done for. “Though, I really had nothing to do with it.”

Darkness snarled as she called up her black heat. “Two of your guys had already lost.” She let loose with a beam of black heat that Launch only barely avoided. “Whatever you and the Academy have up your sleeve, it’s not going to work.”

“I wouldn’t say that too soon.” The flying villain laughed. “When I left, it looked like Shine and the inu-doggies had golden girl and the lady in the bathrobe over a barrel. So I’d say two for two ain’t bad. Especially if I bring you down and make it two for three.”

The color drained from her face. Cyn and Occult had lost? What would those bastards do…? She squeezed her eyes shut. She couldn’t afford to think about that now. After this purple and green psychopath was put down, then she could deal with what his friends had wrought. “You monster!” She screamed.

Her words we drowned out by a roar as blinding blue lightning split the sky between her and Launch.

Both combatants looked up to see black death trimmed with gold de-cloaking above. Sky Tyrant glared down at them. “Three for two is pretty good. But I just think I’ll settle for two for one.” His voice was heavy and malicious through his speakers as he leveled the Tesla Arc. “One for business…” He looked at Launch, then shifted his gaze toward Darkness. “And one for pleasure.”

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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.

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