Issue #12: Here and Now

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

Part 4

Even from ten stories up and two blocks away, Darkness heard Alloy’s pained shout. But she was in no position to go to his aide. Another cascade of blue energy belched forth from the Tesla Arc as she took cover behind a gargoyle. The stone cracked under the assault, but didn’t crumble, giving her a moment to breath.

That moment wasn’t very long. Pulse shots shattered the windows above her, sending a deadly hail down upon her that forced her to fly back out into the open. Even with Sky Tyrant hunting both of them, Launch was taking every opportunity to harass her. She heard him laughing somewhere above her.

“You’re not taking this seriously are you, Redeemer?” Sky Tyrant demanded. His answer came in the form of a series of pulse blasts that bounced harmlessly off his armor. With a low growl, the man in the aerial tank extended his right arm. Rosy light danced as a bulky contraption resembling a black lacquered shoebox with half a glass globe pressed into the top unfolded to attach to the presented appendage. A pair of tines, similar to those of an oversized tuning fork breached the forward facing end of the device. “Let’s see how serious you take this.”

The air vibrated between the weapon’s tines before rushing out in an undulating wave that was barely visible to the naked eye.

Launch bolted upward as the wave plowed into the side of the building behind him. Cement turned to dust. Glass turned to an almost beautiful shower of glitter that caught the sunlight. The wave rolled up the side of the building, tracing a line of horrifying destruction as Sky Tyrant trained his weapon upward to follow the fleeing form of Launch.

Darkness couldn’t have cared less about Launch’s fate, but there were people in those buildings the hitman in powered armor was firing on and she couldn’t imagine what that weapon was capable of doing to flesh and bone. Plus, for the first time since the fight started, Sky Tyrant’s attention was off of her.

Lighting on the ledge of what she would later realize was City Hall, she brought her hands together, gathering the black heat before her and launched a beam of it as thick as her arm into her foe’s back.

Forewarned of the attack by his sensor array, Sky Tyrant shut off the Wave Generator, allowing it to disappear. He didn’t know where his armor and weapons went when he willed them away, he only knew they stopped weighing him down. So relieved of extra mass, he flew straight up, allowing the beam of black heat to pass him by, diffusing into the clouds of dust left behind by the Wave Generator’s fire.

“I’ll deal with that little bastard later.” Sky Tyrant said, turning to face Darkness. “He’s just a flea anyway. But you – you and your little cadre, Life Savers, Inc… I want some answers. Who was that backward talking witch you were fighting back in September?”

“I could tell you that without you shooting me.” Darkness said. “She really was a witch – or something like one. She called herself Morganna.”

“Was? Where is she now?!”

“Dead. You hit her with an exploding truck, remember? You almost killed me too.”

“No.” The black and gold warrior intoned. “She’s not dead because if she were dead, it would all be over. I’ve been through hell—lost everything! And it’ll all be fixed once she dies.”

“What are you even talking about? What does she have to do with you anyway?”

A roar built up in Sky Tyrant’s throat. Pinkish sparks leapt from him as all the extra armor Gear Callahan had installed shifted into being, increasing his already imposing stature greatly. The Wave Generator emerged, already charging up. “She did this to me!” He leveled both the Tesla Arc and the Wave Generator at her. “Now tell me where she is, or half the city will be breathing a vapor made of your cells.”

The shot never came. A sudden weight pressed down on Sky Tyrant’s right arm. “As much as I think that was a really, really choice line, I can’t let you do that.” Launch had landed precariously on the bulky armor of the flying tank’s arm. “My orders are to capture her or kill her. My fun. Not yours.” With that, he blasted off.

The concussive blast smashed the Wave Generator to bits and catapulted Sky Tyrant sideways to smash through the windows of another building.

Launch glared smugly at the broken window and sniffed before turning back to Darkness. “I always take my personal enjoyment…” he blinked. She was gone. “…seriously. God damn it.”

***

Alloy couldn’t put one thought together with the next. The ringing in his head simply wouldn’t die down. He remembered Manriki being bound to the hand rail, followed by the orihalcite chain moving like a drunken snake. Then he remembered objects: two ribbons of aluminum that eight months ago had been an aged waste basket left behind by the previous owners of Freeland House. Just objects.

He also remembered a night well over a year ago to his reckoning and twice that when the lost time in stasis was counted. There had been bullets; lead moving in the air, too fast for his metal sense to lock on to. A lucky shot followed by the ringing and another object that had once been a piece of a car…

The fact that he was unaware of his surroundings was a mercy. Manriki was toying with him, hitting him with blows of the chain over and over again with just enough timing to not let him fall.

Chaos only managed a single step toward him when a long shadow fell over him. “I owe you for the cheap shot on the train.” The voice of an angry giant rumbled.

A change of air pressure told him to duck, saving his head from an untimely separation from his body. “You should have actually connected with your free hit then.” Chaos whirled and planted a fist in War-torn’s gut, following it up with a cheap shot to the groin.

All students at the Academy were required to have one year of martial arts training as part of their conditions of graduation. The idea was to instill discipline in young people gifted with sometimes overwhelming power. Alexis had learned bōjutsu. Laurel had learned aikido (and later, Jeet Kune Do, Zui Quan, Tai Sheng Pek Kwar, MCMAP, and Kampfringen). Ian had taken a boxing class, which was spectacularly useless in a fight to the death, so he felt justified in the low blow.

At least he would have if War-torn had shown any sign that indicated he even felt the attack. Instead, the big man seized him by the neck and hoisted him up into the air. “If that’s all you can do to me without your girlfriend throwing you, I didn’t even need to take it. Hold still and I’ll only knock you out for capture.”

Chaos, gripping the giant’s wrist futilely, wasn’t listening. “Hey…” he said, almost wistfully. “The ALN-1000 Loader Frame. I designed this armor.”

“What?” War-torn blinked. He expected more ‘heroic’ bluster, not random trivia.

“Your armor frame. I designed it. It was one of their first ones I did right out of the Academy.” Chaos remarked. “You know, it’s not really for military applications. It’s for dock workers. It’s worthless for the military because it doesn’t have any protection.”

“I don’t care, I heal quick and I’m tough.” War-torn retorted.

“Not what I meant, jumbo. I meant that covering up rotator servos and locking down access panels is just wasted expense for civvie jobs.” Chaos held up a sparking bit of circuit. “See?” He said as War-torn felt the strength in the hand holding the prelate off the ground ebb. Chaos dropped to the ground and rolled under the big man. “That was the power relay for your actuators.”

A mist began to roll out of the nearby storm drains. With density greatly reduced, water flash boiled into a cloying mist the came up to War-torn’s waist. Warily, he turned a slow circle, searching the mist for his foe.

“And this…” Something slammed hard into his back. “It the power relay to the extremities.”

War-torn stopped moving. He didn’t intend to, but at the moment, every joint in his armor locked up.

***

Becoming invisible by manipulating the way her black heat interacted with light was one of those little tricks Darkness had learned in the Academy that, while conceptually cool, was utterly useless. Many people wish they had such a power, but they generally fail to note a physical flaw in perfect invisibility: to be invisible, an object must neither absorb nor reflect light; and vision in human beings is based on the retina absorbing incoming photons. So with her black heat bending light around her, she was blind.

“Come on!” Launch shouted. “Where the hell are you?!” He flew within a few feet of her, coming to rest at the feet of another of City Hall’s decorative gargoyles, using the stone beast to cover his back from an assault from the rear.

“Right here.” It wasn’t Darkness who spoke. Rising into the sunlight, Sky Tyrant looked dangerous even with one, human arm exposed; red and inflamed, for all to see. The pauldrons over his shoulders swung upward on a hinge near his neck, revealing a pair of hollow indentations that began to flare with orange energy.

“I was hoping you’d stay down for a while.” Launch glared.

“I was going to say the same thing to you.” Spheres of flaming energy formed in the indentations and hurtled forward like drunken fireflies. Launch grinned as he could already tell they were going to miss.

The plasma balls smashed into the gargoyle’s base, pulverizing stone. The flying Redeemer didn’t have time to even look to see what had happened. The stone ornament collapsed down onto him, pinning him in its granite claws.

Laughing inwardly at Launch’s pathetic attempts to wriggle away, Sky Tyrant turned directly toward Darkness. “Now, Void-storm, we were in the middle of something. You might as well drop the cloak; it doesn’t stop my sensors from finding…”

He looked off to the north, cutting his speech short. “Damn it all. Military.” He snapped his attention quickly back to her. “Another time.” He said brusquely before initiating his own cloaking device.

Darkness didn’t try to find him. She had to get back to help the others.

***

Manriki sent his orihalcite chain out once more to wrap Alloy’s neck in a single loop. The prelate’s weight, seeking gravity, fell back against it, drawing both ends taunt in Manriki’s hands. “It always comes down to this.” Manriki mused. “No matter what their powers, no matter what amazing things they can do, all those special little rogues end up with my chain around their neck. I wonder how much pressure the armor on your neck can withstand.”

The screeching of tires distracted him for a second. Two blocks away, a silver SUV had come to a stop at the police cordon on City Central. A female figure, covered head to toe was standing next to another female in a white karate uniform and yet another in red robes with a cape of some kind, arguing with the police. Right behind them was…

“Prometheus. Son of a bitch.” Manriki moaned. He turned back to Alloy. “Looks like we won’t get to find out about that armor.”

“Let him go!” someone screamed. A burst of gold vaulted out of the SUV’s sunroof and took wing, streaking right at him. “Or I’m going to make my own chain out of your spine!” Facsimile streaked at him in a blur of gold.

Another figure fell from the sky toward him as well, this one an ink blot shaped vaguely like a woman. A black cloud roiled and twisted around her.

The wind kicked up and he knew that the man who had downed War-torn was gunning for him as well.

He had lost. There was no way all three would fail to bring him down. The best solution was to cut his losses, raise his hands and give up. The best solution; but the chicken-shit solution nonetheless, he decided. “Might as well go out a man.” He muttered. With deft movements, he flipped the bladed ends of the chain in his hands, pointing them at Alloy’s face, then hauled hard, causing the prelate to stumble drunkenly toward his own death.

The next few moments stretched on into infinity. Alloy’s mind finally resolved itself. They were only objects in space; not bodies, not the inert forms of dead things. They were just ribbons animated by life force. They had not been Isp and Osp. Isp and Osp were…

His eyes opened. Manriki made a surprised sound as he saw not frightened eyes, seeing the end, but orbs of pure silver. There was a sound like the beat of a giant’s heart. The hand rails on the library steps melted, cars on the street below twisted violently; their windows exploding in showers of safety glass. Manriki felt the chain twitch in his grasp just before it liquefied.

Darkness let loose a beam of black heat as big around as her waist. Chaos released a pulse of air that could roll a car. Facsimile grew claws and prepared to collide with the chain wielder. None of them hit him.

Twin lashes formed of orihalcite took Manriki in the chest, lifting him in the air and launching him backward through the glass doors of the library. He slid across the marble lobby floor and came to rest one too gently against the reception desk.

Writhing with anger, but reveling in the strength of the new metal bodies they’d awakened in, Isp and Osp cracked the air like whips, daring Manriki’s unconscious form to get back up. Alloy smiled at their antics even as he sat down heavily on the stairs. Golden arms wrapped around him accompanied by panicked jabbering that was coming too fast for him to understand.

Leaning against Facsimile, watching the others; including a woman in a white gi he didn’t recognize, running toward him, he wondered why they were so worried. His armor had protected him from all but a few shallow cuts. But whatever he had just done to affect the orihalcite had just made him so tired…

Before Hope could get to him and start administering her healing touch, a pair of black troop transports roared over the tops of the City Central buildings, descending to a height of five stories before deploying repelling lines.

“Attention, psionic outlaws known as the Redeemers.” A voice familiar to Chaos and Darkness spoke over the lead craft’s speakers. “This is General Lewis Armstrong Pratt of the United States Marine Corps Superhuman Intervention Division. Trent Kinsey, codename: Wolf is already in our custody. Surrender now or…”

Pratt glanced back at Zero who was sitting between two marines in powered armor. “I’ll be damned. I really shouldn’t have picked you and Wolf up first—we missed all the action.”

He turned on the speakers again after directing the ships to land. “It seems it’s all well in hand. I assume we have Life Savers, Inc to thank for this, Darkness?” Pratt addressed Alexis with her former Academy nickname to maintain her anonymity.

Darkness looked over her friends, the kids she’d come to care for over the past year, and the unlikely allies they had found in Occult and Prometheus (the latter of whom was standing over a cursing War-torn with a look of grim satisfaction on his face). Zero jumped from the transport as soon as it was low enough and ran to her, throwing her arms around her. Darkness ruffled the girl’s hair through her hood and gave a smile up to the general from whom she had learned the proper name for herself and her loved ones. “No.” She shouted back, “We’re the Descendants.”

End Issue #12

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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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