Issue #14: Standing With Titans

This entry is part 2 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 2: Magic and Machines

Part 3

“There’s a warehouse on the Canterbury Docks,” the Whitecoat explained as the group strode across the plaza that separated the front gates from the facility proper, “owned by a man named Tai Yang Zhang, a low level boss in the Hip Sing Tong. It’s where he keeps his payroll because he thinks I don’t know about it.”

“The guys I rounded up last night naturally didn’t tell me who they worked for, but a little extrapolation goes a long way. See, one of the guys was a man named Vernon Hendrix, also known as the Ox. He’s a spark jockey that does freelance work for whatever group pays his bills.”

“Spark jockey?” Chaos asked.

“It’s someone that’s had a lot of cybernetic enhancement.” Facsimile supplied.

“I like her.” Whitecoat chuckled, “she’s clever. Yeah, Ox has all the muscles in his upper body chipped – makes him pretty damn strong. The nice thing is that he’s all strength and no toughness. Anyway, the important thing is the Ox is white.”

“What?” the others said with a single, confused voice. Whitecoat laughed in response.

“It’s a Tong thing. They’re like the maras – totally concerned about race these days. They take a lot of pride in how ‘pure’ they can keep their personal circles of drugs, protection rackets and arms dealing. All except guys on the bottom like Zhang. See, when I said he was low level, I mean it. If organized crime was a store, he’d be the old lady at the door giving you a basket. That means all of his guys are out on the street all the time. And That means they’re easy pickings for the prelate set—me, Blue Streak, Sister Sacred—“

“Infinity?” Alloy supplied.

His former mentor snorted. “Yeah right, I doubt Captain Dimple-chin has even seen a gang member up close, much less taken one down. Anyway, as you can imagine, even in a city as big as New York, there’s only so many Chinese thugs to go around. Zhang’s had to tap the rest of the Big Apple’s wormy core to fill the ranks with pushers, pimps and arm twisters. Hence, he’s the only Tong boss that’d think to hire non-Chinese.”

“Diversity matters.” Facsimile quipped, “except this time it’s going to get a swarm of prelates jammed down his gob.”

“Whoa there, sparky.” Whitecoat held up a hand. Something blue glowed in his palm. “I’m not looking for a team-up. I got your friend out of the pokey for info and now I have it, end of alliance. I know you guys have a connection with these kids, but I work alone – especially when the Tong is involved.”

“You work alone?!” Facsimile raised and eyebrow. “Wait a minute,” she pointed at Alloy. “Didn’t you…”

“Oh hell no.” the Whitecoat said quickly. “Look, DeMarcus, The Masks, Themyscira—whatever – he tagged along whenever he could catch up and until he accidentally slagged evidence that could have put the Brooklyn head of the Tongs in prison for the rest of his natural life, I was too nice to tell him to back off, that’s all.”

Alloy didn’t offer a defense.

“This isn’t about that.” Chaos said. “Alloy’s not the kid you dealt with anymore and we certainly aren’t.” They had reached Laurel’s SUV, which for the day sported a temporary green paint job and fake plates. “These kids’ lives are the important thing, right?”

“This is true.” Whitecoat deadpanned.

“And truth be told, I’ve got a creeping suspicion that I know why Zhang went after them. You said he’s been losing people, has he been losing money too?”

“He’s been hemorrhaging cash for the past year or so. He’s been pretty desperate lately, he had another spark jockey named Tank do a hostage job three months ago. I figured the kidnapping would be for ransom too.”

“It’s more likely that it’s a bounty.” Chaos said bluntly. “You said you saw Alloy fighting on TV last month. Care to guess why?” Whitecoat shook his head. “The accusations about the Academy are true. Alloy and these other kids were kidnapped by the people behind the Academy for reasons we’re not clear on. And now they’re without their prime hunting grounds.”

“So someone put out a bounty on psionic kids? Remind me when this is done to call my mom and thank her not for enrolling me there.”

“Does that mean you’ll be around for us to remind you?” Alloy asked, “As in you’re going to team up with us?”

The Whitecoat regarded the young prelate from beneath his hat. He knew the kid could be overzealous and annoying, but there were more important things at stake. The Hip Sing Tong was once more exploiting others for their own gain. Something in his blood writhed at the thought. “Yeah.” He said without a trace of cockiness or smarm. “Yeah, I’m in.”

***

“So you’re the new mentor.” The Whitecoat observed. He and Chaos were walking along the rows of warehouses toward the Canterbury Docks. Hope was tending to Incubus and Rain back at the SUV. Alloy and Facsimile were getting into their own positions according to the plan formulated by Laurel in her Codex guise along the way.

“I don’t see all the problems you’ve seen.” Chaos shrugged. “He’s way too into the comic book side of things, but he’s a good kid and pretty good in a fight too.”

“Those snake things creep me the hell out. Swear to God they’re alive or something.”

Chaos didn’t bother telling him the truth, it would take the entire walk down o the warehouse to explain. “Hey, they’re part of his powers. Speaking of which, all I’ve seen you do so far is make fun of people. You mentioned not enrolling at the Academy, so you’re psionic. What’s your power?”

Whitecoat snickered beneath his bandanna. “I shit you not; the only psionic power I’ve got is a damn good immune system. I mean scary good. I can eat mad cow steak blue if I want to. On a toilet seat. One from a public restroom in Grand Central Station. And share the fork with a leper with a cold sore. And as close to sick as I’d get is the disgusted feeling about, you know, doing all that stuff.”

“So, what? You fight the Tongs by smacking them with your clean bill of health or luring them into raw pork eating contests? What about all the crap about you in that Prelates of New York comic about being bulletproof and super strong?”

“I’m also agile on a superhuman level, have advanced reflexes and can run on walls.” The Whitecoat added, “It’s all on that profile thing they’ve got of me on the PrelateWatch website. Also my hat and mask never fall off.”

“And none of it’s true?”

“No, it’s all true. But you just asked me what my psionic abilities were.” His voice held a smirk in it.

“So you’re what, another spark jockey like those guys Ox and Tank?”

“Sir, you wound me to imply that I’m a common thug who pays back alley interfacers for his powers.” Whitecoat said with mock indignity.

“Sorry.” Chaos huffed. “Hell, I didn’t even know what a spark jockey was until today. So how did you get the crime fighting vigilante package then?”

“Lab ‘accident’ courtesy of the Hip Sing Tong.” Whitecoat said with an edge in his voice. “Not everyone came out if it with powers. Not everyone came out of it.”

There was silence for a while as they walked. “I’m sorry.” Chaos said finally. “I think I get why you’re so keen on taking them on by yourself now.”

“That and the fact that they came a leap and a prayer from destroying the better part of Brooklyn with the thing that gave me my powers.” He shrugged, “Not on purpose; they were just careless in their moronic greed.” He stopped walking and held out a hand to indicate that Chaos should do the same. “But enough of the maudlin stuff. Zhang’s warehouse is just on the other side of this one. Are you sure about the plan your friend came up with? I mean it seems like stealth would be our friend here.”

Chaos nodded and smirked. “The guy in the bright white trench is talking about stealth now?”

“I get a good deal on them in bulk.” Whitecoat shrugged. “And don’t you think I’ve suffered for it enough with being saddled by a lame name like ‘The Whitecoat’?”

“That wasn’t your decision?”

“Hell no!” Whitecoat looked up at the last building before Zhang’s, gauging its height. “I wanted to be called something cool like Vengeance or Nightstalker, but noooo. The stupid coat is all anyone ever thinks about.” He nodded to Chaos. “You ready? I go high, you go low?”

“Climbing that thing will take forever, lets just both go around.”

“Who need to climb?” Before Chaos could reply, he jumped. And what a jump. He ascended three vertical stories and hit the wall just below the roof. The palms of his gauntlets and the tips of his boots glowed blue as they adhered to the facade of the building. Using those as anchors, he pulled himself over the top.

***

The two lookouts assigned to the front door of the warehouse were dressed in heavy overcoats and stocking caps. They tried very hard to look inconspicuous despite the fact that hardly anyone not in their organization came this far down Canterbury Docks. Both were Chinese and probably no older than sixteen.

One took a long drink out of a thermos full of soup and offered it to his companion.

“No.” the other said in Cantonese. “Mr. Zhang says we shouldn’t eat on the job.”

The first teen scoffed, replying in the same dialect. “It isn’t eating, it’s drinking. It’s too cold out here just to be standing around.”

“Ooh, soup.” There was a dull thud and both looked up to see the Whitecoat crouched on the side of the building with his coat billowing around him. “Is it vegetable barley? I love that stuff.”

The one holding the thermos dropped it and went for the pistol concealed in his waistband. A sudden gush of wind slammed him against the wall, knocking him out. His partner bolted for the steel door into the side of the warehouse.

The Whitecoat dropped down in front of him. “Ah, ah, ah. You don’t want to ruin the surprise for your friends, do you?” He didn’t move to stop the youth when he turned on his heel and ran in the other direction – straight into Chaos.

The visored man held up a hand and the air around the look out’s head grew thin. “Trust me, passing out is about the least ignoble thing that’s going to happen to the Tong tonight.” He said as the teen collapsed.

“Nice.” The Whitecoat said, observing Chaos’s handiwork. “And here I though you could only blow hot air.”

“I can be stupidly powerful when I want to be.” The other man shrugged.

Yeah,” The Whitecoat said, putting his palms against the steel door. The blue glowing pads on them adhered to it strongly as the pads on his boots did the same to the ground to give him leverage. “But can you do this?” With a jerking motion, he ripped the door out of the wall.

A cacophony of shouts in both English and Cantonese went up from inside. Whitecoat and Chaos only understood a few, mostly shouts of ‘breech’ and ‘cover the door’. Three men with automatic shotguns ran up the ramp leading down from the door.

“Knock, knock.” Whitecoat threw the door low, catching all three at the knees, sending them tumbling down the ramp. “Is Mr. Zhang in? I’d like a word or two with him.” He strode down the ramp, looking back and forth over the warehouse.

The place was sparsely populated by stacks of crates with bits and pieces of detritus strewn about. It clearly hadn’t been used as a real warehouse in some time. At the far end of the warehouse there was a glassed in office that the Whitecoat knew to be Zhang’s pay office.

Surprisingly, all the guards who would normally fire on him with fruitless abandon were falling back to cover. A moment later, he knew why.

“Mr. Zhang knew one of you costumed freaks would come for the kids.” A tall, dusky man of indeterminate European descent strode up to the bottom of the ramp. He was bare-chested, wearing loose cargo pants and combat boots. Leather straps held a bandoleer of knives across his chest and the hilt of a sword peeked out from behind his back. His long, black hair was tied back from his face. “So he left me to deal with you.”

Chaos came down the ramp behind Whitecoat. “This can’t be good. A dozen men with guns and they’re hiding behind a man armed with sharp objects?”

“Yeah, and he’s not a modder either.” The Whitecoat said, “My guess? Psionic. So I’m not going to give him time to show off his powers.” He vaulted toward the man with an arm drawn back to punch.

Zhang’s henchman’s face split into a grin. His form grew blurry at the edges and looked as if it were being pulled upward by some unseen vortex, stretching and thinning out in a bizarre fashion. Then he disappeared. Less than a second later, he reappeared, the strange visual repeating in reverse as he materialized behind and above the Whitecoat.

A heavy booted foot landed heel first on the prelate’s back sending him sprawling down ramp. “You already gave me all the time I needed.” He crowed. Before he landed, he was gone again in another flurry of bizarre motion.

“What the—“Chaos was too late to bring his guard up as the Tong mercenary appeared, slamming a palm into his chest with enough force to bowl him over. Before he even came to a stop, the psionic villain was back at the foot of the ramp, grinning at his handiwork.

“Teleporter.” Whitecoat grunted, forcing himself up into a combat crouch.

“I’ve trained for ten years mastering a martial art based around my unique means of locomotion and that’s all you can say?” the teleporter snarled. He appeared beside the Whitecoat and drove a knee into his ribs before returning to his original position. “I can be in a dozen places virtually simultaneously, striking at a score of enemies. That isn’t a simple matter of conveyance. Others are just teleporters. But there is only one person that has honed it into a weapon. That’s why they call me The Legion of One.”

Chaos grimaced and managed a sneer. “Yeah, well the jokes on you, buddy. For we are many.” The moment the words left his mouth, the roof was torn open.

Series Navigation<< Issue #13: Another Kind of HomecomingIssue #15: Never Simple >>

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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One Comment

  1. Rebecca Thompson

    The Kin are back, and we get to meet a new prelate? Awesome.

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