Issue #15: Never Simple

This entry is part 3 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 2: Magic and Machines

Part 3

Three dark shapes glided down to the roof of the Mayfield Security Systems building on billowing black wings, their silhouettes masked by the lengthening shadows brought by the setting sun. They landed smoothly with a short figure at their head.

He extended both arms, displaying two carbon rods extending from the backs of his wrists, connected to a harness on his back by twin sheets of black canvas material. With a jerking motion, the rods folded down into his wrists, shedding the canvas, which receded into the harness at his back in the process.

“The glide fabric is based on Dr. Caravaggio’s work, of course.” He explained to his comrades in low tones as they withdrew their own flying implements. “And the best part is that by the grace of Henry Ford and replaceable parts, this system can be installed to anyone who uses Gough’s ulna/radius storage assembly.” He beamed with pride at the approving noised his compatriots responded with. “Anyway, we’re on schedule. Time to show us your stuff, Sally.” He gestured to the roof access door.

Sally, a young woman with thin brown hair, nodded. A pair of lenses rolled down from beneath her eyelids, tinting her eyes a gleaming green. “On it. Spectrographic analysis is in progress.” She hurried to the door, staring intently at it. After a while, she pulled out a set of lock picks and got to work on the door.

“Jamming in progress. Infrared, visible spectrum, ultraviolet, radio – all signals in range are jammed.” She continued to self narrate as she opened the door for her allies. “Welcome to the biggest payroll handler in Mayfield, gentlemen.” She smiled, stepping in herself.

“Uh, Sally?” the last of the trio asked. His own eyes were tinted blue by similar lenses, “Sis?”

“What, Ed?” She asked petulantly.

“You can sense all security measures, right?”

“Yes, that’s what the electromagnetic suite is for after all, you gob.”

“Except I don’t think a mechanical pressure pad would show up on that.” Ed said nervously. “And I just saw the tile you’re on move fifteen micrometers farther than it should under your weight.”

Sally blinked, and then cocked her head as if listening for something. “Oh shit.” She hissed.

The first man bit off a curse, and turned to look across to the adjacent skyscraper. “Belle.” He said, “Plan B.”

***

“You just had to go out of our way to hit a flower shop on the other side of town.” Cyn grumbled at Warrick as Juniper drove the trio in Laurel’s SUV toward the high school. “We’re going to be late.”

“Hey, Tink’s been insisting that this isn’t technically a date,” Warrick defended. “So I’m not technically being cheap taking advantage of a seventy-five percent off closeout sale on corsages. Good thing I noticed it the other day on patrol.”

“Shouldn’t flower prices go up for Valentine’s day?” Juniper asked. She wore a blue top and cream colored skirt.

“Good point; those are probably grey market knock-off flowers from Columbia or something.” Cyn was wearing a red velvet dress with black knee boots and matching gloves. She was certain it would have Jonas’s jaw on the floor, as well as Warrick’s. “And just why did it take you so long in there anyway?”

“The clerk guy told me that what I asked for was all wrong, and offered to help me pick something better.”

“And you listened to him over me, Juniper, and Laurel?” Cyn breathed.

“I panicked, okay? What do I know about flowers? I’m not that big a fan of green things. Concrete, asphalt and metal—those are my element.”

“And of course, it didn’t even occur to you to simply not buy flowers for Tina ‘not technically a date’ Carlyle.” Cyn shook her head, exasperated.

“That would just be rude.” Warrick and Juniper replied as one.

“You two have much to learn.” Cyn sighed. Something in the alley across from her caught her eye, causing her to do a double take. “Hey, wait a minute, stop the car.”

“You said we were going to be late.” protested Juniper. Nevertheless, she did as directed and pulled over to the side of the nearly empty street they had been following.

“Check it out.” Cyn pointed. Across from them, the steel security door at the back of Mayfield Security Systems was hanging open. “That thing’s bent all to hell.” She noted. “I’m thinking super strength.”

“She’s right, June.” Warrick confirmed with his metal sense. Someone went at that thing with their bare hands. I can sense handprints dented into it.

“Wait, we can’t go fight bad guys now.” Juniper whimpered. “We’ve got the dance and I’m the lead singer and…”

“You’re also the bone chilling Zero of the Descendants.” Cyn pointed out, already crawling into the back seat. “And we don’t know why a super strong ox just broke into the second biggest security firm in Mayfield.”

“But you’re going with the most popular guy in school. And Warrick, you’re going with Tink, isn’t that important too?” Juniper argued half heartedly.

“Jonas and I are only going to this to annoy Lilly.” Cyn corrected, disappearing behind the cover of the rear seat. “And Tink has already let Warrick know that this isn’t technically a date. So we have nothing to lose by being late.”

“I wouldn’t say ‘nothing’” Warrick said, already looking around for metal to armor up with.

“Nothing.” Cyn came up from behind the seat as Facsimile. Her gold eyes blazed.

“You’re right.” Juniper breathed. “Of course you’re right. It’s just that with Adel, I was hoping…”

“Adel isn’t going to get snatched up, trust me.” Facsimile said, tossing the poncho from the road emergency kit to her. “And we’re not missing this dance. Nothing is going to make me miss my chance to take Lilly down a notch. We’ll go in, wale on this guy a bit, and go out. Warrick, can you make her a mask?”

***

Belle watched one of her cybernetic colleagues working on the elevator controls in the Mayfield Security Systems lobby. She had to hand it to the firm; they practiced what they preached. The moment the alarm was tripped; the mainframe had disabled operation of the elevator and locked every security door in the building.

The doors weren’t a problem for her allies with enhanced strength, but the elevators were proving to be a true hurtle. The mainframe could send orders to the elevator, but the connection wasn’t two-way – she couldn’t hack it remotely. She would have to get into the mainframe room to do that. Thus, she was having Irving, one of her loyal friends, take manual control of the elevators.

Aside from that and the pressure pad that had triggered it, all was going according to plan; Eugene and the Reynard siblings were making their way down the building to the safe, where she would use her skills to expose the central safe to the ‘gentle coaxing’ of her strength enhanced counterparts. Yes, this plan was actually going to—

“I’m going to guess you guys aren’t the night janitors.” The half dozen assembled cyborgs turned to see Alloy, flanked by Zero and Facsimile, standing at the back entrance to the lobby.

“Huh?” Facsimile muttered. She had arrived expecting one or two rogue psionics, quite probably bulging with muscles and possibly claws, stone skin, or some other characteristics she associated with strong types.

Instead, she was confronted by a cadre of bedraggled looking people ranging from their late teens to early thirties with the wheelchair bound woman looking to be well into her fifties. They ran the entire gamut of ‘out of shape’ between rail thin and portly and were dressed in old tee-shirts over whatever pants or skirts had been handy. The only thing proving that they were up to anything nefarious was that all of them wore some kind of face concealing mask or goggles.

“It looks like the IT department here decided to have a masquerade ball.” She smirked after getting her bearings.

“But the door outside…” Zero queried, adjusting the metal mask Alloy had made for her out of part of that selfsame door.

The woman in the motorized wheelchair maneuvered around to face them. She looked more like a teacher than a master criminal; long, graying hair, weathered face bearing an ugly scar on her forehead. A pair of thick glasses perched on a hawk-like nose, which she stared down at them. The most striking thing about her was that her torso seemed to be sunk into a metal box welded to the chair. “Oh yes, the door. We had to break that down, you see.”

“Yeah, with some kind of strength boosting tech.” Alloy said, “Judging by the amounts of circuitry I’m feeling under your skin, I’m going to guess ‘spark jockies’.” At his mention of what he could sense under their skin, a couple of the cyborgs cringed.

“We aren’t to be trifled with, vigilante.” Belle growled. “We’re the next step for mankind.”

“Oh, “Facsimile chuckled, “I get it, you’re a cult. I mean trading Kool-Aid for silicon is cute and I guess digital super powers are better than a magic comet or whatever…”

“Shut up!” Belle snapped. “We’re a movement. We’re going to take this world by storm, starting with the underworld!”

“I’ve got a question,” Zero politely raised her hand. “You want to get your group recognized… as criminals?”

“Everyone has to start somewhere.” Belle replied. “And we started by designing offensive modifications.” Gun barrels emerged from the chair, emitting a whining sound. All around her, there were sick sounds of flesh parting to expel hidden weapons from within.

A man with a shaved head arched forward, allowing a mechanical scorpion tail to extend from his lower back. Another, a man with a great beak of a nose and an unkempt beard flexed his arms upward, causing a pair of ceramic blades to telescope from the backs of his wrists. A tiny woman of no more than twenty years, simply dropped into an exaggerated karate stance. One of the other men, a heavy set man in his thirties, gestured and rectangular shapes moved and positioned themselves beneath his skin. A twenty-something with a hawkish nose and surly expression lifted his arms to reveal two extra mechanical limbs formed out of plastic.

“Nice.” Facsimile said. “But we can do the badass pose thing too.” As she spoke, her fingers lengthened into talons. Isp and Osp unraveled from Alloy’s arms, feeling their way through the air sleepily. Zero coalesced a handful of ice daggers into her hands. Facsimile allowed herself a grin that her friends indulged her on that. “Cool. So we have places to go, so let’s make this quick – it’s five on five, so this will take like two minutes.”

There was the sound of glass breaking from the front of the lobby. The young heroes turned to see another band of cybernetic everymen enter through shattered security glass, ready for a fight. They were more obviously transfigured than the first bunch, with fully prosthetic limbs, glowing lights in odd places, or in one case, a wicked set of metal talons replacing their fingernails.

“Allowing for your miscounting of your own forces,” Belle said, “Its now thirteen on three.” The guns mounted on her chair belched fire, signaling the attack.

Alloy stepped into the path of the large caliber projectiles, taking them easily on his armor. These were followed immediately by the man with the mechanical scorpion tail, who was quickly tripped by Isp before he reached the armored prelate.

Turning toward the group of cyborgs that had burst in the front, Zero held a palm toward the ground directly in front of them. A crust of ice formed and spread out toward them. A few slipped, but that wasn’t her aim. Moving like a dancer, she darted forward, to the edge of the frozen section of floor and stomped it, pressing her heel in the direction of the cyborgs.

The ice shattered into broad plates that slid over each other, lifting and tossing the assembled cyborgs into one another. They fell, unable to find purchase between the shifting plates and the slippery surfaces thereof.

The young woman with the aforementioned steely talons and strange lumps under her skin suggesting some type of subdermal armor, stepped on the back of one of her own and used him as leverage to leap at Zero. She didn’t make it far before Osp whipped around, catching her in the stomach and sending her sliding across the lobby floor.

Facsimile plunged forward into the cyborgs at the elevator. Her talons caught the ceramic blades coming out of one man’s wrist and used them as handles to swing him hard into the four armed man.

Then there was the impact of something heavy, which sent her sprawling. She looked up to see the rotund man. His shirt rode up to reveal a patchwork of subdermal plates lining his girth.

“Oh, that’s just wrong.” Facsimile made a face. “Almost as bad as starting a machine cult because you can’t handle being in a wheelchair, eh granny?” She grinned at Belle before rolling out of the way of another volley of fire.

“I chose this for myself.” Belle beamed, tracking her cannons after Facsimile, careful not to hit her own people. “To test my theories. Ever hear of phantom sensations? The feeling amputees report—as if they can still feel their lost limbs?”

Across the room, Alloy was thrown backward by the seemingly un-augmented, petite woman who nevertheless lifted him plus the armor he wore. He landed with a clang on his back and the tiny woman wasted not time leaping on top of him, raining powerful blows with her tiny fists.

Zero was being forced to devote her concentration to throwing blunted ice daggers at the cyborgs that managed to stand up in the middle of her hastily created debris field.

“Well,” Belle continued menacing Facsimile as she dodged the cyborgs immediately around her, “I believed that I could use those nerve reactions to control machines at neural conduction velocities. To test it, I had Otto here—“she gestured to the fat man with the armored belly, “remove my legs. It turns out I was right.”

“What the hell?” shouted Alloy through his dented faceplate. Isp and Osp managed to break away from keeping the two cyborgs capable of leaping off of Zero’s debris field down and wrapped the tiny titan in their coils, lifting her off their host. “You didn’t know it would work?!”

“I say again: What is wrong with you people?” Cyn demanded, punching out a man with rotating spikes screwed into his head. “Have you ever heard of lab rats? Guinea pigs? Any sort of testing that doesn’t involve cutting off your own legs? And what’s wrong with the chip people with fake arms and legs wear, anyway?”

“My nerve analog to digital interface is leaps and bounds beyond targeted muscle/sensory reinnervation.” Belle declared. “Those only allow natural movements. I can interface with any device!”

“Buy a keyboard, damnit!” Cyn launched herself at the older woman. Strong arms caught her shoulders as she did. Another pair of strong arms – plastic ones this time – locked around her waist. The four armed cyborg held her off the ground.

“How sad that you can’t see my genius, vigilante.” Belle shook her head sadly as the guns tracked up. “I hoped that explaining it would change your world view. But sadly, you’re as closed minded as the criminal community you combat. Thus, I have no use for you.” The guns whined as the built up another charge. “Goodbye.”

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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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