Issue #17: Freaque

This entry is part 5 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 2: Magic and Machines

Part 5

Nearly eight an a half feet tall and broader than any normal man could hope to be, the monster sneered at the assembled heroes and civilians. It was a dark, mottled brown, fading to black in places along skin that was a patchwork of pebbled skin and chitinous plates. Its face was long and stretched, like that of a horse or an antelope with huge, flaring nostrils and a predatory mouth that was all serrated teeth and red tongue. A pair of glossy, black horns curved from its brow back toward its spine. A scaly, black tail easily four feet long, twitched and whipped the air behind it.

Unlike Elizabeth’s Freaque form, this being’s wings wear thin and membranous, with wing claws flexing as if ready to tear into something by themselves and its feet were flat like a regular human’s. Its hands, however, were anything but human – three fingers with a thumb on either side; all tipped with brutal claws.

“I was going to let her kill the other girl first.” It mused. “But I don’t appreciate imitations.”

Elizabeth was too disoriented from her transformation to defend herself or even scream. She just looked up at it in shock.

Stinging needles of black heat washed over the monster. He snapped his attention to Darkness and bellowed, snapping his wings open. “Don’t interfere, Mankind.”

“All I needed.” Chaos said. A hurricane force caught the creature’s wings and hurled it upward, smashing it against the ceiling with a tooth rattling thump. “No one’s dying tonight, Mauler. And now that we’re on to you, I think they’re going to have a very special cell for you at Braddock Island.” As he spoke, Isp snaked over and pulled Elizabeth away from Mauler even as Chaos let him crash to the ground.

The Mauler got to his feet, laughing. “Braddock Island? Is that where they send one of you when you go too far? Where Stiles wants to send all of your kind?”

“Our kind, Beelzebub.” Chaos said, sending another gust to repeat his previous action.

This time, Mauler was ready and closed his wings tightly around himself. He weathered the attack, still laughing. “Our kind? You really don’t know, do you? Compared to me and mine, you and the normal Mankinds are variations on the theme. Different breeds of barnyard animals.”

“This is not happening…” Lilly began to mutter to herself, huddling behind her car. “This is all a bad dream.”

“You think this is bad?” Facsimile asked. “This is cake. Just another insane gob-head that thinks his powers make him a god.” She crouched at the edge of the car’s roof. “Too bad for him it’s the end of the line.”

Standing in the epicenter of a vortex, besieged by nettles of black heat, Mauler stood fast. “And what do you expect to do? I’ll break your little golden body and pick my teeth with your wings.”

“Points for imagery, but I was thinking distraction—back!” Facsimile shouted the last part, whipping an extending arm back to grab Lilly even as she threw herself backward. Chaos and Darkness halted their assault to jump clear that the same time. Zero just dropped to a knee and put her palms flat on the ground.

The much abused door of the minivan behind Mauler melted down into metallic slurry before reforming into a piston head and slamming directly into the killer’s back, throwing him forward. Roaring, the beast stumbled, only to slip and fall on the ice field Zero had created.

“Good job.” Darkness praised Facsimile, “Last week’s combined powers session paid off.”

“I can fly, you fools!” Mauler roared, snapping his wings open.

“God, I love fighting things with wings.” Chaos called up a dust devil to catch one wing. Combined with the icy surface of the ground, the move span Mauler around like a turnstile.

“Finish it, Z!” Facsimile called.

The hooded girl nodded and held her hands out to the ground once more. The rime of frost thickened and the concrete itself cracked. Then it gave way. A five foot section of the deck went crashing down to the deck below, carrying Mauler with it.

Howling with fury, Mauler managed to turn in mid air and last out with his tail. He caught Chaos by the leg and dragged him down after him.

“Chaos!” Darkness shouted, flying for the hole in the ground. Mauler rose up on his black wings to meet her.

Back-winging, he landed on the other side of the hole, opposite her. “You can slow me down, you can disorient me, but you can’t hurt me, Mankind. And if you can’t hurt me, you can’t stop me because I won’t stop until I’m dead. And if you can’t stop me, then chaos—“He gestured down the hole. “True chaos, will follow.”

Darkness looked down the hole, horror struck. “That’s what you want?”

“You haven’t been listening, Mankind. I’m not mad. I’m not boasting. I am of the Sai’n’shree, a demon. You can call me the Devil if you please, but all that matters is that my desire is true turmoil of the emotional plane—true chaos.”

Darkness’s terrified face turned into a self sure smirk. “Good. Then you’re about to get true Chaos.” Mauler’s only warning was the rushing of air and the sound like an oncoming train. Chaos exploded from the fissure to deliver a wind backed upper cut with his new, mercurial gloves.

“Let’s see what the ‘sigh and shrieks’ know about the sweet science, you reject of dime store fantasy!” Chaos demanded, following his uppercut with a left hook and a pair of swift jabs to the gut. “All go, now!” He ordered.

Facsimile launched herself, claws out, at the monster’s back while Darkness and Zero hammered it with black heat and ice daggers from the front. Isp and Osp shaped their leading edges into boxing gloves of their own and aimed to work Mauler’s kidneys.

Taken off guard, Mauler suddenly found himself bleeding. The uppercut had made him bite his tongue and his mouth was filling up with blood. The taste and smell awakened more in him than any taunts or threats.

With a quickness that belied his size, he grabbed Isp and Osp in his massive fists and snaked his tail around Facsimile’s waste. The shapeshifter was thrown first, slamming into Chaos and knocking him out of the air. Then Mauler hauled hard on the tentacles and lifted the heavy armor on the other end. Alloy collided with Darkness and Zero. In an instant, the Descendants were in a heap before him.

“Useless. Even after all this time, even with a new kind of power, Mankinds are still useless.” He easily lifted Lilly’s car to deliver the finishing blow.

“Please!” Lilly screamed, standing from her hiding place. “Don’t! Please don’t do this!” Mauler gave her an amused looked. “Leave my poor car alone!” She wailed.

Mauler laughed. “These people risk their lives for you and you care more for some hunk of metal than their lives? I like you a lot.”

“Or maybe She was just distracting you.” A new voice said. “You seem to have a problem with that.” Mauler turned his head one hundred and eighty degrees to see Occult standing behind him, staff at the ready. “Crystalline Reign!” She brought the butt of her staff down. Where it landed, a line of whitish crystal grew, racing toward the monster in a jagged line and growing ever higher.

“The old way…” Mauler mused even as he kicked the growing crystals down. “weak, but it is nice to know it isn’t dead.” Occult gasped. That was her newest containment spell and her most powerful by far. And this… person?… had interrupted it like it was nothing. “No reason to let you try again though.” He turned and brought the car down on her.

Only instead of smashing her, the metal bent and flowed. Then it came apart in ribbons. Then it exploded outward in all directions in a blinding sea of silver. It was like rain or a cloying mist. Sublimated steel actually rained down in some places. It lasted only a moment, but it was surreal and on many levels, unsettling. When it was over, Occult stood alone, amid torn leather seats, assorted wire covers and other sundry plastic or ceramic items in a puddle of cold, liquid metal.

Facsimile was the first to extricate herself from the pile of prelates and stand up. “Wow.”

“My car!” Lilly wailed, leaning on a nearby vehicle to keep from collapsing.

“I’m sure insurance can cover it.” Darkness said, sitting up.

“What the hell did you do to my car?!” Lilly demanded.

“I was trying to bend it around her so it wouldn’t hurt her.” Alloy explained. “But I couldn’t see her or him, so…”

“You turned it into a freaking puddle, you moron!” Lilly screamed.

“Hey, that moron saved you life from not one but two monsters tonight… sorry, Liz.” Facsimile added after a moment. Luckily Elizabeth had passed out long ago.

“Look, we’ll replace everything.” Darkness said, standing up. “I’ve got an email address here…” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a business card. “Just list the damages; your car, the van over there, this garage… and we’ll take care of it.” She rolled her eyes at Codex feeding her the speech through her earpiece. Even Brant Industries couldn’t cover every instance of collateral damage from their fights.

Lilly took the card sullenly.

“I’m going to need to know why you’re here.” Chaos said, ignoring Lilly’s little scene to address Occult.

“A major magical baddy starts killing people and the only magical goodie needs an excuse?” Occult asked, obviously glowering under her hood. “Of course, I didn’t know he was magical until after the fact, but it does explain why I couldn’t track him. I’m betting Ephemeral couldn’t track him either, could he?”

“He isn’t magical, Broomhilda.” Chaos said. “He’s a psionic. One who’s beyond nuts, but a psionic all the same.”

“I know what I felt.” Occult said. “And it was definite magic. Not like Morganna, but magical just the same.”

“Magic? Really?” Zero asked, coming to stand with them.

“No, Z. She’s wrong and now she’s leaving.” Chaos said, glaring at Occult.

“Come off it, Chaos.” Occult said, “there’s a serial killer loose. He just trashed the entirety of Mayfield’s finest prelates, and you’re still on my back about where my powers come from? I’m here to help, just like you and I’m going to keep going no matter what you say.”

“She’s got you there, Chaos.” Codex said through his earpiece. “Plus, she might be right. We couldn’t track him, even while he was right there hitting you. I think an alliance is in order.”

Chaos grimaced. “Fine.” He said, more to Codex than to Occult. “But only until we bring Mauler down. But right now, you really have to clear out. We’ve got personal business to deal with here.”

“As you wish.” Occult said, with a small bow. Then she headed off toward the elevators.

***

A medical team rushed the gurney with Elizabeth von Stoker off into the depths of the ConquesTech building, followed closely by her mother and father. Rich, her brother stayed to extend his family’s thanks to Alloy, Facsimile and Zero, who had bought his sister back.

“I don’t really know how to thank you.” He said slowly, trying to keep the emotion in his voice at bay.

“Thank Mr. Mendel.” Zero said. “Without him, we wouldn’t have known and we wouldn’t have reached her in time.”

“I don’t deserve any thanks.” Mendel said, “If it wasn’t for my attempts at heroism by proxy, this wouldn’t’ have happened. And from your description of the Mauler, he may yet be connected to my technology.”

“I doubt it.” Facsimile said, “but just in case, Codex would like to snoop through your files.”

“Of course, I’ll send her anything she needs, how do I—“

“Knowing her, she’s already got them now that you’ve given permission.” Facsimile noted.

“Do you really think you can cure her?” Alloy asked.

“We’ll do our best.” Mendel said, unsure.

“That’s all we can ask.” Zero said gently.

***

“I’d say a picture is worth a thousand words, wouldn’t y’ say?” The speaker was a tall, broad shouldered woman who sported a cascade of red hair down to the small of her back. She was speaking to a man seated across the table from her who was scrutinizing several freshly printed images with a magnifying glass.

“Are we really sure this really is what we think it is?” He asked.

“Tha’ good doctor wouldn’ta sent us if no for findin’ something that suggests a demonic bent to this ‘Mauler’.” The woman replied in a brogue. “An’ I had tha’ parabolic mic on ‘em, Richter. They had a witch with ‘em. She said it was magic.”

“And you believe her? Do you even really believe she’s a witch, Daria?” Richter asked, frowning at the picture. “Both she and this… thing are probably just psionics with delusions.”

“She was a witch, I’m sure o’ it.” Daria said. “Look a’ the picture; recognize wha’ she’s doing there?” She put her finger on the image of Occult casting her Crystalline Reign.

Richter set his jaw. “The same thing those fellows in Arizona were using – they called it the Stone Crystal Road, their ‘benefactor’ granted it to them.”

“She calls it tha’ Crystalline Reign.” Daria said. “an’ I never heard o’ anyone ‘sides us callin’ somethin’ like tha’ up without ‘help’.”

Richter nodded. “Then there may be two devils in Mayfield. We need to investigate at the very least. Assemble the Sineaters, we’re going hunting.”

End Issue #17

Series Navigation<< Issue #16: Psalm of a SoulIssue #18: A Tale of Two Churches >>

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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