Issue #18: A Tale of Two Churches

This entry is part 6 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 2: Magic and Machines

Part 5

Before she had even turned around, Lisa had her hand in her bag, retrieving a double terminated piece of quartz. Bringing it up before her eyes, she focused on the sunlight reflecting within it and spoke her incantation. “Toda la luz que abarca.”

Both she and Kay shielded their eyes as a brilliant white ball of luminescence came into being between Stiles and the Mauler and rapidly expanded outward. Three full blocks in all directions, even vertically, were engulfed in the flare within seconds, plunging everyone and everything therein into a sea of white.

Lisa didn’t waste any time. She opened her bag, knowing that there was a handful of specially prepared crystal spheres set to obey her next command in series. “Seek!” she shouted. The bag jolted as five streaks of blue plunged into the whiteness. A sixth flew to her. She felt the glammer fall into place over her with her attuned senses. “Now it’s your turn.” She said aloud, knowing Codex could hear her.

Laurel opened the com frequencies to the other Descendants with a push of a button. “Okay guys; that was Occult. She’s just given you a wardrobe change. Use it to your advantage when she drops the flare.”

“This was not part of the plan!” Ian shouted angrily into the com.

“It was always part of my plan.” Laurel said calmly. “I just didn’t feel like fighting you on this.” Ian didn’t get the chance to respond as the light faded and the world flooded back into view.

Chaos reigned as protesters on both sides bolted away from the platform. Mauler clutched his eyes and roared, Stiles temporarily forgotten as he searched for the source of the attack on his senses.

Richter shouldered past protesters running past him to a clear spot fifty yards from the podium. A clear shot in sight, the reached behind his back and unholstered his weapon. It was an antique, almost a hundred years old, but hardly a relic; a Desert Eagle, reconstructed and reinforced for use with his faith power. On his best days, he could end a demon with a single shot.

Codex spoke over the com, “Center of the crowd, going toward the fight—the Sineaters.”

A woman near him screamed when she saw the gun and threw herself to the pavement. Most didn’t even notice him, so great was their fear of the demon. Richter didn’t notice them either. In that moment, it was just him, his faith and the monster it would destroy. “In God’s most Holy name, I return thee to Hell.” His breath came in puffs of mist in a sudden chill.

The ground shifted beneath his feet and he stumbled on frost rimed pavement, coming down hard on his side.

Zero shook her head, looking at him. “This isn’t the way to do this.” She said. “There has to be—“She stopped cold as an O-fuda flew through the air and attached itself to her forehead. She stood statue still in mid-plea.

“Excellent work, Daria.” Richter said, standing again.

Meanwhile, the Mauler gave up on his search for his attacker as Stiles tried to crawl away with the help of the female speaker he’d bowled over in being thrown against the podium. “I thought you wanted this, Reverend.” He hissed, stomping after the pair.

“I want nothing to do with your dealings, you psionic monster!” Stiles proclaimed.

Mauler threw back his horned head and laughed. “You still don’t get it, do you? Psionics are to me what a lizard is to you; an inferior form of life that isn’t even related. But like you, I think they make excellent scapegoats.”

“Thanks for the inspiration, fright night!” Facsimile plunged from ten stories up to collide with the monster. Her arms, held before her, were covered in horn like protrusions that bit deeply into his abdomen as they collided. Prelate and demon toppled with Facsimile coming out on top.

With an agile flip, she threw herself free and landed in a crouch with her back to Stiles. No gore stained her arm-horns as she reabsorbed them – as she had feared, the Mauler was strong enough to take that. She reabsorbed her wings as well, sending all the mass to her muscles. “Come on, gruesome, I’m ready for another round.”

Scarcely had the Mauler started to pull himself up than he was hammered back down by a fist of wind in conjunction with a column of black heat.

“Get Stiles and anyone else to cover!” Darkness ordered Facsimile. “Keep an eye on him!”

“Aw, man.” Facsimile groaned, but turned to Stiles anyway. “Let’s go jackass.”

“Jackass?!” Stiles demanded indignantly.

Facsimile lifted him by his lapel and put him in a fireman’s carry. “I’m not saving you because I like you, I’m saving you because I, unlike you, am not a monster.” She motioned for the other speaker to follow her.

“He’s down!” Richter growled, watching Darkness and Chaos hammer the Mauler with their powers. “I don’t have a clear shot. Walter, draw them off—“He was cut off by Isp grabbing him by the shoulder and spinning him roughly around.

“We’ve got this.” Alloy said. “Back off.”

“Ye donna have tha’ right ta stop us.” Daria let fly with an O-fuda.

Osp bisected it with a bladed strike. For good measure, he whipped around and quartered it before it hit the ground.

“I’ve got all the right in the world.” Alloy said. “Because I’m not going to let you kill the man trapped in that thing.”

With the Sineaters all facing Alloy, Occult ran to Zero and pulled the O-fuda free.

“A better solution than… what just happened?” Juniper asked, noticing the shift in the battle.

“Stasis.” Occult said. “You might want to freeze the paper lady’s card carrier.”

“The witch!” Richter shouted, snapping his attention to Occult. “Walter!”

Hesitating only a moment, Walter brought up his bandaged fists. Occult felt the power surge wildly around him as he called up his focus. “Snap fire!” he intoned. Red serpents of light uncoiled from the ether before his hands and undulated forward in air only slightly slower than bullets. The very air around them burned and flared.

Zero pushed off Occult, throwing both women form the path of the oncoming attack. The snap fire bursts slithered past, into the facade of the café, leaving molten brick in their wake.

“You are impotent against me!” Mauler declared, leaping against the combined assault and grasping Darkness around the torso in one hand. Using momentum in his favor, he pinned her to the ground. Turning his gaze on Chaos, he rumbled “Bring me Stiles. Now!”

Going limp in the monster’s clutches, Darkness directed her focus on a nearby fire hydrant. A think beam of black heat bored a hole in it, allowing high pressure water to gush out and into her captor.

Knocked off balance, Mauler had no choice but to relinquish his hold on Darkness. “Zero!” She shouted, flying clear of the monster.

“I… can’t right now!” Zero shouted back, dodging more snap fire with Occult.

“I can.” Chaos said, pressing his will against the water at geysering across the street. The water congealed into a slick sheet before rising up to wrap the Mauler and immobilized his arms and wings.

Osp snapped out and wrapped Walter’s arms, pushing them downward just as he released another round of snap fire. “Go, Z!” Alloy called even as he struck at Richter’s gun with his power. It had no effect, similar to the way it had behaved when he’d used his powers on Morganna’s magically created dagger. “Shit, they’ve got magic.”

“It is not magic!” Cristoff rarely spoke, but he felt someone had to in defense of the Sineaters’ methods. He barged into the armored prelate, attempting to grapple him. Isp and Osp didn’t give him a chance, lifting the man overhead before he got within a yard.

“Did you really expect that to work?” Alloy asked, “What could that have possibly achieved?!”

“It go’ your extra arm outta m’ way.” Daria said, sending an O-fuda his way. It hit him in the forehead and paralyzed him as it had Zero. “We’ll be getting’ ye out, Cristoff, jus’ hold on—“

Before she could finish, the tentacle threw Cristoff into her, sending both sprawling. Isp tore the O-fuda from Alloy’s head with a swift flick.

With the Sineaters occupied, Zero turned her attention to the Mauler, freezing the water bonds solid around him.

“Wretched Mankinds!” Mauler screamed, batting his wings to get off the ground. “You’ve tried containing me before. It does not work. It cannot work!” Cars along the street suddenly sprouted snaking chains that whipped out to capture the demon’s legs, tethering him in flight.

“It’s going to work!” Alloy said, ignoring Walter’s bursts of snap fire as Isp and Osp easily deflected them. More quietly, he spoke into the com. “It’s not. The metal is strained past even me holding it together. This guy is strong.”

In her hastily assembled command room in the library, Codex watched the battle via the city’s security feeds as well as the window. “Just hold him there and hammer him a bit more. Ephemeral’s going to try something.” She looked at the monitor showing Ephemeral’s view from the Astral. “Anything yet?” She asked him.

“I can only see the man. He seems to be reacting to the creature’s actions… favorably. I do not think he is an entirely innocent victim here.” Ephemeral replied. “But I can’t see any sign of the creature itself, even though I know it is there.”

“It may not have an astral form as we know it.” Codex reasoned. “Try listening for thoughts like you were able to after the incident at the bridge.”

“I will try.” Ephemeral affirmed. “But it may make me visible. I hope it will not add to the panic.”

Codex looked out the window at Occult raising a wall to deflect Walter’s snap fire as screaming civilians tried to find cover. “I doubt that’s even possible.”

Amid the rigmarole, Richter saw his chance. The demon was restrained and struggling—a sitting duck. He once more raised his gun. The heavy pistol hummed with power as his opened his mind and channeled his faith—what the practitioners in the East called chi—into it. A .50mm AE round, specially constructed with a core of blessed, unworked iron was in the chamber, waiting. He squeezed the trigger.

“No! Levanto esta pared!” A wall of red pentagonal scales blossomed in the space between the bullet and the Mauler. The blessed bullet struck it with a resonating crack and then both bullet and wall were gone. Occult slammed into Richter from the side, staff in hand, but useless in such close quarters.

“Witch!” Richter howled. “You protected that unholy creature! I knew better than to have ignored you, agent of Satan!”

“I’m not the one hell bent on killing an innocent person because they’re infested with some mystic parasite.” Occult challenged.

Richter shouted wordlessly and clouted her in the head with the barrel of his gun, knocking her back. “Don’t try and speak to me about good and evil. You’ve made a pact with something just as fell and terrible as that creature for your powers.” He leveled his gun at her. “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

“You really should have spent more time studying and less time on the shooting range.” Chaos caught Richter off guard with a left cross and followed it up with a jab to the arm that knocked the gun from his hand. “Exodus 22:18 means a magic user that aggressively changes her environment.” He threw another punch that Richter blocked. “I know that for a fact. I’ve taken a certain interest in that passage as of late.”

“That’s what she is.” Richter spat.

“Have you seen her hurt anyone?” Chaos asked. “Hell, if anyone here is an aggressive spell caster, it’s the man with the magic gun. I told you before, Richter, we won’t let you kill that guy.” He faked with a right and landed an upper cut to Richter’s jaw that dropped him. Chaos shook his head over his fallen foe. “You’re just lucky these aren’t my regular gloves.”

“Thanks.” Occult said to him as he turned away from Richter.

“I don’t like what you do.” Chaos said, “But I’ll be damned if someone’s going to kill another prelate if I can stop it.”

“I’m really glad you two don’t hate each other anymore.” Zero interrupted, “But Mauler’s breaking free!”

Above them, though peppered by black heat bolts from Darkness, Mauler was breaking his way free of his restraints of ice and metal.

“I cannot reach him.” Ephemeral told Codex over the com. He is too high up on the astral side.”

“I hear you.” Codex said. “Someone, bring him down!” she relayed.

“Now we’re talking!” Facsimile darted up from behind. Her claws became diamond hard as she closed, raking Mauler’s wings. “This is for making me save that bag of hot air!” she crowed as her claws converted the thin membranes of Mauler’s wings to ribbons. The demon cursed in an alien tongue as he fell to earth.

Immediately, there was a flash of rose colored light before the Mauler. From it stepped a tall, handsome Arabic youth. A domino mask in gold rested on his eyes, a form fitting red shirt covered his chest and arms, emblazoned on the chest with the Arabic word for ‘dream’ in gold. His pants were in the loose fitting Punjabi style and done in gold like his mask. Ephemeral stood before the deadly Mauler.

“Wow, nice costume.” Alloy commented over the com.

“Astral…” Mauler growled, getting to his feet. “Impressive, Mankind, but it means nothing. You cannot harm me from there and your attempts to seek my mind are laughable. Perhaps you intend to kill me with your bare hands?”

On the ground, Richter watched the exchange. Mauler towered over Ephemeral the smaller being had no chance. The leader of the Sineaters raised a hand and his firearm flew to it. He had to do it in one shot—because the Descendants and their witch wouldn’t give him a second.

“I don’t intend to target you. And I have no intention of taking as single life” Ephemeral said. “But I can see your host still on the Astral side. I can make him useless to you.” Simultaneously, on the astral side, he formed a needle and willed it forward toward the possessed astral body of Aaron Crawford.

“And just how do you—aaaaarrrgh!” Mauler wailed in pain as the needle reached Crawford and sank into the top of his head. The demon contorted as its connection to its host hemorrhaged energy. With terrifying rapidity, the Mauler transformed back into the body of Aaron Crawford. A ball of green, crackling light emerged from the man’s head, trailing tentacles of similar energy as it lunged upward.

He couldn’t let it get away, Richter knew. It would corrupt another, end their life just the same. He fired. The bullet passed through Crawford’s head just as the demon left him completely. Life fled his eyes as he fell backward.

The air above split into a pinkish rift, which was then flooded with green. The demon’s true form surged upward toward it.

“Destroy it!” Richter screamed, but Walter and Daria just froze, looking at him in horror. The demon had fled Crawford before he fired. Chaos had been right.

Darkness landed next to Crawford’s body, carrying Hope. She unleashed a bar of black heat at the retreating demon, but it corkscrewed out of the way. “See if you can do anything for him, Hope.” She ordered.

“Oh god, oh god, the back of his head’s blown off…” Hope said franticly as she fumbled with her power. “Can you even heal that? Is he already dead?” Crawford shuddered as she poured her power into him. The rivulets of blood pouring from his head wound ceased and his face became more gaunt.

Above, the green jellyfish of energy threw itself into the rift, which slammed shut after it with a thunderclap.

“You son of a bitch!” Chaos roared, lifting Richter off the ground and knocking the gun out of his hand once more. “You son of a bitch, you killed him. We did all that, pushed that thing out of him and you killed him!”

“I did what was necessary.” Richter said coldly. I’m not happy about it, but his soul was lost with or without that demon.” He turned to his subordinates. “Daria, teleport us out.”

The Irish woman shook her head, watching Chaos shake her leader roughly.

“Daria!” Richter barked.

“No.” Walter said. “She won’t and I won’t ask her to. The demon was out of him, James. It was fleeing and you have no place to say if that man’s soul was lost or not. That is God’s domain.”

“Cristoff!” Richter ordered and the big healer started forward.

With a flick of her wrist, Daria threw an O-fuda into the back of his head. A bust of electricity knocked him down and sent him to the pavement. “No.” Daria shook her head. “Ye coulda’ aimed upward. Ye may’ve even killed tha’ cursed thing if ye’d done so. But ye shot tha’ man in cold blood, Richter. And made murderers o’ us all. We stay. We face justice for our sins.”

“Not a murderer.” Darkness said, coming up to the group. “But not for lack of trying.”

Chaos lowered Richter a fraction and stopped shaking him. “You mean he lived?”

She put a hand on Chaos’s shoulder. “Thanks to Hope and a little luck. The bullet went through clean instead of fragmenting in his brainpan.” She said.

“Yeah…” Chaos said, dropping Richter and picking up the gun to keep it out of reach of the Sineaters’ leader. He looked at the various angelic symbols engraved in patterns on it. “Luck.” He said.

***

From her perch on a higher ledge on City Hall, Vorpal stared at the sky in fascination. The rift had opened and her goggles had seen through it. Not into the green flotsam at the event horizon, but beyond it.

By touch alone, she dialed her phone and waited for line to connect. She didn’t address Liedecker by name in case of hackers. “We need to meet. Now. I just saw something you want to hear about.

End Issue #18

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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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