Issue #20: The Irrepressible Spark

This entry is part 8 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 2: Magic and Machines

Part 4

The shutters opened and for a minute, all Facsimile saw were a pair of iridescent, blue eyes. A terrifying howl came from off to her right. She turned to see an inugami – one of the rough, shaggy types that had attacked Vincent Liedecker the previous Halloween.

For a moment, she wondered how the creature had suddenly appeared, but all thought fled when she saw the red foam on its muzzle and claws and looked down. He was standing astride Alloy, whose armor was rent open and steaming with fresh gore. Isp and Osp hung limply at her friend’s side.

Then the whole of the grizzly scene hit her. Alloy was only the top of a pile of bodies; Laurel, Juniper, Alexis, Ian, Melissa, Kareem – even Kay, Lisa, JC and Adel were similarly mauled and piled in a heap beneath the deadly monster. Their eyes were frozen open and staring at her as if calling for help.

Her limbs were like lead. Even if she wasn’t rooted in horror, some unseen force kept her frozen in place as the inugami leaped, letting loose a howl that ripped through her body as surely as its claws intended to.

***

Vorpal blinked at the display when nothing happened. “What did you think that was going to accomplish?” She cleared her throat.

“It killed you, dear.” A female voice said behind her. Vorpal turned to see a slight, blonde woman of a height with herself standing there beside a balding man with glasses. The room suddenly grew stiflingly hot and humid and there seemed to be holes blasted through the walls and ceilings at random intervals.

“Maybe it’s for the best.” The man shook his head. I’m certainly glad I wasn’t around to see how you turned out. Maybe you’ll do better in the next life.”

“What is this?” Vorpal demanded. “You’re dead.” She looked around. What had been the mechanical room below Qin’s building had taken on a disturbingly familiar appearance. “And—and I’m not. I wasn’t even here!” Her breath caught and she coughed violently into her hand. Something warm splattered into it. She looked down to see drops of blood in her palm. The palm itself was now bare and had turned ashen.

“Are you sure about that?” the woman asked, “but like your father said, maybe it’s better off this way, Zoë. Maybe you’re better off dead.”

***

Spark looked around. She was in the living room of her house, despite her brain screaming that she was in Manhattan in the middle of a prelate battle. Rubbing her eyes, she sat up from where she’d been lying on the couch and listened. It didn’t seem like there was anyone home, but she did hear a very quiet sound, like a violin sting. A glance at the TV showed that it wasn’t the source.

As she got up, the sting grew in volume and intensity. “Weird.” She commented, as she moved toward the kitchen. The sting grew even more intense. “Hello?” she called out, hearing only her own echo in response. The violin continued. She’d heard it before – lots of times. She couldn’t place it, but she got a sort of déja vu from hearing it at the same time as calling ‘hello’ into an empty house.

“Anybody there?” she asked, reflexively, as if her body was working off a script. Anxiety started to knot her stomach.

The sting grew into a crescendo and something made her jump back just as a huge iron sledge hammer came down, just missing her. A hunched figure ambled into view, garbed in a rat eaten overcoat and pants, an old fisherman’s hat obscured most of the face and what little could be seen was bluish and bloated.

Spark recognized it in an instant from the Terror Channel’s summer Monster-thon. “Old Man Hammer!” she screamed before turning and bolting away. The terrible B-monster lumbered after her with grim inevitability.

***

“That’s it?” Shine asked, looking down at Spark, Facsimile and Vorpal, who were prone and seemingly catatonic at her feet. “That’s the ‘awesome power’ Legion says you’ve got hidden behind those ridiculous shutters? I was expecting something powerful enough to blow a hole in a mountain for all his hype.”

“I’m sorry that dropping three prelates with a motion of my finger wasn’t exciting enough for you.” Fellgaze deadpanned. “But what you don’t get is that right now and for the next ten minutes or so, they’ll be experiencing a waking nightmare so realistically intense that it jams their flight or flight and renders them immobile.”

“Ten minutes, huh?” Shine regarded Facsimile with a devious eye. “Just enough time to carve a face up.”

“Uh, how about no?” Fellgaze countered in a disgusted tone. “They weren’t alone, remember, we should take this time to make a get away.”

“Listen to the man, Shine.” Alloy said, charging toward the pair. “A getaway is just what you need. I hear Braddock Island is beautiful this time of year; the grass in the exercise yard is at its greenest you know. And all your Redeemer buddies will be there.”

“Oh, you could have a reunion!” Juniper added happily.

“Again. How about ‘no’.” Fellgaze asked, reaching for his shutter controls.

“My sentiments exactly.” Alloy gestured and the metallic components in the assemblage swelled and warped, jamming the shutters closed. “On the plus side, maybe the government will get you some fashionable eyewear to replace that thing.”

“Did you just make a fashion joke?” Whitecoat said, leaping off a wall to engage Shine who blocked his flying kick.

“Yeah, no good?”

“You’re a man, damn it.” Whitecoat narrowly avoided a slash from Shine. Sparks flew as her claws scored the armor hidden within his trademark coat.

“I thought it was funny…” Zero said, icing up the ground at Shine’s feet, only to have the villainess leap away from it.

“Who’s the mentor here? No fashion jokes!” Whitecoat delivered some firm correction as he simply used his electrostatic boots to walk on the ice. “Unless, of course, you’re being ironic – which I don’t think you were, Alloy.”

“As riveting as this conversation is,” Legion appeared from behind and slammed his fists into Whitecoat’s back, causing him to stumble and slip on the ice. An instant later, he reappeared behind Zero and kicked her in the back of the knee, forcing her to kneel. His sword came out and its tip pressed firmly into the crook of the girl’s neck. “Let’s change the subject to you letting us go scot-free.”

“Dirty pool, ‘port monkey.” The Whitecoat snarled as Shine danced out of his reach and regrouped with Legion behind Zero.

“You changed the rules, you sad attempt at an urban cowboy. And I’m not so much honorable as one who will bring a knife to a knife fight and a gun to a gun fight if you follow.”

“You bought knives to a super powers fight.” Whitecoat pointed out.

“It’s a metaphor.” The villain grunted.

“It’s a pretty poor one if you consider your shtick.”

“You’re still mouthing off to me? I don’t think you understand—I have the advantage! I hold all the cards!” He pressed to blade a bit closer to Zero’s neck.

“No, you really don’t.” Alloy observed.

“What in the name of God are you talking about?”

“No, he’s right.” Zero said, “You really don’t.” Before the words had fully left her mouth, she bought up her fist and shattered the sword, which she’d been freezing throughout the verbal sparring match.

Before any of the three villains knew what was going on, the prelate had rolled onto her back to deliver a backward kick to Legion’s midsection, sending him stumbling back.

Snarling her surprise, Shine slashed down with her claws, only to have them stopped by a thin shield of dense ice, which Zero then hurled at the woman’s head. Her attention on dodging the throw, Shine didn’t even notice Zero sweep kicking her before she was on the way to the floor.

“Screw this, I’m taking the chance.” Legion stepped forward as Alloy and Whitecoat did the same and grabbed both Shine and Fellgaze.

“You told me you’d never done this before” Shine barked in a warning tone.

“I’ve also never gone to jail before and only one of those two holds any appeal right now.” Legion said, throwing himself and the others backward. Their outlines blurred, then stretched and they were suddenly gone.

“God damn it, that’s twice!” the Whitecoat cursed as the villains disappeared.

“But at least everyone is alright.” Zero consoled him. She rolled into a sitting position. “And the way New York law works, they’ll take our word to heart that Qin was hosting supervillains.”

“Why were you here anyway, sir?” Alloy asked, moving over to check on his sister. “I’ve never heard of you operating outside Brooklyn.”

“Qin is getting the Tongs riled up.” Whitecoat responded, giving Zero a hand up. “And that makes it my business. The real question is ‘why did you guys come up from Mayfield for this?’”

“It’s a very long story, Mr. Whitecoat.” Zero said.

“And we’ll be glad to tell you while we wait for Chaos and Darkness with the police to pick up Stampede.” Alloy added.

***

Tammy groaned as she woke up. Almost immediately, her hands traveled to her face. “My mask!” she shrieked, sitting bolt upright. She found herself in the back of Laurel’s SUV with her brother sitting next to her.

“Welcome to the land of the living, kid.” Cyn said from the seat in front of her. She was holding an ice pack against her temple.

Halting her search for her mask, Tammy flashed Warrick one of her most winning smiles. “Uh… hi, bro. I didn’t know you were coming home.” She glanced sideways for a bit, looking for some way to get off the hook. When she couldn’t find one, she resorted to her old standby: blame shifting. “You know, mom and dad will be really mad that you didn’t call first.”

“I did call first.” Warrick said flatly. “Mom said you’d already left for the park.”

“Well I was at the Park.”

“I really don’t think she thought you meant Central Park. And she definitely didn’t think you were hanging out with supervillains.”

“Okay, in my defense, I didn’t know they were supervillains until they, you know, started attacking people.” Tammy defended, sitting up into a more comfortable position. “See, I caught this guy who’d broken into a watch shop the other day and he had this card on him advertising ‘unique job opportunities for psionics’ and that sounded like code for ‘prelates’ if I ever heard one, so I went.”

Warrick blinked. “So you thought you were joining a team?”

“Uh, the Whitecoat told you as much.” Cyn broke in. “Remember, he was talking about her leaving calling cards on the hoods she caught? I really don’t think criminals would offer her a job with that kind of track record.” She turned around toward the front of the car “By the way, those calling cards are good idea, we should do that.”

“No.” Alexis replied firmly.

“I don’t know, that sounds pretty cool.” Ian, who was driving said.

“I don’t see what the big deal is.” Tammy pouted, “I have powers now; why can’t I be a prelate?”

“Because it’s dangerous, Tammy.” Warrick said, “Look, I’ve got armor and the boys to protect me. Do you have any of that stuff?”

“No.” Tammy shook her head. “But I make metal stuff shoot lightning. I can knock out guys way faster than you could without Isp and Osp.” She gestured at Cyn. “And she can be a prelate and she doesn’t have armor or tentacles.”

“Cyn regenerates.” Warrick sighed. He was starting to feel really torn; on the one hand, he was in full big brother mode, but on the other, his little sister had manifested powers and that was definitely in his ‘awesome’ column.

“She doesn’t regenerate.” She said, pointing at Juniper who was pretending to read again while clearly listening in on the conversation.

“She’s right.” Juniper said, “I’m pretty shootable. But people always aim for you guys all the time. I guess that’s lucky of me.”

“Well who would you rather shoot? The big, scary metal thing, the gold thing with crazy claws and horns and shit, or the girl in a theatre mask?” Cyn piped up.

“You make a good point.” Juniper said, “I don’t want to be a thing.”

Warrick sighed, trying to cover his smirk at his friends’ conversation. “Look Tammy, there’s a lot of stuff you’ve got to do before you even think about it—the least of which is telling mom and dad. You remember what the Whitecoat told me; you need to train with your powers first or else you’re just another problem for other prelates.”

“But there are no other schools! Not ones we can trust anyway.” Tammy whined, “Come on, you just got lucky finding people that’ll train you and let you be a hero. I still have to go to regular school where if they knew about my powers, they’d tell me never to use them.”

With his heartstrings thoroughly tugged as he himself had to hide what he could do from his other friends; Warrick put an arm around his little sister and hugged her. “It’s pretty tough, isn’t it? But we’ll find a way to deal with it, okay?”

“Really?” Tammy asked, hopeful.

“Really.” Warrick said, aware that everyone else in the car could hear it. “And this is me talking. You know I don’t break promises.”

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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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