Issue #21: Come the Black Clouds

This entry is part 10 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 2: Magic and Machines

Part 5

With a sound of a metal grinder gone demented, Isp and Osp lashed themselves around Samael’s arms and legs and hurled him bodily into Aberak, who was still gnawing through the bindings on his arms. The two villains crashed through the barrier at the edge of the building and disappeared over the edge.

Giving one last look at Morganna and ‘Lisa’ conducting some kind of ritual beyond the barrier, Chaos dashed over to his two wounded charges. Alloy was on his side, blood streaming from his wound and dribbling out of his visor. Hope was on her knees, a hand clamped over her flayed arm, face contorted in pain.

“Hope!” Chaos called, kneeling beside them. “Come on, focus!” he said, trying to get the girl’s attention, “You need to for the both of you.”

“I-I can’t.” the healer cried through clenched teeth. “I-it hurts.” She moaned, leaning on him, shivering.

“You have to.” Chaos said, trying to think of something better to say.

“Let me try.” Chaos looked up to see a woman he only knew from descriptions; Vorpal. She was crouched on the rubble from where Aberak and Samael had fallen. Swiftly, she straightened and came over.

Chaos drew Hope closer to him protectively. “Why should I?”

“Because you’re not having any luck.” Vorpal pointed out. She looked over to Morganna and Manikin. “And because you’ve got other things to worry about.” She didn’t give him time to reply. In the moment that he was looking over at the sorceress of his nightmares, Vorpal crossed the rest of the distance between them and grabbed a handful of Hope’s hair.

“Hey!” Chaos protested as Vorpal slapped the shivering girl.

A long, shallow scratch appeared across Hope’s cheek. The girl yelped in pain and struggled against the iron grip Vorpal had on her hair.

“That hurt too, didn’t it?” the older woman asked, acidly. “And I’m going to do it over an over because that’s what I do with murderers.”

“I’m not a murderer.” Hope managed, pressing the damaged cheek into her shoulder as she was currently out of free hands.

“Yes you are.” Vorpal maneuvered Hope’s hair so the girl was forced to stare down at Alloy’s prone form. “Look at him, look at this!” She reached down and pulled back the punctured section of his armor like it was foil. “Do you see that pink froth in the wound? That means one of his lungs is punctured. He may only have minutes to live.”

Tears were forming in Hope’s eyes, not from the pain, but from the situation she found herself in. But the pain and the shock really were too much; she couldn’t concentrate enough to activate her power. “I can’t!” she mewled.

“Stop it, she needs to focus.” Chaos demanded, “She can’t do that with you abusing her.”

“Abuse is exactly what this murderer needs!” Vorpal peered at Hope through her mystically enhanced goggles. “You’ve helped men who were perfectly content on killing you just because you didn’t want anyone to die. Men who deserved to die. I saw it. I also saw you bring a man back to life that was part of a campaign to destroy our kind. But one of our kind lays here dying in front of you and you’re just going to let him drown in his blood because you’ve got a flesh wound?!” Enraged, she hauled hard on her hair.

Tears flowed freely down Hope’s cheeks. Vorpal was right. She wasn’t a hero; she wasn’t even the glorified medic that she’d consigned herself to be among the Descendants. She was panicking and someone who had only wanted to help people and to be her friend would pay the price.

“Stop it!” Chaos roared.

Vorpal ignored him and roughly grabbed Hope’s injured arm and forced her hand into the bloody froth in her teammate’s wound. “That’s his life leaking out, you selfish little bitch! Feel it. Feel it!”

“I can’t stop it!” Hope screamed at her tormentor.

“I said let her go!” Chaos balled a gauntleted fist to swing. Then he saw the wound on Hope’s arm – or rather, the absence of it.

“Yeah!” An armored fist struck Vorpal in the midsection, forcing her back and doubling over. With the help of the tentacles, Alloy got to his feet. “Back off, if she can’t… I’m… holy hell, I’m not dead.”

“You’re welcome. “ Vorpal said, still hunched. “See?” She asked Chaos, “The girl can be taught. You all just have to stop treating her like a china doll.”

***

Giant baboons. Facsimile thought, watching the brutes keep pace with her humvee through the rearview. Giant baboons with stag horns and beady red eyes and scorpion stingers on their tails. This was not a good night.

Thinking back, she realized that she’d never been outnumbered before, not against anything with equal firepower at least. Not that she was scared; she was immortal after all, but with that kind of numbers advantage, she would still lose, even if she wouldn’t die. So they were on to Plan B, which was actually following a plan for a change and regroup at ConquesTech where they at least would have the full group. For good measure, Codex had already alerted the police and General Pratt.

That part worried Facsimile. Codex above all others had the utmost confidence in their combined powers. If she was calling in the cavalry, it was bad; possibly unwinnably bad. But as much as she wouldn’t admit it, Facsimile had just as much faith in Codex’s tactical skills as Codex had in the Descendants’ powers. So she wasn’t panicking just yet.

She did however panic when something huge and gleaming with metallic surfaces lurched into the road ahead of her. She screamed and hauled hard on the wheel, sending the vehicle into a sideways skid that just missed the thing in the road. Her eyes barely registered what it was as it whirled past, leaving her with the vague impressions of things like ‘horn’, ‘lance’ and several words in German and Japanese she was sure were associated with cars.

***

A black comet rocketed through the sky above Mayfield, trailed by a dark blur. As strange as those two sights were, the strangest thing about the entire scene were the tiny streaks of blue, violet and yellow that were easily keeping pace with the leader of the bizarre chase.

“What are those things?” Darkness asked, eyeing the glowing points of light as she plowed inexorably toward the ConquesTech campus.

Occult was gripping her tightly about the waist and trying very hard to not think about how far up she was or how fast she was going. “I don’t know, honestly. But they showed up and warned me about the demon, so they can’t be all bad.”

“I don’t trust them.” Darkness said. “There’s three of them and we saw three more astral signatures near that apartment. These could be demons just like that thing behind us.”

“No are demons.” Habsi protested, zipping around in front of Darkness and matching speed in such a way that without reference points, it seemed that both were standing still and the mote had merely revolved into place. “We are motes.”

“Mote and demons both are being from Faerie.” Naife offered, “But no is any other likeness.”

Darkness squeezed her eyes closed for a second. She didn’t have time to be bothered that she was conversing with a talking pixel or that her opponents were, in fact, demons hailing from a literal land of spells and fairies. “Okay.” She said, rationalizing complete. “How did you get here? And more importantly, how did the demons get here?”

“Were bought here.” Naife said, “Both. By our Mankind.”

“And what’s a Mankind?” Occult chimed in.

“You is Mankinds.” Renst said.

“Dumb question.” Occult admitted. “Okay, does your Mankind have a name?”

“Oh, yes!” Naife trilled happily, “It is having many names; Xolinar Queen, Heir of Hyrilius, sometimes, when it gets sick, it calls itself Elise or Nightshade. But for in the most part, it is calling itself Morganna.”

“What?” both women chorused.

“Oh yes, you are hearing of it, yes?” Naife asked innocently.

“Morganna is alive?” Darkness asked, having after almost a year, convinced herself that the source of many a nightmare had, in fact, died on the West Truman Bridge. “And she bought back a cadre of demons?”

“Yes.” Habsi said plainly. “But not to be worrying, our Mankind is not for being working with demons. See, is trick. She is using the demons so she can hurt all the psionic-things here. Steal demon magic to seal psionic magic!”

“Did he just say what I think he said?” Occult asked.

“Yeah.” Darkness said gravely. “Morganna is planning to depower every psionic on the planet.” Both fell silent. Suddenly, the demoness obsessively chasing them seemed a minor nuisance; a mayfly buzzing in the ear of a cow on its way to the slaughterhouse.

***

The door to Vincent Liedecker’s office exploded in a rain of splinters. Just past the flying debris, the blue, veined face of Colos scowled into the room.

“I am well aware that this isn’t your world.” Liedecker said, ashing a cigar into the marble ashtray on his desk, “But on Earth, a body knocks before he enters a room.”

Colos came in, treading on splinters and grinding them into the thick carpet. “I don’t care a wit, a singular mote, one iota about your custom and etiquette, Mankind. In the foundation of this tower, you’ve sealed away powerful magics, exotic magics I’ve never seen. I want it.”

“So you’ve taken a liking to the new toys my lab boys have cooked up? We’re calling it Avra – I’m pretty damn sure you know that word. Means ‘I create’ in one of those old languages. Don’t blame it on me though, I prefer to keep things simple, none of this song and dance. My customers, they don’t like song and dance, so I just call it magitech, which is what it is; high technology meets high fantasy.” Seeming rather satisfied with himself, he took a drag off the cigar.

“What relevance does that have at this moment?” Colos demanded. “I am Colos, son of Wyrmgiir, son of Heliothakolos, Lord of the Ra’sha nation of Sai’nshree. In your jabbering mindlessness, you would call my kind ‘demon’.”

“A lord, you say, boy?” Liedecker said with false awe. “Why every day, I deal with warlords, dictators, revolutionaries and kings. But you know, I can’t rightly remember if I’ve ever met a plain ol’ lord. ‘Course, just like any one of those, you can have you pick of the goods I have to offer.”

A grin came over Colos’s face. Demons do not, as a general rule, have sarcasm. It leads to a great deal of blood spilt. “Good to see some respect.” The demon lord said, “Now open the doors—“

“Right away…” Liedecker said, almost cheerfully, “the second fair compensation crosses my desk or lands in my bank account.”

“What?” the demon snorted.

“You really are from out of town, aren’t you, Old Scratch? You see, I’m a businessman, tried and true. And my business is exchanging weapons for nice, hard currency. Now, at the moment, you want some of my weapons and frankly I don’t care if you want a pulse cannon, or a stick with a gold star glued to the end; I’m not giving it to you until I’ve received payment.”

Colos’s eyes widened in surprise at the Mankind’s insolence. “I didn’t bring any barter materials with me.” He stated simply, letting the menace in his tone do the talking.

“You have my sympathy.” Liedecker sneered, “But no free lunches, Colos. No hard feelings though, just business, you see?”

“I don’t think you understand my meaning.” Colos declared, stalking forward. “I don’t intend to pay. And if you refuse to open that door, I intend to kill you for them.”

Liedecker held up a hand. There was no magic, no psionic power, but Colos himself was surprised when he stopped. “I am a pretty sportin’ man, Colos.” Liedecker said, “So I’ll give you warning first. I know a lot about you and this Faerie place. See, I got this book; the lab boys call it the Book of Madness. It had a nice, fat chapter on your kin, boy.”

“As if it will make any difference.” Colos spat. “You may have advanced, Mankind, but you still have nothing that rivals our blood magic.”

“I seem to remember a part…” Liedecker ignored the demon, “Something about you feeding off emotion, being able to sense it? Look in my head, ‘Lord’ Colos. Am I afraid?” the demon did so and found only a sea of calm beneath a brooding, unbroken storm of anger. There was no fear to be found at all, nor uncertainty. Liedecker read it in Colos’s face. “That’s the warning.”

“Then you’re either mad or a fool!” Colos roared.

A pistol suddenly found itself in Liedecker’s hand. “You know, it’d be an insult to shoot you with a regular old 9mm, wouldn’t it?” he asked, “It wouldn’t do a goddamn thing, would it?” Colos’s face split into an arrogant grin, which died when he saw orange runes begin to glow around the barrel. “That’s why I’ll use this.” Liedecker said, and pulled the trigger.

***

“Darkness?” Codex asked, climbing out of the van with her com in her ear. “Wait, wait slow down. Morganna is what? Are you sure? It could be a trick.” She pulled out one of her shrieker devices and readied it to use against the demonic baboons. On the other side of the giant car she had bought for Facsimile, the two other female prelates made ready to face the onslaught plus whatever it was that had made them spin out and get the car stuck on a utility grate.

“It can’t be Morganna.” Codex reasoned. “No, it isn’t wishful thinking; I read it in the Book if you want the truth. If Morganna went into Faerie, she can’t be back. It’s a one way trip, it says so right in the Book.”

“It is true.” A gruff, mournful voice came from the thing on the road. “I have felt her return. I have felt the stirring of unearthly forces and now I see that more creatures have been twisted by the sorceress’s wickedness.”

The baboons charged and the metal covered thing shifted, turning the face them. In doing so, it moved into the light of a street lamp.

Light gleamed in many colors from hammered sheets of metal, some still bearing the insignia and decals that marked them as the former hoods, fenders and other parts of somewhere around a score of cars. They had been given new life as a kind of plate armor that girded both the unusual mount and its equally unusual rider.

“Oh, you’re shitting me.” Facsimile said as she saw the face inside the open helm, or more accurately, the orange fur on the face within the helm.

The first of the transformed baboons leapt at the rider with a hungry snarl. The rider’s lance swung down to aim at it. “Strike!” The attacking creature was flung backward with incredible force, smashing open a fire hydrant with a sickening crack of a shattering spine.

The others came on, eager to join the fray with the Descendants and their ally: Lucian; the Ape Knight.

***

“Codex?” Darkness asked, taking both Occult and herself into a dive toward Building Seven’s roof. “Codex? Come on, where are you? We have a lot to talk about.”

Occult sighed heavily and looked to Renst. “Is there a way to stop the spell? Hopefully before it begins?”

The figures on the roof were visible now; Chaos, Alloy, Hope and Vorpal clustered at the east end of the building, Morganna and Manikin enclosed in a green glowing, translucent orb that was rapidly being covered in crackling, green runes.

“Why would be stopping it?” Renst asked, confused, “our Mankind says psionic-thing is worst demons. She is being why motes come to get you.”

Occult had stopped listening. She had seen Manikin’s face. “Just what in the hell is going on here.” She breathed.

Seconds later, the view was blocked out by a black fog that seemed to bleed out of the orb itself. At first, it gathered in a tight bowl above the orb, roiling and slowly rotating. The next moment, it exploded like a newborn galaxy, throwing spiral arms outward with incredible violence.

So much violence, in fact, that it ripped up the top two floors of Building Seven, hurling the remaining antenna array, the air conditioning and ventilation units and four very surprised psionics out into open air.

“See? Is no being stopping it.” Naife declared happily. “It is beginning. Mankind said: First phase: come the black clouds.”

End Issue #21

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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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