Issue #26: Ace Agenda

This entry is part 2 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 3: A Bright, Bright Summer

Part 4

The first shot cracked through the air past Facsimile’s arm. It wasn’t a bullet or the beam of a plasma lance. It was a roiling orange blob of energy that made her shiver with painful sensation from proximity alone. As more glowing shots came at her, she back winged and dove behind one of the computer banks.

Somewhere she heard the snarls of the two inugami.

“Okay.” She muttered to herself. “I need to stay low, avoid the inugami, and get Kay out of here.”

“Gennero, are you crazy?” One of the other scientists was shouting over the gunfire. “You can’t release them here! They’ll destroy everything.”

“That’s what they’re here for.” Gennero replied, “They’re trained only to attack people with the descendant theta brainwave.”

“Shit.” Facsimile cursed as she edged around the computer bank, “Okay, new plan, go all out and get Kay out of here.” She turned directly into the path of a rifle muzzle. The guardsman at the other end sneered and prepared to pull the trigger.

Facsimile didn’t give him a chance. Her arm hyper extended to deliver a quick jab in the face, followed by another, solid hit to the body. She pushed with all her weight and slammed the man backward into a support. He grunted and fell silent. The whole fight was muffled by the sound of another explosion somewhere above.

Breathing hard, Facsimile looked up to see one of the inugami standing at the end of the row, its dark eyes fixed on her. The great beast let out a howl she could feel in her bones and tore down the row toward her. Somewhere toward the other end of the lab, Kay screamed. “I don’t have time for you, Rex.” She breathed, half flying, half jumping to the top of a computer bank.

The fire was no longer directed at her alone. Across the room, Leo was charging guards, arms akimbo, delivering exacting blows to pressure points that laid his foes low. Even more worrying for both Facsimile and the Project Tome guardsmen, A platform was descending from the hole in the ceiling. On it rode Shine, Thunderhead, and a man dressed in a garish costume covered with playing card symbols.

At the first sign of a fire fight, Shine grabbed the masked man and leapt from the platform, leaving Thunderhead to work his craft on the guardsmen. One of the men let out an unearthly scream and turned on his fellows, weapon blazing.

“Quickly now.” The masked man instructed Shine. “We need to access the control schema from node two. With luck, my codes will still work.”

Shine grinned and kicked the weapon out of the hand of one of the guardsmen before slashing twin bloody furrows into his chest. “And without luck?”

“We depend on Leo’s code-breaking.”

A horrendous howl was all the warning Shine had of the approach of the inugami. It was all she needed to pull Wright down beside her as the monster flew over, claws out stretched. It skidded on the metal plated floor and turned for another go.

“Great. The kennel club is here and they’re using psion-seekers. Hurry up and run your codes.” She displayed her orihalcite claws to the snarling beast. “I’ll send Lassie home in pieces.”

The inugami opened its mouth and howled, sending a wave of sound crashing around Shine. Her world was suddenly nothing but agony. Her head pounded, her teeth ground and for a moment, she couldn’t even move. That was when the monster sprang to attack.

A blur of blue flashed before Shine’s eyes and there was Leo, catching the monster by its jaws and redirecting the force of its passage with terrible precision. He pivoted with the force of the blow and turned it into a perfect toss, which sent the beast careening into the bank of stasis cells.

Shine gave her robotic comrade a hateful glare. “What was that all about?” She demanded.

“My primary directive is to ensure the safety of the other Aces.” Leo answered before turning to another group of guardsmen.

Meanwhile, Facsimile threw herself into the air as the claws of the inugami that had attacked her crashed down into the computer she’d been standing on. The howl it emitted made her body feel like it was tearing in two, but she refused to let her powers betray her when Kay needed her. Through sheer determination, she beat her wings and got herself out of range of the terrible weapon.

She spotted Kay huddled under a steel planning table near the main lab area, her arms over her head and her knees folded up to her chest. Dodging stray shots, she crossed the distance and sat down in a kneeling position beside her friend. “Its okay, Kay.” She tried to sound soothing. “We’re going to get out of here.”

Kay looked up and relief was written all over her face. Without hesitation, she hugged who she knew was her friend. “Oh thank god.” She breathed. “I was… with the robot and the guns…” She noticed the turning tide of battle over Facsimile’s shoulder. “Who are those guys? They’re kicking ass.”

“More bad guys.” Facsimile said dryly. “The other Descendants and I will deal with them once you’re safely out of here. And you will get out of here. Even if I have to fight all these bastards alone.” She turned to survey the obstacles ahead of her only to see the biggest and most immovable; the now glass covered inugami Leo had thrown against the stasis cells. “Shit.” She snarled. “Grab on to me, we’re flying.”

Eying the charging monster nervously, Kay jumped for Facsimile’s back and wrapped her arms around the prelate’s neck. Wings buffeted her around as Facsimile threw herself into the air just as the inugami reached the spot they’d previously occupied.

Immediately, the air around them was filled with orange tinged fire from the guardsmen who had taken up more secure positions, out of sight of their fellows driven mad by Thunderhead’s mental tinkering. Facsimile dove and twisted to avoid it, but it effectively hemmed her in above the inugami, which gathered itself to jump at them.

“…forth to strike down those who stand against me. Sacred flame of the Sun! Fireball!” Facsimile heard the tail end of the incantation over the loud buzz of the Tome guard’s weapons just in time to understand exactly why the inugami below her was thrown twenty feet into a wall by a blast of flame.

“It’s about time.” Kay let out a sight of relief. “Looks like we’re not alone anymore.” She said in Facsimile’s ear.

Indeed, Facsimile looked across the room to find Occult descending through the hole in the ceiling on four grey wings that disintegrated into a cloud of feathers the moment she touched ground. With a hand gesture, the spellcaster sent the cloud rolling toward a group of guardsmen. She stepped back in time to miss the second inugami as it barreled flat out toward Shine and Leo’s position.

“It’s ignoring her!” The scientist who had previously berated Gennero noted as the two climbed a gantry to the master input console.

“She must not be a descendant then.” Gennero noted.

“A prelate that isn’t a descendant is in this facility? We have to start the lockout procedure and evacuate. It’s the only way.”

“That’s why we’re going to the master console, McClane.” Gennero retorted.

“Right.” McClane said nervously as the two gained the top of the gantry. “But what do we do in the meantime?”

In answer, Gennero produced a key from his lab coat and used it on a panel next to the master input. Inside was an unlabeled canister with a spray nozzle. He extracted it and offered it to McClane. “This is kill scent. All inugami lines are conditioned to attack anything that has this scent.

McClane stood there, staring that the canister as Gennero started keying in commands. “Spray it on her.” Gennero finally ordered, not looking up from the console.

Taking advantage of the confusion caused by Occult’s explosive arrival, Facsimile flew to meet up with her. “You wouldn’t believe how glad I am to see you!” She said by way of greeting. “Look, you need to get this girl—“

“Thank god you’re okay!” Occult said, smiling at Kay from beneath her hood. “I’m so sorry I didn’t catch up to you right away but—“

“Wait, you two know each other?” Facsimile demanded.

“We’re… neighbors.” Kay said unconvincingly. Facsimile pinned her with a long, searching gaze that was truncated by a blast or energy fire making her duck.

“I think the questions will have to wait.” Occult said, summoning her staff. “But don’t worry, I bought help.”

“Who?” Facsimile asked, looking around.

Nearby, one of the guardsmen stopped firing and looked around, bewildered. “Lord almighty…” he said in a hushed tone. “What am I doing? Shooting at people? Helping secret organizations perform illegal experiments? Is this really what I want out of life?”

The man beside him gave him and odd look, then lowered his own weapon. “You’re right.” He said in a heavy southern drawl. “I want to do something I can talk to my little girl’s class about for career day. And with pride too.”

Before long, a small cluster of men had lowered their weapons and were discussing their higher aspirations amid the raging firefight.

“Good work, Thunderhead.” Wright acknowledged, “Though the swords to plowshares routine wouldn’t seem to be your style.” He watched as the screen in front of him displayed a graphic representing that his download to his remote hard disk was nearly complete.

“It isn’t me!” Thunderhead replied from his perch on the platform. “Someone else is here—getting into their heads too. They’ve been trying on me too, but…”

But you are unreceptive from the Astral side. Thunderhead turned to see a flash of rosy light coalesce into Ephemeral. “Such strong effects only work on weak minds in any event. This will last a shorter time, but will be similarly effective.” He touched his hands to Thunderhead’s temples. The other man made a high pitched, girlish noise, then tumbled off the platform.

“That was really awesome and all, but we need to get her out of here.” Facsimile gestured at Kay.

“I agree.” Occult said, “Fly her out. Ephemeral and I will hold them until you get back.”

Facsimile nodded, only to catch a clawed foot in the back. Shine pushed off her and delivered a second kick to Occult’s midsection. “Sit this one out, Gothy.” The white scaled villainess sneered. “This is my treat for helping out with this little side trip.” With that, she leapt at Facsimile, orihalcite claws slashing.

But Facsimile was ready this time. Not just expecting it, she had been training and practicing for exactly this occasion. When the scything claws sought to sink into her flesh, she let them. And then some. Her abdominals coiled around the intruding appendages like pythons as vital organs shifted away to safety. The shapeshifter smirked at the look of surprise on her nemesis’s face.

“Ever hear of the tar baby?” she laughed. “Well B’rer Rabbit, this is going to hurt all the way back to the briar patch.” She bought both her fists crashing into the sides of Shine’s head and followed that up with a head butt.

Shine screamed curses and kicked out a leg to trip the golden prelate, only to have that leg bend backward at the knee and lock her leg in place.

“Didn’t read the story, did you?” Facsimile asked, raining more blows about Shine’s head and shoulders. “Seriously though, don’t go for the head butt, I don’t want your face in my chest.”

“Look out!” Occult and Kay said as one. Facsimile looked up to see the other inugami barreling toward them.

Facsimile relinquished her hold on Shine and kicked the other woman away, hoping to distract the inugami with multiple targets. It didn’t work. The thing just came on.

“Levanto este pared!” Occult’s red pentagonal shield snapped into being in front of Facsimile cutting off the beast’s charge.

From behind, McClane saw his chance and rushed Occult, spray canister raised.

“Oh, no you don’t.” Kay hit him low with a flying tackle. Her diminutive weight alone wasn’t enough to knock him down, but he tripped over her, landing on top of the spray canister. The bauble discharged a dose of its contents directly into his face.

It took a moment of absolute horror for the full weight of what had just happened to set in. He looked back at Kay, who was sitting up with wide eyed horror. “Y-you’ve killed me!”

“Huh?” She asked woozily.

“That was the kill scent. The inugami is going to attack me now!”

“And you were going to do that to my best friend?!”

They were interrupted by the sound of Occult’s shield breaking. With renewed vigor, the inugami lowered its head and crashed through, its eyes fixed on McClane. The scientist threw up his hands in a feeble attempt at defending himself.

But Facsimile got to him first. Executing a shoulder roll with her wings, she grabbed the scent canister from the floor and positioned herself between the monster and its quarry. “I have no idea why I’m doing this.” She moaned as she extended a spike from her arm and jammed it and the canister into the onrushing mouth of the great beast before her.

There was a tiny pop as the canister exploded, but the injury wasn’t enough. The inugami tossed Facsimile aside like a rag doll and closed its jaws on McClane’s right leg. There was a sickening crunch as bone splintered and the scientist was lifted off the floor.

Kay screamed as she watched the events unfold before her. Then the other inugami appeared, smashing down another computer bank to collide with its fellow, scratching and roaring. The two clashed, snarling and biting and rolling across the floor in mortal combat, leaving the broken form of McClane behind.

“That was painful.” Facsimile said, reforming her hand from where it had been bitten off somewhere in the process of breaking the canister inside the inugami’s mouth. Her eyes fell on McClane. “And he needs a doctor. That’s it; Occult, Ephemeral, we’re getting out now. We need to get this guy to a hospital as soon as possible. Let the bad guys fight it out and see who the marines can pick up later.”

Feeling the bruises forming and the bruises to her ego forming even faster, Shine returned to Brother Wright’s side. “They’re retreating.” She wheezed.

“Good.” Wright replied, noting the lockout icons appearing on the screen. “We’re pulling out as well. Fellgaze and Legion have done their part, and Mr. Gennero has finally begun the lockout procedure. Too bad it won’t work.” He turned to where Leo was putting down a late arriving guardsman. “Time to go, Leo.”

“Query: What about Ace Thunderhead?” Leo asked, noting the man lying on the floor beneath the platform.”

“Leave him.” Shine sniffed. “He can’t even handle one mindbender.”

“Negative.” Leo said, “My primary objective is to ensure the safety of the other Aces. I will carry him.”

Shine gave him a dark looked. “Why did it ask if it was just going to do what it wanted anyway?”

“He was being polite.” Wright grinned under his faceplate.

Series Navigation<< Issue #25: Summer SessionIssue #27: Beyond Good And Medieval >>

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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