- Issue #25: Summer Session
- Issue #26: Ace Agenda
- Issue #27: Beyond Good And Medieval
- Issue #28: The Beach Episode
- Issue #29: Little Girl Lost
- Issue #30: Strange Times At Dayspring College
- Issue #31: It Came From a Warped Star
- Issue #32: Ahead/Behind
- Descendants Special #3: A Brilliant Twilight
- Issue #33: The Liedecker Institute: Freshman Class
- Issue #34: Back to School
- Issue #35: Demonology
- Issue #36: Let’s Go
- Descendants Annual #3
It is inevitable that when dramatic events spill over into certain venues; theaters, theme parks, and yes, renaissance faires, many people will initially believe that whatever is transpiring is part of the show. Whether this is actual confusion or simple delusion varies from person to person, as does the threshold which must be reached before one decides that what one is seeing is real.
For many, Joy’s screams and the sight of blood from White Shadow’s bitten hand were enough. For others, the sudden appearance of Facsimile and presumably Hope and Zero was the tip off. But all in the area reached perfect clarity as the knights, mingling with the crowd to spread awareness of the upcoming jousts and warfare demonstrations, suddenly turned as one, drew steel and violently shoved visitors aside to form a wide ring around the Duvall sisters, their friends and their protectors.
Facsimile didn’t let any of it surprise her. Everything seemed to be formulated to surprise her at this point, so what was one more twist? She let a barb of bone grow from each of her knuckles and shot Impact a smug grin. “You guys go all out on the disguises, don’t you? Seriously, mooks in armor at a ren faire, that’s a good one.” She ran her gaze around at the knights and brandished her new claws. “Bring it boys.”
Impact smiled right back at her. “You should know before you start hurting them, hon.” She said coldly, “These aren’t ‘mooks’ they’re poor, innocent bystanders. Innocent bystanders who are going to hurt you or make you hurt them very badly if you don’t give up the girl.”
The smile faded from Facsimile’s lips. This was a twist she didn’t like. The bone barbs were reabsorbed into her knuckles.
“Good girl.” Impact mocked.
“That’s all you’re going to do?!” Charity demanded. She was closer than anyone to Joy, who had wriggled out of White Shadow’s grasp, but was frozen in fear by Impact. “What about protecting us?”
“What can she do?” Impact answered for Facsimile. “She’s surrounded on all sides. The best she can do—“
“Is ‘go up’.” Facsimile threw herself forward. Impact was caught off guard and before she even understood what was happening, Facsimile was laboring into the air, arms wrapped around Joy. “Zero! Hope! Protect Charity and her friends!”
Protectyourself!” Something heavy, yet yielding slammed into Facsimile’s back, sending her wobbling sideways with Joy screaming.
The golden prelate span to see a grey blur speeding toward her. It was all she could do to turn so her shoulder took the hit instead of Joy. As she frantically beat her wings to stay airborne, the blur slowed, defining itself first into a spinning mass of arms and legs and then into a short, rotund man dressed in a grey and white costume that looked to be made of rubber.
“Pleased to meet you.” He said in a clipped, sped up voice which slowed as he stopped spinning. “I’m Dervish.”
Below, White Shadow got to his feet and stood beside Impact, cradling his bleeding hand. “Good job giving her the idea.” He spat.
Impact rolled her eyes “We all knew we might run into fliers. That’s why Chubbsy is here. And if he’s not enough.” She made a hand gesture to signal Avatar from his hiding place. “But she can’t make everyone fly and we don’t need any of the others alive, now do we?” Perfectly on cue, the knights closed ranks and stepped forward.
“Can you fly with those wings?” Facsimile asked Joy. For the moment, Dervish seemed content just to hem them in, bobbing in a lazy circle around them like an orbiting balloon.
Through choked sobs, Joy shook her head. “I-I can glide.” She hyperventilated and swallowed hard.
Great, Facsimile thought sarcastically, she can glide right down into Tome’s arms. She didn’t vocalize it though. Instead she said, “Then hold on!” Performing a wing over, she tucked her wings and dived, hoping to gain speed with the maneuver.
Dervish smirked, starting to spin and speed up again. “Do you really thinkyou cangetaway?” A grey blur once more, he plunged after the two psionic women, slamming into them sideways half a dozen times in a matter of seconds and forcing them toward the ground.
Zero and Hope moved to opposite sides of Charity and her friends. “Can’t you make them happy?” Zero called over to Hope.
With a hand to her temple, Hope was trying desperately to remember the focusing techniques they’d tried to teach her at the Academy. Usually, she had no trouble making her power work, but the knights weren’t responding at all. As much as she was loathe to admit it even to herself, she regretted rejecting Alexis’s offer to put together power creativity sessions for her. She didn’t even want the power, so why would she want to use it in more ways?
“It’s not working.” She finally admitted.
“Mind control versus mind control.” Impact laughed. “And it looks like your kung fu isn’t strong enough.”
“Stop screwing with them and let’s get on with this.” White Shadow snapped. Seconds later, he faded from sight.
Impact grimaced at this and signaled Avatar to attack. The knights charged in eerie silence, with no battle cry, only the sounds of metal plates sliding over one another. At the same time, Impact shifted into a fighting stance and aimed herself at the bigger threat: Zero.
Seeing the coming conflict, Charity, Maureen and Tanya crowed together, back to back. “Your cousins are the Descendants?!” Maureen asked over her shoulder.
“Not exactly.” Charity said, trying to think of anything that would get her friends out of danger and save her sister.
“We’re here to protect Joy.” The unarmed Hope said, watching the knights nearest her side of the battle close on her.
The first reached her and it was all she could do to stay in a fighting stance as his sword raised—and promptly warped around his arms, pinning them over his head. An instant later, his armor ran like warm wax, spraying out in thick strands to ensnare the pair nearest to him.
Inside his helmet, Alloy winced in sympathy at the dismayed face of the knight he’d just disarmed and dis-armored. “Sorry about that!” He called. “I’ll make you a new one… you know, after you’re back to yourself.”
Zero smiled to herself as she watched the spectacle Alloy’s arrival had created. She didn’t get much of a chance to ruminate on her friend’s promise of restitution before Impact struck.
She moved in time to duck the first punch. The air along her cheek gusted as Impact’s psionic power channeled the kinetic energy in her fist outward. Seeing the next attack coming, she blocked Impact’s low kick with one of her ice shields. The force of the blow reverberated up her arm. Ice cracked and the cool hail it released did nothing to soothe her aching appendage.
Crying out in pain, Zero danced backward, avoiding another punch-kick combination. Impact sneered and went into a roundhouse, which Zero only managed to duck by falling into a crouch. Frost rimed the grass beneath Impact’s foot as she came down into a stance, only to slip and fall on her back.
Above, Facsimile twisted and turned like a cat, desperately trying to protect both Joy in front of her and her wings behind her. Dervish darted in and out, slamming into her with the force of a medicine ball launched from a catapult. The trio waltzed drunkenly over the now broken ring of knights.
Laughing gleefully, Dervish span down in front of Facsimile. “Hadenough? Giveup the girl and this all ends. Otherwise, I’m going to have to start,” He reached into hidden pockets in his costume and slipped on a pair of brass knuckles. “getting rough.”
He never saw it coming. The sudden downdraft should have warned him. The growing spot of shade in a cloudless sky should have made him look up. Dervish missed all the cues.
So Facsimile and Joy were treated to a look of utter horror and surprise on his face when Chaos landed feet first on his pudgy shoulders. Not as buoyant as previously indicated, Dervish rocketed into the ground, where, by some miracle of his costume, he bounced like a rubber ball, shooting straight back up and only missing Chaos by virtue of some swift dodging.
“Oh, fisticuffs.” Chaos said, reaching behind his back to unstrap the gauntlets he’d secreted there so as not to compromise his costume. “I’m game, you pudgy little speedster.”
“Not now.” Facsimile said, practically shoving the completely shocked Joy into his arms. “I’ve got this guy.” She unsheathed five wicked claws, “That woman you told us about from Quinn Bluffs is down there with Zero and Hope.”
Chaos nodded and started to descend with Joy just as Dervish fell upon them again.
“Not this time, tubby.” Facsimile threw herself snarling into the flying speedster’s path. He slammed into her and as per his tactic, bounced away. Only this time, Facsimile came with him with her claws caught in his rubber suit. Suddenly spinning off balance, the Tome agent and the golden prelate whirled erratically off over the faire.
Two knights rushed Alloy from either side, swords raised in defiance of the logic that should have told them (or whoever was controlling them) that metal weapons would be of no use to them against their opponent.
There was a rending noise and twin coils of dark metal tore their way free of Alloy’s pauldrons. Isp went low, coiling a knight’s legs and lifting him five feet in the air to dangle upside down. Osp went high and formed its leading edge into an impossibly thin blade as the other knight took a swung for Alloy’s chest.
The sword was severed cleanly an inch above the hilt. It flew in a graceful arc to bury itself neatly in the papier-mâché of a Black Knight model, severing an arm. The knight, with no sword to catch in his target, stumbled past Alloy, turning a slow circle, which Osp made into several rapid circles by wrapping his waist and spinning him. Dizzy, the knight crumbled into a heap. At the same moment, the other knights broke off their own attacks, exclaiming in horror at what they had been forced to attempt.
Elsewhere, situated in a cozy spot where he could watch the action and control his human puppets, Avatar blanched, trying mightily not to vomit from the violent spinning he’s just received second hand.
“Alloy!” Chaos said, landing next to the armored prelate and presenting Joy, who, overloaded from excitement and fear was having trouble keeping her feet. “You and the boys guard her. I’m going to help Zero out with Impact.”
“You got it, boss.” Alloy saluted, putting out an arm to steady Joy. “I’ve got you.” He said in his older brother voice. Joy swayed on her feet despite his support. “Stay with me, okay? We’re going to get you back with your sister and her friends and everything will be okay.” When she still barely responded, Alloy frowned inside his helm. “It’s okay. Just…” he noted the ring she’d begged Charity to buy for her earlier. It was a lump of very shiny lead shaped into the dragon eating its tail and painted silver. “Joy, I can protect you. I’m really, really powerful, okay? Check this out; I can turn lead into gold.”
He put a hand over her ring and it flared white, as did Alloy’s eyes. Concentrating with all his might to force the ring to keep its shape during the transmutation, Alloy felt his own armor warping from the pressures his powers imposed. But outwardly, to Joy, it seemed easy. She gaped at the golden ring and then at Alloy. She didn’t have to say anything; he’d proven himself to her. “Now let’s get you back to your sister.” He said.
Zero, meanwhile, was losing her battle with Impact. The other woman was measurably slower than she was, but more experienced and more vicious by far. Even though she managed to dodge most of Impacts attacks, those that she was forced to block with ice shields hurt as badly as a normally strong person had hit her directly. And the few hits she managed to get in on the Tome agent hurt her more than they did Impact. None of her tricks were working, she was getting tired, and the margin by which Impact was missing was dwindling.
Impact noticed it too, predatory eyes laughing as she closed on her quarry. “You could have just given up the little freak.” She snarled angrily. “You could have gotten out of this without broken bones. But no, you had to go and make me work for it.” She spat out a lock of sweaty blonde hair that had found its way into her mouth. “And when I have to work, I try to enjoy the hell out of it.”
“You make a habit of threatening people younger than you, don’t you?” A gust of wind slammed into her, almost putting her off balance. She saw Chaos out of the corner of her eye, but kept her attention on Zero. A fusillade of sharp bursts of wind hit her along her side until she finally gave him her attention. “Remember me, Impact? Quinn Bluffs? You threatened to kill a twelve year old there. Are you sure you’re up to threatening teenagers now?”
Impact dropped into a lower fighting stance, denying Chaos more surface area to effect with his powers. “Yeah, I remember you. I owe you and you girlfriend some pain!” She lunged at him, only to collide with a wall of ice that suddenly sprang up in front of her. Hail flew in all directions as her powers protected her as best it could, but not enough to stop her from being stunned.
“Nice shot, Zero.” Chaos smirked and moved to deliver the knock out blow. Something jabbed into the back of his knee and sent him to the ground. He rolled, hoping to avoid a second blow that didn’t come. Instead he saw Mike Samuels standing over him in a lamé, wielding a wooden truncheon.
“We’ve met before too.” Mike said stiltedly, “Though we’re not speaking face to face right now, as it were.”
Isp and Osp stretched out in twin protective arcs around The Duvall sisters and their friends as Alloy kept watch over them. Hope stood nearby, keeping them calm though sheer force of will.
Suddenly, the twangy and familiar ‘tastes’ of titanium, aluminum and iron filed his senses. He’d sensed iron and some aluminum all along, from vendor’s stalls, armor, horse shoes and a million other sources. But none of those were in such great quantity or moving with such great speed through the air above him.
“Incoming!” He shouted to Chaos, only to see his teammate and mentor rolling to avoid another swing from Mike Samuels’s staff. He turned his senses upward again. Why couldn’t he see it? His memory traveled back to the previous November when Tome had airlifted inugami to an elevated train platform to attack Facsimile and Occult. The carrier had been able to fade into and out of visibility.
Hissing and expletive, he turned to Hope. “Hope, there’s a carrier coming.” He said, hoping she would have some input.
“Then use your powers and knock it down!” She snapped, visibly shaking in her efforts to keep Charity and her friends’ emotions in check.
“I can’t; I’d crush everyone here!” Alloy said, growing tense. “We need to move Joy out of here now. We have to get her back to the car and make a break for it.” He tried to raise Facsimile on his com only to find that he’d damaged the circuits while transmuting Joy’s ring. No good deed unpunished; that would almost certainly be Facsimile’s response to that. “Screw it.” He muttered, “I’ll take her. Joy, come—“He looked up and noticed a conspicuous lack of fourteen year old protomorphs among the group left in his care.