Issue #27: Beyond Good And Medieval

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

Part 5

A gold and grey whirlwind of arms, legs and wings streaked overhead, much to the befuddlement of faire goers who had yet to learn of the commotion taking place at the other end of the fairgrounds.

“Ican’tsee!Ican’tsee!getoffme!” Dervish screamed desperately at Facsimile as they barreled through a vendor kiosk, scattering paintings by a local artist.

“How about stopping, dumbass?” Facsimile shouted back. If he didn’t she’d already made up her mind to simply keep him blind until he knocked himself out slamming through things. The spinning speedster responded by redoubling his spinning.

Instinct made Facsimile extend her talons more and grip the rubbery material of Dervish’s costume more tightly. They punched through, causing warm liquid to flow out around her fingers. Alarm filled her and she almost let go. Had she just run punctured a vein with her claws? That was a lot of blood he was losing. Alarm turned to a cold chill of fear. Was he going to bleed out from it? Had she just killed him in a panic?

When she finally worked up the nerve to look at her hands, what painted her hands and forearms wasn’t the red of lifeblood, but thick, goopy, orange liquid. It gushed from the rents her claws had torn, driven out by the centripetal force of Dervish’s spinning. Her fear became relief, and then amusement; that was how he managed not to be hurt despite smashing into her hard enough to have broken a normal person’s bones. Armed with that knowledge, she snapped her wings out, forcing Dervish’s erratic path into a more direct one: toward the ground.

In the mock town square, a family of four; at the faire on a lark as part of a road trip to Florida, was taking turns having their picture taken with their head and arms in the stocks. The father, after much chiding from his wife and begging from his children, was just consenting to having the heavy wooden device closed over him when something caught his eye. “What kind of balloon is that?” He wondered aloud.

His wife didn’t look up, but his six year old daughter did. “Mommy! Mommy!” the tike asked, eyes wide, “Is that a dragon?”

Her mother looked up and screamed, throwing herself and the kids to the ground as the ‘dragon’ fell from the sky, buzzing them by a few feet and landed with an uncharacteristic sloshing sound before the stocks.

One half of the ‘dragon’ extricated itself from the heap and unfurled her golden wings, much to the delight of the children. Facsimile smiled at them as she lifted the dazed Dervish up by the scruff off his ruined and leaking costume. He was still rotund underneath all the padding, but no longer was he reminiscent of a volleyball.

“Mind if I use these stocks, sir?” Facsimile asked, unlatching and lifting the top arm of the stocks with one arm.

“N-not at all.” The father said, moving away as quickly as possible.

“Thanks.” Facsimile said sweetly as she clapped Dervish into the makeshift prison. “Someone will be around to collect him soon.” She threw herself into the air and hovered for a second. “Uh… enjoy the rest of your day though!” she called as an afterthought before heading back to the battle.

Across the fairgrounds, Alloy was not enjoying his day. “Joy, where’s Joy?” He asked dumbly of Charity and her friends.

Dull eyed, Charity shrugged. “She just kind of faded away.” She said.

“I think I overdid the ‘happy’” Hope said sourly, even as she stopped broadcasting her power. “But she must mean that the invisible guy got her.”

Alloy bit his lip, a gesture the others couldn’t see thanks to his helmet. “Damn it.” He said, feeling defeated. Then something occurred to him. “Hope, go help Chaos and Zero.” He said, turning his gaze upward.

Hope looked over to their allies. Zero was running interference against Mike, blocking his masterful attacks with her ice shields while Chaos was forced to do the same against Impact by way of compressed air bursts. “Yeah, right. I can’t use my powers on the controlled guy and I can’t stand up to that crazy woman she’s got some sort of damage shield or something.”

“Then why not use your powers on the crazy shielded chick?” Alloy asked offhandedly. He didn’t stop to acknowledge the dawning realization on her face. Instead, he addressed Isp, who was lolling off his shoulder, uncertain. “I know you can’t see it, but I can sense it. You just have to trust me on this, okay?” Isp gave what passed for a shrug while Osp looped itself once around Alloy’s waist before planting itself firmly in the ground.

Alloy focused on what his senses told him were there and where, logically, things he couldn’t sense should be. It was a long shot, but he didn’t have a choice if he was going to stop Tome from taking Joy. “Pull.” he ordered.

Osp flexed and threw Alloy upward with all its might, unanchoring itself at the very last moment. Airborne, Alloy pointed his fist at the invisibly underbelly of the Tome carrier, directing Isp it. The tentacle harpooned out, forming a lethally sharp barb on its leading edge. Just as Alloy had assured it, the hull panel was there to be pierced. Isp crashed through and flowered open its barb to set into the panel.

The impact itself had a welcome side effect in damaging the delicate stealth equipment that kept that section invisible. There was a flash of orange turning to dull red as light bending and broadcasting equipment went offline or had its power source cut off and suddenly, a five foot square of paneling became visible.

But Alloy’s targets remained hidden from sight, but not his metal sense. He kicked his legs and swung toward the spot he was focused on, holding his hand out toward the small circle of gold floating before him. “Joy!” He shouted, “Give me your hand!” The gold ring moved in his senses and a sudden pressure told him that Joy had succeeded in reaching for him.

The moment their hands made contact, the world warped in Alloy’s perception as if he was viewing it through a fisheye lens, curling and blurring out of focus at the edges. Joy appeared before his eyes, positioned on a hard, plastic platform, being reeled upward into the carrier’s cargo bay. White Shadow held her around the waist, mindful of her teeth and keeping her wings pinned tightly against him.

“Might as well give it up!” Alloy demanded, turning his gaze on White Shadow. “There’s nowhere for even you to hide now. Let her go.”

White Shadow ground his teeth, considering his options. A look of grim determination mixed with defeat settled on his face. “You know, you’re right.” He said. He freed one hand from his grip on Joy to touch the com on his ear. “Avatar?” Alloy couldn’t here the other side of the conversation, but the reply was clearly one the revealed further damage to the plan. “Exactly what I was thinking. Abort all.” He listened again. “Forget them. If they can’t get away on their own, they deserve Braddock Island.”

The villain flashed a smile at Alloy. “My colleague agrees.” He said in a disturbingly genial voice. “You win.” Then came the rope-a-dope. Hauling hard, he pulled Joy’s hand free of Alloy’s breaking the physical contact that made them visible to him and him invisible to everyone else in return. The very next moment, Joy appeared on the other side of where the platform had been; screaming as she was thrown out into open air. “Claim your prize!” White Shadow mocked.

Isp and Osp didn’t need to be told what to do. Saving the innocent came before taking down the bad guy. Flexing, Isp swung Alloy in Joy’s direction and let go of the carrier. Unfortunately, it miscalculated one very simple flaw: Joy didn’t obey gravity like any other random victim would. Instead, acting out of sheer panic and instinct, Joy opened her wings and snapped into a glide just as Alloy sailed under her on his way to the ground.

Alloy glanced up to make sure nothing else was about to appear to snatch Joy out of the sky. At the same time, his metal sense told him that the Tome carrier was moving away. Only when he was sure of Joy’s safety did he tend to his own. “Alright, boys, do your ring thing and brace for landing.” The tentacles obeyed, gracefully arcing themselves into twin wheels around Alloy in order to roll with the impact of the ten story fall.

“Or, you can catch a ride.” Facsimile announced her arrival by catching hold of Isp and Osp with little effort and almost no disruption in her flight pattern and pulling them and their own passenger into a steady glide next to Joy. “Good thing we came here!” She shouted to the young protomorph. “Those guys would have really messed up your house!”

Joy smiled back weakly, exhausted beyond humor and even fear.

***

Chaos and Zero moved back to back with Chaos keeping Impact at bay with his winds while Zero held the Avatar possessed weapon master off with expert blocking with her shields. It was a stalemate until Hope’s arrival turned the tables.

“I can deal with this.” Hope said to herself unconvincingly. “Just focus and concentrate everything on her.” She felt her power working and knew it was when Impact started laughing.

“That’s your power?” Impact guffawed, unable to control herself. “You’re a living upper? And you think that’s…” She wheezed, partially from the wind stealing her breath, and partly from her own laughter. “that’s going to stop me? You’re a dumb little heifer, you know that?” Suddenly she broke off from Chaos and used his winds to propel herself at Hope.

Zero saw her coming and danced past Samuels. As she did, she brought her ice shields to bear, hoping to knock Impact out of the air. Impact let her, putting one foot down to steady herself while bringing the other down in a perfectly executed axe kick. The blow shattered Zero’s left shield, dulling the blow enough to save her arm. But even slowed, Impact’s power enhanced attack was enough to separate her shoulder with a loud pop. Crying out from the pain, Zero crumpled to the ground.

Chaos roared and launched himself at her with all the force of a hurricane and was met with a brick wall of kinetic energy redirection. Impact sneered at him as she caught his arms and lifted them over his head.

“The boxing gloves, the tough talk; I bet you’re a real he-man, aren’t you?” She twisted his arms painfully so as not to let him concentrate and use his powers on her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Hope duck past her to get to Zero and maneuvered Chaos around so she could keep an eye on her. “Well, he-man. How’s it feel to meet a woman that’s stronger than you? And make no mistake, this is all nature.”

Hope knelt beside the shuttering form of Zero. “Hold still.” She said. “I can’t heal it until we pop it back in.” Zero shook her head urgently. “I know it’s going to hurt, Jun, but we have—“

“No.” Zero managed through the pain. “Im-im… stop her.”

“I can’t!” Hope snapped. “My powers are stupid and useless and…” She followed Zero’s gaze and knew exactly what the other girl would do if she wasn’t pinned down by pain. It was a long shot, considering Impact’s powers, it might not even work. But her powers weren’t working and Chaos didn’t seem to be winning the fight. She leapt. Her fingers closed over the hilt of the rapier still hanging from Chaos’s side.

With no idea how to use it, she swung wildly. The frenzied attack only grazed Impact, but it definitely got her attention. “What are you going to do with that, heifer?” She mocked, using what seemed to be her new favorite insult. “Are you more of a man than those other prelates?” She twisted Chaos’s arms again for emphasis. “Are you going to stab me? Kill me while I can’t dodge?”

Hope realized that she couldn’t do that. She wouldn’t do that. She, on the whole, wasn’t very empathetic, feeling she got no real empathy from others, but she wasn’t psychotic and didn’t want to kill someone. She glanced down. Pain on the other hand… Impact’s eyes went wide even before she felt it. She hadn’t actually expected to be stabbed by the young prelate. But the rapier punched through her thin boot, though her foot, through the sole of her boot and into the ground.

Shock and surprise distracted her more than pain and in that second, Chaos got free of her grasp and clapped his hands over her ears. There was pressure, and then she passed out, sprawling backward.

Avatar shook his head in shame. He’d really though Impact had it won for a moment there. At least until Alloy and Facsimile returned. It was a pity she was so arrogant and talkative. He was glad that all of his fighting was done by remote.

Heaving a long sigh, he pulled the wide brimmed hat he’d bought from a nearby vendor over his eyes and stood to leave. The ROCIC would be there soon and their theta wave detectors would ferret him out. Better to be miles away by that time.

Before he went, he watched Alloy, Facsimile and Joy land and considered them for a moment. Even at less than half strength, the Descendants had defeated Tome’s elite twice now. It would take something special next time. Something, he added to himself, which hopefully didn’t involve him.

***

It was mid afternoon in Nevada when St John Duvall’s secretary came into his office with a message from his oldest.

“Glory called, father.” The secretary, a tall, leggy woman with chin length black hair said. She was dressed in a white business suit with a modest skirt that only hinted at her shape. “She says she needs to talk to you directly. Someone tried to kidnap Joy today.” Her voice quavered, trying to remain professional despite her concern for her sister.

St. John tore his stony gaze away from his computer and looked to his daughter. “Did she say who it was, Serenity?” he asked, “Vandercroft’s men? Eckles?”

“Someone I’ve never heard of, father. The Descendants came to the beach house specifically to safeguard Joy. They said the kidnappers were part of a group called ‘Project Tome’.” She paused, recognizing a dangerous gleam in her father’s eye. “You know them, father?”

St John tore his gaze away from her. “In passing. Call you sister,” She knew he meant her twin sister, Chastity, because otherwise, he would have said a name. “Have her on a plane here within the hour. No one attacks one of the seven daughters of Duvall and gets away with it.”

Serenity nodded curtly and left the room. St John stared at his desk for a while. Tome still existed, even after all his searching came up empty. They still existed and they were trying to kidnap psionics. Could the rumors be true? He ruminated on the irony that one of his psionic daughters had ended up one of their targets. Was it an accident? Either way, now that he knew they were out there and a quarter century of work would finally bear fruit.

End Issue #27

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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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