- Issue #37 – Of a Feather
- Descendants Giant Sized #1
- Issue #38: The Miracles of St Drausinus
- Issue #39: Descendants 2095
- Issue #40 – Interfacers
- Issue #41 – Machinations
- Issue #42 – Metal X
- Issue #43 – Love You Madly
- Issue #44 – It’s Official!
- Issue #45 – The Gremlin and The Game
- Issue #46 – The Juniper Chronicles
- Descendants Special #4 – Some Day In May
- Issue #47 – Everyday People
- Issue #48 – Inexorable
- Descendants Annual #4
The room was little larger than the cell he’d escaped from less than a day ago, but for Richter it was a palace if only for the window, something he’d been denied during his captivity. He gazed out of it and onto a small, nearby park as he dressed in the new uniform his new fellows had provided.
The pants were gray and well tailored, providing plenty of freedom of movement. They matched the suit, which was similarly tailored with crisp cuffs and links in the shape of silver crosses. The white shirt he wore underneath was silk. He’d never owned a silk garment before, believing in living humbly, but Harbonah had insisted that the suit he was given was his uniform, not a possession to be prideful of.
He caught his reflection in the window and frowned. Time in prison had let his hair grow out and it was still held back in a short rattail by a rubber band. He wished there was time to get a proper hair cut.
Details aside, Richter was overjoyed at this second chance to serve God among the Adriel. Harbonah, Gospel and Bezek, what little he’d learned from them following his rescue from prison, seemed to be good and stalwart men, dedicated to their mission.
The mission itself, however, was somewhat shrouded in mystery. Harbonah, the clear leader of the cadre, had alluded to foes more dangerous than the demons the Sineaters already dealt with, but refused to go into further detail as it wasn’t his place. Whose place it was, seemed to be Dr. Tang’s: the founder and leader of both the Sineaters and the Adriel. That raised more questions than it answered, but Harbonah’s insistence on changing the subject; mostly to discussing Richter’s own time with his Sineaters cell, made him wary of asking them.
Harbonah’s insistence on knowing the details of Richter’s last mission soon became more poignant. They were in Mayfield again. The scene of his betrayal and defeat. Just thinking about it, Richter found himself glaring out the window as if he’d catch a glimpse of the meddling psionics that had been the catalyst for it. Especially the one called Chaos, the one who had the gall to mock and insult him after allowing the demon to escape.
The sound of the door opening made him snap his glance toward it. “Doctor…” The Sineaters to a man respected their founder greatly, though his modesty made him reject all titles save the one he had earned. Even following his betrayal by his fellows, Richter never lost faith in Alvus Tang and the fact that he was free in an apartment in Mayfield instead of still wasting his days festering in impotence in jail was testament that his faith had not been misplaced.
Tang was elderly, but fit, looking to be in his early sixties, though rumor among he Sineaters was that he was older, possibly much older. He was a slight man, or middling height and losing the fight to maintain his wispy, white hair with at least a modicum of grace.
Richter had heard rumors of the man’s origin; that he was the son of a defector from China’s ruling party and a British diplomat. He didn’t know how much as true, but Tang’s Chinese heritage was evident in his facial features and complexion. Whatever the truth, he had a way with words that certainly harkened back to diplomacy.
“Good evening, James.” Tang’s voice was rich and melodious, but hushed as if he were on sacred ground. “I trust you are well.” He placed a lacquered box on the bed that occupied the room.
Richter nodded once, keeping his head low. He always felt the bumbling student in the Doctor’s presence. “I am, Doctor.” He said simply. “Thank you.”
Tang held up a hand and shook his head. Richter noticed that Tang’s own dull, white suit had the same crucifix cufflinks as his own. “There is not need to thank me, and I think that there is far more on your mind than that. Mostly, ‘why’.”
Again, Richter ducked his head. “I do, but I know…”
“That it is not your place to question?” Tang interrupted. “Good man.” He made his way to the only chair in the room, a serviceable and sturdy wooden one with a straight back and sat. He motioned for Richter to sit on the bed and didn’t speak again until he did. “A very good man, James. Your faith is strong, your obedience, absolute. You have a greater resolve than any Sineater I have ever known. That is why you deserve to know the answers and that is why you’ve been raised to the ranks of the Adriel.”
Richter tried to school his face, but his confusion must have shown through to Tang nonetheless.
“I can guess at some of the answers you’d like.” Tang said smoothly. “Why the Adriel? Why have higher orders of Sineaters when the Sineaters serve me so faithfully?”
With a pang of guilt for questioning the Doctor even by proxy and with permission, Richter nodded.
“The Sineaters are faithful, yes. In their mission, to carry out God’s Will as it pertains to the demons that assault our world and corrupt its people, they are a most holy instrument. But in the end, I fear that there are enemies they may be confronted with who will test their faith and break it.” Tang watched the former Sineater’s face register an understanding of this.
“You’ve already seen it, haven’t you? When the time came to deal with not just a demon, but a human that collaborated with one to corrupt this world, your own allies; your friends and close associates, lost heart, turned from the path. Only you had the strength to understand what had to be done.”
Richter frowned. It hadn’t gone exactly like that; he’d never considered the idea that in this day and age, a fellow mortal might truly and honestly collaborate willingly. As far as he knew, the people overtaken were lost from the moment of possession. But Doctor Tang had never been wrong before. Fear for the world crept over him.
“Do not hate them, James.” Tang said with a voice dripping with sympathy. “Their weakness was mortal. It is not their fault that they lacked the spiritual fortitude that you and I and the Adriel hold in our breasts. And in the end, they have served God’s purpose in spite of their weakness; they have delivered you to the Adriel.”
The older man rose from his chair and paced the room as he spoke. “That is the second purpose of the Sineaters. I watch them closely for those like yourself, who can bear the truth and stand firm on their beliefs. Those that can’t may still serve to combat the spawn of Satan as they pour into the wounded world. But very few are ready to stand against the spawns of Man himself.”
He stopped by the window, silhouetted in the lights form the lamps outside, and turned toward Richter. “The most dangerous enemy of man is ma and what he creates. Interfacers who use technology to profane their bodies. Prelates, who have become false idols and false messiahs; making the world think that material salvation is above spiritual. The so called ‘descendants’ who through no fault of their own had a second Original Sin visited upon them by the sciences of the last century. In another time, I met the monsters in the guise of Men that are responsible for that evil.”
Now, Richter felt the need to speak. “Descendants. The prelates that live here? In this town?”
Tang shook his head. “They’ve taken the name, yes, and they are almost certainly examples, but you would know them as ‘psionics’. A species that man put on this Earth in defiance of the godly order. Do not hate them. The sins they carry in their blood are not their fault. They can be saved; look to you new brother in arms, Gospel and see this is true. But just as readily, they can threaten God’s creation just as easily as the demons you’ve fought before.
“You have heard of Arjun Ravi, yes? Who made the world aware of the new Men in three days of death? I knew him, James. I watched him slowly driven mad. I found myself unable to do anything for a man I once called ‘friend’.”
This was a great deal to take in. Richter tried desperately to process it all and nodded to satisfy his leader.
“There will be no more Arjun Ravis.” Tang said levelly, coldly. “Descendants were created by the major armies of the world with the intent to wage war; to ultimately destroy God’s creation. The Adriel cannot allow these creatures with the power to do so to live.” He extended a hand and pointed to the box, still sitting on the end of the bed. “Open it, James.”
Obediently, Richter did so. Inside was a handgun. Not a modern weapon with a biometric trigger and hard disarm receiver. Not Richter’s former weapon; a bulky Desert Eagle, encrusted with runes. Instead, it was a custom device, made in the style of a revolver with an elongated and outsized chamber that housed eight bullets. The angelic symbols here were etched into circles over each chamber and on the pistol grip.
“A creation of a friend to our cause.” Tang said. “He calls it Nimrod, the Hunter. Lighter and easier to conceal than your former arm, it is treated to be undetectable by all modern means of finding weapons. As any modern arm, it can quickly eject cartridges ad special speed loaders have been included. At your exaltation, it can infuse your shots with holy light or explosive flames. I trust that you find it a fitting weapon for the leader of my now complete Adriel.”
Richter looked up from admiring the weapon in astonishment.
He didn’t have to say anything, Tang nodded. “It can only be you, James. No other has the faith or the leadership experience to take this task on. There is only one thing left to complete your anointment; the blessings of Saint Drausinus, which we have come back to the place you were betrayed to receive. Do not feel worry, my friend. Once Bezak and Harbonah return with the location you require, you will be unstoppable.”
As Chaos, he tore through the twilight sky above Mayfield on a cushion of wind that flared his cape. His arms were at his sides to allow some measure of aerodynamics for his decidedly non-aerodynamic shape. In his visor, an overlaid icon marked Staunton Importers with a red aura.
“Ian!” A wave of black rose up in front of him, throwing him into a fit of back pedaling in the air until he came to a hover. The wave resolved into Alexis, lovely even cloaked in both her cowl and black heat.
His mind jigged and he sputtered. “Chaos, Al—Darkness. We can’t go around calling each other our real names like this.”
“We’re almost fifty stories up.” She chided. “And I’m not worried about Chaos, I’m worried about Ian.” She floated closer to him. “You’ve hardly said a word since we left, what’s wrong? Are you upset we’re missing the ball?”
“It’s nothing, Alex.” He said softly and tried to float up over her.
She was much more maneuverable in the air than he and easily blocked his path. “Ian,” Her tone was sharp now. “You know how I feel about hiding things from each other. Tell me what’s going on; maybe I can help.”
“I don’t think you can this time.” Chaos replied. “The only thing that’ll help is putting these guys away but good. Pratt should have dropped Richter in Braddock Island in the first place, considering all his powered buddies.”
He let himself bob slowly to the side, waiting to see if she’d still try and stop him.
Instead, she fell in beside. “You don’t talk about the Sineater thing.” She noted. “Morganna did far worse – threatened far worse. The Academy too. But you don’t censor yourself about them. What is it about the Sineaters that dig at you so much?”
Chaos built up his speed again, knowing his partner could easily match him. “I don’t know if I can explain this. Let me ask you a question; you love teaching, right? I mean, now and back before… all this, it’s something you wanted to do and it’s important to you, right?”
“You know it is.” She said, not knowing where the discussion was going form there.
“Then doesn’t it burn you up even more than it does the rest of us that the Tome used something so important to you as a front for their dirty ways?” Alexis didn’t respond. Her silence was all the agreement he needed. “That’s what this is like for me. Richter almost killed Crawford, an innocent man—“
“He was part of a hate group.” Alexis reminded him sternly. “Not that it warrants death, but Aaron Crawford isn’t a saint.”
“Granted.” Chaos said, “But from what I heard from them, they’ve done it before to people whose only ‘evil’ was getting one of those things in their head.”
“I understand that.” Alexis’s hand sought Chaos’s, even though the bulky gauntlets he wore prevented most meaningful contact. “But what does that have to do with the Academy using teaching as a facade?”
“Because the Sineaters use faith and God to justify what they do.” Chaos replied.
“I’m still not following.” Alexis said. “I know you volunteer at St Drausinus, but since I’ve known you, you’ve never gone to a service or a Mass. You’ve never talked about praying.”
“It’s not that kind of religious.” He said. “I can’t really agree with everything any of the established groups say are the rules, and I can’t even say that I’m sure we can really know God’s will, but I believe in a loving being that’s behind it all. And that’s my problem with the Sineaters and guys like Stiles. They twist it; use God to justify hate and hurting people to push their agenda.”
“They’re wrong.” Alexis offered. “You know that.”
“That’s the problem.” Chaos replied. “I don’t. Neither do they, but they’ve got a kind of certainty that I don’t have and… it bothers me. I like to think that protecting people, doing good by everyone and trying to lift as many people as I can up is the right thing and something God would approve of. But these guys—these sons of bitches; How can they be so damn sure?”
They flew in silence for a long while, before Alexis finally spoke up. “I can’t tell you, Ian. At least not in a way that would remove all doubt. I don’t—I’m… not religious. I’m not even really spiritual. But you’ve said this better yourself than I ever could; we have the ability to make the world better; to stop the Sineaters and everyone else that wants to make it worse. We can’t just stand by… even if we’ve got doubts. And frankly? I don’t like the idea of a world where God didn’t think the same.”
Chaos took a long breath. She was right in that she couldn’t remove his doubt, but he didn’t want to say that. He didn’t know what he was about to say. In fact, he didn’t get a chance to say it as they topped a warehouse and Staunton Importers came into view, and the sight of it took the words away.
The front wall of the building was scorched, the windows blown out and the two antique, wooden doors blown off their hinges. Smoke wafted from the shattered windows.
Chaos cursed as he touched down and in the same motion pulled the front of his uniform up over his face. After a fire earlier in the year, Laurel had redesigned it for this purpose, affixing the front collar with special micro fibers to scrub smoke or other toxins from the air. Beside him, Darkness did the same with her similarly modified scarf.
“Codex.” Darkness said into her com. “Send the fire department and MPD to Staunton Importers it looks like the Sineaters got here before us.”
A sound from inside caught Chaos’s ear. Someone was coughing and moaning as if the act of coughing was causing them pain. “Have her call an ambulance too.” He said, rushing forward.
Inside the importers was more of the scene from outside. The place had been torn apart, both by whatever left the scorch marks and by some incredibly sharp blade that had split counters and gouged the wall. A bookcase had been toppled over and beneath it was a heavyset man who sported fern patterned burns along one exposed arm.
The trapped man coughed again, causing the bookcase to shift and further crush his rib cage. He hissed in pain, which only provoked more coughing. But this time, Chaos held the case steady.
“It’s okay, sir, I’m here.” Chaos pushed his power into the smoky air around the man, forcing fresh air into its place. At the same time, he got a shoulder under the bookcase and levered it up half way.
Gulping air, the man stared at Chaos with tears in his eyes. “Thank god for you, sir, thank god.”
Chaos wondered if the man would say the same if he knew who it was that attacked him.