Issue #41 – Machinations

This entry is part 6 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 4: Confluence

Part 2

Ten minutes earlier.

“Com check.” Said Darkness as she neared Clara Getchall’s apartment. She was far out ahead of the others and that gave her time to go over the situation tactically.

“Chaos.” Came the first reply. At her request, he was flying above roof level, keeping an eye out for an aerial ambush. “Sky’s clear as far as I can see.”

“Facsimile and Ephemeral.” The former of that pair reported. She was carrying the latter using two extra arms to fully support him beneath the canopy of her wings. They were flying low through back alleys to mask thier approach. “We should be able to see the place in a second.”

“And once we can, I will be able to mentally scan Miss Getchall’s apartment.” Ephemeral added.

“Good.” Darkness said. “Let us know the second you have something.”

“Yes ma’am.” Ephemeral replied.

“Alloy here.” The last member of the team to report in added his voice to the channel. “I’ve got Hope with me and we’re on our way.”

Isp and Osp made faint noises like sheet metal being twisted as they worked in concert to swing the pair of heroes across the city. One would stretch out, extending hundreds of tiny barbs to adhere to beams and concrete while its twin would use its own secure hold to propel Alloy and Hope (Who was secured to his back by bands of iron).

“Good.” Darkness replied. “Unless Ephemeral finds something immediately dangerous, we’ll hold position until you arrive.”

A familiar sound caught Alloy’s ear, drawing his attention to the street running parallel to his track. “You won’t have to wait very long.”

“Hmm?” Hope asked from his back. She’d been keeping her eyes tightly closed, not just to protect them from the wind of their passage, but because she couldn’t stomach watching. The rhythm of the swinging had nearly rocked her to sleep when she felt them swing in a wide arc that took them left, down in intersecting street.

Centrifugal forces caused them to rise almost perpendicular to the building they were swinging from and she nearly lost all composure. The half heard conversation over the com came into sharp relief in her mind.

“No wait… No. We can’t go faster. I don’t want to go faster. All this swinging makes me sick!”

“Then you should be happy.” Alloy directed the tentacles to swing them into a hard right turn. They jostled and bounced around a solar collection tower bearing the logo for the city’s transportation department before finally settling into another long, steady swing. “Because we’re not going to be swinging all the way there.”

At the bottom of the swing, Hope became suddenly aware of the noise Alloy had been listening to the entire time. She looked behind her and was nearly blinded by a bright spotlight. Her heart lurched in her chest.

“No.” She said, trying to sound commanding. Her mounting horror stole any effectiveness she may have achieved. So she resorted to panic. “No, no, no, no! You can’t we can’t.”

“Sorry, Hope.” He sounded genuine in that sentiment, and that would have been comforting if he didn’t also sound excited. “Z’s friend needs us.”

Hope didn’t hear him because she was pounding on his armored back with a sound like a kitchenware store collapsing.

“Time to catch the train.” Alloy said for his own benefit and sent directions to Isp and Osp.

Aboard the elevated train, the operator sounded the horn and slipped the cover panel off the emergency stop button. She didn’t follow the exploits and rumors of the Descendants, but she did know that Alloy was supposed to be a walking tank and she did not want to know which would win in a head on collision between a maglev train and a tank.

Before she could engage the system that would simultaneously cut power to the rails and deploy the brakes, the two prelates suddenly surged forward and upward out of her view.

A credit to her training, she immediately called the incident in to the control tower at City Central. She didn’t notice the light thud and slight bobbing of the train as something landed on top.

Hope screamed long and loud and for several seconds after she had realized they had landed. A panel of Alloy’s armor had bent upward and around her face to protect her from the tearing winds of high speed.

“I can’t believe you did that!” She pounded on his armor again. “What is wrong with you? We could have been killed!”

“We needed speed, the train’s fast.” Alloy replied, his Brooklyn accent more pronounced than normal. “And don’t worry; I knew we could do it.” He tapped the side of his head. “Metal sense.”

“How the hell does metal sense tell you that you can jump on top of a moving train?” She screamed at him.

“I can tell how fast a piece of metal is moving.” Alloy replied calmly. He softened the aluminum roof of the train so as to get a better grip on it. “The boys know what I know, so they knew exactly how hard to throw us to match speed.”

“Don’t ever do something like that again.” She breathed, resting her forehead against his back.

“Sorry, but the others are waiting and even with swinging, we’re no match in speed for Chaos and Darkness.” He didn’t get a reply, so he turned his attention ahead. “I promise I’ll give you more warning in the future.”

“Good.”

“Like right now. Prosperity Heights Station coming up. This is where we get off.” Before Hope could protest, Osp reached out and snagged the corner of a nearby building, using the speed imparted by the train to whip the pair back into the air.

***

Ephemeral stood on a terrace across the street from Clara’s apartment. The moment his feet touched down, his mind’s eye opened.

It was a drastically different experience than simply looking at someone through the astral side. When not astral projecting, he didn’t really see the mental landscape as hear it. People were constantly overlapping clusters of voices and tones that represented levels of conscious thought.

There were hundreds of minds in that building and those nearby. Even knowing the general location he should be scanning, it took some doing to separate and ignore them all. Given his minimal knowledge of the subject, he searched for memories of Zero.

“I’ve found her.” He announced into the com. “She is in her apartment; afraid. And she is not alone.” He reached out and sifted through more minds until her found the one that remembered the last few seconds being in the same room as Clara.

“One other person.” He said. “A woman. I can’t gather very much about her, but she is dangerous.” He hesitated at the rest of what he sensed. “Dangerous and bored.”

“Does she intend to kill Clara?” Darkness asked.

“I can’t tell.” Ephemeral pressed harder, but the woman’s mind was heavily disciplined and most of the memories had been hushed to a whisper. He had encountered minds resisting intrusion before, but this one wasn’t the same. She was hiding the thoughts from herself.

“Then we’ve got to hope for the best. Alloy, where are you?” Darkness asked over the com.

“About a block away.”

“Good. Drop Hope off on the terrace with Ephemeral so we can move Clara to her if she’s hurt. I want you and the boys to go in first.”

***

“I see.” Vorpal was talking on her own com while still seated across from her captive. “No, I understand. Don’t worry about thing here; I’ll take care of it. It sounds like you have your own situation to attend to, Mr. Vorran.” She fought hard not to smirk at that. “Of course.”

There was no indication to Clara that the conversation had ended save for Vorpal’s eyes once more focusing on her. The intruder stared at her in silence for entirely too long. “What?” She asked in a small voice.

“You’re lucky.” Vorpal said airily. “Or your friend who messaged you is at least. My boss doesn’t need them to find your friends.”

Clara shivered and shook her head. “You’re lying. He doesn’t know where they are. They’re…. they’re safe.” She repeated that a few times to make sure she believed it.

Vorpal stood up in a slow, fluid motion. “Be careful who you call a liar. I took pains to make you comfortable.” She laid hands on the bar that secured Clara to the chair. It tightened briefly and painfully. “That wasn’t required of me.”

Refusing to let tears flow, Clara screwed her eyes closed. “Then why not let me go? I’m of no use to you now.”

A laugh came from Vorpal, theatrical and cruel. “I’m a hired hand of organized crime. If you weren’t of any use to me, I don’t think that would warrant letting you, a witness to your own kidnapping and false imprisonment, go.”

She was about to say more, but her attention was attracted to the window. Beneath her mask, she smiled. The night wouldn’t be so boring after all.

A circle of silver flashed briefly over the window and less than a second later, a round of glass tipped out onto the carpet. Isp and Osp snaked in through the opening and bought Alloy through after them.

“Get away from her.” The armored hero ordered before even seeing who was there. When he did, he was forced to backtrack. “You?” He only knew Vorpal from the night Morganna returned; the night she helped Hope save his life.

Vorpal flexed her hands and rolled her shoulders in preparation to a fight. “Yes. You should leave now.”

“I’m her to help her.” Alloy inclined his head toward Clara. He raised his hand to unbind her from the bar imprisoning her. Vorpal put her hand on it and he suddenly felt as if he was trying to do so with his bare hands instead of his powers. “Wha…”

Before he could get over his confusion, She had thrown herself at him, flexed hands ready to strike. Isp and Osp rose up, but found themselves unable to wrap around her. That had happened before, they recalled.

Twin chops came down across Alloy’s ribs. His armor did nothing to protect him from it, crumpling as if it were made from tin foil. His breath left him and he stumbled back.

Vorpal rocked back on her heels and struck him with a palm-heel strike to the sternum with similar results. “Didn’t expect that did you?” She asked. She slapped both hands on the sides of his helmet and the eye slits of his visor closed, blinding him.

“My powers, how are you—“

My powers.” She swept his legs and sent him to the ground. “And don’t forget that. It’s the reason I—“A gold striped tiger slammed into her from the direction of the window, dragging her to the floor and away from Alloy.

“And you didn’t see that coming.” The tiger snarled in Facsimile’s voice.

If being pinned by a jungle cat in a metropolitan apartment building rattled Vorpal any, she refused to show it. Getting what little leverage she could by throwing back her shoulders, she kicked the big cat hard in the side.

Facsimile may have looked like a tiger, but she still only weighted as much as a teenaged girl. The kick lifted her enough to the side for the villainess to roll out from under her.

“Let me guess:” She said, kipping up and getting her back to the wall. “The Descendants are looking for the Interfacers too.”

Facsimile reverted to the shape of a statuesque, golden woman, forgoing the wings for the time being. “No, not really. We were in the neighborhood and saw some evil afoot. Let’s hear some more about these… Interfacers you say?”

“You’re a terrible liar, goldilocks.” Said Vorpal. “Which doesn’t really gel with the shapeshifting.”

“Okay, fine.” Facsimile amended. “Tell us what we need to know or we’ll mop the floor with you.”

Alloy finally managed to force the holes open in his visor. “And tell us who you are.”

“Oh please.” Vorpal scoffed. She glanced at Alloy. “And you seriously haven’t figured it out? I figured it out the first time I ran into you up close. The stupid fake accent’s a nice touch though, Brooklyn.”

Outside, the wind howled.

Facsimile tsked. “No head games, lady. The others are right outside and there’s nowhere for you to go.”

“Nowhere? Really?” Vorpal asked. “In case you haven’t been paying attention, the name’s Vorpal.” She made a hand motion in the direction of the wall behind her. Alloy registered something moving in his metal sense seconds before a section of it came apart in a dozen thin slices. “Snicker-snack.”

Before either of the young heroes could react, she performed a back flip that took her through it and down a similar hole torn into the floor.

“Shit.” Alloy pushed the confusion caused by Vorpal’s words to him to the back of his mind and opened his com. “It’s Vorpal! She’s trying to get out through a lower floor. I’m going after her.”

***

In another part of town, a courier stopped his bike at the address he was given and had to double check what was written on his list. Luckily, the instructions said to leave the package on the loading dock, because he had a bad feeling about any package being sent to an abandoned building.

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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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