Issue #41 – Machinations

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

Part 3

Chunks of reinforced glass pelted into the room like hail ahead of the imposing figure of the winged assassin, Samael. Codex had only seen him in passing, but she recognized his voice and the mask that concealed his face, silver in contrast to his mahogany skin.

Otherwise, he looked nothing like he had when he had attacked hero and villain alike during Morganna’s return. Instead of a bronze breastplate, he was shirtless in defiance of the chill wind, protected only be a round, silver pectoral.

His wings had also changed. The last time, they had been feathered with steel quills in fierce imitation of a real bird. His new wings were composed of interlocking plates that resembled iron shutters more than wings save for the basic shape.

As he landed in the room, just behind Liedecker’s chair, the plates shifted over one another along the ridge of the wing support, collapsing into long knives with wickedly curved blades. They scythed down in a deadly X, destroying the chair, but missing Liedecker who threw himself forward in the nick of time.

She was on her feet before the philanthropist had finished rolling, freeing her collapsible staff from her belt. “Get Liedecker out of here.” She didn’t bother listening for Zero’s reply. With one step between her seat and Liedecker’s desk, she vaulted it using the force of the staff’s extending springs.

One foot landed on top of Samael’s extended wing blade, the staff swept the other deadly weapon aside to clear the way for a swift straight punch below his pectoral. It felt as if she’d just landed a punch on concrete.

A growling laugh escaped Samael. “An added bonus. I get to be the first man in Mayfield to kill a prelate.” Jerking the blade Codex was standing on roughly upward, he flipped her hard onto the desk, scattering Liedecker’s effects.

Both wings came down, only to miss Codex as she somersaulted to the other side. The desk cracked and split in places under the assault, but its construction held, causing one of the blades to stick fast.

“I’ve got you sir.” Zero darted past the trapped appendage to help Liedecker to his feet.

“Thank you kindly.” Liedecker said amiably.

Zero quietly wished that she could achieve the dissonant calm it took to be that polite in a crisis. She didn’t have much time to consider that as Samael sent his other weapon toward Liedecker’s back.

Ice three inches thick blocked it, forming spontaneously over the arm Zero had around Liedecker. She turned a fierce glare on the assassin and missed the same thing from Liedecker. “Clara doesn’t have time for this.” She murmured.

Samael twisted the stuck blade, cracking the top of the desk enough to free it. “I’ve got no idea who you’re talking about. But you don’t’ have much time either.” He struck out with both blades.

Pushing Liedecker behind her, Zero formed another ice shield to block the strike and direct the wings into the floor where she sealed them in a rime of frost. “Vorran!” She shouted at him. “Eduardo Vorran! I know he sent you and I know he took her friends.” She charged him, swinging for his face with an ice shield.

A forearm block somehow shattered the bludgeon. He sneered at her. “Stupid girl. I’m pretty much goddamn invincible.” Flexing the wing struts, he broke them out of the ice that held them, drawing them back in a scissoring motion that came at Zero from behind.

“Watch out!” Codex swung her staff underhand to force one of the blades upward into the ceiling. Zero blocked the remaining one with her other shield. “We’ve got to be rational about this, Zero.” Her tone made it clear that was an order.

Keeping the blade she’d caught pinned in the ceiling, Codex drew her taser from her belt and fired it into Samael’s chest.

Where physical blows failed, Samael clearly felt the sting of the electricity. “Bitch.” He growled through gritted teeth. The plates in the blocked wing expanded back into their wing configuration, breaking apart the ceiling tiles and causing a cloud of powdered ceramic to fall on Codex.

The gambit failed. Codex kept her grip steady on the taser’s trigger, only moving to shield herself from the debris with her free hand.

“I can’t be rational.” Zero made a fist and covered it over in a thick crust of frost. Faint sparks of blue light played over the crystals. “I made a promise.” She swung wildly in the direction of Samael’s face.

He caught the blow with a cross block using his own arms and instantly regretted it. Hoar frost spread from the icy fist and across his exposed arms, carrying with it stinging pain.

Zero saw him grimace in pain and pressed the advantage. “I promised to find her friends. Tell me where they are!” This time, her punch was stopped by the shielding motion of his wing, which then reversed itself to slam her back.

“I told you, I don’t know what you’re jawing about.” Samael’s other wing shifted back into blade mode and sheered the line of Codex’s taser. He couldn’t mask his relief from being free of that. While the pectoral prevented physical harm, it did nothing to lessen the pain. “I’m just here to do a job.”

“And the Descendants exist to make sure you stay out of business.” Codex twisted a section of her staff and it shortened, splitting in half. Stubby handles extended from each half so they could be used as tonfa.

Samael met her gaze through his mask and her goggles. “Killing prelates isn’t business. It’s a vacation.” The other wing shifted into a blade and he bought them both into a ready position.

The com in Codex’s ear chirped and she tilted her head to listen. “I understand.” She said aloud.

A rumbling laugh left Samael. “Good.” With that, he charged. The wing blades swept forward to destroy the desk and clear his path.

“I wasn’t talking to you.” Codex intoned. She didn’t move until her was nearly on top of her, blocking both sideways swipes from his weapons with her tonfa and ducking a thrown punch.

Before Samael could produce a rejoinder, a pair of ice knives shattered on his mask, flowed by another and another until he was forced to spare one of this wings to shield himself.

Zero formed two more daggers, not so much growing them from the vapor as causing them to flash into existence in bursts of blue light. These two she held on to, ready to lose on the slightest provocation.

“Tell us what we want to know.” She ordered flatly. All signs of her normal cheerful persona evaporated. “Where is Clara? Where are her friends?” The temperature in the room was dropping steadily.

Samael narrowed his eyes and scanned the room. Liedecker was no longer in evidence. What game was he playing at, ordering an attack on himself under the name of his rival? And what did that have to do with what the cloaked prelate was accusing him of?

The one thing that was clear was that his part in whatever was going on was done. He would have liked to have killed a prelate in the process, but with the element of surprise having worn off, the fight was more than fair and swiftly starting to weigh against him. It was time to leave.

Codex leapt at him with her tonfa and he let her come. The power of the pectoral let him block her overhand strikes with his bare forearms as he took a step back. The wing that wasn’t dedicated to protecting against ice daggers swept out to catch one of the chairs overturned in the first moments of battle. Codex evaded it neatly, but it cost her position and gave him precious seconds to continue his retreat.

His foot hit ice and he nearly went over if not for his dropping the guarding wing to support him. He paid for it as two more ice daggers broke on his mask, chunks of one lodging in the slit over his left eye.

“Where. Are. They.” Zero punctuated each word with a throw. The last came in the form of a bullet of blue energy instead of ice. Samael struggled to stay upright between the assault and the frozen floor.

“I told you, I don’t know.” He barked.

“Zero.” Codex said firmly.

The angry teen either didn’t hear her or didn’t care. Razor frost was growing rampantly wherever she stepped and now she was throwing nothing but blue fists of force.

Samael crossed his fully open wings before him to block as he finally reached the broken window he’d entered through. “Tell Liedecker that this isn’t over.” Chancing an opening, he snapped open the wings so that they opened outside the window and snapped them forward into the unmarred windows on either side.

A new storm of shattered glass swept into the room and under that cover, the assassin leapt into flight.

Zero made a fist in front of her and an oblong plane of cerulean light interposed itself between her and the flying glass. Blue flashed to white where shrapnel was repelled. She dropped the shield as soon as possible, only to see her quarry escaping in steel wings.

Tears stung her eyes. She had promised. This was her responsibility and she had failed. The room was lit by the cold, blue nimbus that surrounded her. A wordless scream choked from her throat as she thrust her arms forward, aping what she’d seen her father do time and time again.

Samael barely had time to dive as a bolt of blue as large around as his fist bounded past, raking sparks from the edge of his right wing and pounding a chunk the size of a volleyball out of a building across the plaza. He didn’t look back; only accelerated as far as he could.

There was no need. Zero, breathing heavily and raggedly, slumped. She hadn’t realized she was hovering until she felt Codex catch her.

“Zero.” Codex said gently. Huddled against her, the girl felt so small, so cold. She was trembling. “Zero, calm down.” She cupped the younger woman’s chin and tilted her head so their eyes met. Tears were forming in the girl’s eyes and freezing on their way down her face.

Doing her best to wipe them away, she never let her gaze drop. “You have to calm down. Chaos was who I was talking to before; they’ve found Clara. She’s okay.”

Blinking under her mask, the younger hero finally turned her efforts to getting herself under control. She was shockingly good at it. Within seconds, the rage and frustration was gone from her features and bearing, leaving the placid, slightly dull cheerfulness that usually marked her.

“That’s good.” She said with an outpouring of relief. “What about her friends?”

“Vorpal was there looking for them by the sound of it.” Codex could barely conceal her surprise at the sudden change. “We’re still ahead of the game.”

Zero nodded, raising a gloved hand to wipe away the last of her tears. “We should go help the others then. I think I found them, but when Clara didn’t answer… We need to go find them.” She paused, looking pensive for a long moment. “Codex?” She asked in a small voice.


“Please don’t tell the others.”


Dale didn’t think that there was any science behind the PSMs, Trey Phan thought to himself as he gently removed the core device from the casing of one of the weapons in question.

That was because Dale didn’t understand science at all. He understood technology. Modern technology. He wasn’t about revolutionary advances; he was about incremental improvements and building on what worked.

Neither he, nor any of the other Interfacers really had the boldness required for real science, for real improvement. They called themselves transhumanists because it was a buzzword that made them feel special. And yet, he knew they were uncomfortable with his injection cocktails and chemical therapies.

He slipped the prism and wire combination into a crude casing of his own creation. This was what real science was. An understanding that certain sets of variables came together to cause a result. When one found a result that didn’t fit your old data or hypothesis, you didn’t whine and complain that it wasn’t possible, you worked to find out why and how you could utilize this new discovery.

Changing the orientation and amount of pressure on the crystal created and propelled a photosynthetic mass with no energy input. Someone was using this technology for a weapon when it was clear to him that the energy could be better used for other purposes.

A rueful smile came to his face. Understanding all that had taken him a few hours at worst. Scrounging the parts needed to chain five of them in serial to create the device in front of him on the table had taken a week.

Let Liedecker take the others, he had everything he needed now. The Interfacers and their sad attempts at improving themselves be damned.

Someone knocked on the wall next to the old blanket that served as his door and he barely had time to throw a cover over his work before Joshua peeked in.

“Phan, Dale wants everyone in the warehouse.” He said without much casting about. He was in his mid-fifties with gray flecked brown hair. There were no obvious augmentations in him except for the odd reflections his eyes gave off: a pair of sliding lenses that served as his contact lenses with the added benefit of enhancing his night vision.

“He says it’s important.”

“Dale thinks everything’s important.” Trey muttered.

“Yes, but he says that this is a package from Belle.”

Trey glared at the older man. Like Dale, Joshua was one of Belle’s colleagues, her loyal friends and basically the high priests in her cult of personality. He didn’t even consider that some people might not be part of the ‘club’ for reasons other than sharing Belle’s swing-shift philosophy.

“I’ll be there in a minute.” He finally said. He didn’t intend to be, but it got rid of Joshua.

The moment the makeshift curtain had stilled, the cover came off the generator. The arrayed prisms glittered in the light of the bare bulb. Now all that was left was to hook it up.

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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. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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