Issue #43 – Love You Madly

This entry is part 8 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 4: Confluence

Part 6

Facsimile scrambled out of the line of fire as the X-91 she thought she’d blinded sent twin beams from its plasma lances in her direction.

The machine she’d knocked down was having trouble righting itself, lacking to necessary articulation to push off the ground while on it’s back, but getting both the momentum and the surprise factor needed to actually knock one down was more difficult than she had hoped, thanks to dual pneumatic hammers in the machines’ ‘hands’ knocking her away.

The lances, originally designed to cut steel, had little trouble burning a path through the panel truck she’d ducked behind and she was forced to drop to the pavement to avoid beheading. The machines would either smash through the truck of simply walk around at any moment, so she had to think quickly.

Making use of enhanced strength, she uprooted a parking meter and with it, she rolled under the truck, She found herself staring up at the chassis of one of the X-91’s, the one whose weapon she’d dinged with the thrown tire.

It targeted her instantly with that same weapon and fired, point blank.

What looked like a minor dent in the housing of the lance was in reality pinching a key cooling hose. Without it, the interior of the weapon spiked to critical levels while firing, igniting the pressurized hydraulics that powered the hammer stored along side it in the arm.

The robot’s entire forearm from the elbow down blasted apart in a white-hot spatter of metal, glass and rubber that made Facsimile hiss in agony even as she counted her blessings that she wasn’t cut in half by the weapon.

Before the robot could reorient to what was now a sparking mass of wires hanging from its elbow, she rolled between it’s legs only to find the one she had effectively blinded standing at the ready.

She wouldn’t luck out twice, so instead of depending on that, she struck out with the parking meter, pole first. Propelled by her prodigious strength, the pole punched through the machine’s kneecap, crushing and dislodging hydraulics and servos as it went.

Robbed of locomotive support, the leg snapped under the robot’s weight. Facsimile shifted into a boa constrictor and slithered away to avoid the thrashing, falling hunk of metal.

She resumed her normal crime-fighting form to find the odds against her better, but not by much. Two of the X-91’s were down, one of those crippled; another had only half it’s armament left, but two and a half of the machines was still a deadly threat given how much energy she’d burned by constantly shifting.

The final undamaged robot sighted in on her even as the one armed bandit turned to reacquire her.

Breathing hard through her nose, she summoned up her reserves and caused a two foot long bone blade to grow from the back of each wrist.

A dark shape dropped down from above onto the head of the undamaged machine. In the process, it broke a handful of pinkish pellets on the sensor array, which in turn spattered a rapidly expanding and hardening foam across the ‘head’ region.

With the foe blinded, the newcomer bounded off its shoulders, threw a line with a magnetic grapnel at the robot’s leg in midair, and landed atop the panel truck. Not finished with their trick, they ran along the top of the truck to a light pole, over which they looped the line before leaping to the ground and hauling hard.

Blinded, off balance and fighting the leverage provided by the light pole, the machine went over face first and hard into the pavement.

Facsimile was so stunned that she almost forgot to duck as the other X-91 fired its remaining plasma at her. For a second, she was ready to thank Codex for the assist. But only for a second, because that was all the time it took to recognize that the figure’s suit wasn’t Codex’s blue and white, but a more malevolently familiar matte black.

You!” She bellowed at the thief that had oh so recently humiliated her. “What are you doing here?”

Heard about the hostages on my scanner.” He explained, perching on top of a car. He wasn’t currently under attack and made no effort to help her further. “And since I figured you were indisposed with my OC-entangler, I figured I’d help out.”

Facsimile dodged another plasma bolt, hefted a manhole cover and flung it with all her might at the machine, only to see it bought down with an expert shot by the robot. “What do you care? You’re a thief.”

Only my day job.” He replied. “But, I’ve done my part and now you’re on the job. I think I’ll be going.”

Don’t you dare move!” She shouted.

He responded by flicking another foam pellet across the way into the remaining machine’s sensors. “Don’t think so, Fax. That’s just one pellet, so you’ve got about twenty seconds before it breaks the foam and can see again. You can use it to catch me and save face, or you can get in there and help the—” He stopped. She was already rushing into the building. “Huh.” He shrugged to himself. “Typical.”

***

Red beams of deadly energy exploded from the five surviving tech-wings, targeting Darkness. Most of them were consumed in black heat before getting anywhere near her while others simply missed the fast flying heroine.

Madrigal. We’re done here.” Maven said urgently.

Madrigal stared blankly at Darkness flitting near the high ceiling and returning fire on the flying robots. There was something terribly familiar about all of this to him, but he couldn’t place it. “No.” He said simply. “No, it’s not over. I will find my bride, do you understand? I’m not leaving this place without her.”

There was a minor clatter from the back of the room and suddenly the Descendant, Codex emerged, replete in her blue and white bodysuit. “Everyone, the back is clear.” She announced, brandishing a metal quarterstaff. “Make your way quickly out that way and we’ll cover you.”

Being entirely ignored by their captors at this point, the diners didn’t even hesitate at the offer, clamoring on hands and knees for safety.

Seconds later, the front door was kicked in to reveal Facsimile with a feral, hungry look in her eyes.

That’s it.” Maven said. Two more heroes made them officially outnumbered, god powers or no. “If you’re not leaving without her, I will leave without you. This is a disaster of epic proportion!”

Her words were underscored by the damaged X-91 smashing through the remained of the restaurant’s frontage after Facsimile.

Mad-Mad felt dizzy. It was a simple enough plan. How had it turned into chaos and cacophony? All he wanted was his… what did he want again? What was so damned important that he’d keep himself and the only person he gave any particular damn about in a situation where they were in very real danger of being burned alive—he noticed the deadly blades growing from Facsimile’s wrists—or worse?

Wait, the only person he gave a damn about? What about his intended bride? Hadn’t he wanted her from the very day he’d received his powers? If that was truth though, why didn’t he remember her name? Was her name that important? Yes, it should be.

But if that wasn’t what he wanted, why had he fought so hard to get it? Why did the orb want so much… The orb. The eye was fully open; he knew it without looking. Was it alive, was it sentient—or was it something else entirely?

There was more fighting going on around him. Facsimile had transformed into a lion and knocked Maven to the floor in the process of dodging Nikolia’s own deadly war engine.

Nikolia. She was in danger. Danger that she’d begged him to avoid. Did he want to stop it? The Eye could. It had all the power of the Yellow World. All he had to do was ask and it would take over. It could make things better, as it always had.

Yes. Take over.

Amber light poured out, not only from the orb at the end of Madigan’s cane, but also from his eyes. Behind the yellow brilliance, his pupils had become feline slits.

He screamed wordlessly and rose up to his full height. Yellow energy wafted from his shoulders looking like unnatural flames. “Silence.” His voice wasn’t a shout, but it still carried like a thunderclap. “Be. Still.”

The outburst only served to panic the fleeing diners and staff into more urgent motion.

You will listen to me!” He roared and it shook the building with his deific ire. He crackled with amber energy, made all the more imposing by being framed directly in front of the X-91. “You will bow down and you will cry out in joy at the day you saw your new God. Mad-Mad Madi—”

It was a combination of terrible luck, tunnel vision and a simple lack of spacial awareness the likes of which few would accept in a deity.

At the culmination of his rant, he lifted the cane high, bringing it into contact with the nest of wires hanging from the X-91’s severed arm. A circuit was completed that was designed to carry enough electricity to ignite gas into plasma.

There was a flurry of blinding flashes and the ponderous robot jolted backward, crashing to the floor in a whirl of flame and screaming metal. Madigan stood.

The glow faded from his eyes, which rapidly returned to focus. He brought the orb to his face and stared at it for a silent moment. The Eye had opened so wide that for a moment, he couldn’t see the lid and its pupil had contracted so far as to be non-existent. Then slowly, the eye closed and was still.

He started to take a deep breath, and was immediately on the receiving end of a massive blast of black heat. Instinctively, he formed a shield of amber force to protect himself while he got his bearings.

The restaurant was in ruins, Maven’s machines were all destroyed, and Facsimile was savagely, ripping out the electronics housed in Maven’s armor. And Darkness was really pouring on her offense.

Two of those problems could solve each other. He gestured and a force grabbed Facsimile, still in lion form, and hurled her into Darkness, sending both women crashing through a dessert trolley. His two most immediate threat dealt with, he made his way over to Maven.

Sparks and hydraulic fluid wheezed out of her armor as she sat up. Power to her left arm must have been out because it remained locked in place, as did both legs. Her control panel was beyond recovery.

“Madrigal.” She said sternly.

“I know. Well I don’t know. Not yet. The important thing is that we need to leave.” He knelt by her side and raised the cane like a scepter. They were both encircled by a dome of yellow light. “I’m terribly sorry about this. Something… not quite right came over me. I swear I’ll make it up to you.”

The dome started to lift off from the ground. The top of it struck the ceiling and broke it apart in its passage. It paused by a second when Madigan’s eye noticed something amid the wreckage. “Ah, Stag’s Leap. We’ll call this the start of my making things up. A yellow beam flicked out and dragged a bottle of wine up after them as they disappeared through the roof.

Darkness lit out after them, leaving Codex and Facsimile to deal with the hostages.

Ian wished he could follow, but knew there wasn’t any time. Instead, he finally dropped his confused act and dropped into a chair. The moment he was off his feet, he felt like he’d never get back on them. For long minutes, he concentrated on nothing more than getting his breathing under control.

Without warning, a hand touched his shoulder. A lazy smile crossed his face. Alexis was back, things were alright and…” Turning his head, he didn’t see the face of the love of his life. Instead, he saw a fist, rapidly approaching. Then he saw the floor.

“He took the Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvingon too, you bastard!” Screamed the sommelier, clearly at the end of her patience with the night’s events.

Codex was there quickly to restrain her. “Ma’am, please. He’s just as much a victim of that madman as you are. Just come with me and I promise reparations will be made.”

The sounds of outrage moved away and after a while there were only the sounds of Facsimile picking over the abandoned meals. Then Darkness returned through the building’s new skylight. “They were too fast for me to keep up.” She reported before seeing Ian’s predicament. With a thought, she released the black heat around her. “What happened to you?”

“Wine lady hit me.” He groused, sitting up and accepting her embrace.

She chuckled. “You face down Mad-Mad Madigan and the middle aged sommelier is what put you on your back?”

“She took me by surprise.” He defended. “Plus, popping all those corks probably built up a powerful jab.” He couldn’t help but laugh at the situation though. “So Mad-Mad got away?”

Darkness grimaced and nodded. “Along with Maven. And did you see how he was acting at the end there? After he got shocked?”

“A little. He was shifting moods like Cybil; almost looked sane after getting zapped.”

She gave him a hand up and glanced back at the hole in the roof. “Not just sane. Concerned for Maven. Almost tender, really. I think we might not have to worry about me being the center of his obsession anymore.”

Ian goggled. “Mad-Mad and Maven? There’s a story for the grandkids. ‘We met in the asylum and out first date was at a classy French restaurant—robbing the joint’.”

Darkness laughed and put an arm around him. “Let’s not jump completely to conclusions. Codex is letting the General know to be on the lookout and there’s not reason for us to let our guard down. For now though, let’s get you home.” Taking a calculated risk, she gave him a kiss on the cheek. “We can continue our date there.”

“That’s why you make the plans.” Ian grinned weakly. Then he remembered the whole point of the elaborate date in the first place. “Wait!” He patted his pocket and found nothing. His other pockets yielded a similar lack of ring.

Hastily, he pulled away from her and started a frantic retracing of his steps. “Oh god, it must have fallen out when I was pretending to go nuts!”

“What fell out?” Alexis looked around without knowing what she was supposed to be looking for.

“The ring!” He froze the second he said the words. “I mean… the…” The weight of her eyes was an almost physical force he could feel without turning around. Something kicked into automatic and he got down on his hands and knees to continue the fruitless search. “I’m sorry. I wanted it to be perfect. I got the restaurant and I got Warrick to make the ring… ruby and sapphire because diamonds are carbon and carbon’s not a metal… so that wasn’t perfect. But the rest was. And it was going to be the perfect night; I’ve been keeping it secret for a month!”

Her hand caught his shoulder, cutting off the stream of consciousness babble. “Ian, we’re… not normal. Come on, stand up.” For the second time that night, she helped him up and looked him seriously in the eyes. “How many of our dates ended early because of some criminal or disaster? How many more are going to? I’ve tried to resist the reality of it, but this is our life.

“Discord and bizarreness and random peril is going to be coming our way without warning or regard to our plans. Sometimes, like today, we’re going to be separated and we’re going to know the other is in danger and won’t be able to do anything about it. It scares the hell out of me.”

Ian frowned and tried to reassure her, only to be silenced by a finger laid lightly across his lips.

“But it doesn’t scare me enough. I love you too much.” She moved her hand away from his face and laid it on his chest, giving him a wry smile that he remembered from their Academy days. “What I’m trying to say is; don’t expect the wedding to be any more traditional than the engagement… But the answer is ‘yes’.”

End Issue #43

Series Navigation<< Issue #42 – Metal XIssue #44 – It’s Official! >>

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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