Issue #48 – Inexorable

This entry is part 14 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 4: Confluence

Comic Book Heroes Part II

He started forward, pounding a fist into his palm. The gray light of early morning glistened off of biceps the size of a normal man’s head and a chest broad enough to serve breakfast for a family of four on. “We got a message for the people of Mayfield.” Golden locks were flipped in an impressive cascade as he spoke in an exaggerated German accent.

A black man, equally buff, but a bit shorter and with a shaved head stepped up beside him, crossing his beefy arms. “Ja, they better listen up.”

“Ja, listen up good.” Another man, not as deeply tanned as the first, and with a close cropped cut of brown hair appeared on the other side of him.

“Because we,” A woman who was a match for any of the three men leapt atop some sort of platform behind them so that her waist was above the head of the first man for anyone facing them head on. She clapped once and flexed her guns. “Are de Brüt Force!”

At this, they all went into a series of flexes in perfect synch. They’d practiced this often. Finally, the lead man pointed straight ahead. “And it’s too bad for de Descendants on their big day.”

“Cause they’re gonna be crushed.” The second man drove his point home by shattering a cinderblock between his hands. “Crushed because dey won’t be able to get in on de savings at de Brüt Force Super-Gym.”

“But if you got enhanced strength, come on down.” The third man said. “We can train you. We have equipment dat can challenge you without breaking.”

The woman flexed again. “Dat’s de Brüt Force Gym on de corner of Rami Street and Great Plaza Boulevard, Mayfield, Virginia.”

Not far away, and not particularly hidden from view, three teenage girls lounged under a tree, watching lazily.

“Sometimes it’s good to get up early.” Cyn said, her eyes glazed over. “Look at all the yummy.”

“That’s a lot of beefcake.” Kay agreed. “And She-beefcake.”

Cyn and Lisa glanced at her.

“There’s not a word for a ripped chick.” She shrugged. “Chick-cake?”

“That’s terrible.” Lisa laughed. “Cyn, I can’t believe you of all people woke us up at seven in the morning.”

“I don’t see you leaving.” Cyn teased.

“I have a boyfriend.” Lisa said haughtily.

“And I don’t. So you’re here to support me and Kay.” Cyn retorted. “Besides, how often does Pratt call Laurel with awesome news like ‘a gang of super-bodybuilders wants to shoot an ad in Wagner Park, can you please not kick their asses?’ I’m not made of stone.”

“Whoa, hold on.” Kay said. “You don’t have a boyfriend? What about Ollie?”

“We’re dating.” Cyn said. “There’s a difference. It’s not like we’ve done anything worth writing about though. The guy’s sweet, but so undependable; half the dates we’ve made, he had to call to break them…”

“Or you had to.” Lisa supplied for her. God knew, she knew how that went.

“Yeah,” Cyn returned her attention to the Brüt Force, who were going for a take with more flexing and some bending of metal bars. “So no boyfriend. Not yet.”

Kay heard the frustration in her friend’s voice and decided to change the subject. “So what are you going to be up to today? My money’s on soaking in the praise from your fans, but I’m hoping you’ll take some time to stop by the block party to hear us play.”

“As me, or as famous me?” Cyn asked, eyes still focused on the show being put on nearby.

“Well famous you would bring more attention to the band…” Kay put a finger to her lips as she mulled over the idea. Would Facsimile showing up be good advertising, or would it distract from the music?

“But,” Lisa nudged Kay out of her thoughts with her elbow. “We really just want to have our friends at our biggest show to date.”

Cyn snorted at the interplay between the two band-mates. “Sure I’ll be there. And if you think it’ll get more people to buy your album, famous me will show up and make a big, huge deal about how awesome you are.” An impish expression played on her lips. “On one condition.”

“Name it!” Kay said with a bit too much enthusiasm to be courteous.

The white haired girl settled back and pointed to the combined half ton or rippling, well oiled muscle that was the Brüt Force. “We enjoy this while it lasts. Seriously, I turned down checking out a jailbreak to see all this yummy.”

***

Dennis McCalla led Chaos and Darkness to the end of the corridor leading to Pod 26. Past two security gates that had been pulled out of their tracks and tossed aside, and an emergency blast door that had risen all of two feet before being bent so violently that it could rise no more, there was a set of metal double doors that had been kicked open.

They could tell they’d been kicked open because there was a footprint distorting the solid inch of steel.

“As you can see.” McCalla said dryly and with a bit of arrogance, “This was not a normal man.”

In other facilities, McCalla would be called a warden. For whatever bureaucratic reason, the warden at Winston-Buckles was just the Administrator. In response, he’d cultivated an attitude that made sure his guards and the inmates knew that there was still a warden there, title or not title.

He led them past the crew of maintenance workers laboring to replace the doors and into the pod itself. It wasn’t much: two rows of five cells stacked atop one another, facing an identical set of cells across an open gulf in the middle of the room. One of thirty in the facility. The inmates had been moved to Pod 1 until the security of 26 could be assessed.

At the end of the bottom left row, a cell door lay several feet from the cell itself, the bars bent.

McCalla anticipated their question. “He didn’t take the door off the hinges, we did that for medical. His cellmate was in bad shape: broken ribs, fractured vertebra; he’s not expected to last the week.”

Darkness nodded. “We can be sure enhanced strength is in play. But General Pratt also mentioned there was something else unusual here?”

The not-quite warden nodded. “Maybe you’ve heard of the Federal Ability Inquiry Act. The police and prison officials can ask for a psionic latency test for known genetic markers and if we have proper evidence, we can obtain a warrant to administer one.”

“We’re familiar with it.” Darkness nodded. It was part of the civics curriculum, both at the Academy and the Liedecker Institute. “What about it?”

“This guy,” McCalla jerked his head toward the cell, “Willis. He took the test voluntarily. He came back negative.”

“So not a descendant.” Chaos deduced. He surveyed the destroyed door. “But this didn’t get kissed open by adorable kittens. Do you check for implants? Maybe he was a spark jockey.”

McCalla hemmed unhappily. “Of course we check for implants. This isn’t an amateur operation. He had a full medical exam two months ago: no implants of any kind.”

“Sorry.” Darkness said for her fiance, “It’s wishful thinking. Because if the test is right, and he isn’t a descendant…”

“There’s a short list of ugly options.” Chaos finished for her.

“Like what?” McCalla asked. He was still obviously fuming over the question of implants.

Chaos looked up from the door, his expression serious. “I’m going to say this once and with all seriousness: Magic.”

Surprising both of them, McCalla didn’t crack a smile, or look incredulous. In fact, his expression looked even more grave. “Then my men monitoring the video feeds are going to be glad to hear they’re not crazy. Come on, I’ve got something you both need to see.”

Minutes later, they were escorted into a dimly lit room dominated by a large, blank screen against the far wall. Several dozen images were being projected onto it, surrounding two larger, central images, all views of different rooms and corridors in the prison.

Two men sat in half height cubicles, manning consoles that controlled the projected images. One looked up as they came in. He was in his late sixties with a heavily lined face and a well practiced squint that he now turned on the heroes. A cigarette rested between his lips, unlit.

“These men are our morning shift on surveillance duty.” McCalla closed the door behind Chaos and Darkness. “Hank Tempe,” The old man nodded, “And Aaron Kelso.” The other man, young and dark skinned, but of indeterminate race, held up a hand in greeting without turning around.

“Gentlemen, these are Chaos and Darkness. Prelates from down in Mayfield.” He kept his tone nonchalant and bored. “They’re here to take in last night’s show. Put it on the big board.”

Hank ducked his head and turned back to the console, making selections and adjustment with practiced gestures. “Hell of a job you folks do.” He commented as he rearranged the images on his side of the screen, bringing a new one into the lead position.

“Thank you.” Darkness said. “”We’re thankful to you too, for keeping the men we catch locked up.”

“Didn’t do a damn bit of good this time.” Hank said frankly. “”Course, we aren’t set up here for super types.” Then to McCalla, “Ready to play.”

McCalla nodded and the playback began from the perspective of a camera overlooking the bottom two rows of Pod 26.

“Can’t we see inside the cells?” Chaos asked.

“Not legally. Not with cameras.” McCalla shook his head. “We can’t record them in their cells because they sleep, hit the head… other things you aren’t allowed to record without consent or a court order. That’s why we have frequent guard patrols: to make sure they don’t get up to too much in there.”

On screen, there was a flash.

Chaos looked to Darkness. “Did you see that?”

“Pink flash.” She nodded. “Could be an Astral rift opening.”

As the video played out with the guards rushing to investigate, McCalla frowned at them. “What’s that mean.”

“One of a lot of bad things.” said Chaos. “That’s close to a confirmation that this is magical and not… a descendant…” His voice trailed off as Wills bent open the door and assailed the guards. “Pause it!” Hank did. “Back a few frames.”

The frozen image showed Jay Willis facing the camera. On his arms were intricate manacles and resting upon his brow was a glowing silver circle.

“I think that’s all the confirmation we need. Shit.”

“We’d better hurry and find him.” Darkness said, “There’s no telling what this man will do with that sort of power at his disposal. He could be wreaking terrible havoc as we speak.”

***

“And you have a wonderful day too.” Jay Willis smiled at the clerk as she handed him his bag. It joined several others he was carrying.

Tireless as a side effect of his new powers, he had run for hours, eventually arriving in a town called Lake of the Woods, where it suddenly occurred to him that with his new strength and durability, wealth was as simple as ripping one of the old fashioned cash dispensing ATMs right out of the side of a bank.

“By the way, do you mind if I use your changing room?” He flashed the clerk his most charming smile and lowered his voice, “I sort of ripped my pants…” There was no way she could tell with the rain poncho he’d purchased from a vending machine down the road covering his prison jumpsuit.

She smiled back, though he was unsure of if it was because she found him charming, the situation funny, or the six hundred dollars he’d just dropped in her till impressive. “Of course, sir.” A key was pressed into his hand and she pointed him toward the dressing rooms.

Nodding his thanks, Jay quickly went into the room and locked the door. Something made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.

A moment later, a disc of pink light appeared in the middle of the room. Manikin rose out of it, expression neutral, waxing to stern. “You’re delaying.” She said simply.

Somehow, Jay had been expecting to see her again. The oaths he’d been forced to swear for his power were a mundane clue, but he felt it was something else that made him expect her intrusion.

“No, I’m not.” He deigned to look at her, laying clothing items from his bags out on the bench set along the back side of the room instead. “I had to prepare myself, you know what I’m saying? This is a damn big thing you’re asking.”

“You have been made into the Knight Inexorable.” She stated. “What other preparation is necessary?”

He shrugged off the poncho and started to unzip the prison jumper. There was no point in being modest in front of her, he reasoned, she wasn’t human. “It’s like this: The Descendants are having this big day because of that comic book thing, right?”

Manikin didn’t answer. She actually didn’t know or care.

Jay started getting dressed, starting with the pants. “Right. So what I’m saying is, if I’m gonna take ’em out today, it’s gotta be with style. I want my face in that book, to get my fifteen minutes out of ’em.”

He broke off his explanation while he got the rest on: Heavy black combat boots with metal buckles, white track pants with purple stripes up the sides, a tight fitting, sleeveless white shirt with a thick purple stripe starting at the neck and narrowing at the belly. White leather, fingerless gloves, and a wide leather belt with a silver ‘I’ belt buckle capped off the villainous costume.

“And to make that happen, you’ve got to get the look right.” He informed Manikin. The golem stared for a moment, then nodded her approval.

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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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