Issue #48 – Inexorable

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

Part 3

Less than three blocks from Desiree’s building Kareem pulled Cyn’s gold humvee into a secluded alley, one that the GPS program provided by Laurel indicated as having no registered surveillance.

He put the car in park and took out his palmtop. Another program Laurel had written for him indicated the signal strength of their astral transponder network via a subtle sign in the background image. It was strong.

Putting the phone away again, he hunkered down in the seat, hoping not to be noticed through the tinted windows, and closed his eyes. Moments later, he was on the Astral Plane.

***

In another alley, one much closer to the battle, Juniper skidded to a stop beside her Genokaze flying motorcycle. Her heart was beating almost in her throat as she pressed her finger into a camouflaged biometric reader that unlocked a hidden compartment beneath the bike’s storage bin.

There was a popping sound, and when she opened the bin, the bottom lifted out, revealing her spare Zero costume. With no further ado, she pulled the light ballistic cloth tunic over her head; it did just enough to disguise her top and part of her pants to obviate the need to fully change.

Over top of that, she threw on her cloak. Just before she could affix her half mask, someone else ducked into the alley: Lisa.

She held a glowing orb of energy over her head in her right hand, which trialed sparks of red light down her arm. At first, she didn’t notice Juniper standing there because she was looking behind her. When she did, they both stared for what felt like an hour; Lisa with her spell flaring in potentia and Juniper caught red handed in her heroism.

Finally, Lisa let out a small, nervous sigh and allowed the spell that was sizzling on the edge of reality to fully form. The glamor came in two waves. The first washed over her and made her taller, exchanging her Hispanic features for decidedly Nordic ones and her dark hair for two blonde braids.

The second wave cloaked her in Occult’s red robes and black cloak with it’s all concealing hood.

Without much else to do, Juniper pulled up her own hood.

Another beat went by as one watched the other.

“So…” Occult started.

“Um, we should really go help the others.” Zero squeaked.

“Right.” the mystical heroine spoke a spell of teleportation and began to sink in a rose colored pool of light.

Zero took a moment to think, about it, then called up the blue glow inherited from her father to surround her. If Alloy and Facsimile were being manhandled, she would need every advantage.

***

By now, Alloy, Facsimile, and even Isp and Osp knew not to get within grappling distance of the man called Inexorable. When they did, pain would follow. They’d been reduced to dodging around him while he tried to get in close again.

These were not rules Facsimile would abide by for long. Taking off suddenly, she streaked skyward for sixty stories, easily over-topping the surrounding buildings. At her apex, she reshaped her body. Bone was reinforced, organs were padded out with a layer of shock absorbing muscle and fat, and bone spikes, each two feet in length grew from the bones in her arms.

Transformation successful, she somersaulted in air and dove. It wasn’t a perfectly vertical dive; instead forming a tight, steep parabola for maximum impact.

As Inexorable grew larger in her vision, she let out a shrill scream and threw her wings open. The forces involved were titanic and only a combination of practice and shapeshifting allowed her to skim inches off the ground instead of flattening against it like… well she didn’t like to consider. She came up with the full force of her dive, directing it into the villain’s back with two sharp points.

The next few moments were a blur of breaking bone and spinning. Someone grabbed her leg and The next thing Facsimile knew, she was slammed face first into the street with two broken nubs of bone where her ‘spears’ had been. The broken bones were healing slow; she would need to eat soon to keep this up.

Inexorable stood over her, cracking his knuckles. “You’d think you’d learn by now: you can’t cut me, crush me, stab me, or stop me.”

“I’ll grant that you might seem unstoppable now…” A traffic light swung in hard from behind him, knocking him away from Facsimile and twenty feet down the street. “But the unmovable object, you’re not.”

The villain rolled with the attack and came up on his feet, charging hard for Alloy where he stood with the tentacles still wielding the dented light. He’d nearly reached top speed when his feet slipped out from under him. Sliding on a newly formed sheet of ice, he collided with the corner of a building.

Zero landed across the way, still ensconced in her blue glow.

“Z!” Facsimile staggered to her feet. “Nice timing!”

“I would have gotten here sooner, but… well I’ll tell you later.” Zero said. “What does he want?”

“No idea.” Alloy directed Isp to toss the traffic light at Inexorable like a javelin while he strengthened it with his powers.

Inexorable slammed the projectile aside with two fists and laughed ruefully as he stood. “You haven’t noticed yet? I’m here for you. Every one of you hero types. Taking you out is the price I’ve got to pay for these sweet-ass magic powers.”

“Magic?” Zero asked. “Oh, well that’s nice…”

He crooked an eyebrow. “Nice?”

On the street opposite him, a rose glow appeared and grew in intensity. A chanting voice was coming from it.

Zero smiled sweetly. “Because she has magic too.”

Occult emerged from the glowing circle, a bow of light flickering in her hand, still chanting. “…in the eyes of mine enemy. Shine Heavenly Arrow!”

A brilliant, white bar of light extended from the bow and into Inexorable. He turned and thrust his hands into the torrent of energy. The lines that decorated his manacles glowed their own pure white as he stopped the torrent of magical energy cold, causing it to break and wash around him like a wave. A mist of chaotic energy curled off in a cloud around him.

Eventually, the spell played itself out against his defenses and when the nimbus of bled off energy lifted, he was still standing, with the bracers and coin glowing brightly. His lips split in a malicious smile at Occult. “No one told me about you. The way I see it, I don’t have any beef with you. You can just leave right now. My deal is for the psionics, not for you.”

In response, Occult summoned her staff . “Sorry, but I stand with my friends. Crystalline Reign!” She slammed the butt of her staff on the ground and a field of rapidly growing crystals spread out in a cone from where it landed, growing larger the further they traveled.

“Suit yourself.” Inexorable met the advancing growths head on, kicking them to shards as he marched toward her. She faced him down with a stern look.

Levanto esta pared. A shield of translucent, red scales expanded into being between them. Inexorable slammed into it with his shoulder down and it collapsed almost instantly. But Occult had expected this. The collapsing shield had blocked his view, allowing her to sidestep and swing her staff into his ribs. “Twenty Ton Crush!”

The force of an eighteen wheeler hit him squarely in the center of gravity. It would have cannoned him nearly a block down the street if a curtain of blue energy hadn’t interposed itself between him and the next street. Zero’s energy field was even more unforgiving than a brick wall, not yielding one micron as he slammed into it headfirst.

The impacts didn’t do any more harm to him than a falling snowflake, but the suddenness of the events left him confused long enough for the others to regroup along with a newcomer who dropped from the sky.

Chaos nodded to Occult as he set down. “There was a chance that he meant it when he said he’d leave you alone.”

“I’d rather throw in with you guys.” She affirmed.

Inexorable got to his feet to find Chaos, Occult, Zero, Facsimile and Alloy all arrayed in a loose arc before him. “Halfway there.” He breathed. “You would think all of you would have the courtesy to show up when this town threw you a ticker tape parade.”

“Some of us had better things to do than kick around some pumped up jackass who thinks he’s invincible.” Chaos rose into the air on a stiff wind.

***

The mobile internet networks were slowed to a crawl thanks to thousands of people sending videos, personal logs, and just plain communications into the air. Alexis scowled at her palmtop as it tried and failed once again to connect to Mayfield News Provider 4.

She hated not knowing what was going on. Willis was an unknown quantity and the fact that he was being powered by magic, made him even more unpredictable. Were the others able to deal with him? If not, could she be making a difference.

There came a knock at the door. “Miss Keyes.” It was Vincent Liedecker, the one person she couldn’t just send away. Quickly closed down her palmtop and opened the door. Liedecker was standing there in a handsome steel gray suit, black shirt, and a tie the color of dark blood.

“Oh, Mr. Liedecker. Are we ready to go on?” Her demeanor switched from concerned to an impenetrable mask of professionalism.

“Afraid not.” He shook his head. “Seems like there’s some trouble along the parade route. I just talked to the Mayor and that Will fella from Sanctum: we’re going to hold off on anything until that’s taken care of.”

“Trouble?” She feigned surprise. “What kind of trouble?”

“From what I’ve heard, it’s someone strong and tough; they don’t know if he’s a psi… descendant, spark jock, or somethin’ else. He’s going at it with the Descendants though. Just in case, I’ve already made some calls, the Institute’s security team’s rolling and I’ve got a contractor on the way to get me a better idea of what’s going on.”

Alexis nodded and pursed her lip. Finally, she said, “So it’s going to be a while then?” Liedecker nodded. “I’m going to take a little walk and get some air then.”

***

“This is so lame.” Lily Goldenmeyer had her arms folded and was watching a crowd of people knotted up around the big screen on the opposite wall of the sushi restaurant she sat in. They had been having a few drinks to wait out the parade so they could go to the block party afterward when the attack happened. “Lamer than the parade even.”

Alice Rankin shrugged and contemplated the last of her unagi roll, which she’d just fumbled off her chopsticks and into a dish of soy sauce. “I wouldn’t have minded seeing the parade.”

Lily made a rude sound. “Who cares about the parade? It’s all put up by some stupid comic company, so it’s going to be nothing but geek stuff anyway.” When Alice didn’t reply right away, she raised an eyebrow. “Oh, don’t tell me. So Callie isn’t the only one with a dirty little secret.”

She’d been looking at the wrong target, however, as it was Kim Wayne who fidgeted in her seat, trying to come up with a justification. The best she could come up with was, “It’s not like I’m one of those obsessives that only read print copies. I’ve just got a subscription on my tablet for Romantic Lives Illustrated, Jenny Watson’s Weird Life…” She lowered her voice, “Prelates of New York…”

A blush blossomed on her cheeks. “I only read it in case they have a story about Barn Owl in it. Or Sister Sacred, because she’s really cool.”

“I can’t give her too much crap over it,” Alice admitted. “My brother has a few subscriptions and… I wouldn’t pay for them myself, but some of the stories are good.”

Lily sighed unhappily. It wasn’t so much that her friends liked things she didn’t; they were so over the conserv girls thing, but why was this the first she was hearing of it? She glanced at Callie to see if she had anything to add and found her friend staring at the screen. “Callie?”

But Callie was lost in the scene of Inexorable taking on more than half of the city’s heroes and looking none the worse for wear. “I hope they’ll be okay…” She replied to words she only half heard.

“Pah. They’re getting what they deserve.” All four girls looked over to see that the voice had come from a man at the table adjacent to theirs, separated by a low divider.

He, like his five companions, was dressed casually with a homemade patch over his heart with the letters RPN stitched on it above a three eye-d frowny face inside a red circle with a slash through it. Poster board signs on posts were leaned up against the table near him. The topmost one read ‘Draft All Psionics’.

“Excuse me?” Lily demanded of him.

“This all their fault.” He gestured expansively toward the screen.

“Yeah,” a blonde woman across the table from him agreed, “If stupid people weren’t throwing them a holiday, none of this would be happening. In fact, can you even think of a single time we had something like this happen in Mayfield before they showed up?”

Alice gave them an incredulous look. “My dad’s a cop and yes I do. He told me all about stuff like that happening on his shift; that’s why the cops have flight capable cruisers now!”

Another man from the group scoffed at this. “All of ’em committing the crimes were psionics, I bet.”

“Or a one of those freaks that puts machines in their body.” The original man said. “Though now they blame this kind of bullshit on magic.” He wiggled his fingers in derision. “But we all know no normal people would need flying cars to catch them.”

Callie scowled. “You know that they have powered armor, right? And jetpacks? And.. and other cars people can buy that fly, right?”

“Not better than one of those freaks, I bet.” Yet another woman, this one a redhead by way of a bottle, snickered.

Before she even realized she was doing it, Callie shot to her feet. “That’s it! Laugh and… and hate us all you want. Be as mean as you want, but they’re out there helping people. Saving their lives while all you do is make fun of… of m… people because of how they were born!” Her voice was uneven and tears formed in her eyes.

The next thing she knew, Lilly was standing up with her, along with Kim and Alice. “Yeah, you guys are complete gobheads.” Lily added.

Callie smiled. “Right. So… um… that guy… that big and scary guy: he’s going to hurt people. He sounds like he wants to kill them. And since other people can’t… well I’m going to go help.” She licked her lips and looked back to her friends, seeing a mixture of shock and approval on their parts.

“Let’s go.” She whispered to herself and dashed from the restaurant with as much superhuman speed as she could muster.

***

He tore through a curtain of liquid metal with his bear hands and didn’t miss a step, even when a fireball impacted on his chest. The smoke made him cough and felt uncomfortably gritty in his eyes, but that was inconsequential when he was able to power through the flames on the way to closing with Facsimile.

The way he saw it, the shapeshifter was going to be hardest to kill and best at distracting him. She’d have to go first.

A ceramic armored fist blindsided him from the right, aimed right at his jaw. He clenched his jaw and neck muscles and took it full on. It was the ceramic that cracked and he heard Chaos exclaim in pain. Reflexively he grabbed the man’s arm and flung him away, full force into the large windows of a nearby clothing store. The robotic models in the window did little to break his fall.

“Now we’re down to punches?!” He laughed, closing the gap between him and Facsimile. The shapeshifter was mocking him by leaning against a barbecue cart, not even trying to get out of the way. “Why don’t you all just line up and let me make it quick?”

His fist flew for her head. If he could crush it in one blow, she wouldn’t be able to think to reform herself. At least that was the plan. What actually happened was, his fist struck her head, and was stuck fast in her right ear.

Facsimile grinned at his expression. “I love this trick. No matter how tough you are, this is just squixotic.”

Inexorable tried to pull his hand free, but the shapeshifter melted and ran along with it, providing enough resistance to slow him, but not enough for him to sheer her. It was then that he saw where her other hand was: in the pot of barbeque pork. At least it had been barbecue pork; now it was just a cauldron of pulsating gold. The other pots were simply empty.

“Ugh.” He felt his belly roll at the implications. “Well I can take it. And I’m not stupid enough to try and hit you again. I’ll just drag you along by the head.”

She imitated a buzzer. “Sorry, Charlie, but this tar baby hits back.” She lifted the arm in the pot, forming the new mass into a cartoonishly huge hand, which she immediately used to punch him. The golden goo adhered to him and engulfed his torso. Like her head, the goo was too yielding for him to break.

Fighting yet another engulfing flow, Inexorable stumbled back, dragging Facsimile along with him. “Get the hell off me!” He shouted ineffectively. He could pull the goo away from his legs before it adhered, but it was a stalemate at best since his chest and arms were caught. Then he spied a hydrant.

“If I can’t tear you off, I’ll wash you off!” With that, he kicked the top off the hydrant, unleashing its mighty geyser of water. The first blast made Facsimile retreat from the painful friction, but it only took her a second’s shifting to adjust to compensate for it.

She wasn’t even really listening to his threats anymore. What she cared to hear about was coming over her com: Darkness had rendezvoused with Codex and the ROCIC’s local contingent and were on their way. Not only that, but Ephemeral was also on his way, jumping from transponder to transponder on the Astral. All she had to do was hold Inexorable a short time longer…

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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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