Issue #48 – Inexorable

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

Part 4

Pain was lancing up his arm whenever he moved his hand. Sprained or broken, he couldn’t believe that had just happened. Even if Inexorable couldn’t be hurt, his utter failure to absorb any of that punch went beyond toughness, even a brick wall had some ‘give’ after all. Chaos hadn’t been prepared for magic to be capable of that when he threw that punch.

Glass crunched under soft boots and he found himself staring up at Occult. She was reaching out to help him up.

“Watch the arm.” He groaned, sitting up and cradling the wounded limb.

“Besides that, are you alright?” She asked.

“I’ll live. But we’re going to have to do something more than pound him to take this guy down.”

Occult nodded. “I agree. Whatever magic he’s got going for him is miles above me. Maybe in ten years, I can come up with something to hurt him, but…”

“So magic doesn’t have the answer either?” He let her help him up by the other arm.

“I didn’t say that.” Occult shook her head. “I haven’t had enough time to concentrate on it, but I think the spell isn’t actually on him, it’s being transferred to him.”

Chaos flexed his injured hand. It still hurt, but not blindingly so. It wasn’t broken then. “The thing on his head then. Definite magical item.”

“Not what I’m talking about.” Occult explained as they stepped over shattered glass and broken model-bots. “I mean that the spell isn’t even in the city. The coin and bracers he wears are… well the Book calls the sympathetic totems… symbols for some other power source. Sort of like spell-antennaes. As long as they’re magically charged, they’re probably indestructible.”

They emerged onto the sidewalk in time to see Inexorable kick open the hydrant.

“But I might be able to interrupt the signal for a bit. It won’t de-power him completely, or for long, but it just might be enough to knock him out with a hard enough blow.”

Chaos watched the falling water and had an idea. “Work on that.” He nodded to her just as there was a burst of static in his ear. Evidently, his trip through the storefront had offset his comm a bit. He tapped it to get it back in line.

“…eady.” Codex’s voice said. “Ephemeral’s going to try his hand now.”

“But maybe you won’t have to.” He said hopefully.

***

Traveling on the Astral Plane using the transponders happened at the speed of thought, just as it had when he’d been estranged from his body, but now that he was actively projecting, Ephemeral needed a moment to recover and reorient after each jump. He also needed to stop and concentrate in order to hear the comm in his ear back in the real world.

Reflecting on what he’d seen and felt on the mental landscape in Greenview Ridge, he found Mayfield to be fascinating. Where the people of Greenview Ridge had been united in their fear and confusion, Mayfield was an emotional kaleidoscope. Fear and confusion mingled with curiosity and even excitement. There were elements of despair, but also determination and willful bravery. And even as close as two blocks from the action, there were still some that weren’t even aware it was happening.

And through it all, he sensed the fight itself: Frustration and the flashes of hope as new strategies came to mind, quashed by bitter acceptance when they failed. Inexorable was a singular point of exhilaration and amusement at the center of it.

None of those feelings prepared him for what he saw when he regained his bearing from the jump to the transponder nearest their location.

There were his friends’ astral bodies, glowing with the usual brilliance, but they were running, flipping, dodging in and out of something much larger. At first he thought it was some sort of Astral structure; the astral remnant of an emotionally charged object that lingered on after it’s Material Plane counterpart was gone.

But it wasn’t. It took him a moment to make sense of the misty, red tinged shape, but when he did, he gasped. The size of a small house, it sat atop three stone rollers tall enough to reach his shoulders and etched with images of ancient sorties breaking against ancient fortresses down through the ages with a dome set atop a dozen stony pillars positioned on the platform that rode upon them. Upon it’s platform were busts of dragons and lions and creatures of fierce countenance that defied description. And it was centered on and moved with the strictly normal astral body of Jay Willis.

Whatever is giving him this power extends into the Astral. He relayed through the transponders back to the feed Codex was keeping open for him. It surrounds and protects his mind and astral body. I have never attacked a structure on this plane before and I do not know what will happen.

“If you don’t think it’s safe, I don’t want you to try.” Codex warned from her end of their connection.

Ephemeral shook his head, an unnecessary symbolic gesture on the Astral. No. I said I did not know what would happen, not that I fear it. In the worst case scenario, there are gaps in the structure I might use to slip an attack through.

The rose haze of the plane roiled momentarily and the representation of his street clothes briefly gave way to his Ephemeral costume: golden domino mask and Punjabi style pants with a loose-fitting, red shirt bearing the word dream in Arabic across the chest. Then it too transformed; the shirt becoming a voluminous red robe with a vest of golden scale beneath.

He held out a hand and the astral mists resolved into a wicked spear. The aesthetics didn’t really make a difference; all matter was essentially the same on the Astral, but he felt it appropriate to the situation. Without another sound, he broke into a run toward the spectral engine, concentrating his power into the blade of his spear until it looked like the only real and solid object on the plane.

Only a few yards from the engine, he was overwhelmed by a sense that something was very wrong. The eyes of every man marching into battle depicted on the rollers suddenly focused on him. The legendary beasts that crowned the platform turned predatory gazes on him. And on the rims of the rollers, the ghostly images of hundreds of human eyes were forming.

Gathering his courage under the unnerving attention, he raised the spear and swung it down at the lead roller. The blade made contact and suddenly there seemed there was nothing spectral about the ancient ceremonial engine any longer. There was only a half second to realize his mistake before the backlash traveled up his weapon and crashed in violent, painful waves through his astral body.

***

Kareem woke gasping. He was back in the driver’s seat of Cyn’s Humvee. His heart was pounding irregularly, his lungs refused to hold air long enough for it to matter, and his eyes refused to focus.

For a handful of terrifying moments, he thought he was dying. Even when he ruled it out, it took longer still to bring order to his scrambled perceptions. He was vaguely aware of Codex’s voice shouting for hm over the com.

He couldn’t speak to answer, so he forced himself to laboriously type and send a text to her. Two letters ‘OK’. That was all he could manage until he pulled himself together. He had thrown his mind against the unstoppable and it had pushed back.

***

Callie skidded to a stop. The glut of gawkers was still blocking the entire street in front of the Dungeon even though the fight had moved out of sight. The place had now also become base camp for several reporters who were busy getting ‘man on the street’ reactions from the most incoherent or offensive onlookers.

She could have just run up the wall to get past, or even phased through them, but the sight of so many people and the knowledge of why they were there had allowed her mind to catch up to her. This wouldn’t be the first time her ‘not time to think, I must act’ attitude had landed her in trouble. It wasn’t even the first time it had led to her crossing paths with the Descendants.

But the man they were fighting… She remembered the footage from the restaurant of him taking everything the real live heroes could throw at him and still coming; coming to kill them. What could she do against that? She wasn’t a hero. In fact, given that incident with Abscondro, she was technically a criminal.

That wasn’t the point, she argued with herself. The Descendants hadn’t been heroes their whole lives either.

In the throng ahead of her, she noticed a man who stood head and shoulders above everyone else. He was wearing work gloves and coveralls and he was carrying a hardhat. Likely, he’d either come to the parade from work, or had been planning to head to work from there. He was also much bigger than a normal human could hope to be without radial gene therapy or interfacing.

Once she spotted him, she noticed others: a teenaged boy with wild, slime green hair and an unnaturally heavy jaw, a young woman with pearlescent skin… And those were just the ones whose abilities were obvious.

Suddenly, it all clicked. One more person may not be a help, but no one was invincible, right? With even greater numbers, and with a larger selection of powers, maybe they really could be of help. Maybe the Descendants, the prelates of Mayfield needed… just regular descendants.

And it was up to her to provide them.

***

Still fighting against Facsimile’s malleable grasp, Inexorable put all of his drastically enhanced muscle behind slamming them both full force through an enclosed bus stop. But the shattered ceramic and glass did just as poor a job at removing the self-healing, shapeshifting nuisance as his won hands.

He’d been at it for several minutes, alternately dodging that occasional attack from the others and trying everything he could think of to free himself. Manikin had given him the power to break free of any bond, no strength was the key to those bonds.

The aluminum frame of the ruined bus stop bench rose up to trip him, but her kicked violently to uproot it from the concrete base it was sunk in. His action also disturbed the wiring from the lights, sending a jolt into his body.

It had an immediate effect on his golden captor. Facsimile let out a yelp of pain and convulsed, her entire body rippling and changing at random. Nearly blind with pain, she tried to keep hold of him. But once Inexorable realized that the electricity was the cause of her reaction, he threw himself atop the live wire.

Finally, it was too much for the golden heroine. A scream tore from a throat that formed solely for that purpose and she threw herself away from both Inexorable and the agonizing voltage.

Inexorable gave a wordless roar of triumph and got to his feet. The shock had been a deeply unpleasant experience, but once again, his powers protected him from the crippling or lethal effects. “Yeah!” He taunted the still spasming Facsimile and dusted his hands off.

His victory didn’t last long before there was a roar of engines overhead. A flying troop carrier maneuvered carefully between the buildings and brought its stern cargo doors around to bear on Inexorable.

“The military, already?” Inexorable mocked. “I thought there were still a couple of heroes lying around this place that haven’t had a chance at failing to stop me.” He offered a ‘bring it on gesture to the unseen crew of the carrier.

Something hit him from behind and fire blossomed explosively. He managed to keep from falling by going to one knee as a second explosion went off just beside him. Looking back, he found Chaos with two amorphous spheres in his hands, each with a pin-prick of light at the center.

Chaos stared grimly at him. “There’s a lot more to us that you think. We usually hold back when the jackass of the week doesn’t seem worth it. For example: I call this the Chaos Nova.” He threw both spheres.

Ready for them this time, Inexorable batted the first out of the air, causing it to explode against the his fist. He caught the second with his elbow on the back-swing, temporarily wreathing himself in flames, but leaving himself otherwise unharmed.

He laughed again and raised his hands dramatically. “My powers keep even my clothes from getting burned, much less the rest of me. Let’s call that worthy, alright?” He addressed the other heroes, unaware of the cargo doors on the transport rolling open. “You hear me?! No more holding back! Give me everything!”

Aboard the carrier, a young marine gunner was feeling mildly intimidated and other things less mildly as Codex and Darkness leaned close to watch his HUD. The display and targeting system connected to the Reynard Munitions model SG9-01 anti-armor pulse cannon retrofitted into the loading bay of the carrier. A weapon designed to obliterate tanks and gunships, now pointed at a single, unarmored and unarmed man.

His orders, however, were to give the Descendants any aid they requested. So he reported the system’s status. “Static pressure is at eighty-seven percent, test cycle is clear. The weapon is primed to fire at maximum output.”

“You heard him.” said Codex. “Give him everything.”

He nodded and tapped the fire control panel. There was a fraction of a second while his fingerprint was confirmed. Despite the dampers the cannon sat upon, the entire ship pitched a full two degrees as the nearly invisible compression wave plowed out of the barrel and down into Inexorable.

The pavement the man was standing on simply vaporized, a black cloud of former asphalt and road sensors erupting in a plume where the pulse hit. As it thinned, it became evident that the blast had bored a hole straight down into the maintenance tunnels below.

A hole from which and enraged Inexorable now leapt, coughing heavily from the powdered debris that followed him out. “We’ll see about that, you sons of bitches!” He wheezed and stomped toward a car left abandoned on a side street.

But something caught Zero’s attention and without a word to the others, she streaked up behind the man and, before he could reach his desired projectile, grabbed him under the arms like an unruly kitten. The moment her arms closed around him, she rocketed straight up in a blue blur.

“Dust can make you cough.” She said into his ear as if she was telling a fun secret to her best friend. “That means you need to breath.”

“Yeah?” Inexorable smirked, not even offering a struggle. He could survive any height she could drop him from. “So?”

“Oh, nothing.” She said sweetly. “I’m just taking you where you can’t.”

In what seemed like an instant, they had over-topped even the hundred and ten story towers at City Central, and probably the Goodman-Hart Building, the tallest in Mayfield at one hundred and thirty-five stories. In the next few seconds, Mayfield ceased to resemble a city and instead became a vaguely octagonal patchwork with one part separated from the other by the wandering snake that was the S. Anne River.

Low hanging clouds whipped by and the air became increasingly colder.

“If I can’t breathe, you can’t breathe.” Inexorable pointed out. “Then you’ll pass out, fall and only one of us is going to survive this fall.”

“We’ll see.” She said conversationally. “I’ve got a few tricks.” Her intent was to surround herself in a cocoon of psychokinetic energy and hope it was airtight. There had never been reason or need to test the theory out before, but Inexorable intended to kill her and the others anyway.

“I think you forget that I do too.” Inexorable simply shrugged. It was more than enough to break her grip on him. In another motion, he flipped her over his shoulder and extended a straight punch into her center.

Between her aura and the fact that she was suspended in air, it wasn’t a crushing blow, but it knocked the wind out of her and broke her concentration and caused her aura to flicker. It was also more than enough to throw them violently in opposite directions.

He knew the moment he did it that he’d just thrust himself into an unpleasant situation. The world upended, his stomach leapt into his throat and suddenly the entire city of Mayfield was streaking toward him like the fist of God. The wind tore at his clothes and where it caught a wrinkle, it span him about. He was helpless against it with nothing to press against.

Freefall ended thirty stories early when he clipped the concrete safety railing of commuter pod flyover between two buildings. Instead of folding in half at the spine from the impact, he crashed through, bounced off the reinforcing beam, and plummeted to the street below.

Tires screamed as a car swerved to avoid him and the one after that hit the brakes. There were footfalls of would be good Samaritans. Their voices were a babble of generic shock and concern.

“Oh my God! Did you see that?” “..looked like he fell from the top floor.” “Is he breathing?” “It’s a miracle!”

He tried to sit up and flex the muscles that had become knotted and cramped from the rough landing, but a hand pressed into his chest, trying to keep him down. Looking up at the owner of the hand, he was surprised to see a green face.

“Don’t try to move. A fall like that probably did a lot of damage.” instructed Fredrick Carlson. Getting to the parade route had turned out to be a nightmare, so he’d taken Edie to the Chamber of Commerce event on the plaza in front of the Nichole Farmer Avenue Mall. They offered carnival games, rides for kids, and tons of vendor stalls. He’d figured that he’d made the right choice. Inexorable’s crash landing had proven him wrong.

“Daddy!” Edie complained from the sidewalk where Fredrick had told her to stay while he went to see if he could help the fall victim.

“Stay there, sweetie.” He looked back at her. “You don’t need to see this.”

“See what?” Inexorable’s voice came out in a croak. The thousand foot fall had dried his throat out to sandpaper. “That I’m completely fine?”

Fredrick’s head snapped around to stare at the fallen man. “Huh? You’re…”

“Inexorable.” He grabbed his would be rescuer by the throat. “And you’re a hostage. Pleased to meet you.” Grunting from the muscles that still signaled that they had not enjoyed the last few minutes, Inexorable stood, lifting Fredrick by his jaw while the green man scrabbled in futility at his arm.

Series Navigation<< Issue #47 – Everyday PeopleDescendants Annual #4 >>

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

Bookmark the permalink.
  • Descendants Serial is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.