Issue #54 – Shadow of the Kurounagi

This entry is part 6 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 5: How the World Changes

[This issue takes place during Descendants #53]

[Note: this issue contains untranslated exchanges in Japanese. These lines are not necessary to the plot, but attempts have been made to make them accurate by choosing best fit back-translations from multiple online translation tools, which are notoriously inaccurate. Please inform the author of any particularly egregious mistranslations.]

It all started with an explosion.

Not a building leveling, fireball of an explosion but the real kind, the kind that was more dangerous because it didn’t spend all of it’s considerable energy in fire, but in ejecting a plume of debris from the twenty-third floor of 435 Langstrom Drive.

Fire was scary, but it was nothing compared to the tons of pulverized concrete, rebar and office furniture that sleeted down from more than twenty stories up. Anything larger than a fist could have been deadly, and there were hundreds of pieces much larger than one plummeting toward lunch time traffic with nowhere to escape.

It could have been a catastrophe if not for an expanding dome of howling wind spinning up around them. Debris hit the wind wall and was hurled aside, landing on the sidewalks already cleared of pedestrians and the choking dust was hurled back skyward to form a gray cloud overhead.

Hydrants exploded, filling the air with water that washed the dust form the sky in a thick, sloppy rain. Washing their cars would be a nightmare, but every bit of it they had to wash off metal or plastic was a bit they didn’t have in their lungs.

After long, agonizing minutes of panic, the rain of concrete abated and the cloud dissipated enough for the shocked drivers to see their savior.

Chaos hovered above the street, cape flared out around him as he directed hydrant sprays to continue to drag detritus from the air. The soupy mess washed out the black and red of his suit and caked even the visible parts of his face. It was the first time any of them had seen him with the rebreather in his mouth.

Eventually, he dropped the wind wall and surveyed the scene below. His visor cycled through a number of visual filters and didn’t show any of the telltale signs of anyone badly injured. There would be cuts, bruises and breaks, but no one seemed to be trapped or in danger of death. Time to check on the epicenter of the blast.

A blast of wind pushed him up through a spray of water from one of the hydrants, washing away the bigger clumps of newborn cement on his way up.

The explosion had torn a ragged hole in the wall on the 23rd floor at least fifteen feet across. It was a minor miracle that the blast didn’t break through to the floors above or below and it somehow missed anything load bearing.

Inside, however, the destruction was evident. The place had once been an an office of some sort. There was no evidence of a cubicle farm, but desks had been thrown everywhere and a mail delivery robot lay broken in the rubble around the wall. The ceiling panels had fallen in all over the place, obscuring almost everything else.

Scanning with his visor revealed another miracle. Infrared was picking up at least a dozen people—and one of them was displaying the slow shift from red to blue that indicated a dead body. In fact, a few other sweeps showed no major injuries.

“You people are the luckiest unlucky people ever.” He muttered before taking off his rebreather and saying louder, “Everyone please stay calm. I’m here to help you. Who’s hurt?”

A groan off to his left answered him and he flew over to find a woman pinned under the kindling that used to be her desk. She was blond and middle aged. Something about her made him immediately guess she was someone’s mom.

He landed, throwing back his cape to keep it out of the way. “Don’t worry, I’ll have you out of here in no time.” With that, he knelt to double check that she didn’t have any injuries that might make moving the desk a dangerous choice.

It didn’t look like the case, so he grabbed what was left of the desk and started to lift it.

The moment there was space, she swung her legs free and with amazing grace, she rolled up onto her knees. He was about to comment on that when she spat on him. Not that he’d ever been spat on before (since middle school at least), but he knew that it shouldn’t feel cold and sharp, which was exactly what he felt in three places along his jawline.

Reeling back from her, he moved to stand. Thanks to the nerveless, ceramic gloves, he had to take his time grasping at whatever he’d been hit with and when he finally got a look at the tiny, metal pin with what looked like a piece of twine wrapped around the end, he didn’t know much more than he knew before.

“What the hell?”

Kon, kōdō!” The woman he ‘rescued’ bellowed. While Chaos was now bemoaning taking French as his language elective in high school, he didn’t have to speak Japanese to know that what she’d said was not a heartfelt thanks for saving her. Scrapes and thuds sounded from around the room as other ‘victims’ rose from their places. Not good.

Something cold and hard wrapped his neck, jerking him roughly backward from the woman. “Like hell.” He growled. A subtle combination of wrist and finger movement opened the water reservoir in his right gauntlet, filling his palm with the liquid. Months of practicing the technique turned it into a bomb, the ‘Chaos Nova’ in an instant.

Turning in place, he flung it at the chain that was wrapping him near where a dark skinned man in a nice suit was holding it. The nova broke the chain and burned it’s holder’s hands.

Not pausing in his turn, Chaos came around for the full three-sixty, whipping the chain at the woman that attacked him the in the first place.

She dropped smoothly into a three point stance, letting the weapon go right over her head before lunging forward to bury a fist in his solar plexus. He other hand lifted her blouse, revealing a similar weighted chain wrapped around her midsection, which she now unhooked.

The ballistic cloth and padding in his suit mitigated the blow. Chaos immediately retaliated with a blast of air that bowled her over, only to watch her turn the fall into a backward roll and come up on her feet. She was incredibly well trained and that meant that the others were too. It didn’t look got for him if he kept fighting them on their own terms. He needed to change the rules. A tornadic gust of wind lifted him into the air and turned away a pair of thrown shuriken that were aimed at his ribs.

“Who the hell are you people?” He asked, more for his own benefit than out of the idea that they would answer.

Jimen ni kare o jisan.” The woman ordered.

Two more weighted chains flew up and wrapped his arms, pulling them out to his sides.

He grabbed onto the chains and threw himself into a spin with the assistance of the wind. The hapless, otherwise average looking office worker were thrown into opposite walls by centripetal force, leaving their weapons in his hands. He used them to lash at the apparent leader again.

She sidestepped the first, then grabbed the second as it started to rebound, using it and Chaos’s own momentum to pull herself into the air, where she delivered a flying kick to his chest.

There was a lot of distance to cover though, so he was waiting for it. Grabbing her boot, he pivoted and threw her into one of her conspirators. But in doing so, he left himself open for her to loop her chain around his arms and drag him with her.

She hit hardest, but Chaos felt the world sway as he threw himself back into the air. Somewhere, an elevator door dinged, but he only distantly registered it. Mostly, he heard his own heartbeat.

Poison. The realization hit him hard enough that if it was physical, he wouldn’t have survived. Those stupid little spit-spikes poisoned him! He had to get away and find an anti-toxin. Touching a switch on his visor, he tripped the distress signal in his comlink.

All thoughts of continuing the fight fled as he flew for the hole blown into the wall.

Kare wa soto ni deru yō ni shite kudasai.” The leader shouted. “Kare ga inai baai wa, kare ga ochiru to shinu.

A chain wrapped around his chest. He turned and triggered the water reservoir in his left gauntlet this time. But the pressurized bubble and pulses needed to create a Chaos Nova wouldn’t form. He couldn’t concentrate enough to work the complex usage of his powers that made it happen.

So he went for simple and increased the gale carrying him to freedom. Another chain caught his leg, followed by one that wrapped his left arm. He was dragging three full grown adults and whipping up a miniature hurricane in the room.

Shinpai shinaide, watashi wa kare o teishi shimasu.” The speaker was male and when chaos glanced back, he saw a tall, lanky man with a shaven head. He was dressed in a form fitting, dark blue body suit with a black sash around the waist, through which were threaded or hung a number of scrolls, sheathed daggers, and pouches. A blood red scarf covered the lower half of his face and was blowing magnificently in the wind.

Now there’s bad guy, said the poison addled part of Chaos’s brain.

The newcomer made a few quick, jerky hand gestures while chanting quietly and snatched two slips of paper out of a pouch on his sash. They were inscribed in black ink with kanji. Chaos had seen them before in the hands of the Sineater called Deidre: o-fuda talismans. And just like the Sineater, the man threw them unerringly at his target.

Chaos conjured a wind wall, but there was more to the talismans than mere paper. They slipped through it as if through still air and struck him in the chest. His winds died abruptly, dumping him unceremoniously on the floor.

He struggled to stand, but it wasn’t easy with the poison stealing his equilibrium. Finally, someone struck him from behind, knocking him to the floor for the count. Still fighting to escape, he managed to roll over. The woman he first ‘saved’ was standing over him.

Chaos-san, Gomennasai.” She said, placing her fist in her palm and bowing.

Shortly thereafter, he blacked out.

***

“It seems like every time you turn on the news these days, you hear about something new and frightening. Large scale disasters, superhuman criminals, and strange creatures are all the media seems to talk about. Some might say that this is the most frightening time to live in and they might want to find someone to blame.”

The speaker finally appeared on screen, after voicing over footage from the disaster at Greenview Ridge, a large feline creature prowling the streets of Boise, Idaho, and much older footage for the Redeemers’ attack on Mayfield. “You might know me as Zero Point, former and current protector of Phoenix. I’m a descendant, born with these powers, and because there are other people less scrupulous than I who can say the same, some people want to blame me and people like me for what those people do.”

He folded his arms and took a stance he usually reserved for villains. “I’m here to say in no uncertain terms that this is wrong. This attitude if prejudice and bigotry plain and simply and we have to stop it before it spreads. Yes, there are criminals like Ethan Braylocke or the escapees from the Braddock Island facility,”

The scene changed to show a woman with yellow skin, bat-like ears and six fingers on each hand standing at a large screen in front of a classroom full or children, then a man in a hard hat lifting an i-beam on his own, and finally, a blonde woman in a firefighter’s uniform, flying above a collapsed building, hands outstretched as a slab of concrete was lifted away from an unconscious man.

Over these scenes, Zero Point continued to speak. “Descendants live among you peacefully. Like any other group of peoples, there are descendants who teach our children, build our homes and who are part of our first response units. Their powers might make them different, but power alone doesn’t make a person dangerous.

“I want you to remember this the next time a politician tries to pass laws that restrict our freedoms just because of how we were born, or try and assemble so called state ‘psi-hunter’ units as have been suggested in places like Florida, Alabama and my own home state.” He head dipped in shame at that part. “Remember that we are people, all. Some good, some bad. And it does no one any good to forget that.”

Zero Point disappeared from the screen, replaced by the rising sun and tree logo of Descendants Rights Worldwide along with their URL.

The lights in the room came up and the DRW board members looked to Laurel, most of them approvingly.

“And that was PSA number twelve, courtesy of Zero Point. Incidentally, he’s very eager to help us again should we need him; he’s a strong believer in the cause.”

“Well we certainly can’t show that one in any market that reached Arizona.” said an older man with graying hair and wire rimmed glasses. His name was Gram McDonnell, a vice president at ConquestTech who joined the cause because his daughter was a minor pyrokinetic, but was still measurably uncomfortable with the whole world he’s stumbled into. He even had trouble sticking to using ‘descendants’ in favor of ‘psionic’.

Laurel was used to his overcautious thought processes and general contrariness, and knew to prepare for it. “Why, Mr. McDonnell? Because Zero Point has a higher approval rating in that state than the governor, the entire state legislature, and their entire congressional delegation? Do you not believe that his local celebrity appeal can have an impact on public sentiment?”

“People are scared out of their minds, Ms. Brant.” McDonnell tried to reason. “What if there’s a backlash?”

“There will be a backlash.” At seventy, Owen Grigsby was the oldest member of the board. He was darker skinned than Laurel and very thin. The only hair left to him was in an u-shaped ring from the back of one ear to another. His involvement was purely philanthropic; he sat on the boards of three other humanitarian organizations besides DRW. “However, the question is how big it will be and if it’s worth it. Considering the level of service Zero Point and Majestrix have given the people of that state, I don’t doubt that it will be well worth it. Seeing their hero ashamed of what they’ve done will change a lot of minds.”

Laurel was about to agree when her palm-top toned. There was only one reason it would go off in the middle of a meeting.

She made a show of checking it, even though she already knew what it had to tell her. The look of worry on her face was real, and she used it to strengthen her lie. “Oh… oh no. I’m… please excuse me everyone. My friend is having a medical emergency. My friend needs me.”

“Go and see to it.” Grigsby waved her off. “I can show the rest of the PSAs.”

“Thank you so much.” She said before bolting for the door.”

***

Everything ached. That was Chaos’s first thought upon his return to the waking world. His limbs were heavy, his head felt over-full, and every muscle in his body screamed that it had reached its limit. It was enough to make him nearly forget his painfully dry throat, and the rolling nausea.

Shouldn’t have thought of the nausea. Suddenly, his stomach surged and he started to retch. He tried to lean forward, but something kept his arms form moving. Thankfully, someone thrust a plastic trashcan in front of him just in time.

When his stomach was emptied, he risked looking up and regretted it. The person holding the trash can was the blond who attacked him earlier. He tried to spit an insult, but could only rasp. She remained implacably calm, taking the bucket out of his view.

Now he could see that he was in a long, narrow room with a strip of seats directly in front of him, one to his left, and presumably, one which he was siting in. There was a low table bolted to the floor in the center of the room, and a minibar next to the chairs to his left. The ceiling and walls were all slightly curved and he could hear muffled engines. He was on a plane then.

The man who used the o-fuda against him was sitting in a seat in the seats to his left, silent and attentive. Another man was directly in front of him; middle aged, but in good shape. He was Japanese, his hair cut conservatively and his mustache and beard impeccably groomed. He was dressed in black pants that reminded Chaos of track pants, and a loose shirt of black silk that was left open to the chest. There was a tattoo on his chest of something long and undulating. Though it was extremely detailed, Chaos couldn’t see enough to tell what it was.

Moments later, his vision was filled again with the woman who pushed a cup of cool water to his lips.

“The poison has no side effects.” She informed him with a surprising southern drawl. “But we had to shot you with stimulants to wake you up. Those have a lot of side effects.”

“How thoughtful.” Chaos groused after draining the cup. In hindsight, he wondered if that was a good idea, but then again, what were they going to do, poison him again? “And you suddenly speak English now? What’s that accent, Okinawa?”

“Alabama.” She said, taking the cup away. She placed it on the table before bowing respectfully to the new man and sitting beside the talisman user.

“The Kurounagi no ichizuku believes that global success requires a global membership.” The new man said. His voice was more thin and reedy than Chaos expected, like a favorite professor instead of someone who kidnapped superheroes. “After all, invisibility is the ally of the shinobi and the fastest means of invisibility is being beneath notice. No one expects ‘ninja’ warriors to be black, or white or Hispanic.”

“Or dressed like office workers.” Chaos noted.

“Precisely, hero. True shinobi prefer to blend in rather than hide. The popular image of ninja garb is the product of the stage, not reality.”

“Really?”

The man laughed. “You’re trying to buy time, waiting for your friends to track your locator beacon. I’m afraid that you will have to stall a bit longer than that; we have equipment capturing and retransmitting the signal on a ten minute delay.”

He stood up and strode toward where Chaos was held, still unable to summon his wind. “You see, hero: I want your friends to catch up to us, but only after we reach Tokyo.”

Series Navigation<< Issue #53 – The House on Dawson BayIssue #55 – Beer Money >>

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.

Comments are closed

  • 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.