Issue #54 – Shadow of the Kurounagi

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

Part 4

Night fell on Sendai, and with it, a hard rain.

Maps of the area made it immediately clear that the Shiroi Hōseki no Shishi had connections with the local government, either covertly, directly, or through one of their gangs. The factory, dedicated to prefabricating modular additions to houses or office buildings, was located within a mixed commercial/residential area, providing plenty of places for the clan to situate long term sentries as well as ferret out vantages for enemy spies.

Other sentries were mobile, prepared to chase down potential troublemakers if necessary. Two such men were parked in a small coupe near the side entrance, where a steel door guarded passage well enough that they never felt necessary.

The man in the passenger seat picked up a bag of fried onion curls and frowned regretfully into the crumb laden emptiness therein. “Anata wa anata ga kiraina hito, korera no nokori o tabeta to hanashite kureta hazu.”

His partner scoffed and waved off his insult. “Anata wa karera ga watashi-tachi no ryōhō no tameda to mo hanashita. Watashi wa watashi no wakemae o taberu yō ni kyoka o motomete irudeshou ka?”

Watashi wa mada uete iru. Watashi ni ikutsu ka no okane o ataeru, watashi wa watashi-tachi ni taisa kara ikutsu ka no keiniku o tori ni ikudeshou.

Again, he was met by nothing but his partner’s lack of concern for his appetite. “Buta to baka ni kirikawaru. Wareware wa ni shusseki suru tame ni wareware no gimu o motte iru.

The hungry man made a whining sound and gestured at the water sheeting down and collecting on the windshield, obscuring everything. “Dare ga ki ni? Watashi-tachi wa, to ni kakuku sono tame ni miru koto ga dekinai.

Up above and just as unaware of that line as the sentries were of his presence, Chaos reported back to the others. “I’ve got all the store and car windows on this block soaked but good; they can’t see for shit.”

“Good job.” said Codex, “Alright, folks, remember the plan: Yakuza members are low priority unless they look like they’re going to hurt Higurashi-san’s son. The descendants we know of are designated D-Zero to D-Four. One through four are listed as level of threat as far as we can tell from the information. D-Zero is special; she’s got nil offensive capability, but if we knock her out, The Kurounagi Onmyoji can come out to play.

“Keep this in mind: the Yakuza are, no doubt, criminals, but the D-Targets are mostly protomorphs who couldn’t find work elsewhere, or just plain down on their luck. Got easy on them… except for D-3; he can take it.”

“With luck, you might catch some of them asleep.” Nermal added over the com, sounding more confident as he’d been left behind in the nice, safe, plane. “Keeping a prisoner guarded is full time work and it’s been three days; they’ve got to be sleeping in shifts at this point. But judging from all the extra calls to delivery places around here in the past few days, no one goes home to sleep, so once things get going…”

“Anyone that’s asleep wakes up and joins in.” Whitecoat supplied.

Darkness chimed in as well. “Those are going to be my problem as spotter. Coat, the floor show is going to be you, Owl and Chaos against the D-Targets. Codex is going to fight the Yakuza.”

“All of them?” Whitecoat asked.

“Hey, they’ve only got guns.” Codex assured him. “And not the state of the art.”

“Trust our girl, ‘Coat.” Chaos said, “She could kick your ass up around your ears if she wanted to.”

“I want to watch that.” Barn Owl was trying very hard to hold in laughter.

With a bit of regret for cutting off the mirth, Codex broke it up before Whitecoat and Owl could start cracking jokes. “Since we’re all clear on the plan, are we ready?”

They all confirmed.

“Then that’s my cue.” Chaos focused on bending wind instead of rain, sending a gale against a nearby signpost. The piece of thin metal fluttered and warped against the forces arrayed against it for almost a full minute before at last, they were too much for it. Tearing free of the bolts holding it to the pole, it was immediately caught in a crosswind and lobbed across the street to smack against the steel door of the side entrance.

Aluminum hitting steel with hundred mile-an-hour winds behind it is surprisingly loud, and inside, it must have sounded like someone struck the door with a sledgehammer. Chaos cut the wind and everyone waited for a tense moment.

Two minutes later, the door creaked cautiously open and white, featureless eyes appeared out. The eyes sunk in beneath the bony brow ridges of a face remarkably like that of a huge turtle, except for the bony plates over the cheeks that featured ridged horns.

Target D-3, Ishikawa Kentaro, was almost too big to fit through the double sized door. His posture was hunched, allowing his oddly angled neck to hold his face in a forward facing position, while at the same time bringing the spiky hump of his carapace low enough to clear the top of the door. He resembled a humanoid ankylosaur without the club tail, with thick, stubby fingers and toes, all an elephantine gray.

Being too large for normal clothes, which would have been shredded by his back ridges, he wore a heavy, brown smock, not unlike a welder’s apron and very simple, home made canvas pants.

Cautiously, he peered outside, squinting through the rain. Finally, his eyes lighted on the sign, now on the ground. With a derisive grunt, he reached down and fumbled with picking it up with his stiff fingers. It went unnoticed to him that the rain temporarily ceased falling on him as something unseen passed over him and into the open door.

That something was Darkness, who found herself in a small, boxy room at the foot of a stairwell with a second, less well armored door directly ahead. The floor plan Codex and Nermal found indicated that the door was a fire exit off the factory floor, while the stairs led to the modest administrative offices.

It was there that Laurel and Nermal differed as to how to proceed. Laurel argued that the offices were the obvious place to hold the boy, being better defensible, and out of the way of the workers. Nermal seemed to think that, following what the knew of ninja tactics from Kunio, the boy would be hidden n plain sight, probably in the factory itself.

Darkness, as usual, put her faith in her friend’s hypercognition and common sense and floated up the stairs. There was only one flight, and it ended on a landing with only one door and a large window facing the street. Her goggles revealed a man stationed there as a sentry, an automatic pistol poorly concealed in the back of his waistband under a light jacket.

As silently as she could manage, Darkness activated the small controller on the scarf around her neck, causing the special material to snap into the rigid form of a bo staff. A swift blow from behind send the man crumpling to the floor.

With the sentry dispatched, she floated soundlessly to the door to the offices and opened it carefully. It opened onto a short, stark hall obviously only used during fire drills. At the end of that hall was a T intersection. The carpet was the cheap, speckled red common to many offices, and the wall on one side was actually a large window overlooking the factory below.

More interested in checking on the offices, Darkness cast a passing glance through the glass. There were a few sentries stationed at the sparsely populated windows down there, but nothing too interesting. The low rumble of the rapid fabrication machines, working on simple, bulk jobs in the absence of their operators, was loud even through the glass.

The offices all had glass doors too, offering fleeting glimpses into their shadowed interior, but fouling the infrared goggles’ ability to see through them. Handing above each one was a brass plate baring the position of the person who inhabited it, through she couldn’t read what they said.

Nothing unusual jumped out at her there, but the hall turned ninety degrees to run along the west wall of the building in the same manner, so she continued along it. This hall featured regular doors and had the same bank of windows looking out on the factory, only one had recently been shattered and was covered with sheets of paper until it could be repaired.

Darkness paused at this. There were racks down below filled with sheets of glass that could have been used. Ignoring that offices for a moment, she floated over to examine the break.

Up close, what looked like an accidental break seemed suspiciously purposeful, as if the glass was cut into what looked like a lazy drawing of a jagged hole. She didn’t get a better look because something caught her hand when she reached toward it.

Glancing down, she found something resembling high test fishing line stuck to her wrist. It was only visible at all because she knew where to look based on the sensation of it touching her. Down in the factory, a woman started shouting in Japanese. That was the last clue, compounded by the fact that she couldn’t get free of the sticky strand.

“Send them now.” Darkness spat into the com. I’ve been made. D-4 uses her webs like a real spider.”

Before Codex could reply, something landed on the window just below the hole in the window.

D-4 was a woman named Takeda Shinobu. Like Kentaro, she was a protomorph to a severe degree. ‘Severe’ in this case started with all-black eyes with a strange ‘crown’ of six smaller, marble-like eyes along her brow, and continued on to a body covered in stiff, black hairs and an extra pair of arms with two-fingered hands.

She stuck to the glass and wall just below it by all six limbs, looking for all the world like a humanoid spider, wrong number of limbs aside. She fared better in the clothing department than her compatriot, with a loose button down shit with slits cut in the sides for her extra arms and khakis. Her feet were bare to allow her feet to facilitate her wall crawling. Thin lines of webbing trailed her palms and soles from spinnerets on those extremities like a tarantula’s as she climbed up to the hole and peered inside.

Carefully moving the paper aside, Shinobu was, for a second, staring right through the space Darkness was occupying. But she didn’t need to see the invisible heroine, just the web. Her main eyes narrowed.

Darkness moved first. The black heat cloaking her became visible and rolled out in a black cloud as she aimed a blast of it at the other woman. Shinobu skittered aside and once the attack went past leapt through the hole to tackle her.

Fighting hard not to be knocked to the ground, Darkness staggered back into the opposite wall to get steady, then retaliated with a blast at point blank range that hurled Shinobu backward. The remaining glass around the hole shattered and the Shinobu toppled over the edge, but not before she flung something that hit Darkness in the chest.

Darkness looked down to find a sticky translucent bundle of fibers connected to a line. Her eyes traced the line back to the falling woman just as she was yanked off her feet.

***

Back outside, Kentaro finally managed to pick up the sign, and examined it. Sadly, it was torn up at the places where the bolts passed through. Otherwise, it would have been worth at least keeping as a decoration. He was about to toss it aside when he heard shouts of alarm from inside; Shinobu, his fellow night shifter. Time to get to work.

A sloshing sound caught his attention as he turned to go inside. The puddle forming in front of the door was rising up as if possessed. At the center of the disturbance was a fist sized sphere, and what was more, it seemed to be glowing…

The Chaos Nova exploded at his feet, sending him stumbling back both from the force and from the bright flash that went with it. Another hit him in the side and detonated, followed by another to the gut. The combined force propelled him into the side of the building, which he crashed through on momentum. He came to a rest inside the stairwell, senseless in the debris.

A moment later, Whitecoat landed in a crouch beside him and leaned over him, checking for life signs and being rewarded with a low groan. “Neat trick.” He said to Chaos as the other man arrived with Codex and Barn Owl.

“Yeah, I’m pretty fond of it.”

The exchange didn’t get any further because the door to the factory floor was thrown open by a trio of yakuza alerted by the sound of Kentaro coming through the wall. Their machine pistols were drawn, but the might as well have not bothered.

Codex was in motion before the door was fully open. She extended her staff and used the momentum of the spring action to add to a devastating thrust for the chest of the first man through. He was knocked back into one of his compatriots and Codex followed through by cracking the staff into the wrist of the third’s gun arm before bringing the other end around to strike him directly in the groin. One final swing knocked the second man out.

She nodded to her colleagues before ducking low and entering the room.

Whitecoat led the others in after her. In passing, he regarded the fallen yakuza with pity. “Man, I’ve gotta learn to fight like that.”

“Agreed.” Barn Owl couldn’t take his eyes off the form of Codex ahead of them. “Maybe we can get her to hold some workshops. We’ll talk later; hero time right now.”

Once through the door, they found themselves beneath an overhang formed by the hall above. There were vending machines on the wall, and tables; a large, open break room of sorts in full view of the roaring factory floor that was sunken about five feet below the level of the door. A railing separated that area from the main area with metal stairs leading down.

The fabricators squatted in uneven ranks like great, humpbacked beasts. Each was surrounded by it’s own workstation complete with monitoring consoles, raw material hoppers, and gantries. They blocked most of the walkways between and their low roar drowned out most noise below a shout; it was the perfect ambush area.

Codex sprinted down the stairs and into the cover provided by the nearest one. Moments later, she hailed them on the coms. “The alarm going up early changes the plan a bit. Fight where you have to, but the priority is to find the boy and get out ASAP now. “

No sooner did she say this than Shinobu crashed through the glass on the second floor, followed shortly by the ensnared Darkness. The spidery woman whipped her lines around, pulling the two of them closer in air and positioning her opponent to take the brunt of the fall.

Darkness had other ideas and grabbed Shinobu as she passed, stabilizing them enough that she could fly straight again. With a burst of speed, she pulled out of their tumbling fall and slammed Shinobu into a pallet of aluminum sheeting, sending it and her crashing to the floor.

She didn’t have time to see if her opponent was really out of the fight though, as a bullet struck her in the right bicep. The ballistic cloth of her costume did it’s job, turning a penetrating wound into a deep bruise, but she was alerted to two yakuza who had been laying in wait, hidden by the machinery.

Sending a bolt of black heat to harry them, she followed their example and took cover in a maze of tanks behind the fabricator to orient herself. With the thrum that now surrounded her completely, she almost missed the soft thud above.

Looking up, she found Shinobu, not quite as unconscious as she’d hoped. The spider-like protomorph was holding what looked like a ball of translucent twine in her hands, but the moment Darkness noticed her, she threw it, revealing it to be a new made of webbing.

A blast of black heat burned the web before it reached her and with a frustrated growl, Darkness rose to attack.

***

Once it was clear that Darkness was holding her own, the others fanned out to get to search. There were several dozen yakuza holding various positions in the factory, but as Codex asserted, they were only armed with conventional firearms, which simply weren’t effective against people who routinely fought the modern equivalent of gods and monsters.

Wherever they met the yakuza in the open, they won, and wherever the yakuza managed to find a defensible position, they were safely ignored. If the mission was to take down that one local gang, it would have been a rousing success.

But it wasn’t. The goal was finding Kunio’s son and in that, they were failing. Nothing in the factory even looked like it could be a place where a kidnap victim could be hidden.

Codex had separated her staff in half, converting the pieces into tonfa for closer quarters fighting. An upward swing took a pistol off target while two rapid fire snaps of her wrist cracked the ribs of the man trying to shoot her with it. She finished him with a sweep that put him on his back and kicked the gun away from him.

A heavy impact behind her made Whitecoat’s presence known. “Find anything?”

“Nothing.” he was looking around for other yakuza in the area. “Not even a decoy. What’s that tell you?”

Codex started down another path between machines. “I doubt Higurashi-san set us up. If he was, the trap would have been better executed. He might have bad information, or we might be missing something; like D-2. Neither he nor D-1 has shown up yet.”

“That’s what’s got me bugged.” he admitted. “Their enemy is a bunch of ninjas; why put the least powerful on the night shift when ninjas are known to come out to play?”

“The Shiroi Hōseki no Shishi is a shinobi clan as well.” she glanced around an intersection. “We’re the ones who know very little about how the clans operate.”

A violent wind kicked up ahead of them, accompanied by a veil of blue smoke, causing both heroes to stop in their tracks. The smoke rolled upward from the ground, revealing a huge figure at its heart. Twelve feet tall even stopped as it was, the creature stood on two legs with long arms that almost touched the ground. It’s skin was an angry red and marred by liver spots. A shock of wild, white hair formed a deep widow’s peak between popped, crazy eyes. A blue tongue lolled out of a mouth full of yellowing fangs.

An oni, straight out of Japanese myth loomed over them, naked save for a stained loincloth, clutching a gnarled club. “You should not have come here.” It said in lightly accented English. “For you are one thousand years too early to challenge me.”

Whitecoat glanced at Codex. “D-1?”

She was looking around for warily, almost ignoring the terrifying monster. “Yeah.” She said with a resigned sigh. It had been her hope that they wouldn’t have to encounter Sakai Yuuma; the Descendants had no experience with his kind of power and she doubted the New York heroes did either.

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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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