- Issue #49 – George
- Issue #50 – Operation: All In
- Issue #51 – Amore Detestabilis
- Issue #52 – Scenes From a Changing World
- Issue #53 – The House on Dawson Bay
- Issue #54 – Shadow of the Kurounagi
- Issue #55 – Beer Money
- Issue #56 – Family Matters
- Issue #57 – Waylaid
- Descendants Special #5 – Women in Free-fall
- Issue #58 – Alert UMW: Mages
- Issue #59 – Return of the Magi
- Issue #60 – Rust Buckets
- Descendants Annual #5
They looked like opera gloves for robots built for the sole purpose of watching opera and punching holes through walls.
As Tink pulled them out of the case, the technological lineage of the devices became more clear; like her new design for Chaos’s gauntlets, the long gloves were made of many small, interconnected plates rather than larger segments.
Unlike the gauntlets, these extended all the way from finger tip to just below the shoulder and only the sections on the outside of the body were made from ceramics. The rest was made of lightweight plastic backing ballistic cloth. The ceramics were pained dark green while the other pieces were a lighter shade of the same.
The right one had a cavity on the inside edge of the forearm that was sealed behind a clear cover. Tink manipulated this so that the cover slid aside and docked her palmtop into it before replacing the cover.
“Tink… what is that?” Lisa asked. Beside her, JC was lost in silent confusion.
“I’m going back with you.” Tink ignored the question in favor of slipping her right arm into the contraption. One it was on, she tapped the screen in the forearm in a quick little rhythm. The words ‘Button-up Procedure Initialized’ came on screen. There was a quiet whirr as the glove tightened to fit. Once the words disappeared from the screen, Tink tested it, flexing her now armored hand a few times.
“Yeah, I get that.” JC said, “so am I, but that’s not explaining what that thing is.”
“Exactly.” Lisa said a second before the other half of that statement hit her. “What? You are not–”
“It’s a power suit.” Tink interrupted. “Well, part of one anyway. Ms. Brant’s been helping me put it together.” As she talked, she put her other arm into the other glove. “Normally, the gloves would increase my strength, but that’s moot without the leg chassis. So instead, I built them to be a complete tactical defense system.”
Once the other arm was working, she began to display the various accouterments. “Standard issue taser in the left wrist,” She flexed her palm back and two contact points emerged and arced electricity between them with a crackling sound. “Accurate up to ten feet.
“Grapnel launcher with external cord cartridges and grapnel heads,” She bent the same wrist downward and a panel opened behind it, exposing a complex looking gas-firing system. From the case, she pulled out a heavy duty, black leather tool belt. It was neatly loaded with various tools, including several rectangular black boxes, six inches long and less than half that wide or high. Each was marked with a stripe of color.
“Coded for my convenience.” Tink pointed out as she selected a yellow box and slotted it into the open panel. There was a mechanical whirr and the front of the box split open, deploying a barbed spearhead about four inches long. She showed it off a little before retracting and putting the device on standby. “It can also be configured to fire locators, dye rounds, smoke pellets and capsules of both quick setting adhesive and high density polyurethane foam.” As she spoke, she indicated each one on the belt.
“And the right hand is the utility hand: on-board computer with universal wireless and multi-adapter wired connectivity—when I get them in, I’ll like it up to a pair of augmented reality goggles so I don’t have to check the screen constantly.” She slid back a panel just below her wrist to expose the adapter on its retractable cord.
“There thumb and forefinger deploy a bolt cutter,” She twitched her thumb awkwardly and a pair of sturdy blades appeared exactly where she described. “As well as a utility knife.” She made another complex gesture and a double edged knife with a squared, angled tip extended from a slot behind the knuckle of her middle finger.
Lisa held up her hands before she could continue. “That’s all… very cool, Tink, but you’re not coming. And neither are you, JC.”
“What?” The both demanded at once.
“We just fought—Warrick got himself caught—to get you two to safety. As in right here. If I bring you back there, it was all for nothing.”
Tink bit her lip hard. “It wasn’t all for nothing! It let me come back and get these!”
Even though she was convinced it was the right course of action, Lisa had to fight back guilt. “And you already said it wasn’t done, Tink! Sure, you have the gauntlets and they can do all sorts of things, but they can’t make up for the fact that you have no other armor. What if whatever that pulse was hits you? What if they have guns? Or honestly, just more of those monster dogs? Your shorts aren’t going to stop a bite.”
“What’s to keep any of that from hurting you?”
It wasn’t every day that JC sounded so dark, so serious. It threw Lisa off balance.
“I’m serious.” He continued, “Your costume is just an illusion. You depend on your shields to protect to, which is fine, because you have the others or Kay watching your back but right now…” Tension creased his face as he couldn’t finish that thought.
“I’ll be fine.” She tried to argue. “And so will the ot–”
“What happens if someone jumps into one of your teleport circles while you’re in the middle of it?” He cut her off.
“They’d get trapped on the astral… you wouldn’t.”
“We would.” Tink came to stand beside him, arms crossed. “So you really don’t have a say in the matter.”
JC smiled at her, then nodded to Lisa. “That’s right. And don’t worry if you think I’ll be useless; set us back at the beach house: I’ve got a plan.”
For a long moment, Lisa looked between the tow, hoping for something she could say to dissuade them, or an idea that would let her leave without them. She found neither. And even though she still thought it was a terrible idea, she finally nodded. “Fine. We don’t have time for this; every minute we wait, the further away they get.
“Tink, send a message to everyone about what happened and where we’re going. Ms. Brant has the Book of Reason, she can teleport them if I leave a marker. JC, go down to the locker rooms; everyone’s uniforms are built around ballistics cloth vests and leggings and there’s a while box of spares. Get a set for both you and Tink.”
“And you.” He added. She raised an eyebrow. “Like I said, your costume is an illusion; wouldn’t it be better if you didn’t always have to keep a shield handy?”
Her expression softened. She always knew he cared, but it was still nice to see him show it. “Good idea. Thanks.”
A flash of rose light painted the room before expanding into a shimmering circle of the same color on the floor. From the center of it rose three figures; a lank young man wearing an armored vest and BDUs over a long sleeved shirt with a black bandanna pulled up over his mouth, a tall young woman with choppy red hair poking out of a cowl designed for a woman with far more hair than she and wearing a set of heavily armored gloves alongside the same armor as the young man, and a hooded sorceress with her staff aloft.
The image of a hardened and ready team broke down as the smell hit them.
“Ugh!” Tink retched, fumbling in her oversized belt for her rebreather. “God, that’s terrible.”
JC pressed the bandanna closer to his mouth and nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw the source of the stench. “Oh god, wet dog has nothing on burnt dog.” He backpedaled from the still smoking husk of the inugami.
The fireball had consumed it from the inside out, leaving little more than armor over char covered bones.
Lisa also gave it a wide berth. “I didn’t mean to hit it in the mouth. It just had so much mouth…”
“Creepy.” said JC.
Tink finally had the rebreather on and peered closer at the monster. “Interesting. Warrick told me that the metal in this armor is pretty much as hard as diamond, but intense heat seems to warp it.” The device over her mouth gave her voice a buzzing quality. She flicked a piece of armor with her armored finger. It cracked in a fine spiderweb pattern around the impact. “And brittle. We should warn Warrick not to get Isp and Osp too close to one of your detonating fireballs in the future.”
“Okay, new rule: no touching the horrific corpses.” said JC, backing toward the door. “I need to get something out of our room.” He told Lisa.
“Not without us, you’re not. The others have been moved, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a trap waiting for us.” Lisa said firmly.
JC glanced back through the broken door frame and knew she was totally right. “Yeah, point.”
Tink straightened from examining the dead creature. “Sorry. I thought taking a look might help us if we ran up against these things again.”
“I know.” Lisa nodded. “But for right now, fireball will work fine.”
They headed out of the room, Lisa leading with her staff as they picked their way through the shattered door. Once they were certain the coast was clear, JC dashed into the bedroom her and Lisa were staring, returning shortly with his old backpack slung over one shoulder, several colorful boxes tucked into his pockets and belt, and a butane lighter in hand.
“What… are those fireworks?” Lisa asked.
“A couple hundred dollars of professional grade and/or illegal fireworks, yes. But only the ones that’ll be useful. No fire eggs chickens or parachute men.” He said confidently.
“JC…” Lisa said, at a loss for words. “Project Tome is a powerful secret organization with elite, highly trained psionic agents. You can’t fight them with fireworks.”
He gave a half chuckle. “Lis, you might know magic, but I know mayhem. There’s a reason this stuff is illegal.” he reached back and pulled out a long cardboard tube styled like an ornate pillar. “Cesar’s Choice roman candles? They balls they shoot are hot enough to melt lead. 160’s?” He pointed to a cylinder stuffed into a pocket. “Colorful dynamite.”
“You were going to set that stuff off for the Fourth of July?” Tink asked.
“I know, right? And now, I’m going to use this stuff to give our friends an independence day from the bastards that took them.”
Bastion Ceramics was a small ceramics processing company and the only one that was based out of Royal Crossroad, a town just outside of Dawson Bay. It was also a front for Project Tome, established to give the organization a presence near the military base that used to be Dawson Bay.
It hadn’t been used for anything covert for decades, quietly turning out components for Tome’s various needs that didn’t require any special research and development. But this night, the graveyard shift had been given the day off ostensibly for fumigation. A tent had actually been put up over the place.
That didn’t explain the portable lights the had been bought in to illuminate the entire perimeter, or the fact that the normal security had been increased five fold. There were even spotters on the surrounding rooftops, hands gripped on panic buttons in case of strange occurrences.
They were going to see a lot of those this night.
“That’s a lot of guards.” JC said, peering through the binoculars he’d snagged from Cyn’s room. The white-haired girl spent a lot of time at the beach house watching men playing beach volleyball from the pool. The trio was atop the tallest building in tiny Royal Crossroads, the singular five story office building that housed most of the town’s medical, dentistry, law and business space. It was far enough away from Bastion Ceramics not to have spotters of its own.
“The good news though is that I don’t see any of those dog things.”
“The bad news is that none of us is exactly the stealthy type.” Lisa pointed out.
“Don’t you know any cloak of invisibility type spells?” Tink asked.
Lisa shook her head. “None that work while you’re moving. Those tend to be the kind of spell the Book of Reason decides to get all esoteric about, telling me I need reagents like ‘a slice of shadow’ or ‘solid air’.”
JC frowned, still looking through the binoculars. “Can that glamor thing make you look like someone else?”
“It takes time to make up a fake one, but if I can get a lock of someone’s hair, I can make a passable temporary glamor of them.”
JC’s frown turned to a sly grin at her explanation. “Oh really?”
Michelle Buchanan fancied herself a mercenary despite being in the constant and steady employ of Dead Aim Security. She knew that Dead Aim was part of something shady, if not deeply criminal, but that’s where the mercenary part came in.
As long as she got her check every month, five weeks vacation and no questions asked medical coverage, she could look the other way when a few unconscious teenagers got offloaded from the back of a panel truck by a man draped in chains.
That was none of her business.
What was her business was coming up with someplace else to go when her next vacation came up in a month. She’d already crossed off her bucket list locales over the last two years; Hawaii, Jamaica, Hong Kong, Cairo… It was time to expand her horizons. Maybe London or Paris; she’d done exotic, maybe it was time for something classical.
Of course, she couldn’t concentrate on her own thoughts. The night was too hot and the stupid panic button was a dead man’s switch, meaning that if she let go of it, an alarm signal would go out to the spotters around her. Holding it like that was cramping her hand. Not only that, but it was windy on top of the building she was set to patrol.
It was annoying and thankless. She was going to demand a raise.
Something cold and wet hit her arm just below the sleeve of her shot sleeved shirt.
Glancing down, she saw it was splattered with some kind of green jelly. Except the jelly as rapidly expanding, puling on the fine hairs on her arm as it also solidified.
Suddenly, the panic button was a good idea. But before she could let go of it, another splatter hit the hand holding it, the green gel swelling and thickening until it was firmly sealing her hand onto the device.
Wheeling around, she tried to see where it came from. But all she had time to see was a segmented hand, coming down on her shoulder. It looked like some sort of insect, and made a buzzing sound like one too. At least that was the last thing that went through Michelle’s head before a jolt of electricity sent her to the ground, twitching.
Tink looked down at the fallen woman, a frown on her face. “I need to work on my aim. If I missed a second time, she would have set that off and we would have been done for.”
“You did fine.” Lisa said, kneeling beside the fallen mercenary with a small utility knife in hand. She grabbed a lock of hair and sheared it off. “Just try to hit the next two right on the first shot.”