- 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
“Fog’s coming in.” One of the guards manning the front gate told the other. Unlike the lookouts, they had the luxury of sitting in the existing guardhouse that controlled access through the gate. It was a coveted position, no one was expected to come in by car, so anyone approaching that way was an intruder. And since anyone in the know enough to even come all the way out to there would know this and not even bother.
It was almost as good as a night off. The man speaking was reading a sports blog on his palmtop while his partner was leaning on the desk, sipping coffee.
“Good thing it’s low.” the second man observed. Outside, the mist was only up to about ankle height. “This place would be pretty damn creepy.”
The first grunted his agreement.
A tapping came at the window and they both started, just for a second. A wry, embarrassed grin that said ‘and we shall never speak of this again’ was exchanged before they looked up to see that it was one of the look outs, a woman they knew as a casual associate, Michelle Buchanan.
The man standing nodded to her and crossed the small space of the guard house to slide open the window, normally meant for passing ID’s through.
“Aren’t you supposed to be keeping an eye out from the roof?” He asked with a laugh.
Michelle rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah. No one knows there’s even anything to look here out on the ass end of nowhere. I figured there’s no harm coming down here to see if you got anything to smoke.”
He shook his head. “Sorry, you know I quit last year.” He turned to his partner. “Hey Rob, you got any smokes?”
Rob glanced up from reading. “I picked up a fresh pack of J’s from the JiffyMart, but they don’t let us smoke those on duty. They’re in the car if you’re desperate.”
“I am.” said Michelle. But before anyone could say more, a red, green and yellow wheel of fire span past behind her and over the gate. It hit the ground on the lot and let out a screaming whistle before exploding into red sparks. She threw herself forward, pressing against the side of the guard house to avoid the sparks. “What the hell was that?!”
Another burning wheel flew past on the other side. This one clipped the gate and exploded there.
“I don’t know, but I’m calling it in.” said Rob. “Break out the guns, Dave.” Dave nodded and rushed to the counter where they sat their shotguns.
Another screaming fireball hit the glass just in front of him, making him jump back. All along the street, more fiery projectiles were flying off the roofs and from inside alleys, striking the wall, gates and even flying into the lot to hit cars and outbuildings.
“Front gate!” Rob shouted into the radio. “We are under attack by an unknown number of assailants with fire based weapons or powers. I’m requesting a full response!”
“Confirmed, front gate. I’ve got spotters calling it in. Sending squads three and four to you. Open the gate for them when they come through, then button the whole thing up.”
“Copy that.” said Rob. He switched off the radio and leaned back to relax. Someone’s hand came down to rest on his shoulder. He didn’t have time to notice how heavy or hard it felt before the shock hit him and he went down.
Dave turned around at the pained yelp from his partner, holding both shotguns by the barrel. What he found was Michelle Buchanan, stretching her hand toward his chest. He was in no position to actually fire the guns and didn’t have room to dodge. Her palm hit his collarbone and discharged electricity into it. He didn’t yelp so much as grunt and fall to the floor.
With both guards down, Michelle reached down to her waist and seemingly pulled a handful of zip cuffs out of thin air. Before kneeling to secure the men, she waved across the street and made sure that she saw two of her fellow spotters break from the alley to sprint for the guard house.
Two squads of private security personnel advanced on the front gate under sporadic fire from their mystery attackers. Riot shields kept the wheels of flame and exploding balls of light that happened their way from doing too much damage.
As they approached, the gates; nine foot tall rows of iron bars, slowly rolled open to let them out. None of them paid attention to the people in the guard house.
“That’s so cool how the fireworks are shooting themselves off.” whispered a balding, black man with a thick beard to a thin, narrow faced young Caucasian with a wispy mustache.
“It’s a spell called ‘Patient Flame’.” the younger man whispered back. “The fire doesn’t burn anything until you break a linked object. I linked the fuses to bubbles on a sheet of bubble-wrap in my pocket.”
“Man, our Fourth could have been so awesome.”
“But if it had been, we wouldn’t have had fireworks to use in this plan.” Michelle pointed out, kneeling out of sight of the passing squads.
With professional discipline uncharacteristic of private security forces, the two squads peeled off into four groups to tackle the alleys and search for access to the rooftops.
The thin man took a roll of bubble wrap out of her pocket and dropped it on the floor. “Okay, start the gates closing.”
Michelle stood up and pushed the toggle to control the gates. As soon as she was sure they were closing, she grabbed hold of it and ripped it out of the housing. Once the gates closed, they would stay that way. “Let’s go!” She shouted.
The thin man stomped down on the bubble-wrap, rolling his foot to pop as many bubbles as possible. After a second of delay, the alleys lit up, not just with volleys from roman candles and screaming wheels, but from fountains set up at random along the sides.
Panic fire rang out into the night and the thin man nodded in satisfaction before following the others through the gates.
“We’ve got to hurry.” said the thin man as they moved through the now-deserted lot toward the main building. “These glamors are rush jobs, they won’t last very long. If we’re lucky, we’ve got five minutes left.”
“So we can’t depend on being in disguise the whole way. Any idea how to find the fastest way to where they’re being kept?” asked the bearded man.
“I could scry for them but…” the thin man started.
“…It’s take more than five minutes?”
Michelle lifted her arm and grabbed at it with the opposite hand. There was a clicking sound and a palmtop appeared in her hand. “I downloaded the locator program before we left. It’s tell us what direction they’re in, but there’s no accounting for walls and door placement.”
“Its’ the best we’ve got.” said the thin man.
They reached the side door the security squad had emerged from. It had been locked behind them, but it was non-electronic and no defense against the lock gun ‘Michelle’ kept on her belt.
The doors opened onto a hallway. On one side, there were marked doors for the men’s and ladies’ rooms. On the other, there was an empty door frame leading into a break room. The vending machines hummed and the television was on, tuned to highlights of the baseball game from earlier in the day. Abandoned cans, bags of chips and containers of half eaten rehydration oven ready meals provided evidence of what at least one squad was up to before being called to action.
Another set of doors separated the break area from the rest of the building.
“I just ad a thought.” the bearded man said. “I kind of doubt that any of the guys with the guns have any powers. So… where are whoever attacked us?”
That was a very good question. The others glanced at one another. Michelle leaned over to the window in the door, checking to see if anyone was on the other side.
“This is why I didn’t want you to come.” said the thin man.
“I didn’t say I was afraid.”
“Well I am.”
“I don’t see anybody.” Michelle interrupted. “There’s a big open space just outside. Then there’s a bank of pressure gauges and two aisles between the machinery. I don’t know much about ceramics manufacture, but there’s got to be some sort of loading dock for the materials and finished product. That’s probably where they’re keeping them.”
“Any idea where that might be?” asked the thin man.
“Near the back, probably. I didn’t see anything like that out front.”
The thin man nodded. “Then let’s get back there then.”
Michelle pushed the door open and stepped in casually. There was a woman in security uniform walking down the aisle to their right, but when she looked over her shoulder, she saw someone she recognized and so kept going.
They took the aisle to the left, moving off into the nest of tubes and catalyzing chambers.
“What the hell is all this stuff?” complained the bearded man.
“This is where the ceramics are born.” explained Michelle. “It’s all just dirt, but if you break it down, wet it and cook it with the right catalyzers, you’ve got the best strength to weight and cost ratio of any material. Without this stuff, you wouldn’t have an apartment tower to live in. Building skyscrapers otherwise is too expensive for most people.”
She gestured to one machine and paused. She could see bits and pieces of her gauntlet bleeding into and out of visibility as she watched. “Uh-oh. Glamor’s starting to fail.”
“Crap.” Lisa breathed, looking down to discover that her ‘thin man’ disguise now had breasts. She dropped the spells entirely, causing all three to suddenly appear as themselves. Doing so also revealed the usual Occult glamor she had over herself. In the next moment, she pulled out her keychain sized staff and expanded it to full size.
“Okay, now we’ve got to move carefully and quietly. When we get to intersections, sprint if there’s no one watching.”
Once more, they moved forward, paying more attention now to being stealthy than to speed. Tink’s locator showed the others just ahead and to the left. Taking care to hide from the occasional guard patrol, it looked like they would reach their goal unopposed, until just two rows away from the rear of the building, JC grabbed Tink’s shoulder and pulled her sharply back.
A heavy chain, links as thick as a person’s wrist, thundered down from above, splintering the tile where it struck. Having missed its mark,t he chain retracted back up to its master.
Manriki hung from the rafters by his various chains. As usual, his only concessions to the concept of costumes or uniforms were those chains wrapped around him and a Zorro style mask tied over his eyes with the hood of his sweatshirt pulled up.
“Whenever someone says ‘they’ll never look for us here’, I get nervous.” He said by way of introduction. “Mostly because it’s the same folks that let that Redeemers bullshit go down. So forgive me if I’m going to be thorough about making sure none of you lives to call for more help.”
Four chains uncoiled from his body and threw themselves at the three friends.
Occult was ready for it, raising a shard of glass against the attack. “Levanto esta pared!” All four weapons struck and rebounded from the red sectioned shield.
Manriki grunted in frustration and set all four to hammer relentlessly against the barrier. At the same time, he tripped a switch on his belt, instantly setting off alarms in the area.
“Shit.” Occult muttered.
“Got it covered.” JC reached into his backpack and came up with a handful of colored balls with fuses. In his other hand, he held the butane lighter, which he used to swiftly ignite the fuses of all five. He threw two up the aisle behind them and one down the other three. As the guards arrived, the balls began to spew colored smoke, ruining any chance for them to get in a clear shot.
Next, he pulled out a roman candle and lit it, pointing the business end toward where he’d seen the highest concentration of guards. Balls of colored fire began to launch into the swirling smoke.
“JC.” Occult said as she used a second glass shard to reinforce her shield. “You stay with me. I’ll protect you. Tink, get to the others. Do whatever it takes to wake them up – we need help.”
Without a word, Tink nodded and charged down the aisle toward the loading dock.
Moving back to back with his girlfriend, JC lit another candle off the flames of the first, now sending shots down tow aisles. “I had no idea this kind of thing would be this scary.” He breathed.
“I tried to warn you.” Occult sidestepped around him and planted her staff. “Crystalline Reign!” There was a tinkling sound as chunky, clear crystals began to rapidly grow, piling on one another and spreading out in a cone from the place where the staff hit the floor, swiftly extending into the smoke and snaring guards.
“Not going to leave you though.” He said, directing all his fire into the other aisle now. “I don’t care how scared I am, I’m not leaving you.”
“I love you too.” She said, “But if you don’t run if I tell you, I swear to god…”
“Hit the deck!” one of the guards, stuck behind the smoke cloud, shouted. Moments later, the smoke parted and a wall of force forced its way through it, hurling guards aside on its way to the pair at the intersection.
Occult and JC jumped apart, but the energy carried by the attack still threw them off their feet.
Ossia stepped through the diminishing smoke, stepping over the bowled over guards. His sword was ringing, leaving a visible distortion in the air around it. “Looks like the theta scanner’s on the blink, eh, Manriki?”
“I’m not sure what she it.” Manriki admitted. “But the other one’s just tossing fireworks.”
“Really?” Ossia laughed. “You thought you were going to break in and take on the three of us with cheap fireworks? Kid, that’s brave, but a sad kind of brave.”
JC hardened his jaw. Occult had been able to maintain her shield against Manriki, but she could only defend in one direction. If this new threat let loose, there wasn’t a lot she could do to stop him. A heartbeat, and he made a decision.
“You’re wrong.” He said. Blatantly reaching back into his backpack. “They’re expensive fireworks.”
He drew out the one he’d been hoping not to have to use on this mission. It cost him fifty dollars, plus express shipping. It was a tube five feet long and covered with plastic scales with a grinning Chinese dragon head on top. The king of modern fireworks, banned by name in fifty-one states: The Glorious Dragon Festival of Fire and Light.
His butane lighter flicked. Igniting the wick in the dragon’s mouth. Ossia didn’t look concerned. He obviously had never seen the videos out on DataGlobe, or the warning printed on the side concerning blunt trauma or the instructions saying to brace it against a solid, immobile surface.
JC dropped to a knee, bracing, as instructed, against the concrete floor.
In museums, they referred to devices like the Glorious Dragon Festival of Fire and Light as early cannons. The current model was fully automatic.
First there was a scream and a fountain of red sparks. Ossia almost laughed. Then came the ‘dragon’s; wadded rubber shapes that launched out, trialing brightly colored, metallic streamers. The first one hit Ossia in the chest and that was all the excuse he needed to dive for cover as a dozen more came blazing toward him.
“Run!” JC shouted, dropping the still firing dragon in favor of grabbing Occult’s hand.
They did just that.