- 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
For a moment, the shock overwhelmed Tink. She wanted to scream, but her jaw clenched tightly against her will. Vaguely, she caught herself assessing what just happened: she got his by a low velocity taser round, just like what dropped Cyn earlier. There wasn’t a lot she could do about that; a taser was meant to disrupt neuro-muscular control and quickly incapacitate. In point of fact, she was surprised she was able to think this coherently while it was happening.
Before she knew what was happening, she was slumped against the table, breathing in short, fast pants. Not incapacitated. Not even dizzy. The round must have been faulty. Good thing it was faulty in that way instead of the way that could have killed her.
There was a presence behind her, moving up close. Then a hand grabbed the side of her head, starting to tilt her neck to the side.
Expecting a needle or a knife to be coming next, Tink threw an elbow behind her and connected with something rigid but yielding. Her attacker grunted in pain, and she could hear him rapidly backing up to avoid being knocked down by the blow. Their footsteps were soft, possibly owing to footwear designed to minimize the sound of their tread.
She turned in time to see a ripple appear in the air, as if someone were passing a fish-eye lens over the area, which resolved into a compact hypospray gun that clattered to the floor. There was nothing else in her field of vision, but she both heard and saw something run into a stack of crates ahead of her.
Warrick told her about fighting an invisible man the summer before when the Descendants had gone to recruit a girl named Joy Duvall for the Liedecker Institute and ended up protecting her from an attack by Tome. One of his captured comrades had revealed the invisible man’s codename: White Shadow.
There wasn’t time to think. If she paused, he would move and she would lose track of him. The launcher in her gauntlet made a series of quick popping noises as she sprayed the crate with six shots of the high density polyurethane.
Five shots hit the crates, expanding into lopsided domes of translucent green foam. The other hit something about a foot out from the crate and disappeared with another eye watering flourish of spectrum physics.
White Shadow cursed softly and now that Tink knew what to listen for, she heard him moving to her right, and the click of something metallic. Probably the gun he used to fire the taser rounds. Tink opened fire before he could, painting several stacks of crates and banks of equipment beyond with green foam.
None seemed to hit and her slowly adjusting ears told her that he was turning to flee down the same corridor she arrived by. When she sidestepped to face it, she had a straight shot. He might dodge a few, but there was no cover for him there.
Except when she triggered the launcher, it only fired twice more before clicking on empty. To make the magazine compact enough while accommodating the CO2 cartridge, she was forced to cut the number of rounds down to fifteen per magazine. She made a mental note to fix that later as she ejected the magazine and replaced it with fresh set of the same type.
Further up the corridor, Occult flew into view. Just before she hit the back wall, something else did, cracking the concrete, but protecting her from damage. A cascade of dust from the crack vaguely outlined the contours of the globe of force she was kneeing in.
Occult herself was on one knee atop the slab of floor that the globe had previously been anchored in, chalking a circle in front of her and reading an incantation from the Digi-book of Reason.
“…and become the crossroads. Open ye gates and give into my hands the key! Astral Nexus!”
She stood, and at the same time, slammed the butt of her staff into the center of the chalk drawing, which was dusted with powdered silver. A bit of horse hair, which she’d been shocked to find was readily available for purchase online, was tied just below the staff’s head.
The circle lit up with rose light and began to rise up the length of the staff, the symbols scribed along its edge transforming into curved, glowing rectangles that began to slowly rotate, their planes parallel to the staff. The horse hair ignited as the circle settled around the staff’s head.
Occult went through a lot of horse hair; it was a component of almost every spell involving travel and always caught fire in the casting. The Digi-book said that hair from a mare in her third pregnancy wouldn’t have this problem, but Occult didn’t want to ever have to ask those kinds questions.
Suddenly, Ossia was there, barging down the connecting aisle with his sword lowered and fully committed to the charge. When the blade struck the globe, it squealed with a terrible sound, like a poorly maintained circular saw. White sparks filled the air and slowly, he began to win through.
His progress didn’t seem to even register with Occult until she looked up and made eye contact with him through her force-field. The next moment, she leveled the magically pulsing end of the staff to her left and thrust it in that direction.
A new noise filled the air; a grinding, like invisible, stone gates being forced open. Lines of light shot extended from the point where she thrust, widening for just a moment before the light seemed to flood out, flowing over her. In just over a second, she was gone, reappearing in a flash of rose light through a new fissure not far from where Tink stood.
Without her to maintain it, the globe of force collapsed, causing Ossia to stumble forward and almost run headfirst into the wall.
“You okay?” Occult asked Tink.
“Be careful,” Tink said instead of answering the question. “There’s another one. He’s invisible.”
No sooner had she given the warning than a thumb sized projectile hit Occult in the chest and stuck in the vest she was wearing under the glamor. Occult answered by erecting a shield across the mouth of the aisle both men were in.
“Thanks.” Tink said, turning back to the stasis controls. “What’s JC?”
Occult grimaced. “We god separated. The chain guy went after him.” She swallowed. “I have to go find him, but first, we need the others for back-up. Please hurry.” Through her shield, she could see Ossia headed their way. Whatever he did to allow his sword to break her shield meant that it wouldn’t be long before they were facing him and White Shadow head on again.
“I’ll try.” Tink said, “But this isn’t an instantaneous thing.” Warrick’s cell had vented, so she directed the system to feed him the stimulant cocktail meant to get people out of stasis faster. Then she started venting the other two cells.
“Just do your best. I’ll try and buy us some time. I am this close to just fireballing them.” Out of her pouch, Occult came up with a prism. It was the simple, triangular kind, the harsh light from above causing it to spill a rainbow down her wrist.
“Eye of the all-seeing infinite, light that slips even into the shadows, heed my command and drink my visage.” As she chanted, she placed one of her pre-carved runes on to and activated it. A complex, trefoil if white light appeared, burning intensely around the prism. “And stamp my image in the air.”
The prism flared with rainbow light before disgorging twin beams of multi-hued energy into the floor ahead of Occult, to her right and to her left. The energy swirled and coalesced into two exact copies of her, both of which stepped forward and presented their staves.
Like the Astral Nexus spell, it wasn’t really a new spell for her, but a variation on a theme. The nexus was just quick and dirty short range teleportation that she could reuse. The copies were just visual and audible illusions, built on almost exactly the same spell as her glamor.
Now if only she could make a less lethal fireball.
She stepped up beside her copies and then all three shuffled positions to confuse Ossia.
He didn’t make her wait, swinging his sword around and easily tearing into the shield. The first blow cracked a head sized hole in it, while the next brought it down entirely. Not even seeing three of his desired target slowed him down. He ran straight at the one in the center with an overhand strike.
She raised her staff to block, but the sword passed right through it. Then is passed through her body to stick in the concrete floor as the illusion smirked at him.
The Occult on his right, taking advantage of his trapped weapon, swung the butt of her staff into his guy, then whipped the glowing head around to catch him in his chest, knocking him away from the sword, which was buried point first in the floor.
Behind them, Tink started the stimulant feed for Cyn and Kay. Warrick’s own feed was done, so she began to go down the checklist of restrains and monitoring equipment to disengage. A buzzer on the larger cell housing sounded and red lights came on above the cell door.
Ossia cursed. “Shadow! Stop her! We can’t let that one wake up, or we’re completely screwed!”
To her right, Occult heard soft, running steps. “Show some respect.” She said. “You’re already completely screwed.” Gesturing with her staff, she teleported into White Shadow’s path and bought the butt of it down on the ground hard. “Crystalline Reign!”
Once again, a field of quartz-like crystal sprouted from the ground to engulf a wedge of space directly in front of her. A five foot circle of those in the middle disappeared as White Shadow’s powers went to work on them.
“Not screwed yet.” Ossia grunted and threw himself toward Tink. He ran through one of the illusory Occults, wrenching his sword out of the ground in the process.
“Tink, look out!” Occult screamed and used he nexus to teleport. She landed behind Ossia and he managed to duck the wild swing she made at his head.
At Occult’s shout, Tink turned, twisting her arm to deploy the taser in her palm. But Ossia had closed the gap too quickly. As she tried to sidestep, he rammed the orihalcite blade home, slipping it between her ribs. His momentum slammed them both back against the table.
Satisfied with himself, Ossia let out a relieved breath, only for Tink to grab the side of his face with her taser bearing hand. The connection was too poor to put him down, but it was incredibly painful and took him off guard enough that he couldn’t defend himself from the punch Tink landed in his ribs.
There was an audible crunch and he was forced back, pulling his sword free. Through the pain he was stunned to find very little blood marring his weapon. Not only that, but the edge was pitted and chipped—corroded. He stared dumbly at it, not noticing until it was too late that Tink was lining up her taser again.
The twin prongs launched from her wrist and caught him in his neck. This time the connection was good and he fell too the ground, screaming as his broken rib took part of the fall. Tink emptied the magazine of foam rounds over him, sealing him from the neck down to the floor.
“Are you okay?” Occult asked. The whole scene had happened quickly and most of it had been obscured from her by Ossia’s back.
Coming down from her adrenaline high, Tink touched the spot where the sword had entered her. It had been a desperation attack and wouldn’t have hit her heart, but she imagined something should be damaged and she should probably be in both terrible pain and critical, if not fatal condition.
Instead, she found a line of puffy, inflamed flesh beneath the cut in her protective vest. And she didn’t feel pain, just warmth, like she’d felt when the taser hit her, only concentrated over what should have been a stab wound.
“…Yeah.” She said, confused. “But I shouldn’t be. I… think something’s going on with me. Something weird.” Moving in a daze, she turned back to the console. Everyone had been given the stimulant cocktail now and the medical equipment had been disengaged. She hit the releases for each door in turn.
“We’ll have Codex have a look.” Occult assured. “Let’s make sure they’re awake, then I need to find JC.”
Hermetic seals hissed and all three doors swung upward. Kay and Warrick fell immediately to their knees and were sick on the floor, sputtering and coughing all the while. Cyn leaned heavily against the wall of her cell and looked blearily out at her new surroundings.
“Where the hell are we?” She muttered, letting her eyes adjust. Then she spotted Tink. “What the hell are you wearing?”
“It’s… a long story.” Tink said with a weak smile.
The round of running feet, drew that attention of everyone who wasn’t captured or in the process of being violently ill. Occult raised her staff, ready for battle.
It wasn’t necessary, as the new arrival turned out to be a bedraggled JC.
“You’re okay!” JC and Occult chorused to one another and ran to embrace.
Tears were streaming from JC’s eyes as he pulled her close. “I don’t know how you do this.” He breathed. “I always thought I knew just how amazing you were, but after today… Jesus, I didn’t have the slightest idea before today.”
Occult pulled back and cupped his cheek in her hand, wiping away a tear with a thumb. “I’m sorry. I said I’d protect you and… then we got separated and… where’s the chain guy?”
“Oh. Um, him. Yeah, I got him. I don’t know where it came from, because you know I’m not really a badass, but I had the idea and… well he’s stuck in the ceramic stuff back there.” JC rambled. “He was… no shit, gonna kill me and I had this really stupid plan and… and it worked!”
The glamored shadow over her face hid Occult’s shock at that, but her voice showed signs. “You did? That’s amazing.” She smiled at him, even though he couldn’t see. “You’re definitely a hero; me might make you a super hero yet.”
He laughed with tears still twinkling in his eyes. “Hell no. You were right. You’re… you’re equipped for this. I’m not.”
Meanwhile, Tink tossed Cyn her palmtop to call the others and the ROCIC with and went over to where Warrick was still on his hands and knees.
“Hey.” She said, gently, kneeling and putting an arm around him.
Warrick looked up with bleary eyes and instantly noticed her attire. “Hey. You…”
“Yeah.” She said quietly. “I didn’t want anyone but Ms. Brant to know about it before I got everything built and tested but then this happened and I couldn’t just let them take you.”
He let her help him up to lean on the open stasis cell. “That’s a pretty brutal field test.” He chuckled. “Thanks… I don’t… maybe it’s the stasis, but I don’t even know what to say.” He glanced back at the open coffin-like chamber. “This is the second time, you know?”
“You’re not upset?” she asked. She’d been prepared to argue about it.
Warrick gave her a surprised look. “Why would I? It’d be kind of jerkish to get mad at you for saving me from these guys.” He gave her a crooked smile. “Plus, remember how you reacted to finding out about me being Alloy?”
Tink smiled back and leaned closer. “Yeah…”
But suddenly, they stopped; Tink made a sour face and Warrick put his hand between them. “Right,” He said. “We should probably wait. Because of the throwing up…”
“Agreed.” Tink said and instead stood to help him up.
Cyn had made the call and went to help Kay get herself straight. Warrick spied JC. “Wait, what the hell is JC doing here?”
As if a bravado switch hit his brain, JC looked up. “Coming to save your ass, brother. You heard me say I took out Manriki, right?”
“No, totally true, I’ll show you.” JC grinned. “Hey, isn’t he the one that beat the crap out of you during the ‘Redeemers’ thing?”
“Maybe.” With Tink’s help, Warrick got over to the table and grabbed the chunks of orihalcite. A single thought summoned Isp and Osp, which slithered up his arms, looking around warily.
“Everyone’s on their way here.” Cyn reported. “Looks like these assholes are going to have some explaining to do.”
“We’ll have some explaining to do too.” said Occult. “We need to get Kay and JC out before the marines see them, and someone’s going to have to prove to them that the lack of crystals over there really is White Shadow.”
“I’m all for getting the hell out.” slurred Kay. “I just want to get back to the beach house and pass out.”
“Oh,” Tink said, looking nervous. “War… Alloy, we’re going to have to sleep in the basement tonight.”
“Because we’re going to need time to get the smell of burning inugami out of our room.”
End Issue #57
End The Beach House Arc