Issue #60 – Rust Buckets

This entry is part 13 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 5: How the World Changes
Part 5
Joe had his rockets on full burn toward City Central, nearing the luxury apartment towers at the Archipelago Estates.
“Bossman, come in! Where the hell are you?” He shouted into the comms.
“Stop screaming like a damn woman, Tough.” replied Sean. “We’re closing on you now, have you on visual. God, thought you had more balls than that, name like you picked out.”
“You shut the hell up! She’s been cuttin’ out all my sensors, one by one. I’m flying on damn echol…the bat-sight things. That’s all I’ve got. I don’t even know where she is. Crawlin’ ’round on me like some kinda monkey. It’s the hiding that’s getting’ you me. Shit, if we were one on one with nowhere to hide, there’d be one less psionic in the world, tell ya what.”
Sean frowned. “You don’t know where she is? Damn it, Joe, you might’ve lost her.”
Luminous, golden eyes appeared in the vents above Joe in the cockpit. “Oh, he’s got no such luck.” Before Joe could do anything to defend himself, a surge of golden goo burst from the vent, writhing in his hair, down his shirt and across his face.
Suddenly faced with being engulfed, Joe started screaming and trying to pull the sticky goo off him even as it began to engulf his upper body. Without anyone steering or holding the throttle, the freelev system kicked in, leaving the mecha in a wild spin as it slowly descended toward the rooftops.
“Jesus! Sean, Al, anybody, help me! Help!”
The mecha crashed through the glass off a skyway greenhouse and kept going amid the glitter of thousands of shards of glass.
“Didn’t you want a one on one fight ‘Tough?” Facsimile’s voice shouted to be heard over the screaming. “And don’t think I didn’t recognize that voice. Hey there Dad. IS all this for me?”
After another ten stories, the mecha and its complement of flying glass finally splashed down into a rooftop swimming pool.
“Dad?” Came simultaneous responses from both Al and Billy.
“Keep your traps shut both of you. It’s just another psionic. Target Joe and shot anything that comes o—OW!” A screech of feedback filled his cockpit until he turned down the volume. “Handyman, what the hell was that? I thought you said you had the bugs all worked out.”
No response.
“Hello? All report in. Now!”
A burst of static. “Handyman here.”
“Bad Boy. But Mama went off to fight that Alloy guy. I don’t know whe—“
A new voice cut him off, a female one, but certainly not ‘Liza-Beth’s. “Zeke is definitely out. And so is your accidental cone of silence. This is Codex of the Descendants. And if you don’t set down right now, we’re going to take you down. All of us vs three of you.”
In the weight room of a building two blocks from Dayspring College, a familiar warble came from the palmtop mounted to Kaeem’s wristband, overriding the music player function and the program keeping track of his physical therapy exercises.
He quickly set down his weights and hurried out, not even taking his gym bag.
In Angel’s Camp, California, Melissa was just sitting down to breakfast with her parents and brother when her palmtop beeped a short cadence. She almost dropped the whole syrup bottle on her waffle.
“Oh no. I-I’m sorry, but they need me.”
“We understand.” said her father, Eddie. “Just be careful.”
“And call us as soon as you can so we know you’re okay.” added Gwen her mother.
Being younger and not understanding the full ramifications, her brother, Tim was just excited. “Is it going to be on the news?”
“I don’t even know what’s going on.” Melissa admitted as she walked through the open arch between the kitchen and dining room and placed the pin she kept on her at all times against the mirror hanging on the closet door. The reflection warped and rippled until it showed the boathouse down the hill from Freeland House instead. “Let’s hope not. I’ll be back as soon as I can. I love you.” And with that, she stepped through.
The van’s engine came to life with a soft hum, with no warning lights coming up on the dash.
“That fixed it!” announced Sister Ann Marie from the driver’s seat. “Mr. Smythe, you’ve saved the day again.”
Ian closed the hood and tossed a part glass, part metal bauble into the tool box nearby. “I appreciate the praise, especially considering the source, Sister, but there wasn’t actually anything wrong with it. Just a bad sensor node that wasn’t telling the computer how much power was being transferred. It was easy enough to reroute it, because you don’t actually need that unless you’re interested in efficiency per charge.”
The elderly bride of Christ turned off the engine and started to get out. “Still, when I see a message that pops up saying ‘sensor failure’, I’m not about to drive; what if it’s something important, like the one that makes sure no one’s behind you when you back up?”
Ian smiled at her and toweled his hands off. “All this one amounted to was trying to get you into a dealership to relieve you of four or five hundred dollars. It’s perfectly safe to drive now.” He palmtop beeped in his pocket. “Normally, I’d offer to run your errands with you just in case, but that’s my fiance wedding stuff, you know.”
“Oh, of course, Mr. Smythe. Thank you so much again.”
“Any time.” He said, heading out of the small garage Our Lady of Hope. Checking the actual message he got, he scowled. “Oh. Except now. Now is a bad time.”
Slipping into an alley, he triggered the spell on his belt button with the right combination of pressure points as proscribed by Occult and emerged from between buildings as Chaos.
The stalactite drapery formation called Sacren’s Tent, one of the most famous of its kind, reached toward the floor like some vast, multi-limbed predator, or a waterfall frozen in time. Either way, it was beautiful and alien all at once.
But both Lisa and her aunt Tay were having trouble concentrating. They probably would have anyway, given that the trip was about reconnecting and pointedly not talking about things like how Lisa’s aunt was now inhabiting the mystically gifted body of a thousand year old sorceress, or how before that, she’d been a thief so brazen, she left a calling car.
As it was, something else was providing ample distraction all its own.
“So it turns out the whole place is… humming with power.” noted Lisa, incredulous.
“I should have planned this trip better.” her aunt was sheepish. “Not that I know what to look up to make sure a place isn’t full of mystic vibes.”
“I doubt that exists.” offered Lisa. “This was probably someone’s place of power a long time ago. It’s… reacting to people with magic being here.”
Her Aunt glanced up at the Tent. “Is that good or bad?”
“No idea.” Lisa admitted. Then her palmtop chirped. “And of course an emergency pops up. I’m sorry but–”
“Don’t. It’s fine. It’s important. I just hope these people you’re working with will watch out for you.”
Lisa smiled and hugged her. “That’s one thing you don’t have to worry about.”
Renaissance heard the hijacked conversation through the speakers Billy neglected to turn off and got the summons on her palmtop directly after.
“Okay.” She said to herself as she climbed against the wind generated by the speeding mecha. “The cavalry’s on the way. But I still have to deal with you.”
She looked around at the machine’s broad back, noting the various hydraulics and servos, many of which had been ravaged so badly by time that breaking them would probably make them work better. Then she looked back down at the rocket packs, still thrusting away with no source of fuel or any sort of cooling system.
“I could take you apart, but what good is that going to do with a magic robot?” Looking toward the head, she say the rows of sensors and vents for the cockpit. “But you’ve still got a pilot…”
With a surge of strength, she clambered up the mecha’s back and looked into the sensors, shouting to be heard of the wind. “Hey! Do you hear that? It’s over, give up!”
Inside the pilot’s cabin, Billy wished he had the defenses Joe, Sean or his mother had on their heavier mecha. His was light, and as such didn’t have the space for spike that jutted out of random places or the capacitors to deliver a shock.
What he did have was massive maneuverability, which he put into effect by throwing the mecha into a sustained barrel roll. The armor plates Renaissance as using as hand holds were as poorly constructed as everything else on the machine and came off under the pressures of centrifugal force.
Though dizzy and terrified, Renaissance managed to fire a grapple line at the whirling mecha, scoring a hit and a good magnetic seal on one of its gun ports. Coiling around the center of the robot, the line started to reel her back in without her using the ascenders built into her gauntlets. She ended up grabbing onto the opposite arm, this time holding on to part of the superstructure.
Her safety wasn’t complete though, because the spinning was starting to make her lightheaded.
“Okay, getting tired of this.” She looked down to see the rocket packs still firing, only now in opposite directions to cause the spin. “They don’t need fuel, but do they still need exhaust?”
She looped one arm around the mecha’s arm and used the other to take a spare cartridge out of her utility kilt’s many pockets. There was much more room in that than the handyman’s belt she used before. Once she had the device in hand, she took careful aim and threw it down into the exhaust flame coming from the rocket packs.
As expected, the heat caused the high density polyurethane inside the cartridge explode, cocooning the mecha’s entire lower half in a hard, green shell. Without propulsion, the freelev had to take the entire load by itself and engaged gyroscopic stabilization, slowing the spin.
Renaissance let out a sigh of relief, then almost laughed when she heard sickened groans coming from inside the cockpit. “Made yourself sick didn’t you?”
“You shut your mouth!” Billy shouted through the speakers. “You just sit tight and I’ll think of something else. You psionics gotta learn your place.”
She glared up at the face plate. “That’s what this is about? You’re one of those nuts like Stiles?” She started climbing around the arm toward the torso and the cockpit entry.
“We’re not nuts! Greenview Ridge, Braddock Island, Raavi—ya’ll are dangerous! If we don’t do something about you, we’re all gonna die.”
She looked over the closure. The front of the mecha’s torso opened along a center line with one half flipping up and the other down. Both were locked in place by mechanical bolts; three to a side and two at the center line. Where they closed, there was a gap where silicon seals kept out water, dirt and air. The gap was just wide enough to fit the fingers of her gauntlets.
Gripping the arm as tightly as she could with one arm, she reached for the gap, just above one of the bolts.
“I really hate to make you feel better, but you should know, I’m not a descendant.”
“You fight like one.” Billy said, still retching.
Renaissance worked her fingers under the seal as she talked. “Maybe I can make you feel bad after all. See, I’ve only really been in on this whole world for a few months and let me tell you: there’s a lot more kinds of people who had powers than just descendants.”
She got one foot up against the mecha’s hip joint and put all her strength into it. The bolt squealed and groaned under pressure until it sheared in half with a pop The other bolts along that side soon gave way was well and without them, there was nothing the defunct hydraulics in the joints could do against her.
The bottom half of the pilot’s enclosure flew open, leaving Billy’s feet dangling in open air. And the wind blowing in over him. The stench of fresh vomit wafted out and made Renaissance consider adding a gas mask to her costume.
With the lower half of the cabin open, she now had a proper foothold to push against to do the same to the upper one. Within moments, She was face to face with a horrified Billy.
“If you’re not a psionic, how the hell did… what are you!?” He fought down a dry heave as he looked at the city whizzing by some forty stories below.
Renaissance leveled her free gauntlet at him. “Creative. And also aiming a clip full of explosive rounds at you. Now land.”
Billy shrank back in his harness. He really didn’t want to be exploded today.
The addition of the giant, decrepit robot didn’t just add gallons of leaking hydraulic fluid, oil and other foul humors to the water, but it also displaced enough water to flood the rooftop, sending deck chairs and patio tables floating to the railing.
Amid the boil of air escaping the mecha, a larger shape broke the surface; Joe was hurled out of the deep end to land in a sputtering, unceremonious heap on the deck by the floating furniture. Directly after him, Facsimile emerged in her golden form, but with a mermaid tail instead of wings, taking huge lungfuls of air.
“Man, I’m going to hate myself in the morning for rescuing your dumb ass.” She gasped out to Joe. “But it feels good to prove you wrong. I totally saved your life instead… Oh come on!”
She slapped the surface of the water with her tail in frustration. “Are you unconscious? You passed out from that? I can’t believe this; now you’re going to pretend this didn’t even happen.”
Another slap of her tail and a long suffering sigh. “Now to go hunt down my so-called father and introduce me dainty little foot to his pasty ass.” A roar of jets got her attention and she looked up to find two more robots inbound. One was extending some sort of telescoping weapon from one arm.
She smiled a grim smile and shifted wings, not bothering to get rid of her tail.
In his mecha, Sean smiled the exact same smile as his targeting reticule flashed green. “Gotcha.” He squeezed the trigger.

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
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