Issue #60 – Rust Buckets

This entry is part 13 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 5: How the World Changes

Part 6
All Facsimile saw as a flash of light and then there was nothing but pain and chaos.
She never really understood her weakness to electricity. Laurel tried to explain, but it was one of those things that couldn’t be understood without a biology degree. All she knew was that it felt like every part of her body was trying to go in a different direction without informing the rest of her. While the electricity coursed through her, she couldn’t even think beyond her awareness of what was happening to her.
Thrashing in the water, her body transformed at random. Scales grew, thorns formed, everything changed colors. Her convulsions slammed her against the side of the pool and finally knocked her out of it to writhe in the shallow water displaced there by Joe’s mecha.
The charge started to dissipate and she was finally able to see again.
Across the pool from her, she saw Joe. He hadn’t been spared the wrath of her father’s thunderbolt either. Some of his clothes had been scorched off and fern patterned burns marred his chest. Shallow, rapid breaths shook his body. If Facsimile’s mind had been done defragmenting itself, she would have tried to get to her comm to call an ambulance for him.
She was still trying to make sense of what she was seeing when a roar came overhead. It took painful, slow effort to turn her head, and when she did, she saw her father’s mecha landing in the inches deep water on the roof. The Tesla arc on the arm was still spinning up, so he was training conventional firearms on her.
“Not the first time.” She mumbled. The words were garbled by a too-thick tongue and vocal cords still unsure of if they should resume their shape.
“Look up here.” Sean McAllister’s voice came out of the speakers. Behind him, Al’s mecha hovered, looking unsure of if it should join the attack. When Facsimile didn’t, Sean’s voice turned more angry. “Look at me!”
When that didn’t have the desired effect, he fired a burst into her from one of his automatics. To her still healing body they didn’t make much difference.
“When you were coming up, you always had this look in your eye whenever you were around me. Like you were better than me. Looking down at me.“ Another burst of weapons fire. “You weren’t then and you ain’t now! You just turned into even more of an accident than you started out.”
“Bossman?” said Al. “I’ve got police fliers inbound. We need to get gone.”
“Not now.” Sean turned off the comm. “I came to do this and I’m gonna do it, come hell or high water. I don’t give a shit about them other psionics, but I’m not gonna let one walk around saying it’s related to me.”
It hurt, but Facsimile laughed and tried to shout. “Like I want anyone to know I’m related to a worthless gob like you!”
Sean ripped off another burst of fire, but Facsimile had enough strength to roll away from it now. She came up on her hands and knees, but wasn’t together enough yet to do more. “I told you last time that I never wanted to see you again! That could have been it!”
Blue light flashed below.
“Bossman?” Al asked nervously, using his speakers because the comm was off.
“Shut up, Al!” Sean shouted. “This ain’t over ’til she’s dead! Hold ’em off or something, I only need a few more seconds for this thing to recharge.”
Three MPD powered armor suits; white with black stripes and blue lights on the shoulders came up over the side of the building, their own pulse cannons charged and ready. “The is the Mayfield Police Department. Disable your weapons and proceed to street level now. If not, your illegal vehicle will be destroyed.”
“Is that a fact?” Sean asked, voice dangerously calm all of a sudden. Pulling switches, and tapping one of his control screens shipped the conventional guns on his off arm, but then extended his single plasma lance. Before it was even fully extended, he opened fire on the police units.
The more agile powered armor jetted out of the way of the crimson beam and returned fire with pulse cannons. The piecemeal armor broke in places, but a sustained sweep with the plasma lance made sure they were more concerned with evading than aiming.
Al watched that attack and swallowed to help his dry throat. They were way out of their element now, so he just followed Sean’s lead and opened fire with his own twin plasma lances. A black cloud expanded into view to dissipate the beams, consuming the energy utterly. From out of that cloud flew Darkness and Zero.
“Bossman?” He asked, firing rockets to back away form them. “Sean! Sean, Jesus, help me!”
“Why couldn’t they have shown up when I had everybody?” Sean groused and started to turn to aid the mechanic. But then Zeke’s mecha rose up into view, weapons at the ready. Sean laughed in relief. “God damn! Glad to see ya. Thought they took you out.”
The mecha’s high caliber guns locked on target. “We did.” Said Codex a scant second before raking Sean’s side with .50 caliber machine gun fire.
Armor bowed and broke, hydraulic lines ruptured and spewed fluid all over, and most critically, the bullets cracked the casing of the chemical tanks linked to the plasma lance. White hot liquid spewed out of the mecha’s arm, reducing the plasma lance to slag.
Sean screamed a string of curses and lit his rockets, lifting off the roof and flinging himself backward over the edge.
Codex didn’t follow him. Instead, she set down and opened the front of Zeke’s mecha. Throwing off the harness, she leapt down from the pilot’s cabin and ran for where Facsimile lay, clutching a leather courier bag. “Facsimile! Are you alright?”
She slid to a stop and crouched down beside the girl, who was still shuddering with residual charge.
Facsimile looked up at her. Without making an effort to control it, her eyes had gone back to their natural color, the purplish red that wasn’t uncommon for albinos. “He’s back. Damnit, I thought I’d never…”
Codex put her arms around her. “It’s okay. We’ll get him. He hurt you, didn’t he?”
Facsimile leaned into the hug. “This was nothing. I just though he was a bad father but—oh god! The other guy. He’s dad hit him with that electric thing to get me. He needs help.” With some effort, she at up again and pointed to where Joe lay, still panting in agony.
Nodding, Codex switched on her comm. “Dispatch, this is Codex. Lock on my signal, I’ve got a man down. Looks like he’s been electrocuted.” Her attention then returned to Facsimile. “You need to rest.”
“I can’t.” Facsimile croaked. “This is… I need to do this.”
Codex nodded. She never expected agreement with that. Instead, she handed Facsimile the courier bag. “That must have taken a lot out of you. So I took all the muffins from the teacher’s lounge before we left.”
“Thank you.” Facsimile said weakly and tried to open the bag.
But Codex shook her head. “No time.” She pressed the bag closer to her and gave her an understanding nod.
That understanding didn’t make Facsimile feel any less ashamed as she absorbed the muffins, bag and all, into her chest; digesting them instantly and completely enough that only a few wisps of black smoke remained. Diverting her eyes, she nodded. The strength was returning and her body was putting the new mass and energy right where it was needed. “I’m ready.”
Codex nodded, then touched the girl’s arm. “He’s just a cruel, worthless little man. You’re a wonderful young woman and you got that way in spite of him. Don’t forget that.”
Facsimile looked at the hand on her arm, then pulled Codex into a quick hug.
The freelev slowed his descent, but Sean’s mood was sinking faster. Half the weapons in his off arm were now unresponsive and others were failing too. He switched the comm on again. “Bossman to Handyman. Where are you?”
“Sean! Sean! You’ve gotta help me! I’ve got both the cops and the heroes on me and I don’t know what to do!”
“Shut up and calm down, that’s what you do. Now listen: did you hold anything back from me?”
“Gun, weapons, anything. Is there anything else this thing can do?”
The sound of impacts against Al’s hull sounded and his voice squeaked with panic. “If I had a secret weapon, don’t you think I’d use it right now?! It’s a miracle I made these things fly and work at all.”
“Actually.” The voice that broke in on the comm was Codex’s. “Mr. Jolson, I have reason to believe that these machines aren’t flying on their own at… Sean, it’s getting’ cold in here. The ice one! She’s!”
The signal cut out. Sean cursed. Then something hit the top of his mecha like a wrecking ball, making it sway wildly in air.
“You know what?” a terribly familiar voice was picked up by his sensors. “I thought about it. I am better than you.”
“Think that all you want, you worthless little shit. I’ve got something for ya.” He opened his defense panel and activated the close defenses; an electrified grid that covered his hull. The lights in the pilot’s cabin dimmed briefly, but there was no anguished scream.
Something gold flitted into view: Facsimile and she had a cold smile on her face. “You’re a predictable bastard. So that wasn’t me that landed on you.”
“That would be me.” Alloy swung into view with Isp and Osp anchoring him to the mecha. “And your shock armor? Two words: Faraday Cage. Now land before I tell the boys here to do their can opener impression.”
Teeth gritted, Sean bought his damaged gun arm up. He had enough function left to deal with the armored hero at close range. But before he could squeeze the trigger, an explosion rocked him, blasting the rest of the arm cleanly away. That was followed up by a gust of wind that hit the mecha like a hammer, forcing it toward the ground.
“Chaos.” Sean guessed and lit his rockets to full in an attempt to power through the gale. It might have worked, but suddenly, the wind was backed by rays of blue and black power spearing down from on high. His engines protested loudly, then his freelev failed.
Without it, he hit the street despite his rockets still firing at full. It wasn’t long before those too gave out. He tried to flee, but the mecha’s feet was mired in quick hardening green goo. Unable to turn directly, Sean rotated the mecha’s torso to find a group composed of Occult, Ephemeral, Hope and Reconnaissance emerging from a pool of rose light on the ground.
“Sorry we’re late. I had to make sure everyone got here for this.” Occult announced, using a spell to be heard by all in attendance. She started to chant a fireball spell.
“Hold on. I’ve got this one.” Facsimile dropped down out of the sky, registering only as a golden flash on the mecha’s sensors. She landed between it’s legs with the orihalcite claws extended from either hand. Using all of her strength and speed, she hacked out the machine’s kneecaps, causing the upper body of the robot to come crashing down while the legs remained upright.
Sean managed to keep right side up but using the stub of the destroyed arm and his Tesla arc for support. But now he was at eye level with Facsimile. The entire ordeal had left him seething, so he brought the charged arc up once again.
But Facsimile wasn’t caught off guard this time, and he was slow to move. She stepped under the weapon before it was fully raised and struck through the arc’s particle projector with the non-conductive orihalcite claws. Without a means to deliver energy at range, the weapon was useless.
She stepped away before he could try and hit her with the exposed wires. Rage painted her features. “I never questioned how people could hate one another. Growing up with you and your sons taught me everything I needed to know about bigotry and jealousy and every other bullshit thing you use to make it okay in your head to say the bullshit you say about everybody you decide you don’t like. But the thing I could never get was how can someone hate their own daughter?”
“It was easy with an ugly little cuss like you.” Sean shot back, desperately trying to find something to bring to bear. He finally fond the controls for the shoulder mounted guns and activated them. Four shotguns loaded with deer shot popped up on turrets and unloaded into Facsimile.
She didn’t flinch. When he’d emptied the guns into her, she strode forward, drawing her wings back into her body to add to her strength. “I never did anything to you!” For emphasis, she ripped one of the guns cleanly out of its housing.
“But that didn’t stop you. I learned I could heal quick because I never had any bruises to show my teachers. I learned I could make myself fireproof because you pushed me down on a campfire for not being quiet enough.” Two more guns were ripped away.
“And when you found something that could really hurt me, you turned it into a damn game! Other kids scuff their feet on the floor to stick a balloon to a wall, not to torture their sister!” She ripped out the last gun.
Sean tried to show the broken and sparking end of the Tesla arc at her, but a cable was wrapped around the device from nearby. He checked his screens and found Codex being lowered to the ground by Zero, grapnel gun clutched firmly in hand. Before he could redouble his efforts and jerk her off her feet, Facsimile struck out with her claws, removing the arm entirely.
“Yeah. Them. The people that kicked you and your friends’ asses. They’ve made my life better in two years than you and you wife did my entire life! That’s why it was over. That’s why this was useless. I’m already rid of you. You aren’t my father. Your family isn’t mine.”
She pointed at Chaos and then Darkness. “Those are my aunt and uncle.” She waved her hand to the assembly of other Descendants, save one. “Those are my real sisters and brothers.” And finally, she pointed at Codex. “And that lady right there is my mother. I’m done with you, Sean. Just screw off and go to Hell.”
In his cabin, Sean raged and undid his harness. There was one thing for it now. He should have expected it. That’s why he bought his personal gun with him. Sometimes thing needed to be done personally. With the turn of a handle, the bolts on the cabin blew and the front swung open.
“Don’t you tell me when you’re done!” he blustered, leveling the weapon. It was, of course, loaded with police issue taser rounds. “And don’t you call me by my given name, you call me—”
He never even saw her turn around. There was a blinding pain in his wrist and the gun fell free. Then an elbow found his gut and shortly thereafter, he was rolling roughly on the asphalt. He’d never known she was so strong as to throw full grown men around like dolls.
Before he could gather his thoughts, Facsimile was crouching over him, one palm holding him down, the other showing all three orihalcite claws.
“I’ll call you whatever the hell I want to Sean.” She said harshly. “God, I wish I could kill you right now. But now I know that you’d kill me. I finally get all the hero stuff Wa… Alloy talks about. That’s the difference. That’s the thing that keeps me from growing up like you. But I’m not as good as they are. I’m going to be proud just to know that you know this: I really am better than you.”
She started to stand, claws slowly retracting into her arm. The other Descendants were there around her before she noticed. Codex helped her start to step away.
But still, Sean refused to let it be.
“You damn well kill me.” He snarled. “Because know who you are! The second I’m in jail, I’m going to call every damn news station in the country and I’m going to give my story away for free. Let’s see how long you last when every sonofabitch you’ve ever crossed with this hero act knows who you are and what your weakness is! You think you know me so well? Then you know I’ll do it!”
“No you will not.” Ephemeral stepped forward, tone forceful, and he locked eyes with Sean. The older man gasped long and loud, then groaned and grabbed his head. “What the hell was that? What… happened.”
Alloy glanced back and forth between them. “What’d you just do?”
“I removed his memory of her; his understanding of who she is and how to hurt her.” Ephemeral said, casting his eyes downward.
“Whoa. That’s…”
“I’m not proud of it.” Ephemeral interrupted. “But as Facsimile has said: you are all my brothers and sisters. And I value my family highly; sometimes more than my morality. He would have had her killed. I saw it n him.”
“No kidding.” Said Facsimile, looking back at the man who now had a splitting headache and couldn’t help smirking at his pain.
Codex left her side now and went to McAllister. Kneeling beside him, she spoke in a low, even tone. “One more thing: Your friend, Al, I think it was? He may have built those robots, but he powered them with a signal—a signal that’s coming from his brain. That’s right, Sean: all of this was made possible because your friend is a descendant. Probably the most powerful technopath alive.”
With that, she left him to get zip-cuffed by Chaos, alone with his crumbling worldview and the worst headache of his life.
She had better things to do: like spend time with her family.
And as for Facsimile; she didn’t look back at him again.
End Issue #60
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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. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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