For a moment, green warred with blue before a teal meteorite burst from Wrex’s mouth. It streaked out over the stables, ricocheted off the roof of the resort’s main building, and bounded skyward in a graceful arc toward the highway.
Zero Point forgot all about the giant monster as he took off the save his daughter, unsure of whether she was hurt of not within the bubble of psychokinetic energy she’d thrown up. He caught up to her quickly and extended his own powers into a flexible sheet to catch her before both she and the drivers on the road could endanger each other.
Contact was all it took for Zero’s own field to collapse, sending her and a dizzy, panicked and goo-covered horse tumbling out onto Zero Point’s screen.
“Are you alright?”
Zero shook her head, scrambling clear of the horse as the terrified beast found its feet and tried to kick free of the black ooze covering it. “Just a little dizzy. I don’t think that’s just Rex the Wrecker anymore.”
“You’re right about that.” reported Majestrix. “I’m running scans while the Queen’s Gambit‘s launch checks are being made. There’s some unidentified organic matter covering it and seeping into its casing. Whatever it is, it has an EM field like a living thing.”
Zero Point sat the screen down in the grass field between the resort and the highway and let it dissipate. The horse immediately ran off, dregs of the ooze still clinging to it. “So the robot is infected with something?”
“I’m not sure if a machine can be ‘infected’, dear, but ‘infested’ might be about right.” She paused, then amended. “Actually, if that’s what’s controlling it, maybe ‘infected’ is the right word. Like a living computer virus.”
With her father’s help, Zero got to her feet. “So…it’s a robot with living parts? Like a reverse cyborg?”
“Giant cyborg dinosaur.” Zero Point mumbled, “That’s a new one. Any idea where something like this might have come from?”
“No,” Majestrix’s voice took on a worried edge, “But I know where it’s going: It just came around the main building and plowed through the stable. It’s on its way toward you right now! Hold on as long as you can, I’m setting the launch sequence now.”
Zero looked toward the resort to see Wrex lumbering toward them, picking up speed. The sun did nothing to hide the cloying awfulness of it’s leathery, slightly rotten looking hide and orange-red eyes. Where had she heard that description before?
Beside her, Zero Point was looking around them, stopping once he took notice of what was on the other side of the road. An exit ramp led directly onto the commercial drag of one of Winy Mesa’s suburbs. Beyond that were closely crowded subdivisions and housing towers. Thousands of people, right in the monster’s path.
“It’s not coming for us.” He declared. Zero looked at him askance. “It was hunting here. We stopped it and now all the horses have run off, so it’s heading for a better hunting ground—the city.”
At this, Zero looked behind her and had the same realization as her father. “Oh…oh no.” After a quick calculation, she said. “So the highway’s the line then, right? We don’t let him past it.”
Zero Point smiled. “Good girl. I’ll go distract him while you do what you can to keep him away from there.”
“You’ve got it.” She replied as he lifted off. Then she focused, letting her heat sense take over for sight. It wasn’t a warm day, but the heat of the sun was still everywhere: in the air, the grass on the field, and especially in the ground. She took it all in, then with her hungry powers… she took it all in.
Frost started spreading out in a circle around her feet and grass actually shattered against the sudden cool breeze. More dramatically, however, was that as the temperature plummeted, a space in the air just in front of Zero started to shimmer—as if the air itself as moving slower in that spot.
For a moment, Majestrix considered ordering a refit for the Queen’s Gambit. When she thought she was going up against a robot, she’d loaded her mecha out with all of her most powerful and destructive weaponry. The news that there was something living possibly in control of Rex the Wrecker changed her entire game plan.
As much as she loved building dangerous toys and blowing stuff up, Majestrix wasn’t a fan of mayhem in which lives were snuffed out. She and Zero Point had been in a few situations in their time on the job that couldn’t have been solved any other way, but It never got easier or more palatable. Truth be told, she was glad it didn’t, otherwise she’d have to retire of the public good.
Simple mathematics precluded her from switching out armaments though. Even with the constant upgrades to the automated systems for switching out her armaments, a full conversion to non-lethal weaponry would take fifteen minutes. And Rex the Wrecker would start clashing with her husband and daughter in less than five.
She’d just have to make do with what she had and a bit of creativity.
“Rook, launch status?” She asked politely even though the ship’s AI wasn’t sophisticated enough to appreciate it.
Her own voice, with slight digital distortion, replied. “Queen’s Gambit secured to launch gantry. Magnetic rails one through three operational. Descender rockets one through five are reporting as nominal. Ventral cargo doors standing by to deploy. Launch condition: Green.”
Majestrix nodded. “Thank you Rook. Launch on my mark.”
“Acknowledged. Standing by.”
Adjusting the ship’s position using a touch screen positioned above her head, Majestrix checked the external camera, which showed Zero Point already streaking toward the infected robot as if to meet it halfway. No time left. “Rook, launch now.”
The sound of hydraulic actuators opening the cargo doors overhead reached Majestrix even deep inside the armored core of her mecha, as did the surging sound of the magnetic rails. The launch system was essentially a huge, low-powered rail gun with the Queen’s Gambit as ammunition.
A few seconds of frenetic acceleration later, the walking tank was airborne, clearing the cargo doors and hurtling into the sky at a steep angle. That didn’t last long, as the force of gravity asserted itself. Majestrix, however, had other ideas: while the Majestrix with full weapons was too heavy for its free-lev system, she still had access to descender rockets like those used to land mobile laboratories on other planets.
All five lit at the touch of her control panel, slowing the Queen’s Gambit’s fall to earth while also driving it forward toward the battle. On the way down, Majestrix switched to her fire control system and armed the tank cannon housed in her mecha’s right arm.
One moment, Wrex was charging the blue-sheathed dot approaching it, the next, something blurred past it, earthing itself in the soft ground just before exploding. Smoke, dirt and grass erupted, riding a shockwave that slammed into Wrex like a giant’s hammer.
It skidded to a stop, scant inches from stumbling into a newly formed crater. When it turned to move around the obstruction, a second object came down, this time even closer, and blew another crater into the turf, newly knocking Wrex over.
Frustration took over and it pivoted to look for what was attacking it.
There, in the sky was the strangest creature Wrex had ever beheld. It was shaped vaguely like most sapient creatures Wrex knew of: two arms and two legs connected to a central torso with a smaller head on top. There was where the similarities ended. The thing was bigger than an ogre and, like Wrex’s host component, made of metal and composite materials. One of its arms had been replaced with a long cylinder that resembled by wasn’t a complete match for its plasma lances while the other had two large machine guns mounted to the wrist. There were missile pods on the shoulders, and a large brace on the back held pods Wrex likened to its host’s own jump jets, which lowered it to earth on fire pillars of flame.
Definitely a threat.
The leathery flowbeast flesh peeled back from where, on a real T-rex, Wrex’s ribs would be, and it deployed its missile pods.
Before it could get a lock, the world was washed in blue light and something hit it sidelong in the shoulder. This time, Wrex really did tip over, crashing down into the second shell crater. Damage indicators filled the computerized host-brain—missile pod one was jammed open and some of the missiles there were obstructed.
“Why don’t you stay down and save us both a lot of trouble?” A voice boomed down from above.
Wrex rolled its eye and spotted the thing that knocked it down: the flying Mankind from earlier.
Its knowledge of the Mankind language was limited and it had only heard a few phrases, but the annoyance made it want to respond in kind. Tapping into the speakers that usually let Rex the Wrecker make roaring and other assorted ‘dinosaur’ noises, it spoke.
“You…will… stay… down… buddy. Or… you…will… have… trouble.” The voice from the speaker was stilted and lacked proper threat. Wrex augmented it by firing its PSM at the blue man.
“What the—” Zero Point was so taken off guard that he was barely able to dodge the attack. “It can talk? I thought it wasn’t piloted.”
Majestrix opened up with her machine guns, laying down covering fire to pin the robot into the crater. “I think it’s mimicking you. But it still managed to put the words together into complete thoughts. The more I learn about it, the less I really understand.”
Standing behind what was now a wall of ice ten feet tall and two feet thick and growing in all directions, Zero also heard the conversation and things fell into place. Leather skin, symbiotic relationship with other beings… or in this case, robots; and almost impossible to understand with modern science. She’d been thinking about things from the wrong perspective: it wasn’t something she’d fought, it was something she’d heard others talking about fighting. “That’s it!” She said to no one in particular.”
Abandoning her ice wall, Zero reached into her cloak to retrieve her ‘Zero’ palmtop, which ran her comm system, among other things she might need to use while being a superhero. She switched opened up communications on the Descendants’ network. Knowing it was close to Christmas and many of the others would be otherwise occupied, she sent her call to ‘All’.
It took a few moments before someone answered.
“Uh, yeah. What’s up?”
“Merry Christmas… um, you might want to check the news.” said Zero, suddenly feeling awkward. “We’ve… well we’ve got a giant monster here that might be a giant robot, but I think more than just a regular monster. Remember Occult and Codex telling us about this guy they fought one time… Anus, I think his name was.”
In spite of himself, Alloy snorted. “Don’t think that was it, but yeah. I think she said he was allergic to iron if that helps.”
“Not what I’m thinking of.” said Zero. Beyond her wall, she heard a monotone, robotic voice bellow ‘Terror!’. “The coat thing he had. They said it was a faerie too, right? I need to know about that part.”
“Flowbeasts.” a new voice entered the conversation; Occult’s. “Sorry it took me so long to answer you, but I’m at the mall with mom and had to make up an excuse to get away. Why do you need to know about flowbeasts?”
Zero cringed at the sound of two different machine guns exchanging fire. “Because there might be a really, really big one in Arizona right now and it might have taken over Rex the Wrecker?”
“That’s not good.” said Alloy. “Rex is pretty much a huge gunboat. Give him magic mojo and… well yeah, not good.”
Occult cleared her throat. “Can one of you tell me what we’re talking about here.”
“Sorry.” said Alloy. “Rex is one of the Live Metal mecha: a gant robot designed to fight other giant robots.”
“A robot? Well I guess there’s no way the Books would know about Faerie interactions with robotics.” Occult allowed. “I’m going to copy and send you everything they have to say on flowbeats, Z—not sure if any of it can help in this situation.”
Zero nodded. “Anything would be appreciated, thanks.”
“It’s too far for me to teleport us in.” said Occult, “But do you want us there? I could hit the panic button and everyone still here in Mayfield can use the jet.”
A shell explosion made the ground shake under Zero’s feet. “It might be a good idea. Though I hope we won’t need you.”
“I might be able to help.” said Alloy. “I may not know the magical world, but I know Live Metal. Ti… Renaissance and I have watched all four seasons so far together. Rex is super-dangerous at range, but he sucks at the chase: bad cornering, slow acceleration and he’s so top-heavy that he can’t corner for shit. That top-heaviness also means a stiff breeze can knock him over. He can get back up pretty quickly because of his jump jets, but those only have limited fuel.”
Zero smiled. “That really is helpful.”
“Glad to be of service.” said Alloy. “But this part might be even better: Only three mecha have lost by power loss: Kong-Go 5.0, Triceradrops, and Rex the Wrecker. In the match where Rex lost that way, his operator got too trigger happy with the PSMs and plasma lances. Those heavy weapons eat up the power like crazy.”
The smile on Zero’s face grew larger. “And if it runs out of power, it doesn’t matter if the flowbeast is in control because even if it can move, it won’t be able to power up its weapons. Thanks so much, both of you!”
“Good luck.” said Occult. “I’ll see you when I can. I don’t even know who’s still in the city that can fly us there.”
It was at that point that the wall of ice exploded.
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
Descendants Serial is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.