Emily Chamberlain was the woman who taught her daughter all about showing people the ‘sunshine side’ of her personality. She went through life with a smile and kind words for virtually everyone she met. Some of the people who knew her best would typically describe her as ‘a little off, but sweet’. Her hobbies included making and printing out collages of adorable kittens from the internet, baking cookies and reading romance novels.
Majestrix was also the woman who taught her daughter everything she knew from her time as one of the founding members of the Marine Special Combat Engineering Force, including how to draw and throw a knife so that it split an apple at fifteen paces. Her day job involved using heavy machinery to tear even heavier machinery into spare parts. The people who really knew her would typically describe her as ‘smarter than she acts’. Her other hobbies included making dubiously legal homemade explosives, going on survival trips in the Arizona desert, and working on her giant mecha to make it even more of a walking engine of destruction.
She was one of the very few people whose idea of fun included being blasted and knocked around by various powered crazies while riding inside a titanium cage. As far as she knew, she was the only person living to be in that situation while being confronted by a robotic tyrannosaur more than twice the size of her mecha, which was also infected by an alien parasite.
That Wrex had torn off one of the Queen’s Gambit’s arms was somewhat immaterial to her, aside from the many, many alarms going off around her. The important bit was that her maneuver and sacrifice of an arm had put her inside the creature’s reach. The size difference meant that she was facing the thing’s underbelly.
And she had another arm at her disposal—one with a huge gun.
Still ignoring all of the alerts still telling her (as if she hadn’t noticed) that her arm was off, she set fire control for her primary weapon and set the arming distance for the anti-tank shell in the chamber to its maximum range. The last thing she wanted was for it to explode right next to her.
Wrex jerked its head, throwing the severed arm aside. It knew the enemy was dangerously close and tried to regain its balance to back away. Majestrix moved to follow, her smaller machine able to easily keep up with the ponderous and heavily damaged Wrex.
“Now if I was the one building this…” Majestrix murmured to herself as she watched her targeting reticule sweep across Wrex’s undercarriage. She stopped it on a likely spot. “There.” She flipped the safety latch off the trigger. “Here. We. Go.”
The cannon arm was almost flush against Wrex when it fired and the tungsten-jacketed shell punched through the flowbeast’s flesh and through the armored hide beneath it with ease. It found ts mark; tearing into and through the fuel cell power plant at the core of Rex the Wrecker.
The breached cell spewed water and hydrogen, the later of which was touched off by internal sparks to become a jet of largely harmless flame.
Wrex’s host’s internal sensors started spamming it with alerts. Primary power was lost and could not be restarted. The auxiliary battery was coming on line with only about five minutes of power. Water was spreading inside the chassis, shorting out subsystems in the right, rear leg in particular. All weapons were offline and attempts at rebooting them were failing.
It had been wrong about its new world. There were greater predators around, and one had mortally wounded its host. A flowbeast instinctively knew when its host was beyond saving, when it was time to move on to another.
Myriad eyes opened up along Rex the Wrecker’s belly, surrounding the gaping hole where the shell had torn into it. All of them focused on the Queen’s Gambit, which had stopped following the critically damaged robot. Though badly damaged, it was still both formidable and salvageable.
Wrex began to withdraw from its stricken host, extending dark pseudopods towards it new one. It found its reach blocked by a screen of psychokinetic force.
Zero descended from the sky to interpose herself between the screen and her mother’s mecha. “Are you okay in there?” She asked her mother over the comms. “That was amazing and everything, but that looked really dangerous!”
“It’s nothing a few days in the shop won’t fix.” Majestrix assured her. As she spoke, she was busy dismissing and consolidating the various alerts and errors messages she was getting. “…Unfortunately, I’m going to need the Rook‘s sky-crane to get it out of here. Walking stabilizers are shot, jump jets are depleted—I probably won’t be able to walk ten more feet without tipping over.”
Meanwhile, Zero was watching through her screen as what appeared to be a giant, evil starfish made of leather and orange eyes was unfolding itself from the hulk of Rex the Wrecker. “Um… mom?” She was too worried to worry about that bit of information getting out over the comm, “You should really punch out then.”
One of the starfish’s arms hammered down on her screen and the feedback almost made her drop it.
“That’s probably a good idea.” said Majestrix. “Just be careful, okay?”
Majestrix gave one more concerned look at her screen, which gave her a view of her daughter facing down the gigantic flowbeast. There wasn’t much more she could do to help, and though she didn’t like it, she also knew that the best thing she could do was get clear so Zero could truly cut loose with her powers.
She reached down and found the emergency evac lever mounted in a recess on the side of the pilot’s seat. When she pulled it, explosive bolts went off at key points on the Queen’s Gambit’s torso. The shoulders and chest plate fell away to expose the internal reenforced pilot’s pod. A second later, JATO rockets ignited, sending the pod up and away from the mecha’s body.
Zero made sure the pod was away before dismissing her psychokinetic shield and dodging the next blow instead of blocking it. The massive starfish arm smashed into the road, crushing asphalt beneath its bulk.
Seeing and opening, Wrex opened a mouth on the end of another of its pseudopods and thrust it at the flying heroine with a bellow of, “Terror!”
Instead of dodging or blocking, Zero focused on her power; the internal rather than external. Heat wicked out of the air into her at a rate she rarely allowed in a normal battle. Instead of a wide area of light snow like she sometimes caused, the air immediately around her became freezing fog, ice crystals forming and falling in a tingling rain every time she breathed out.
The tooth-lined pseudopod snapped out at her, but it too had the heat energy inside it forcibly removed. Where muscles tried to flex or teeth tried to gnash, the tip of the pseudopod froze and shattered.
Wrex let out a screech and recoiled. Primal fear, ingrained into it by generations of living in faerie clawed at its mind. Cold. Danger.
Even though it knew it was in the world of Mankinds, what served as its hindbrain was screaming at it that something from the Air and Darkness had come, that nothing but death and pain and slavery lay in the direction of that deathly cold.
The choice became fight or flight and Wrex, even in the throes of fear, refused to flee. Opening dozens of mouths, it shrieked in just as many voices as it formed from its flesh claws, hammers, spears, blades—any kind of weapon it could muster.
Zero didn’t move from where she hang in air. Her senses picked up the ancient flowbeast’s heat. She didn’t know what might happen if she purposefully pulled the heat out of an entire living thing, so she instead pulled it from the air around it. Ferns of frost began to grow thick across Wrex’s hide, like the armor of some arctic beast, slowing its movements to the point that she barely needed to move to evade its attacks.
Snow began to fall out of thin air, and a chill wind rolled out in all directions as the temperature in a very small area suddenly plunged into the triple digits below zero.
When it was over, Zero dropped to the broken roadway, chest heaving from the effort. “General?” She wheezed.
“I saw it through the drones, Zero. Excellent work.” the voice of General Pratt came back.
She nodded even though he couldn’t see her. “Thank you, sir. You might want to send something really big to pick it up.” She took a moment to catch her breath. “And refrigerated.”
With that, she promptly sat down on the road and tried not to fall asleep. She knew she probably should be helping Zero Point tend to the civilians, but she was just so tired. Not only that, but she still had Christmas shopping to get to that day.
Maybe, she decided while listening to the sound of the Rook approaching in the sky, no one would mind if she took a little nap.
“Eyewitness reports are conflicted as to the nature of the gigantic, unidentified creature that wreaked havoc along the I-19 corridor north of Windy Mesa earlier today. We’ve heard everything from a gigantic dinosaur to a mass of tentacles. By the time News 2 arrived on the scene, the creature has been sealed inside a frost cocoon by apparently visiting prelate, Zero.
Five hours after the start of the incident, I-19 remains closed along the affected stretch as the military’s Superhuman Intervention Unit continues to clean up the site…”
General Pratt muted the news feed from Arizona as one of his ROCIC subordinates, Robert Aimes entered his office.
Aimes was officially the public relations liaison for the ROCIC, but really, he was in charge of the various cover-ups the government had put in place regarding prelates and the magical world. He wouldn’t have made the cut if he were part of the military half of the ROCIC; slight and portly with a baby face despite his beard. “General.” He said with an incline of his head.
Pratt didn’t look up from his screen. The news report was showing an aerial shot from earlier in the day of the creature as it had appeared, rimed in ice. “What story are you going to put out for this one?”
Aimes slid into the seat across the desk from the General. “We’re waiting to review the footage being put online to see what the world is going to know before we make any moves. The Live Metal people have already been paid off and some engineers had been deployed to both scrub down and repair their robot.”
The General folded his hands on the desk in front of him. “These ‘crossovers’ are too unpredictable. Eventually, one is going to appear in full view of a few thousand palmtops and we won’t be able to claim they escaped from a lab or were publicity stunts.”
A distressed laugh almost but didn’t quite bubble out of Aimes’s mouth. “Yeah, but what else are we going to do? Tell the general public that there’s a world full of fairytale monsters on the other side of the astral plane and that we’ve collaborated with our allies to allow some of them to live among ordinary citizens as if they were protomorphs? Considering the continuing fallout from Braddock Island, that won’t go well for descendants. And that’s not getting into magic being ‘real’, or the yellow meteor fragments that make you insane if you touch them.”
“We have Camp Hero for the public relations problem.” said Pratt. “And we won’t have to divulge everything right away. I just want us to be ready because for all we know, there’s something big on the horizon that we won’t be able to cover up. We need to be ready to move on it.”
“General, I can assure you that my people are on top of it: no matter what curveballs this ‘Green World’ might throw at us.”
“EM anomaly detected. The doc was right: they can mask heat signatures.” A voice crackled over a comm as its owner watched the darkened Arizona landscape slide by beneath him.
“Makes sense.” the deeper, more refined voice of Simon Talbot. “The data suggests that thirty percent of Faerie predators have some level of infravision and our interviews reveal that these beasts prey on everything—predators included—from ambush.”
“How were we sure this thing was even going to be here?” The armored soldier on the comm turned his attention to the screen before him. Nightvision scopes on the outside of the cloaked transport showed him an emaciated horse huddled in a thicket of sagebrush. It’s coat had a strange pattern; almost as if it had a large, black star on its side.
Talbot chuckled. “We intercepted phones trying to upload ‘prelate battle’ footage. The creature took heavy damage, had pieces torn off it at several points in the fight. But only once did something get torn off in proximity to a suitable organism to serve as a host. I imagine the ‘heroes’ were too preoccupied with their fight to consider—if they even know—that these ‘flowbeasts’ reproduce by budding.”
He was watching the same feeds as his henchman, and as he spoke, the creature feeding off the horse noticed the cloaked transport drawing near. Three eyes, glittering green in the nightvision, opened along the back of the ‘starfish’.
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.