Issue #78 – Delved Too Deep (Une Mascarade Brisée Part 1)

This entry is part 6 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 7: The New World

Delved Too Deep (Part 3)

“You know, sometimes the stories aren’t really enough to prepare you…” Callie, with her Vamanos goggles still sitting atop her forehead, glanced back at the portal she’d just stepped through from the Lifesavers, Inc headquarters as Occult and Kay passed through it behind her. As they did, what looked like a simple door from one room to another shimmered and resumed its usual reflective form—a mirror.

Slowly, she looked around to get her bearings. The room she was in was narrow, but well furnished. The mirror exited into an open space where two leather couches faced one another across a low table, all three being bolted to the floor. Directly across from here was a minibar and to her right, behind the couch on that side, were rows of roomy, executive class airplane seats. Beyond those was an open door through which she could see a spacious cockpit with a number of command chairs and stations.

To her left was another open door that led into a large space she couldn’t identify.

Without really registering her teammates, her eyes traveled down to the metallic ‘D’ in her palm. It had been a keychain shaped like a red and white polka-dot rubber duck when Occult gave it to her, revealing its true nature only with a command phrase.

Her D-icon. Her real D-icon, not just the thing with an embedded security chip that got her into the HQ, but the actual, literally magical item that let her use the mirror gates and change her costume with a single word. She’d been listening to the stories for days, but it was just at that moment that it struck her: she was fully part of the team now.

“Welcome to the Karasu no Yūrei.” Cyn was still in her default form and standing at the door leading to the larger compartment when Callie shook herself out of her daze. The overwhelmed expression on the newbie’s face made her flash a Cheshire grin. “It’s a ninja stealth plane, dontcha know? We got it as a ‘sorry for kidnapping your dude’ present this summer.”

As if Callie had to be told that she still had a lot of stories to hear. “S-someone got kidnapped by ninjas?”

There was a clanking Callie took to be the sound of someone coming up metal stairs and Ian appeared, wearing his full Chaos regalia. He loomed over the shapeshifter with his arms folded. Of course he’d heard what she’d said—she wouldn’t have said it if not. “Technically, I was forcibly recruited into a rescue mission.”

“You’re just lucky Laurel… and Alexis are bad enough dudettes to rescue you.” Cyn said with a smirk.

“Only funny the first eighty times, kid.”

Callie continued to watch them, wide-eyed. “So there are actual ninjas? And they kidnap prelates?”

“Just the one.” Cyn said in sotto voice. She stepped aside casually to let Ian enter the main cabin and explain himself.

Ian took a moment to formulate the correct way to explain the facts to the greenhorn. “There are several factions of ninjas with varying amounts of sheer ballsiness. The guys that gave us the Karasu no Yūrei are the Kurounagi, who… well I wouldn’t call them allies exactly, but…”

“Let’s just call it a very long story that we’ll be happy to tell you some other time.” Alexis said, appearing that the door. She had her cowl down and IR goggles pushed up on her forehead. “Right now, everyone needs to get buckled up: we want to lift off as soon as our cargo is secure.”

“Sure. Sorry.” Callie ducked her head and looked for a seat, finding one next to Kay. For a moment, she regarded the other girl curiously. “You’re going with us? I didn’t know you were…”

Kay laughed. “I’m not. Oh my god, can you imagine me trying to fight crime with the power to imitate sound?” When Callie didn’t reply, seeming to be biting back a question, Key sighed. “What?”

Blushing furiously, Callie twiddled her fingers in front of her. “Oh, well see… I didn’t even know you had powers until you said that. You’re another descendant? Like me?”

“Yep, and like Liz von Stoker and Kareem’s girlfriend. We could have had a powered-girl club at school even without all the ones with secret IDs.”

At the mention of the other two known descendants form their high school, Callie hung her head. “We probably wouldn’t have though. My friends and I were pretty awful to those two… and kind of awful to you.”

Kay rolled her eyes. “Okay, first rule of sharing the aisle with me? No angst. It doesn’t go well with me. See, I’m a one hundred percent dyed in the wool magical girl sidekick. Sidekicks are the opposite of angst.” At Callie’s tiny flinch, her expression softened. “Look, even Cyn’s forgiven you for hanging out with Lily by now. You don’t have anything to prove or apologize for, okay?”

Chewing her lip, Callie considered disagreeing. There was a lot to prove and way more to apologize for. Maybe it was Lily who led their group, but there was no excuse for her to sit back like a coward and let her without argument. Especially when it came to Liz or Desiree—just a few genes changed here and there and Callie could have been a protomorph herself. She’d learned enough about the term ‘category traitor’ to know that she had been one right up until Descendants Appreciation Day.

Time and place though. And this certainly was not the time.

Instead, she smiled sweetly and asked, “So… if you’re not going to fight or do search and rescue or evacuation, why are you coming along?”

Kay smiled and Callie instantly knew that was the right question to ask.

“The full execution of my sidekickly duties, of course. See, me and Lisa have gone through a lot of books in libraries all over the state looking for new spells or stuff that ought to be hidden from the bad guys. And sometimes, we find books that don’t have any magic, but still get some stuff right about Faerie, or the astral plane, and such.”

She squirmed in her seat to sit up farther, and pulled out her tablet. “I read the stuff that might not be as useful to Lisa or Ms. Brant. That makes me as close as we get to our native expert on Faerie legends—whether they’re true or untrue.” flicking her fingers over the tablet’s screen, she switched on the mic and linked into the jet’s comm systems. “Speaking of which, should I do my briefing thing?”

Speakers in the ceiling carried her voice throughout the cabin and presumably to the other parts of the craft as well.

After a few seconds, Laurel’s voice answered. “Just a second, Kay. Is the cargo locked down yet?”

Another pause went by before Tink’s voice replied. “We’re on our way up. I can finish programming from my seat.” Before she was even done, footsteps on the stairs Ian used earlier sounded.

Moments later, Tink and Warrick, both in their respective uniforms emerged from what Callie now assumed to be the cargo bay. She goggled at bit at Tink because the emergency call had only gone out less than an hour earlier.

“Shouldn’t you be in England?”

In reply, Tink held up one of her gauntlets, which had her D-icon set into a bracket just above the elbow. “I get to skip customs… cuts down on travel time a lot.”

Callie looked to her own icon. “They have that kind of reach?”

The seat in front of her squeaked and Lisa leaned over the back of her seat. “We actually don’t know how far the mirror portals can reach. If we could get one up to the Indus River, we might be able to use them to get into space even. Maybe the original wizards designed it like that on purpose, maybe they never knew it reached further than the next kingdom over… we might never know.”

Callie nodded. “That’s kind of amazing.”

“I know, right?” said Kay. “We made a teleporter! In your face, science!”

On ‘science’, she pointed at Tink, who was in the process of moving aside so Warrick could settle into the seat across the aisle from Callie. “Give me a few years at Cambridge and I might get one of my own working. You never know.” With some last chuckle, she headed toward the front of the plane.

“Alright, Kay, we’re ready for the briefing then.” Laurel said over the speakers. Outside, the engines began to power up.

“Finally.” Kay said, pulling up several files on her tablet. “Okay, everyone, link your palmtops or tablets up to the jet’s intranet because I’ve got some scanned pictures to show.”

She only gave them a few seconds to do so before launching into a spiel she’d been preparing in her head from the moment she heard a dragon was involved. “So like we all heard, Tome did something very stupid trying to break into Faerie and now something big and mean… probably mean… from Faerie broke into Earth instead.”

She brought up a scanned page from a book depicting myriad vaguely draconic figures flying about a wooded hill with a great thunderhead in the background. “Now, Faerie dragons aren’t your bog standard dungeon dragon, according to everything I’ve read. Every time they come up, they’re talked about like they were natural disasters… or gods. The Faerie creatures all fear and respect them even more than the actual gods that get mentioned like Maeve.

“And there a lot of different kinds. Fire dragons, battle dragons and… The Dragons of Earth. See that hill in the picture? That’s a Dragon of Earth. They ‘rest the trees upon their backs as they ponder the life and times of the world’. The satellite image doesn’t do it justice, basically: Three hundred feet long, weighing more than a blue whale, and with enough magic to make Morganna look like a first level wizard in Deathgate. When they fly, it’s described as the worst hurricane in history.”

“Any chance those books mention weaknesses?” asked Warrick.

Kay shook her head and flashed up a few more scanned pages. “We can’t win a fight with one. Not with what we can do. The military, maybe, but Ms. Brant says it’s somehow screwing with the internet, so it might know what they can throw at it by now and have ways of dealing.”

“So…” Cyn started slowly, “Besides getting people out of the way, what do we do?”

“Talk to it.” Laurel replied via the speakers. “I’ve got Tink cobbling together a new version of the transponders we use for Kareem here in the city. I’m hoping that he can make telepathic contact with it and find out why it’s rampaging. Once we know that, we might be able to convince it to stop.”

Warrick frowned. “Isn’t rampaging what dragons do?”

Kay shook her head. “That’s kind of the thing. Dragons of Earth aren’t all that concerned about pillaging and plundering. They’re sort of like philosopher kings of the forest. They let people and whole ecosystems live on their backs so they can observe and nurture them. And that’s when they’re not just sleeping—which they’re good a: some of them sleep a couple of centuries easy. They don’t go all rogue elephant and start a-stompin’.”

“Tome must have pissed this one off big time.” Ian observed. “Not surprising, but usually, their kind of monstrous doesn’t cause cataclysms.”

The jet was starting to taxi down the long launch tunnel that would take them to a secluded vertical take-off point.

“If they’re the be believed… and I’m not saying they are,” said Laurel, “then the dragon started trying ti access the internet before it even crossed over. It might be upset with something that happened centuries ago and only just now got a chance to come looking.”

“How is it even getting on the internet?” Cyn asked, “How does a dragon on Faerie know the internet is even a thing?”

“Well they’re pretty much aliens, right?” Juniper was sitting at one of the seats facing the table, across from Kareem and Melissa. “Maybe they have digital minds naturally and it just… made contact?” She was browsing some of the glitched sites on her tablet. “Maybe was can talk back f we end up on the same site at the same time.”

Kareem scratched is cheek and settled back into his seat. “I do not think all of this conjecture is helping. We should stick to the facts and work solely with those. This dragon arrived on our world through a gateway created by Project Tome and is rapidly moving toward the United States surrounded by winds in excess of hurricane force. It cannot be defeated by any means we currently have and is behaving out of character by the standards our research has provided.

“I suggest we plot is course and find possible places it might be headed. At the very least, it will allow us to get ahead of it in evacuating civilians.”

“That’s a good idea, Kareem. As soon as we’re in the air, I’ll plot it’s course and extrapolate a possible route. This is, of course, assuming it knows where it’s going. Seeing as it is still causing glitches online, it might not.”

Juniper turned her tablet sideways, then tilted her head. “Um… actually…”

Cyn leaned over her seat to see what was going on. “What’s up, Jun?”

Still trying to decide which way her tablet should be held, Juniper turned it this way and that. “Well it’s just that… I don’t think these are glitches. Yeah, the text and pictures distort, but there’s only a few patterns to it. It’s not random. It’s kind of like someone smearing paint only with pixels.”

She finally set the tablet crossed on her lap. “Does anyone have a program that lets you trace over another open window?”

“I think I still have one from Digital Art class senior year.” Warrick volunteered. After some searching, he came up with and sent the program to her. Juniper then set to work with the program, going from one screen cap of a glitch to another, tracing the distortions on the screen.

The jet was in the air by the time she finally exclaimed. “I knew there was a reason I noticed it! I’ve seen this stuff before!”

“Say what now?” Cyn asked, still hanging over the seat.

Juniper got up and presented her collection of tracings to Warrick. “Warrick, you’ve seen these too, right?”

The metal controller cocked his head and shrugged. “I… think? But I’m not sure. It just kind of looks like a big chicken ran across your screen.”

A brilliant smile crossed Juniper’s features. “Of course it does. And you’ve said that before. Remember when you worked that summer with me at the museum? It’s cuneiform, one of the oldest forms of writing! The dragon isn’t glitching anything, it’s trying to talk to us! It just doesn’t know how.”

She looked up expectantly at the nearest speaker. “Ms. Brant? Do you know how to read cuneiform”

“Not at the moment,” Laurel admitted “But in the fifteen minutes we’ve got between here and Georgia, I think I can fit in a crash course. Enough to read one message at least.”

Cyn slid back down in her seat. “That’s great and all, guys, but I’ve gotta ask: even if we figure out what it’s saying, what if it’s got mental shields or something and Kareem can’t talk to it? How do we talk back?”

Series Navigation<< Issue #77 – Date NightIssue #79 – Tome of Secrets (Une Mascarade Brisée Part 2) >>

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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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  1. her screen the
    screen. The

    thought it could be

    hair that was was
    that day

    Not exactly, ‘heroic’
    exactly ‘heroic’

    to reign it in

    across from her.”
    quotation mark shouldn’t be there

    lunch wasn’t to…

    since Cyn in her

    It wasn’t much one of

    and hm alone

    Deep Twenty-three

    morning he’s had

    I don’t even know how the damn thing even fit through the gate.
    “Even” twice in the same sentence is a bit much.

  2. Interesting. Bad guys that are smart enough to let the good guys do their job sometimes can be both better and worse to deal with, it seems to me. On the one hand, they’re less likely to cause massive destruction, at least intentionally. On the other, they’re intelligent in a way that more megalomaniacal people aren’t capable of being, which can be tougher to beat in the long run.

    I suppose it’s not too surprising that Tome bit off more than they could chew in Faerie. No matter how intelligent and capable they might be, they remain a clandestine group, and that limits options somewhat. Besides, Faerie as a whole is an outside context world for them; a whole series of unknowns all wrapped up in a big package.

    Should be fun to see what they woke.
    As a side note, I love the reference. Approopriately ominous.

  3. I knew it was a dragon! Although I figured it would just be the one they captured a while ago.

  4. I’m gonna go on a limb and guess the cuneiform contain an ultimatum for the release of the baby dragon.
    Or possibly a message from the dragon’s sponsor. You never know.

    • “Please stand by for these messages from Rampaging Dragon brand cola. The only cola with the refreshing scent of napalm and rubble!”

      • Now let’s hear it from a true American hero, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore: “I love the smell of Rampaging Dragon cola in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up and cracked a can of Rampaging Dragoon cola. The taste, you know that gasoline taste, the whole can. Tasted like… victory. Some day this war’s gonna end.”

  5. Chapter 2

    form other censors
    from … sensors

    like it have been hit
    had been

    kill is likely

    houses stop its
    houses, atop

    Chapter 3

    to theKarasu no Yūrei.
    the Karasu
    You must have copy-pasted Karasu no Yurei, because the text suddenly changes from grey to black.

    appearing that the door
    at the

    Key sighed

    flicking her fingers

    They ‘rest the trees upon their backs as they ponder the life and times of the world’.
    I love the quote. It adds a nice touch, since she’s using old legends and fairy tales as research material.

    they’re good a
    good at

    they’re the be believed
    to be

    trying ti access

    back f we end

    scratched is cheek

    plot is course

    plot it’s course

    read cuneiform”

  6. The ethics of forced evacuation are kind of hairy. Forcibly removing a person from their residence is a rather severe violation of their civil liberties, though if there are children present then laws tend to allow for taking them from their parents to protect the child.

    I find it somewhat worrying here that Darkness is fully aware that the issue is strongly emotional for her but doesn’t think at all that it might impair her judgment. This is exactly the sort of thing why vigilantism is illegal in the first place.

    • You’re right, but these people also don’t know the full extent of what’s happening here. Alexis and Ian know that it is a literal death sentence, but the people in the town think it’s just a hurricane (if they believe anything’s happening at all).
      I think it really comes down to whether you think people have the right to kill themselves or not.

      • I think what Alexis is more concerned about is the collateral loss of life. She emphasized several times the children who don’t actually get to make that choice, and suffer for it. While she does want to save everyone, the people that want to stay included, what’s eating at her the most seems to be the kids who don’t actually have the option to save themselves.

        • This is indeed her motivation, but as we’ll see, she arrives at that logic for the wrong reasons.

          As it turned out, it wasn’t as easy an argument as I thought it was and turned into a bigger part of the story than I expected.

    • The interesting thing is originally, they just went and have Callie save them and were done with it. But I personally started thinking about it and saw good point on either side.

      Plus, the fact that Alexis is emotionally compromised by this is the reason there’s no ‘official’ leader in the group. Alexis can’t just order any of them around and the only reason Callie puts up with it is because she’s the new girl.

  7. “…like an incest of hummingbird’s than he expected of a dragon.”
    Insect or hummingbird’s? Unless of course you’re positing ‘incest’ as the collective noun for hummingbirds.

  8. Seems to me Talbot still doesn’t quite get that he’s dealing with sentient beings. Wiping out the evidence of harm isn’t going to mean much when the victim can testify and judgement is passed by the victim’s family.

    • True. He might be betting on the baby not being able to articulate the harm though.

      • Why does he think that mama doesn’t know? They know she’s looking for her baby, so I presume they’ve got part of the message decoded/translated.

        I think Talbot’s probably hoping he can pretend he didn’t do it.

        • I would say something, but it would be a spoiler.

          I will say they don’t know about the message. They’re just assuming that any angry dragon is going to be mama looking for her baby because even they know how evil that stunt was.

  9. Breech should be spelt Breach

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