- Issue #73 – Give Thanks
- Issue #74 – Bit Part Bad Guys
- Issue #75 – Kaiju for Christmas
- Issue #76 – Silicon Soul, Adamantine Will
- Issue #77 – Date Night
- Issue #78 – Delved Too Deep (Une Mascarade Brisée Part 1)
- Issue #79 – Tome of Secrets (Une Mascarade Brisée Part 2)
- Descendants Special #7 – The Curtain Rises
- Issue #80 – Bitter Work
- Issue #81 – Kin, Speed and Ducks
- Issue #82 – What To Do With Your Downtime
- Issue #83 – Avalon Rises
- Issue #84 – Darkness Falling
- Descendants Annual #7 – First Frost
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?”