- 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
Tome of Secrets (Part 1)
“Um… guys?” Vamanos’s voice came over the comm. “I’m pretty sure you’re seeing this too, but…”
“We’re seeing it too.” replied Codex from the Karasu no Yūrei‘s flight deck. Before her, a number of screens were tracking the proliferation of various videos, social media posts and other reports across the internet. The glitching had ended immediately after Kareem made contact, just in time for everyone to start talking. Some were already connecting to dots with the other crossovers. “The whole world is seeing it.”
She pursed her lips and sat back. It hadn’t been top of mind for her that the dragon would be hard to hide from the public: protecting the people in harm’s way had been too important. While there was still an element of diplomacy that would have to come into play to accomplish that goal, she could no longer ignore it.
The truth was that the reality of the crossovers was now out there in the wild and nothing was going to rebuild the wall of secrecy. Once again, the world had changed before her eyes and she could predict several ways things could go. Only a few of them were good.
Warbling from her uplink to the transceiver rig cut through her thoughts, preceding Kareem’s voice. “She would like to talk to us. I am assuming you will be taking over my role as spokesman, Codex?”
“You don’t have to translate?”
“Translation will not be necessary.” a new voice cut in. It was female for certain and Codex didn’t miss that it was essentially her own, synthesized back through the sensor relays in the transceiver with deliberate distortion to differentiate it from her own. “You have a means of communication similar to a feyforest; I attempted to make contact with the only Mankind language I knew. When that failed, I attempted to find a means of deciphering your modern languages. I failed until I touched the mind of this one. Now we may converse.”
There was something on Faerie that worked like the internet. Codex filed that away for later. “Then I bid you welcome to Earth, the Blue World. You may call me Codex and my team is called…”
“I have no time for chattering things.” The dragon interrupted. I am Rhamahedrion Armigal, She Who Rests Great Timbers Upon Her Sleeping Brow. You may call me Armigal. My child was taken from my side while I slumbered. She cries out and I must go to her. This one, this Ephemeral tells me you know that one who must suffer for this crime. I will spare your settlements my wrath if you show me where to reclaim my child and tell me of the monster who has done her harm.”
Chaos’s voice came over the comm. “You need us to come back to the jet?”
Quietly, Codex muted the channel to the transceiver. “Everyone keep doing what your doing. If I don’t tell her what she wants to know, we might still have a massive disaster on our hands.”
She then took the channel off mute. “I understand your desires, Armigal and we will do everything in our power to help.” Indeed, as she spoke, she set to work typing. “You say you can hear your child’s cries; have you been moving toward her ever since you arrived?”
Codex ran a simple extrapolation of the dragon’s projected future path. “And do you know how far away she is?”
“I do not. The cry of my child pierces worlds and distance. There is no place on the Orrery of Worlds where I cannot find her when we at both wakeful. Why are you asking these things?”
At first, Codex didn’t answer because she was inputting parameters and setting the computer to figure out every plot of land the projected path intersected and figure out who it belonged to. Finally, she spoke up.
“Because the man who harmed your child works for a group with many resources and many places they might have hidden her. We in turn have been hunting him and his people, but there are many…” how could she explain the labyrinth of shell companies, legitimate business concerns, dummy sites and financial chicanery that his the bulk of Project Tome’s assets from the combined forces of the ROCIC and herself for over two years? “…a complex web of lies and illusions. With your information, I can narrow down the search… but it might take some time.”
A sound of frustration threatened to blow out the speakers. “My child may not have time, Mankind. And if she dies, I will see all between me and the perpetrator suffer. I have met your defenders in the air over the ocean—we both know you have nothing on this world that can stop me.”
A desperate mother who was also a living weapon of mass destruction wasn’t a situation Codex had developed a contingency plan for. She took a moment to think her next words through.
One thing she knew for sure: Armigal was wrong. She hadn’t faced everything humanity could throw at her. Even if the Damocles system didn’t work, there was still the literal nuclear option. She sincerely doubted even such a powerful being could withstand a nuclear detonation. But of course no one in the military was about to let a nuke off the chain over the homeland.
Still, Armigal wasn’t accepting the open palm, so a closed fist might get results—though not as tightly balled as a death threat.
“You’re right.” she said finally. “We can’t stop you. But the second you start hurting people, we will fight back. No matter how little good it might do in dissuading you, we stand a fair chance of slowing you down. Every second you fight us is a second in which you aren’t finding your child. So you can give us a moment now to help you… or you can give us every reason in the world to hinder you.”
Silence pervaded the transmission and Codex found herself formulating a response in cast she’d just provoked an attack.
It was Kareem that spoke next, not the dragon. “Armigal, allow me to assure you that if Codex says she can help, she is neither lying, nor boasting about her abilities. Her mind is one of the most advanced on his planet and if it is at all possible to find your child faster, she would be the one most likely to find it.”
A very human hum of consideration followed and Armigal said, “This one both speaks and thinks highly of you, Codex. I will put my trust in you for now, but do not waste my time.”
Codex almost missed that part because the computer had popped up a hit. There was a quarry in northern Nevada that belonged to Kirkland Biochemical. Kirkland had no ties to Tome,but the land didn’t appear on the company’s public holdings and the contact information actually led to a dummy persona Codex had linked to Tome some time ago.
Immediately moving to call up satellite tracking data over the area, Codex addressed the dragon. “I don’t think I’ll be doing that. Armigal, might I ask whether you can fly without generating those destructive winds?”
“I ride the cyclone to move with haste.” replied Armigal. “I can fly without it, but a great deal more slowly. Why do you need to know this?”
“Just pulling together data. Give me a moment, please.” Codex muted the line and addressed the team. “I hope you’ve been following along with this everyone, because here’s the newest problem of the day:”
As she spoke, the satellite image came back. Just as she expected, it was blacked out. Having been a former secret government agency, it made sense that Tome was able to do that.
“I might have located the dragon’s baby, but there’s a good… four fifths of the continental US between here and there. If I give her the coordinates now, she’s not going to fly slow, slow and safe to get there, she’s going to introduce the world to what and F6 tornado looks like cutting cross-country.”
Alloy chimed in after a second’s thought. “If she’s powerful and magic, can’t she teleport?”
“Or shrink down so we can give her a ride?” Facsimile asked. “The ninja jet can go faster than her tornado thing can.”
“Sorry guys, but I didn’t seen any of that under ‘dragon’ in the book.” said Kay. “I guess you could try asking, but…”
“Maybe we can go get her baby for her and bring it back.” suggested Chaos.
Facsimile snorted at that. “Yeah, I’m real sure Mama Bear is going to let us touch her cub.
“Actually, I might have an idea.” said Occult. “There’s no way she can get where she wants to be in the next… four hours, right?”
Recalling some of the earlier data she’d seen, Codex shook her head. “At the rate she was moving before, it would take her at least twenty hours to get there. What do you have in mind?”
Occult took a moment to consult the digi-Book of Reason. “Well we were discussing using a large-scale spell to try and help the town earlier, but it was unfeasible for… a lot of reasons. But I scaled up a spell for the Joykiller thing and that worked well, so there’s no reason I can’t do another. The only problem is going to be reagents… it’s a pretty odd shopping list, especially in bulk…”
Major Mayweather couldn’t remember when he’d had a worse day.
Transport division was used to dealing with disasters and seeing people at their worst. Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, toxic spills and even the occasional experiment run amok… if there was a disaster, they got to see the victims either before or after when an evacuation was called. Panic was natural. Anger and belligerence were understandable. Sorrow and hysterics were regrettably part of the job. The surreal feeling that gripped everyone at the evac station was something completely alien to him and it filled him with more dread than anything else he encountered.
News of the dragon’s appearance was spreading quickly and the revelation had had unexpected effects on both his people and the civilians—both the citizens and FEMA personnel.
Some people had broken down right then and there, alternately praying and crying out to God as if it were the end times. That set off others who had already been on the edge of terror but lacked sufficient religious underpinnings to do anything but fall into full-blown panic attacks. It had also been the last nudge a few people already predisposed to the fringe needed to start getting into it over conspiracies and cover-ups.
Scared people who knew what was going on were easy to manage. You pointed out the danger and they typically accepted help getting away from the danger. People who were both scared and clueless lashed out and that’s how it all started to go down hill.
One of the suddenly prevalent conspiracies was that the government knew about ‘the monster’ all along and now that it was revealed, the soldiers were going to kill everyone there to cover it up. Never mind the fact that the same footage had been shared globally; never mind that the guardsmen were just as baffled by the news as everyone else. Facts weren’t important as long as nameless fear and panic had something to earth itself into like a lightning bolt composed of irrationality.
There weren’t a lot of agitators, but in a group so large, tightly packed, and wound up, that was all it took. Fights were breaking out and someone charged out of the crowd to tackle one of Mayweather’s own guardsmen not ten feet in front of him. And it was clear the woman was going for the guardsman’s gun.
Training kicked in. Mayweather knew that it might look bad; but things would get worse if she actually got hold of the weapon. Like most police forces in the US, the National Guard’s peacetime directives called for the first round in their rifles be taser rounds but the rest were live. Unlike both police and civilian firearms, there was no kill switch or ID-based trigger lock because a soldier needed to be able to use any weapon he could scavenge in a combat situation. Nothing would stop the woman now wrestling with the guardsman underneath her from hurting herself and a lot of others if she got hold of the weapon.
All that went through his head in the time it took Mayweather to raise his weapon, clear the trigger, and fire.
It was the first round that hit: the taser round. The woman jerked and for a second, it looked like her adrenaline would keep her from succumbing, but finally she fell off to the side, convulsing with the current running through her.
Mayweather didn’t dare breath or even lower his weapon. The immediate crisis was averted, but he knew full well he might have set off a powder-keg if people misinterpreted his actions.
When he looked up though, he saw that no one was paying any attention to him whatsoever. Not only that, but the screaming had taken on a whole new tenor. People were outright fleeing; those who weren’t rooted to the spot, looking up and toward the east.
Before he could turn and follow their gaze, someone shouted out, “It’s coming this way!”
Rhamahedrion Armigal, She Who Rests Great Timbers Upon Her Sleeping Brow was sight to behold as she beat her larger forewings, using the smaller set behind as rudders while the heavily muscled third set,t he set that she used to conjure and command cyclones remained folded tightly to her sides. The sun gleamed off her scales; green-brown along her spine and in stripes that extended down around her ribs and the sides of her great neck and tail, but shading to deep forest green along her underside.
Her powerful tail, a secondary rudder tipped with a blunt, calcified spike, extended out from her body, undulating gently up and down as she plowed forward through the air. Her claws, calcified like her tail spike, were drawn up close to her body in flight, but powerful muscles promised that they could do grievous harm to all but the most fortified of bunkers, much less living foes.
In her wedge-shaped head, beneath a forest of horns that still bore the evidence of her passage both through Faerie forests and Tome’s deep-sea installation in the form of waterlogged tree branches and twisted cables. Her forward-set, predatory eyes scanned both land and sky for any threats, but the Blue World held none for her.
At two-hundred and sixty-two feet long, she dwarfed the largest animals that ever lived on Earth, the blue whales and shamed the mightiest known dinosaurs or other extinct megafauna. The fact that she remained in the sky at all mocked the Blue World’s physics, as she carried those of her own world with her in every bone and sinew.
On the Astral Plane, hovering next to her head, the Mankind that initially made contact with her, ‘Ephemeral’ or Kareem, guided her toward a clearing where she could land. There were already objects that according to his mind were also capable of flight there. Like all things in the Blue World, they were laughable small and underpowered compared to her.
Here, he told her, she would find aid not just retrieving her missing progeny and exacting her vengeance, but in doing so more quickly than she could manage on her own. That the tiny Mankinds, who when last she witness them were only capable of crude circle-magic and had only recently discovered masonry and stone working could be of use to her was something she doubted.
And yet, they had discovered the Astral Plane, it seemed, and if Ephemeral could be believed, discovered a way to place incredible power in their blood—power even mighty Armigal had never witnessed before. For her child’s sake, she could not risk losing an opportunity to reach her more quickly.
What she saw as she came to land on the great field of grass, her incredible weight threatening to sink her into the soil, both impressed and discouraged her.
Among the ‘Descendants’ number was a mage—a sorceress in fact. Armigal could have tasted her power on the wind if she couldn’t already detect the spell being constructed. Said spell was the same type of crude, slow circle-magic she’d known the Mankinds to possess thousands of years ago. No doubt there would be baffling sympathetic and symbolic components, rhyming incantations and all manner of ritualism that the daoine of Faerie also refused to abandon.
To put her child’s fate in something so amateur made her rankle and doubt.
What stopped her was one simple fact. It proved that no matter how inelegant and poorly conceived Mankind’s magic was, there was true power there and with that level of raw, brute force applied to a spell, there were few things that couldn’t be accomplished by a properly determined mage.
It was hard to argue that there wasn’t a great deal of power at hand when she found herself observing a magic circle under construction measuring three-hundred feet across.