- 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 5)
For Armigal, the high, keening sound that suddenly filled the air were annoying; something that made her want the source to be shut off, but nothing maddening or at all painful. The mewling complaints from beneath her said that her offspring, young and vulnerable as she was, felt the same way.
But for the beast that have emerged from the earth and tried to attack them, is must have been concentrated agony going by how they howled and shook and tried whatever they could to hide their ears.
In their throes of panic and pain, they were no longer attacking her offspring or unlikely allies. They were also incapable of defending themselves with channeled lightning like a dragon of the Air. That offered her an opportunity. No longer did she have to contend with defending her offspring from all sides, never being able to focus.
Now she could go on an all-out assault.
Before her tiny allies could react to the changing tide of the battle, she was in motion. Lunging with her neck muscles, she snapped her jaws closed around the nearest beast. Its metal shell resisted her teeth as before, and against one of the invasive fey creatures that infested her world, it would have been a nearly impenetrable defense. Except now she had time and leverage to bring her boulder-crushing jaws to bear with all necessary force.
Dragons of Earth were, as all dragons, omnivorous in the truest sense even if they preferred freshly-cooled igneous stone when they needed to eat at all. Armigal had, in her youth experimented of course, and she recalled the huge ocean-going crustaceans called nautui in most Faerie tongues. Just like those, the armored beast’s armor withstood the actual punctures and crushing—but under enough stress, the rigid armor eventually split along minute seems, allowing her access to the soft body within. With a scream of metal and a crunch that satisfied her vengeful heart, the creature stopped its howls of pain and was still.
Throwing the body aside. Armigal turned and rose up on her rear legs, bringing her whole weight hammering down on two more of the monsters. The ground shook with her weight and the beasts’ armor cracked it where it was driven straight down. When it stubbornly refused to yield, she lifted her weight from them and batted one into the other with a mighty blow of her paw. The force slammed both into the quarry wall where their noise also ended, whether by death or unconsciousness, she cared not.
There was only one left, and to bring about its doom, she brought her tail into play, rearing back with her hips and letting the spike-tipped weapon swing. At almost a third of her length, it had a very long way to swing, and built up a great deal of momentum as if neared and then exceeded the speed of sound.
A sharp crack echoed painfully around the quarry as the dull spike made contact. It failed to split the armor, but on impact, all of its energy was unleashed. Armor or no, the resultant shockwave not only liquified organs, but shattered the stone beneath the creature into a cloud of dust and shrapnel.
Vengeance tasted sweeter than new obsidian. And well aware of the antagonistic watcher further down the quarry, she spread all six wings in his direction, lowered her head, and roared long and loud. Let their master know that this was the least of the fury a Dragon of Earth would unleash in defense of her offspring.
“I think I’m gonna be sick.” said Alloy.
“I’m really happy someone who wasn’t me said so first.” replied Vamanos.
Facsimile scoffed over the comms, “Guys. Inugami. Literal lab made monsters. You can’t like… fix them or anything.”
“Yeah, I get that,” said Alloy. “But jeez, look how quick it was. All she needed was for ’em to stop dodging for just a few seconds and…” He made a point not to look at the puddle spreading out form the one hit by the tail strike. That probably wasn’t just blood.
When he averted his gaze, however, he found himself face-to-chest with the ogre he freed. And when he looked up, he could see what could only be a puzzled expression on the big guy’s face. “Um… guys, I don’t know if you noticed, but we seem to have picked up an ally.”
The ogre squinted at him, then looked around, first in the area around him, then back at Vamanos, and over to the others around the tarmac. He started to say something, stopped to consider, then rumbled out, “You are not talking to me?”
“Um… radio.” Alloy tried to explain. The ogre gave him another quizzical look. “This is way more complicated than I’m making it, but they–” he pointed to the others and the jet overhead, “–can hear me.”
He readied himself for another question, but to his surprise, the ogre nodded. “Ah. Pixies do this. Some daoine. No ogres.”
“Ogre? Wow, so my guess was right.” Alloy blinked behind his visor. “Score one for a lifetime of fantasy games.”
There was the confusion he’d been expecting.
Mercifully, a sharp yell followed by the unmistakable sound of a body hitting the ground caught their attention. Both turned, ready for a fight, with Isp and Osp assuming dangerous, pointy shapes. What they found was Simon Talbot face-first on the ground. Vamanos was kneeling with her knee in his back, putting a set of zip cuff on him.
“Whoa.” Alloy said, and was keenly aware of an approving grunt from the ogre. “I’m Alloy by the way.”
“Tydir Woodhewn.” The ogre said, giving an odd salute that involved sweeping his open palm in a horizontal line. He pointed to Talbot. “This is where we hurt him. Yes?”
Alloy took a step forward to put himself between Talbot and the ogre, Tydir. “No, this is where to take him to… well our leaders. Leader of justice at least.” He made a mental note the ‘Leaders of Justice’ would be a great name for a team should the Descendants need a new one. “And they’ll decide how he’s punished.”
“Ah.” said Tydir. “They decide when we hurt him.”
“No. I…” He looked back at the dragon. “We don’t do that stuff here, okay?”
Tydir considered this, stroking his chin thoughtfully. “Then we move him somewhere… not here to hurt him?”
“Not hurting him!”
“The young woman with her knee in my back is doing a fine job of it on her own.” complained Talbot.
Cuffing finished, Vamanos moved off him. “My… publicist got me lessons from an ex-cop. What I did was perfectly acceptable use of force to apprehend you.”
“Let me guess.” Talbot smirked as if he hadn’t been captured in the middle of something massively illegal. “He was ex-LAPD?”
Vamanos looked over his should at Alloy. “Can we let the your new friend hurt him just a little.” Tydir grinned at her.
If it wasn’t for his helmet, Alloy would have been pinching the bridge of his nose. He looked around for help and was overjoyed to see the other making their way toward them. He cast a special glance at Armigal. The great dragon didn’t advance, she hung back. Watching.
Probably only because the others were blocking her easy avenue of attack. There wasn’t anything he could do about it though, so he hit the comm. “Codex? We’ve got Talbot in custody and the inugami are all… down.”
“I saw. Good job keeping your eye on him, Vamanos; especially given the circumstances. I’ll swing around and land for pick-up.” The screamers shut off. “Darkness, any luck?”
“No.” came the reply. “When we split up so Chaos could help the baby, the transports managed to get out of the quarry. Once they had open sky and their cloaking kicked in… My best guess is that that was the whole point. Looks like tome anticipated that we’d be able to get here quick and prepped countermeasures.”
Chaos landed not far from where Tydir was standing. He made it a point to keep the ogre in his field of vision as he examined the bits and pieces left behind. “They didn’t get away clean though. I bet we’ll find a lot of interesting stuff out here and back in the base. Plus,” He turned to face Talbot. “We got the big fish.”
For his part, Talbot never lost the look of smug superiority on his face. “I think you people are forgetting my immunity? Not only that, but how ‘big’ a fish do you think I cam? Just because I was head of the Academy?”
“Well duh, giant conspiracy.” mocked Facsimile, who had made it a point to shift claws onto her hands. “You’re probably not one of the guy you only ever see in shadow around a board table, but you’re important enough for now: you’ll lead us to bigger ponds with bigger fish.”
Tat drew a spite-filled laugh from Talbot. “You have no idea how little this matters. Not just this: any of it. You people. You take up these stupid names and hide behind ridiculous costumes because you want to protect your regular, normal life. You fight for ‘rights’ for your kind. But you don’t even know what your kind really is.”
He sneered at each of them in turn. “You’re at best military waste runoff and the fevered dreams of overly-patriotic scientists. Picture it: after World War I, the world saw how science had changed war—and life—forever. The machine gun created trench warfare. The plane and the tank and the guided annihilated it. Suddenly, everyone rediscovered the value of research and development and everything changed. Ship, guns, rockets, uniforms, tactics—they all took a giant leap forward.
“But the weak link was still the animal human. There was a limit to how strong we could be, how fast—and eve how smart, which in turn limited how far we would ever be able to take science itself.. So for the next forty years—not just World War II, the entire period up to the end of the First Cold War, every nation in the world with half a budget tried everything they could to make a super-man. And they all—every one of them failed.”
Behind them, the jet was coming in for a VTOL landing. Facsimile rolled her eyes at Talbot. “Yeah, we know the story, jackass. It passed down n the blood, didn’t show up until five or six generations and then boom: us. Were you going to get to a point anytime soon?”
Talbot glared at her. “The point Cynthia—”
“Ooo, the guy who kidnapped me and cause all this in the first place knows my real name. I’m s very shocked and awed.”
“–is the psionics are less than a flawed prototype. They’re a proof-of-concept. You’re supposed to be weapons, but who can wait a hundred and twenty years for a weapon to come online? And there’s no way of controlling who gains that power. Think about all the potential wasted on giving transmutation over ninety percent of all matter in the universe to some Brooklyn kid with comic book morality.”
Alloy saw Vamanos give him a meaningful look, then look toward Tydir. The only thing saving Talbot from an ogre battle were those self-same ‘comic book morals’.
“That’s the problem Tome aimed to fix once they proved the theory that some of those old methods might have results in future generations. But ti fix the problem, we had to study the desired results. Hence, the Academy—how are the scars, Miss Taylor?”
“They haven’t faded much at all since I…” Zero, who had been hovering overhead trailed off and tilted her head at him, confused.
An impactful landing and a wash of black heat announced Darkness’s arrival. She stepped right in front of the man, both hands tightened into fists. “You call that studying, you ghoul? The kidnappings, the trepannings, whatever the bio-mapping process does…”
“…and it’s all worth it.” smirked Talbot. “Thanks in great part to you.”
Darkness almost punched him, but Isp was suddenly wrapped around her arm. “Hold up.” said Alloy. “He’s been poking at us all this time for no good reason. I think he wants one of us to take a swing at him.”
“Why?” asked Renaissance, coming to stand next to him. Behind them, the doors to the jet opened.
Occult eyes him from under her hood. “Legal reasons, maybe? Or another booby-trap?”
“Or maybe all this story time is to keep us form searching his base.” put in Chaos.
A psychotic grin split Talbot’s face. “All I’m saying is: they’re very, very close. And once they figure out how to give a person permanent powers how and when they choose, there won’t be any more need for any of us anymore.”
“Actually.” Codex’s voice cut off the next words out of Talbot’s mouth. She arrived with Ephemeral and Hope in tow. “I would put good money on him trying to get you to knock him out before our telepath arrived. That way, we wouldn’t be able to tell this wasn’t Simon Talbot before they went to jail in his place.”
She stepped right up in the man’s face. “I kept asking myself ‘why is Talbot here pressing buttons by himself when he could have left an intern’. Then I realized the real question was ‘why is he here in the quarry when all of this could have been done remote. Plus, the Talbot I talked to was mocking, but restrained, not the desperate-to-start-something lout we saw here. You were a much better actor when you were portraying a Senator.”
Talbot scoffed. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Hmm. Yes.” Codex started to turn away only to suddenly flick an extending steel baton out of her belt and swung for Talbot’s knee. There was a sick crunching, popping sound, but it wasn’t from the baton’s impact, as Codex stopped just before contact.
Instead, Talbot slipped his hands, with both thumbs horribly dislocated, out of the zip cuffs and swept them down to try and grab her arm.
Codex easily warded him off with the baton and took a step back, clearing an open line of fire for Renaissance to hit him with a trio of expanding foam pellets that encased his arms and legs, immobilizing him even as he tried dislocating other bones and joints—more than an average human would even have—to escape.
Realizing he was trapped, he threw a glare at Codex. “Oh, you cheeky, clever bitch.”
“You should have known as much, given how much of our files Talbot seemed to have passed on to you.”
Facsimile held up a hand. “Hold on. Talbot let this guy read our files? But… I’ve seen Talbot before at the Academy open house and stuff—this guy is Talbot, right?” She glanced around. “Why’s everyone looking at me like that.”
An unspoken agreement put the responsibility on Ephemeral to give her a diplomatic nudge. “Facsimile… you out of all of us know that people can be impersonated. Especially when descendants are involved?”
“Huh?” Then her golden brows drew together in annoyance. “Oooh! A shape—hey!” She glared at the faux-Talbot. “Look here, jackass, I’m the best shapeshifter in the world, so you can just back off. Especially since you can’t seem to do it without all those gross bone-breaking noises.”
The false Talbot sneered. “I’ve read your file. If we are to be discussing ‘gross’, then let us speak on your ‘clothes’. Do you trade them with your friends? I know teenaged girls do that.”
“Oh my god…” Zero murmured. “Please don’t say that green cashmere sweater I borrowed last week was—“
“It’s no different from getting the wool off a goat.” said Facsimile, folding her arms and pouting.
“You mean you didn’t know?” asked Hope, who had arrived just behind Ephemeral. “You never noticed that she never has laundry. Not in two years?”
Zero sank to the ground, looking sheepish. “I just thought she did her own…”
“Okay everyone, focus. This isn’t completely over.” Codex said. Everyone turned their attention back to her and the trapped faux-Talbot. “Judging by the segmented skeleton that’s aiding in their shapeshifting, I would guess this is Maehara Tsukasa, also known as Proxy.”
“From the Braddock Island breakout?” asked Occult.
“Oh yeah, I remember now. That means he… or she—the news didn’t really say—is part of the reason for those dumbass Braylocke laws. I’m starting to lean toward the big guy hitting him again.”
Tydir had been watching the whole thing, trying to figure out what was going on. Upon hearing his name, he grinned a peg-toothed grin and made a fist. “Release him from holding and I will enjoy doing that. He and his trapped me. Harmed me.”
“No one’s going to hit this guy.” Chaos stepped up, “As much as I’d like to get a shot in too. Talbot or not, he’s going to get picked up by the ROCIC and we’ll play it form there. The right way. For now, we need to deal with this mess and God knows what else is down in that facility.”
Proxy cackled at that. “Not much down there. Except proof I was telling the truth about what comes next once they learn to copy our powers. Won’t be the first time either: just ask Arjun Ravi.”
“Wait, what?” Darkness asked, doing a double take at the captured shapeshifter. “Ravi is dead—has been dead almost thirty years!”
Another cruel laugh came from Proxy. “We broke him out of Braddock Island. Ask your General. But I think you have someone else you’d like to talk to, Alexis. Like… the girl in the generator?”