- 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 6)
The heavy gears that controlled Deep Ten’s central lift groaned as they were turned not by their motors, but by Alloy’s metal control. Laboriously, the huge metal platform descended the steep, sloped track that led from the surface to a large, open receiving area.
“Everyone be on your guard.” Codex said over the comms. “We don’t know what other ‘surprises’ Tome left as they pulled out. We don’t even have a map of the facility.”
“That’s why we brought the big guy down with us, right?” Facsimile shot a look at the ogre.
Tydir stood at his ease in the midst of her, Alloy, Vamanos, Renaissance and Darkness. Along with Facsimile, the team of six was making the first foray into Deep Ten to see if they could find ‘the girl in the generator’ Proxy mentioned as well as reconnoiter on behalf of the ROCIC, which would be arriving in a few hours.
“I know where the cells are.” Tydir supplied, “Which ones might still have something dangerous.” His expertise had already kept them from opening another containment unit. Not everything in containment could be reasoned with. Some of them he’d rather see destroyed than opened because as dangerous as they were in their natural habitat, they would be as a plague on the Blue World, Earth, where they have no natural predators.
“Right. Rule one: no breaking containment.” Renaissance said, raising her arm to take sensor readings of the receiving room. Anyone see something that might be a junction box? I might be able to make a pulse map and take us right to the generator room.”
Darkness surveyed the area. The receiving room was where supply deliveries and probably new captures entered the base. As such, it was littered with shipping crates and containers as well as the pallets and standing shelves to store items before they were sent to other parts of the base. Plenty of places for a junction box or similar to hide.
“Vamanos, do a once-around in here. Stick to the walls, but don’t go through any of the doors yet. Facsimile, get up in the air and keep an eye on her.”
After waiting politely for Facsimile to get a head start, Vamanos took off, quickly vanishing into the warehouse-like room.
Renaissance tapped on her computer screen fruitlessly searching for any wireless networks that might have been left online. As she did so, a question that had been nagging at her bubbled to the surface. “When Proxy said in the generator…?”
“That’s very likely literal.” Darkness said, coldly surveying the area around the lift. “There was a girl the ROCIC rescued and bought to the Liedecker Institute… the people who had her put her in a suit that harvested and directed the steam her pores generated and used it to power a machine she was hooked into. So there’s precedent.”
Alloy summoned up the aluminum he hauled down with them into a knee-high barrier of liquid metal, ready to raise it more to deflect and surprise attacks. “That’s the kind of thing you hear about in rumors out of places like France or Russia. Not here.”
“That’s the kind of thing that was invented here.” Alexis replied. “Never forget that Tome used to be part of DARPA. As old as parts of this place look, I wouldn’t be surprise this place started out as a government installation.”
“How the hell didn’t the ROCIC not know about it then?” asked Facsimile over the comms.
Codex replied. “Budget cuts. It was a big thing around the turn of the century just to dump million dollar operations and pretend that was saving money instead of wasting it. They shut things down, rearranged the bureaucratic structure to bring jobs to the states of whatever congressional members needed a few points in the polls, then looked shocked when places went to seed or disappeared.”
“And then Evil Incorporated or whatever shell corp Tome was using at the time bought the real estate for a song.” Chaos added on the comms. “It was probably fully furnished too.”
“Found… something.” Vamanos radioed in. “I’m not sure of if it’s a junction box, but it’s a locked metal cabinet dealie built into the wall kind of like the circuit box at home.”
“That would be it.” Renaissance confirmed and looked to Darkness. “I need to hook into it to get a pulse map.”
Nothing had moved or made a sound aside from the group sense they arrived, but Darkness wasn’t taking any chances. “Alright. Facsimile, eyes on Vamanos. Renaissance and myself are coming to you. Alloy, you and Tydir stay back to keep the door open.”
She called up her black heat and gentled enshrouded Renaissance with it before lifting her under the armpits and flying them both toward the box.
Alone with the ogre and without much else to do besides watch the one yawning corridor off to their left that led into a different segment of the base, Alloy locked his armor with his power and rested inside. “So, Tydir…” The ogre grunted and raised a brow, which struck Alloy as too human an expression for an ogre.
“…You’re from Faerie, huh?”
“The Green World. Yes.” said Tydir. “The Gormeer Foothills, ruled by the Granitejaw Chieftains.”
It sounded way too accurate to way too many of his books and games. Alloy wanted to call bullshit, but there was a dragon topside, so ‘ogres with hackneyed Fantasy names’ weren’t very high on the ‘unbelievable’ list. “How long have you been… here?”
Tydir shrugged and shook his head. “There is no day or night beneath the ground. Not that ogres can tell. I was with my patrol, burning out some dangerous plants, when I was swallowed by the mist and found myself here on the Blue World. If Blue World days are the same length as ours, then I survived in the wilderness, stealing the food from Mankind families for food. Felt bad doing it: they were exiles: living in tents that would not protect them from creeping vines and eating rations.”
Camping, Alloy realized with a start. Tydir had probably been scaring the crap out of people in a national park.
“Eventually, the Mankinds from here came, riding in the hollowed out belly of a screaming beast I first thought was a dragon. Their magic…the ‘drugs’… subdued me. And then I woke up here. I have been here a very long time.”
Alloy looked around at the supplies left behind and thought about the crates the Tome staff abandoned in the quarry. It had been a big facility. If Tydir and several specimens an ogre thought too dangerous to let loose were worth leaving behind, what were the first things put on the transport?
Just the thought of it made him shiver. So far, Faerie was obeying Fantasy tropes with a Brothers Grimm twist. Ogres were something you fought at level five. Dragons—powerful dragons—were level ninety. There was a lot of room for scary to terrifying in between.
One carefully placed probe placed into what turned out to be a 1990’s era industrial safety cutoff for machinery that no longer existed inside Deep Ten was all Renaissance needed to generate a blind pulse map of the facility and render it into 3D.
“Okay, the good news: They didn’t try to mask the generator. It’s very obvious on the map as the power source. The bad news? I know where all the live wiring goes, but not where things like hallways and doors are. It’s on level twelve in the center, probably heavily insulated and isolated… but I have no idea how to get there.”
There was a mischievous laugh from behind her, alerting everyone that Facsimile had an idea. “You said this place was old?”
“Really old.” Renaissance agreed. “It’s all patched together, but I’d bet this place is at least a hundred years old. Pre-high-efficiency wiring, pre-wireless transmission. Why?”
In reply, Facsimile moved over to a section of wall far away from the safety cutoff and extended one of her orihalcite claws. With a few swipes, she cut out a section of wall and pulled it out, revealing hardened concrete and rebar. “If it’s more than maybe five years old, it’s pre-Alloy too.”
Renaissance grinned even as Vamanos and Darkness looked confused. “Metal sense. All the walls are loaded with metal, so all War… Alloy needs to do it look for hollow places and those will be the halls and rooms. Given that he’s in charge of drawing the maps when we game, this should be simple.”
“Then we can go straight to the generator?” Darkness asked.
The green-clad young woman nodded, then gave her a hesitant look. “We can… but I’d feel better if we go here—” she indicated a hotspot on the pulse map. “It looks like a security control room. I’d feel a lot safer if I had us patched into the security system, looking for threats or… escapees that aren’t as nice and helpful as Tydir.”
Darkness started to reply in the negative, but caught herself. She’d already let personal feelings take the lead once too often this time around. Safer was better. “Alright. We’ll head there first. It’ll also mean Alloy won’t have to guide us the whole way by metal sense alone.”
Keeping one ear on what was going on below, Codex switched off her mic to all feeds but the one directed to Armigal. “In the spirit of honesty, I’m going to tell you now: there’s little chance Simon Talbot is within a hundred miles of here. He was probably hoping that you would kill Proxy without anyone ever knowing the truth.”
“Indeed.” Armigal’s voice in the speakers buzzed with disgust.
“As it stands though, he’s no longer a threat to your child.” Codex pointed out. “And you can rest assured that we aren’t going to give up hunting for him and all his associates and superiors.”
The dragon rumbled unhappily. “And allow them to live, albeit with restriction.”
“It is our way.” Codex agreed. After a pause, she added. “I heard your conversation with Alloy and Vamanos.
Armigal affected a passably sarcastic laugh with her synthesized voice over the speakers. “If it came to it, would you have stood against me?”
Sitting back in her seat, Codex half-glared at the speaker. “Let’s get something clear: I wouldn’t be sorry if Talbot died. Considering what he’s done, I would find it difficult not to do a small, tasteless dance. But even if he doesn’t believe in himself enough to say for sure, I’m sure that Alloy would have stood against you. If that happened, I’d be more than certain that Facsimile would be one of the first to jump in to stand with him.
“And Facsimile? She’s my child. With that in mind, I had countermeasures well in hand since before we teleported. I can’t kill you, I can’t even hurt you—but if you hurt my child, I was going to make your life hell for it. Between the Books of Reason and Passions, I know more retributive curses than possibly any human on Earth—and I was going to use every single one of them to make sure something stuck.”
To her surprise, the dragon laughed again, a rumbling purr rather than the synthesized sound. “Indeed, Mankinds have come a great distance from those I once knew; those who would never think to challenge a far superior foe and who could not imagine a victory without survival.”
Codex chewed her lip. “You said it was a test.”
“To see for myself if you are ready. The gates between green and blue crumble, and the days grow shorter until the Queen of Air and Darkness discovers this. When Avalon rises, Mankinds will have to prove themselves—or lose a great hope against Her cold.”
“I’m not following…”
“Nor will you.” said Armigal. The great dragon shifted and rose up, stretching her powerful body. “Not yet.”
Twenty minutes in the security room and fifteen minutes of traversing the locked down elevators and stairwells of Deep Ten later, the team of six arrived at the far end of a long hallway blocked off by multiple security checkpoints. Between Alloy, Isp and Osp, the checkpoints were made significantly less secure in a matter of moments.
Aside from the fresh ruins of the checkpoints, the hall was bare concrete with harsh overhead florescent lighting. Not even a janitor’s closet interrupted its bare length before they reached the set of security doors at the end.
Alloy raised his hand to melt the door, but Renaissance put her own hand on his bicep to stop him. “Hold on. We don’t know what kind of power source is in there besides this girl. We might want these doors in place to keep noxious vapors or radiation in check.
“Radiation?” Vamanos asked, eying the door suspiciously.
“Just covering all out bases.” said Renaissance. She approached the door and after examining it, jabbed a probe into the space on the keypad, linking her computer into the security measure. “We didn’t see any warning signs or anything though. They probably hooked into local power and had on-site generators back in the day. This door? The Security checkpoints? Brand new even if they weren’t built to withstand metal powers.”
After a little work, she coaxed the electronic locks to disengage and pushed the heavy security door open for the others.
“That didn’t sound like a good ‘huh’.” Facsimile followed her to the door and peered in.
Renaissance motioned for the others to look as well. “I don’t know what kind of ‘huh’ I need here. This… doesn’t look like a generator of any kind.
The room was hexagonal and large, but cramped with machinery that was laid out in a radial pattern over something that resembled a hydraulic ram stabbing down from the ceiling into the floor. Coolant pumps fed into hoses that were stuck into the floor, while nerve-like bundles of cables emerged from that same floor to feed into banks upon banks of capacitors and battery charging stations.
Between the door and the ram stood a pedestal supporting a single touchscreen.
Everything vibrated enough for it to be uncomfortable just standing on the floor.
Alloy shook his head as if clearing it. “I don’t think I’ve sensed this metal before, but there’s maybe fifty pounds of it under that metal thing in the floor over there. It’s super-cold and spinning.”
“Grade school stuff.” said Darkness dryly. “Move a magnet back and forth in a coil of wire and you get current. This is our generator.”
Vamanos glanced around. “So where’s the girl?”
“It might be a trap.” Facsimile pointed out. “We come here to rescue the supposed girl in the generator, the door closes and locks and then the knock-out gas turns on.”
While they were talking, Renaissance had approached the touchscreen. There was no password, or if there had been, whoever used the screen last forgot to lock it. The moment she touched it, a series of readings and options came up.
Her gaze instantly fell on one particular set of readings. All she could do for a moment was stare and gasp.
“We have rebreathers and at least four of us have a way to simply destroy the door.” Darkness was telling Facsimile.
“I can just run through it.” Vamanos added.
Tydir, who had reached the threshold and stepped back as if he’d seen his worst nightmare grunted. “The golden one is right. This place stinks of blood and pain and bad dreams.”
Facsimile glanced back at him. “You can smell dreams?”
Before that could become a discussion, Renaissance spoke up. “I have no idea how that might work—but I think he’s right.”
“What?” Everyone by Tydir said as one.
“The generator diagnostic screen.” Renaissance explained. “There are readings for every part of the system: coolant temperature and level, capacity, rotational speed of the magnets… heart rate, blood pressure… and neural activity that suggests someone’s having a nightmare.”
Darkness was next to her looked at the screen before Renaissance was done speaking. “… the girl in the generator. Okay, so where is she? We need to get her out.”
Tapping frantically around the screen, Renaissance shook her head. “Let me see if… got it. She’s… beneath us.” She looked up at the thing she took to be a hydraulic ram earlier. “Hold on. Powering down the system and raising the core.”
There was a surging sound that slowly died to a whine then cut out altogether. The lights cut out at roughly the same time, but only remained off long enough for the local power grid to reassert itself, bringing everything back online.
“She was powering this entire place?” Facsimile asked. “Who is this chica?”
“We’re about to find out.” Darkness said as Renaissance activated the core controls. There was a hiss, accompanied by a rumble as actual hydraulics inside the device activated. A cloud of super-cooled air rose up from the seams as an odd steel cylinder rose up from the pit in the floor. Another rumble took over, withdrawing the outer sleeve of steel and insulating ceramics from around the chamber within.
Inside what something the looked like a glass coffin.
“A stasis cell.” Darkness whispered. She was about to say something else before she actually saw the face of the teenaged girl suspended inside, dressed only in a thin hospital gown. She’d last seen the girl in a different stasis cell, from the window of an empty classroom at the Psionics Training and Application Academy. That had been two years and a dozen unexpected twists in her life story ago, but the girl in the stasis cell had been the first.
Since that day, her head had been shaved and it appeared that wires and probes had been inserted directly into her skull.
“Dana.” she muttered. “Dana Rice-Kelly.”
“Who?” Facsimile asked.
Darkness ignored her, turning to Renaissance. “How long will it take to get her out of there?
The young gadgeteer shook her head. “I don’t think we should—not without real doctors on hand. They’re sending data into her brain by the looks of it. I have no idea what will happen if I cut her off.”
There was really no arguing with that. Darkness nodded. “Right. Codex, can you hear me?”
“I’m right here.” Codex replied, cryptic dragons forgotten.
“Call the General. Tell him to hurry up.” said Darkness. “And have him send a medical team.”
The Be Concluded In Descendants Special #7 – History: New and Ancient.