- Issue #85 – The Ballad of Bad Lass
- Issue #86 – Those Not Forgotten
- Issue #87 – Descendants… In Space
- Issue #88 – Tome of Battle
- Issue #89 – All That Glitters
- Issue #90 – Just Us Sidekicks
- Issue #91 – Rock and Roll Lifestyle
- Descendants Special #8 – The Heart of Rock ‘N Roll
- Issue #92 – Homage
- Issue #93 – Day of Recovery
- Issue #94 – The Knight, The Witch and the Gadgeteer (FaerieQuest Part 1)
- Issue #95 – Into The Woods (FaerieQuest Part 2)
Ballad of Bad Lass (Part 3)
“So.” Cyn and Laurel had landed the cloaked Karasu no Yūrei in the parking lot of a closed factory complex and made their way to the site of Tamara’s impact crater. The pavement had been shattered for about ten yards in all directions and the resultant hole was deep enough to swallow a car, but Cyn had seen worse—been smashed into worse.
As Facsimile and Codex, they had gotten the relevant information from the local PD and an ROCIC representative. Eight Tome assets, including five non-powered agents, a scientist and two pilots were in custody at a nearby hospital, as were twenty motorists whose vehicles had crashed when the falling Tome transport clipped a highway overpass, sending chunks of concrete scattering in all directions.
No one knew where Bad Lass had gone after her high dive into the parking lot, and Tome had remotely wiped all information in the transport by the time the authorities reached it.
“…what do we do now? Canvas the local businesses, interrogate whatever Tome goons aren’t doped up to the gills on painkillers? See if I can shift into a bloodhound and get a scent?
Codex had her tablet out and was tapping away at it. “Sometimes it pays to try the simplest means first. I just hacked the public camera network. There’s nothing pointed at this lot or the alleys leading to it, but if I cycle around the nearest surface streets in the ten minutes after people reported hearing noises back here, maybe I can pick up her trail.”
“Doesn’t everyone know how to stay off the city cams?” Asked Facsimile, who had been avoiding cameras for the past three years to hide her secret identity.
“She might,” said Codex. Being something of a juvenile delinquent, there was a good chance Tamara might have learned a thing or two about that. “But I’m betting it wasn’t the top of her to-do list. Think about when you first got out of stasis: you had no idea what was going on, or where you were.”
Facsimile shrugged. “Actually, I was more hungry than anything when I first woke up. If you hadn’t given me that candy bar, someone might have lost a strip of flesh to be totally honest.”
Codex hummed under her breath. “That’s a good point. Everyone was half-starved when they got out of the cells. Maybe Tamara is too…” She split the screen of her tablet between hacked video footage and a Chamber of Commerce provided visual map. “That would rule out these streets because they don’t have restaurants on them… She wouldn’t have any money on her, so she’d have to beg or grift for money, so nothing more expensive than fast food…”
She smiled, though it was hidden by her helmet. “Good job, Facsimile, you’ve narrowed nineteen streets to search down to seven.”
Warmed by the praise, Facsimile was quick to add. “Oh, and if she was being kept like us, or that chick they found when Armigal helped us take the Tome base in Nevada, she’ll still be in a hospital gown. That should make her easy to pick out in the crowd.”
After three loops of video on fast forward, Codex paused the fourth and showed it to Facsimile. “That she does.”
On the screen, an irate-looking Tamara stormed into view, clutching something in one hand while holding the back of her gown closed with the other. After looking around (and staring down anyone who looked twice at her until they decided not to anymore), she stormed across the street to a Burger Builders.”
“Got her.” Facsimile grinned. “So we can follow her on the cameras then, right?”
“Only the slow way.” Codex replied with a sigh. “None of Tamara’s most recent pictures are high enough quality to provide decent facial recognition—not reliably anyway. I’m going to try loading my usual program into the town ‘s camera network, but the best hope we have there is getting a hit in the midst of a ton of false positives.
“We’ll just have to follow her steps and fill in the blanks when she goes off-camera. Plus, like you said: canvasing. We have her student ID picture, so maybe there are still people around that have seen her.”
They headed for the Burger Builder’s first. The storefront was part of a long strip of small stores like one would find in any town: an art supply, a hardware store, a Chinese restaurant, two antique shops, and a couple of small clothing outlets.
Being in full heroic regalia, they were getting plenty of attention, but most people knew that superheroes usually meant a fight might break out at any moment and kept their distance while posting videos from their palmtops’ cameras online.
The autograph seekers didn’t descend start up until they walked into the Burger Builders. For about the space of a breath, the place went silent—then all the conversation started back up with them as the subject. People who had been online, either with the cashier or at the order kiosks forgot all about their lunch when the two heroines appeared.
“Oh my god, I love you!” said the first fan to work up some courage. She was a woman in her mid-thirties with dark hair and a toddler in her arms. “My brother goes to school at Emerald College and he was there when you fought that big guy in the purple and white—can I get a picture with you? It would knock his socks off!”
Never one to turn down attention, Facsimile grinned. “Sure.” Suddenly, there were five more people clamoring for pictures and she realized her mistake. Pandering to the fans was going to take up time that Tamara might not have if Tome was still after her.
“But, that’s got to wait. We’re actually here looking for someone—a lost girl in fact.” She pretended to pull her palmtop from behind her back instead of form out of the small of her back, then called up the girl’s picture. “Has anyone seen her? About five-eight, black hair, blue eyes…. probably in a hospital gown? Um… might have punched something into orbit?”
One of the mobbing fans, a twenty-something with a short beard who had been working on his computer and nursing a coffee before Codex and Facsimile came in piped up. “What so special about this girl that everyone’s asking about her? Is she a criminal?”
“Wait.” Codex held up a hand and the fan crush stopped as everyone waited to see what she did. No one had seen her us any overt powers, so the internet rumors had come up with thousands of covert abilities she reportedly had. “Sir, you’ve been asked about this girl before?”
One of the employees who had been clearing tables looked up from what they’d been doing. “Yeah, this guy asked me too—everyone that was in here about ten minutes ago.”
Codex and Facsimile shared a look. They didn’t have to say ‘Tome’ out loud because it was so obvious.
“Can you describe him for me?”
The man with the computer shrugged. “This tall… tan pretty boy. Long hair… oh, and one of those soul patch beards. You know, the arrogant type. He had a hands-free headset in?”
Facsimile tried not to glare. “That… was not that helpful.”
“He looked like… Greek or something?” the employee asked, rubbing the back of her head. “He had a nice suit on, but I think he might have been crazy because he was talking to himself. Not like… into the headset, but like there was someone beside him?”
Looking to Codex, Facsimile asked, “Didn’t Tome have an invisible guy that one time at the Ren Faire?”
“Thank you.” Codex told the employee before pulling out her tablet again and addressing Facsimile. “I wasn’t there but I can check for that alongside anyone matching the description in Tome’s Enforcer database.”
“Tome?” asked the woman who approached them the first time. “Those are the people who ran the Academy, right? Oh my god, they’re here in our city? Sh-shouldn’t someone be warning the schools?”
“Nah, they’re only after Bad Lass here.” Facsimile sad, flashing the picture of Tamara again. “She’s one of the kids they kidnapped and she got away.” That earned a shocked gasp from all the gathered civilians. “…right. So you guys get now how important it is to find out where she is before them.”
“I never saw her.” admitted the employee and the man with the computer shrugged. Just before Codex simply thanked them all and moved on, a middle-aged man raised his hand. “I think I saw the person you’re talking about on Barnard Avenue, a couple of blocks from here. I’m not sure if this is who you’re looking for… but how many people are running around in hospital gowns?”
Facsimile clapped. “Now that sounds like a lead. Thanks, mister! Um… sorry folks, but rescue missions come first. Maybe we can so a photo-op sometime later.”
Tamara grunted and resisted the urge to kick the nearby wall down. She was pretty sure she’d thrown off any pursuit by jumping a few walls, backtracking, and moving through back alleys. Really, she figured she was now safe to head straight to the nearest police station.
Then again, she had no idea how many people might have died in the transport crash and whether or not crashing it might count as self-defense. She probably couldn’t claim she was defending herself against people on the ground anyway.
So yeah, she was an outlaw now as far as she knew. The cops might start shooting the second she showed up. Granted, that wouldn’t do much to her, but it would be annoying and eventually someone would gas her or something.
Gas. That must have been how those assholes kidnapped her in the first place. She wondered if she could find a military surplus to buy a gas mask from or something. Though that would ruin all her careful effort in hiding from her pursuers.
Why exactly am I hiding from them anyway. They need to pay for what they’ve done to me—and that means I’m not the one that should be hiding.
Tamara stopped walking. Had she really just thought that? Yeah, she was angry. Yeah, she wanted revenge, but she also wasn’t stupid. The group she beat down had been taken by surprise, but someone in their organization knew how to take her down. Otherwise she wouldn’t have woken up in a tube in the first place.
But they really have it coming. They kidnapped me. They took everything I had left, even the past two years of my life. Now I’m probably wanted by the cops and have nothing but some cash cards that will tell them exactly where I am anyway. I should make a stand—show them they can’t do this to me.
Stupid or not, it sounded good. Tamara hadn’t hit anything since she jumped out of the transport and she had a lot of built-up aggression to show for it. What did she have to lose anyway.
Hands closed into white-knuckled fists, she turned in a direction that felt like a good idea and headed for the main drag. She was going hunting.
Across town, on the open to deck of a twenty-story parking garage, sat a nondescript brown SUV with cream trim. In the back sat a man in his early forties with short, dark blonde hair and a square jaw. His driver was on break, getting lunch somewhere in the city with plans to keep busy nearby until he got a call. The fewer people that saw him work the better.
The laptop on the seat beside him showed the last known locations of both the girl and the three sent by Tome to recover her. A separate window was open for a voice call.
“You’ve certainly gotten everyone’s attention with the crash.” said the party on the other end. Their voice was heavily distorted with what sounded like an off-the-shelf voice changer. “Every news channel is going over the whole thing with a fine toothed comb.”
“The better to keep the government’s people busy keeping things contained. I don’t want them in the way when we get to the main event. Who knows? Some kindly CPS worker might be able to win over this girl’s better nature if given half a chance. It sounds foolish, but I plan for everything.”
“Be careful with that attitude. I’ve heard many people say the same thing shortly before the noose closed and they found themselves on the front page of some news blog in chains. You can never plan for everything, you can only be prepared for what you foresee.”
The blond made a face. “Granted, but that doesn’t mean I’m incompetent. This plan will work—it’s the only way it can work. Brain Child can only provide nudges in the right direction; he can’t take control directly. We need to make her want to come to us. To earn her loyalty.”
On the other end of the line, the voice chuckled. “Edward, you mistake my insistence on accuracy for a lack of confidence in you. I wouldn’t have tapped you for this if I didn’t think you could get things done.”
“I appreciate that.” said Edward, “And the disgustingly fat check, of course. Hold on a minute, Brain Child is broadcasting to me.” He paused, listening to a voice no one else could hear. “Ah, I had it at an eighty-five percent chance…”
“The Descendants are here. Codex and Facsimile are on the girl’s trail. I would put good money that they aren’t alone.”
“They have a telepath. A better one by far than your boy. What do you have to counter him?”
Edward didn’t even miss a beat. Reaching under the seat in front of him, he came up with an aluminum case, which he opened to reveal various odd and exotic implements. From it, he took two things that looked like hands-free headsets. “I still have friends at Braddock Island—they flushed the Tome moles, but not the people who are just corrupt.
“These are Theta wave jammers, standard issue for the guards on the island. They block most mental powers from affecting the wearer. No one’s going to miss these though because they have a potentially dangerous flaw.”
“Mmm. That being?”
“Well they discovered with this particular batch, there was a frequency on the spectrum that a psionic could exploit if they had enough time and training. It takes weeks of constant attempts to do, but what else are prisoners going to do with their time? Of a teenaged boy for that matter? Brain Child’s been training against that flaw. I would wager Ephemeral has not.”
A short laugh issued from the other end of the line. “Nicely done, Edward. How are you going to get the girl to put it on?”
“Oh, that’s simple…” Edward smiled. “Young Tamara is about to make a new friend.”
Brain Child? Come to base camp a moment, I need you to pick something up from me.
As they headed to Barnard Avenue, Facsimile suddenly grabbed Codex’s arm, pulling her back.
“Shhhh.” Facsimile hissed, heedless of the fact that she was a golden woman trying to be stealthy. “End of the street, standing by the cab—do we recognize the guy?” The man in question was a pale man with a truly magnificent pompadour and sideburns.
Covertly, Codex took a picture with her palmtop and sent it to her tablet, running facial recognition. “With the hairstyle, I know who he looks like, but obviously, this man isn’t over a hundred and ten years old so…”
The recognition program checked most law enforcement and government databases, plus the ROCIC’s, old Academy records, and Laurel’s personal set of compiled photos. In about a minute, they had a hit from and FBI file more than ten years old.
“Lewis Garret Hammish?” She asked in disbelief. “I don’t think we’ve ever run into him. Arrests for grand theft, evading arrest, and theft of police property? Those aren’t usually the crimes that draw super-assistance. Maybe it’s someone you picked up on patrol? What got your attention in the first place?”
“Because he’s been watching us the whole time without getting a picture.” explained Facsimile. “And also, he’s been smoking that cigarette without it being lit.”
Codex nodded. “Ah. Then I think we should go have a word with him then.”