- 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 4)
Getting Lewis Hammish out in public on a mission without his costume had been like giving a cat a bath; there had been hissing and spitting and someone might have gotten scratched. The comms were also flooded with complaining, which was the auditory version of the baleful glances the cat would have directed at all involved afterward.
“I was supposed to be stealing whole museums by now.” He groused, causing the cigarette between his lips to bounce. “My name ought to be up there with D.B. Cooper. That was the promise you know? Training with my powers to make my powers stronger and/or better. All I’ve gotten’s been a doctor’s appointment and a kick in the ass.”
Most of the techs meant to be listening and relaying comm traffic had stopped listening. He knew as much. He didn’t care.
“So now we’re after this girl, and I’m asking myself ‘for what?’ It’s been a year since I signed on, three since that whole Academy thing, and I know you’ve been doing this for what? Ten, fifteen years? And you still got nothing to show for it?”
He was considering lighting up the stupid cigarette. His body was a temple, but he once heard the things would calm you down at least before they killed you. Then there was a long silence. A silence that made the technicians working the relays hope beyond hope that maybe he’d decided to shut up and keep his eyes open.
“…Shit. I told you they’d show up. Codex and Facsimile just came down the street.”
And just like that, everyone in the command center sprang into action, tapping into street-level cameras, checking the local buzz online—things they probably should have been doing instead of listening to comm chatter and fruitlessly waiting for facial recognition to pick up Tamara.
Your cover is in danger. Something in the back of his head said.
“This is why I wanted to wear my costume. I can’t get caught on camera in civvies. What the hell am I supposed to do?”
“Where is he?” Colt asked the techs acting as mission control.
“Sending you the GPS coordinates now.” said the man in charge. Even as he did so, he called up a window to send a message to Simon Talbot. The crash and Tamara’s escape hadn’t been that bad that he needed to be identified. Now that there was competition, especially from prelates, not putting him in the loop would be ground for dismissal. Into the barghest training kennels.
“Got it.” Colt confirmed. “We’re on the way. ‘scondro hold tight.”
Leaning on the cab, watching the two heroines approaching, Lewis, AKA Abscondro, had a different perspective. “Hold tight? Hold… you wouldn’t be saying that it you were me. I can’t use my powers in the open like this or people will know who I am. That’s my whole career down the toilet. I don’t have a record worth mentioning, not like you!”
“Aaand now he’s talking to himself.” he heard Facsimile comment. “Comm link?”
“Almost certainly.” he heard Codex reply.
He looked up and they were less than a block from him. The cigarette dropped from his lips. “Oh screw this.” without the ability to openly use his powers, he opted to get somewhere where he could use them covertly and escape.
In other words, he turned tail and ran down the adjoining street.
Half a block away, Facsimile gave a feral grin. “I love it when they run.”
“Just don’t hurt him. We need to ask him some questions.
Facsimile gave her adoptive mother a coy look. “Terror doesn’t hurt.” That said, she flexed her shoulders for the drama and shifted, filling out the golden wings of her heroic default form to have functional mass and muscles while adding more muscle and reinforcing tendon to her legs.
One mighty leap got her up on a traffic light, then another got her high enough that she could stay airborne with minimal flapping of her wings. It wasn’t hard for her to catch sight of her fleeing quarry from up high and she swiftly winged after him.
All the people on the street ahead of him stopping to gawk at something behind him and up high warned Abscondro of exactly what was going back there. There wasn’t a prayer that he could outrun a flyer without putting walls between her and him, so he turned into the first alley he could find.
What looked like an alley on the approach turned out to lead to the patio dining area of a bistro with at least half a dozen people occupying it and no doubt a few cameras there to make sure no one tried to dine and dash. Deciding there was nothing in the universe that was going to make him turn back and fact Facsimile, Abscondro charged up the short set of stairs and onto the elevated patio.
There, he saw his salvation: the whole area was bounded by a high, wrought-iron fence covered in ivy. And on the other side, he was blank brick with about four feet of space between it and the wall—a real alley.
Thanking himself for not letting his actual skills got to pot after his powers manifested, He hopped first to an empty chair, then to a not-so-empty table where a retired couple was having lunch, and finally to the fence, which he easily swung over.
Before his feet even finished hitting the ground, he juked left out of sight of the diners, then lunged through the brick wall. To anyone else, it looked like he’d struck off down the alley back toward a surface street.
Indeed, a moment later, when Facsimile flew aorund the corner, she was greeted by a chorus of ‘He went that way’ followed by pointing, followed by some lady shouting that he stepped in her Caesar Salad.
Pondering what that last part meant, Facsimile flew over the bistro’s patio and found the narrow alley between it and the next building. It was too narrow for her to fly, so she folded her wings and dropped down into it. “Hmm.” She said aloud, finding on end terminating in an extension of the patio fence and the other opening onto another busy street. “Did he really think he’d get away that easy?”
She strode confidently to the end of the alley and peered out. No one was running. No one was acting confused like they would if some maniac shoved past them. Everything looked completely calm. She narrowed her eyes and turned back to the alley.
First she looked up. Experience chasing the Sneak Thief told her that the walls were narrow enough for a parkour expert to scale by lumping back and forth. But the people at the bistro would have seen that. She started toward the other end, thinking he might have jumped the fence, but that’s when she saw it.
Other people might not have noticed. But then, other people weren’t always on the lookout for unguarded food. First she noticed the lettuce leaves, then a few crushed croutons. And once she was noticing the remnants of a salad (a Caesar Salad, she realized), it wasn’t hard to pick out the eggy, Worcester-sauce-and-lemon infused dressing—dressing that made up a set of footprints leading directly into the wall opposite the bistro.
“Cute.” She muttered, shifting her nasal makeup to that of a bloodhound’s. “But now I’ve got your delicious scent.”
Abscondro in the meantime had surged through the wall and into the storage room behind the freezer section of a corner grocery.
Glancing back at the wall behind him, he smirked. “Hold tight, my ass.” he declared with a laugh, then leaned on a pallet of bottled water to get his breath. After a minutes, he phased his hand into the pallet and grabbed a bottle to drink from.
“The tech can still hear you, you dumbass.” Colt’s voice said into his ear. “And send it on to me.”
“Like I care.” said Abscondro between gulps of water.
Colt growled. “You ought to care. Now they’ll know we’re here you idiot.”
Abscondro held the half empty but very cold bottle up to his forehead. He was feeling more like himself. “Relax. All they know is that some guy managed to hide from Facsimile. Period. End of story. Speaking of which… time to test out Randy’s toy.”
Tome hadn’t been putting Randolph Woo, better known as Metal X, out in the field much because his real value was in the R&D department. In his quest for vengeance, he’d become a savant in the field of nanotechnology, including refining the process that created orihalcite, and developing new gear for the Enforcers.
Gear like the Rapid Deploy Fitted Armor.
All three field agents had been given a canister to field test and Abscondro saw no reason to to give his a try. Pulling it out of the pocket of his cargo pants, he examined the RDFA deployment canister. It was a five-inch cylinder about as wide around as the tube in the middle of a roll of paper towels with a rounded cap on one end and a flat end with a slight flare to it to act as a base. A plastic cover, which he flipped open, covered an OLED touch screen with the actual controls and an image of Abscondro’s custom RDTA.
A few touches started the program and sent it to the nanite colony. That done, he pressed the base of the cylinder against his chest and turned the rounded end. A hidden panel irised open against him and that feeling was quickly replaced with a creeping, warm sensation as if he’s just spilled coffee on himself. That was the nanite colony, coating the fabric of his clothes and integrating themselves into its weave, using the existing structure as a base upon which to build the armor.
The long-sleeved shirt and cargo pants disappeared as they were overwritten by the RDTA into a dark gray bodysuit with a slightly lighter vest with black piping and an ‘A’ emblem across the chest, fading left to right. The sleeves extended into black gloves and the neck of the shirt extended upward into a mask, mashing down Abscondro’s hair.
Within moments, Abscondro was back in his costume and ready for action.
“That worked well.” He declared. “Comfy, moves with me. Tell Randy I approve.”
“Are we done with the tomfoolery?” Colt asked.
Abscondro reached into his newly reinforced cargo pocket and took out his palmtop, bringing up a city map with his GPS. “Just point me at the girl and we can get this trip over with.”
“She still hasn’t showed up on cams.” one of the techs apologized.
“What the hell are we doing on the ground here when no one even has eyes on the girl?” Abscondro muttered. “She might be long gone by now.” Studying the map on his palmtop, he found that the west wall of the cool room butted up against a consignment shop. If he stayed low, he could phase through the wall there and come out in a loading area far from where he’d last encountered Facsimile.
Colt growled over the comms. “We’re supposed to be out looking for her. In civvies. It was obvious that the crash would get attention, especially after the ROCIC figured out who was aboard. We’re supposed to keep a low profile.”
“That’s exactly what I’m doing.” sad Abscondro, crossing to the west wall. He crouched low and stuck his face through the wall. He found himself looking out onto an empty aisle of used books, cases of chintzy jewelry, and cat figurines. Good enough. He stepped through and crept his way toward the wall adjoining the loading area.
“As soon as I find some maintenance tunnels or a sewer, I’ll be as low profile as you can imagine right up until it’s time to pop out and grab the kid.”
He reached the desired wall and peeked through, finding himself about five feet above an asphalt parking lot and blocked from the rest of the lot by a truck trailer. He stepped out and dropped to the ground.
“But don’t expect me to waste the element of surprise. I’m going to play my hand if and only if we find the girl. And—”
He didn’t finished because a stiff arm block leveled him as he walked around the side of the trailer. His armor might as well have not been there for all it helped. For a long moment, he lay on his back, staring at the sky and sputtering his disbelief.
Then a shadow fell over him.
He saw dark hair and eyes surrounded by crackling red sparks.
“And what if ‘the girl’ finds you?” asked Tamara, leaning over him. Before he could recover, she grabbed a handful of the front of his costume and lifted him bodily, red sparks arcing and running down his body. “Alright: spill. Who’s behind this?”
The fog started to lift on Abscondro’s mind. “The tooth fairy.” he said, phasing so that his shirt slipped through her fingers. He remained phased as Tamara’s recourse was the snap a front kick into his gut—and because he was phased, it really did land inside his gut.
Leaping back, Abscondro returned to normal and shouted into his comm. “Got her! Lock on my signal. Bring everyone!”
“Wrong answer.” snarled Tamara. With almost casual ease,s he reached over and grabbed hold of the edge of the trailer. Red sparks spread to cover it as she hefted it overhead, then brought it down on Absocndro like a professional wrestler might smash someone overhand with a chair.
Abscondro phased just in time and found himself standing inside the empty trailer. His respite didn’t last, as an impact suddenly left a dent in the side of it the size of his entire body. Followed by another. And Another. The trailer was starting to get much smaller on the inside.
With no other choice, Abscondro phased out of the rear of it and turned to look for Tamara. She might have killed him by surprise, but now that he knew about her, she couldn’t touch him. He found her when the trailer, now reduced to half its original size, was kicked violently aside.
Eyes blazing, Tamara pointed at him. “Whoever you’re calling, you let them know that I’m not going back. You got that? I’m not going back, and if I get my hands on them I’ll do way worse than what I did to that trailer!”
“Whoa there, kid.” Both looked to find Facsimile standing on top of another truck trailer, “Points for passion, butas awful was these guys are, you can’t murder them. I mean they’ve got friends and family—isn’t that right, Captain Elvis-hair?” She addressed the last of that toward the pair.
“Elvis what now?” Abscondro asked in spite of himself.
Tamara merely glared. “Whoever the hell you are, butt out. I’ve got business with this guy and whoever he’s working for. They kidnapped me, they stuck me in a tube—god knows what else they’ve done or would have done. Some asses need kicking and I’m going to be the one with the boot.”
“I know all that.” Facsimile said, hopping down from her perch. She never took her eyes off Abscondro. “Believe me I know. A few years ago, I was in the exact same situation—they kidnapped me too. But I’m fighting against them… you could too. Just… a little less ‘trying to smash them with trucks.”
She didn’t have time to react as a palm touched the small of her back. “Trailer, actually.” Josiah Colt faded into view as he left White Shadow’s effect. “And as for fighting Tome—you just switched sides.”