- 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 5)
Facsimile looked back at Colt and sneered. “Yeah, right. Sorry, to tell you this, but I’ve been training to beat mind control for like three years.”
Taking a step back from the sudden new arrival, Tamara put herself on guard. “Where the hell do you people keep popping up from?”
“More importantly, why did you tag the prelate instead of the target?” White Shadow’s voice shouted, exasperated.
“Another one?” Tamara searched wildly for the source of the outburst and found nothing. “Show yourself!”
White Shadow laughed mockingly, the sound bouncing off the surrounding buildings. “Not likely.”
Meanwhile, Colt was ignoring their exchange to leer at Facsimile. “The higher-ups are still willing to pay one hell of a bounty for one of the original escapees. Plus, I don’t like the idea of this one getting me from behind if for some reason my powers don’t work on the primary.”
He pointed at Facsimile. “And as for your ‘training’, it’s a good thing what I do isn’t mind control then. My power directly over-writes neuro-motor function: I basically work your nerves and muscles like a puppet.”
To his discomfort, however, a wide, sly smile formed on his victim’s lips. “Oh really? Thanks for telling me that. See, your problem is: I don’t work that way!” In the time she took saying so, she shifted away her afflicted cells and shifted in a new set that hadn’t even been in existence when Colt touched her.
As the Tome enforcer tried to figure out what she was talking about, she redistributed her weight and snapped out a kick that caught him in the solar plexus, doubling him over and putting his forehead perfectly in line for her knee to send him crashing backward to the ground.
“And you’re going to stay away from this kid. As of right now, she’s officially under the protection of The Descendants.”
Tamara glared at her. “Say what? In case you haven’t noticed, I’m freaking invincible and stronger than an army of elephants. What makes you think I even want the protection of whatever crew you’re running with?”
“Listen,” Facsimile said, trying to sniff out White Shadow with newly-shifted olfactory cells, “I know this is all beyond confusing, but I’m one of the good guys, okay? A genuine superheroine. Not only that, but I’ve been through the ‘wake up in a tube with a year or so missing’ routine. Trust me: I can help you.”
“Pfft. Seriously? First rule of any kind of situation is to never trust someone that says ‘trust me’. Especially when they seem to know a little too much about what’s going on. Like who told you I woke up in a tube.” Tamara was starting to back away, keeping Facsimile, the downed Colt, and Abscondro (who was trying to back to the far wall) in her vision.
Facsimile was homing in on White Shadow, but Tamara’s accusation made her grit her teeth. “God, was I this stupid as a teenager? Do you think I would be kicking these guys’ asses if I was working with them?”
“Could be an act.” Tamara countered. “You did tell me not to crush that guy over there with a truck. ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ hero shtick, or protecting your accomplice. I’ll be the judge of that.” She cracked her knuckles. “And if you’re lying to me…”
Giving up on White Shadow entirely for the moment, Facsimile turned to face Tamara. “I know I’m supposed to be nice to you because you’ve had one hell of a bad day and also you supposedly can kick even my ass….” she said through clenched teeth. “But screw it: Just how dense are you?! I am trying to help your dumb ass!
“Okay, so you can stand up in a fight? Well la-dee-da—so can I! So can a lot of us! But where are you going to sleep tonight, genius? What are you going to eat? You gonna threaten to punch people until they let you crash in the spare room and toss a steak on the grill for you? Because that’s a great way to find out that there really is someone who can kick your ass out there somewhere.”
She threw up her hands, gesturing wildly. Behind her, Colt had propped himself up with one arm and was putting in a set of earplugs.
“Yeah, I read your file because you’re like this goddamn demigoddess—Girl Hercules and shit—that’s been missing and presumed kidnapped for the past few years. And you know what? Kinetic redirection? That’s all you’ve got? I can think of ten ways to take you out right here and now. But I’m not because I’m one of the good guys and I’m supposed win you over with lollipops and hugs!”
“Hug this, Goldilocks.” Tamara said, presenting both middle fingers. “I do what I want. And no one’s going to stop me. I’d like to see one way to take me down, let alone ten.”
Her only warning was a flash of heat on her chest just before everything when white and exploded into noise. It was barely enough as she turned tot he side and threw herself backward. Through the glare and chaos, she made out a pair of red lines passing through the space she’d been standing in, surrounded by blue-purple lightning.
The directed lightning bolt struck one of the trailers in the lot, melting and warping the metal wherever it touched. Over the ringing of her ears, Tamara heard Facsimile screaming. Her gaze finally found the woman writing on the ground, the left side of her body rippling and shuddering in a nauseating fashion.
“One.” Josiah Colt rose to his feet. Cradled in his hands was a bulky, black rifle with a plastic body and three ports in place of a barrel. A pump action lever ejected a smoking glass ampoule from the chamber and caused the indicator lights on the weapon the flicker briefly. “This is the Phoenix-SDI Mk.IV electrolaser. It uses high-energy lasers to create a plasma channel—then direct a huge charge down that channel. You’ll notice that the phrase ‘kinetic energy’ isn’t anywhere in there.”
He looked down at Facsimile. “And even proximity seems to be enough to trigger the classic metamorphic reaction to electricity. Two for one.” Sighting down the barrel of the rifle, he brought it to bear on Tamara. “So unless you’d like a very painful physics lesson, I suggest you surrender right now. This thing costs over seven thousand dollars a shot, but I promise you, it isn’t my money, so I don’t care if I waste any.”
Tamara’s eyes narrowed. She’d already proven she could dodge the shot: the lasers took time to establish the plasma channel—plenty of time to get out of the way. On the other hand, that didn’t mean she’d stay ahead of them for however many shots her adversary had.
And then there was Facsimile. While she might have been acting, those screams didn’t sound like acting; they sounded real and painful. Everything she’d said was true too: she didn’t have a plan and no one to turn to for help making one. Maybe not from Facsimile, bu from someone…
Heaving a dramatic sigh, she raised her hands. “Alright. I give. You guys are going to hound me forever anyway, right?”
“That’s the idea.” said Colt, his aim never wavering. “Now sit tight while my associates call in our ride and something to get you back to sleep.”
“If anyone messes with my clothes this time, I will kill them.” Tamara vowed. “Kill them dead, you hear me. I don’t get what you people want with me, but I swear to god…” She stomped her foot for emphasis…reducing the asphalt under her heel and the dirt below that into a cloud of dust.
Not taking any chances, Colt fired into the dust cloud the moment he realized what was happening. A blazing bolt of directed lightning cut through the debris, causing them to swirl in bizarre patterns. It hit nothing, as Tamara was already in motion.
Goggles down to protect her eyes from the grit, she leapt, trailing a comet-tail of dust in her wake. The jump carried her to where two trailers stood, one of which had been damaged in the electrolaser’s last assault. She grabbed on to that one and hurled it at Colt.
Unable to phase or simply tank that attack like Abscondro or Facsimile could do respectively, Colt hurled himself flat to the ground. The airborne hulk missed hm by a few feet before hitting the ground in a cacophony of twisting and shredding metal. Unlike the last trailer, this one still had stock in it and that spilled forth, covering the lot with cases of soda and beer.
Tamara’s eyes blazed as she caught the edge of the other trailer with her toe and easily flipped it vertically onto its rear doors. The contents crashed and rattled inside. “You have no idea who you’re messing with! So I’m going to show your bosses exactly whay they need to back the hell off!” She bellowed before hitting the trailer with a roundhouse kick that sent it crashing and tumbling across the lot toward the prone Colt.
There was nowhere to go and no cover to hide behind. Colt squeezed his eyes shut and waited for several tons of metal to grind his body into the pavement.
Instead, he felt an open palm slam into his back and felt his body tingle even as his arms, folding in front of him, faded from view.
Abscondro and White Shadow had come back for him.
A moment later, the trailer was upon them, tumbling end over end with a god-awful noise. The rear doors had come off, and plastic crates of snack-cakes rained down on the invisible and intangible trio as the trailer continued past. It finally hit the loading ramp of the building behind them and came to rest with a metallic groan.
“This is way above what we can handle.” said Abscondro, releasing Colt as son as the immediate danger had passed. “She’s stronger than they even suggested and homicidal to boot. I called in the transport—we’re pulling the plug.”
Colt managed to figure out what Abscondro was standing and shoved him away. “Like hell. I just need to get my gun again. We stun her and she’s ours.”
“She catches you and you’re a smear.” White Shadow pointed out. “Abby here is right. Time to go, Joe.”
Whatever Colt’s reply was, it was lost—drowned out by a mighty roar as a gold and black tiger pounced on him, knocking him on his back and out of range of White Shadow’s power. As he faded back into visibility, he found himself face-to-teeth with Facsimile.
“Ah,” Facsimile purred, pinning his arms with her huge paws. “The classic villain weakness to their own stupidity. Think you can recover as quick as I did without your pop gun?” She tossed her head off to the left and Colt saw what she wanted him to: the electrolaser had been crushed to pieces by the second trailer.
Then she turned to face the other two enforcers despite them both still being invisible. “And don’t you two dopes try anything either: I can smell you.”
A distant whine reach their ears, but it was quickly interrupted by a wrenching, metal-on metal sound followed by the distinct noise of crumbing concrete. Tamara had torn the safety railing away from one of the loading ramps and was wielding it like a massive club as she advanced on the group.
“Out of the way, Miss Kitty. I’m not done with that one yet.” she demanded.
Even as a tiger, Facsimile gave her a deadpan look and raised an eyebrow. “Seriously? I mean I’m by all means a fan of aggression, but you need therapy, kid.”
“Relax, Tawny. I’m just going to tie him up with this… and maybe break a few fingers.”
“The-ra-py.” Facsimile snapped. Above, the whining sound grew louder and the trash and debris covering the lot started to stir in a breeze. “Aw crap. What now?”
A hole opened up in apparently open air, revealing an alcove containing two Tome agents and a mechanical wench that paid out a length of cable toward the ground. The end of the cable attached to a small platform large enough for two people to stand on—or three if they were amazingly close friends.
“Time for us to go.” Abscondro announced. “Can’t say we didn’t warn you, Colt.”
Taking the time to apologize turned out to be a mistake, as it gave Tamara time to realize what was happening. “Oh no you don’t.” she growled, throwing down the twisted railing and leaping for the descending platform. Catching hold of the bottom of it, she planted her feet. The now-familiar red sparks that came with her power use crawled over her body, down into the ground and up along the platform and cable.
“You.” She pulled, and instead of hauling herself up, she made the winch groan as the cable unwound too quickly for its motor to handle. “Are Staying.” Hauling hard, Tamara made the winch’s motor scream and start to smoke. The cable reached its limits and the ‘hole’ dipped as the cloaked transport’s engines struggled against her strength. “Here!”
Tamarra wasn’t focusing enough to distribute the energy evenly and the bolts holding the winch in place gave way and the entire structure tore free, dropping out of the open bay doors. A tug, a whipping of cable, and Tamara swung it down hard into the ground, obliterating both the mechanism and some crates of beer that had mostly survived being spilled out of their trailer.
Not satisfied with merely taking the winch out, Tamara leapt for where she suspected the fuselage of the transport would be, leaving shattered pavement beneath her feet. Her aim was off though, and her outstretched fist contacted the VTOL engine instead. The wind from it buffeted her, but even the turbine blades were nothing against her power, ruining themselves against her fist and arm, their shattered pieces traveling back up the engine at supersonic speeds and tearing it apart from the inside.
The engine exploded, rocking the transport and disrupting the cloaking systems. Suddenly the Tome transport flickered into being over the lot, one wing ruined and smoking as its remaining engine whined and struggled to slow the craft’s now inexorable descent.
For her part, Tamara was thrown by the explosion and crashed to earth, leaving an impact crater where she landed that threatened to pull in the corner of one of the buildings. She adjusted her partially cracked goggles and shouted her dominance at the crippled transport as it set down hard.
“Christ.” White Shadow muttered. “She just punched out a troop carrier. This isn’t a girl, it’s… it’s something I don’t even wanna be near.”
“I can totally get behind that, actually.” Facsimile said, baring her teeth in a feline sneer. She shifted her footing to see where Tamara had landed, but in the process, gave Colt just enough of an opening to work one arm free. He took the opportunity to sink his fingers into the thick fur at her side.
Snarling, Facsimile swung her head back in his direction. “Give it up. You already know it doesn’t work on me.”
“Does it not work,” Colt push his hand harder against her, seeking the skin beneath the fur. His jaw clenched and the veins in his neck bulged as he concentrated on his power. “Or did I just not push hard enough.”
A creeping feeling ran through Facsimile’s side, spreading out from where Colt’s fingers were touching her skin. It squirmed and crackled through her cells, setting them abuzz with foreign energy. She shuddered and tried to move away, only to find her entire right side paralyzed.
Colt’s eyes were dilating as her worked his will. With effort, he managed to slide out from under Facsimile, keeping his hand in place. “I might not be able to make you move. But it looks like I can lock you up.” Careful to keep contact, he rolled onto his knees and started to stand. So focused was he on his task and maintaining his power that he didn’t register the running footsteps coming up behind him.
“I wonder what happens to a perfect shapeshifter if you turn off their lungs?”
“That’s something you’re never going to find out.” Even as the words were being spoke, a brutal blow caught Colt behind the knee, dropping him. A second blow caught him in the chest, knocking him away from Facsimile and out of contact with her.
Codex towered over him, the coldness of her stare evident even through her visor. Without looking away, she dropped one of her tonfa into a belt loop and drew a taser. Dropping down to one knee, she quickly applied it to him, shocking him out of consciousness.
“Perfect timing.” Facsimile groaned, resuming her human form. Without physical contact and with the man himself unconscious, Colt’s powers faded quickly from her.
“You were out of contact too long, so I started following your comm’s homing device.” Codex said, getting up and holding out a hand to help her daughter do the same. “Then I saw the column of smoke from the transport and came running.”
Facsimile groaned. “Yeah, little sis is a spitfire, let me tell you.” She blinked and looked around. “Hey! Where’s she go?! And where are the other two guys? Oh goddamnit!”
Codex looked around as well. The lot was a war zone with twisted metal, burning boxes and puddles of unidentifiable former beverages everywhere. Dominating the scene was the downed transport, which still had a wing on fire.
“Let’s got secure the transport and make sure everyone on board is uninjured. Then we can try and track them down—all of them.”
“I hate it when the bad guys get away.” Facsimile muttered. “And Bad Lass—what’s going to happen with her?”
Putting a hand on the young woman’s shoulder, Codex gave a little squeeze. “Don’t worry. Tamara can take care of herself until we find her—and considering the path of destruction she tends to leave, it shouldn’t take long to catch up to her again.”
It took a lot of jumps before Tamara felt safe enough to stop. For each one, she was careful to spread out the impact forces so she didn’t leave gaping holes to point out exactly where she was headed.
If she had her way, she would have kept going until she was out of the state. Unfortunately, her powers didn’t do anything to boost her endurance, so after twenty minutes of running and leaping multiple blocks in a single bound, she found herself in a small, out of the way courtyard, hands on her knees as she struggled to catch her breath.
“All tuckered out, eh, Sleeping Beauty?”
Tired as she was, Tamara managed to strike a menacing pose as she whirled to face the speaker. It turned out to be a boy her age; long pale hair that hung down over one eye, ratty sneakers, faded jeans with the knee cut out of one leg, and a t-shirt for Violence Museum. He was sitting on a picnic table, one leg drawn up so his chin was resting on his bare knee.
“Who the hell are you? And don’t you ever call me that again.”
The boy held up his hands defensively. “Sorry. Sorry. Just… be cool, okay? I’m the guy that woke you up. Don’t you remember? A voice in your head just before you opened your eyes?” He watched the memory dawn on her before continuing. “Yeah, that was me. I’ve got powers—though nothing like yours. All I can do is talk to people, sense them at a distance… that kind of thing. I sensed you being flown overhead and realized something was wrong.”
Tamara frowned. “Why?”
“Why not? You needed help and I helped. If you think there has to be a reason, call it ‘paying it forward’. After all, my teacher helped me out when I was in the same position. Well, not the exact same one, but you get the point.”
“Yeah, I do.”
The boy hopped down from the table and held out his hand. “I’m Henry, b the way. Or Brain Child if you prefer codenames.”
After taking a moment to stare at his hand, Tamara finally shook it. “Tamara—Bad Lass.”
“Cool code.” Henry said with a smile. “Hey, I get that you’re in trouble… it’s all over the internet by now… so maybe I can introduce you to Teach. Maybe he can help you out like he helped me. He’s getting ready to set up a school in Virginia; a place called Fredricksburg. No Braylocke laws there. If you wanna join, I’m sure he’d say yes. What do you say?”
Tamara hesitated, but something reminded her of Facsimile’s words earlier. She needed food and shelter and those were things her powers couldn’t get her—not without a price at least. Plus, Henry had rescued her from whatever her captors wanted. He, at least, was trustworthy.
And even though part of her disagreed that anyone was really trustworthy given her situation, she spoke before those thoughts could win through. “Sure. Let’s go.”
End Issue #85.