- 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)
Descendants… In Space (Part 3)
After some careful sweeping for bugs or cameras, Laurel gave the all-clear for the group to be at ease in the space plane’s lounge. Rebecca’s on-board meals consisted of high quality hydration oven meals and copious snacks on top of a fridge full of flavored water and a bar stocked with alcohol.
After some hesitation, the masks and helmets came off for almost everyone but Chaos, as they had almost a full day in space before they would rendezvous with the Indus River. Chaos made a place for himself in an arm chair near the back of the cabin and continued to pour over his tablet, eating wasabi peas and mixed nuts that he snuck under his new face mask and drinking flavored water through a straw.
Ten hours in, Cyn had had enough of the mystery. “Seriously, even after you cleared the place, you’re still keeping him under wraps?”she asked Laurel, “Why? I mean, we all know it’s Alloy under there, right?”
Laurel didn’t reply; Chaos did. By actions rather than words. A light breeze ran up the back of her neck, and when she jumped and looked around to find its source, she found Chaos gesturing toward her, his focus still mainly on the tablet.
“What the hell?” she blurted out.
“Darkness… needed Chaos today.” Laurel said, swirling her own bottle of strawberry-flavored water idly. “I wasn’t going to separate them, but I needed our heavy-hitter best suited for fighting on a space station. After all, if there’s a breach, he can stop leaks and decompression. So I asked Chaos to call in a favor for me.”
Facsimile looked harder at the man in the Chaos costume. “Not Turmoil, I’m guessing. Dude has his own costume and wouldn’t need the knock-off.” Again, Laurel gave no sign of confirming or denying. Facsimile sighed. “You’re not even going to give me a hint?”
This time, Laurel shrugged, but looked apologetic. “I’m sorry, but I have to play this one a little more tricksey than normal. Rebecca Strong is one of the best programmers I’ve ever known. She made her fortune writing security software that’s all but impenetrable. For a virus to override a system she’s the administrator of means we’re likely dealing with a hypercog on the same level as her, possibly smarter. So we can’t just rely on sound strategy, we need wild cards they wouldn’t expect; tricks we never used before to catch them off guard.”
She saw the drifting expression on Facsimile’s face and added, “Look: remember Joykiller? How we had to blindside him with Alloy’s plan because we knew he’d think a certain way? This is the same sort of thing. I promise I’ll let you in on anything you need to know as it comes up. But right now, it’s an enforced method acting thing: I want everyone to treat ‘Chaos’ like he was Chaos.”
Not looking any happier, Facsimile finally nodded her concession. “Fine. But if I figure it out, you’ve got to tell me, okay?”
Laurel gave her a small smile. “Sure. But don’t stress yourself out trying to do so. In fact, get some sleep—we need everyone in top condition when we dock.”
Facsimile frowned as a thought entered her head. Her voice dropped. “Do you really think this is going to be all that dangerous and complicated?”
“I think it might be worse.” said Laurel, whispering. “Whatever they want the station for, they haven’t made any attempts to contact the WSA or to damage the place. They’re after something else, and I wish I knew what.”
Hours later, aboard the Indus River, a squad of men and woman in flack jackets and BUDs, wearing emergency breath masks dangling loosely under their chins waited in the gravity ring connected to the modules on the lowest level of the station.
The ring was a doughnut-shaped hallway that span so that the outer edge formed the floor. Hatches and airlocks dotted the walls, leading to the attached modules, while a series of short ladders lead up into the central axis around which the ring span, leading to a gravity-free shaft that connected all the stations various rings together.
Six of the squad members stood in the ring itself, just outside the airlock leading to the rescue drone docking bay while two others stood in the open airlock, watching a tablet one held between them.
“It’s tracking in now,” said James Hooks. He had a thin face with a long mustache and a scar extending from the right side of his hawk-like nose across the bridge of it over to the lobe of his left ear. “Docking in two minutes. Let’s pull back to the ring and watch the room from the security camera. All goes well, they come out of their plane, and we blow the seals before they even realize we’re here.”
The other figure standing with him, Alisha Taelani, checked the detonator in her hand. She had dark skin and narrow features. Her brown eyes narrowed as she considered Hooks’s plan. “I don’t want to depend on bunching everyone together near the airlock. Even if everything goes fine, they might break through the airlock trying to escape the dock once the seals go. That goes double if they were dumb enough to bring the metal controller or the woman with the heat rays.”
She went to the exit of the airlock and signalled to her three squadies. “Back up to the cargo reception module. We’ll be the fallback in case the heroes get into the ring.”
Hooks huffed at her, but nodded, following her out. While Taelani pulled her people back, he operated the controls of the airlock to close and seal it.
“Alright, make sure your theta dampers are turned to full. There are two on that team whose powers no one’s sure of and we don’t need anyone getting turned against us.” Each of the squad members in turn reached up and checked the add-on to their comms, a device that slipped over the earbud connected to a controlled clipped to their belts.
Even as he checked his own damper, Hooks watched as the space plane closed in, its docking clamp lining up with the rescue bay’s.
The moment the space plane docked, its on-board computer interfaced with the station’s and the inner and outer airlocks of the bay became active. Hooks switched from the dock view to the interior view of the rescue module. His squad pulled up their breath masks before leveling their weapons at the airlock door.
Further up the ring, Taelani primed the explosive charges placed on the oxygen seals inside the rescue module.
Both squads stood ready.
And stood ready for ten minutes without anything happening. The plane was docked, but there was no further communication and the cameras in the module didn’t show any attempts to disembark.
“Something ain’t right.” said one of the squaddies behind Hooks. “Think they know we’re here?”
Another tightened his grip on his gun. “Think they found another way in? Maybe they spacewalked.”
Hooks shook his head. “We have all the security on this station. They have to come in here. With the virus, they won’t even be able to uncouple to try and dock elsewhere.”
“Then why haven’t they come out?”
“How am I supposed to know?” asked Hooks. “What I do know is that we’re going to stay right here. We’re not going to get impatient and try and check inside there and give ourselves away. We’re not going to panic and blow the seal early. No. We are going to just—“
With a calamitous sound, the airlock doors snapped open far faster than the safeties would normally allow. Hooks only had time to see black with slashes of red filling his view before a compressed ball of air hit him in the midsection, cannoing him backward into one of his squaddies.
Having just done that, Chaos dropped to one knee in order to allow a huge, purple-black panther with a pair of squid-like tentacles jutting form its shoulders to leap over him in a vicious pounce. Scarcely had it slammed into the tangled pair of Hooks and his subordinate then its tentacles grabbed the other two squaddies and smashed them together over its head.
“Blow it! Blow it! Blow it!” Hooks screamed as the big, freakish cat bore him to the ground.
Taelani didn’t hesitate. She hit the detonator as soon as her started shouting.
Nothing happened. Before she could even check to see if the detonator was showing an error, a second ball of wind howled past her, bursting against a nearby wall in a gale. She could see Codex and Occult emerging from the airlock behind Chaos and the panther. Codex knocked out a squaddie with a tonfa while Occult stepped forward, reaching into her satchel.
Images of fireballs and arrows of light from various archive videos of the Descendants came back to Taelani in an instant. “Fall back and lock off the lower ring!” She ordered, already starting to back away.
“Not until I get to show off my new spell.” Occult said flippantly. She raised a first to her mouth and muttered something before blowing on it. Streamers of gossamer white material, more than could have possibly been concealed in her fist, sprayed into the air and filled the space around Taelani and her squaddies, who had nowhere to dodge in the narrow gravity ring hallway, transforming into strands of web that bound them to the walls and one another.
“Nice.” said the panther, shifting back to Facsimile.
Occult shrugged. “I think I’m finally being corrupted by all the fantasy gaming going on around me. At first, I tried researching one that put people to sleep, but they all require blowing sand in people’s eyes, which seems crueler than the fireball on some level.”
Hope came out of the rescue module next, carrying a box of zip cuffs and, along with Chaos, started restraining Hooks’s group while Occult and Facsimile went to do the same with the webbed squad.
“Nicely done.” said Laurel, who stopped in the airlock while Ephemeral brushed past her to kneel beside Hooks and his people. She had her tablet out and was rapidly touching and moving her fingers about the screen. “I’ve almost gotten the door controls on this ring separated from the rest of the systems—at least for the time being. If we want to keep control, we’re going to have to disable the hardline connection in the shaft.”
“What do you want to bet they have the shaft covered?” asked Hope. “From the diagram you showed us, it just gives a clear shot from the top to the bottom.”
From where he knelt, hands to either side of one of the squaddies’ heads, Ephemeral nodded. “There are three people watching the shaft. They cannot simply seal the doors, as all the doors to the main shaft can be manually overridden, so they have air rifles loaded with high density polyurethane foam to seal off each level if they lose control of it.”
“Damn, are the bad guys actually learning and using hero tricks now?” Facsimile complained. One of her arms was a blade of bone and she was using it to cut a cuffed Taelani free of the webs.
Tink was glad for once that the Codex helmet hid her annoyance at this turn of events. “At least this proves that they don’t intend to destroy the station—otherwise, they would have just planted explosives.”
“Don’t be so sure of that.” Occult said, helping Facsimile frisk Taelani. “This looks like a detonator.”
Laurel jogged over to meet Occult halfway as the mage brought the device to her. After cursory examination, she nodded. “This is a short-range transmission detonator—used for small, shaped charges. It’s the kind of thing Hollywood pyrotechs use, not hardcore terrorists.”
“It seems to have been linked to bombs on the rescue module’s oxygen seals.” Ephemeral reported, having gleaned from the rest of the squad that Hooks was in charge of them and acting accordningly. “This man remembers the woman over there triggering them. They didn’t go off.”
“I’d better get in there and disarm them.” said Laurel, already in motion. “Did you manage to figure out what’s going on? What they’re here for?”
Ephemeral frowned. “Money. For most of them at least. They’re being paid to hold the station for a group of technicians they only met before stowing away aboard the new module.”
“And what are the techs doing?” asked Laurel as she made her way into the rescue module. Now that she knew they were there, it wasn’t hard to spot three shaped plastique charges arranged around the outer airlock, right above the pumps that pressurized and depressurized the airlock.
Still holding Hooks’s head, Ephemeral concentrated, sifting through the man’s thoughts for recent additions to his memory. “He doesn’t understand what they’re doing, but I can see images. They’re building something. It looks like a satellite.”
“Well that’s stupid.” said Facsimile. “You can launch one of those form Earth without taking over a freaking space station.”
“You could,” Tink agreed, “But only if you want to register its location in orbit with the WSA and the launch with whatever country’s air-space you’re punching out of. Otherwise, you’d get shot down faster than you can say ‘national security’.”
She folded her arms and made a face behind the visor of the helmet. “This is starting to make sense. If you want to launch a pirate satellite—say something loaded with a super-virus to infect the global sat network—you couldn’t do it from the ground. Too many people tried things like that in the twenties and thirties and they check new satellites pretty thoroughly. So they bribe, sneak or kill their way into an official WSA module launch and use the largest, most sustainable space station ever built as a launch platform.” Pushing off from the wall, she looked around at the others. “The only question is what kind of nastiness they’re planning on launching.”
Some of the assembled heroes looked to Ephemeral, who shook his head. “These are all just mercenaries; they know nothing. I will need to read one of the techs to learn more and while that would be difficult already at this range, the mercenaries are wearing theta dampers. Someone came prepared for mental powers.”
Facsimile dragged the last cuffed squaddie from the web and dropped him unceremoniously onto the pile of his comrades she’d already made. “So. New objectives: take out the hardline thing in the shaft without being seen and capture one of the enemy nerds to figure out what we’re up against. That on top of getting to L… Ms. Brant’s friend and getting full control of the station again.”
“Is that all?” Hope asked, her voice dripping sarcasm.
“It might seem daunting,” said Ephemeral, scratching at a day’s growth of beard. He’d neglected to bring a razor on his intergalactic adventure, “But if we break it down into steps, we can tackle them one at a time. The first issue is the hard line, which will give us control of at least this part of the station.”He looked from the ladders leading into the shaft and then at the captured squaddies. “For this, I believe I have a plan…”