- 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 6)
Alloy, Facsimile and Laurel froze in place, staring in shock at the screen. It wasn’t just that the villain in the powered armor was claiming that he’d already unleashed his satellite, it was that he was looming over Hope without even the slightest twitch even as she had her eyes screwed shut and her forehead creased in concentration. Even in such a rare display of effort to use her hated powers, Hope was having no effect on the man holding her at knife-point.
Behind the other three, Ephemeral dropped unceremoniously into a sitting position and immediately slumped as he entered the astral.
Onscreen, the armored figure’s voice made up for the fact that his face plate concealed the smirk he obviously wanted to show. “Forgive my rudeness, Descendants: I should have introduced myself earlier. I am the Orb Weaver. Think of me as what you could have been if you weren’t so wrong-headed. Maybe not as wrong-headed as I was led to believe, seeing as someone fused the circuitry in the bombs mean to kill you on arrival; it appears at least one of you has what it takes to be a success. The rest of you are bad influences it seems.”
“What the hell is this guy talking about?” Facsimile asked aloud.
“Sounds like Joykiller.” said Alloy. “Okay, what is it you want… Orb Weaver?”
His assumption that the screen was miked turned out to be correct when Orb Weaver replied, “Nothing from you. Since I couldn’t make an example of you, the next best thing is to demoralize you and let you know the price of your failure. Even now, my probe should be coming into range to broadcast to the largest internet satellite relays that serve North America. Once that happens, it will deliver my distributed network program. Within hours, it will be integrated into the very fabric of the internet—and I will be open for business and ready to change the world.”
Ephemeral came back to his body with a gasp. “I… I could do nothing.” he said, whispering into the comm. “He has no astral body.”
“A new type of blocking?” Laurel whispered back, then asked aloud to keep Orb Weaver talking. “What is this business of yours then?”
Orb Weaver nodded. “Now there is an intelligent question. One that will be linked to everyone with an email or Quintessence account by this time tomorrow. Perhaps you would like a preview—seeing as you won’t be able to do anything about it for another day’s worth of space flight.”
“You cannot hide on the astral plane.” Ephemeral replied. “Not with any means I have heard of.”
The image on the screen split to allow a second video to play, this one starting with an image of Orb Weaver standing in front of an American flag. His face plate was partially retracted to reveal a clean-shaven, rounded jaw with the off-orange tint of a spray tan.
“Robot.” Alloy muttered. “The guy in the video’s visor is built differently. Probably had it stashed on the first level, waiting for us rush his goons up here.”
On the video, the ‘second’ Orb Weaver clasped his arms behind his back. Hello world. For too long, I’ve watched a distressing situation unfold. One in which people with great power—the ones the media call prelates, but whom we are all aware correlate perfectly to the fictional ‘superheroes’ of film and print—have been squandering their great power. And on what? Protecting the ‘innocent’? People who barely produce anything themselves and certainly aren’t doing anything to earn this protection.”
Alloy turned and sent Isp lashing out to catch the edge of the ladder leading up to the main shaft. The tentacle hauled him off his feet and hurled him out into the mirco-gravity.
Heedless of Alloy’s exit, the recorded Orb Weaver continued. “These people could be making millions, and yet they throw it all away, creating an unearned expectation among the masses that the powerful have some sort of duty to use what set them apart to better their worthless lives instead of doing what was right for they and theirs. They’ve utterly ruined any chance one might have legitimately selling such services to many of the world’s great cities, all the while oppressing the truly ambitious who use their abilities to take what they deserve with their powers and resources.
“The truly exceptional, those with the means and the drive, have been driven to the margins of society and labeled villains. Well I say no more. It is time to show these altruistic simpletons that the world is not their to inherit, but ours to take. And I am here to provide resources and personnel to those truly willing to make the effort—for a price of course.”
Tink and Occult were still in the shaft, watching for any mercenaries who might have found a way past the magically conjured webbing or the ADS’s agonizing beam when ‘Chaos’, with Isp and Osp emerging from his tattered sleeves, hurtled into open space and began to rapidly descend with the help of the tentacles whipping out and pulling him down.
Having only been privy to what was said over the comms, Tink goggled. “Wait. How Wa—Alloy?”
“I’llexplainlaterevilrobotnow.” Ephemeral and Facsimile weren’t far behind, leaping down the shaft and pulling themselves along after him.
A thin smile appeared on the recorded Orb Weaver’s exposed face. “Today, the VillainNet is open for those smart enough to reach it. There, you will be able to buy or barter for weapons, armor, land, munitions and information as well as connect with those of like minds or those who know their place well enough to accept the role of henchman., all hidden from the watchful eye of the authorities.”
Just before he hit the bottom of the shaft, Alloy sent Osp through the access on level one where it anchored to the ladder and pulled him through. The combination of gravity’s grand return and Alloy’s usual reliance on his armor to absorb shocks ended with an awkward meeting with the gravity ring’s floor and the telltale pop of a shoulder coming out of its socket.
The pain was blinding. Alloy almost bit his tongue holding back a scream and the twins, more concerned about him than anyone else, coiled defensively around him, trying to figure out what was wrong with him.
Back on the fourth level, with almost none of the intended audience watching, the recorded Orb Weaver spread his arms dramatically. “It’s time for those of us who are willing to make something of ourselves to take hold of our destinies and take back the slur the small minded and week place on us. Let the Age of Villains begin.”
Isp and Osp’s mental inquiries get more and more insistent. They didn’t understand organic life—even Alloy’s—any better than the average organic creature understood how they worked, so they were starting to panic.
“I’m alright.” Alloy choked out. “I’m alright. Just…” He heard something hit the floor of the gravity wheel nearby and cracked his eyelids (when had his eyes closed?) to see Ephemeral crouching down beside him. Facsimile’s familiar gold form was leaning over him.
He closed his eyes again and concentrated. All of the D-icons had been made with his own special metallurgical cocktail specifically to make them easier for him to track with his metal sense. The best he could do to describe the effect on his senses was the taste and smell of ice water, something no other metal—element or alloy—he’d encountered could match. He quickly zeroed in on the only D-icon on that level that wasn’t right next to him.
“Never mind me.” He gasped, counting the metal airlocks as he spoke. “Mel… Hope is in the third one on the left.”
“Got it.” Facsimile said, bolting for the indicated airlock.
Ephemeral was up and moving after her, but with a grim expression. “Wait. What if this is another trap?”
By the time he asked, Facsimile already had her fingers melting into the housing of the airlock and extra muscle bunching up into her arms. “He’s got Hope in there. Do you care if it’s a trap or not?”
He didn’t even stop to think. As soon as the lock started to open, he was leaning past her, adding his own strength to hers to force it open. “Not at all.”
Together, they easily forced both the outer and inner airlocks, revealing a biology lab with cages of small animals, and terrariums with fish and insects lining the walls, In the middle, in front of one of the freestanding tables full of equipment, stood the Orb Weaver with Hope still held hostage in front of him.
“You know, it’s very rude to walk out on a presentation.” He said snidely. Then he used one of his free hands to grab Hope by the back of her costume, lift her with ease, then hurl her bodily at the pair. Facsimile dropped to all fours to avoid being hit, but Ephemeral stepped forward to catch her. He wasn’t on stable footing though, and the collision sent them both to the floor in a heap.
Facsimile on the other hand, sprang up and extended two of the orihalcite claws she kept hidden in her person for just such an occasion. A sidestep by Orb Weaver avoided her first strike and he answered by hammering a fist into her ribs from one side and burying the bladed ends of two of his mechanical arms into them from the other.
Being Facsimile, that didn’t even slow her down and she returned the favor by striking off his arm with the claws, leaving a sparking stump. She caught the robotic arm as it fell.
Orb Weaver leapt back from her, regarding his missing arm. “Oh. I doubt you would have done that it you hadn’t figure it out th–” he didn’t get to finish because Facsimile swung the stolen arm underhanded, catching him under the chin. In a burst of sparks, the Orb Weaver’s head came off, hit a cage full of rabbits, bounced off a counter, then rolled onto the floor.
“…or thaaaa.” The head added, the last word trailing off as it lost power.
“Well if this isn’t the most disturbing thing I ever worked on.” Rebecca groused as she helped Laurel pry open the chest plate of the decapitated Orb Weaver robot and connect it to a tablet. “There’s a reason I went into computer science instead of bio.”
Laurel struggled not to roll her eyes. “There’s no real biology to it. Even if it was, this thing’s built more like a spider than a man.”
“A headless man. Is this seriously something you have to deal with all the time?”
“Headless robots, gremlins making everything come to life, dragons tearing cyborg dogs apart… you seriously figured out who we were?” Facsimile was sitting on the floor next to the table they were using to examine the Orb Weaver, rapidly emptying a plastic bin full of energy bars and snack cakes. “Because I’ve got this whole speech about secrecy ready to go.”
Rebecca stared at her. “I live in space. The only person I would care to tell is Sammy—I need to go let him know I’m alright after we do this by the way. He’s okay, right?”
“Hope says he had a bad knock on the head, probably knocked out by the butt of a gun. She’s healed him up and he’ll be fine.” said Laurel, monitoring her tablet.
“Oh thank god.” Rebecca groaned. “Ooo! Can I tell Sammy about all this? He’s a huge fan of all prelates and he’d”
“No!” Laurel and Facsimile chorused.
Folding her arms, Rebecca pouted at them. “Jeez. Neither one of you can take a joke.” She leaned over to Laurel. “This is her, right? The girl you adopted?”
“How did you guess that?!” Facsimile demanded.
“Maybe the fact that you’re wherever she is every spare second?” Rebecca said smugly. “You two are more affectionate with each other than I am with my mom.”
“Damn it!” Laurel exclaimed, restraining herself from throwing down the tablet.
“What? That one wasn’t a secret, right? I mean, it was pretty public that you adopted a kid barely ten years younger than you.”
Laurel shook her head furiously. “No. I mean this. The hard drive’s been formatted and overwritten down to a bare, off the shelf operating system. I might be able to salvage something once we get back to Earth, but for now… nothing. We’ve got nothing on this guy or this ‘VillainNet’ of his.”
“What, so… he’s not going to pay for what he did here? What his goons did to Sammy?”
“He’ll pay.” Laurel said, voice flat. “He’s got more than a day’s head start and he might have dozens of accomplices by then. Hundreds. But I can promise: he is not going to get away with this. Any of it.”
The ‘top’ of the station was given over to an observation deck. Beneath a dome coated with an ultra-thin layer of gold to block infrared radiation, its was crowded with instrumentation, but still had space for a small number (in this case two) people. Since it was at the top of the station instead of in a module attached to a gravity ring, everything was in micro-gravity, allowing the pair to float, tethered only by a pair of golden-hued tentacles, their arms around one another.
“Chaos and Codex sharing a romantic moment watching the sun rise from high orbit.” Tink said, resting her head against Alloy’s shoulder. She’s abandoned the Codex helmet for her Renaissance cowl now that ‘Codex’s’ secret was out. “Somewhere, a fanficcer just hit puberty and doesn’t know why or how.”
She smiled gently. “It’s beautiful though. I’m glad you were here to see it with me.”
“Amazing.” Alloy agreed. “Just… you know, seeing Earth—home–so far away and small. I never thought I’d get to see anything like this. Just goes to show you how full of BS this Orb Weaver guy is. We may not get paid, but there are definite perks.” He leaned up and brushed his lips briefly against hers. “They always say: the best revenge is living well.”
Tink returned the kiss, going a bit deeper before pulling back. “That, and completely wrecking his ‘age of villains’ thing.”
“Oh that goes without saying. The way I see it, all he’s done is line up these chumps for the righteous ass-kicking.”
“It is wrong that the idea of taking down a bunch of dime store supervillains, fighting side-by-side sounds a little… romantic now?”
“Not from where I’m sitting.”
Back on Earth, all across the planet, people started logging in. Plans big and small, newly formed or nursed long and hard over decades, began to grind forward into action. Henchmen. Weapons. Themes. Ideas.
And the world changed once again.
End Issue #87