- 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)
Tome of Battle (Part 3)
It was only natural that Callie as Vamanos reached the HQ first and saw the alerts go up. Even as she pulled up the details, she was raising Zero and Chaos on the comms.
“Okay, it turns out we have two problems instead of one: Multiple calls about a rolling fight between someone on metal legs and an armored truck with its escort, and… oh my… lot of alarms and alerts from a place called Helm Systematics. From what the reports look like, there’s a full-scale attack!”
“Send us the GPS coordinates.” Chaos replied. “What’s the police response?”
After a bit of hunting for the program meant to monitor that, Vamanos said, “Three MPD powered armor units inbound to Helm and it looks like four cars are in route to the armored car thing.”
Chaos took a moment to think. He wasn’t usually in a position to be relaying orders, but at the moment, he was the senior team member, not to mention the oldest, so he didn’t shy away from the responsibility. “Both of you should get to Helm. High speed and raw power are going to be needed there it sounds like. If there’s just one guy after the armored car, I can handle that.”
“Two of us and three power suits against a bunch of enemies?” Zero asked, her voice quiet and considering. “Are we going to be enough?”
“We’ll have to be.” intoned Chaos. “Just in case, put out the general call for help. Maybe we’ll catch someone up late who can help. Otherwise, we do out jobs and hope we’re enough.”
After a short pause, both of the remaining two Descendants in Mayfield agreed and set their sites on Helm Systematics.
Glass cracked under Emmerich’s feet as he moved into the main lobby. Two squads of his men were setting up portable standing field generators and a pair of heavy pulse cannons normally meant to be mounted to APCs to form a defensive position for when the police showed up. Another was off hunting down the guards who fled.
Speaking of which, three guards lay on the floor, bleeding copiously from the legs and arms. The VIR programming for the barghests was oriented toward taking enemies out of the fight, not killing them. They went for the hamstring and then disabled weapon arms before moving on. Good for ending fights, bad for leaving witnesses.
Blood loss would deal with that before the inevitable standoff was through. Emmerich ignored them and moved further into the building. He lowered his weapon for a moment to check his palmtop. Squad Three was already on the roof, readying their exit strategy. Four and Five had reached the lab levels and their specialists were drilling the vault.
He looked toward where Wartorn’s hulking form dominated the rear of the lobby. He’d be an issue, Emmerich was sure of it. If it wasn’t for the fact that the man would serve as an excellent bullet sponge when the police arrived, he’d have found some way to leave him behind.
A frantic beeping from his palmtop took his train of thought off his issues with Wartorn. He it his comm link. “Adams. Spotters. Why am I getting motion sensor alerts if you haven’t sen anything? Report?”
Whatever was said didn’t register with him as he turned to survey the entrance and found one of the fallen guards missing, a pool of blood the only evidence he was even there. The word ‘yellow’ wandered through his mind in search of something to connect with. And fifteen seconds later, a yellow blur swept across his field of vision and suddenly another guard was gone.
“All of ’em are gone my ass.” he snarled, switching his comm to full broadcast. “Cover up, boys! We’ve got a hostile: the Descendants’ speedster and god knows how many more. Everyone on task! Front lines, prepares to receive incoming!”
With well-honed precision, those stations at the entrance took up positions behind the cover of the standing field generators and leveled their weapons.
Emmerich himself stowed his palmtop in his tac vest and raised his pulse rifle, aiming for the third guard. Just as he anticipated, the yellow blur returned, heading straight for the downed man. That was exactly why he hadn’t finished the guards off: the heroes couldn’t resist recovering wounded even if they weren’t their own. But just as he squeezed the trigger, the blur, now showing definite signs of red in it, veered around the guard, the rippling bolt of force from the pulse rifle missing cleanly.
The blur surged right at him and resolved into a young woman who, at highway speeds, planted a palm-heel strike directly at his sternum. The blow would have taken most people right off their feet, but Emmerich merely took a step back to steady himself, his boots scraping the ground as he was pushed back a good two feet.
The blur—Emmerich recognized her from the briefings as Vamanos—looked up at him, shock apparent in her goggled eyes. He returned her look with a sinister grin she couldn’t see thanks to his helmet and grabbed the still-extended hand that struck him.
“What’s the matter, kid?” You thought you were going up against normal humans?” For the pure intimidation factor, he let his rifle drop to hang on the strap over his shoulder and used his newly free hand to hit the catch on his helmet, causing the internal servos to separate it at a series of seams, allowing sections to fold back and reveal his face.
It wasn’t the face of a man. Not entirely. Fur covered everywhere skin would be exposed, a tawny color like that of a mountain lion. His crew-cut hair and sideburns were thick and greasy with a set of shaggy ears like bat wings stuck up through them. Both his mouth and nose seemed to have elongated and fused to become almost but not quite a snout. A pair of tusk-like fangs poked up from his lower jaws, visible even with his mouth closed and a yellow eyes glared down.
The overall effects was animalistic without looking like any one particular species.
With strength beyond human, he lifted Vamanos off her feet. “Welcome to the house of pain.”
With his pseudo-mechanical legs and lashing cables from his arms to carry him, Metal X was catching up with the armored car. And thanks to having one of the motorcycle guards’ comms, the convoy was unable to evade or trick him as it crossed the city.
The only thing keeping him back was covering fire coming from the backs of the support vans.
Finally, frustrated by being driven back again and again by pulse as maser fire, Metal X lashed himself up onto the elevated train tracks, using them as cover to skitter forward until he got ahead of the convoy entirely and then dropped down onto the lead van.
Metal screamed as his spider limbs dug into the sides of the vehicle, seeking to steady him. Inside, the drive shouted in alarm as the impact caused the van to shake. With a smile of cruel glee, Metal X sent ribbons of silvery nanites down onto the roof, commanding it to peel open like like the top off a can of sardines.
For a brief moment, the security team inside could only stares in shock, desperately trying to bring their weapons up to bear on the new angle of attack. Metal X whipped the first pulse rifle trained on him out of its wielder’s hand. “All of you just pissed me off. For that, you—”
A figure in black and red slammed him from the side, both fists taking him mid-torso. The spider limbs tore huge rents in the sides of the van, but couldn’t find enough purchase to keep him from being knocked off the van onto the street below, where he skidded across asphalt at forty miles and hour.
By the time his senses returned, the rest of the convoy had avoided him and moved on. Also, crashing had sheared off two of his spider limbs. Cursing under his breath, he picked himself up and send some streamers of nanites into the nearest car parked on the street.
…Which promptly exploded the moment the metal components started to deform.
“Oh I’m sorry.” a voice said from further down the street, “Did that piss you off? I think I interrupted your threat back there.”
Metal X turned slowly, only to find Chaos hovering above the road, a Chaos Nova blazing in his palm. “So what do I win?”
“Not the one I wanted, but seeing your corpse on the morning news should have the desired effect.” Metal X sneered to himself. Two spider limbs swung back behind him and speared into the street before flexing and throwing him back and away from Chaos. He landed heavily next to a row of parked cars and immediately sent feeder ribbons lancing into them.
Chaos launched himself forward, but it was too late: Metal X’s spider limbs had reformed and two shifted form into forklift-like tines that jammed themselves under the fiberglass and plastic husk remaining from one of the cars and catapulted it at the on-coming hero.
Dropping low, Chaos dodged under the projectile and came up aiming a punch as Metal X’s midsection, only to find the blow fended off by one of the spider legs.
Metal X responded by whipping a metallic tendril up to wrap on of Chaos’s arms and swinging him hard into metal shutter covering the front of a nearby store. The shudder shook and buckled, the sound of breaking glass coming from behind it.
The impact, however, gave chaos time to shake the tendril loose and come up hurling a Chaos Nova. Another spider leg batted it out of the air, causing it to explode early, but still with enough force and heat to make Metal X cringe and cover his face. That left him wide open to a flying haymaker to the gut and a series of quick punched to the kidneys that did little thanks to his armor.
Recovering quickly, Metal X drew in two of his legs and reformed them into a piston that slammed chaos away from him, sending the other man cartwheeling back along the street. “Really? The send a man that controls wind to go against metal? Even with that fireball thing, you’re not even a threat.”
He looked back up the street where the convoy had disappeared, then glared at Chaos who was getting back to his feet. “No… you’re more of a distraction. Damn you if it didn’t almost work. But my revenge will be much sweeter with more research. And having Whitecoat and his sidekick here instead of some lame proxy.”
The spider limbs splayed out and crouched before sending him skyward in a massive leap. With one last contemptuous glare at Chaos, he resumed his chase.
Chaos didn’t follow immediately. “Right.” he said to himself. “Air and a few low-level explosions won’t cut it against metal.” He gestured to cause his gauntlet’s internal water reservoirs to disgorge a palmful of water, then ignited it into a new Chaos Nova. This, he threw into the side of the nearest fire hydrant.
“But that’s not all my powers are.” he declared, forming the water up into rings around him and keeping them aloft with the same powerful air currents that filled his cape and lifted him off the ground. Someday, he needed to talk to the fire department about getting him a water meter so he could tap into hydrants without wrecking them. “Now water… water jets can cut through steel. Alright, Tinhead: let’s try round three the way my brother would handle things.”
With that, he launched himself after Metal X in a gale-force maelstrom.
“LSI HQ alert.” Alexis as Darkness said, checking her ‘work’ palmtop. She and Laurel, now finally back in her Codex costume, were standing before the reinforced door to Lab 2700, waiting for its proprietor to answer the door. “They sent a request for anyone available to come in and support.”
Codex looked down at her own device. “Looks like the MPD called for assistance on two events at once. There’s no SOS though.” She looked over at her friend. “What do you want to do?”
“The New York mirror is three minutes from here if I fly, even if I’m carrying you.” Darkness said slowly, after a moment’s thought. “And if they aren’t calling it an emergency, then we should trust their judgment… right?”
Shortly thereafter, the locks on the door disengaged, the security protocols beeped off, and it swung open, revealing Dr. Robin Atan, owner and head engineer of Lab 2700. She was of Middle Eastern extraction with her long, dark hair pulled back in a tight braid. Peering at them through a pair of thick, black-framed glasses, she offered a polite smile to the pair of heroes.
“I can honestly say that it isn’t often that the Lab gets an appointment from superheroes.” she said, stepping back and pulling the door all the way open for them. “Darkness. Codex. Welcome to Lab 2700, the premier android and artificial intelligence facility in the US.” Her accent was vaguely Russian.
“Thank you for seeing us on such short notice.” said Codex, taking the lead in following Dr. Atan into the atrium that separated the Lab’s inner and outer doors.
Dr. Atan keyed in the codes for the inner door before replying. “It isn’t as if I had a choice after seeing that broadcast and then hearing from you that my work may have been involved. Rest assured that neither I nor any of my employees was knowingly involved in any of that.”
The inner door opened onto a landing too stories above the ground level of the Lab with stairs leading down.
“That’s part of what we’re here to confirm.” Codex admitted. “No offense, but any organization with more than one member has the danger of leaks.”
With a scowl, Dr. Atan started down the stairs. “In truth, I have lost a few staff members due to poachers. They were all given NDA’s to sign, but this Orb Weaver didn’t seem like someone who follows legal documents.”
“We’ll be needing those names.” said Darkness, “And a list of anyone who ordered one of your CPUs.”
They reached the ground floor amid the myriad sectioned off lab spaces and Dr. Atan led them toward the rear of the basement-level facility where more permanent areas had been set up including a concrete bunker with a vault door.
“The Lab doesn’t sell CPUs, only complete systems.” she said. “And shouldn’t this be done through some sort of government agency? I’m not in the business of handing over personal information to private citizens of vigilantes—not matter how well respected. You understand, right?”
“Right.” Codex said before Darkness could reply. “And we can’t expect that Orb Weaver, for all his planning, would leave such an obvious paper trail anyway. Really, we’re here to find out more about the tech he’s using and what we can look for in the future.”
Dr. Atan turned and regarded the pair for a long moment, then nodded. “Very well. From the specs you sent me, the architecture is over a year old—pre-Adamantine. The core isn’t capable of full artificial intelligence, but it can learn and react to stimulus.” she turned again and headed toward the bunker structure.
“But that isn’t what you’re looking for, is it? You want a way to track it.”
“Although I am interested in your work… yes.” said Codex. “Is there anything you can tell us that can help track down more of them? Given how he treated this one as disposable, I suspect he has a stockpile—or a means of producing more.”
The doctor reached the vault door to the bunker and placed her hand on the palm reader situated beside it. “He wouldn’t just need a copy of the CPU. You don’t understand: my work isn’t just another plug and play component. Each system has a custom BIOS and runs custom software. In order to steal my work, he would need to steal everything.”
A series of beeps came from the door, followed by the sounds of dozens of bolts disengaging. Then the massive doors slid apart, revealing a space inside crammed with parts and equipment surrounding only a few relatively clear counters or work tables.
Dr. Atan gestured for the two heroines to enter and when they did, the doors closed behind them and sealed once more. A green light came on over them. “Ah. Now I can speak freely. Of course I can’t hand over my client lit to random vigilantes.” She stopped before a table where a half-built robot lay. It was obviously modeled on a feminine form and looked almost skeletal, lacking the many compartments and reconfiguration points that Adamantine sported.
Without looking up, she opened the machine’s chest to reveal its CPU and other on-board computing hardware. “That’s why I am hiring you as private detective instead. To find out who stole my technology.”