- 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 4)
In the months following her official induction into The Descendants, Vamanos received an extensive education on the team and their enemies.
One thing that always stuck with her was Warrick’s explanation about why the powered, armored dogs Tome employed were called ‘inugami’. It was apparently based on a Japanese legend of a guardian ghost that was brought into being by exercising phenomenal cruelty to a dog before cutting its head off.
It just went to show how, even if the others talked about Tome in dismissive or lighter terms, they were a truly monstrous and terrifying organization.
If not for having that in mind from dodging the inugami outside the building, Emmerich’s comment would have gone right past her. But with it in mind, she immediately seized on the line and followed it back to an old movie she and the girls watched during one Halloween movie night. And she instantly made the connection to the words on Emmerich’s shoulder insignia.
Only Tome would proudly compare themselves to a story of vivisecting and mutilating animals into beast men then torturing them to keep them in line.
The malicious grin splitting Emmerich’s bestial face said it all, but he couldn’t seem to keep from giving it voice as he wrenched her off her feet by her captured arm. “Come on, kid. I can almost feel you wanting to spew the cliches. ‘What did I do to myself?’ ‘How could I do it?’. Well the lab rats say we’ve got six kinds of Faerie creature DNA swimming around in us now. As for the second: Fifty million dollars smooth over a whole lot of ugly. Plus, it lets me do this.”
With that, he promptly swung her by her arm and flung her across the length of the room to slam into the reception desk. He started to stomp after her, but his comm squawked. “Sir, we’ve got incoming! Three MPD powered armor tracking in from the north northwest.”
Emmerich’s lips drew back in a snarl. “Wartorn!” He shouted, gesturing toward Vamanos. “Make yourself useful.” Then he was back to being all-business. “Good job spotters, pull back to secure the extraction point. Everyone else, listen up! You all have your orders and they have no changed. Prepare to receive hostiles. The inugami will soften them up, deplete munitions, then we’ll mop up behind them!”
Less than ten seconds later, a comet of blue energy sailed through the broken front windows and crashed into one of the shields maintained by the standing field generators. The shield flared with surging light as the energy dissolved, revealing one of the inugami.
The huge animal whimpering in pain once, then growled and got to its feet. Before it could charge back out however, another comet, containing another inugami, collided with it, both beasts winding up smashed against the shield which sputtered and gave out this time.
Blue light spilled through the windows, scattering over the shards of glass as Zero, surrounded in a nimbus of psychokinetic energy, levitated down from on high. Cold followed, spreading out just like the light.
With professional calm, the soldier manning the heavy machine gun behind the downed shield ignored the tangle of giant monsters and opened up on Zero full auto. His squad-mates were just a step behind in leveling their weapons and firing their pulse rifles.
The temperature dropped even further and the fire all hit a foot-thick wall of ice, sending cracks and fissures racing through it, but failing to break through. All the noise and light, however, gave Vamanos just enough time to get her feet under her and take off. She streaker right past Wartorn, ran up the wall behind him to turn around, then came back to aim a high-speed strike to the back of his armor’s knee.
She didn’t count on Emmerich interposing himself between them or on his martial arts training. The transformed soldier caught her arm just as she dropped out of intangibility and threw her over his hip, turning her forward momentum into temporary flight that ended what she hit the doors of an elevator, severely denting them. By the time she got her senses back in order, her vision was filled with Wartorn’s armored fist coming down to smash her into the floor.
She rolled, narrowly missing the blow, and reared back on her shoulders to kick him in the head. Without her speed however, she did little to get past his helmet and only ended up pushing herself further from him. It gave her enough space, however, to roll to her feet.
In the scant seconds she had while Wartorn turned to renew his assault, she wracked her brain for information on this enemy. What she came up with wasn’t heartening. During the Redeemer’s incident, chaos had beat Wartorn by knowing the make of his powered armor and disabling it. Nice to know if one was an engineer, but Vamanos was no engineer.
Back to basics, she thought. One thing she knew was that Wartorn’s power was to be almost completely invulnerable physically. The powered armor was there to give him the offensive capabilities he lacked. The original armor he wore had just been a frame because he took care of soaking damage all on his own.
If that was the case…
Sidestepping, she dodged his next swing and took off back toward the front. Evidently, she didn’t rate as nearly the threat Zero did, as everyone but Emmerich and Wartorn were focusing fire on the ice wall and the bubble of psycho-kinetic energy behind it. In places they’d broken through, the bullets now ricocheting off blue energy rather than ice. The two inugami had untangled themselves and were trying to move in from the flank, though luckily the withering fire was keeping them from closing.
Time to take some of the pressure off her friend.
At full speed, she angled in and hip-checked one of the soldiers manning a gun emplacement. He was sent careening into three others armed with pulse rifles, all of them going down in a heap. Even as they were falling, however, Vamanos had grabbed the gun and, using the energy of her momentum, swung it around until Wartorn landed in her sights.
There was literally no other time she or the others would consider this, but in this one case, the man in the armor was tougher than said armor. So she pulled on the trigger and didn’t let go. The weapon chattered and all other sound seemed to be drowned out by repeated small explosions as the anti-vehicle gun unloaded its ammunition on the powered armor.
Sparks and pieces of the outer shell of Wartorn’s armor filled the air. Something big and electrical seemed to simply explode at the shoulder, sending a pauldron flying. After about three seconds of sustained fire, something smaller, but no less spectacular, blew out in his knee and he went down, the tiled floor cracking under the impact.
It couldn’t have happened a moment sooner, as the first heavy blow of a pulse rifle’s shot slammed into Vamanos’s side shortly thereafter. Her suit spread it out, but the blast still knocked her away from the big gun and sent her staggering back up against the still-active standing field.
The Moreau Corps weren’t idiots, and they knew that an enemy firing a fifty caliber gun into them was more dangerous than one hiding behind an ice wall. The trouble was, they had no standard operating procedure for something like this, so all of them were trying to draw a bead on Vamanos without hitting their comrades behind her.
And none of them was laying down suppressing fire on Zero anymore.
The blue sphere of energy winked out, replaced moments later by skeins of light playing through the sundered wall of ice just moments before it exploded outward in a horizontal avalanche of frozen chunks, some as large as a human head.
With one of the standing field down and several of the soldiers who would have been protected b the others caught out of position, there was nothing stopping the tide of ice and psychokinetic energy from rolling over them, bowling them off their feet and sending them tumbling along the floor. In an instant, the orderly and formidable defensive line of the Moreau Corps had been scattered.
Then and only then did the MPD powered armor detachment land outside and advance.
Swinging and wall-crawling was faster than driving any day, but it had nothing on flying. Metal X had just caught sight of the convoy again and leapt from a skywalk to the commuter pod rails when a transparent arc flashed past him and neatly severed the spider limb he was about to set down. Overbalanced, he toppled and fell flat on his chest across the rail line.
Up above, Chaos, surrounded by a series of orbiting water rings, blinked at just how effective that trick had been. It took him a second to realize why: Metal X’s metallic extrusions weren’t solid metal like Alloy’s or any actual worked metal; it was composed of a nanite colony. Effectively, it was made up of billions of robots the size of a grain of sand magnetically and chemically adhering to one another. A thin enough blade—like a crescent of compressed water—could easily separate them long enough for them to lose contact with the rest of the colony and started crumbling apart.
As a fail-safe against gray goo scenarios, a nanite out of contact with the colony is a dead nanite for all intents and purposes.
Armed with this new knowledge, Chaos swung his arms, and with another great effort, sent two more crescents of water to sever two more of Metal X’s spider limbs. And it was and effort. His brother, Issac had lots of practice shaping and compacting water, but Chaos had devoted his focus on air and the occasional Chaos Nova. Like any muscle, descendant powers developed depending on how they were used.
Using his tendrils for leverage, Metal X picked himself up and cast around for who attacked him—though it wasn’t mush of a surprise to him as to who. “That’s new.” he commented. At the same time, he sent silver tendrils questing into the rail co-opting the metal into the colony. Unlike subway rails, commuter pod rails weren’t powered; each individual pod had a battery charged from the stations’ solar plant, so he was in no danger of getting a shock.
“Yeah, and so ‘s this.” Chaos reached out and grasped one of the water rings, willing it into semi-solidity and snapped his wrist, sending the liquid strand out in the form of a whip that wrapped Metal X’s arm.
Metal groaned, the only warning Chaos had before paint started flaking off the rail and a fifteen foot section of it tore free to swing up and swat him out of the air.
A massive downburst kept him from hitting the ground with surely-fatal speeds, but before he could right himself, the rail section came down around him. Support struts sharpened to points and drove deeply into the asphalt while the actual rails twisted into a cage.
“I don’t have time to kill you!” shouted Metal X. “After I get what I came for, I’ll be glad to drive a spike through your chest, but right now, I have more important things to do.”
A hastily-formed sickle of compressed water easily hacked a hole in the makeshift prison before Metal X could set it, and Chaos launched himself skyward, hurling a pair of Chaos Novas at the man where he stood. “Yeah, well I’m not finished with you!”
Having not regenerated the spider limbs, Metal X was forced to use his tendrils and dodge off the pod rail and onto the low roof of a nearby building. He quickly sent out tendrils to absorb the solar array and air conditioning units there, but didn’t get far before a gust of wind knocked him off his feet and Chaos landed heavily to stand over him.
“What’s Tome up to, X? Two attacks in one night? Both on research facilities? What? Are we hitting them so hard they can’t afford to make their own mad science now?”
Metal X shifted his hand and with it, the tendrils tied to it, causing them to flex and hurl the entire air conditioner into Chaos, slamming him away, and giving him enough time to regain his feet. The dented and ruined air conditioner melted and recast itself into a new set of spider limbs.
“And here I thought you all were actually the government’s guard dogs. You didn’t know at all, did you?” Two of his new legs scythe down at Chaos, but the other man summoned a gust of wind that caught his cape and pulled him out of harm’s way. “These are Tome’s old projects. Good old Uncle Sam took them and decided to make them his own. Beam tech, orihalcite, the Zero-grafts.”
Chaos’s eyes widened. “That’s three.”
“What?” asked Metal X. His answer was a Chaos Nova exploding at point blank range and putting him on his back with a mass of blackened, dead nanites in a starburst pattern on his chest.
“That’s three inventions. But we only knew about two locations.” Chaos said, opening his comm. “Attention MPD, all Descendants members and LSI affiliates within the range of my voice. This is Chaos. There is a third Tome incursion going on somewhere in Mayfield. There is a third Tome incursion at a research facility somewhere in—oof.”
Something not unlike a pneumatic hammer caught him in the midsection and drove the air out of him, leaving him gasping and sinking to his knees.
“That’s enough outta you.” Metal X groaned and tried getting up. The explosion made him ache all over and he gave up for the time being after a few seconds. Instead, he hit his comm. “Wolf, you’re blown. Get what you’re there for and call for extraction. Now.”
Dr. Catherine Sorenson—that’s what her name tag said at least—managed to stand up to Wolf’s intimidation better than he’d expected. Not exactly well, but she didn’t completely freak out completely. At least not about Wolf and his newly-sprouted claws.
No, at his demand, she looked him up and down once, then immediately looked back at the patients in their stasis cells. “Y-you can’t do that.” she said as if he wasn’t a terrifying intruder who very well could kill her. “I don’t know who sent you, but shutting down even one of these containment units and letting cellular activity resume could kill us and maybe everyone in the building. Maybe even the whole neighborhood.”
Wolf sneered. He’d been warned about that. Some of the subjects, if their powers were allowed to start up again, would effectively freeze whole city blocks before they died. Freeze in the physics sense. As in low temperature measured in Kelvin and things like concrete shattering.
He stalked toward her—made sure she knew he was stalking toward her. The secret of fear was to make sure that you were scarier than all other alternative. “I work for the guys who put them in there. I know the risks. That’s why I’m only here for one very specific one. If you don’t helm me find him… well I might start shutting them down one by one until I find the one I want.
“Now that might kill us, or it might just kill whatever poor bastard’s in the tube, but I’ve got a feeling you don’t want either option on your conscience, right, Kitty.”
On the word ‘Kitty’, he dialed his inhibitors down a few more degrees, allowing his face to lengthen more into a muzzle and hair start to form a pelt over his skin.
They got her to shy away, but her attention was still largely on the cells.
Wolf growled. It was a real growl now; his physiology had changed enough to hit that perfect frequency that makes the tiny prey animal living in the back of every human brain to start looking for a burrow or a slower herd-mate.
“If your information is wrong, we’ll still die.” Dr. Sorenson said sharply. As if she could do something to stop him.
Enough was enough. Wolf lunged forward with the incredible speed and power his enhanced body gave him and clamped claws into the woman’s shoulder. Just enough to pierce skin, but not enough to sever anything important. A little pain went a long way.
Dr. Sorenson gasped and to Wolf’s surprise, took a swing at him with her free arm. He caught the offending limb at the elbow and, using it and her captured shoulder, slammed her back up against one of the cells. He was rewarded with a look of absolute terror as she felt the utter cold through the cell’s reinforced glass coupled with the pain and shock of the attack.
“Now that you know I’m serious, Kitty. How about you tell me where Frederick C Driscoll is? It’s past time for his wake-up call.”