- 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 5)
Emmerich couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
He’d told the Board personally that it would take many more months of training and much better equipment for his hand-picked squads to be a match for the full strength of The Descendants. That said, he never expected just two of them would be able to so thoroughly thrash his plans.
That’s just what was happening. Blue and red lights from outside told him the MPD powered armor had arrived to supplement that already formidable force of the pair of superheroines. Wartorn—as Emmerich predicted—was still down, trying to get his armor operational again. Less than useless.
Even as he watched, a shard of ice that looked suspiciously like a dagger lodged itself in the seam of one of his solder’s armor. When the man flinched, roaring at the pain, a yellow and red blur flashed past and took his gun, easily snatching it in his distraction. Amazing teamwork, he thought, especially when Vamanos had only been a public member of the team for less than half a year.
His squad had been together for over twice that—counting the rehabilitation that followed their gene therapy. He’d spent every single day since then training them, teaching them to work together and follow his orders—to succeed even against the chaos inherent to fighting so-called ‘prelates’–superheroes. And he knew how to get them back on track; at least to make a proper retreat.
“All squads!” He bellowed into his comm. “Form up to pull out! “
Around him, the squads meant to hold the entrance started to make their ways to the fallback point at the stairwell door. He could see that three were being dragged by their comrades, having been knocked out or injured beyond being able to walk in the explosion of the ice wall.
“Sir. One more minute to break through.” came the voice of the squad leader sent down to the building’s vault. “Should we…”
“Negative.” said Emmerich. “One minute will get you captured and I’m not leaving anyone behind if I can help it. Abandon anything not classified and make for the extraction point!” He switched channels. “Extraction team, proceed with pick-up and alert HQ that we might need to come in through the back door, so have it prepped and ready to fire on my mark!”
He moved to join the rest of the Corps, but as soon as he turned in their direction, something hit him in the back. If not for the enhanced reflexes his modifications had given him,he would have stumbled and fallen. Instead, he turned to see Vamanos, armed with one of the pulse rifles she’d relieved one of his soldiers of.
‘Armed’ might not have been the right word for it. The thing was too big for a normal person to aim and fire, being originally designed to be mounted to the top of an APC and infantry robot. Instead, she’d wielded it like a baseball bat and swung it into him while moving at speed, leaving her trying to rebalance herself from the follow-through.
Which meant she was out of position to dodge or run.
Emmerich pounced, extending both clawed hands to grab her. She parried with the gun and his claws carved grooves in the plastic shell of the weapon. The counter attack came in the form of a psychokinetic bolt that hit him in the side.
Ribs straining, he looked for where Zero must have been only to have a shrill whistle grate against his enhanced senses. “Don’t take your eyes off the ball!” He looked back in time to catch the butt of the rifle in the face.
Vamanos wasn’t all that strong and she wasn’t moving at speed, but it was enough of a shock to allow her to disengage and run off. Another psychokinetic blast took her place, knocking him back. This time he finally found Zero, standing between the abandoned gun emplacements.
He imagined that one of Tome’s undisciplined Enforcers would have shouted something at this point and completely telegraphed their tactic. No, a enraged as he was, he grabbed a cylinder off his tac harness and pulled the pin with a thumb before lobbing it in her direction.
Predictably, Zero raised a bubble of psychokinetic force to block it just before it exploded into a cloud of thin mist. Seeing what the attack was, she pulled a rebreather out of her belt and put it on before dropping her protective bubble.
Emmerich grinned as a moment later, one of the inugami leapt upon her with a savage snarl. The grenade had been filled with the scent marker its strain had been trained to attack with the utmost ferocity.
A flare of blue light indicated that Zero was protecting herself, but the attack had the desired effect: Vamanos broke off her attacks on Emmerich and his people to help her friend.
Pausing only to crack his neck, Emmerich headed to regroup with the soldiers forming up at the stairway doors. Most of them were already on the way up, leaving only a five-man rear guard behind. “Head up.” He ordered. “I’ll cover you.” None of them questioned him, they just moved.
“Emmerich, you bastard!” Wartorn’s voice came out loud and clear over his suit’s speakers. Though the armor’s condition now gave justice to his name, he still managed to get it to stand in fits and starts. “You’re planning on cutting and runng? And leaving me behind to take the fall?”
“It crossed my mind.” said Emmerich. “You aren’t one of mine and adding you did nothing for the mission but add weight to the trailer’s payload.” He didn’t stop moving up on the stairway entrance. Even as he spoke to Wartorn, his attention was on his enemies.
All three inugami were around Zero now, hammering on yet another protective bubble. The MPD officers were firing on them full auto with their armors’ weapons, but between the targeting scent and their armor, the monstrous dogs weren’t paying much attention aside from a few slowly bleeding wounds.
“I’m going to tell the Board all about this, Emmerich, you little shite.” Wartorn spat and his armor started to open up. “You don’t think I heard all the promises you made about your monster mash here? You got taken down by two girls barely outta school!”
Shut up and get to the stairs if you don’t want to be left behind.” Emmerich ordered, kicking the door open behind him.
Meanwhile, Zero found herself sweating and straining to maintain her barrier. “V-vamanos?” She asked over her comm. “I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep this up.” She hiccoughed and the bubble flickered.
“I know.” Vamanos replied. “And the cops can’t use anything heavy on the inugami with us in the line of fire. Look, I’m coming for you, but you’ve got to trust me: I can’t run through one of your psychokintetic things, so I need you to drop it when I say so, okay?”
Vamanos streaked around the room and built up an even greater speed than she’d been using to slam the inugami. She’d need to momentum. “Alright… now!” She ran flat out, lining up her run and prayign she woldn’t pancake against a wall of force.
She didn’t. The moment she said ‘now’, the protective bubble disappeared and the inugami all leapt at their prey. Into the heart of what promised to be a whirlwind of teeth and claws plunged Vamanos. Running through one of the inugami (and feeling a lurching across her entire body as she intersected with orihalcite), she dropped out of intangibility for just long enough to scoop Zero up, bridal style, and then she was off again, having lost almost no momentum.
The three inugami collided with fang and fury, biting and clawing one another savagely, uncomprehending of the fact that their prey was gone. IT took only a second more for the MPD to realize they had a clear shot and launch rockets into the frey.
Wincing at the feeling of sudden acceleration, Zero smiled weakly up at Vamanos with an odd look in her eye. “Heehee… my hero.”
“You okay to keep fighting?”
“I need to recharge.” Zero admitted. “Freeze something… something big.”
Vamanos thought a second, then grinned. “I heard the leader of the bad guys: they’ve got transports heading for the roof. Think freezing those would be enough?”
That made Zero grin. “Yes. I think that’d be just right…”
Without another word, Vamanos rushed right through Emmerich and hit the stairs, heading for the roof.
Of the two combatant out in the city, Metal X made it to his feet first and started regathering metal. Chaos was on his hands and knees from the hammer blow he’d taken to the chest, trying to steady his breath and get his heartbeat under control.
“What?” he demanded of the struggling hero. “You get to throw explosions around and a piston is unfair?” The blades from his wrists reformed and he raised on, taking aim at the other man’s back.
Chaos coughed and rolled to the side, narrowly missing a slash. He swung a leg out and ended up connecting with Metal X’s armored shin; not enough to hurt, but enough to ruin his footing. He followed up by drastically dropping the air pressure around Metal X’s head.
“Never said it wasn’t fair.” Chaos grunted, “No more than asphyxiating you into dreamland.”
Gasping, Metal X deployed a heavier set of spider limbs and used them to leap back and to the side of the next building. Transferring some of the metal mass from his legs to his arms, he reconfigured one of his arm blades into a barbed harpoon connected to the rest of his nanites by a thick cord and hurled it at Chaos.
Still injured, Chaos barely managed to dodge, resorting to using his powers to push the harpoon far enough off course that it didn’t hit him. He went to retaliate with a Chaos Nova, only to find his gauntlet reservoirs empty. “Shit.” he muttered. “Welp… time to cheat.”
As Metal X withdrew and hurled his harpoon again, he managed to dodge aside, pulling his cape around him. As he maneuvered across the rooftop to the cover of an elevator maintenance shed, he took stock of the contents of his utility belt, muttering the list to himself.
“First aid kit, rebreather, screamer grenade, palmtop, multitool… hmmm…”
He stopped out of range of the harpoon and, keeping the cape wrapped tightly around him, pulled out his palmtop. “You want a real fight, X? Sit down a second and wait. Alloy took you apart last time, I bet he’d set a record with how fast he’ll take you out this time.”
Metal X paused in the middle of pulling his harpoon back again. “Alloy? On his way here?” A nasty grin split his lips. “Oh yes. God, I hope you’re a mentor to him—maybe even a father figure. I want him to feel the same seeing your corpse as I did seeing my father’s!”
His spider limbs flexed and he leapt back across to the roof, reforming his arm blades out of the harpoon.
In mid-leap, he saw Chaos’s cape twitch to the side and a blob of clear liquid rushed up to meet him. It was only the size of a marble, but it was aimed right at his face. When he tried to jerk his head aside, the blob expanded out into a sheet that spattered his entire face. He closed his eyes reflexively and landed blind.
Without his guidance, his spider limbs didn’t cushion him properly, sending him tumbling to the tar and gravel covered roof. Where the stuff had hit him, his skin tingled, and th smell was distinctive: antiseptic. Chaos had thrown antiseptic in his face.
And now he was causing the stuff to gather and widn its way toward his nose and eyes.
Metal X all but tore the metal from his hands so he could scrub and rub at the substance on his face, desperately trying to get it off before it found its way into his eyes or airway. “You son of a bitch!” he screamed, “You son of a bitch!”
Finally settled from the earlier reeling blow, Chaos threw his cape back and stood tall. “It’s over, Randall. I’ve heard the whole story: the Whitecoat didn’t kill your father, the Tong did, and I think you know that. Maybe it just seemed easier to go after one guy and his kid sidekick than criminals who would kill you, but all this is a waste. It’s time to give it up and maybe you can get some help while you’re in jail.”
He wasn’t actually trying to get the antiseptic into the other man’s nose, but the sensation that he was provided a great distraction.
At first, the only words coming out of Metal x’s mouth were curses, then, “You know nothing! You wouldn’t even be involved if it weren’t for the kid and the kid wouldn’t be involved if it weren’t for the ‘Coat. You have no idea what I lost—and SOMEONE HAS TO PAY!!!”
The spider limbs flailed, smashing structures on the roof and gouging holes in the tar.
Chaos easily kept his distance. “And if you don’t stop this, you’re eventually going to run into someone who’ll be trying to kill you instead of sending you to prison. Then you’ll be the one paying. You think Tome is going to help you get revenge? Fat chance, especially since the convoy is long gone by now. Good luck catching up.”
Metal X finally got the idea of using his nanites to form a thin, metallic mask between himself and the antiseptic, allowing him to quickly wipe the last of the caustic away. “You.” He snarled emphatically. “I don’t even care anymore about Tome or the convoy. I’m going to kill you and leave parts of you spread all across the city.”
“Stand by.” a voice said in his ear.
Not the bike guard’s radio, but the comm Tome issued to him.
“Extraction via backdoor in five… four…”
“What?” he asked aloud, much to Chaos’s confusion. “No! No! I don’t need extraction you morons!”
Light appeared around him; intense, white light that seemed to spear down from the night sky.
“Beam tech.” Chaos said as it dawned on him. He resisted the urge to try and tackle Metal X to bring him in. Being beamed directly into a Tome base wouldn’t be good for him. Getting into some sort of teleportation accident would be worse.
Metal X wasn’t going to go without drawing blood though, and summoned up all of his metal into a single, massive lash covered in spikes an bladed protrusions as the light intensified. The weight of the thing nearly knocked him over, but he put all his weight into it to try and bring it down on Chaos. But it was so huge and unwieldy that Chaos didn’t even have to dodge it.
“No!” He screamed as the light swallowed him. “Nooooo!”
And then he was gone.
“Dramatic. That guy is going to need decades of therapy when we finally catch him.” Chaos looked around briefly to make sure there were no other threats before slumping to sit on the roof, one hand over what he highly suspected were bruised ribs and sternum.
He briefly considered calling the others to let them know that things were over on his end, but his aches and pains outvoted him and the motion carried to lay down for a while and just breath slowly.
Dr. Atan moved to the back of her personal workshop, to a desktop computer console and took a flat format stick from a nearby box to plug into a slot in the computer. After a bit of manipulation on the holographic display, she removed the stick and presented it to Codex and Darkness.
“This is a list of all my clients who have purchased systems with architecture your robot’s could have descended from.
Darkness eyed the stick warily. “Is this even legal?”
Codex took the stick, but added, “You do realize that we aren’t actually working for you.”
“Which makes this a sound fiscal move.” Dr. Atan pointed out. “Once you bring the perpetrator to trial, I can file a lawsuit. Everybody wins.” She folded her hands in front of her. “Now. Can I interest you in placing an order yourselves? An AI brain can serve a thousand functions in crimefighting and emergency response. We can even open up exploratory research into new applications if you would be willing to fund it.”
The two heroines exchanged looked. “Maybe another time.” Codex said finally. “We really should get back to Mayfield and look into a situation that’s been reported there. Thank you for your help.”
They had to wait for Dr. Atan to see them through the security doors, but after that, they headed right for the warehouse where the New York mirror gate was located, intent on gating to the LSI HQ to lend aid to their embattled allies.