- 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 6)
The roof the Moreau Corps was retreating to wasn’t the highest point on the building. Instead, it was the roof of a wing adjoining the main building, one that was already set up with a helipad. The squads were already forming up in their predetermined extraction formations when Vamanos, still carrying Zero, ran through the doors from the stairwell.
A few potshots passed harmlessly through them as Vamanos hadn’t unphased yet.
It wasn’t hard for the heroines to pick out the approaching transports. They’d encountered them enough now that the vague, rippling distortions between them and the night sky were as easy to spot as giant Thanksgiving clown balloons. It didn’t help their case that one of the three was close enough that its open cargo bay was visible, a gaping hole in the open air with helmeted Tome agents standing in it, manning winches with rope riggings.
Vamanos ran through one of the Moreau Corps soldiers, then turned mid-stride and dropped back into phase to plant her shoulder into the abdomen of one behind him, sending him stumbling back into one of his fellows. She took off again, gained speed, then delivered a spinning kick to the back of another’s knee, sending him crashing to the ground.
Once bitten, twice shy. After their last engagement with the speedster, the soldiers weren’t so willing to open fire for fear of hitting their own. At the same time, even amateur martial arts while carrying another person proved devastating at sixty miles per hour.
“Okay,” Zero said, feeling a bit like she’d been forgotten in the course of the proceedings. “You can set me down now… Please?”
“You sure?” Vamanos asked, ducking a slash from a soldier who finally got the bright idea to go hand-to-hand against her. His gloves had seams and expansion panels that allowed him to extend his claws through them.
“Pretty sure, yeah.” said Zero, and Vamanos let her go. As soon as her feet hit the ground and Vamanos was clear, the temperature around her plummeted and a of kite shields made of layered frost formed over one arm and a brace of ice knives formed in her free hand. Having drained her psychokinetic reserves to the quick, she was left to fall back on her original powers—arguably, that only made her more dangerous because cold could be more damaging than blunt force.
Charging, she bashed one of the Moreau soldiers with her shield and threw three knives up into the open bay of the closest transport. Two served to make the Tome agents inside back off from the entrance. The other jammed in the gears of the winch. Forming a second shield, she started slamming into soldiers, tossing them aside as she made her way toward where the transport would come down.
“Zero, Vamanos, come in.” Chaos’s voice came in over her comm. He sounded tried, utterly drained.
“We’re here.” she heard Vamanos say, then replied in kind.
Chaos drew a deep breath. “Metal X is gone, but the convoy is safe. They used that same freaky beam thing to get him out as they did with one of the dragon twins when Turmoil and I fought them.”
“They’ve got their flying troop carrier things here.” Zero reported. “I don’t think we gave them time to get what they came for.” She took a moment to mentally gauge her internal energy. Forming her knives and shields had given her just enough. “I’m going to take care of one of the transports right now.”
A burst of psychokinetic energy burst under her feet. Normally, she would ave lifted herself in a cloud of the stuff, but she’d only replenished so much of her power. What she had though was enough to perform a powered leap up to the transport and a semi-controlled landing just above it’s right rear engine’s nacelle.
The Tome transports had a free-lev system for VTOL, but a pair of conventional jet engines mounted on the rear for conventional flight. Now once again out of energy and perched very precariously above one of them—which could if she slipped and fell now, suck her in and spit her out as a pink cloud—Zero suddenly started havign second thoughts about her plan.
But down below, she could see the blur of Vamanos, fighting the combined forces of the Moraeu Corps. Past her, she saw Wartorn crashing through the door to the stairway. If they were going to stop them, Vamanos couldn’t do it alone.
Swallowing her nerves, Zero crouched down and put her hands flat on the nacelle beneath her. In her heat sense, she could feel the cool metal but more importantly, the engine underneath: the burning fuel, the friction, the waste heat in the circuits and wires. It was like an open bar for a heat vampire, and she drank greedily.
Frost started to form all across the rear of te transport and the engine started to knock, then rev as the pilot tried to recover, then finally it stalled out. Then the opposite engine began to fail too, as her quest for heat expanded. Soon, the transport was running only on electric maneuvering jets and the free-lev.
And Zero was once again flush with power.
She turned and fired off a wide beam of scintillating blue energy into one of the other transports. It slammed them, but she’d left it unfocused: enough to tell the pilot to back off, but not enough to shoot it down. A second beam followed, aimed at the final transport, and they seemed to get the idea.
No sooner had she quietly celebrated that victory though, than the sky lit up with multiple shafts of light from high above in the night sky.
Zero couldn’t help but groan. Then she looked down again and saw that the entire roof was being bathed in the light of tome’s beaming technology. “Vamanos! You need to get off the roof, now! If you don’t, they’re take you too!”
“What?!” came the reply, and Vamanos broke off her attack on one of the soldiers to streak over to the nearest edge. Behind her, the lights began to intensify and soldiers started to vanish into light. A few broke beaming protocol by moving during a transfer to fire at her, but she was running full out now and by the time the pulses of their guns reached her, she had already hit the edge and started running down the building.
Engines roared, and Zero turned away from the last of Tome’s vanishing forces to see the other two transports making their escape as well.
A spike of frustration went through her. “D-damn it.” she muttered. It wasn’t so much for her own sake, but she’d seen how much their enemies’ frequent escapes weighted on Darkness. Tome had been denied whatever they were after, but all their people…
She looked down at the transport she was standing on. With no engines for forward momentum and no open space for a beam lock-on for the agents inside, they were trapped, only able to ascend or land.
“At least it’s something.” she said to no one in particular. Then she lit up her nimbus of energy and put on her serious face. Time to convince the pilot that ascending was not and option.
“Three agents and two pilots captured in action.” Simon Talbot said as soon as the door to his office opened. “Hello, Morgan. Care for a drink?” He pushed a glass of cognac across his desk in offering.
Morgan Flint crossed the room in grim deliberation, his cane thumping, his artificial lungs audibly pumping like bellows. “You failed to keep our proprietary beam technology proprietary.”
“Barring DARPA interest, they’re two years tops from a commercial release.” Talbot said with a shrug. “Besides, maybe they’ll figure out how the make the damn system safe. If nto for their healing factors, we’d be down eight from the Moreau Corps.”
“Your pet monsters are failures.” Flint said, coming to stand in front of the desk. He didn’t even acknowledge the glass Talbot poured for him.
Making a tsking sound with his tongue, Talbot shook his finger at the old man. “I gave them a goal to be able to match the prelates, but I never meant for them to succeed. They’re shock troops and special operations. More importantly: they’re second generation prototypes. The Cadmus twins proved we could graft alien DNA onto human. The Moreaus prove we can splice multiple sources and get predictable results. The next step is going to be very exciting.”
He took a sip from his own glass. “I also got valuable data about our Enforcers. Kinsey is good playing Lone Wolf, Woo needs someone to hold his hand in case someone tries psychology on him… and Wartorn continues to be useless.” He made a face and gestured wildly with his glass. “Sure, invulnerability seems useful, but we really ought to just be sending more troops in powered armor if we’re going to bother suiting him up. I barely fired his guns out there, my god. He needs… improvement.”
Of course, Flint was really only listening to wait for him to stop. “You failed to retrieve out orihalcite production technology.”
“We have more where that came from.” Talbot said. “Besides, that horse was out of the barn months ago. Wright took that tech and we’ve already seen a few variations around. You can’t blame that on me.” Another sip. “And besides, while it would have been nice to have this play out flawlessly, I still managed to grab the brass ring—with all the clean-up going on, The Descendants probably still don’t know that we hit the that college med lab.”
Flint’s eyes narrowed. “You’ve once again managed to snake your away out of a debacle in the eyes of the Board?”
“Our newest recruit, capable of rivaling Zero once he has enough training, will be arriving in Deep Ten this afternoon. And from him, we’ll be able to finish the tests we weren’t able to complete with Miss Taylor. What do you think?” Talbot asked in a friendly manner.
“This too shall pass, Talbot.” Flint said darkly.
Talbot smiled broadly. “That only matter to the people on the clock. Maybe you ought to get to work on acquiring assets for the Project instead of constantly ghosting me, trying to discredit me, hmm?”
The stormy expression on Flint’s face only served to make Talbot’s smile widen. “My work is more subtle, more long term—far less likely to destroy the entire Project. Eventually you will, you know?”
“Eventually, we won’t need ‘subtle’.” said Talbot. “Now get the hell out of my office.”
“Rodgers.” Detective Roberta Rodgers answered her palmtop tersely.
“Another one for Special Investigations, Detective. Over at the Emerald College campus—someone broke into one of their med labs—the woman on duty there says the attacker was part dog.”
A slow breath kept her from shouting into the phone. “If he’s not there now, send uniforms to get a statement and secure the scene. It may shock you that SI is spread a bit thin tonight.”
The person on the other end, Rodgers’s co-worker, Detective Jaime Esperas, sighed. “We all are, Rodge. Damage all over the city from the chase, hysteria calls from people who think every noise they hear is connected to the attacks… it’s bad. Which one’re you working? Car chase or break-in?”
“Neither.” said Rodgers.
She was standing in the middle of a one of Mayfield’s high-end fashion boutiques, Radiance by Marlene’s. The front window had been smashed, a crude method that could be compared and contrasted with the brute force online attack that had killed all the cameras on the block, including those in the store.
None of that had to do with why SI’s top detective had been called in though.
That would be the security guard.
The med-techs on scene assured her that he was alive, but they were hesitant to move him.
Because he was paralyzed but left standing up, caught in a pose where he’d been raising his palmtop to his mouth, presumably to call in whoever had broken in the window. Presumably he’d caught them stealing the designer purses, belts and accessories that had been looted from the surrounding shelves.
And he was covered in silver glitter.
“Somehow I don’t think this one was related to the rest of the night’s festivities..” Rodgers added.
End Issue #88.