Issue #89 – All That Glitters

This entry is part 5 of 12 in the series The Descendants Vol 8: The Weaver's Web

All That Glitters (Part 1)

This is the third like this in two weeks,” explained Detective Roberta Rodgers as she led Codex through the crime scene where the Mayfield Police Department’s CSI’s were still collecting evidence and medical technicians in hazmat suits were carefully gathering the victims.

“Same MO: high end boutiques, all the earmarks of a smash and grab only the cameras are all fried and every witness is found covered in this… glitter and paralyzed. The first two were after hours and only one victim each time: a security guard at the first scene, a beat cop who spotted the smashed windows at the second. This is the first time they hit a place with customers.”

Codex looked around. There were six people paralyzed this time: the clerk-slash-proprietor, four customers—bridesmaids in for a last minute refitting—and the on site security guard. “Have you determined what paralytic agent is being used?”

“Only what effects this stuff has.” Detective Rodgers shrugged. “The vics are paralyzed and unconscious; nothing shows up on toxicology screening. Whatever it is wears off in about seven hours and they experience mild short-term amnesia, losing between one and three hours before they were attacked.”

She gave Codex a concerned look. “Could this be one of those new super-criminals that Orb Weaver character mentioned on that broadcast?”

After a moment’s thought, Codex was forced to admit, “It’s a possibility. We won’t know until it’s been fully analyzed, but there have already been three confirmed ‘supervillains’: on in Jacksonville, one in Tacoma, Maryland, and one in Minneapolis. All of them were using modified powered armor though, not using anything like this.”

Moving up close to one of the victims, a woman in her thirties with her blonde hair in an up-do, she looked at the glitter more closely. To the naked eye, it looked just like the normal piece of colored foil that most glitter was in reality. Given nano-engineering though… “Do you mind if I take a sample?”

“Be my guest,” said the Detective. “The Chief and the Mayor have both been very vocal about cooperating with you and your team on this. Given the recent attacks, plus the Orb Weaver video, the Mayor wants the town back to feeling safe in time for his start of summer gala in a week.”

From her belt, Codex produced an evidence bag (the same kind used by the CSI’s) and used a blade from her multitool to scrape glitter into it. “I can’t make any promises. The crimes look amateur, but the perpetrators have so far managed to leave no evidence.”

She stowed the sample in her belt. “What they have left is a pattern in where they strike and what they take. Have your people already compiled a list of likely targets?”

“Already sent to the private account the city set up for you. Fifteen places in all: too many for us to put a unit on. I have a junior detective trying to narrow it down.

“Thank you, Detective. Sorry about the extra chaos around here. I wish I could tell you we’ve got a handle on Tome or the orb Weaver but…”

Detective Rodgers waved her off. “We’re lucky that you and your people do as much as you do. Most cities don’t even have a powered armor or super-focuses Special Investigations department, much less a full team of prelates on the job. The general public doesn’t even know half the things you do for the city.”

***

A titanic roar echoed through the alleyway.

Alloy, with the aid of Isp and Osp, leap back just in time to avoid a powerful slash from a paws as big as his head with claws longer than his fingers.

Looming up before him was a creature almost twice as tall as he was, covered in gray fur with a black ruff around its neck and forming a triangle over its barrel chest. It’s arms and legs were thickly muscled, but long for its frame, ending in dexterous hand-paws tipped with retractable claws. Despite its body being something of a mash-up between a grizzly bear and a gorilla, its face was flat and mannish even beneath all the hair.

“Come on, Gary. Just once, can we get past the psycho-bear thing and get right to the ‘calming down and turning back’ part?” Alloy asked. “You know, they think you’re a villain now right?” He dodged another claw and Isp caught onto a fire escape and hauled him up, out of range for the moment.

“Seriously, go check out PrelateWatch after this. They call you Gordo Gorillaman. Is that what you want?”

Counter to his own bulk, ‘Gary’ leapt up and caught the fire escape with his claws, swinging himself over and slamming Alloy back against the ladder to the next level in the process. Isp and Osp pulled him up to the next level and then swung him up another two.

“Guess not,” he said, then tapped his comm. “Fax? Got an ETA? Because this time it was almost getting hit by a semi that did it an I swear the more scared Gary gets, the stronger he gets.” As if to illustrate this, Gary leapt up and slashed through the metal floor of the landing above him, rending it apart with his claws before climbing up through the new hole.

Facsimile’s voice came back annoyed. “Give me two minutes. You know I can’t fly as fast as I want to with Her Highness along for the ride.”

“Don’t blame me for you flying like a psychopath,” snapped Hope.

Alloy sent the twins up the grab the top of the building as Gary tore through another landing below him. “Faster would be better, girls. I’ve got a big, fuzzy ass-beatin’ coming my way and I can’t beat back sicne it’s not really his fault.”

“You can beat a little,” said Facsimile. “The guy’s pretty tough in bear-illa mode.”

“Doesn’t mean I like doing it.” Alloy landed on the roof and backed up to the sounds of more metal being ripped apart. Isp and Osp reared up and formed their leading edges into barbell weights. “The boys… not so much though.”

Trying to hold back a laugh, Facsimile said, “You don’t have to trash him, just keep him busy a few more minutes. We’re almost there.”

Alloy watched a clawed hand-paw grab the edge of the building and set himself into a fighting stance. “Not like I’ve got a choice.” He reached out with his metal sense and picked out what options he had around him. And then Gary heaved himself over the edge. Not just over the edge, but into the air, launching himself at Alloy with claws raised.

Lashing out behind Alloy, Isp anchored into the concrete and pulled Alloy backward ahead of a pair of brutal clawed slashes that gouged the rooftop.

“That’s it, Gar’,” Alloy said. Time for you to take a seat and wait for your emergency therapy.” He sent the tentacles out to grab Gary’s ankles, pulling his legs out from under him and sending him crashing to the ground in a heap.

Irate at the danger the ursine menace had been posing to its friend, Osp cracked out like a whip to slam Gary across the belly. But a strong paw closed over the tentacle.

“Ah crap.”

Gary rose again and pulled with all his might, jerking Alloy off his feet and swinging him sideways into a maintenance shed where his armor hammered a hole in the cinder block siding. Then, before he could recover, the gorilla-man snapped it’s arm around, slinging alloy over his head to slam into the rooftop with tremandous force.

Only then did Osp think to shift to a more liquidous form to slip out of his paws.

“Seriously,” Alloy groaned. “Hurry.”

He forced himself to his feet only to thorw himself to the side in order to avoid another lunge from Gary. Then, casting his powers downward, he ripped rebar out from under the concrete of the roof and formed it into a lasso that bound Gary’s arms to his side.

Roaring defiance, Gary flexed and the rebar shattered against his strength.

“That would be so cool if he wasn’t trying to kill me,” Alloy muttered. Another pull of his powers raised a section of his tiles in Gary’s path as he advanced, tripping him. But the gorilla-man clambored to his feet with simian ease and pounced…

…Only to be intercepted mid-air by a golden-furred smilodon. The big cat cannoned into him, knocking him on his back before executing a backflip and landing on all fours, letting out a roar of its own. As soon as the roar was done though, Facsimile completely ruined by effect by crowing, “The cavalry has arrived!”

Gary was not amused and rolled to his feet, coming up in a charge.

“And as for you Br’r Rabbit…” She let him come, standing completely still as he clawed into her. Her body deformed like clay and adhered like tar, gumming up Gary’ claws and soon enveloping most of his upper body. “All yours, Hope!”

Alloy hadn’t noticed her arrival, but now Hope approached, concentrating hard on Gary as the metamorph struggled against Facsimile’s gooey trap. “This would be so much easier if someone didn’t have to rile him up every time this happens.”

“Hey, it was this or let him rampage through downtown and maybe get shot by a cop,” said Alloy. “I stand by my choice.”

Hope harrumphed, but didn’t break her concentration. Slowy but surely, Gary’s efforts against Facsimile slowed and his body began to change. He shrank, obviously, but the hair began to recede; both on his face and body and the top of his head.

Gary Edison Grimes was forty-three, balding, a little on the heavy side, and thanks to growing until his clothes burst, very, very naked as he calmed down and his descendant power stopped working on overdrive. The only thing he was still wearing was an arm band with an oblong metal plate on it, which had been obscured by his fur before.

Facsimile shifted off of him until she was holding him by the shoulders to keep him from falling over. Hope approached, still focusing her powers to keep him calm as she produced a microweave rescue blanket from one of her hip compartments and put it around him to conceal his nakedness.

“Oh no… I did it again, didn’t I?” Gary asked, allowing Facsimile to hold him up.

“A semi almost clipped you crossing the street on lower ninth,” Alloy supplied. “You knocked me around a bit, but otherwise no one got hurt.”

Hope examined the band on his arm. “Codex designed your medication dispenser for a reason, Mr. Grimes. It’s supposed to automatically dose you if your adrenaline gets too high. Why’s it empty?”

Wringing his hands, Gary looked at the ground. “I-I had a rough day at the office. Mr. Jeffries lost money in the market a-and he was taking it out on us. I meant to go home and get more, but…”

“But then some jerkass truck driver ignored the pedestrian crossing,” Alloy finsihed for him. “It’s alright, Gar’. Just… make sure to keep extras at work from now on, okay?”

“Y-Yes, sir.”

Alloy and Facsimile shared a look at him being called ‘sir’. Alloy tried and failed to just laugh it off. “Uh, yeah. Look, in case you don’t remember the climb, we’re sort of on top of a building right now. You think you’d be okay with being lowered—”

“No.” Hope quickly gestured to a stair access next to the maintenance shed. “Nice, safe staircase. No tentacles. No heights.” She laid a hand on Gary’s arm. “Come on, Mr. Grimes. You can get your bearings on the walk down.”

She effectively took over holding Gary up from Facsimile and led him toward the stairs, the other two following after.

“Anything else on your end of the patrol?” Alloy asked Facsimile.

Facsimile shrugged and waved her hand nonchalantly. “Nothing much: a couple of carjackers down in Riverside. A pimp hassling one of his girls—that’s kinda new for Mayfield.”

“Come to think of it, I don’t even remember seeing any street walkers until a few months ago. They were all over in New York at night. Wonder why they suddenly started showing up here all of a sudden?”

“More like ‘where were they in the first place’?” Facsimile cocked her head in confusion. “It’s not like we scared them off, is it?”

“Hmm. Maybe we should ask Codex about this,” said Alloy. “A whole new branch of crime opening up in the city sounds like something she would track. Let’s hope no others come along with it.”

***

The White Lotus Lounge was the high class bar at Sanderson National Airport. Aside from a fresco over the bar and some patterns painted on the wall, there was little in the way of a theme beyond ‘posh’ with hardwood and brushed metal everywhere that wasn’t covered in leather.

For the gentleman who stepped through the glass doors separating it from the airport proper, it was like a sanctuary. He took a minute to take a deep breath of the sandlewood-scented air before striing to the bar.

While tall and built on the less muscular side of things, he still filled out his black suit, accented by a silver tie. Most of his hair and immaculately trimmed beard and mustache had faded to light gray with a few stark slashes of black, complimenting his olive skin tone.

“Good evening, Miss,“ he said to the bartender in a smooth accent hailing from some region of Spain, “might I trouble you for a scotch? Neat?” He pressed a hundred dollar bill folded over a one dollar bill into her hand. The one dollar bill had a black line traced across the edge visible to her. “And if it is no trouble, could you please direct me to your facilities? My flight was long and I… am a mess.” He smoothed the lapel of his pristine suit for emphasis.

Recognizing the sign the bills implied, the bartender took them and nodded. “Of course sit, just got down that hall and take a right. I’ll have your drink waiting for you.”

“My thanks.” The man smiled genially and headed in the direction she indicated. Instead of going into the men’s room however, he passed it by on the way to the lounge’s back office. A key produced from his jacket’s inner pocket got him in, and then from the same pocket, he produced a palmtop and made a call.

“Yes. You know who this is. I would like to speak with your superior.”

Pause.

“Ah, good evening. I am calling with regard to that job you spoke with me about. Why yes, I did turn it down because, as a rule, I avoid working in the Mayfield area. No, no. It has nothing to do with the prelates. It is a personal rule.”

He listened passively as the party on the other end of the phone complained about what an inconvinience that was.

“I understand. However, as fate should conspire, I am in Mayfield on personal business at the moment. Unless you have already made other arrangements, I would very much like to accept the job now. The usual payment will be fine.”

A small smile tugged his lip at the restrained relief coming at him from the other end of the call.

“Excellent. Then we are in agreement. And the Mayor will soon no longer be a problem for you.”

Series Navigation<< Issue #88 – Tome of BattleIssue #90 – Just Us Sidekicks >>

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Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

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13 Comments

  1. Typos

    super-focuses Special
    super-focused Special

    Osp, leap back
    Osp, leaped back

    an I swear
    and I swear

    beat back sicne
    beat back since

    brutal clawed slashes
    brutal claw slashes

    more liquidous form
    more liquid form

  2. What kind of a parent names their child “Lost”?

    • In-universe, she’s named after her grandmother who is named after the character from Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale (literally a lost girl).

      Out of universe, she’s named after the Discworld character and also the fact that she’s ‘astray’.

  3. I expect it’s a name passed down in one of her parents’ families. Harold is another old-fashioned name after all – or it could be a name of hispanic origin, I’m not familiar with those. Her grandfather being the only person to pronounce it right fits the latter.

    Typos

    Kay’s job after all: Jessica was her roommate after all,
    Lose one of the instances of ‘after all’, it doesn’t matter which.

    mirroring here words
    mirroring her words

    will earn from
    will learn from

    Juniper (slapping her back with the guitar in the process.
    Either:
    Juniper, slapping her back with the guitar in the process,
    or:
    Juniper (slapping her back with the guitar in the process.)

    Well that was
    Well, that was

  4. Typos

    “Still not change,”
    “Still no change,”

    Issac as a name seems odd, I’d have expected Isaac. I know he’s appeared before, is this just the first time I remember noticing?

    thank to Melissa,”
    thanks to Melissa,”

    are that standard bases
    are the standard basis

    all of them be loners,
    all of them to be loners,

    most premium ice cream parlors,
    maybe:
    premier ice cream parlors,

    “Who came up with the glitter as a distraction.”
    “Who came up with the glitter as a distraction?”

    • Thanks for those.

      I can assure you Issac is a real accepted spelling of that name because I’ve known and Issac and an Izaac. Yep, with a ‘z’.

  5. “We enjoy each other’s company abd out talks.”
    And.

    “…captured and moed to a camp…”
    Moved I guess, though there are jokes I could make about cutifying POWs.

  6. Typos. Just a few today.

    caramel looked up at him.
    caramel she looked up at him.

    she makes ou feel,
    she makes you feel,

    Perdita took moment thing then
    Perdita took a moment thinking

  7. Typos

    a cleared out spaced
    a cleared out space

    “Some of the charged
    “Some of the charges

    “’course not,”
    “’Course not,”

    I having had a drink
    I haven’t had a drink (unless this word choice is reflecting his psychically-induced drunkenness.)

    “’not drunk!”
    “’Not drunk!”

  8. Typos

    If James bond
    If James Bond

    just made her run up
    just made her want to run up (as I understand it, she didn’t actually do that.)

    other adult present.
    other adults present.

    charged might be waived
    charges might be waived

    lawyer in her
    lawyer in here

    Not a typo, but is Vorpal actually seen as Vincent Liedecker’s right hand? She does do some illegal jobs for him but I thought she spent most of her time in her secret identity these days.

    • She’s known as his lieutenant in the underworld. She does the triple shift thing, where she’s Stephanie Carroll by day, Vorpal by night. Most people in the underworld assume Stephanie Carroll is Vorpal because no one could work so closely with Liedecker without being in on things, but have no idea that she’s a false ID.

      Amusingly, and we’ll see this soon, some people thing Laurel is Vorpal for the same reason.

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