Issue #9 Ladies of Ragnarok

This entry is part 10 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 1: Welcome to Freeland House

Part 4

The crowd roared its approval as the last chords of Ladies of Armageddon’s latest song, Lot’s Symphony, ended. Catching her breath, Robin Saunders, guitarist and lead singer gave the crowd a wry grin. Normally quiet and bookish, she came to life on stage. The crowd seemed to energize her and drove her confidence into the stratosphere. Few would believe that the shy, nervous woman she was outside of concerts was the same amazing show woman that strutted around the circular stage tonight.

Finally getting her fill of the crowd’s applause, she held up her hands as a sign for them to settle down. Obediently, the crowd went silent.

Down on the arena floor, where most of the fans had congregated instead of keeping their seats, Elizabeth leaned into Warrick as silence descended on the arena. When that got his attention, she gave him a quiet smile which he returned awkwardly.

Cyn glared at their backs. The concert was half way over and she hadn’t come up with any way to sufficiently deal with the situation. She had hoped Elizabeth’s quiet demeanor in school would do most of her work for her, aided only by the occasional nudge from Cyn. But away from the pressures of high school, Elizabeth had bloomed.

She had met them out in front of the Capashen Arena dressed in an outfit that even Cyn had to gawk at. It was little more than a series of wide, blue, plastic belts wound around her and buckled in strategic places. She’d also wrapped her arms with smaller belts, making her bone spurs look like they were part of her costume.

Setting her teeth, Cyn directed her attention back up to Robin who was about to speak.

“Now,” Robin began with a slightly affected British accent. “the band and I all have our favorites. The songs we love playing regardless of what new, wicked stuff we’ve just dropped. But right now, We’re going to play the one we know you all love because you keep telling us on the site and whenever we have a Q and A.” There was scattered applause. Robin nodded in that direction. “See? They know which song I’m talking about. You know what song I’m talking about—“She span and pointed to Ducky up on her raised platform with her drums. “Hit it, Ducky!”

The tiny drummer began to tap out the opening beat and was soon joined by the low, purposefully uneven bass line from Garuda and a strong organ from Finch’s keyboard. There was more applause as more fans recognized the opening strains of Burning Down the Garden. Drinking in the energy of the audience, Robin picked out a few quiet notes from her guitar and began singing into her head mounted mike.

The most verdant green, before my eyes.

Made me feel so serene for a time….

A palpable tension came over the audience as they waited for the guitar to cut in fully. Cyn folded her arms and managed another glare at Elizabeth. She loved this song, but with a threat to her friendship standing right in front of her, she simply couldn’t get into it. She had to think of something… why hadn’t she thought of something during the week? She thrived on spur of the moment plans, but now that nothing was coming to mind. She kicked herself for procrastinating.

Robin picked up her riff as Ducky hit the downbeat and Garuda drove up the bass line. The sound boomed off the arena walls.

Original sin is why mankind dies. Punishment, for listening to lies.

But tonight, the garden will burn. The home to which we will never return!

Juniper nudged Cyn in the ribs with her elbow and gave her a questioning look. Cyn shrugged and returned the look with a frown.

Go forth! And multiply. Believe in me! And you will never die.

Made in his image, his own perfect visage.

And that makes our failings his own.

Red beams of iridescent color sprang into the air, making patterns where they intersected. Robin wondered when that had been added to the act and made a mental note to ask the crew after the show. Pushing It to the back of her mind, the powered through the next verse and into the chorus.

Original sin is why mankind dies. Punishment, for listening to lies.

But tonight, the garden will burn. The home to which we will never return.

Cyn made fists in the air. Part of her wanted to simply walk up and separate Elizabeth from Warrick physically, but that was far too direct for her tastes and would only upset her friend. Really, anything she could do at this point would upset him, but she grasped at alternatives. Maybe she could make Juniper do it…

The one mistake

he did not foresee.

Allowed that snake

to betray me.

The deep bass caused the entire arena to vibrate and the rest of the ensemble drowned out any noise quieter than a shout. The lasers traced more and more erratic patterns in the air. The crowd’s excitement had reached a fever pitch.

So here we stand, alone and lost.

Hand and hand, but at what cost?

Elizabeth managed to get Warrick’s attention and mouthed something inaudible to him. The young man’s eyes bucked in surprise at whatever it was.

That was the last straw. Cyn took a step toward them, planning to ‘clumsily’ stumble between them. She’d make the rest up as she went along.

For eternity, I’ll bear the blame.

It’s not my fault. So I feel no shame.

Moments before Cyn could execute her pratfall, the sound system cut out, leaving behind a disturbing sensation as unhealthy volume transformed into unnerving quiet. Startled into silence themselves, the audience looked around in puzzlement.

“Yes.” A cool, female voice echoed from the sound system. “You feel no shame. No shame at all for denying me my due. Well tonight, Regina, Robin, Emily and Donielle, it is your garden that will burn – the garden you watered with my sweat and fertilized with your lies.” There was a loud thump as every door in the arena was slammed and locked simultaneously. “But first…”

The lasers shut off and their sources revealed themselves: dozens of tech-wings. The tiny robots rose into the air among the concert goers, their orange optics glowing malevolently.

“I’m going to make you watch your audience suffer.” The voice said, satisfactorily.

Simultaneously, the tech wings fired their weapons into the crowd, which surged toward the blocked exits.

“Hot damn, saved by the villain.” Cyn said. She seized both Warrick and Juniper and pulled them toward the stage. “Come on!”

“Warrick!” Elizabeth pled, panicked.

“Try and find a way out.” Warrick said quickly. “I’ll be right behind you.” It was all he could get out as Cyn dragged him into the crowd.

On stage, the two large speakers cracked down the center before the band could get wits enough about them to bolt. From within, two robots unfolded from confinement. At their full height, they were ten feet tall and humanoid with singular, orange optic units in the center of their heads. Instead of hands, they had a plasma lance and what appeared to be a pneumatic hammer. Both weapons were leveled at the Ladies of Armageddon, daring them to try and run.

“I’ll be more useful at the doors.” Juniper said, shaking loose of Cyn’s grip. She put her fingers to her forehead and ice grew into a crude copy of her half mask upon her brow. “And remember; don’t let people see who we are.” With that, she was gone.

Warrick nodded and turned to Cyn. “You go left, I’ll go right?”

“Sure.” Cyn said, and started to shift into Facsimile as she ducked and dodged fleeing fans.

Finch stepped between one of the giant machines and her band mates. “Listen, whatever you want, just say the word and you’ll have it. Just leave my friends and our fans out of it, okay?”

“My, aren’t you sounding altruistic.” Maven’s voice said over the arena’s speakers. “Where were those words when you ignored me and made bank from my work?”

“Wait a minute…” Ducky was cowering behind Garuda. “I know that voice. Nikki?”

“Nikolia is as dead as your career.” Maven snarled. “I am called Maven now.”

“If you’re trying to get in on the bird theme, you’re one letter off.” Ducky smirked. The others gave her an odd look.

“Maven, not raven.” Robin corrected. “it’s like a Prima Donna – someone that’s full of themselves.” She raised an eyebrow at the robot.

“That is not what it means!” Maven roared. Taking manual control of one of her bipedal machines, she used its pneumatic hammer to smash down one of the speaker rigs. The structure toppled toward the few audience members that had moved closer to the stage, hoping to use it as cover.

It didn’t hit them. Instead it warped and pulled itself apart in midair. Most of it flowed like viscous liquid into harmless puddles around the would be victims. The rest whirled and solidified into a humanoid shape resembling a medieval knight in plate armor. Two metallic tentacles uncoiled from the figure’s arms.

The hulking robot turned, its waist pivoting all the way around, and lowered its plasma cannon.

“You don’t read the papers much, do you?” Alloy asked, throwing his power into the robot’s legs. With a sharp creak, its lower legs folded sharply at right angles and the machine toppled forward onto the stage, smashing down with a sound like thunder. An additional burst of power fused its joints.

Then the tech-wings came. Their prime directives were to stop all efforts to inhibit the operation of their gigantic brothers, designated X-71’s. Nearly a score of them diverted their courses, bringing their beams to bear on Alloy. He directed his powers at them, but their sheer numbers made it difficult to bring his full power to bear. They swarmed away, most only sporting superficial damage.

Isp and Osp darted into the swarm, their leading edges forming into blades with which they ripped and tore the tiny attackers apart. But even they proved not to be enough as several of the tiny terrors won through, careening into Alloy with enough force to knock him off his feet.

The other X-71 took the opportunity to draw a bead and prepared to fire on Alloy. A weight landed on the arm. Facsimile crouched there, her wings gone to provide material for the outsized claws she used to dig in. Snarling savagely, she ripped hoses and wires from the plasma lance until the reddish glow in the barrel dimmed. “Finally, something to take my frustrations out on!” She crowed.

Her victory was short lived as the X-71 raised its arm and brought up its hammer to aim directly at her. She barely had enough time to curse before the pneumatic hammer struck her in the center with explosive force. She arced skyward, shouting obscenities before slamming through the glass of a skybox, finally coming to rest after crashing through an abandoned buffet table.

Zero shoved her way through the crowd at the nearest door, making use of her painfully cold touch to encourage people to make a path for her. All the while, she apologized profusely as she neared the door.

“Whoa, they’re back!” Someone said. “Hey, Zero, where’ve you guys been?” someone else shouted.

“Uh… we’ve been…” She pursed her lips as she reached the doors and placed her palms against them. The temperature around her grew steadily colder as a rime of frost spread over the surface of the door and across the surrounding wall.

When she was satisfied, she reared back, coating her fist with ice. “I can’t say.” A single punch to the now brittle wall, shattered it. “But… we’re going to try—“She shook her head. “just…please, everyone, get to safety.”

She was surprised and relieved when no one pressed the question, only hurried past her through the hole in the wall. Choking down her worry about what would happen after that night, she focused on getting to the next door.

A second speaker rig deformed as it lashed down to engulf a handful of tech-wings in liquid metal. The tentacles pulled Alloy, his armor badly dented and scored by beam weaponry, up onto the stage and out of the worst of the assault. The still deforming scaffolding flattened out into a sphere around the swarm that had gathered, encircling them and sealing them in a spherical prison.

“There’s so many…” Alloy groaned, getting to his feet. His metal sense was useless with so much titanium and assorted circuirty flying around overhead and the tech-wings were too small and fast for him to target him with the naked eye.

Not even a full half of the swarm of tiny robots was down and most of them had now broken off their assault on the civilians to deal with him.

“I’ve heard of you, Alloy.” Maven said over the speakers. “and you won’t stop me from having my justice!”

“What justice?” Finch cried, ducking under an errant tech-wing. “We never did anything to you!”

“Exactly.” Maven said. “You pretended to be so open and sweet to me. Pretended to be my friends – my family! But once I left and you went on to become famous, I was cast to the side.”

“Huh?” Ducky asked. “You left us to take that design job!”

“I made you what you are. I deserve everything that’s coming to me. Even if I have to take it out of your hide.” Maven sneered verbally. “I don’t care about contracts and legality. Without my technological genius, you would be nothing.”

“Nikki…” Finch said, “You were a great sound tech, but… you didn’t make us.”

“I did make you.” Maven spat. “And I will destroy you!”

Half the tech-wings broke off their assault on Alloy to angle toward the Ladies of Armageddon.

Garuda used the only thing she could find to defend herself; her bass. With a mighty swing, she connected the body of her custom made, brushed steel instrument into the lead device in the swarm. The sparking machine flew like a baseball, scattering its comrades on its way to the cheap seats. “Whoa.” The giantess said, marveling at her handiwork.

“Don’t get too comfortable!” A metal tentacle lashed past her and downed a tech-wing that had managed to reorient itself before its wing mates. Alloy ran forward and threw his power into a few more returning attackers. “I’ve always wanted to meet you guys, but this is not how I imagined it.”

He was so engrossed in stopping the tech-wings; he didn’t notice the other X-71 priming its hammer in his direction.

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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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