Issue #9 Ladies of Ragnarok

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

Part 5

Facsimile groaned painfully as her body began repairing the damage she’d taken in the last few moments. Bones knitted together, torn muscles and skin were made whole. The process only took seconds, but it took almost everything she had. Pain was replaced by a deep, cavernous hunger.

Around her was a virtual smorgasbord of food, but there was no time to chew and swallow. Blanching, she realized that she would need to use her powers in a way that was unsettling even for her. Sickness rolled in her stomach as she weakly pressed her hand into a large bowl of seven layer dip and let the hunger take over.

Instantly, her body temperature spiked well beyond that which a normal human could survive. Survival provoked unconscious responses, causing the cells in her hand to perform the duties normally reserved for her digestive system. The dip seemed to boil away around her hand, faint traces of smoke the only waste product of Facsimile’s furnace-like metabolism.

The hunger was not satisfied. She sensed organic matter pressing against her back – several plates of cheese and cold cuts – and in moments, those too were consumed. Now fully functional, Facsimile sat up, grabbing and absorbing handfuls of chips until she was more than simply full up. Now, she added layers of extraneous muscle and forced her bones to become denser. In less than two minutes, she had polished off a spread intended for ten people.

“I never want to do that again.” She looked at her hands like they belonged to an alien beast. Still feeling disgusted with herself, she walked over to the shattered window and looked back down at the stage.

Below, Isp lashed past Garuda in time to smash aside a tech-wing that had wheeled to attack her. Warrick rushed over and said something. Unbeknownst to him, the giant robot with the pneumatic hammer was getting ready to do to him what it had done to Facsimile.

Too far to shout, Facsimile did the only thing she could do; she jumped. The extra layers of corded muscle strained as they were contorted painfully to accommodate a leap that was easily two hundred feet on the horizontal. Soldering through the pain, the young shapeshifter concentrated all her excess mass into her fist. Two pale lances of horn, easily over a yard long and incredibly dense, sprang from her right arm.

With a battle cry, Facsimile rammed headlong into the X-71, the horns punching through its chest and wreaking havoc on its systems. She rode the sparking titan to the ground with a triumphant whoop.

“I feel so much better now.” She sighed. As she spoke, she wrenched her arm backward, pulling the horns out of her own arm by the roots. The holes left by the action healed instantly. “You need to watch your back, Alloy.” She said playfully.

The armored hero grunted as the tentacles lashed around him, warding off the attacks of tech-wings. “Thanks for that, I don’t figure my armor could take a hit like that.”

Facsimile smiled and extended a hand to bat down a tech-wing.

“No one asked you to interfere!” Maven’s voice screamed from the speakers. The tech-wings backed off, moving into holding positions as if waiting for something.

“I for one am glad they did.” Finch said.

“It doesn’t matter.” Maven snapped. “If my machines are not yet ready to defeat prelates, then I will have to do it myself.” With that, there was a crash as an office chair was hurled through the sound booth window.

From it emerged Maven. She floated in the air like a renegade helium balloon, the air around her distorting due to the magnetic forces involved in making her fly. Her circuit laced gloves crackled with angry sparks. “Now stand aside, heroes. This matter doesn’t concern you.”

“I think it does.” Alloy shouted back. “And not just because they’re my favorite band. You can’t go around hurting people in my city. I won’t let you.” He raised his hands and directed his power at the bulky pack on Maven’s back only to find that it contained no metal.

“Have it your way.” Maven said coolly. The tech-wings assembled around her, swarming. “I’ve seen that you can’t focus with my tech-wings circling. All I need to do is stay out of range of your tendrils and your golden bruiser – then I can pick you off at range with my static generators.” She raised her hands over her head and electricity arced between the contacts in each palm. A cloud of negative charge was building up above her in the cold air.

As she prepared to strike, Maven wondered why it was suddenly so cold in the arena. It was only then that she noticed the frost forming on her hands and the thin mist rising from the ground below her.

Electricity, by its nature, seeks ground via the path if least resistance. Normally, the field generators at Maven’s hips made it possible to direct electricity where Maven intended it to go. But now, a new, more natural path had formed; a path formed of ice, leading to human flesh, leading to a trail of water vapor into the earth. Obeying nature, the charge sought ground.

Maven didn’t even make a sound as she flipped weirdly end over end in the air and convulsed as her flight system refused to relinquish her to gravity’s grasp. Finally, the field generators gave out and Maven was left hanging in air; unconscious, gasping, and occasionally giving off a wisp of smoke.

Zero lowered her hands and waved across the arena floor at Alloy and Facsimile, who looked at each other with relief. The tech-wings continued their lazy orbit, obeying their mistress’s last order.

***

Ian had become genuinely engrossed in his book when the door to Alexis’s room opened. Startled, He jumped a bit and then wondered if he should have jumped a bit more when he saw the anger in her features.

“I can’t believe you.” She growled her green eyes steely upon him.

“Huh?” Ian blinked.

“After everything that happened, you let them go out and do this again?”

“Do what?” Ian asked, honestly confused.

Her mood grew less intense, if only slightly and she gestured inside. “Come on, look at this.”

She ushered him through the door and pointed to the TV. Onscreen, people in various states of panic wandered around in confusion while first responders tried to learn what was going on. Via voice over, a reporter was describing the minor sustained and relating that the perpetrator was linked to an earlier mass robbery. After a moment, a scroll along the bottom of the screen appeared, reading: LIFE SAVERS, INC DEFEATS ROBOT ATTACK AT CAPASHEN ARENA

Ian immediately turned to Alexis with his hands raised defensively. “Wait, I had nothing to do with this! They went there to see a concert with the Gilgamesh Group… or something like that.” On TV, the reporter said ‘Ladies of Armageddon’. “Them. What the TV said. They went to see them.”

Alexis kept him pinned with her eyes. There were tears in them. Ian felt his stomach turn.

He took a deep, cleansing breath, forcing all his panic into a ball that would most likely become an ulcer down the road. “Alexis, listen… I know I hurt you when I lied to you. I shouldn’t have done it. I should have been man enough to argue my point without going behind your back. I never once imagined that it’d hurt you this much or I wouldn’t have done it.”

“Then why did they do what they did tonight?” Alexis asked, her voice heavy.

“I didn’t tell them to.” Ian said quickly. “In fact, Cyn only got her tickets out of me on the condition she stop torturing you with those newspaper clippings.” If this fact had any effect on Alexis, she didn’t show it. “As far as I know, they were there to see a concert that happened to get attacked.”

“And then they got involved.” Alexis said quietly.

Ian gestured to the TV, which was now showing the scorched floor of the arena, with the slagged bits of robots and general chaotic aftermath evident. “Can you blame them?”

“They’re supposed to be hiding. To be safe from the Academy.”

Ian hesitantly reached out and took her hand. “Sometimes, people make the decision to put the lives of others ahead of themselves, Alex. I know you understand that. You did the same thing they did tonight on that bridge against Morganna.” He gave the hand a small squeeze when she didn’t pull away. “Could you have lived with yourself if you had let Morganna kill those people?”

Alexis shook her head and took the hand back, moving away from him into the room. “No, I couldn’t. And I understand how they feel. I do. But the Academy is looking for them. What else can we do but hide them?”

“They’ll find them eventually unless we plan to flee the country, keep moving every few months. They’re a runaway government organization with way too much in the research and development area – it’s only a matter of time.”

Sitting heavily on her bed, Alexis ground her teeth. “But that doesn’t say what else we can do…”

“The only thing we can do. What we should have done from the start.” Ian said. “You’re a teacher, Laurel’s a genius, and I’m no push-over – we should use what we have – we should teach them how to survive this—how to fight back when it comes down to it and how to disappear if it comes down to that. We can do it, Alexis – if we work together on this.”

The black haired woman gave him a neutral look. “We can.” She said neither a statement, nor a question. “I need to think, Ian. I’ll talk to you in the morning.”

“Does this mean we’re back on speaking terms?” Ian asked.

“I’m still upset with you. With what you did.” She said flatly. “but it’s not a forever type thing anymore.” She gave him a small smile as he nodded and left the room.

***

“No, I didn’t abandon you.” Warrick pled into his cell phone. It was around one in the morning, three hours since Maven’s defeat and he was on the roof, on the phone with Elizabeth von Stoker trying desperately to convince her that he hadn’t turned tail without giving away his secret identity.

He listened to the other end of the conversation, and tried to defend himself. “We just got separated.” He said, “The crowd was going nuts! I couldn’t see two feet ahead of me. I tried to find you, I really did—you have to believe me!” That was the truth, he had spent about half an hour after the battle searching for her to no avail.

“No, I—come on, Liz, please listen—“he sighed as she continued to interrupt him. “I’m trying to explain. You won’t let me! Just – okay. Fine, can we at least talk tomorrow— hello?” He clicked the phone closed and contemplated it with a frown.

Osp retracted from his room window and offered him his handheld videogame, conveying thoughts of consolation and catharsis. Warrick waved the tentacle off. It made what could be called a shrug and slithered back down into the room. Moments later, the sounds of a puzzle game being played could be heard.

“That didn’t sound good.” Cyn said, climbing up from the other side of the roof.

“You were listening?” Warrick asked.

“Overheard. I came to tell you Laurel was looking for you – she needs you to make her some tungsten. You weren’t in the room and I figured you always head for the highest point around to get all reflective…”

Warrick nodded. “You know me pretty well.” He lay down on the slope of the roof and looked up at the night sky. “Yeah, things didn’t go so great. You were right; she thought I was like her knight in shining armor. Now she thinks I’m a chicken in yellow feathers.”

Cyn frowned. It wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy being right, or that her goal had ended up being accomplished – but things felt wrong. “I’m sorry. You know, for what that’s worth.”

“It’s worth a lot.” He confirmed. “I mean, you’re one of the only people that know that I really am a knight in shining armor.”

“You know there’ll be other girls. Girls that have less demanding fetishes for one.” Cyn said, “Seriously, the last thing you need is a girlfriend that’s constantly in mid-peril. It really puts a crimp in the whole prelate thing.”

“Yeah, but with people like Maven or Sky Tyrant still running around loose, pretty much everyone’s in constant peril.” He sighed. “That’d just narrow the field down to other prelates. And seriously, what are the chances of two super powered do-gooders hooking up anyway?”

Cyn only gave a chuckle at that as they both settled down to watch the stars.

***

The trial for Nikolia Petrov was over in a few weeks. The evidence was overwhelming. The prosecution presented dozens of witnesses that had seen her in her Maven costume, including Gwen Robertson, the woman who she had assaulted to get control of the sound booth. Despite the loss of many of her robotic creations in transit, the court had ample fodder to put her away for at least a decade.

Except Maven had suddenly pled insanity, a wholly believable and professionally supported plea in her case. The judge had remanded her to the care of the Solomon Psychiatric Center until she was deemed fit to return to society.

Her new room was a ten by ten foot, white tiled cell with a tiny bed, a toilet and a desk. She had been deemed not to be a threat to herself or others, and thus, was allowed pen and paper. For her first day, she had sat at her desk non-stop, writing formulae, and drawing circuit diagrams.

When night fell, and the guards made one last round to ensure that their charges were secure, she took her papers in hand and sat on the cot. There was a beeping noise and the wall beside the tiny bed opened, revealing a computer console with a scanner.

Vincent Liedecker’s face appeared immediately. “Good evening, Maven. Enjoying your new home?”

“I thought your lawyer said you would fix things for me.” She said haughtily. “I don’t see how my ending up in an asylum was fixing things.”

“You were seen by a couple tens of thousands of people, Maven.” Liedecker said, “I’m powerful, but even I can’t turn lemons that rotten into lemonade overnight.” His face became very businesslike “Now, what I can do it this: I own the Solomon Center and pretty much everyone that works there. You were looking at ten to twenty years the other way around, but thanks to me, now you get out when my doctors say that you’re cured – understand?”

“Perfectly.” Nikolia said, defeated. “I do as I’m told and I get out early.”

“Exactly, sugah. “The crime boss said, “And the first thing, I’d like you to do is to reconsider the job offer I made to you. Do that, and not only will I move you up to one of our ‘celebrity rehab’ wings, but I’ll see to it you get access to the lab.”

“There’s a lab here?” the incarcerated villainess blinked.

“You’re not the first person that needed this kind of arrangement with me, my dear.” Liedecker said smoothly. “Not the last, either. The way I see it, there’s a lot of people – geniuses, really – that end up getting called crazy for one reason or another. Why should I let the next Galileo slip through my fingers for lack of a mental institution in my holdings?”

Nikolia couldn’t help but smile. Liedecker was brilliant in his own way. He had managed to establish a system that provided him his own, private think tank as well as the thanks of the community at large. Her respect for him grew tenfold. “This lab. If you outfit it as I ask, I’ll build you anything you want.” She said with a wicked grin.

End Issue #9

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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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