- 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)
Just Us Sidekicks (Part 3)
JC regarded the darkened screen of the ID reader linked to the dorm doors with annoyance and mounting worry. “Okay, this is very much not right. They said during orientation that if the power goes out, the doors to the outside default to unlocked so people can get out in case of a fire or earthquake or something. But now the door’s locked and the ID reader’s off.”
“More proof that this isn’t just a routine mass weird power and communications outage?” Kay asked.
“You can say that again.” JC swung the beam of his flashlight around to Meghan. “Any chance you can like, wire one of our palmtops into the lock and make it switch off or something?”
Meghan gave him a blank look. “You’re not a Sciences major, are you?”
“Tink could,” JC insisted.
“From what war says about her, I don’t doubt it.” Meghan folded her arms and stood up straight. “But she’s some kind of tech savant or something. I’m just a Robotics major with a few Bio and Computer science classes under my belt. That,” she indicated the door and its lock, “is electrical engineering, which isn’t the same thing. I wish I could help, but I can’t.”
Properly cowed, JC went back to frowning at the door. “Got ya. But what do we do now? We definitely don’t want to be caught out here with whatever’s probably going down.”
“Any chance someone we know is still on campus?” Kay asked, “I know Warrick’s out and Lisa… Kareem lives off campus… Jun?”
“Probably out with Malcolm… or hanging out with Jessica.”
Kay shook her head. “Doubt that last part. Ever since our Norfolk gig, she’s kinda been avoiding Jess. I don’t know if something happened, or whether she’s guilty about…” she suddenly realized they were in mixed company, “…how we kind of shanghaied Jess into the band, but things haven’t been the same this week. Usually Jun’s in my room more often than I am with as much time as those two send together.”
“Weird,” JC agreed. “What are the chances Kareem or Callie might notice the lights over here all went out from their apartments.”
“Kareem would have to get his face out shark girl’s jubblies to notice anything,” Kay said darkly.
JC raised an eyebrow. “We seriously need an intervention about the massive hate on all of you have fore Desiree. What the hell did she do to everyone in our group?”
“Um…” Meghan raised her hand, “Do you guys really think someone we know would be able to help right now? Maybe we should try to get to the campus police. Or maybe my arm’s supped up enough that I can bend the bars on one of the gates.”
In the dark JC and Kay still managed an aside glance to one another. “Um…” They both started.
“I was just thinking they could call the police,” said JC.
“Safety in numbers!” said Kay at the same time.
And also at the same time, something hit the door on the other side with a jarring crash. The metal bar between the double doors deformed while the doors themselves warped and started to splinter.
“Whoa!” JC jumped back, grabbing Kay as he did to get her out of the way in case something happened. “I suddenly don’t think getting into the dorm’s all that good an idea.”
Another blow struck the doors and the left-hand one bent enough to reveal the darkness in the lobby beyond. Something moved in that darkness and something glowed red.
Before the trio could react again, one last impact made the bolts keeping the doors locked snap sending the doors slamming open. There, framed in the destruction, was a figure in blue and black with red-glowing goggles and a pair of blades on its wrists.
“I think we know why the power’s out now,” said Kay in sotto voice.
The figure looked toward her and spied JC. Lashing out with inhuman speed, it grabbed him by the shirt and hauled him forward, almost knocking Kay over. “Where is Mike?” he growled, obviously using the guttural snarl to disguise his voice.
“Huh?” was all JC could manage.
“Mike Cole. I know you know him. Where is he?”
“I have no idea. I just live… near him. I’m usually just happy when he’s gone.” The words bubbled out of JC alongside rivulets of nervous sweat as he watched the wrist blade that laid across his shoulder thanks to his attacker holding him by the shirt.
The masked man inhaled deeply, then shouted, “Useless.” Before shoving JC aside, sending him crashing to the ground.
“Who the hell are you to go kicking down doors, pushing my friend and hunting down local assholes?” Kay demanded, undeterred by blades or obvious super-strength.
“Haha. I was hoping someone would ask.” Nonetheless, he started stomping of from the dorm. Over his shoulder, he shouted, “Call me Hack and Slash.”
Kay and Meghan went to help JC up at the same time. Kay glared at the retreating back of Hack and Slash. “Shouldn’t that be a name for two people? Like a guy with an ax and another guy with a katana or something?”
“Ugh.” JC got to his feet and looked in the same direction. “He’s after Mike? I mean the guy’s an asshole, but…”
“…but why shut down a whole campus to go after him?” Kay asked.
“I was going to say ‘even he doesn’t deserve some wacko going after him with knives strapped to his hands, but that’s a good point too.”
Meghan hugged herself. “The door’s open now guys. We should really get inside.”
Pinching his nose, JC took a deep breath. “I can’t believe I’m the one asking, but… what about Mike?”
“Once we get inside, we can call to poli… oh.”
Kay nodded, licking her lips nervously. “Yeah. No communications on campus means no one knows what’s going on here: not the cops,” she threw a meaningful look to JC, “and not the Descendants. We don’t even know if it’s just Mike this guy’s after. There could be others—or people he’s already gotten to that need an ambulance. If any help’s coming, it might be all up to us.”
A protest died on Meghan’s lips as she observed the darkened campus and realized just how right Kay was. “Okay. So what are we going to do? Try and fight that guy?”
“No.” JC started toward the now-open door. “We don’t know where Mike is any more than he does, so we’d never find him on campus in the dark.”
Kay followed him, adding, “Also, we’d get our asses kicked. But he’s right. What we can do though is get a message to the outside; anything that can tell the cops and the Descendants something’s up here. Hey JC, do you know where the communications hub is here on campus?”
JC was, by then, only a silhouette blocking out most of his flashlight’s beam in the deeper shadows of the dorm’s lobby. He shrugged. “No idea. I don’t think that was part of orientation.”
“It’s part of the IT department,” supplied Meghan, “The IT building’s right across from the main admin building. Why? None of us can undo whatever’s been done to it, can we?”
“Not that I know of,” Kay admitted, “But think about it: the comm hub is what’s blocking our calls, right? It’s meant to keep panic calls from clogging up emergency communication or something. So that’s still got to have power. And if we cut the power…”
JC, the beam of his flashlight almost blinding Kay. “Without the hub blocking, we might be able to connect to a tower somewhere off campus. Then we’d be able to call out and get help! Kay, you’re awesome!”
Meghan looked back and forth between the two. “Are you guys serious about this?”
“Do you see anyone else doing anything about it?” asked Kay, “He’s out there hunting for at least someone and he’s got knives on his wrists—I don’t think he’s going to challenge them to a tickle-fight.” By the time she was done talking, however, she noticed the uncertainty on Meghan’s face and finally relented. “That’s us though. You can stay here if you want; no one’s going to blame you after that.”
For a moment, Meghan’s shoulder’s sagged as the tension of the situation left her. But at length, she sighed and shook her head. “No, you’re right. And my extra strength could come in handy. Let’s get going.”
“Just gotta make one stop first. Be right back… Uh… Kay, I’m gonna raid Warrick’s emergency kit. Mind lending me a hand? Meghan, if you can keep an eye out in case that guy comes back or Mike shows up?”
With Meghan armed with her own light, the two friends hurried up the stairwell to the boy’s dorm. Along the way, JC turned to Kay. “Any chance you’ve got some magic tchochkes on hand?”
“Only a few illusions I was going to prank you with. Not like I can cast them with Meghan around though. Do you guys haven stuff in your room that can help?”
“Not a lot, but Warrick’s always messing with whatever metal’s on hand. I’m hoping he made some magnesium flares or something. At the very least, we should grab the first aid kit.”
Kay huffed as they mounted the final landing. “I can’t believe this: an actual emergency comes up with just us around and there’s no way to get in touch with the many, many superheroes we know?”
“How were we supposed to know someone would cut the internet? Hell, I didn’t know someone could cut the internet. It looks like it’s pretty much just us sidekicks for now.”
Just before he reached for the door handle, Kay reached up and patted him on the shoulder. “Hey. It’s not ‘just’ us. We’re actually pretty awesome on our own, right? You helped rescue our friends last summer. I’ve been backing Lisa up since before she was on the team. We’re not a pair of basic bystanders with no idea what to do: we have a plan, we have skills—and hell, we have a super-strong cyborg downstairs to bring the muscle. This ‘Hack and Slash’ loser doesn’t know what he’s up against.”
She could see his smile even in the dimness of the flashlight. “Heel yeah, Kay. Let’s go save the day… you know, by calling for help.”
Second thoughts crept up on Meghan almost the moment the pair disappeared through the door to the stairwell and continued to poke at her.
It was easy to get caught up in the passion and enthusiasm the two had for not standing by in the face of danger, but it was just as easy to pine for the safety and security of just writing said danger off as Someone Else’s Problem.
Hack and Slash wasn’t after her. In fact, the person he was after was someone she and a lot of people would be better off without. All she had to do was ignore the little voice that kept asking whether being a creeper and a jerk meant it was okay for Mike to die for it, and she was home free.
Besides, arm or not, there was no way she could beat the guy in a fight. The rest of her was one hundred percent flesh and blood human and one of the most notable human weaknesses was their tendency to die when stabbed a lot. Or kicked with the strength that dented the lobby doors.
Of course, that line of thought brought to her mind’s eye the image of a human being stabbed or splattered by a mighty fist. And no one was able to help.
Correction: no one else was able to help. Just as Kay said, there was no way to reach the police and the campus cops would have been around if they were capable of it. That meant they were alone. Alone and vulnerable.
Vulnerable to what?
That’s when the horror and implications hit.
Mile Cole was an asshat. There was no way around that. He was the kind of person who, if anything did happen to him, the police would have a huge task just plowing through all the people with motive. But at the same time, it wasn’t as if the guy was heavily protected, or hard to reach. According to Warrick and JC, all one had to do was wait around the dorm on Friday or Saturday night and he’d be staggering home drunk and alone, easy pickings for a super-powered assassin.
There was no reason to shut down the entire campus just to get at Mike.
So why did Hack and Slash go to the trouble?
There were too many possibilities, but a lot of them came up gruesome. A campus with no communication and no power meant someone could kill a lot of people without anyone being able to warn the next victims on the list. It also kept everyone in place; either to do something to them… or to keep them away from something else.
She just didn’t have enough information. There could be any number of things on campus that someone like this ‘Hack and Slash’ could want. Actually, come to think of it, she couldn’t even be sure what ‘someone like Hack and Slash’ was. All she knew was that…
Her eyes flew to the open doors.
…that he kicked his way out of the dorm. That he had to kick his way out.
The door to the stairs opened and she wheeled around, shining her light directly into JC’s eyes. “Gah!”
“Sorry. Did you find anything?”
“A few things. Also, we stole the fire extinguishers on that floor,” Kay reported, displaying her arms full of three compact cylinders.
“What are we going to do with fire extinguishers?” asked Meghan.
Kay snorted. “What can’t you do with a fire extinguisher? It’s a smoke screen, it’s a temporary cloak against infrared detection, and these CO2 canisters? They warn you not to aim them at someone’s face because getting a lungful of this could suffocate you. I wonder if the Slashficcer has a rebreather under that mask?”
“And,” JC said, ratting the messenger bag slung over his shoulder, “I got some little odds and ends. First aid kit, heavy duty flashlight,” at this, he just held up the steel security-style flashlight he was now holding, “stopped by Mike and Sully’s room to borrow Sully’s bat,” at this, he brandished the aluminum baseball bat he was holding in his other hand, “And— well remember when you said Tink was a savant? She totally is. And Warrick is a James Bond fan, so she’s made him a few toys to play with.”
Which wasn’t a lie… well taken as separate sentences, they weren’t lies. Warrick was a Bond fan, Tink was a gadgeteer genius who made awesome devices. But the ‘toys’ in question were old prototypes of her Renaissance gear she’d given to Warrick because he thought they were cool: a gas-powered gun that launched grapnels, another that fired modified paintballs that made loud bangs similar to those used in Hollywood to fake gunshots, and a pair of powerful, hand-held electromagnets.
They weren’t part of the Renaissance arsenal anymore for a reason, but they were all they had.
“Good.” said Meghan. “We should get moving. But on the way, maybe we should try and figure out who Hack and Slash is. I think he lives in this building.”