- 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)
Homage (Part 2)
“Ugh.” JC clutched his head in his hands. Somehow he’d ended up on his knees with a feeling in his gut that the world had just been spinning only to have abruptly stopped. “That was all kinds of unpleasant.”
“Is everyone okay?”
Hearing Lisa’s voice and answering grunts of encouragement made him feel better. He’d said a few times that he wouldn’t mind getting in on some low-key action, but he had no idea what he’d do alone against some high level magical nutbag.
He sat up on his knees. Something felt… swishy. Slowly, he reached back and felt fabric through a set of thin gloves he didn’t realize he’d been wearing. Only then did he stop to look around. “Whoa.”
It was obvious that he was wearing a cape, but from the looks of things, his wardrobe change wasn’t the most dramatic by far.
First and most obvious was Teen Machine. There’d only been a split second there where JC saw him when the glamors failed, but it was clear he hadn’t been in his full armor. Now however, he was in armor, but it was nothing like the Teen Machine costume.
It was a hulking, gray thing; still humanoid, but only just. Bulky didn’t even begin to describe it. It looked more like a gorilla or bear on its hind legs than a human, though one covered in armor with visible rivets. The helmet was shaped vaguely like a bullet with a grid-like speaker or breathing mask that looked like a scowling mouth and the eyes held a perpetual glare. The heavy boots looked like they were made of lead—perfect for a design that almost certainly filled its victims full of dread—and were as this around as the thigh.
JC couldn’t tell which of the women near him was Lady D and which was Shade’s Apprentice because their normal looked were so alien or heavily made up in the first place.
One was wearing what could only be called a green halter dress belted by a belt of silvery scales with a green jewel on the buckle. Despite wearing pretty much the opposite of armor, she wore a lot of the requisite accessories: a set of layered iron pauldrons inlaid with more round, green gems rested on her shoulders, a pair of slim, similarly decorated chain gauntlets with spiked bracers adorned her arms, and a set of leather boots accented by iron and silver covered her feet. She had a circlet on her head with a pair of slim, silver horns emerging from it, and carried a staff of twisted oak.
The other was wearing medieval garb: a silk dark blue blouse with wooden buttons under a black felt vest and a heavy black and blue patterned cloak with a hood. Her pants were a coarse hide from some animal JC couldn’t identify.
And then there was Lisa. Even though she was his long-time girlfriend, he felt like he shouldn’t be staring. Even in the hot tub, she hadn’t been showing off quite as much as she was at the moment:
Well, he top as completely covered—not that it helped. The scale male she wore over what appeared to be a long-sleeved, black body suit conformed religiously to every contour of her body in such a way that he imagined it would be less revealing if it had been painted on. There was a belt made of palm-sized metal discs around her waist and… that was it. She was only wearing the underlying bodysuit on her bottom half and as it turned out,t he body suit was a leotard. The knee-high steel boots seemed like an afterthought, as did the metal crown she wore which had a pair of protrusions extending up from the sides that looked like the tines of a tuning fork that had been bent so they curved.
Lisa was looking at him look at her and kind of smirked for a second before realizing they were not alone. Then she tried to block the view of her legs—front and back—with her hands while trying to stand at the same time, almost knocking herself over.
“It wasn’t expecting this.” Shade’s Apprentice picked at her green dress, looking herself over.
“That’s for sure.” Lisa was on her feet and had given up on any form of modesty. “what just happened?” There was a length of dark metal hanging from her belt; about the length of her forearm and about two inches across, it seemed to be made of many small sections of metal combined in a rod shape.
Teen Machine, however wasn’t looking at any of the others. His eyes were on the sky. “I’m more concerned about where we are.”
JC and the others followed his gaze to an alien sky. An impossible alien sky.
The normal backdrop of stars was still there, but hovering in the sky was a panorama of cosmic grandeur. Comets streaked by, close enough for all to make out the body and the tail with the naked eye. Nebulae hung in the heavens in such numbers that in places, there was no sign of the black of space. Rings planets appeared closer than Earth’s moon. It was beautiful.
The landscape itself was less so: the stone and dirt were blackened as if by fire and great fingers of what appeared to be quarts, each several times larger and taller than a person jutted into the air, breaking up the fractured hills around them even further.
“Are… we on some kind of magical world?” JC asked, “Like Faerie, but space? Space-Faerie? Is that a thing?”
Lisa was staring upward too. Absently, she replied, “We only really know stuff about the Green World and the Yellow… this could be another one.”
Lady D, who by process of elimination, JC figured out was the one in the cloak, shook her head. “I know of the Black World as well: the Air and Darkness, Maeve’s Realm, home of the sidhe. This is not that place.”
“Are you sure?” asked Teen Machine. The suit he was wearing made his voice deep and foreboding even though his tone contradicted it.
“We are not dead. So yes, I am sure.”
Cocking his head, JC got a look at a sliver of her face in the cloak’s hood. There wasn’t a hint of red.
Teen Machine seemed to notice too. “You okay, ‘Ani?”
There was a growl as answer to him and she threw the hood off. Teen Machine flinched visibly in the armor, but JC couldn’t see why: she was a normal, very attractive woman; tall, lightly tanned with black hair and delicate features. If her teeth hadn’t been clenched, she’d probably have a pretty smile.
“Where’s your—” Teen Machine started, but she cut him off.
“Still here,” She snapped, “Waiting for me to call her.”
Teen Machine moved closer to her. “That sounds all kinds of not good. We need to figure out what’s going on here quick guys.”
His statement was met with a deep, rumbling laugh came from somewhere beyond a particularly thick cluster of quartz spires. “You want to know what’s going on?” With the last word, the spires shattered in a cloud of glittering dust. Crimson lightning cracked the sky with a thunderclap, outlining a looming form amid the dust.
The shape of the head betrayed the same odd, winglike hairstyle of the pawnshop owner, Hermes, but the physique was bulging with rippling muscle. Another flash of lightning revealed that he was in a blue unitard similar to an old timey circus strongman, but was also wearing black leather boots. His skin seemed gray and craggy and his eyes were burning points of red.
“You see, THERE CAME A TIME WHEN THE OLD GODS DIED!”
A beam of indescribable energy, midnight blue outlines by a multitude of flickering round voids that created a fractile edge to the attack stuck him in the chest, knocking him off his feet and onto his back.
Lisa looked from the now-smoking rod she’d just fired off and its fallen target who, while still clearly breathing, had been knocked back at least six feet. It was the holy grail spell she’d been scouring the Books of Reason and Passions for: something that could be cast quickly, was non-lethal, and could effect inorganic matter, unlike the Shine Heaven’s Arrow.
Too bad it was part of some magical madman’s evil cosplay.
“We don’t have time for your pageantry,” she declared, “Explain. Now.”
Still on the ground, Hermes laughed again. “Classic. Straight and to the point; no tolerance for monologuing, only action!” He rolled over onto his belly. “More Golden Age than Silver, but we can work with this. Amazing vistas, colorful, powerful folks doing battle—good vs evil!”
His skin shifted to scaly and green as he doubled in size. The blue unitard and the boots melded together into purple trunks with a hole in the back that allowed a think tale to sprout out. Now with clawed hands and feet, he rose up to an impressive height, his head having been replaced by that of a snarling Chinese-style dragon.
“But the important thing is that it’s still fun!” Letting out a mighty roar, he belched a man-sized ball of green flame at the five heroes.
They scattered as it hit, the flames adding another layer of blackened char while another component within them melted the rock to a foaming ooze.
JC found himself instinctively cartwheeling his way clear and pulling his vibrant, green cape around to shield his face from the acidic fumes. He’d never been anywhere near athletic enough to do any of that before, but at the moment, he felt like he might even stand a chance going at the dragon-man hand-to-hand.
Not that he had to. Lisa opened up with another blast from the rod while Shade’s Apprentice leveled her staff and unleashed an undulating wave of green light at the same time. Teen Machine stepped up, flexing his arms to the side and causing his chest plate to open, revealing a glowing ring at the center that fired off a brilliant, white ray.
All three attacks struck Hermes, but in his new form, he was able to raise his arms and block, bulling through the worst of them with little more than a few scorch marks across them. He answered with another belch of green fire, sweeping his head side-to-side for a wider area of effect.
Teen Machine stepped in front of Lady D, his armor resisting both flame and acid with only a few creaks and groans while his ally stood behind him, seemingly dazed.
“Ani’? Is everything alright?” He called back.
She was staring at her hands. “I… can’t use my sangrelogos. I can barely hear. The world is… dim and unclear. Is this what it is like to be a Mankind? Have I lost everything?”
“Really bad time to get existential.” Shade’s Apprentice launched off another wave of green light and scowled. “Okay, this power set is not set up for going against giant monsters.”
JC performed a back flip to avoid another ball of fire. “At least you know what you’re doing.”
At the same time, Lady D was still muttering to herself. “No… no there is… I must… no…”
Another blast from Hermes forced Teen Machine to stumble back a step. “We need to come up with some kind of strategy. Just shooting at him isn’t doing anything and we can’t dodge him all day. This armor’s throwing warnings and errors all over the place.”
“I… have to. Don’t I?”
“Huh?” Teen Machine looked back in time to be pushed aside bodily by Lady D—something an ostensibly human woman with no powers shouldn’t have been able to do.
She had her eyes closed and her arms out to her sides. A phantom wind encircled her, whipping her clothes around her body as she strode forward. “Shed. Shed this Mankind form I’ve found…” When her eyes opened, they glowed with red power and a sigil of light painted itself across her forehead. “Let the demon become unbound!”
It was one of those rare things that JC had seen during his time as a friend to a group of superheroes that he wished he could un-see. A force slammed into her and looked as if it shredded through both her clothes and flesh as her body twisted and changed.
What emerged was a female form with leathery red skin, four sinewy arms with splayed claws, a pigeon-toed stance, and an underbite that exposed black, jagged teeth and obsidian tusks. Her jet hair had grown as long as her entire body.
Hermes’s next ball of fire struck her dead on in a sickly green conflagration. It did all of nothing. Lady D—not fully earning her moniker as Lady Demon—simply stood in the middle of it and hissed before charging forward at inhuman speed.
Eyes widening, Hermes tried to spit more fire at her, only to find his quarry dodging and leaping from quartz outcropping to quartz outcropping. Before he could switch tactics, she was there, lashing out with six sets of claws, carving bleeding lines in his flesh.
He yowled and grabbed her about the torso, hurling her against the nearest spire, her body bashing it apart on impact.
“That…” his breath came in ragged gasps, “I didn’t expect that. That… was not fun.”
His own clawed feet scrabbled across the ground as he backed up. “I’m getting out of here. Maybe some of your friends will be more into the spirit of things with a different scenario. Maybe something more retro.”
The world changed in a burst of radio static.