The Descendants #100 – Paradigm Shift pt.5

This entry is part 36 of 41 in the series Current

The Descendants #100 – Paradigm Shift pt.5

Three black SUVs were parked so as to cover the entrances to the parking garage servicing the office building where Mackere and Associates had their offices while another had pulled up onto the sidewalk in front of the street entrance. ROCIC agents were quickly escorting people from the building.

From two blocks away, Randolph Woo watched the comings and goings through a pair of binoculars from the driver’s seat of a silver smart car while also keeping one ear on the comm chatter from the other Tome agents in the area.

So far, no one had gotten eyes on Issac Smythe yet and Woo’s patience was wearing thin. He neither knew nor cared about Tome’s intentions, but he agreed wholeheartedly with going after Chaos’s brother after the dressing down the so-called hero gave him during his last operation.

On the whole, the entire Descendants team was quickly earning his ire even if he hadn’t let go of his ultimate goal: killing the White Coat to avenge his father. The problem was that the White Coat was less public and more elusive than the Descendants, and Woo needed access to Tome’s resources and intelligence to track him down.

For the moment though, vengeance by proxy had to be enough. Waiting wasn’t though.

“Enough of this. Which office is he in?” he demanded.

“Negative Metal X,” came the voice of the leader of the Moreau Corps squad staking out the building. “We’re supposed to take him in transit when the defenses are at their lowest. Stay in position.”

Woo rolled his eyes. “You seem to think you’re in command of me. If they were going to move him, they they would have now. Don’t forget why I’m here: the guy’s got powers, so it’s best for him to stay put and defend.”

The squad leader came back almost immediately, “Academy records suggest Issac Smythe’s powers are only a fraction as powerful or versatile as his brother’s.”

“I’ve read those records. You do realize that said that Ian Smythe’s powers were a ‘negligible threat’ and Alexis Keyes’s were unstable and without practical applications. Remind me who broke into your secure holding facility and stole some of your most powerful subjects? Can you explain to me why we’re depending on that information?”

“It’s what we’ve been given by our superiors.”

Woo clicked off his comm. “Useless,” he muttered.

“That’s what you get for even bothering with those private security washouts,” said the man in the passenger seat of Woo’s car. Jeremy Brown, AKA Launch was trying to work a palmtop while wearing his customary arm-mounted weaponry, causing him to struggled with the operation.

“They all got their idea of what the being a merc is like from TV and training videos. They’d follow orders to put a gun to their head and pull the trigger if it came from higher-up.” He smirked and displayed the resulted of his labors to his temporary partner. “No, better we do this just you, me and the building’s automated directory.”

Woo scanned the list of company names until he found Mackere and Associates. “Eleventh floor. Got it.” He turned his attention to the building and started counting floors. “Just us, huh? Well how’s this for a plan: keep the ROCIC busy while I go for the target.”

A lopsided grin broke out on Launch’s face. “I do love being the distraction.” He pulled his flight goggles down over his face and pulled a bandanna out of his collar to cover his chin and mouth.” Let’s do this. I was getting a ramp sitting on this hard seat anyway.”

“Don’t insult my craftsmanship,” Woo replied, only half serious. “You’re lucky there are seats.”

***

The silver smart car pulled away from the curb and headed directly for the street entrance. Two of the ROCIC agents on point there noticed it immediately and, seeing as how it was a clear and present threat to the people being evacuated, opened fire on the driver.

What they didn’t expect was for the car’s front bumper to rise up and block the bullets as the car accelerated.

They holstered their pistols and grabbed for the rifles slung across their bodies, but by then the tiny car had arrived—and disassembled itself into a tornado of metal bands, tires, and windows.

A tire, now bereft of rims, was thrown like a discuss into one of the agents, knocking him to the ground with the sickening crunch of ribs being broken. Another was hurled into the side of the SUV, denting it.

Two more ROCIC agents rushed forward, firing full-auto into the whirling mass of metal, only to be met with flying windows that shattered into blinding bursts as the bullets tore through them. In the next moment, something green and purple detached itself from the the main body of what used to be the car and performed a combat roll into the midst of the agents still on their feet.

When it stopped, they could make out the form of a crouching man in a green union suit, purple vest and a cape bearing a purple and green flame design. He looked at them through a set of goggles with purple lenses and bellowed, “Guess who’s back bitches!” before a shockwaves exploded out from him, throwing all three agents like leaves before a gale and he was launched into the air amid a steady if unbalance string of laughter.

In that same moment, the chaos of metal that had been the car settled into pure mechanical order. At its center was an armored figure wearing a silver motorcycle-style helmet with a silver crest that might have been sharpened to hair-splitting thinness. From his shoulders and back sprouted six mechanical limbs like those of a giant insect, each ending in a sharp spike. Four segmented tendrils quested out from his elbows and knees, their ends forming pincers. Randolph Woo, the newly upgraded Metal X gave a nod skyward to Launch before his mechanical, nanite-construted legs dug into the side of the building and he began to climb.

He paid as little attention to anything beyond directing his nanites as he climbed, though he could hear the firefight as Launch pitted his rapid-fire PSM blasters and aerial mobility against the under-funded ROCIC’s conventional firearms and grounded positioning.

From the sound of it, the ROCIC had had more people than they thought waiting to ambush the attackers, but soon higher-powered fire wasn’t answering the agents’ automatic weapons fire. The Moreau Corps were making themselves known.

And finally he reached the eleventh floor. A pair of pick-like appendages destroyed a window while the others pulled him in through the resultant wind from punching a hole in a skyscraper. His ingress had brought him into a posh office with a desk big enough for three people to work at, a state-of-the-art holographic display, and an aquarium that took up more than half of one wall.

“Obviously the boss’s.” Woo guessed as he directed his mechanical limbs to set him down next to the desk. With one hand, he called up the holographic controls. There wasn’t a layout of the office like he’d hoped, but soon enough, he had the office directory up and downloaded to his own palmtop. It had a listing for Issac Smythe, so he dialed it.

“Mr. Mackere?” a voice answered after a ring. “Are you still in the building sir? You need to get out.”

Woo laughed. “Oh, I’m sure he was gone in the first five minutes. Is this Issac Smythe? Are you still in the building?”

There was a pregnant pause before the voice replied with a guarded tenseness, “Who is this?”

“I’m someone who’s fought your brother before, Mr. Smythe. Do you know what’s going on today? What’s happening all over the country?”

“Yeah,” some of the tenseness disappeared from the voice, replaced by defiance. “You guys are coming after people’s families. That’s a stupid idea, you know that right? The Descendants have kicked the ass end of immortal witches, monsters from other worlds, and you guys more than once and that was without making that shit personal. Do you have any idea what kind of hell you’re about to unleash?”

“What?” Woo came back scathingly, “The heroes don’t like it when someone threatens their family? Well one of them killed my only family, so ask me if I give a damn how they’ll react. In fact, let’s see if your brother feels that same way I did when I learned my father died because of the Whitecoat when you die because of me.”

There was silence on the other end for a long moment before Issac spoke again. His voice was low, even and cold. “Three things. One: I can take care of myself. Two: I know exactly where you are because you used my bosses’ office line to call me.”

He stopped there and Woo was about to asked what the third thing was when the door was kicked open to reveal Issac Smythe clothed in a thick armor of water that clung to his body, a mace in one hand, a sword in the other.

“Three: You picked the wrong damn office to try to threaten me from.” He lifted a hand and the wall-length aquarium exploded, its contents surging toward Woo like an aqueous fist studded with glass, coral, small rocks and exotic fish.

Two of Woo’s metal appendages came together and restructured into a shield to block, but at the same time Issac whipped his sword around, transforming it into a sharpened ribbon that sliced through the three on the other side. Then he thrust with the mace, sending it hurtling into Woo’s gut and driving him back toward the window.

“I know nothing about your father,” Issac admitted, striding forward, “For what it’s worth, you have my condolences. But whatever you’re looking for from this it’s not worth what you’d get back.” He swung the mace again, but Woo blocked once again.

The nanite swarm crawled over Woo’s body, re-balancing its numbers and forming smaller new appendages to replaced the destroyed ones. He sent out the tendrils on his arms like whips against Issac, who changed his mace into a shield to protect himself. “You’re right: you know nothing! My father was the only thing I had left in my life! I don’t care what your brother or his friends do to me, I’ve got nothing to lose!”

Lunging, he formed the nanite shield into a lance aimed for Issac’s heart.

The other man dove for cover, then raised the split aquarium water into a wall which he then drove forward, forcing Woo back.

“Spoken like a man with no perspective,” Issac said, rising to a knee. “Of course I’d expect nothing less than a guy wearing what’s got to be a revolutionary suit of tech and can’t think of anything better to offer the world in his father’s memory than yet another insipid revenge story.” He held a hand behind his back and started to charge a Chaos Nova.

“You think this is about money?” Forming his nanites into a cow-catcher, he barged through the wall of water.

Issac threw the Chaos Nova, aiming just off-sides so the explosion threw Woo into the corner instead of out the window. “No. I’m talking about legacy, man.” He rose up, standing tall an proud. “I could have killed you just then and what would you have left the world? Is that what your dad would have wanted? I know mine wouldn’t be proud I turned into a shitty murderer who can’t even man up and go after the person he actually hates because of him.”

Woo snarled and discarded the nanites destroyed in the blast. Pushing himself up, he sent the tendrils at his legs outside to find more metal to replenish the swarm. “You people. You think you’re better than me because you won’t kill me?”

Another Chaos Nova blossomed to life in Issac’s palm. “Who said I wouldn’t. I don’t want to, but this is clear self-defense. No, I think I’m better than you because you’re a shallow nut job bent on revenge. Also because I’m literally better at this than you, seeing as how I’m kicking your ass. But hell: I’m a lawyer; a thousand years of jokes say I’m as amoral as they come. You really want to test me?”

***

“We have Victoria Keyes secure at Fort Polk.”

“That accounts for all four of Mrs. Keyes’s sisters,” Tink was sitting alone in one of the unused offices in the LSI Headquarters listening in on all the chatter from the operations to extract the team’s families before Tome could get to them. She’d just come back from helping fend off another attack on an ROCIC convoy bringing in Cyn’s mother.

Cyn had refused to take part in extracting any of her estranged family, so Tink had volunteered to take her place.

Now that that was over and the last leg of extractions were under way, she had time to sit and follow everything that was going on. For the most part, the ROCIC was calling the operations a success.

For the most part.

The fighting had spilled over into the public in places; civilians had been hurt in car crashes and the crossfire. At least two dozen ROCIC agents were being hospitalized. Two were dead.

And not everyone had been rescued before Tome got to them.

She forced herself to stare at the reports no matter how much she didn’t want to face it. Twenty-four hours ago all those people were just living their lives, completely unconnected to her and the choices she made. Then, with one slip-up; one zig when she should have zagged; one reaction out of place… things had changed for them forever.

Things had changed for everyone she knew and loved and there was nothing she could do to fix it—to make things okay for them again.

Behind her, the door creaked open and she heard the voice she both most and least wanted to hear at the moment.

“Hey.” Warrick said with his masterful way with words.

“Hey,” she replied, not moving. “How did you find me?”

Warrick’s steps approached her, stopping directly behind. “Metal sense,” he explained, “You and Cyn are the only ones here with orihalcite on them and I’ve memorized the feel of that flechette Melissa pulled out of me a long time ago.”

Tink looked down at her gauntlet where she’d integrated the blade that once almost killed her boyfriend. She never knew how to feel about it as a gift from him to her. One the one hand, it nearly ended his life. On the other, he’d survived it. “Have you been following the reports?”

“Religiously,” he replied. His arms came down and encircled her, his chin resting on top of her head.

“Ms. Keyes’s father got taken,” Tink recited, “And Melissa’s little brother. Cyn might say she doesn’t care, but her father and his friends disappearing from general population in prison has to be weighing on her. Lisa and her group haven’t gotten back with Kareem yet. Then there’s a people who died or got hurt…” tears stung her eyes no matter how hard she tried to keep them from falling and Warrick hugged her tighter.

“If I had just thought when that stupid bug grabbed me, none of this would have happened! Everyone would be safe, none of us or our families would be going through this…”

She could have gone on, but Warrick shushed her gently, shifting so his chin was on her shoulder and he was able to speak softly in her ear. “Hey. Hey. This isn’t your fault, alright? You didn’t make Doc Powerless attack, or that bug try and bite you. You definitely didn’t tell Tome to go after our families. This stuff… it happened to you, not because of you. No one blames you, okay?”

“I blame myself,” she replied miserably, but relaxed into the comfort of the embrace.

“I know. But you’ll get through it. We’ll all get through this.” He gave her a little squeeze. “In fact, that’s the other reason I came to get you.”

“Hmm?”

“Kay did a scry for me and JC looked up the location. Mr. Keyes and Melissa’s brother are both being moved toward a decommissioned missile silo in Indiana. I’m Ms. Brant is coordinating things, Cyn’s… not in a good place what with her mom and brothers here at the HQ and her dad at large, and I’d hate to ask while you fee like this but…”

Tink nodded. “I’m the only other pilot here… and they need me. I understand… and I’m in.”

To Be Continued…

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About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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2 Comments

  1. Typos

    getting a ramp
    (This might be slang I don’t know, or it might be a typo.)

    before a shockwaves
    before a shockwave

    steady if unbalance
    steady if unbalanced

    to replaced the
    to replace the

    tall an proud.
    tall and proud.

    there’s a people
    there’s people

    I’m Ms. Brant is
    (Most likely ‘I’m told Ms. Brant is’ or ‘I’m sure Ms. Brant is’)

    you fee like
    you feel like

    • Of course that first typo was ‘getting a cramp’. & one more:

      there’s a people
      there’s people

      Anyone want to wager Issac just lost his job? With a golden handshake, sure.

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