The Descendants #103 – Hardcore Fans Chp 3

This entry is part 50 of 51 in the series Current

The Project Sanctuary building on the corner of Barks and Karl had once been an extended-stay hotel, albeit not one big enough even to hold the most modest conventions. The U-shaped structure had been converted into an urban garden and the volunteers opened the wrought iron gate at the open end to allow Alloy, Renaissance, Facsimile, and Kay in.

“You know,” Facsimile said, looking from her armored and costumed friends to Kay who was still in her vampiress costume. “We never came up with a name for you.”

The team’s dedicated sidekick shrugged. “I dunno. I figured that since we’re public and all now I can just go by my real name. Kay Graycloud can carry on into the real world the proud tradition of Rick Jones.”

“Who?” asked Facsimile.

Alloy offered Kay a gauntleted high five. “Nice. So you read those old comics I suggested.”

She grinned, showing false fangs. “Yeah. Lots of great stuff in there about how to be a good sidekick. But don’t expect my eventual costume being traffic light inspired.”

“We’re here,” The assumed leader of the volunteers, who the group had learned was named Kyle, said, rather more loudly than necessary. The garden was in full bloom with tall rows of corn stretching across much of the open space alongside tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables.

“Right,” Alloy said, breaking off his discussion with Kay, “Maybe it’s a good idea for you guys to get the apartment manager. Always better to get permission to snoop around if we can.” Kyle didn’t respond. In fact, all six of the volunteers had stopped moving and fallen silent.

Facsimile tapped the dark-skinned girl of the group, Jada, on the shoulder. “Um… You okay?”

“Kyle?” Alloy moved around the young man, finding his eyes vacant and staring straight ahead. “Not good. Spread out. I don’t think he was telling us we were here; he was telling someone else–” A flash of blue light struck him from behind and frost and ice swiftly overtook him, encasing him two inches thick in an instant.

“He’s not wrong,” Called a voice called from among the corn. There was a sound like a gigantic beetle taking flight and a creature the size of a newborn baby emerged. Its skin was an angry purple, shading to red at the extremities and its legs were tiny in comparison to a bulky upper body supporting two pairs of rapidly-beating insectile wings. Large, bulbous yellow eyes glared wildly at them as long, lithe fingers wove symbols in the air.

The creature grinned, showing widely-spaced, peg-like teeth. “Excellent job, minions. One of this world’s iron guardians has been disposed of. Now to deal wit–”

A green pellet struck it in the chest, releasing rapidly-expanding foam over its body. The substance quickly gummed up its wings, causing it to fall from the sky and crash on the packed earth below. Renaissance glared at it down the sights of her gauntlet. “Fax, get Alloy out.”

“I wouldn’t if I were you, defender of the Blue. The Queen wants the one who commands iron alive to divine the source of its dark powers—but she will shed no tears if your golden oaf shatters him.”

Facsimile froze, a clawed hand poised to try and break the ice imprisoning her best friend. She looked to Kay. “Is that true?”

“No idea. I didn’t hear or see what he cast. I can’t counter it given some time though.” She was already fishing through the satchel at her side.

A snarl came from the creature and it tensed its body. Whatever it was doing caused a translucent blue film to spread over its body, cleaving even closer to its flesh and clothing than Renaissance’s foam. When it was completely ensconced, the film stretched out to either side and inside it two forms rapidly grew into a pair of clones of the first.

They burst out from the film as it dissolved into mist. One immediately began attacking the foam while the other took to the air.

“Care to risk it, Mankind? Or better—care you join him?” It cupped its hand and a cracking cloud of cold formed there, glowing pale blue. A split second alter, it launched at Facsimile.

“Raise-this-wall!” A quarter dome of overlapping red scales unfolded into being in front of her. The freezing bolt struck it and exploded into a sheet of thick ice and frost that molded itself into the shape of the shield. Kay stood there, wide-eyed as panic and relief warred in her expression. “Holy shit, I did not think I was going to be fast enough to stop that.”

Renaissance flicked her left wrist and straightened her arm, allowing a mechanism to switch out the magazine loaded into it, trading one with a green stripe one it for one with a gray one with pink glitter. “We’re going to have to be even faster. Fax, grab as many of them,” she gestured toward the still dull-eyed volunteers, “as you can and get them to safety. Kay, can you do something to keep Alloy safe?”

“Something I’ve been working on,” Kay replied, pulling a tiny plastic ring from a compartment in her satchel. Pinching one end of it and shaking, she caused it to expand into a full-sized hula-hoop. “Old-school circle of protection made portable: rock salt locked into a permanent circle with all the sigils already written. Don’t leave home without it.”

As she worked, Facsimile grabbed Jada and another volunteer before growing a muscular, prehensile tail to grab another. At her capacity for lifting, she spread her wings and took flight.

Gingerly, so as not to touch Alloy and break anything off, she put the hoop over his head and place it on the ground around him. Then she muttered a few word, causing the whole circle to flare briefly silver, then fade with a low hum.

One of the flying creatures buzzed up and over the shield wall, a spell on its lips. Renaissance snap-fired a pellet from her left gauntlet. The round exploded in-air into a cloud of gray dust. The second the dust touched the creature, it shrieked, tearing at its skin before bursting like a soap bubble into blue smoke.

Blue light visible through the shield suggested more clones would be inbound soon. Renaissance aimed over the top of the shield, ready for the next account. “Kay? Must go faster.”

“And for insurance…” Kay pulled out a glass marble. “Globe of force!” A clear orb of intangible force immediately appeared around Alloy and the circle of protection. “Done. Circle should last until something breaks the spell and the globe of force will hold anything out for an hour.”

“An hour at least then,” noted Renaissance. “We need to fall back. There’s people in the building; we need to take this fight somewhere safe.” She threw and arm around Kyle and gestured for Kay to come closer. “Grab on. This is going to get tricky.”

Kay didn’t need to be told twice, rushing over to grasp onto Renaissance’s shoulders.

This time Renaissance switched out the magazine in her right gauntlet. While the servoes in her gauntlet worked, she had to let go of Kyle to fire off two more dust shots into the air above the shield just as two more Faerie creatures rose over it to attack. They avoided the smoke, but the detour gave Renaissance time to get a hold on Kyle, turn and put all of her considerable strength into jumping.

At the top of the leap, she aimed her right gauntlet and fired a grapnel into the corner of a nearby building, using it to swing away.

***

Several blocks away, sitting around Meghan’s palmtop one on of the large padded benches in the hotel’s main lobby, the group that had been left behind were left in stunned silence at what just happened.

“Did they just run away?” asked Aracheneon, managing to look agog even with his mask.

“Getting the civvies to safety.” JC said. “Jesus, it must be tearing Tink up to leave War like that.”

Jessica pursed her lips to keep the bottom one from quivering. “IS he going to be okay?”

Taking a deep breath, JC puffed himself up. “Hey. That’s my best friend out there. The one that’s going to go down as the greatest superhero in history. He’s going to be fine.”

“God I hope you’re right,” murmured Meghan.

“Always am.”

Arachneon swallowed audibly. “And that thing they’re fighting? What the hell was that? It’s like a hell mosquito with ice powers.”

JC shrugged, concern leaking into his show of bravado. “That’s… a new one on me. Sprite, pixie… something from Faerie we don’t have a name for? Or that’s from a mythology I don’t know anything about.” He breathed deep before adding, “The important thing is it’s going to get swatted.”

Following a few moments of shifting uncomfortably, Jessica finally stood abruptly. “I-I need a moment. I can’t watch this any longer.”

Meghan passed her palmtop off the JC. “Are you okay? I could…”

“N-no. It’s okay. I’m just going to… I’m going to be back in a second. You can stay.” And with that, she hurried off toward the nearest restrooms.

“Poor kid,” Archeneon said, watching her go. “I’m guessing she’s not used to hanging with superheroes.”

Also watching the girl on clown garb go, Meghan nodded. “She’s even newer to the group than me. Kay’s roommate at music school. Not sure if she’s ever going to get used to all this.” She looked over at JC. “Can you imagine if she was there with us that night at Dayspring when that guy put the college into lockdown?”

JC nodded, expression strained. “Yeah, she’d totally break down if she even got within a mile of any serious action.”

***

As luck would have it for Jessica, it was still the middle of the lunch lull and with a good chunk of the con goers off eating, there wasn’t a line for the ladies’ room. She quickly locked herself in a stall, leaned against the wall and took a deep breath.

“Okay,” she whispered to herself. “We’ve got to go help. The bad guys are finally moving, the big, bright hope against them is frozen stiff and it’s time for us to get into action.”

She paused, then half-laughed at herself. “Except there’s no ‘we’. Chords is just me without the… well me with bravery. Which means I’m not talking to a magical alter ego, but just psyching myself up. Not sure which is more crazy at this point.”

Another deep breath. “And I need to stop wasting time. People need you…er… me.” She reached into her purse and drew out a golden guitar pick. It had a stylized sunburst image pressed into it, marking it as the true property of the god Apollo by way of Hermes.

Somehow, despite the symbol embossed on it, she could see her reflection—one without the clown makeup and certainly without the worry and doubt that eternally marked her real countenance.

“Hello me,” she whispered before raising the pick as if winding up for a big showy flourish on an air guitar. “Meet the real me.”

The pick fell. Jessica Kowalski transformed.

***

“Okay,” Renaissance said as she carefully laid Kyle on the roof of the building the group had retreated to. “Cyn, call anyone that’s still in town and let them know what’s going on. Kay, what can you tell me about whatever that was?”

Kay shook her head. “Not a lot. According to the Books, they’re called kukara. Water-based fey that almost all serve Maeve. I’m not sure fi that ice bullet thing is natural for them, but the water clones are. Unfortunately, each clone has the same powers as the original.

“But they’re all equally as allergic to ferromagnetic metal,” Renaissance noted. “Maybe even more so. My anti-faerie smoke bombs are just supposed to be an irritant, but they made the clones explode.”

“So they’re just shadow clones or something?” asked Facsimile, who was crouching over the apparently senseless innocents they’d saved. “Meaning okay to go all-out on?”

Renaissance nodded. “Go nuts. We’ll probably need to if there’s no limitations on how many copies it can make.” She went to the edge of the roof and frowned at what she saw. “Can you get them awake, Kay? Keeping them safe while fighting is going to be hard.

“I’ll get right on it.” Kay hunkered down over Kyle with her satchel. Taking out a brass ring as wide of her palm, she placed it on his forehead, then placed two fingers in the center, muttering something under her breath. “First I need to figure out what it did to them.” Her face grew perplexed. “Hmm. This isn’t just brainwashing. It’s something complex. And big. What the hell…?”

Back at the edge of the roof, Renaissance switched her right gauntlet to another anti-faerie smoke bomb magazine. “Do your best. Cyn? Here they come.”

“Oh, let ’em.” Facsimile hopped up on the low concrete barrier, extending an orihalcite blade from each fist. A feral grin split her face only to falls as she looked down to see over a dozen kukaras buzzing up toward them. “Ah crap. And to think I love the movies where the monster multiplies out of control.

Only grunting in reply, Renaissance let loose with a rapid-fire salvo that filled the air in an arc below them with dark gray smoke. The approaching creatures knew enough not to fly into what to them was a deadly smokescreen and broke off, scattering to keep gaining altitude.

This was exactly what she’d been hoping for, however; the attackers being forced to come in slower so she could target them directly with individual shots with smoke pellets that destroyed them.

Meanwhile, Facsimile crouched on the barrier, glaring at the enemies beyond her reach. At length, she sighed “This is gonna be gross, but when am I ever gonna do this again?” With this, her body shifted into that of a huge, golden frog.

A similarly golden tongue lashed out, snapping a kukara clone out of the air. Luckily for her, the impact was enough to destroy it. Giving a froggy grin, she snapped two more out of the air.

The combined attacks gave the remaining kukaras pause for thought and they started flying in erratic patterns, far out of range of Facsimile’s darting tongue. Wheeling in the air, they began lobbing bolts of cold. Given little time to aim, they simply rained down cold bolts upon the rooftop.

An amber-colored flash came from above as four man-sized heater shields of the same hue appeared, interposing themselves between the heroes and the attacking kukaras. Both Facsimile and Renaissance looked behind them to find Kay with one fist raised toward them, adorned with a set of silver rings with amber gems in the shape of shields.

“These last an even shorter time, but you can shoot through them!” She shouted, voice strained.

“Best sidekick ever!” Facsimile croaked with glee. She then turned back toward the kukuras and with her powerful frog legs, leapt off the roof, charging through one of the shields and taking another of the creatures by surprise. Then she snapped her forelegs to the side and when she extended them again, there were flaps of golden skin that caught the air much like a flying squirrel’s.

Turning in air, she snapped her tongue out at another. Only this one saw her coming and grabbed the incoming appendage with hands already forming a cold bolt. Ice started forming along it, rapidly approaching Facsimile.

Making a panicked ribbit, Facsimile grew a set of razor-sharp teeth and bit off her own tongue. Then she immediately grew a new one, smacking the kukara in the face and destroying it.

In the midst of the melee, one of the clones flew over it all, sighting in not on heroes or sidekick, but on the people they were protecting. Mad glee filled it eyes as it clapped its hands and called down. “Minions! Now is the time to answer my call once more. Shed, shed the lowly form of Mankind and join the battle!”

Kay, fighting against her cramping arm, heard this and glanced up. “Oh crap. Okay, a counterspell. All I need is—hrk!” The rest of her words were cut off as Kyle suddenly sprang to consciousness again and grabbed her by the face, his hand beginning to shade to an angry red.

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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One Comment

  1. Typos

    my eventual costume being
    my eventual costume to be

    I can’t counter it given some time though.”
    I can counter it given some time though.” (I think, from context)

    a cracking cloud
    a crackling cloud

    While the servoes
    While the servos

    Meghan’s palmtop one on of
    Meghan’s palmtop on one of

    palmtop off the JC.
    palmtop off to JC.

    Archeneon
    Arachneon

    girl on clown garb
    girl in clown garb

    I’m not sure fi
    I’m not sure if

    powers as the original.
    powers as the original.”

    multiplies out of control.
    multiplies out of control.”

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