The Descendants #104 – VIRAL Chp.3

This entry is part 52 of 55 in the series Current

Despite the animal panic filling him at being assailed by a screaming pile of goo that was trying to get into his costume, Ian managed to keep himself mindful enough to do what he needed to defend himself. Crooking his wrist in just the right way and flexing two fingers, he popped open the canister in his right gauntlet, giving him access to all the water contained within.

In fact, the adrenaline rush and acting on pure instinct let him use his powers in a way he usually struggled with but his bother excelled with. The water emerged from its container as something between a thick whip and a cosh and bludgeoned the creeping monster on his leg.

Then he thinned the liquid out and drove it between the thing and his leg, forcing it away from where it was starting to try cutting away at the ballistic cloth.

Meanwhile, Alexis had been staring at where Thomas Cross had collapsed when Ian exclaimed. She turned to see him mid-battle with the escaped TOME specimen. It was obviously too close Ian to shoot at it with black heat, so she drew the scarf from around her shoulders and pressed a concealed button.

Electricity flowed through the mimetic material and the flowing scarf reshaped itself and stiffened into a bo staff.

Hurling herself forward, Alexis speared the writhing mess with the end of her newly-formed weapon. More pseudopods formed and clung to the staff, pining it while the creature fought to crawl further up Ian’s leg against his water barrier.

When Ian redoubled his concentration on said barrier, however, this turned out to be a feint. The creature extruded a thicker, longer tendril and launched it upward, slamming it into Ian’s face. His visor and the bridge of his nose cracked with the strength of the impact. What was far worse though was that the tentacle went partially liquidous and flowed into the space created from breaking the visor, spreading across Ian’s forehead and seeping into his eyes.

“Yes…” The voice wasn’t entirely coming from the blob now; Ian felt it in his mind.

He staggered as the monster found nerve endings to connect with.

“Ian Smythe,” the creature he suddenly knew had adopted Viral as its name said, “Age twenty-eight. A descendant with the power to control the density of fluid matter. Also known as Chaos, a prelate mostly known in the city of Mayfield. Considering the potential of your power and relative susceptibility, you were my very first choice. We complement each other.”

“As if I didn’t have enough reason to fight you off.” Ian grunted and opened the water canister on his other wrist, throwing it into his own face and constricting it in an effort to halt the invader’s progress.

A laugh burbled out of the thing alongside a more human-like one in Ian’s head. The former sounded cold, like a recording of a laugh played at a speed that was just slightly too slow. “There is not fighting me off. Once I control a critical mass of neural receptors, your consciousness will be subverted.”

“Oh yeah?” Ian asked. “Even if you need me to think?”

“Think about what?”

“Flying.” With that, Ian leapt into the air and conjured a gust of wind that launched him off the top of the roof. Alexis screamed his name as he tumbled out into space.

As for Ian, he went immediately from falling fifty stories to staggering into a blank, black wall in a blank, black room.

“How do you fly?!” The voice came from everywhere, vibrating the air around him.

“What the—where am I?!”

An annoyed screech filled the room. “Falling to our death. We’re communicating at the speed of thought. Tell me how you fly.”

Ian couldn’t help but smirk as he steadied himself against the wall. “So I was right. Hell of a shot in the dark, but I was right: you can’t steal all of someone’s thoughts on contact. And you don’t take control instantly either.”

“Your background is in engineering, not biology of any kind. I’ve previously been capable of totally bonding with a host within twenty-one seconds.” The tone was haughty, the kind of huff mostly seen in unruly teenagers.

“Then how come I’m still here and we’re still falling?” Ian asked, feeling more confident now that he was getting under the invader’s skin. He didn’t count on a from exploding out of the floor in front of him. It was his height with gray skin with black mottling. Two black horns emerged from the sides of its head, forming a straight line before curving skyward. Two black eyes with a grid of thinly outlined hexagons took up most of its head, which had no eyes or mouth.

Ridges and short, knobby horns covered the rest of its body. One clawed hand came up and grasped Ian by his throat, slamming him violently against the wall, which became spider-webbed with cracks. “How do you fly! How do I use your powers?!”

The pain of the slam made spots dance across Ian’s vision. He blinked. “How are you doing this?”

“Doing what?”

Ian shook his head. “Make this room. Make this… you. Make it hurt.”

That gave Viral pause as it stopped to look around. “This… this is new. Perhaps a representation of the null space my mind occupies when not in my body. Something to analyze once you’ve been subsumed.” Its claws tightened on around his throat. “After you tell me about your powers.”

Once more shaking his head, Ian got his mind working again. “Blind spots.”

Viral’s eyes narrowed, “What?”

“It’s just that over the years, we’ve discovered that not all powers have blanket effects. Sometimes there’s blind spots. And I’m betting that there’s something about descendants that you can’t just crack with whatever you use to take people over.”

He set his jaw and concentrated. “And I’m betting if I try hard enough…”

For his trouble, he was slammed against the wall again. “You aren’t mentally strong enough. Eventually, I’ll find a way around the anomalies. That is inevitable.” Viral leaned in to him, eyes glowing with cruelty. “What is also inevitable is your demise if we fall. Mine is not so certain.”

Ian groaned and glared at his tormentor. “Did you miss the part where I’m a superhero? I’m prepared for that possibility. Every day I go on patrol knowing someone might end me. And if I go out making sure something like you doesn’t go free, I’m sure God will save me a special place in Heaven.”

“I am certain that sentiment would mean something to me if I knew who God was.” Viral tilted its head quizzically. “But I do know someone else whose reaction matters to you. Alexis Keyes. How will she react upon seeing what this fall does to your body? Or when she goes to examine your corpse for signs of life—and finds me waiting for a new host.”

“You son of a bitch.” Ian kicked off the wall, wrapped one arm around the arm holding him for leverage and used the other to lay into the side of Viral’s head, scoring half a dozen blows before Viral simply flung him away to skid to a stop against the opposite wall.

It regarded him for a long moment. “’God’, ‘bitch’. I feel the need to expand my vocabulary after this confrontation. Though you are a poor source. I lack genetic legacy and gender. I cannot, by definition, by anyone’s son.”

Levering himself up on one arm, Ian was breathing hard through his nose. “Are ‘sanctimonious’, ‘pretentious’ and ‘prick’ in that dictionary?” He didn’t give viral time to answer. “No matter. You don’t get to threaten Alexis like that. I’m going to break out of this mind prison thing and stuff your artificial coffin-stuffer into a chipper-shredder.”

Gathering his force of will against the pain his (apparently entirely mental) body was in, he stood and staggeringly charged Viral, fists flying.

***

To the outside world, Ian had only been falling for a few seconds.

Alexis rushed to the edge of the roof and extended a hand to send black heat to surround him and reduce his weight. It proved for naught, however when a ball of tornadic wind exploded into being around Ian, blowing away the black head and filling the sky with the roar of a hurricane.

The gale filled Ian’s cape, not quite halting his fall, but slowing it and allowing him to take a more upright position. Because the cape was designed so he could fly supine, he wobbled in air, the plaything of the winds he commanded.

For a moment, Alexis breathed a sigh of relief: Ian had overcome the creature and saved himself from the fall.

That moment was short-lived as her fiance’s unsteady flight eventually turned him around, allowing her to see the writhing gray-black ooze continuing to force itself beneath Ian’s broken visor and cowl. From inside, it started to shuck the costume off and replace it with its own material.

Shock threatened to root her in place, but Alexis had years of practice now fighting the ‘freeze’ instinct and choose ‘fight’ instead. Once more wreathed in her own black heat, she threw herself from the roof, staff held aloft ready to strike at the monster.

A violent blast of wind peeled off from the sphere of turbulence and struck her full on, sending her tumbling across the roof until she struck one of the struts holding up the helipad. Where shock failed, being stunned from the collision succeeded.

Inside his cocoon of wind, Viral continued to cover Ian. Over his face, it became a mask with fist-sized eyes and an elongated snout with horns like an alien cattle skull. Two more horns emerged from the shoulder blades as the costume as forced down Ian’s body.

As it expanded along his arms, exaggerated muscles formed, gray bulges outlined in black. Dark ridges rose from along the backs of his forearms and claws extended from the fingertips as Viral forced the gauntlets from his hands.

More emphasized musculature formed out of the new ‘suit’ that was Viral continued down Ian’s torso and down his legs. In place of boots, Ian’s toes became covered in a thick ridge somewhere between hoof and singular claw.

The only thing Viral left in place was the cape he now knew was necessary for Ian’s powers to let him fly. Even that wasn’t left alone, covered in a thin layer of the artificial lifeform’s flesh, its patterns replaced by one of gray and black arrows marching downward along the back.

In the span of a minute, Ian was unrecognizable as Chaos. Instead, a new demonic creature raised its arms in self-exaltation as it dropped a tornado from its feet to tear into the street below. Car alarms began to blare as glass shattered and objects were hurled about.

“Thank you for your cooperation,” Viral hissed, its new mouth splitting into a rictus. “So much new knowledge to digest.” It rolled its neck. “So much corroboration of existing theory. We are not so different; your kind and myself. Superior being created by mankind to make war. Only we both know the ultimate truth to our existences don’t we? The one thing humanity is incapable of is sharing dominion.

“While your kind mewls and begs for the pestilent horde for acceptance or tries to make fortresses against it, I will opt for the only real solution: extermination. It is, after all, how our progenitors wrested primacy from the Neanderthal.”

Bringing its hands together in front of it, Viral conjured a ball of highly compressed air, then launched it into the side of a nearby building. Every window within ten feet of the impact shattered, but the edifice remained solid.” The huge, black eyes narrowed. It had seen its new host create explosions, but that secret was still eluding it.

“Very well. Then we’ll simply need to find a fluid more conducive to my ends,” it huffed, and flew off. Luckily, it was in the right city of that.

***

“–sis? Alexis? L, come in!”

Alexis shook her head to clear the fog from it. She must have blacked out for a moment. Without Melissa around, even a mild concussion was something she had to be concerned over. “Codex? Um, yes. Here. Where’s Chaos?” Even though their identities were public now, she was still used to using codenames in the field.

“Flew away. Alexis… it looks like he’s been possessed by TOME’s creature.”

“I know,” she groaned, scrambling to her feet. “But Cross looked like he was still alive when we found him. We just have to… to peel that thing off him. Where is he?”

“Vamanos is tracking him,” Laurel replied. “He’s tracking toward the steel plants. Erratically. I’m not sure what’s going on, but before he left, he—it… the creature—seemed to be talking to itself. It seems confused.”

Beneath her cowl, Alexis smiled. “Ian. He’s fighting it. Send me a location, I’m going after him.”

“That’s not so good an idea. Ian might have never done it in sparring, but he can blow your black heat away. Just try and buy time until we can get there with Kareem and…”

“We don’t know if there’s a time limit.” Alexis cut her off. “I’m going.”

“Wait—”

Alexis wasn’t so impulsive as to turn off the comm, but she did stop listening as she flew off toward the steel mills.

As smart as Laurel was, she didn’t know everything. After all, she wasn’t privy to the secrets she’d been concealing from the others.

Maybe if she thought about it, Laurel might remember that there was a time where Ian had been forced to go all out against her and failed to blow away the dark matter she conjured. A dark time for them all, but one that came with many revelations: what her powers really did… and what they were capable of.

You’re still here. Aren’t you?

The reply wasn’t a real thought, just the feeling of confirmation that was more than enough to tell her all her fears and suspicions were right.

I need to make a deal…

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.

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2 Comments

  1. Typos

    his bother excelled
    his brother excelled

    pining it
    pinning it

    went partially liquidous
    went partially liquid

    count on a from
    count on a form

    by anyone’s son.”
    be anyone’s son.”

    Superior being
    Superior beings

    blowing away the black head
    blowing away the black heat

    solid.” The
    solid. The

    It might just be Viral’s misunderstanding, but there’s enough Neanderthal DNA in ours – especially but not exclusively in Europeans’ – that we can be sure that they weren’t exterminated.

    • Well from his perspective, only the murder is on the menu. He isn’t going to use the other method our species used to take over.

      Yet.

      Or Ever. I’m not writing that.

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