Descendants #105 – Gal Gallium – Chapter 03

This entry is part 13 of 16 in the series Current

They didn’t spend any more time in M-Vault than they had to. Even if the object they came to obtain was arguably the most dangerous thing there, nothing made it into the M-Vault if it wasn’t deemed an extreme threat. In fact, M-Vault was only a temporary option until Laurel could arrange for something more permanent in space.

And for all that threat, Warrick couldn’t help but think the containment device looked overly mundane; like the milk cans he remembered seeing on a field trip to a colonial reenactment ranch.

Of course, he alone could tell it was anything but mundane. He’d combined his ability to control and transmute metal with Laurel’s engineering skill as well as Lisa’s magical talent to create a wholly unique super-material combining tungsten, titanium, lead, silver, and platinum with carbon nanotubes, biomimetic ceramic cladding and defensive and concealing runes.

Altogether, the ‘milk can’ represented three weeks of design and construction to create a cask to contain and hide a fragment of a dead alien collective that had already nearly infected and destroyed an alternate world.

It sat like a rotten egg made of osmium to have it just six feet away from him, suspended from its pure platinum handles by Isp and Osp. Dead or not, this was something that could end the world and they hardly knew anything about it.

That the intent of their current mission was to bring it to Lisa’s new remote wizard tower for study wasn’t helping. He’d seen too many movies and read too many comics that started with people stupidly tamper in Things That Should Not Be and unleash hell.

Everyone tried to reassure him. They said they were taking every precaution. They said it was dead. They said life wasn’t like fiction.

People’s Exhibit One against: everything that had happened in his life since he first woke up from stasis. Hell, since the day his powers first emerged. Reality was becoming more and more like fiction in ways the rest of the world weren’t ready to admit.

He just hoped it would turn out to be more like the fun and optimistic kind and not the award-winning, usually post-apocalyptic kind where even the little kids and dogs died.

Reminding himself that he was a teen hero who fought crime with his best friends and girlfriend and none of them had died or turned out to be cyborgs bent on his destruction for the sole purpose of motivating him or raising stakes made him feel a bit better about where he stood on the genre spectrum.

Then again, shocking swerves were a thing. The most colorful, banter-y heroes could still sell their marriages to Actually Satan and fun teen heroes were one retcon or adaptation away from being a dour sociopath or sad sack with a life of nothing but suffering.

Let’s go.”

Lisa’s voice snapped him out of the tunnel vision he’d been developing with the evil milk can. They’d reached the embarkation room and she had activated the travel mirror, connecting it to the one in her tower.

When he looked up, the reflection of the room they were in was already gone. In its place was the image of a circular room appointed with wood paneling and dominated by shelves stocked with just about every type of container known to mankind throughout history from tupperware to amphorae to Victorian snuff boxes.

At the center was a table made of granite, its surface inlaid with a magic circle in pure silver. A rolling surgery tray say alongside it, laden with tools both mundane and eldritch.

Yeah,” Warrick said, not bothering to hide the trepidation in his voice since Lisa wasn’t either. He stepped across the mirror threshold with the twins leading and baring the containment unit aloft.

His ears popped as soon as he was across. It was the only real hint that he’d crossed forty-four hundred miles in a single step. Barring going back through the mirror, the nearest humans were now over one hundred miles away in Anchorage, AK.

Looking back, he could see that the mirror Cyn and Lisa were emerging from was set into a wall beside an arch leading into a stone spiral staircase. Above it was mounted an OLED monitor. On it were the other two participants in the day’s experiments: Laurel and Kay.

Somewhat morbidly, Kay’s hair was yellow-blonde with amber highlights for the occasion.

Welcome to the Tower guys,” Kay’s voice came through the monitor’s speakers as the travel mirror flashed and reverted from portal to reflective surface. “It is a comfortable seventy-six degrees with low humidity and there was no change in background thaum measurements was nil. Containment is holding at least.”

Until they broke said containment in a few minutes, Warrick thought. Then that train of thought entered a tunnel only to find it was not a tunnel at all and in fact had been painted on the side of a rock wall by a cartoon coyote.

His eyes immediately flicked to Laurel. “Thaums?”

We’re blazing a trail in a new field of science,” the older woman replied without a hint of apology. “I get to name the primary unit of measurement however I want.”

Warrick couldn’t help but crack a grin at that. Leave it to Laurel to keep things light even in the most tense situations. He was doubly thankful considering how the team genius was looking quite tired. This was probably just the top of a long list of things she had on her plate for the day. “I can’t really disagree with that logic. Or the reference.”

Cyn shot a look at Lisa and shook her head. “Nerds.”

Moving around the table, Lisa gestured for Warrick to place the containment in the circle on the table. She rolled her eyes. “Nothing wrong with nerds. I’m dating one, one’s your best friend, the one to blame for that joke is your mom…”

Never said there was anything wrong,” Cyn shrugged and took up a position leaning against a shelf opposite the screen. “So… what are we supposed to do in the highly unlikely event that this thing’s still alive when we crack it open?”

That’s why it’s just you three at the tower,” said Laurel. “Lisa of course needs to be there to actually perform the spells we’re using to research it. Warrick can reestablish the containment procedure…”

And I’m immune.” Cyn supplied. “Or at least we thing so considering it had to ask me to merge with it like it was creepy guy looking for a date to the prom. Then I can do like I did last time and steal War or Lisa’s powers to seal it away before things go to hell.”

Laurel’s smile was tired but proud. “Clever girl. Got it in one.”

Puffing up with pride, Cyn replied, “I take after my mom… somehow.”

Warrick raised his hand as the twins deposited the canister where Lisa showed them. “Everyone knows I’ve got a hundred and ten percent faith in you guys… but every single thing you ever said about Device World scares the shit outta me, Cyn. What’s the contingency plan in case that doesn’t work?”

There wasn’t a question of ‘if’ there was a contingency plan. This was Laurel for god’s sake.

Surprisingly, it was Kay that spoke up. “If things go bad, there’s a spell I’ve got control of that will drop all of you into a bubble on the astral plane where we can send food and water until we figure something else out. If things go end of reality bad, we can drop the entire tower into the astral instead.”

He let out a long breath. “Thank you for taking this as seriously as I am.” The glare he shot Cyn was only a tiny bit serious.

His best friend just rolled her eyes. “Look: oogie in the tin can there? It’s dead. Super dead. And even if it wasn’t I don’t think it would try the same shit this time around. It knows it won’t work. It’d probably be willing to negotiate. Y’know, now that it understands our rules aren’t the same as its rules.”

The brief glimpse Cyn had gotten into the psyche of the Yellow World was something they’d all heard but didn’t fully understand—and possibly weren’t able to understand.

According to Cyn, the entire Yellow world was a single consciousness, possibly one impossibly huge organism or hive mind. Something had separated pieces of it from the whole, causing them to find their way to other worlds including theirs. Only the Yellow World Entity (Entities?) couldn’t comprehend worlds with individuality—not just sapient minds but other… objects and matter and existences than it or themselves. They hated and feared it and tried to use their powers to alter reality to suit them leading to the strange and chaotic effects of the Yellow World artifacts held by Mad Mad Madigan and Warpstar.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” said Laurel, “If it comes to that. Our best case scenario is that it really is… inert, but some power still remains that we can tap into. Being able to borrow or combine powers like Warpstar for example would be a great tactical advantage.”

Warrick knew they needed all the extra tricks up their sleeves when Maeve attempted to attack, but he felt like he’d heard that same line in every single movie where things immediately went wrong. Sensing his tension, Isp and Osp coiled closer around him.

“Best case scenario,” he muttered under his breath. Shifting his feet to a defensive stance, he focused on the canister as Lisa activated the magic circle inlaid in the table. The room was filled with a gentle hum that reminded him of someone running their finger along the rim of a wine glass. “Are we ready to get started then?”

Lisa gave him a nod, expression suggesting to him that she was thinking along the same lines as him. She plucked a bauble off the keychain hanging from her satchel of magical accessories. With a flick of her wrist, she ended the spell on it, allowing a slender staff of white wood to expand into to its full size in her hand.

Watching her two friends getting serious made Cyn decide to at least try to do the same. Standing up straight, she moved away from where she’d been leaning. “As long as it’s Warpstar and not Mad-Mad.”

“All sensors are up and sending to the feeds.” Kay said, “You can go ahead and crack it open, Warrick.”

Taking a deep breath, Warrick raised a hand toward the containment device. At his gesture, the top of the cask split open fluidly, revealing a dull, yellow gem. Uncut and irregularly shaped, it was the size of his fist and had a slightly melted look along one side. Moreover, it looked wholly unremarkable; no dying embers of power in its heart, no eldritch shimmer across it s surface. Even calling it a gem was a stretch; it resembled a melted glob of colored glass.

If anything though, that made him more tense. And if he’d learned anything from his old mentor, the best way to break tension was banter. “So, since we’re talking about Warpstar, did any of you guys ever notice he spoke English?”

Lisa cocked her head questioningly at that. “What?”

It’s just that I’ve been watching a lot of movie critic shows online this summer and they keep talking about that thing where when people got back in time, everyone seems to know English and there’s no language barrier. Warpstar’s like that. He’s like this native dude from before Europe even knew America was a thing right?”

The others nodded.

Then how come his villain name is ‘Warp Star’? Two English words he can’t have known? Even his power-stealing mantra thing–‘combine to the power of one’. It’s just weird is all, especially since you’re bilingual with your magic, Lis.”

Something to study along the way,” agreed Lisa. “Considering how magic works; especially the Books actively aiding learning magic… it might make a weird kind of sense that there’s some sort of translation effect going on.”

Meanwhile, Cyn was chuckling to herself, prompting both her friends with her as well as Kay and Laurel on the big screen to give her an askance look. Once she noticed, she waved them off. “Sorry, just wondering what was up with that stupid chant anyway. It’s not the name of the spell like most spellcasters do, or even like a description of what it does. Like, what happens if he says ‘Combine to the power of two’?”

The sound that raked the room was the aural version of a shard of glass, causing everyone to reflexively wince and screw their eyes shut. When it had passed, the Yellow World object was hovering above the cask. It was no longer a dull and unremarkable thing.

Instead, it was to a flawless cut diamond what that diamond was to a chunk of sandstone. Instead of facets, it had fractals within fractals going on into eternity. And from its heart poured yellow. Not light that cast a jaundiced tint over everything, but something that painted the world over in shades of yellow.

It bobbed ominously for a moment before orienting on Cyn, possibly for being the one who invoked its unlikely words of power.

That was all Warrick needed to see. Practice made seizing his armor with his power as easy as shucking off a coat, and transforming the screaming, heavy metal into a grand tower shield something akin to opening his wallet.

With a thud that rattled everything in the room, he slammed the tower shield and himself boldly between the alien artifact and his best friend. It was disconcerting that the yellow not-light didn’t cast a shadow and rather the yellow-dye effect bled through even two inches of his best titanium super-alloy. In the space of a breath, there was a powerful vibration along the length of the shield… then the Yellow World stone phased through the metal directly in front of his face.

Horror etched the young man’s eyes. Cyn, Lisa and Kay were shouting, but he was so focused on the metal of the shield, he couldn’t focus on what they were saying. Plying his will, he made the shield bend, folding it around the stone. Not just to fold, but to change. He ripped apart covalent bonds and forced them back together. If titanium couldn’t contain the nightmarish thing, then he needed to make it into something denser.

White light overtook his eyes, streaking from them as the transmutation came in crackles of energy and black flecks. Twice as dense as lead, a shell of osmium surrounded and overtook the thing, shutting away the jaundiced light and silencing the keening that filled their ears.

For a second of respite. Then Warrick’s world exploded into light and senses.

***

WE ARE WE. ALL. ONE. PIECES OF A WHOLE. A WHOLE OF PIECES.

COMBINE TO THE POWER OF ONE.

COMBINE TO THE POWER OF TWO.

He felt naked. Nothing touched him, nothing weighted him down. Not even a breeze disturbed the absolute nothing that surrounded him. Even from within; there was no sense of breath or heartbeat. None of the mechanical and involuntary or unconscious movements of the body human.

He simply was.

Then they simply were.

He wasn’t alone. Not all alone at least.

A familiar presence.

Without sight or sound, he knew her.

Cyn.

She was close. Closer than he thought possible.

The how and why, he couldn’t make sense of, but he took heart (was that a thing if his heart didn’t seem to be there any more) in the fact that he wasn’t alone.

Warrick and Cyn.

Facsimile and Alloy.

Whatever this was, the inaugural members of the Descendants would find a way. No matter what the Yellow World was throwing at them.

She was a weapon all on her own, and all he needed was just a little bit of one of the most abundant family of elements on Earth.

Yes. Metal.

He reached out, feeling as if he was reaching past Cyn—or through her—and grasped for whatever metal he could find. He found it… and drew upon it…

To Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< Descendants #105 – Gal Gallium – Chapter 02Descendants #105 – Gal Gallium – Chapter 04 >>

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. Just the one typo I’m sure of here,

    there was no change in background thaum measurements was nil.
    (either) the change in background thaum measurements was nil.
    (or) there was no change in background thaum measurements.

    & metallic bonds aren’t the same as covalent bonds. Metallic bonds are shared between many atoms, covalent bonds are generally between two atoms. There’s more on this if you care to google it.

    tho’ Laurel may be in for a shock some day. Initial names for units rarely stick. The SI unit of magic would almost certainly be something without a pop-culture reference and might well be named after an early researcher – even Brant or Ortega in this universe.

    • Thanks for the correction on how the bonds work. I swear I used to know this >_< As for the name of the measurement, sounds like fodder for a side plot 🙂

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