The Descendants #96 – Kill Hope Chp. 4

This entry is part 24 of 55 in the series Current

Melissa left the plaza at a sprint. “You heard that?” She asked the others over the comm.

“We did,” Alexis replied, “There’s a commuter pod reserved for you at the stop on the corner of Lex and Napier and I’ve called the hospital already. Deeds’s personal security is moving him to an interior office away from the public.”

“I’m also on my way along with Zero and Vamanos. Never said we couldn’t go there.” Cyn offered.

Someone ‘hmm’d’ into the comm; Kareem. “He didn’t did he?”

“You think there’s something to that?” asked Alexis.

“I was thinking it too, actually.” She hadn’t gotten too far down the street and Melissa was already starting to get out of breath. “Why is he doing it like this? Why the game? Why give us a chance to save someone he wants to hurt?”

“Could be that we don’t actually had a chance.” Everyone fells silent for a moment at Ian’s grave proclamation. After a beat, he continued, “I hate to consider it, but his MO is making people suffer. He people he injures or kills are usually secondary targets: people whose death or pain affects someone he thinks was having too good a life.”

Melissa spotted the commuter pod station up ahead and pushed on through her lack of fitness to reach it. People were starting to notice her hurry on the street and were hurriedly making way for her. “I don’t like the sound of that. The way you’re talking…”

“The ‘game’ might be rigged so that it looks like you have a chance at saving Deeds when you really don’t,” Kareem finished the thought for her. Then a realization hit him. “Then whatever is going to happen to Deeds or the hospital is already in motion.”

“Shit.” Cyn muttered. “Vamanos! Step on it and start searching the new wing for bombs or sabotage—anything out of the ordinary!”

“On it.” Callie said, having been quiet during the entire incident. There was a crackle and pop on the comm as she phased out.

Dodging past people at the doors, Melissa made it inside the station. “I’m inside. Which pod stop?” It turned out to be Number Sixteen, a single passenger pod, which Melissa happily collapsed into the moment she reached it.

Taking a moment to catch her breath, she watched out the window as the pod backed out of the station and joined the normal pod traffic on the elevated rails. Watching the city starting to accelerate past her, it seemed so surreal to realize she was racing to engage in a sadistic game run by a genuine evil genius.

Despite her time on the team, there were some things she always expected to remain firmly in the realm of fiction: take over the world plots, retroactive continuity, and of course, ‘death games’. Considering three members of said team were possibly trapped in another dimension filled with faerie folk, she shouldn’t be as surprised as she was.

No, not surprised. Terrified. That little voice in the back of her head would not shut up: You’re going to die. Someone wants to kill you.

It was too much. Took much to expect of her, too much to ask. Rising tot he occasion wasn’t something she did, but what choice did she have? Even if she just hid and let Joykiller do whatever he wanted, eventually the people of the city itself would be howling for her blood to save themselves.

And now Ian just had to introduce the idea that the ‘game’ was rigged. As if she needed more to worry about. How would that even be possible? Even a genius like Laurel wasn’t infallible. There was no way of guessing just where Deeds would be at any given time, or make sure no one found a bomb or gas canister before it was employed.

It all seemed so sloppy. Laurel would never come up with something like this even in their Academy days. How could he possibly make sure…

She froze, staring into space as it hit her.

“We did it… he made us… Alexis, call the hospital back, get Mr. Deeds out of wherever they moved him as soon as possible!”

“What? Why?”

“Because Joykiller told us exactly who and where he was going to attack. He knew we’d alert them and he knew the standard operating procedure for that kind of thing. He wanted us to get him sent to an isolated area, somewhere without windows because I’m sure he knows every single room like that in the new wing and where the hospital would most likely hide a VIP. Please, call and get him out of there!”

***

“Just sit tight, Mr. Deeds. MPD is on their way to sweep the building and as soon as we get the all clear, we’ll be out of here.” Tyson Campbell was the head of Dexter Deeds’s security team and the most senior, a short but powerfully muscled man with dark skin and close cut black hair. Aside from being maybe five foot four, he looked the epitome on ‘bodyguard’; wearing a light gray suit and shades with a shoulder holster and highly polished shoes.

The other two members of the team, both brought on that day upon hearing from MPD that Deeds and the hospital opening might be a highly desirable target for Joykiller, looked more like standard G-men: tall, white dark-haired with stern expressions and black suits. It was still a little hard to tell ‘Jeffries’ from ‘Manson’ for Dexter Deeds.

The man himself was slumped on a bench in the middle of one of the new wing’s rehabilitation rooms. Instead of focusing on the threat to his life (he was used to those, seeing as the internet seemed to spawn new trolls to demand he die for every movie his company’s tech was involved in that didn’t meet their standards), he was more than a little annoyed at the state of the room. Who used medicine balls in the 2070’s? And why, when the place hadn’t opened yet, were the just out lying around?

He decided that was a question to ask the administrators when things were over and pulled out his palmtop to check his Quintessence and Shout-It accounts. “Gotcha, Ty. You’re the one who knows his thing, so I’m just going to follow your lead.”

The security head nodded and went to keep an eye on the door.

The price he paid for trying to do the right thing.

Having been dating Scribe reporter Mary Northbrooke on and off for a year and hearing her insights into the emergent superhero movement that seemed to be sweeping the nation, he’d felt compelled to step up. He’d always been attracted to the mythic heroes; it was why he’d acquired(and then lost) the Armor of St Drausinus and, if he wanted to dig deep, the reason he got involved in a facet of show business.

So using the wealth and influence he’d gained by his good fortune to do something good in its own right seemed right.

So of course some asshole from the internet wanted to kill him for it.

He wasn’t even surprised or hurt by that sort of thing anymore. But after hearing that The Descendants were on the case, he really wished he could go out there and get the guy on his own. Get a lot of the scum and vicious animals out there that thought they could do whatever they wanted under the cover of anonymity while pretending they had some kind of philosophy or greater purpose beyond just being punk sadists.

It was all over his Shout-It. The Joykiller had announced he was the target and so his little followers had all dog-piled onto his account to mock him and tell him how he was going to die. True, there were plenty of people saying how awful all this was, but they were quickly being shouted down by the rabble.

Tyson’s palmtop rang, a crisp, professional ring, and he answered it speaking in short, precise sentences. When he hung up, he was looking serious. “We just got new intel from the Descendants: they think the Joykiller planned for us to come here. We’re switching locations, going straight for the parking garage. MPD is going to clear a way, but I want us out of here and into one of the supply closets ASAP.”

“You sure that’s a good idea? He’ll be expose while we move him.” Dexter wanted to say that was Jeffries talking, but the two temps looked so similar he couldn’t be sure.

“All things considered, I think that risk is more acceptable than staying right where this nihilistic joker wants us.” Tyson looked to Dexter. “Any objections?”

Dexter shook his head. “Like I said: your call.”

“Then we go. Jeffries, stay with Mr. Deeds. Manson, you’re with me. On point.” He moved to the door, drawing his pistol in the same motion. Standing to the side of the door instead of head on, he threw it open and led with the barrel of his weapon, rapidly surveying the hallway before motioning Manson forward.

Just as the second man followed him out, someone appeared at the end of the hallway. Manson’s gun tracked toward them at the flicker of motion, but Tyson reached out to stay his hand. “Hold you’re fire. It’s one of the Descendants.”

“You sure?” Manson didn’t lower his gun. Indeed, the figure coming toward them looked like Hope—or at least her latest costume—but she was wearing a red cloak and a balaclava.

“I know what this looks like, but I really am me,” came a feminine voice as the figure stopped a good distance away. “I’m here to help, but like you’ve probably already heard, we need a change of plans. Joykiller is too smart not to have anticipated what you’d do once we warned you of his intentions.”

Tyson reached out and pushed Manson’s arm down. “Yeah, that checks out with what we’ve heard. What’s the new call then?”

Hope let out a relived sigh. “Okay, so Vamanos is already in the building. I’m going to call her and she’s going to take each of you to a safe location one by one.”

Back in the room, Dexter lets out a breath as tension left his body. “Hear that—uh—Jeffries? Everything’s going to be alright.”

“Yup, going just as planned.”

Before Dexter could register the sneering, sinister tone in the other man’s voice, pain exploded in his back, followed by a surprising wash of cold. He blacked out thereafter, his body crumpling to the ground.

Neither Tyson nor Manson missed hearing the shot and turned almost as one, weapons trained on Jeffries, who immediately dropped into a crouch behind the fallen body of Dexter Deeds. A blissful, dull-eyed smile split his face as he pointed his own gun right back at them.

“Whoa. Hold on.” Jeffries says, utterly calm. “Think for a second: I didn’t kill him. This isn’t even a real gun: it’s a captured bolt pistol made to look like the standard issue. Put a spike through this altruistic sheep’s spinal column at a very precise spot. Unless he gets treatment immediately, he’s gong to be paralyzed for life.”

The unnatural smile grew larger. “Good thing you have Hope here, huh? She can just deus ex machina him back to perfect health, right? No consequences to anything that’s happened. No lessons learned, no live-altering tragedy. Just… happy smiles forever, right? Right!?”

Hope took the moment to step in between the security professionals and their now-former colleague. “Right.” She started focusing her powers on him. If he wanted tragedy, she would crater him into a depression worthy of Sylvia Plath. “But you’re going to try and stop me, aren’t you?”

Jeffries (if that was his real name), blinked as thoughts started to well up unbidden. Still, he mustered himself and soldiered through his prepares speech. After all, Joykiller had entrusted this special task to him and he couldn’t stand failing him.

“There’s not going to be any happily ever after here, kid. No magical recoveries, no do-overs. But I’m just going to stand back… and let you make the…” he paused. What was he doing? Had he really just shot a man because an internet personality told him to? Because that man had donated money to a children’s hospital?

It suddenly hit him that there was no way out of this. He’d used his real name. People had seen his face. There were two men with guns right in front of him. He was going to prison and there was a good chance he was never coming out. He’d just thrown his life away over what? Anger that sometimes good things happened when nothing good ever seemed to happen to him?

He looked down at the gun in his hand. A captive bolt pistol: a modified version of a device that used to feature in the slaughter of cattle. It fire a metal spike that stayed in the barrel of the weapon. Not a ranged weapon but easily lethal at short distances…

Still staring, he pulled the reset slider, returning the spike to the chamber, ready to fire again. Then slowly, he lifted it to his head.

A pair of small, gloved hands grabbed the barrel before he could get it into place and twisted the pistol out of nerveless fingers. He looked up, only now noticing that it was through tears, to find Hope staring down at him. Then she pulled something from her belt, pressed it to his neck, and his world went dark.

Hope watched Jeffries twitch and fall over with one jolt from the lipstick taser. It was hard to breath, standing there, staring at a man she’d almost driven to suicide with her powers. It used to be that her biggest problem was making people to happy. When the hell did that change?

Her thoughts were rudely interrupted by a now unfortunately familiar distorted voice. “Now that was interesting. Either you have powers the online community doesn’t know about, or your psychic has a greater range than I expected. Tell me: did you think—just for a second—of just standing back and letting him do it?”

Instead of giving him the satisfaction of a reply, Hope knelt down next to Dexter. Blood was welling up slow, but steady from a hole that punched through his suit coat and shirt, into his back. Without even really conscious thought, she raised a hand to start healing.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

The voices seemed to come from all around the room. Scanning slowly, she discovered it was coming from three medicine balls sitting on the floor around them. “Why?” There was nothing for it: she dreaded the answer.

“Because you missed what that good man you electrocuted was going to say: You are going to have to make a hard choice. Yes, you can choose to save Dexter Deeds’s mobility in the lower half of his body. Considering he’s worth eighty billion, all you’d really be doing is saving him money on a surgery and a few years of painful recovery that, let’s be honest, happened because you didn’t figure out my plot in time.”

“You aren’t going to make me blame myself for what you did.” Hope snapped.

“Possibly, but now it will be your choice whether or not to heal him… when you learn that Mr. Deeds’ lady love and the woman that writes all those delightful articles about you is trapped in the north side elevator… and oh my, it seems another of my loyal followers just nicked her carotid artery with a knife. Now that is lethal. Fairly quickly too. Now I know you have–”

“Vamanos, I need you here now.” Hope said into the comms, “Pick me up and head for the north side elevators.”

Within seconds, a yellow and red flash entered the room, grabbed Hope and was gone.

Tyson was already on his phone calling for help, so only Manson was around to hear Joykiller laugh and say, “Have fun saving a life while trapped in a box with an expert knife fighter.”

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. You have to believe me: this was planned long before we even heard about the Killing Joke Movie.

  2. Vamanos is certainly earning her place here. Quietly and effectively.

    Typos

    He people he injures
    The people he injures

    were the just out
    were they just out

    He’ll be expose
    He’ll be exposed

    “Hold you’re fire.
    “Hold your fire.

    his prepares speech.
    his prepared speech.

    It fire a
    It fired a

    people to happy.
    people too happy.

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