The Descendants #96 – Kill Hope Chp. 5

This entry is part 20 of 55 in the series Current

For a brief moment, Melissa thought it was impossible for her to hate Joykiller more than she did from the instant she’d seen what he’d ordered done to Dexter Deeds.

That was before she saw what he’d ordered done to Mary Northbrooke.

She and Vamanos came through the wall of the elevator and immediately started slipping in the blood pooling on the floor. Northbrooke, who over the months and years had made herself known to the entire Descendants team as one of the most staunch allies not only to them, but to superheroes and normal, everyday descendants, was sitting on the floor of the elevator, clutching a wound in her throat, which spurted her lifeblood through her fingers at a worryingly steady pace.

Standing over her was a tan man with a slight frame, wearing a brown leather jacket over a dark button-down shirt and khakis. In one hand, he held a hunting knife whose very tip gleamed with only the slightest hints of blood. He turned toward them upon detecting movement, a cruel sneer coming to his face.

Vamanos released Melissa the moment she took in what was happening, cannoning into the knife-wielder. He tried to drive his blade into her shoulder, only to find the blade skipping off the friction-resistant coating of her costume.

Sparing only the most minimal attention to the pair as they struck the wall of the elevator, Melissa dropped down beside Mary. Ignoring the blood starting to soak into her uniform pants, she covered Mary’s hands with her own and concentrated.

Before she started training in the biological control elements of her power, Melissa never paid much attention to how her power worked. She’d just touch the place of the injury and—apropos to her name—hoped that things would heal correctly.

Whether it was due to a better understanding or heightened empathy, but she’d started feeling feedback; strangle, tingling sensations on her own person in the same places she was healing on her charges. In the case of Mary, it tingled deep in her throat, making her feel like she was choking.

With the blood trying to spray through the wound, the going was slower than normal, especially as her power worked overtime trying to replace the lost vital fluid. Under her touch, she felt Mary’s pulse start to go thready and her breath slow.

The word ‘no’ started running through Melissa’s head. It tried to come out of her throat, but the sympathetic sting of Mary’s knife wound kept anything but a harsh croak from escaping her lips. It occurred to her that once again, this was another highly calculated attack on Joykiller’s part: the injury wasn’t just a killing blow, but an intentionally slow but hard to repair wound: something that she might not be able to fix, but would force her to watch and feel and experience Mary’s death if she failed.

There were more ways to kill someone than stop their heart.

Her hands started to shake, not doing the wound in Mary’s neck any favored. The injured woman mewled, the best she could manage with cratering blood pressure. It was enough to make Melissa take notice and force herself to steady.

Squeezing her eyes closed, she did all she could think to do: she just concentrated harder. Even as the sounds of combat intensified behind her.

Meanwhile, Vamanos found herself on the defensive. Her initial charge had rattled the knife-fighter, and her costume proved to be proof against slashing, but her enemy recovered quickly and had managed a cobra-quick stab that managed to penetrate her costume and leave a shallow wound in her thigh.

To make matters worse, the elevator was too confined a space for her to get up to speed to phase.

Her change of fortunes must have shown on her face, because the knife-wielder flashed her a hateful grin and changed up his grip on the weapon. “Joykiller told me to expect you, speed demon. What’s the matter? Can’t fight without room to run?” He feinted with a stab on her right side, causing her to dodge back. He cackled. “Suits me fine, ’cause my style’s all about getting up close.”

Another false attack almost led Vamanos to barge into Melissa and the fallen reporter. She’d run out of room to dodge far sooner than she expected.

Without the opportunity to use her powers, she fell back on the teachings of her teammates. Namely, Warrick’s assertion that the ability to mouth off was almost better than straight up combat prowess.

“Yeah, your style is something else alright. Tell me: do you need to trap unsuspecting women in elevators for all your attack forms, or just the basic stances? Does it have to be elevators? Can you also stab sleeping or handcuffed people too?”

Setting his jaw, the assassin lunged again, something Vamanos was able to duck with ease, though he managed to strike her with his elbow as she backed away. “This was Joykiller’s idea. To neutralize your powers! If you weren’t some freak, I could take you anytime, anywhere.”

“And if you were really skilled, I’d be dead by now,” she pointed out, snapping a kick she’d learned from Laurel into the side of his knee. As a skilled fighter, he managed to move with the blow to reduce the impact, but that was still time he was spending not attacking. “Not to mention Mary. Are you really the best someone like Joykiller could come up with? Some guy who whines that the superheroes he’s fighting have super powers?”

“I am not whining!” The assassin went low and lunged again, aiming for her gut. Vamanos saw it coming, however and stepped into the blow, dropping her arm down on his to force his knife off target while at the same time driving her shoulder into his chin.

Her triumph was short lived as the assassin dropped his knife, grabbed her arm, and in a frenzy of motion, she found herself hitting the floor of the elevator hard with her back. Only the sliding action of her low-friction suit and the blood on the floor saved her from the follow-up stomp aimed at her head.

That same blood turned out to be a detriment to her attacker however, as he slipped just as the two heroines had and was forced to catch himself on the elevator wall.

Vamanos didn’t miss her chance. Getting on foot under her, she threw herself into the knife-fighter’s legs, barreling him over. Before he even struck the ground, she moved to straddle him, swinging her hardened gloves for his head.

Once again, her opponent’s superior training saved him. An expert cross guard blocked the rain of blows, and when Vamanos’s attacks waned, the assassin flipped them over, making a point to try and drive her helmeted head into the floor hard before closing one hand around her throat. The other found the knife he’d dropped and retrieved it from the bloody floor.

“Got anything else to say, smart mouth?” He snarled, trying to get a better grip on her neck even as he raised the knife.

His answer came in the form of an immediate punch to the face with a fist shod in a hardened glove. A flailing attempt to stab was caught by Vamano’s other hand as she threw a second punch that finally managed to knock him off her, removing his hand from her neck at the same time.

Before he could recover, she rolled over and put all her weight into one last punch that bounced the back of his head off the blood-covered floor, knocking him cold.

“Yeah,” she breathed hard through her mouth, “You’ll have to choke me a lot longer than that to do much of anything. Codex explained it to me a few weeks ago: speedsters are built to process oxygen a lot more efficiently.” With some effort, she got into a sitting position against the wall. “So chalk another one up for freak powers, huh?”

She cast an eye over to Melissa, still huddled next to Mary. “How’s she doing?”

Melissa’s voice slurred when she replied. “Ssshe passed out. But I think itsh healed. No more blood.” She couldn’t bring herself to let go of Mary just yet, for fear that despite what she knew intellectually, the blood might start spraying out again.

“We need food,” she muttered, swaying fro where she was kneeling. “She needs-a transh-fu-shun.”

“Please tell me someone picked that up.” Vamanos said into the com. “I can’t phase us out, so we need pick-up.”

Moments later, Alexis’s voice came through. “The elevator controls are part of hospital security: I can’t access them remotely with the set-up Codex gave me. Don’t worry though, Zero’s been standing by outside the building. She’s going to bring you up to a floor where doctors are standing by for Ms. Northbrooke.”

“Food?” Melissa was barely able to keep upright by now.

“Got you covered!” sang a voice from above. The access panel in the ceiling was pulled aside to reveal the grinning, golden face of Facsimile. She was holding a piping hot steamer tray under one arm. “Swiped a whole thing of burgers from the cafeteria in the next wing over when I heard what our least favorite asshole was making you do.”

Vamanos slowly got to her feet and made to help the golden heroine climb down. “How’s Mr. Deeds?”

“In surgery,” Alexis answered before Facsimile could.

“Take me to him.”

Facsimile looked down to find Melissa leaning against the wall next to Mary. “Sorry, Hope, but I don’t think you’re in any shape to do that.”

“I need to!” Melissa got as close as she could to yelling in her condition, “Don’t you get it? This…” she gestured around her to the elevator, “this was all set up to keep me from helping him. If I can’t, then Joykiller wins.” Suddenly wild-eyed, she looked around the tiny room. “He’s watching this. Watching this whole thing.”

It was finally too much for her, and when she went to catch herself next, she missed the wall and would have smacked her head against the wall if Vamanos hadn’t acted quickly in catching her.

Facsimile crowded in next to her and pressed a foil-wrapped hamburger into her friend’s hands. “I’m sure he is. Probably planning something else. That’s why you need to get your energy back up.”

Try as she might to protest, Melissa’s hunger took over as soon as she sensed food. Tearing open the foil, she began to stuff her face, swallowing as quickly as she could chew. Three burgers in, the elevator was ensconced in an aura of blue light and lurched gently upward courtesy of Zero.

Within minutes, Facsimile had forced the doors open and a medical team was waiting with a gurney and bags of plasma. The four heroines all but collapsed in the hallway in front of the elevator was Mary Northbrooke was rushed away. The would-be assassin was zip-cuffed and dropped unceremoniously on the cold tiles to await arrest.

“So what now?” Zero, the only member of the group still completely fresh and unmarred by blood asked.

“No idea,” Melissa replied between bites of her sixth burger. The world was no longer fading around her, but the deep, aching hunger that came with her powers had yet to abate. “Actually, I can’t believe Joykiller wasn’t taunting us or trying to distract me the whole time.”

Facsimile looked around curiously. “He still hasn’t shown up either to go after you while you’re tried either. What’s up with that?”

Melissa swallowed the last bite of her current meal and frowned. “He put speakers and receivers in medicine balls earlier, I can’t imagine he wouldn’t have bugs in the elevator.”

“Codex couldn’t hack it, maybe he couldn’t either,” Facsimile offered.

“Then how’d he stop it between floors?” asked Vamanos.

“I believe I can help with that,” Kareem’s voice came on the com. “I’ve been working on the man who shot Dexter Deeds all this time, trying to peel back his mental defenses. Both men are disenfranchised military officers trained in urban combat. Joykiller chose them because the hospital features state of the art cyber security he couldn’t hack on such short notice. You will find that the man you just fought has a copy of an emergency services control fob he used to directly stop the elevator.”

Melissa ducked her head. “That makes sense. But do either of them know where Joykiller actually is?”

“I’m sorry, but no. He contacted them on printed phones from a similar device. They know as little about him as we do.”

Another dead end. Melissa hung her head, not feeling like eating despite the ravenous hunger gnawing at her.

“What about the medicine balls?”

“What?” Facsimile looked to Zero, who had just asked the question.

Zero looked thoughtful behind her half mask. “I was just wondering: Hope said Joykiller put receivers in medicine balls. I was wondering who put them here. The man who shot Mr. Deeds had to be with Mr. Deeds all day, and the man we just fought wouldn’t have been allowed to just wander around with a giant, heavy bag without anyone noticing.”

“Neither recalls placing or even knowing about the balls.” Kareem added.

Vamanos punched a fist into her palm. “Then there’s a third bad guy here—and a ton of security in the place means they won’t be hard to track down!” She tapped her comm. “Did you get that?”

“I’m sending a request for security footage to the hospital security staff now,” Alexis replied.

Even as the others started to brighten, Melissa was chewing thoughtfully on a new burger, her eyes focusing intently on nothing as she thought.

The medicine balls thing was so… random and kind of stupid. It was something that would stick in someone’s mind even if it didn’t make any actual sense. As if it were designed to be a clue someone would remember and ask about.

She swallowed and followed that line of thought further. What had happened so far? Dexter Deeds might well be paralyzed after she’d been forced to abandon him to tend to Mary Northbrooke, who might well have died almost literally in her arms.

Assuming Joykiller predicted Callie would win—not a bad assumption given the many secondary characteristics that came with super-speed—he could have anticipated Melissa being emotionally wrecked by the experience and ready to come down on Joykiller wherever he was with the full force of The Descendants behind her.

Just as he’d planned.

Her grip tightened, destroying the sandwich in her hand.

Joykiller said he’d wanted to kill Hope, but he never went after his targets directly. It was all a mind game to him, all a means of showing how superior he was while ruining people who went against his world view. By having a power that could literally save people who would otherwise die, she’s offended him.

He didn’t want her to die, he wanted her to suffer.

Likely at his own hands.

Wherever the medicine ball lead directed them, they would find Joykiller there—and death for everyone she knew and cared about.

To Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< Descendants 97 – Heir of Hyrilius Chp. 1The Descendants #96 – Kill Hope Chp. 1 >>

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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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One Comment

  1. Typos etc.

    The 3rd paragraph is one long sentence. It might be better broken into two or more sentences.

    neck any favored.
    neck any favors.

    cratering blood pressure.
    (Maybe ‘faltering’ rather than ‘cratering’? Cratering might be slang somewhere but I haven’t heard it.)

    was Mary Northbrooke was
    as Mary Northbrooke was

    disenfranchised military officers
    (Dishonorably discharged maybe? Or just discharged?)

    she’s offended him.
    she’d offended him.

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