Descendants #102 – Tales of Consequence Chp. 2

This entry is part 45 of 55 in the series Current

Christina Carlyle didn’t get to see her sisters often. Both were older than Tink and her brother by a good decade and lived overseas.

And frankly? She was fine with that.

While she couldn’t speak for Jacqueline, Janet seemed to be trying to remind her exactly why that was. Upon hearing that her sister not only had extraordinary powers but was a superhero and that a secret organization had threatened their family, Janet had hopped a plane across the Atlantic Ocean… to berate her about how inconvenient it was for her.

“…my biggest clients are French, Christie! They weren’t exactly happy to work with me in the first place because I’m an American. It took me years to build up this relationship and then you go and pull this nonsense?!”

Tink kept her arms crossed as she sat on her bed. She’d just been sullenly waiting for this ever since Janet walked in the door. It had been all smiles and hugs for their parents, semi-warm greetings for their brothers… and a quick squeeze of the shoulders and a ‘Christie, I think you’ve grown another inch’ for her. After that, nothing for the next four hours as Janet chatted with the rest of the family.

It was only when she’d gotten Tink alone that the eruption happened.

From experience, Tink knew that arguing would only make it take longer, so she just sat there and took the abuse.

“I tried telling them that your powers are all technology and they might have accepted that until your little press conference.” Janet sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “To cultivate our business relationship, I exchange stories with them about our families. I told them about how happy I was that you finally found a boyfriend back when you first started dating that Kaine guy. I even showed them your prom picture—so they knew who he was when he unmasked the other day.”

She leaned in toward Tink, her voice dropping from her irate tone to a serious one. “You know how the French feel about psionics.”

“Descendants,” Tink corrected bluntly. She wasn’t liking where this was going.

Janet ignored her. “They see them in the same light as they did immigrants of other religions years ago: they’re not in favor because they see psionic powers as a threat to their culture. So when they saw that my sister is dating one of… those people…”

Past experience or not, Tink couldn’t let that one go by.

“Those people? Janet, I know you didn’t just call Warrick ‘one of those people’.”

“Well he is, isn’t he?” Janet snapped. “In fact, he’s more than that. Do you know that in Paris, you can get postcards with a cartoon of Alloy tying the Eiffel Tower in a knot around the French flag? That’s how they feel about your boyfriend. And now they find out that my sister is dating public enemy number one?! It’s a disaster!”

Tink was agog. Even for Janet, this was evil and callus. “I think I know better than you how the French treat descendants. Not only am I dating ‘public enemy number one’, but I’ve worked closely beside the director of Descendants Rights Worldwide. Did you know it’s illegal to use a power anywhere inside a city? And they count just being a protomorph as using a power.”

She rose from her bed to stand nose to nose with her sister. “The penalty is indefinite incarceration. In a military prison.”

“That’s the government,” Janet waved that off, “not the people. And certainly not my clients.”

“The same clients who you’re afraid won’t work with you because I’m dating a descendant,” Tink deadpanned.

Janet started to reply, stopped, then a clever gleam entered her eyes. “You should be ashamed of yourself lumping all French people together like that.”

“I’m not.” Tink said, turning away from her sister to go grab her D-icon from her nightstand. “There are millions of people over that who’re either unaware of what’s happening or actively fighting it. But the discrimination and abuse is there, making Braylocke laws look like something approaching reasonable.”

“You’re talking as if they’re not.”

At this, Tink froze, fixing Janet with a cold look. It didn’t seem to convey her utter dissatisfaction because words kept coming out of Janet’s mouth. “Normal police can’t handle these people and we certainly can’t let them police themselves. It’s only—”

“Janet.” Tink interrupted sharply, drawing a stunned response. “You’re my sister, so I’m giving you this one chance: stop talking. ‘These people’ includes me, okay? Maybe my powers don’t come from having an ancestor who was experimented on, but I have powers.”

To demonstrate, she reached down and grabbed her bedframe, lifting the entire bed off the floor one-handed. Then she let it drop with a loud thump.

Janet gaped. “What… how?!”

“Maybe you’d know if you focused on anything this visit besides how what happened this week affects you,” Tink said coldly. “I got… in an accident last year and my body was infected by a nanite colony that’s been continually improving my body. Yes, I got an inch and a half taller, but I’ve also added a lot of muscle and haven’t been sick in almost eight months! But that doesn’t matter to you because you need to schmooze bigots for money so you come in here to shout at me to… to what? To what end? Did you think I would break up with Warrick because you told me it was bad for your business.”

“I thought you might be the least bit conscientious, yes.”

Tink stopped and starred at her. “Did you really just say that? It that really all you care about?”

“Of course not! I’m also worried about you running around putting yourself in danger for nothing!”

“For nothing!” Tink didn’t know when they’d started yelling, but she definitely was at this point. “Do you know how many people are still alive because of what we’ve done? What dangerous people and things are out there that we’re keeping at bay? We talking down a dragon from blowing a town off the map. We’ve stopped plots to injure and kill thousands.”

Raising her D-icon, she activated it, instantly donning her Renaissance costume. With the addition of the boots, she well and truly towered over her sister, looming over her in all her powerful glory. “We’re doing so much good, Janet. And we’re facing down things you don’t even know about—that would terrify you to the core if you knew about them. So it is not for ‘nothing’.”

Janet’s back straightened with affront. She knew she was losing the argument and didn’t like it. “There are other people who can do that! Just leave that to them and get back to your studies. There’s not reason to waste that big brain of yours when you could be doing so much more than punching things.”

Hands flexing into fists, Tink felt herself starting to shiver with rage. “Punching…? Is that what you think I’m doing? Is that all you think I’m doing? Of course I’m using my intellect—and there’s nothing keeping me from doing other research on the side—oh yes, did you again miss the part where I work with Laurel-freaking-Brant? Heiress to Brant Industries and a serious researched herself? You’re just making up things to criticize me about because you know you were in the wrong earlier about your hateful clients!”

She didn’t give Janet a chance to reply again, knowing whatever she might say would only make her more angry. Instead, she stormed out of the room. She didn’t have a full-length mirror in her room, so she headed to the master bedroom where their parents did.

Janet followed after, not about to allow herself to be ignored. “That is not why I’m saying this! You need to get your head back in the real world.”

By then, Tink was in the master bedroom, standing in front of the mirror. But at hearing this, she rounded on her sister so fast that the other woman stumbled back. “The real world? Are you kidding me! I’m the one who got stabbed in the gut and infected by a nanite colony. I’m the one who is dating someone who is the current minority it’s fashionable to discriminate against. I’m the one actively taking steps to protect and better our world. Me not you. That’s what I’m doing with my ‘big brain’.”

Her lips formed a tight line as she turned back to the mirror, presenting her D-icon to it. With a powerful hum, the reflection was replaced by a view of the arrival room at LSI HQ.

This, of course, was Janet’s first time seeing magic in action. She fell silent, gawking at the active mirror gate.

Tink looked over her shoulder, feeling more than a little smug. “Oh this? This is the real world. My real world. Now if you excuse me, I have some work to do in my lab.” With that, she stepped through, allowing the gate to close behind her.

By now, the embarkation room was familiar: a big, round room tiled with white ceramics with a heavy security door opposite a number of mirrors on the wall. There was a moment as the room’s sensors picked up her remote biometrics and the presence of the D-icon, then the security door slid open.

She was still breathing hard from her confrontation was she stomped through the halls to the lab she shared with Laurel. Even though she’d just come to the HQ to be away from Janet, there really was a lot she could be tending to. The lab’s storage was full of projects they were working on but hadn’t completed yet, so she went to the storage drawers and pulled open one she’d been focusing on: a new mechanism for her gauntlets that allowed her to rapidly switch between different types of ammunition.

It had become a necessity as she’d started developing anti-faerie ammo for when Maeve made her move. She’d come up with several: a sticky gel impregnated with iron filings, shells that exploded into nets of copper wire, and phosphorus rounds for igniting the highly flammable Faerie plants.

In order to use them effectively, she needed a faster, more efficient means of switching them out besides ejecting and replacing magazines. Her current solution involved smaller magazines arranged in a carousel around her wrists. She’d been playing with the idea of adding a second barrel so she could use both the carousel and a standard magazine so she could fire on full automatic if necessary.

To that end, she took one of her back-up gauntlets and opened it up to extract its firing mechanism.

She didn’t know how long she’d been working, only that she was finally interrupted from it by a meek knocking at the open door to the lab. Looking up, she found Juniper waving timidly at her.

“Hi,” the brown-haired girl said, “I saw someone was down here and decided to see if whoever it was wanted company.” After an awkward pause, she added, “…do you?”

Tink actually had to think about it. Throwing herself into work had allowed her tension to drain from her, leaving her no longer as angry, but also a little drained. Slowly, she nodded. “Yeah, I think I do. But… what brings you here?”

Juniper glanced away, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. “The hotel was getting a little… cabin fever-y. I’d normally go somewhere in town, but every time I try people recognize me and start mobbing me for pictures. So thought I’d come here and just enjoy the quiet.”

“You didn’t go back with your parents for the summer?”

The other woman shook her head. “We’re all needed her right now. Ms. Brant disagreed, but I think we all need each other. Plus, I need to talk to Malcolm.”

Now it was Tink who averted her eyes. “You still haven’t spoken with him?”

“The ROCIC held everyone who was kidnapped for observation and debriefing until yesterday. We’re supposed to meet for dinner back at the Dornez this evening to talk about everything.” Her expression brightened with desperate optimism. “He didn’t seem all that unhappy. At least not with me.” That optimism faded, “It turns out there were medical exams involved and Malcolm has a fear of needles.”

Tink couldn’t take it anymore. She moved to the other woman and wrapped her up in a tight hug. “Jun, I’m so sorry. If I hadn’t screwed everything up, none of this would be happening.”

Juniper hugged her back, but shook her head at the same time. “You don’t have to feel bad. It’s okay.”

“No it’s not,” Tink said, her voice cracking. “Why are you even saying that? I know Warrick says it because he l-loves me. And Ms. Brant says it because she wants to keep morale up, but why you?”

The other only hugged her harder. “Because it very easily could have been me. It almost was.” Tink pulled away just enough to give her an askance look. “Back when Inexorable attacked, I ran outside to change… and got caught.”

She ignored the gasp from Tink to continue. “I got lucky though. The person who caught me was Lisa… while she was changing into Occult. But it easily could have been someone else and this would have happened back then.” A haunted look crossed her expression. “Before we had so many superfriends to help… back when this could have gone way worse.”

“But…”

“Kareem won’t say exactly when, but he’s had to edit a few memories to keep our secret too. It really bothers him.”

When Tink tried to talk again, Juniper didn’t even let her get a word out. “Do you know what happened when Ms. Brant got back here after your mask got ripped off?” Tink shook her head. “She came back to the command center here and opened a file she already had. It was the plan she had in place for when this happened. Not if: when. She knew this was going to happen and had a plan for it. Really? This was inevitable.”

“It was still me though,” Tink argued.

“Would you have blamed me if it were me? I-I mean if you were on the team back then, I mean?”

“Well no…”

Juniper gave her that adorable bright smile that only she seemed capable of. “Then there’s no reason for me to blame you.” Realizing they were still hugging, she let go and stepped back. “Hey, how about we head up to the cafeteria, get something to eat, then just hang out in the rec room for a while. I feel like we both need to just relax a little bit.”

“Sure,” Tink nodded, “That sounds like a great idea.”

***

Back at the Carlyle house, Janet trudged back into the room she was ostensibly sharing with her sister. Upon closing the door, she let out a long, tired breath before taking out her palmtop and making a call. After a few moments, she spoke a string of letters and numbers to reach the party she looking for.

“Hello, Doctor? Yes, I talked to her. Was it really necessary to make her that angry?” The answer made her frown. She didn’t actually enjoy butting heads with her family, it just happened. So doing it on purpose made her uncomfortable.

“I understand,” she replied to the answer mechanically. “It’s for the greater good. Yes, I did find out: she isn’t a descendant, she says she was infected by a nanite colony that’s been altering her body.”

Another long pause. “Thank you, doctor. I’ll send you a full report on our conversation this evening.”

With that, she hung up… and tried to swallow her guilt.

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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One Comment

  1. Typos

    evil and callus.
    evil and callous.

    We talking down
    We talked down

    researched herself?
    researcher herself?

    confrontation was she
    confrontation as she

    needed her right
    needed here right

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