Descendants #102 – Tales of Consequence Chp. 3

This entry is part 5 of 49 in the series Current

“It’s so good of you boys to come by to see him tonight. We’re interviewing new lab assistants over at the college, but… it didn’t feel right to leave him all alone after all that happened.” Atalaya Utt had just let Warrick and JC into the apartment she and her husband shared with their son, Kareem.

“Don’t you worry about Kareem,” JC said with a confident grin, “We’re here to make sure Kareem doesn’t get a chance to wallow in this whole mess that went down. Tonight is guys night and we’re going to have fun if it kills us.”

Warrick leaned easily against the kitchen counter, sipping the juice he’d been offered. “Maybe not if it kills us, but we’ll definitely do our level best.”

JC wouldn’t accept even the idea of defeat though. “Fun will be had. I guarantee.” He said the last part in a terrible Creole accent. “Your son is in good hands.”

“Then I leave it to you,” said Mrs. Utt, picking up her bag from the counter. “Again, thank you so much. You’re good friends.”

“We try,” said Warrick.

Once Kareem’s mother was out of the apartment, the pair headed down the short hall off the kitchen to the door to what they knew to be Kareem’s room. Once again, JC took the lead, knocking on the door with the back of his wrist to make a louder sound without actually banging on it. “Hey buddy! Guess who’s here!”

The door hadn’t been latched all the way and the knocking made it swing gently open, allowing the two a view lit by a single desk lamp. They could just make out the shape of Kareem lying on his bed with an arm thrown over his eyes.

“While I appreciate your desire to cheer me up, I don’t really feel like making the effort tonight, thank you,” came the reply.

“Come on, man. It’s been three days and we haven’t heard anything from you since.” JC pushed the door the rest of the way open but didn’t cross the threshold. “And from what your mom says, you haven’t left the apartment since then either.”

“I haven’t had any reason to,” Kareem replied simply. “It is summer vacation after all.”

Warrick stepped into the room and leaned on the door frame “What about your rehabilitation exercises? I don’t see a weight rack in here.”

“I completed my rehabilitation months ago. There’s no need to continue aside from unnecessary aesthetic reasons.”

That made JC snort and enter as well. He completed the violation of their friend’s privacy by grabbing Kareem’s desk chair and plopping down into it. “So you don’t want to get buff anymore? Probably for the best: people might start talking bad about The Descendants once they realize that the psychic and the nerdy tech girl are the most swole among us.”

At this, Kareem let out a heavy sigh. “I… am not sure that will be a problem much longer. At least about the team psychic.”

Frowning, Warrick shifted his weight where he leaned. “Please tell me this means you’re going to drown your sorrows by pigging out on ice cream and donuts and not the other option I’m not even going to mention.”

“Unfortunately, that ‘other option’ is currently still on the table.”

JC, who had just started leaning back in the chair set up so fast he was almost catapulted out of it. “What? Dude, over a girl?!”

Grunting, Kareem turned over on his side so he could address his friends. “Not just over ‘a girl’. What happened with Desiree… represents more than just a tragic chapter in my romantic life. It was a catastrophic failure in my judgment that has force me to reconsider my moral fitness to be a ‘superhero’.

“Because you didn’t read her mind?” Warrick asked. “Kareem, do you know how many people would be invading people’s mental privacy twenty-four seven if they had your powers? I’m not ashamed to admit I couldn’t resist that temptation if it were me.”

“Pfft.” JC shook his head. “Says the guy who isn’t sitting on top of a giant pile of gold right now when he totally could.”

Warrick shrugged. “Says the guy who made enough using his powers to construct custom armor and weapons to buy a timeshare beach house and an apartment. I’m not incorruptible.”

Accepting that this conversation really was going to continued no matter how many hints he dropped, Kareem sat up on the edge of his bed. He was just wearing sweat pants and several days worth of unkempt beard made him look like a whole other person.

He pressed the heels of his palms against his eyes. “I am not incorruptible either. I thought I was doing the right thing by not invading Desiree’s mind—I still believe that on some level. However, I’ve had time to reflect on how I’ve behaved with my powers in the past. You all know that I erased Sean McAllister’s memory of Cynthia when he and his gang attacked the city. What you aren’t aware of…” With some effort, he made eye contact with Warrick. “… is that before you revealed your identity to Christina in New York, she happened to see you injured without your helm. I used my powers to take that memory from her as well.”

Warrick coughed a bit and looked away. “I’m not going to say I’m exactly happy that you tinkered with my girlfriend’s brain—and you’re going to have to have to have a talk with her about this—but I’m not sure I understand how this all means you’re not morally worthy of being a hero from this. You were doing what you thought was right, right? Even if I might disagree.”

Kareem shook his head. “But don’t you see? You’re upset because I did this to someone you cared about—and rightly so. But consider: I do the same thing or worse to the enemies we fight every day. We just accept it then because it helps win fights.”

“Couldn’t you say the same about punching people until they stop being evil assholes or… say… shooting up their place of business with fireworks?”

“You’re still proud of what you did back in Dawson Bay, aren’t you?”

JC grinned and held out his fist to receive a fist bump. “Hell yes. Anyway, the question still stands, Kareem: I’m still not seeing what makes you a bad guy.”

“I’m not sure I can make either of you understand. My power… any use of it without explicit consent is a supreme violation. Thinking that I can pick and choose who I use my power on and in what situation puts too much power into my hands. I’m not a god… and don’t have any right to wield the fraction of omniscience I’ve been granted. No one does.”

Listening to the other man’s reasoning made JC scowl. “I don’t buy it,” he said once Kareem stopped talking.

“What is there to buy? I’ve had time to think about the implications of my powers and there are very few positive ones.”

This time Warrick was the one who replied. “Because you’re Kareem. You’re the most thoughtful, moral guy we know. You’ve always put a lot of consideration into what you do with your powers. You’ve lived with this for years and I’d put dollars to donuts that you put hours of thought into it before you finally decided to become Ephemeral.”

He crossed the room and sat down one the steamer trunk at the foot of his friend’s bed. “I think you’re just feeling guilty for not having read Desiree’s mind. Like… if that choice you made with your powers wasn’t a good one—when you felt so strongly about it—how could any other choice be right? Am I getting close?”

Kareem pursed his lips and kept his eyes on the floor. “I would really rather not talk about this right now. Have you decided if you’re going to take that talk show opportunity this Friday?”

“Not gonna shake us that easily, man. Also: hell yes we are. Cyn and her mom too. But back to the important thing: this involves you possibly quitting. We can’t let it go.”

“You aren’t even an official part of the team.” Kareem snapped, though his expression betrayed how shocked he was at his own words.”

JC didn’t let the emotional outburst faze him. “Sure I am: I’m one of the sidekicks.” He looked pointedly at Warrick, “But I’m not going to be called Kid Alloy.”

His antics didn’t reach Kareem, however. “There isn’t anything to discuss. Please let us just drop it.”

Warrick sighed. “Look: you know probably better than any of us that it’s not good for you to just wallow in self-pity like this. Now I’m not about to tell you to just get over it. You loved her, man. I could see it—we all could. No one just bounces back from that kind of feeling when it gets turned on its head.

“I’m not even going to tell you to cheer up. What I am going to tell you though is that just sitting here and letting your mind go over every little thing, every detail you think you could’ve changed isn’t going to do you any good. I wasn’t exactly where you were, but you remember when Tink was leaving and I thought we wouldn’t see each other again? I did this same thing and… well it took Cyn dragging me along with her and making me do things to take my mind off things to make me feel any better.”

With a slight grunt, he stood from the steamer trunk. “Come on. Let us be your Cyn, man.”

“More specifically,” JC tapped for a few seconds on his palmtop and then showed Kareem the screen. It was an ad flier featuring a large black woman wearing an apron, her head shaved down to stubble, a wooden spoon in one hand and a handful of crawfish in the other, standing over a huge, steaming pot. “Let us be your Cyn at Aunt Nancy’s Old Fashioned Crawdad Boil, then maybe laser tag or something later.”

Kareem looked from one of his friends to the other. By now it was clear that his planned night of lying in bad, trying to fall asleep wasn’t going to be a thing. What was more, he knew what they were saying was true: that he needed to get active and stop dwelling on what had happened with Desiree.

Only… he wanted to dwell on it some more. For reasons his friends weren’t privy to. Much to his shock, Lily hadn’t revealed to anyone else what Desiree’s final message contained and Laurel hadn’t demanded the recording for analysis.

That meant that no one else knew about Desiree’s final revelation: that she’d started to feel something for him.

Knowing that added an extra complication to everything else he was wrestling with. Oh, and the significant possibility that while her feelings might have been becoming real, his feelings might have been the result of the influence of her pheromones.

So even if he admitted to everything Warrick had suggested, Kareem still had a lot to think about.

“I understand your concern. And I appreciate it really.” He wasn’t lying; he would have wanted to be there for them if the situation were reversed. “But there is such a time as a mourning period. It has only been three days. I think I still need time.”

JC started to protest, but Kareem held up a hand. “On the other hand, I really should…” he took a moment to sniff, “…shower. And shave at the very least and get out of the apartment. So why don’t we go eat… but that’s it. I don’t think laser tag is going to help anything.”

“Blasphemy,” JC said with the sad conviction of a believer watching a heathen sin.

Warrick smiled though. “That seems fair. Um… we’ll give you time for that shower and shave though. We don’t want Aunt Nancy to toss us out. We’ll hang out in the front room until you’re ready.”

“Thank you,” Kareem ducked his head.

While Kareem went to perform some much-needed self maintenance, Warrick and JC headed back out into the living room. The former took a seat in an armchair while the latter flopped down on the couch. “So…” JC started, “Was that a win or not?”

“I think that’s as close to a win as we’re going to get right now. He’s right about the mourning period thing… I think. I don’t know, I’m not like a psychologist or anything. It just feels like the right thing.

JC leaned his head back against the arm of the couch. “I don’t know… I mean I’m the expert on break-ups, but they’ve all been with the same girl… and never like this. What the hell would I even do if it turned out Lisa had never loved me and had been using me.”

“And mind controlling you,” Warrick added in a hushed tone. “I didn’t want to point it out to Kareem, but part of the problem’s probably because he’s never had someone screw with his head like he can do to others. He’s never been the most… excited… about his powers, but this probably made it way too uncomfortable.”

“Poor guy. You know, I’ve always been kind of jealous of how you guys all have powers, but it’s not all being awesome and doing cool stuff, is it? It’s like they come with all these responsibilities. Unless you’re a bad guy of course. Or someone who just doesn’t use them for much.”

Warrick smirked. “Speaking of bad guys, I’ve been meaning to ask: heard from Winnie since the big revelation?”

JC groaned. “Oh god, don’t remind me.”

“Something wrong over at the Big Brothers, Little Supervillain Sisters program?”

“You don’t want to know,” JC warned.

“Oh but I do. I never get tired of hearing everything about that. Has she found a new crush after losing you?”

That earned him a dangerous smirk from his best friend. “Actually yeah: Tink.”

“Say what?”

“Well it’s not romantic,” JC said in a droning voice as if this was all known, passe information, “Ya know… yet. But she’s got a serious science-crush on Tink now that she knows that she’s Renaissance and I know her. She’s been bugging me forever to introduce her.”

Warrick shrugged. “You know if you asked, Tink would probably be down for that. In fact, it might help her get over how she’s the one who got outed first.”

“Yeah, but Winnie still hasn’t totally let go of the ‘I want to grow up to be a supervillain’ thing. If she gets her nerd on with Tink, she could end up invincible. And no way in hell am I going to end up one of those guys who creates a supervillain. That’s for corporate assholes who can’t tell that screwing over like, a scientist working on a crazy suit of murder armor or something is a bad idea. One of the stupidest deaths a man can die. Right up there with ‘I’ll buy you some time’ in the face of a deadly alien horde.”

“Still bitter bout Vermelda’s death on Bravo Nexus last week?”

“Little bit. But my point stands.”

They both looked up at the sound of the door opening down the hallway.

Kareem had made an effort at least; not only had he showered and shaved, but he’d put together a nice outfit of a sport coat and slacks over a black shirt. He paused when he saw he’d interrupted a conversation, but acted swiftly to counter the potentially awkward silence. “I wanted to ask: would it be alright if I invited someone along? I know this is normally one of our boys’ night activities, but I thought it would be… helpful for me.”

The other two men glanced at one another, the name of only one woman in their heads when it came to who Kareem’s intended guest would be.

JC, of course, was the one to actually ask, “Fine with us. So who’s the lucky lady?”

“Lily. Actually.”

Both his friends had the same reaction: “Wait. What?!”

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. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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2 Comments

  1. Typos

    has force me
    has forced me

    a ‘superhero’.
    a ‘superhero’.”

    going to continued
    going to be continued

    lying in bad,
    lying in bed,

    & not exactly a typo but there are a lot of colons in this chapter. 15 might be overkill.

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