Descendants 107 – The Baroque Revival – Chapter 01

This entry is part 27 of 39 in the series Current

The front windows of the Jiffy-mart had been blown out, scattering glass and metal across the parking lot. Two of the cars that had been in the path of whatever had done so had been push back several feet, their front ends crumpled as if they had been in head-on collisions.

Between them and the gas pumps, a police car looks as it it had been sideswiped itself, both front and rear passenger doors crushed in so far in that it looked to be nearly bent in half. Its former occupants had pulled back to the sidewalk, trying to keep the gawking crowd from going any closer.

“No!” a strained voice shrilled from inside the store, raw from screaming. “Just back off! Back off! Gimmie a minute! I didn’t mean it! You’ve gotta believe me!”

Chaos hovered over the scene, cape billowing in the localized tornado that held him aloft, hands extended outward with fingers spread. “We are. I’m staying right here. Just tell us what’s going on and maybe we can help.”

There was a crash inside the store and a frightened yelp in the same voice. “I-I don’t know! It’s the stuff! Like… he said it’d give me brain power! I had to pass summer school! I don’t… I don’t know what’s going on. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone!”

There was a boom and one of the side walls rattled alongside the sound of more breaking glass.

I believe you,” Chaos shouted back, “but you have to trust us. Come on out and we can get you to a doctor.”

What? So I can touch him and cave in his chest?! I just brushed up against a counter and put it through a drink cooler! I’m staying right the hell here!”

Around back, taking cover near the enclosure around the dumpster, Renaissance was scrolling through information displayed on her goggles. “If he’s talking about Gold, none of the types we know about give powers like that. He’s probably an un-manifested descendant having a reaction.”

This… wasn’t what I expected. Every other time it’s just been some asshole who needed taking down. This guy… what can we do for him?” That was the voice of Turmoil, Chaos’s brother and temporary member of the team. He was in the air above the store on overwatch.

As Chaos was was talking to the man in the store, Renaissance took over. “First step is making sure he doesn’t hurt anyone. Not just for his sake either: it might cause him to lose control of his powers entirely.” She adjusted the feed on her goggles and added, “I’m seeing three other heat signatures toward the back of the building. They’re faint—probably hiding in the refrigerated storage.”

How do we get them out without setting him off?” asked Turmoil.

I can get them out,” said Renaissance, “But we need to keep him occupied. That’s up to Chaos and Darkness.”

Indeed, while Chaos was listening to the main comms, he had another channel open back to Freeland House and Darkness.

“… need him to trust you. Form some kind of rapport with him,” Darkness was saying. She was ensconced in the old nerve center of the Descendants team, Laurel’s office, sitting the that same console Renaissance herself once occupied as part of the team’s support.

Fair enough,” Chaos said out loud. “How about we just slow things down a little, okay? No one is going to hurt you or come too close and let you hurt them either, okay?”

After a long pause, there came a surprised, “O-okay?”

Okay,” Chaos echoed. “We’re just gonna talk. Figure some things out. Pretty sure you know me; I’m Chaos from the Descendants. What about you?”

Jarvis. Er… Roberson,” he still sounded confused about what was going on. “From West City Central.”

West City, eh? You mentioned summer school – what school and what year?”

Uh, Exandria High. Junior.” After some hesitation, he added, “I-I’m not dumb or something. I was sick last year. I was just trying not to get left back. She told me the stuff would help.”

As Chaos talked, Renaissance crept up to the heavy metal door at the rear of the store; the one where deliveries arrived. By the time she reached it, the palmtop mounted to her gauntlet had linked up to the security panel and disabled the lock. But she didn’t open it immediately. Instead, she produced a can of lucubration spray from her kilt and carefully oiled the hinges and contact points where metal could rub against metal.

I’m not gonna lie, Jarvis,” Chaos was saying, “I’d really like to discuss who ‘she’ is and what happened, but what’s more important to me is helping you out.”

This time, the reply was almost instantaneous. “And how do you expect to do that, man?” demanded Jarvis, “Every time I touch something it blasts off.”

Renaissance pushed the handle down and pulled on the door. There was resistance and a quite, building groan. She stopped. The summer heat had caused the metal door to expand in the frame. No amount of lubricant was going to stop it from making a lot of noise as it opened.

Crap.” she muttered. “The door’s not going to open without causing a problem. Going to Plan B. We’re going to have to pay the owners back.”

With that, she reached into her kilt and came out with something resembling a hot glue gun (because it had started life as one) and a dust mask. The later was quickly affixed to her face while the nozzle of the later was pressed into the seam where door met frame.

A squeeze of the trigger caused a white, fizzing foam to issue forth. Wisps of smoke curled from the metal as the acid corroded the surface.

Meanwhile, Chaos had come to a landing in front of the store, glass from the blown out windows crunching under his boots. “The first step to helping it getting that blasting part under control. I’m going to talk you through powering down.”

You can do that?” Jarvis asked uncertainly.

If you let me, I’ll certainly help to try. They do it all the time at the Liedecker Institute. Those kids aren’t much younger than you.”

L-let’s do that then. What do I have to do?”

Step one,” said Chaos, listening intently to Darkness’s instructions on the comm. “I need you to close you eyes. Breath slow: in through your nose, out through your mouth. Focus.”

By this time, Renaissance had finished spreading foam around the door frame. The acid had done its job—dissolving a thin layer of metal from both door and frame – enough that they wouldn’t rub up against each other any longer.

This time, when she pulled on the door handle, it swung open silently, accompanied by a cool breeze.

The door opened into the storage area of the Jiffy-Mart, behind the coolers. And there, between the cases of beer and soda, crouched three people: a man in his forties in a Jiffy-Mart store uniform, alongside a teenage girl gripping the hand of a trembling boy of nine or ten.

The teen looked up at the sudden influx of light from the outside and was about to exclaim when Renaissance put a finger to her lips over the mask. Catching on quickly, the girl leaned down and whispered something to the boy, then got the Jiffy -Mart employee’s attention and passed the news on to him too.

Through the glass of the cooler’s, they could hear Chaos.

It feels different for everyone,” he said, “sometimes it’s extra warmth or kind of a static tingle. It always pulses and peaks when your powers trigger through—active powers at least. Can you feel something like that, Jarvis?”

Something like… I don’t know. I feel like… pressure. Like, just before things pop off. Is that it?”

It might be,” replied Chaos. “Can you feel it now? Less than when your power goes off, but still there?”

Jarvis hesitated, still unsure. “I-I think so.”

Renaissance crossed the floor near-silently.

Thank god you’re here,” the Jiffy-Mart worker whispered, “That guy wrecked the place. You’re going to make him pay right?”

She chose to ignore that. The guy was probably the franchisee, emotional, not really thinking about how the Descendants Organization made up for insurance shortfalls in situations like this or Jarvis’s uncontrollable situation.

I’m here to get you out,” she said, working to keep her town both quiet and level. “Follow me. Hold your breath as you go through the door and do not stop moving until you’re at the police barricade. Everyone clear?”

All three nodded, but there was trepidation in the boy’s eyes, which darted from her to the backs of the coolers, presumably to Jarvis Roberson.

She gave him her most reassuring smile, one aided by the PR training Laurel had everyone undergo. If the hero saving you was smiling, there was less reason to panic or do something ill advised—or so the theory went. “Don’t worry. You going to be fine. Want me to carry you?”

That did the trick. The kids was too old to need carrying, but the idea of being valiantly rescued by a superhero was a temptation he couldn’t resist. When he nodded this time, it was with much more enthusiasm.

Alright,” she said, turning and stopping down for a piggyback ride. At the same time, she looked to the shop owner and the girl she assumed was the boy’s sister. “You two get moving. I’ll be right behind.”

Her words were all the older man needed. As much as he might have wanted to argue for the defeat of the ‘villain’, his own safety won out. He broke into a speed walk, then a run as soon as he was beyond the door. The sister took a moment to make sure her little brother had climbed onto Renaissance’s back, arms around her neck and legs locked around her hips before heading out as well.

The extra weight was nothing to her. In a pinch, she could flip a pick-up truck with one hand after all. So with a minor adjustment so he wasn’t strangling her, she strode out through the back door, half listening to Chaos talking Jarvis through powering down his haywire powers.

***

Unidentified West City Resident tested positive for the power-granting street drug ‘Gold’ and is recovering at Shiro Kurosu Hospital. No criminal charges have been filed.”

Someone had turned one of the big TVs hanging over the bar at The Dungeon to the news instead of the usual eSports or card tournaments usually playing.

A few people applauded as Christina ‘Tink’ Carlyle came through the door. She thanked her lucky starts that that was all they did. The first time she visited after she’d accidentally outed herself as Renaissance, most of the cafe had cheered for her and Warrick and Cyn, mobbing them for autographs and taking pictures.

Even now, a few people were taking pictures as usual, but the only person whooping was her friend Jamie, who was really making a show of it, to the groans of another friend, Meghan, who was sitting cross from her in their booth.

Hail the conquering hero!” Jamie grinned when Tink reached the table. “Ever consider changing your codename to Piggyback?”

She’s been waiting like an hour for that,” Meghan said, shaking her head.

Tink slid into the booth next to Jamie. They made an instant study in contrasts; Tink being tall and lanky despite an active lifestyle that normally would have put on muscle while Jamie was a foot taller and almost twice her size otherwise. Their hair followed the trend: Tink having kept her red hair cut in a short pixie while Jamie had worked her blonde locks into a genuine beehive for the day.

Feel better now?” she teased.

Much.” Jamie sniffed with mock haughtiness. “Of course all the coverage had been on Chaos talking that guy down. You don’t get the credit you deserve.”

Tink shrugged and took out her palmtop to put in her order. “I don’t need credit. Honestly, after blowing all our secret identities, I’m just happy to still be on the team.”

As if they’d drop you,” Meghan rolled her eyes and sat back. Her hair was cut short like Tink’s in the back with two longer dark brown locks framing her face. Her t-shirt didn’t do a lot to conceal her more muscular frame—or the seam where her artificial arm joined her shoulder. “Even if you weren’t all friends, what super team would drop an indestructible genius with superstrength? You’re more than some entire cities have in terms of power.”

With a good-natured smile, “Tink shook her head, “Cyn’s basically immortal, Laurel… you know, exists and not only can Isp and Osp lift more than me individually, Juniper can TK eight metric tonnes. On most teams I might be a standout, but we’re the Descendants.”

Ah, but you have a sweet flying car,” Jamie cut in.

Jun’s got a flying motorcycle.” Tink shot her down, then laughed at the resultant annoyed expression. “Look, there’s no point in keeping score. I’m happy with the team, they’re happy with me and I don’t have like… an inferiority complex or anything. I just still feel a little bad about being the one to blow their secret is all. Nothing major.”

Jamie made a sour face. “You’re just going to have to accept that you’re awesome.” Her expression instantly brightened however, “But if you don’t want to right now, let’s talk about how awesome tonight’s going to be.”

Meghan grinned along with her. “Hell yeah, I’ve waited months for this. You’d think Machine City would be higher up on the list of touring locations for the Bugleplex Organized Bot Death Arena. I can’t wait to be ringside for Duplico and the Plurality Squad.”

Joining in the levity, Tink nodded. “Seeing them take on 8G-WAR live will be awesome, but I’m more excited for Macho Mech vs Hulk Boson—any chance we might get back stage and talk to their designers? Mech’s articulation looks impossible.”

I kind of figured you could get us back stage, honestly,” said Jamie.

How am I supposed to do that?”

Jamie goggled at her. “Really? Have you not tried throwing your celebrity around yet? It’s been months!”

You’d be surprised how little people at Cambridge care about a US superhero,” Tink shrugged, “Plus, I don’t even know how to start.”

A dangerous gleam came to Jamie’s eye. “We’ve got three hours until the arena opens. Let’s try it out.”

***

I’m not going to sit around and just watch these nerds watch robots fight,” In a hotel room somewhere in Mayfield’s City Central, a woman in her late twenties with shoulder length, curly blonde hair slumped bonelessly in an upholstered hotel chair.

The laptop in front of her showed various camera angles from bugs planted around the Dungeon and a recording app for the laser mic pointed at the table where Tink, Meghan and Jamie sat. The homes of the Descendants were practically fortresses against eavesdropping, but public places were generally defenseless as ever.

Everyone worth targeting is either out of the city or confined to patrols, Freeland House or the Institute,” she groused. “And I’m left with Alloy’s girlfriend.”

We need to get intel on all of the pieces we can,” a male voice said from the palmtop set in its charging table next to the laptop, “Besides, who might be useful. Ever heard of the term ‘Women in Refrigerators’?”

The woman snorted. “Seriously? What about Nel… Nevermore’s play?”

Everything’s on the table. No good plan exists that can’t be made flexible.”

Flexible huh?” she mused, “Then you wouldn’t mind if I tried a little experiment. Put the little artist under a stress test?”

There was a moment of silence as the man on the other end of the line contemplated, “Alone? What about the others and the substitutes?”

I know where she’ll be in three hours. Setting up a distraction won’t be much of an issue—if you can set me up with that little app you set up in your car?”

Ha.” the laugh was cold, but not without mirth. “Should be fun. I’ll send you a link. Have fun.”

The blonde smirked. “You know I will.”

To Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< Descendants 106 – The Away Team – Chapter 05Descendants 107 – The Baroque Revival – Chapter 02 >>

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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One Comment

  1. Typos

    “I believe you,”
    (The font changes to a smaller one at this point and remains small for the rest of the chapter)

    lucubration spray
    lubrication spray

    close you eyes.
    close your eyes.

    Breath slow:
    Breathe slowly:

    You going to be fine.
    (possibly, ‘you’ might be intentional)
    You’re going to be fine.

    her lucky starts
    her lucky stars

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