Descendants Annual #2

This entry is part 15 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 2: Magic and Machines

“So we’re really taking a break?” Kay asked hopefully. She and Lisa were walking together toward the Dungeon for the first time in a week. It had felt like months to Kay. “No library? No pouring over scans of old books looking for magic world references?”

“You’re shouting for joy on the inside, aren’t you?” Lisa smirked at her currently blonde friend.

“Hey, I was being a good sidekick. Action and adventure are all well and good, but magical badness isn’t something you can just taze or kick in the jubblies. I totally get why we needed to hit the books if the Digi-book wasn’t cutting it.”

Lisa unconsciously reached down and felt for the familiar shape of what Kay had dubbed the Digi-book of Reason in her purse. It wasn’t ‘not cutting it’ so much as not geared to the purposes she wanted. It had a basic primer on magic and the magical worlds, but for the most part it was a book of spells. In real world terms, it was like an Advanced Placement textbook; there was a bit of general review followed by a horde of complex lessons.

Truth be told, there were only a handful of non-ritual spells Lisa herself could pull off and that was because they were referenced as the base for far more complex spells. Thus, she’d tried her and by extension, Kay’s hand at digging up more information, not just on spells, but the magical world in general. That search, which had involved at last count seven hundred plus books had turned up two; a nineteenth century journal by an English expert on Scottish Myth named Alfred Jeremiah Pennington III, and a rambling translation of ancient French folklore called Brightened Day by a woman named Wilhelmina Hurst. If the rest had any shred of truth in them, they couldn’t be confirmed by the Digi-book of Reason.

“Yeah, well…” Lisa said, looking up at the tops of the buildings, “Good sidekick aside, I’ve decided that doing things that way is getting us nowhere fast. I mean, we don’t even really know what we’re looking for in the first place. And while we look, magical badness and regular badness are going to do whatever they want. The Descendants can beat most things, but even with what little I know, there are some things that really need a counter-spell to stop them.”

“Also, the ghosts.” Kay added. The City Central Library itself had attracted, or possibly trapped at least a dozen ghosts, which Lisa had freed to cross over to what was presumably their final reward, a process the Digi-book of Reason called unfettering.

“Yeah.” Lisa agreed, “So that’s why I’m going to focus on what I know and try to learn as I go from now on. “Who knows, maybe those two books will be all we need for a while?”

Kay grinned, “I know I said I was going to be a good sidekick—and you have to know I’m still going to be a good sidekick; whatever you need, I’m there for you—but I’m going to dance a jig of glee for not having to waste anymore summer vacation at the library.”

***

“Okay, how about this one…” JC sat at the big back table of the Dungeon with Warrick, Tink, and Cyn accompanying him. “Malady Place: Winter Capshaw or Renee Faust?”

“Dude, you know I can’t get enough Winter, but Renee’s a demon with the Inner Fire and we’ve seen her get hit by a city bus and walk away. No way can Winter win.”

“Why would they even fight anyway?” Cyn asked, “I may not know much about office work or PI agencies, but I’m pretty sure bosses and secretaries don’t try to kill each other regularly.”

“Does it matter?” Tink shrugged. “It’s a question of who would win, not would it make sense.”

“Well, it’s important because Winter just got the Staff of Rengalla back this season and if she’s lethally motivated, the staff can cast killing spells.”

“I’m just going to back out of the conversation then.” Tink said, holding up her hands in mock defeat. “I don’t know anything about the show besides the two or three episodes I’ve seen.”

Cyn gave her a wary look that moved quickly to Warrick. “And you two are dating?”

“I haven’t been able to convince her to watch a few seasons.” Warrick admitted.

“Fantasy really isn’t my thing.” Tink shrugged and took a sip of her coffee. “I’m a lasers and brushed metal girl, not so much with sword and sorcery. And prelates, real or fake, they’re pretty cool.”

“Okay, change the subject then.” JC shrugged. “How about… Infinity vs. Majestrix?”

“Again, lethally motivated?” Cyn asked.

“Sure, why not?”

“Majestrix then.” Cyn and Tink chorused. They shot one another a bemused look and Tink gave her reasoning. “Majestrix fights in a twelve foot tall tank with legs; Infinity is fast and strong, but he’s not fast enough to dodge bullets and armor piercing rounds could probably still hurt him. If she used lethal rounds, he’s toast.”

Cyn nodded reluctantly. “Plus, Majestrix’s suit flies faster than him; he couldn’t even run away.”

“Okay, that was a given.” JC conceded. “How about Alloy vs.…”

“Facsimile.” Lisa offered, putting her arms around JC from behind. “Hi there, stranger.” She smiled as she sat down next to him.

“Long time, no see.” JC smiled goofily. He didn’t even notice Kay sitting down on the other side of Lisa. “Let me go get you a drink. The usual?”

“Sure.” Lisa smiled back at him.

“Get me a no foam, half-caf, low-fat, vanilla/dark mocha and nutmeg latte with fat free hazelnut whipped cream, white chocolate shavings, espresso powder and chocolate jimmies on top and tell them to put in a half shot of caramel flavor and two half shots of vanilla flavor on the side.” Kay said after him.

Cyn grinned raucously over her equally silly double foam, spearmint-shavings-on-the-bottom, half ice, cherry almond fudge iced coffee with low-cal whipped cream, toffee crumblings, and licorice jimmies on top with a shot of pumpkin flavor on the side with a pair of chocolate covered espresso beans sunk into it. “I’m so glad to have you back!” she said, pretending to cry on Kay’s shoulder.

“There, there.” Kay said, patting her friend’s head. “The long reign of the barista’s happiness and sanity has finally come to an end.”

“So?” Lisa asked, watching JC trying to remember the string of gibberish that constituted Kay’s drink order at the counter.

“So what?” Cyn asked, coming up for air.

“The question; who would win in a fight? Alloy or Facsimile?” Warrick and Cyn exchanged glances.

“Facsimile.” Tink piped up. “Lethally motivated, of course,” she said, heading off what she imagined to be Cyn’s immediate challenge. “I just saw footage of the fight with the robot lady at Capashen Arena and she tore through a bunch of robots with her bare claws.”

“It was just one robot.” Warrick said offhandedly. “They just showed it about a dozen times in a row on TV, from every angle they could find on the arena cameras.”

“Still, that was pretty impressive.” Tink shrugged. “And if she can put a spike all the way through that robot, she could seriously do some damage to Alloy if she had to.” She gave a dramatic sniff as she sat back. “Besides, I kind of beat Alloy once and I don’t even have powers.”

“She’s got you there.” Cyn teased. “Too bad you weren’t there to see it, she pinned him to a girder with a bigass electromagnet.”

“I remember that.” Juniper glided in with a dreamy look on her face and took a seat, still sipping on a soda. “That was pretty cool, Warrick. You should have seen it.”

“To be fair to Alloy.” Lisa stepped in, “He did get out of it. And Tink’s jury-rigging skill is just this side of mad science in and of itself.”

“I thought you were at the movies with Adel, Jun.” Warrick said, hoping to escape the discussion.

Juniper nodded happily. “We saw Requiem for the Fisher King, which was pretty good for an action movie,” she wrinkled her nose disapprovingly, “I thought sword fights would get him out of his shell and I think maybe they did.” A tinge of disappointment clouded the light in her eyes. “But then his mom called and said that his brother was home from college early and he had to go right after. I guess they’re really close.”

“Oh, sorry to hear that, Juniper.” Warrick empathized. “He’ll come around.”

“I know.” Juniper said, cranking the sunshine back to maximum. “So why were we talking about Tink catching Alloy on an electromagnet?”

“Because JC asked who would win in a fight if they were lethally motivated; Alloy or Facsimile.” Kay supplied. She hadn’t even joined in the conversation, she just enjoyed instigating.

“Oh, that’s easy.” Juniper beamed. “Facsimile of course.”

“Now wait a minute!” Warrick started to protest.

“But that’s only because Alloy wouldn’t kill even if lethally motivated. He’s way too much of a good guy to do that.”

“Now wait a minute!” Cyn echoed Warrick. So the argument continued.

Lisa listened and laughed, smiling at JC as he handed over her drink and sat down. “JC, I’ve got a good feeling.” She reported in answer to his questioning gaze.

“That so?” JC asked.

“Yeah,” Lisa said, taking a sip of her iced tea. “This is going to be a bright, bright summer.”

***

The lights in the room caused Samael’s pupils to effectively slam shut the moment he opened them. Saying he felt bad was an understatement. Sick people felt bad, people who were in the process of losing arms to farm equipment felt bad. The pain he felt was out of the range of mere hyperbole.

At least, some logical part of his brain told him, that’s how it should feel. Somehow, he was aware of the intense, mind shredding, tooth gnashing pain that ran up and down his spin and to his extremities; by he didn’t feel it per se.

“About now, you’re noticing that something just ain’t right.” Samael knew that voice, Vincent Liedecker, his current employer and master of the Mayfield Underworld.

“What…” Samael struggled to say the words with a tongue that felt far too thick to fit in his mouth.

“What’ve I done to you?” Liedecker ascertained. “Really, the question is what did you do to yourself—by way of Vorpal, of course.” The crime lord paced to the other side of the room. “But really, you ought to be thankful that Vorpal is so much more loyal than you are—she stopped just short of paralyzing you for life because she knew I wouldn’t approve.”

Samael wanted to curse, but all he could manage was growling.

“Growl all you want, you brought yourself to this.” Liedecker stated, casually studying a picture hanging in the infirmary room. “I told you before what I do with dogs that don’t know their place.”

“Didn’t…” Samael tried to protest.

“Oh yes, you did.” Liedecker snapped, turning to face the infirm hitman. “I ordered you to take care of Nightshade or Morganna or Hyrilius—whatever that puffed up cat burglar calls herself—and her cronies. And you miss your chance by wasting time getting in a pissing contest with the prelates.”

He was towering over Samael’s bed now, looming large and dangerous like the grim reaper’s own nightmare. “You almost killed one, Sammy. That’s what Vorpal said. Do you know what that would have caused? Do you?! Seven people with the power to call down hurricane wind, make the air freeze and any damn thing in between hunting down you and your employer.”

Samael desperately wished he could fly away. That’s when he recognized his wings were gone. Now he tried very hard to sink into the bed and hopefully the floor beneath. He was never afraid, but now he was helpless and alone with a man who was known to be decisive and ruthless.

“Starting to get the picture, Sammy?” Liedecker glowered. “My affairs! My business! My. Life. You risked it when you decided you’d be a bad dog!” The heat in his eyes was intense and terrifying to behold. “That’s why you got those wings clipped. I can’t trust you with those. Maybe I’ll find someone more worthy.”

Words tried to come from Samael’s tortured throat, but they simply couldn’t make it out.

“But I’m always kind to animals, Sammy.” Liedecker sneered. “That’s why I’m a philanthropist; people love you if you open an animal shelter, pet a few dogs. Same thing works most of the time with orphans and old people, really. But a dog never fails.”

Liedecker produced a remote control from his pocket. “And you’ll never forget that you’re my dog. Not again, you won’t, Haut. Oh, you’ll get new wings…” he adjusted the controls on the remote and suddenly the distant pain came right up close and personal with Samael. “But here are two words I dare you to forget, Samael: Choke. Chain.”

***

“Good evening, Voice.” Vorpal said, sitting down at her computer. The mask was off and she had a cold bottle of water in hand. The air conditioning in her building had broken down earlier in the day and comfort trumped image.

“Good evening.” Voice’s melodious inflections came through her speakers. “How are you?”

“Healthy.” Vorpal said.

“Happy?”

“After a fashion.” Vorpal said quickly. “How’s the school?”

“Better… after a fashion.” Voice replied with irony in his tone. “We’ve managed to get Zeke detoxed and he’s doing better. I’m rather worried about another of our students though.”

“Who?”

“You’ve met her. Annette St. John?”

“The overly pierced girl with the telekinesis?” Vorpal asked, “And the bad attitude?”

“The very same, though she calls herself Ineffable now.” Voice sighed. “She’s violently attacked some of the other students and I had to use my talent to stop her.”

“You didn’t go too far, did you?”

“I was very specific and included a time limit.” Voice assured her. “I needed to save the other students. You know I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t have to.”

“We never do.” Vorpal said darkly.

“Does it make me a hypocrite to worry that she’s headed down a bad way?” Voice asked.

“You’re the one with all the developmental psychology under his belt, Stephan, not me.” Vorpal said. “And you never did anything outside of duress that would be really evil. Now if I were the one worrying about her…”

“I seem to collect little girls lost.” Voice said musingly. “Maybe you’d understand her better, be able to talk to be on her terms.”

“I’m not a role model, Stephan.” Vorpal said sharply, and then her voice softened, “But I did get some time off from Liedecker. Business is slow, almost like he’s waiting for something to happen. Anyway, I thought that I’d come across the pond and spend a bit of time in France…”

“My door is always open to you,” Voice said warmly. “You know that.”

“I do.” Vorpal said, “But sometimes, it’s good to hear someone say it.”

***

Laurel stared at the images and documents arranged on the screens before her. She had spent the rest of the previous night and all day confirming and double checking the information provided on the disk General Pratt had sent her.

It painted as very disturbing picture.

Three days earlier, the ROCIC had received and anonymous transmission that contained, within a mishmash of garbage code and false files, a scanned document the transmission identified as coming from within Project Tome. The document was a list of eighteen names with five of those names highlighted in red. One other was in green.

The ROCIC had confirmed that the names were all students that had completed their first year in the Academy’s pilot program for middle school aged psionics. It had also confirmed that the names in red had been reported missing in the past two weeks and the one in green, Kura Akagi had been the target of an apparently botched kidnapping.

Laurel sat back and looked at the bios she’d collected on the missing. Sheila Flaherty, a protomorph with operational, retractable wings and regeneration based on UV radiation. Arnold Jackson, an energy manipulator that could amplify or reduce a target’s kinetic energy. Roger Eckles, a protomorph who no long needed sleep and had stamina beyond the human norm. Olivia White gifted with skin that acted as reactive camouflage. And Naomi Heddlan, blessed with a perfect memory.

All five were powerful or had the potential to be powerful with training; exactly the specimens Tome was looking for. There could be no mistaking it; Tome was back in play. Whether their losses had weakened them, there were thirteen children still in their sights.

Something had to be done to protect them.

Someone like the Descendants.

End Annual #2

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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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