- Issue #49 – George
- Issue #50 – Operation: All In
- Issue #51 – Amore Detestabilis
- Issue #52 – Scenes From a Changing World
- Issue #53 – The House on Dawson Bay
- Issue #54 – Shadow of the Kurounagi
- Issue #55 – Beer Money
- Issue #56 – Family Matters
- Issue #57 – Waylaid
- Descendants Special #5 – Women in Free-fall
- Issue #58 – Alert UMW: Mages
- Issue #59 – Return of the Magi
- Issue #60 – Rust Buckets
- Descendants Annual #5
There was a short dock attached to the Freeland House boathouse. Part of the initial renovations had included dredging up the remains of a horribly rusted, peddle-powered swan boat left over from the days when the place was a bed and breakfast instead of a superhero stronghold.
No one went there much; they didn’t have a boat, but they did have a pool, so aside from the rare and disastrous foray into fishing, there wasn’t much need to.
Cyn sat cross-legged at the end of it, watching minnows flit around under the surface.
Her only company was a pile of empty paper left over from a quartet of foot-long hero sandwiches with everything. They were stuffed into an empty two dozen count box from the doughnut place not far from the house.
Hours after being hit by her father’s modified Tesla arc and she still ached. Sporadically, some part of her body would twitch uncontrollably. From experience, she knew her body would recover and in less time than it had any right to. But like a stubbed toe, that didn’t make things better in the here ad now.
Not to mention the pains that had nothing to do with injuries.
A board creaked behind her. “I’m surprised to find you out here.”
Melissa? Cyn didn’t turn. “I’m surprised people keep thinking to look for me here.”
“So I’m not the first?” Melissa didn’t move from the other end of the dock.
In answer, Cyn picked up the sub wrappers. “Laurel.” Then she indicated the doughnut box. “Warrick.”
“Should I have bought a food offering too?” The boards creaked as she took a tentative step forward.
“Nah, I’m full. Or as close to full as I get.” Cyn shrugged. “You were looking for me?”
“I shouldn’t be surprised at how surprised you sound. I’m not usually…” Melissa cleared her throat. I wanted to say I’m sorry.”
“Everyone’s sorry. I wish I would have kept my mouth shut and just dislocated his shoulder or something. That way no one else would know and I would have still gotten the same message across to him.”
Melissa stopped again. “I am sorry about that, but that’s not what I’m here to say sorry for.”
“I thought that was out of character for you. So what’s the real deal?”
Silence. One of those long, heavy silences that hangs over the conversation and smothers all other thought. Finally, Melissa spoke. “Everyone else did something to help you. Even Warrick’s girlfriend and she’s been part of this for like five minutes! But me… I mirror gated all the way across the country and in the end, I ended up doing nothing.”
She shook her head violently. “Worse than nothing. I wound up healing two of the guys that wanted you dead.”
Cyn turned around. “You healed Sean?” Her voice was dead flat.
“My f…” Cyn shut here eyes tight. When it came to Sean McAllister, that ‘f’ word was no longer applicable. “You know… him.”
Melissa nodded, red hair spilling over her face as she bowed her head. “It wasn’t much. Just a sprained wrist and shoulder from where you threw him. The other guy was way worse and he had a fit when he realized who I was and what I was doing.”
“No, it’s good.” Cyn turned back to the water. The minnows were gone, frightened off by the sound of conversation. “This way, they can’t say we never did anything for ’em.”
“It doesn’t change that I didn’t do anything when we showed up and found him about to hit you with that thing.”
Cyn looked thoughtfully across Lake Standish for a long while. “’lissa, you were three thousand miles away, probably doing happy family things with your mom and dad who are probably still falling all over themselves being happy they have their daughter back, and your brother who looks up to you. And then you heard that we were in trouble and that we needed you. And now here you are.”
“That’s not enough.”
“For War, or Jun, maybe not.” Cyn gestured fro her to sit. “But since it’s you… I mean I didn’t know you cared. No offense.”
Melissa sat as Cyn suggested, dangling her legs off the dock. “None taken. A year ago, I wouldn’t have. Things change.” She looked out over the lake as well. The neighbors on the other side were having a barbecue.
“So what you said, at the end there. About your brothers and sister?”
“Yeah,” Cyn waved her off. “I got caught up in the drama, kind of went overboard, I guess.”
“No, no.” Melissa shook her head. “I just wanted you to know that even though I have a little brother and all now… I agree.”
“Hey.” Tink greeted when Warrick poked his head into Laurel’s workshop. She was slumped in a chair, still wearing her Renaissance kilt and cowl. Her feet were still in the boots though they were unbuckled and open, and her chest plate and gauntlets were on the floor in front of her. “How did it go?”
Warrick grabbed Laurel’s chair and rolled it over next to her before sitting. “She was talking to Ms. Brant when I found her, so she’ll probably be okay. I just gave her the donuts and told her she knows where to find me when she needs me.”
Tink nodded. “So did you know? I mean about her father?”
He picked up a half finished device from a nearby table and turned it over in his hands, studying it idly. “She takes talking about it, but it comes out, you know, bits and pieces at a time. I think proving that she’s not going to end up like him, or her brothers is part of why she does this. I’m just glad she’s done with him now. After this he won’t be out of prison before Cyn’s retirement.”
“Good. He doesn’t deserve to even be out that early.”
Replacing the device in the spot her took it from, Warrick looked over at his girlfriend. “So how about you? How’re you handling… Renaissance?”
She shook her head. “Not as well as you guys, that’s for sure. I’m still trying to catch my breath. I don’t know, I want to help, I want to be part of this, but I had so many close calls today, I think I’m just a liability. Maybe after I’ve had more training or something…”
Warrick put his hand on her arm. “Tink, today I almost got cut in half by a plasma lance, driven through the side of a building, and hit with a military grade Tesla arc. These guys, aren’t playing around, they’re trying to kill us. It’s all close calls. Either that, or the last one. That doesn’t make you bad at it.”
“Either that, or I’m exceptionally bad at this.” Warrick nodded, then realized how bad that sounded. “… which I hope isn’t the case. These things happen. Me and Cyn and Kay got captured at the Beach House. Metal X broke two of my ribs. That freak with the metal wings put some kind of unobtanium feather through one of my lungs. It’s… part of the risk. I warned you about it before and now you know. And I won’t think anything less of you if you want to quit right now.”
Tink looked at him, green eyes connecting with his brown. “Warrick, this might have been my first mission, but you’re forgetting that I was there when Liz von Stoker attacked us as the Freaque, and when you were Evil Alloy, and when the Outliers tried to free Liz. All of that was before I knew who you were at night. And then when I found out, I came back to try and help you against Metal X and I’ve got a scar to prove it.”
Warrick winced at the mention of the scar, but she didn’t let up.
“I could have ‘quit’ then. No offense, but even when you’re not being Alloy, danger kind of stalks you. But no, I didn’t quit. In fact, I started building my gauntlets because of it. I want to be clear that I understand the risks and what could happen to me. It’s the same thing that could happen to you and just like you, I’m okay with it.” She sighed and looked down at the gauntlets. “It’s just that I need to be sure that I’m not distracting you, or that I’m fumbling it so bad that I’m putting you or the others in danger.”
A slow smile came to Warrick’s face and he leaned forward to deliver a light kiss to her lips. Then he drrew back and spoke softly. “I’ll tell you a secret: there’s no training. Yeah, we train with powers, basic strategy, stuff like that, but there’s no ‘hill folk in giant robots’ text book, or evil sorceress survival guide (though I’m thinking of epublishing one.). We’re all playing ti by ear out here. If we make it look good, it’s because you can’t hear me screaming ‘holy shit is that a ten foot millipede?’ in my head. But trust me, it’s there, and believe me, that feeling is not going to go away.”
“Fifty foot millipede?”
“You were at your grandma’s for Easter. It was un-fun.” He shivered at the memory. “But the point is, I’m glad you’re with us and I’m sure the others are too. In fact…”
He reached into his back pocket and took out what looked like a nickel plated cigar case. “I wanted to give you something to commemorate your first successful mission.” With a thought he manipulated the case open. Inside was a metal feather, composed of what appeared to be dull gold.
Tink gasped. “Isn’t this…”
“Yeah, it’s the flechette that goon hit me with—with one minor alteration.” He pointed to a short line of Arabic script along the edge. “That was surprisingly difficult: this stuff is super resistant to my powers for some reason. Kareem taught me how to write that. It’s Persian—it means ‘Close to my heart’. See, ’cause you’re close to my heart and seeing as this was in my lu—“
“I get it.” Tink cut him off before he could go into gory details. “And… it’s the most amazing gift anyone’s ever given me.” And then she kissed him.
That same night, Alexis appeared at the door to the workshop, where Laurel was still at work, reading through files on a half dozen screens.
“You really don’t sleep, do you?”
“I sleep.” said Laurel, closing two files while opening three more. “It’s just that I like to use that time before I fall asleep to think about things, and after today, I don’t feel like letting myself dwell on things. I know all of the psychology and theory around why people become like Sean McAllister, but she doesn’t want to hear that. No one that’s the victim of that kind of thing does.”
Alexis nodded. “You offered to get her a therapist?”
“I did, and as expected, she said no. I’ll just have to add psychology to my list of required reading and try and help her on my own.”
“You won’t be all on your own. I did have some training on dealing with kids from… difficult homes back when I was teaching at the Academy.” Alexis put her arms on the table and rested her chin on them.
“Thanks.” said Laurel.
“But no wonder you’re looking for distractions. What is it you’re looking at?”
Laurel gestured to the screens. “At first, I hoped I could glean some new insight into who told Tome about the kids being at the beach house. The problem is, I can think of over a dozen suspects, but there’s no evidence against any of them. Until something pops on all the background checks I’ve got my servers running, I’ve got nothing there.”
Alexis nodded and let her friend continue.
“So I started in on something Cyn bought to my attention earlier this summer: Eduardo Vorran. He’s a crime boss here in Mayfield, mostly keeping to street level enterprise: prostitution, drugs, chop shops and metal theft; except Cyn’s antagonistic thief gave her proof that Vorran is going by two other names in New York and Atlanta.”
“If he’s so small time, why do you sound so confused?” Alexis asked.
Laurel moved some files around before rolling her chair over to her coffee pot. “It’s not so much Vorran as the fact that someone is making an effort to turn us onto Vorran. Coffee?”
Two steaming cups were poured and one was slid across the table to Alexis.
“But I had to stop that when Vimes kicked this precious gem in my direction.” Coffee in hand, Laurel rolled back to her screens and pulled up a file photo of a woman with an artificial tan and blonde hair. “Does the name Julie Ann Ailswell ring a bell?”
Alexis got up from the table to hunt down the creamer. “I can’t say that it does.”
“Not surprising, but her name did come up recently on the Descendants Rights Worldwide website, because she is the head of Interstate Psionic Bounty Agency.”
“The guys trying to push legislation that would get states to sanction their super-jails?” Alexis found the sugar on top of a file cabinet, but there was no creamer in sight.
Laurel frowned at the image on the main screen. “Not just prisons. They would essentially the police version of private military contractors: mercenaries with the backing of the government, but none of the public oversight. IF the law they’re pushing in Arizona passes, for example, they would be deployed instead of the police if a descendant so much as stole a pack of gum.”
“All at tax payer expense and with as much brutality as humanly possible, of course.” Alexis said dryly.
“Oh, you have no idea how much worse this gets.” Laurel tapped some keys and bought up new documents. “See, Julie Ann Ailswell has been under investigation by the FBI for the past eight years because she’s believed to be a high ranking member of the Deliverance Front for Clarity.”
Alexis leaned against the file cabinet. “That has a ‘crazy survivalists with too many guns’ feel.”
“Give the lady a prize.” said Laurel. “They started out as a group of drunk college and high school kids attacking Arabs and Muslims on campuses right her in Virginia after a terrorist attack around the turn of the century. Of course, when you’re a drunk idiot, who didn’t even know what a Muslim was until the country lost its mind, bigotry against a religion turns to plain old racism against anyone who looks middle eastern quickly.
“They became a militia during the hate group boom of the early teens, and from then on, stayed current by hating anyone whose ethnicity vaguely matched the country the US disagreed with that year; China, India, Mexico, Brazil—all the top fads in racism. Descendant stayed under their radar, mostly because they were pleased with Arjun Ravi’s killing spree instead of horrified like the rest of the world. Reverend Stiles, Greenview Ridge and Braddock Island changed the game though. Hating descendants is part o the membership drive.”
Both the creamer and the coffee were forgotten now as Alexis glanced over the articles on the screen. “And now there’s pending legislation in eleven states to give them a standing army and police powers.”
“Descendants Rights Worldwide was so wrapped up with trying to make us an issue in the presidential campaign that the state-by-state slipped through the cracks.” Laurel sank back in her chair. “Meanwhile, they’ve done a media blitz painting themselves up like All-American heroes protecting the good citizens from scary things like descendants and interfacers. Clever: if and when they go too far and some actual superheroes spank them for it, they can paint them as evil in the media.”
Alexis sighed. “The rest of the world is getting better and we’re getting worse. Great.”
“The public still likes us in general.” said Laurel. “It’s just that they’re scared of what happens when something goes wrong. After the high profile incidents, plus the rash of xenoflora and fauna turning up, they want big strong arms to hug them and make the bad things go away. That’s what these guys are preying on.”
“Same MO as the Academy if you think about it. Same as all those fake schools the Institute is competing with.” Alexis sat her coffee down and walked over to take a closer look at the screens. “People scared, not knowing how to deal with all the strange new things that just became real… and suddenly we all forget the lessons we learned about strangers with candy. What are we going to do about this?”
Laurel closed all of the open files with a wave of her hand and opened one called ‘Resources’. :The same thing we do with every crisis, Alex: everything we can.”
End Descendants Annual #5