Descendants L.A. #4 – Above the Line pt. 1

This entry is part 4 of 13 in the series Descendants: LA Volume 1

Ray entered the main room with a loud, yawn and an expensive stretch. Showered, shaved, and fully refreshed, he was ready to face the day. Now, if only the apartment had windows… Maybe he could ask Felix to set them up with some high quality digital screens and external cameras to simulate it without giving away their presence at the Agency.

Just another thing to add to the to-do list. He wasn’t even used to having a to-do list yet. There were a lot of things he needed to get used to, like not being the only early-riser.

When he’d been living at home, mornings were his domain. Like a solitary big cat, he stalked about in the early morning hours, doing as he pleased and not having to consider anyone or anything else. Now, he was getting a taste of what he imagined it was like to be a devote of sleeping in like Felix.

Josh was sitting cross-legged on one section of the couch, watching an old sitcom with an interest equaled only by the most serious students. And in the kitchen, Icthiani was apparently having a staring contest with the cappuccino maker.

“Morning?” He asked, curious as to what exactly Icthiani was doing.

“Good morning, Ray.” Josh said, turning in his seat to give a nod of greeting. “Was your sleep well?”

Ray headed for the kitchen himself, taking a moment to grab up his tablet and reading glasses from where he’d left them. “Yeah, I think kicking a car or two around before dinner agrees with me. You?”

“Uneventful.” Josh said. “No dreams, which can be good or bad, so I decided to do something constructive instead.”

“Watching reruns?”

“You forget that I’m still an alien to this world.” Josh calmly explained. “While I’m not so naive as to confuse fiction from reality—that seems to be a recurring theme with newcomers to your culture in these recorded plays, actually—there’s still a wealth they can teach me about how your people think and view the world.”

Ray shook his head as e checked his messages and news alerts. “The scary thing is, that might actually work in this town.” He switched his attention to Icthiani, who he could now see was gripping a handful of sheets of paper while examining the coffee dispenser. “How about you, Ani? Sleep well?”

“Like the dead.” She said dryly. “How do I force this device to give me what I want?”

This made Ray laugh, seeing Ani perplexed and angered by something the actually deserved it. “That’s one of Felix’s homebrew projects. Hard to figure out, harder to master. You should see the one he built for the house after Dad took him in.” He stepped up beside her, hovering a finger over the touch screen to activate it. “What did you want?”

She glared at him .”To do it myself. Felix gave me instructions on how to get the froth covered thing I enjoyed last night, but only half of his words make any sense, and the other half don’t make sense in context with this… this…”

“Pain in the ass?” Ray suggested. He blinked at the surprised look in her eyes from his joke. “Um…”

“Yes.” she hissed. “That is the phrase. It is difficult and it attempted to burn me.”

Ray held out his hand for the instructions. “Fine, I’ll walk you through it. I’ve had years to learn Felix-speak.” Over the next ten minutes, he explained how to make selections from the touch screen interface and fill the hoppers with the desired flavored syrups, dairy and coffee beans while she insisted on doing all the actual work.

Soon, the technological miracle was filling a red, ceramic mug with hot, caffeinated goodness. Taking up the drink and inhaling deeply, Icthiani surprised Ray again by nodding her thanks with a small smirk he imagined was her version of an appreciative smile.

He nodded back. “So… you and Felix had coffee? After the whole episode the other day?”

“I took it from him.” She declared with a certain pride before gliding (literally) out of the room, no doubt off to the training room.

“Yeah, that sounds about right.” Ray said to the empty kitchen. With a laugh at Felix’s expense, he set to work making a breakfast. He was in the mood for pancakes and quickly assembled the ingredients to make batter from scratch. “Hey, Josh, pancakes?”

“Please.” said the young daoine. “So… when do you suppose you and Lydia will become involved romantically?”

Ray was in the middle of chugging the last of the milk after using the rest in the pancake batter. He nearly choked on it, nearly snorting it out his nose. “Dude! What?!”

Josh remained reclining calmly on the couch, as if he hadn’t just said something the filled his friend’s nostrils with milk. “It’s just an observation from the television. It’s a common formula to the point of being theorem: familiarity plus proximity over time equals attraction.”

Still sputtering, Ray grabbed a paper towel to wipe his face off with. “What happened to you not believing everything you see in fiction?”

“I stand by that.” said Josh, “But this is so consistent that it almost makes the proceedings inevitable. It would be easier of you just went to Lydia today and asked her on a date.”

“We are not having this conversation.”

“Why not? She’s attractive, yes? In fact, I thought that was part of the reason why you were so insistent on the idea of us all living together.”

“Firefighters live together too. It’s pretty standard for some kinds of emergency response, so it works for superheroes too.” Ray was furiously working the batter just to have something to do other than think on Josh’s odd ideas about human interaction. Normally, he took the lead and helping explain things, but this time, the near-alien was being too damn persistent about it.

“I’m not sure you’re right about firefighters.” Josh puzzled. “They work in shifts, I’m fairly sure, and go to back to actual homes in their off hours.”

“Fine. It works in movies, so me and Felix thought it’s be pretty cool.” Ray admitted. “And I wanted to live in this place ever since I found out about it.”

“This place existed before our little group was formed?”

“Of course.” said Ray, “You know about what goes on in the rest of the building, right? The talent agency?” Josh nodded and signaled for him to continue. “Yeah, so sometimes the people my dad represents find out that they can’t handle the things that come with being a celebrity; the press and paparazzi, autograph seekers, clingy fans, all that stuff. If they’ve got the money they can just buy private houses and security, but if you’re just starting out, you might not have anything solid, no matter how popular you are.

“So my dad had this place built when they last renovated the building. Think of it as a full service panic room complete with underground pool and jacuzzi. This place is part of how he convinced me to go along with this in addition to college in the first place.”

“Interesting.” Josh said, pondering his friend’s words. “I always assumed it was built by Dynamic Innovations and Investments International.”

“Nope. Dad insisted we headquarter out of one of his properties instead of D3I. You know, in case they decide to stop sponsoring us.” The batter done, Ray started ladling it onto the hot griddle.

“So you have no designs whatsoever on Lydia’s affections?” Josh suddenly asked, causing the next proto-pancake to go blob-shaped.

“Josh. No. Look, Lyds and I are friends the same way Felix and I are friends. She ran the surf shop we went to a lot last summer and she just fit. Like Me and Felix were always really a trio missing the third part. Or, all things considered, man; a quartet.”

A laugh and a fangy grin from Josh and Ray gave his friend a considering look.

“So how come you think your little formula there would only apply to me and Lyds? Why not…” He snorted, “Me and your sister?”

“Because, Ray, you are a dear friend and teacher. I would never, ever wish Icthiani’s affections upon you. Even before she acquired her sangrelogos. With it intensifying her moods, I would actually fear for anyone that did manage to strike her fancy, even more so than one that aroused her wrath.”

Ray ducked his head, conceding the point. “Okay, bad example. But why me? Why not Lyds and Felix. Why not you?”

“For one thing, we are quite literally from two separate worlds: there is a question of species compatibility. Believe me, humanity is supremely lucky to only have to endue the illusion of race. On Faerie, there are some three dozen sapient species and the compatibility between them is a branch of intellectual inquiry.” Josh’s ears were turning red, which Ray took to be the daoine equivalent of a flustered blush.

Regaining his own composure, Ray tended his pancake with a practiced and steady hand, just as if he were practicing kata for some breakfast based martial art. “Interesting.”

“Some think so.”

“No, not that… though I’m sure Felix can get a few hours of bawdy joke material out of that… I meant it’s interesting that your first answer was biology. Especially, since, you know, the differences seem to be all ears and teeth to me.”

“There’s a great deal more than that, but I have other reasons. For example, being from the noble ranks, we’ve never been taught more about courting than what’s been set to page in fiction. Our marriages are meant to be arranged, with the allowance for a courtesan.”

“Ignoring that last part, that means you have exactly as much understanding on the subject as every human on planet Earth our age.” Ray expertly flipped the first batch of pancakes onto a plate and went back for his ladle. Behind him, the cappuccino machine hummed to life on its own. Felix was evidently awake and using his remote.

“But,” Ray said, “I notice again that you haven’t said something along the lines of not finding Lyds attractive, or not liking her—oh! Or the ever popular; she’s like a sister to me.”

“Neither did you.”

“I said something close enough.”

“You did not.”

The door to Felix’s room opened and the cybernetic teen shambled out. Over the past few days, he’d scavenged enough parts to rebuild his ‘at home’ legs, at least to the point that he could use them. All the same, they whirred and hissed noisily as he walked, occasionally jerking with unnatural looking movement.

“You’re up early.” both the other men in the room said simultaneously, thankful for the distraction from their current conversation.

“I’m expecting a package.” Felix grinned excitedly even though he still looked tired. “ConquestTech’s new Evolve processor is coming out and guess who’s getting a review model?” He picked up his waiting double shot of espresso. It took him a few minutes and a quarter of a cup to recognize the tension in the room. He grinned.

“You totally asked him, didn’t you?” He asked Josh.

“Exactly the way you suggested…” Josh rubbed the back of his neck.

“And?”

Ray looked from one to the other, and then glared at Felix. “You tin plated little… You put him up to that?!”

“What? You thought Josh would believe something that dumb? Only I would believe something that dumb. And that’s because I see the big ol’ googly eyes you make at—ow!” Ray had just flicked him between the eyes with the dish towel. Considering his powers, it hurt smartly.

“Consider that getting off easy.” Ray huffed, tossing the rag aside. “Because I’m kind of in a good mood from turning it around on him.”

“Oh really?” Felix turned his gaze on Josh, who turned the TV remote over in his hands as if it might suddenly develop an ‘escape awkward situation’ button. It was an opportunity that Felix could not pass up. “I told you about the whole familiarity thing, but what do you know about love triangles?”

Evidently, enough. Josh’s eyes widened, then narrowed in annoyance.

Felix cackled and fled the kitchen area before Ray could find the dishrag again. “God, you two are so easy to tweak, you know that?” He took what as left of his morning brew over to the section of the couch Josh wasn’t on.

“Can we change the subject away from this now, please?” Josh asked.

“Okay; your sister likes stealing my coffee.”

“Yeah, what is up with that?” Ray asked. He was done with the pancakes and was now cracking eggs for a huge scramble. “She absolutely refuses to learn to drive, turns up her nose at every type of computer, and yet she’s willing to brave your gearhead instructions to run the coffee monster?”

Cafe Monster, please Ray.” Felix made a haughty face at his oldest friend. “Use her name, she’s very sensitive.”

“You did not give your coffee machine an AI. Please tell me you didn’t.”

Felix snorted and laughed. “Man, you always guess that! One time! And I’ll have you know that Arlene was the best damn robo-vac ever… in the rooms she didn’t develop a fear of.”

Ray fixed him with a stern glare. “Is the coffeemaker Arlene II, or not?”

“No. But that doesn’t justify disrespect.”

“You are such a geek.”

“So tell me again what that Math Theory class you were so excited to get into has to do with your Poli-Sci major?” Felix asked sweetly. Before Ray could retort, he switched gears smoothly. “And what can I say? Ani’s addicted the stuff. I can’t leave a cup unguarded anywhere without a locking door.”

“It sounds like she’s indulging her sangrelogos.” Josh guessed.

“Her what now?”

Ray glanced up from his girdle work to give Felix a stern look. “You weren’t paying attention when we discussed this?” Felix only looked sheepish.

He didn’t get his answer though, as at that moment, the remote in Josh’s hand made a warbling sound. He turned it over and checked the screen. “Hardline call, Ray. It’s your father.”

“Throw him up on screen.” Ray said with a smile on his face. “It’s probably about the whole fey-mammoth incident the other day.” Josh complied, keying in the necessary command on the touch screen. The channel he’d been watching on the large screen was replaced by the scene of a large office with an amazing view of Beverly Hills. It was the very same view they would have if the apartment had windows.

Sitting in a high backed chair, behind a beautiful cherry desk, was a black man in his middle years. He had a thick, well groomed mustache and his hair was worn natural, but tied back. His navy blue suit cost about as much as Felix’s limbs and was impeccable. The family resemblance as all in the eyes and chin.

Raymond Fayth Sr. smiled broadly. “Ah, good morning, boys. I didn’t think I’d catch anyone but Junior awake.” Ray grumbled a bit at being called junior.

“Hey, Mr. F.” Felix waved. “This ‘me being up at this time’ is a one time deal, I can promise you that.”

Josh inclined his head as a gesture of respect. “It is, however, my usual time of waking. I hope the day finds you hale and sated, Mr. Fayth.”

“Thank you, Loshuia.” replied Mr. Fayth. “I was just calling to say congratulations on your first successful mission. Your sponsors send their kudos as well. They also gave me their first polling data. I’m not sure if you all wanted a popularity con—“

“Sweet, I heard that mentioned before. So how much does everyone love me?” Felix asked eagerly.

“—test.” Mr. Fayth finished with a laugh. “I guess that answers that.” He glanced down at something out of the camera’s range, presumably his tablet. “Felix, you’ll be proud to hear that Teen Machine is the clear favorite among males from eight, all the way to twenty-four. They’re already talking action figure.”

Felix was a giddy as he’d been the day he’d received his first kiss, or got into the prestigious Camp Future Forward science camp (where, incidentally, he ended up receiving that first kiss). “Ray, did you hear that? I’m gonna be an action figure!”

Suddenly something occurred to him. “Wait… just young guys? So who won women and old men?” He was already guessing Lydia.

“There are a number of demographics and sub-winners.” Mr. Fayth admitted. “But the most popular when everything adds is Icthiani.”

All three young men were blindsided by the news at the same instant and they replied with the same loud, baffled synchronicity: “Ani?!

Series Navigation<< Descendants L.A. #3 – Debut pt.3Descendants L.A. #5 – Above the Line pt. 2 >>

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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