- Descendants L.A. #1 – Debut pt.1
- Descendants L.A. #2 – Debut pt.2
- Descendants L.A. #3 – Debut pt.3
- Descendants L.A. #4 – Above the Line pt. 1
- Descendants L.A. #5 – Above the Line pt. 2
- Descendants L.A. #6 – Above the Line pt. 3
- Descendants L.A. #7 – Ensemble (Part 1)
- Descendants L.A. #8 – Ensemble (Part 2)
- Descendants L.A. #9 – Ensemble (Part 3)
- Descendants L.A. #10 – Ensemble (Part 4)
- Descendants L.A. #11 – Ensemble (Part 5)
- Descendants L.A. #12 – Gala Event (Part 1)
- Descendants L.A. Annual #1 – Gala Event (Part 2)
Three knocks. They had a precise sound to them, as if each rap upon the painted metal door had been carefully measured so that each one imparted the same energy as the next and as if the person doing the knocking was counting exactly a half second between them.
It was easy to tell when Josh was at your door. Even in ways he wasn’t consciously aware of, he carried his military conditioning more than he carried his sword.
Presently, the door opened to reveal Lydia. The telekinetic was drenched with sweat to the point that her honey blonde curls were plastered to her face and neck and she had to catch her breath before greeting him.
“Hey Josh. How goes?” She asked between pants.
Her condition made him fumble his thoughts for a moment and he nervously ran his tongue over his canines. It was a sign of nerves, of the fight or flight reflex starting to show through the more refined being, at least it was among his people. Humans assigned a very different connotation to pretty much any action involving the tongue, so he tried to be careful to control that particular tic.
Trying was not the same as succeeding.
Upon catching himself, he nearly bit his tongue to stop its movement. Pretending that didn’t happen was the best choice. He gave her a small wave hello. “Ray is off to classes, Felix is out shopping for parts, and my sister is, perhaps worryingly, absent, and I’m about as bored as an amnesiac troll with a cold forge.”
What he’d just said came back to his ears and he felt suddenly stupid. He should refrain from simile and metaphor until he learned some for the plane he was currently on. Recovering quickly, he soldiered on, all the while wondering if his friends knew that this was how his mind worked.
“So I was wondering if you were up for something. But it seems I might have caught you at a bad time.”
Lydia blinked, then noticed the state she was in. “Oh, no; I was just doing some room rearranging with my powers. And you know how it is when I start splitting it up between a bunch of things. It’s a pretty big strain.”
Josh nodded. It was one of those things that came up when they trained together. Ray and Felix were convinced that her power was like a muscle and could be strengthened by exercise. He theorized that meditation and studying her inner energies would work better. Lydia herself was vocally concerned with why she was bothering with multiple things instead of simply lifting one or two really big things.
In private, Ray’s theory seemed to be winning her over. Knowing what he knew, this amused Josh greatly, even though he wouldn’t show it now.
“Would you like some help moving things the old fashioned way?”
“Sure.” Lydia stepped back to let him in. “If you don’t mind the mess.”
The ‘mess’ wasn’t the stereotypical teenaged floor-creep of old clothes, candy wrappers, and the like. It was more of the kind of mess found in roadside museums dedicated to nothing in particular besides the heroic achievement of someone somewhere in collecting an intact dinosaur skeleton, Romanov memorabilia, a sarcophagus, and always, without fail, a suit of medieval plate. Maybe not that bad, but it rated at least a small thrift shop.
Which is where most of the knickknacks, geegaws, trinkets, thingies, odds and ends that covered every free surface in her room came from originally. Lydia was a packrat and every time she left the hidden apartments, her collection grew.
What struck Josh as most odd was the preponderance of pachyderms.
Lydia picked up whatever struck her fancy at the time, whether it was a matryoshka doll made up to look like a grinning, black cat, a tiny, golden pyramid, or… elephants. Many, many elephants. Stuffed ones, ceramic ones, glass figurines and puppets. Some of them looked to be quite expensive too. And adorable and happy looking stuffie the size of a medium sized dog sat astride her pillows as if it were on a throne.
“I know.” Lydia laughed lightly. “I have too much stuff. But it’s hard deciding what to keep and what to store and what to get rid of, you know?”
Clearly. Josh made certain that thought wasn’t evident. “I could help. While we rearrange, we’ll also sort; things to decorate with, things you want right on hand, and things that can be stored. No need to consider throwing anything out at the moment, yes?”
That earned him a beaming smile. “Great idea, Josh! I’ll got grab some boxes and we can get started.”
Two hours later, and the room was no less junky. The difference was that a great deal of the junk was now in boxes pinched from the supermarket not far from the Agency.
On Josh’s recommendation, the vast majority, those meant for storage, were neatly organized by contents and clearly marked as such in black marker. A much smaller number were marked with a ‘D’ for donation, each one representing an agonized decision on Lydia’s part. Unsurprisingly, every single elephant was staying right where it was.
Once Lydia got done rearranging furniture with her powers,they both set about arranging her remaining collection.
“This is your family?” Josh suddenly asked as he picked up a digital picture frame.
She nodded and accepted the device from him and looked at the sole image stored on it thoughtfully. It was an impromptu photo taken two years earlier on her mother’s birthday with her kneeling with her brother and sister in front of their parents and her maternal grandfather. “Yep, the whole Ortiz clan.”
Josh’s ears twitched at the mixed emotions in her voice. “Do you keep in touch?”
Lydia surrounded the frame in a green, glowing field and placed it gently in the center of her largest shelf. “When I think to. It’s not the most comfortable thing; they think I’m still wasting my life at the surf shop.”
“They didn’t approve?”
“Maybe, maybe not.” She shrugged and used her power to pull a stuffed, pink elephant into her arms to hug. The soft toy had a plush sombrero on its head and a real, tiny bottle of tequila wrapped in its trunk. “But it’s a tough act to follow when my sister is always calling home from her adventures.”
Josh raised an eyebrow. He didn’t have to ask anything, she knew exactly what he was wondering.
“She’s got the same powers as me, but she’s stronger and doesn’t have the visible signature I do.” To demonstrate, she lifted a seashell encrusted lamp in a green glow to place on her nightstand. “And instead of playing at superhero, she’s part of an international search and rescue team.”
“That’s very admirable of her.” Josh said.
“Yeah, I know, right? She’s a great person, they’ll probably name an award after her.” She focused on moving more odds and ends into their place now, trying to focus more on them.
“You don’t sound very happy about that.”
“Is it bad of me?” She asked in a small voice, a dried starfish floating aimlessly as she forgot about it. “I mean, she does amazing things, but sometimes… with her doing all these world changing things, and my brother… really not… I kind of feel like I’m too boring for them to care about.”
“It’s not bad at all. Most children want their parents’ attention and approval, even back in Faerie. Believe me, I know how you feel.” Another time, Lydia would have thought he was just saying that to make her feel better. But looking at his expression, she recognized one that she knew well from the mirror.
“Really? I wouldn’t have thought…”
Josh waved off the idea. “There is always a favorite child.” He explained. “And Icthiani was that child for our family. It’s the reason she went to the Sanguine Halls instead of the military, after all; it was clear that father would choose her as his heir and among the Earls of the Soder Kingdoms, magical ability is viewed as a measure of strength.”
Lydia looked at him with sympathy. “I’m sorry, Josh.”
“Don’t be.” He said lightly. “I enjoyed my time in the military and as we are now here, it hardly matters anymore.” A small laugh shook his shoulders. “And yet the trend seems to have extended into this world as well.”
“You mean the popularity poll?”
“I didn’t know you had heard; you haven’t been out of your room all day.”
She shrugged. “Still have my palmtop. Looks like you and me are the only one not to win a category. Does that bother you?”
Josh frowned at the concern in her voice. “Not at all. Frankly, I think that it’s good for Felix to feel like he’s become an idol and for Ray to receive a boost to his confidence as a leader based on his approval numbers by older males.” He hesitated to ask, not knowing what he could say if he got a bad answer. “Does it bother you?”
Lydia shook her head. “I’m having fun, giving my powers a workout every day, and even if they don’t like me best, they like me. I’m not greedy.” A smirk came to her face. “Besides, ‘Ani’s biggest numbers come from males 12 to 25 and I somehow I doubt it’s because they think her powers are cool.”
“We… should probably not inform her of this.”
She laughed loudly. “Agreed.” Her arms flopped to her sides, relaxed, as she looked around her slightly less cluttered room. The boxes were in neat stacks , waiting to be taken away. “looks like we’re done here except for some heavy lifting. How about we take care of the donation boxes first? We can get some lunch while we’re out.”
That sounded perfect to Josh, who nodded. “Can we try a culture whose cuisine I’ve yet to experience?”
“Whatever you want, Josh.” Lydia used her powers to levitate the donation boxes and open her door at the same time. “Let’s see, you’ve had… Chinese, Pakistani, Indian, French, Mexican, Japanese and Italian so far, right?”
“Felix also took me out for fish and chips, which I believe is English.”
“I’ve got just the place then.” She smiled, quite proud of herself for thinking of it. “I know this place that makes the most amazing jambalaya. Let’s go!”
Felix really loved his jobs.
At the heights of his joy, when he wasn’t really thinking, he almost wanted to thank the psychopath who blew off his limbs. If not for him, he never would have discovered his knack for mechanics and computer programming by disassembling his first prosthetic out of boredom.
And without that, he never would have built the Teen Machine system, never would be getting paid to be a superhero. Nor would have have his job as a reviewer for the west coast’s most influential tech blog, or any of his many freelance jobs that paid him in materials and sample tech to play with.
But then, inevitably, he would think. And realize that without the insane and cruel action of Arthur William Kirk, he would still have his mother, still be part of her dazzling world of stage lights and rehearsals, still be able to feel without software assistance.
No, he didn’t want to thank Kirk. He didn’t know what he’d do to the man if he ever saw him face to face.
At the moment though, he wasn’t thinking. The ConquestTech Evolve chip was installed in his tablet and he was hard at work benchmarking.
‘Benchmarking’ included running a batter of programs while measuring the chip’s performance. All of that would be translated onto a neat little table on his column so that the nuts and bolts types who read it could decide if it was worth purchasing based on the numbers.
The column itself though, only cited the program results occasionally. The joy of benchmarking for him came in the form of his patented real world performance test. To the layman, it looked like he was playing Space and Beyond: Infinite Conquest, but to the trained professional, it was clear that he was playing it and getting paid to do it.
With the tablet tucked into the crook of his arm, acting as a controller, Felix was doing his best to tax the new processor; ordering space fighters to patrol the space around his battle cruiser in elaborate patterns and schedules, changing standing orders for the crew to give the crew member AI a workout, and all the while running a blockade of an enemy home world.
“Working hard, I see.” Felix glanced over to his door to find Ray leaning against it, his messenger bag hanging limply from one hand. Unless he was changing, Felix’s door was rarely closed, so he wasn’t surprised at that occasional intrusion.
“Not all of us have a trust fund to fall back on.” He blew a raspberry at his best friend, never once leaving his cross-legged position on his bed, his eyes once again locking on the game screen projecting on the wall.
“Or an education, brain trust.” Ray shot back. He tossed the bag backward into the main room, just missing the couch, and went to grab Felix’s desk chair. “So how’s the new toy working out?”
“Dude, this thing is a dream.” Felix beamed as all thirty laser batteries on the port side of his cruiser fired at his command, each one targeting an enemy space station and it’s fighter contingent. “I’m finally playing Space and Beyond to its full potential! Every individual AI instance is running, the Artificial Personalities are like ten times more realistic with all this computing power behind them, and I can finally play this baby with all setting maxed. To tell the truth, I think I might need to download a game with even meaner specs.”
On screen, it soon became clear that the laser barrage was only a distraction. The misdirection was merely to draw attention away from his custom gunships. He took ‘gunship’ very literally, and the things were pretty much the biggest, most powerful particle weapons he could research in the game so far attached to engined and a cockpit. Their armor rating barely protected them from cosmic radiation.
This was his favorite tactic; pound the enemy with lasers, sending his fighter fleet right behind, then quietly sidle the gunships into range.
Only this time, the space station immediately targeted them with every surviving weapon that could lock onto them. Within moment, Felix’s mighty warships were cerulean and white clouds of rapidly evaporating plasma.
“Outstanding.” Ray doubled over in laughter. “Looks like the enemy AI’s gotten smarter too.”
Felix grumbled and ordered the ship to be brought around and the primary weapon charged. “So how was class?”
“Painful. We had a sort of round robin discussion leaders in history who fascinate you and why. Never mind that the assignment itself is something they’d have you do in middle school, but half the people in my class are so lazy and uncreative that I heard ten interpretations of Abraham Lincoln, and seven on George Washington. This is a class for PoliSci majors and most of the class couldn’t be bothered to show any creativity.”
“Who did you pick?”
“My professor said that too. But she asked for someone who fascinated me, not who I looked up to or liked.”
“Still, if you wanted to go with a crazy mass murderer, why not just go for the easy out and pick Hitler?” He was still waiting for his weapon to charge and ordering all of his crew to brace positions.
“Too easy, plus the Claybourne thing with Brazil is kind of amazing. Sure, he was a war hawk and broke just a ton of laws even before the bomb dropped, but the effect his actions had on basically every modern democracy isn’t even known yet. In the end, he might be the King John of the modern age.”
Felix made snoring sounds. “Huh? What was that? I heard ‘history history, history’ and fell asleep for a second.”
Glaring at him, Ray took a paperclip form his desk and flicked it upside his head. “Oh, and before I forget, remember what we were talking about earlier? About Lyds?”
“Are you admitting you like her finally?”
“You just want me and Josh to fight over her so you can watch the drama.” Ray scowled.
“Well… yeah.” Felix took his eye off the battle to flash a toothy grin.
Ray rolled his eyes. “Well you don’t get your wish. But you do get to tease Josh: he and Lyds were heading out when I was pulling in. Looked pretty—“ A warble from both inside Ray’s bag out in the main room and Felix’s tablet interrupted him.
“Dad’s calling.” He said. “And that’s not the ‘I want to talk ringtone. That means—“