- 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)
Raymond Fayth Sr. had a good idea what was coming when he saw that it was his son calling. Luckily, he had years of experience dealing with clients who often didn’t appreciate the time and effort needed to set up PR events or the value of acting proactively.
So when he answered, he was already fully into his agent mindset. “Junior!” He made sure his smile translated into his voice. “I was expecting your call; just saw the fight on television. The team looked amazing—you’re doing an amazing job with them.”
But as experienced as the elder Fayth was with dealing with clients, his son had spent his life watching him dealing with clients and knew when he was being handled. He bypassed pleasantries altogether.
“Dad. Let’s be serious. You know why I called.”
“Yeah, the ball.”
“No, listen: I know why you set it up. I know how good it looks, how it ‘connects’ us with the real Descendants, how the team needs ‘face time’ with the important people and the people whose money makes them think they’re important. I even know that you’ll try to sell me on how good a cause this is and how our appearance will probably drive up sales of those eight-hundred dollar plates.”
“I’m glad you’ve been paying attention.” Mr. Fayth interjected.
“Hard not to.” Ray said offhandedly. “But that’s not the point dad. You made that announcement to the media to force us into doing it whether we wanted to or not.”
Mr. Fayth made a thoughtful sound. “I can’t believe Felix and Lydia wouldn’t want to go. And you did want me to do something to tone down the media’s attempts at using you to shame the LAPD…”
How exactly will this make that happen?” Ray was sitting on his bed while making the call and bumped his head against the headboard in frustration.
“If they see you playing nice with the chief of police and his officers, they’ll have reason to assume there’s cooperation.”
Ray paused to think this over, then dismissed it. “I doubt it. They’ll see it as grudgingly coexisting for a good cause. And I’m pretty sure you know that. A rivalry with the cops would be good PR.” He didn’t give his father time to defend himself. “And of course Felix and Lydia want to go, but have you considered Icthiani? She’s incredibly anti-social; she hasn’t even left the apartment since we moved in outside of missions.”
“Because of the skin coloration issue?” Mr. Fayth asked. “I thought that Felix was working on that…”
“You went behind my back to Felix?!”
“Not behind you back.” said the elder Fayth diplomatically. “I called once while you were at the library studying for that Psychology test and we talked. I mentioned that her singer lykos–”
“Sangrelogos, yes. I told Felix that it might be contributing to her behavior. He said he might have something he could re-purpose for her benefit and I promised him components to help make it happen.”
Ray rolled his eyes. When his father started talking philanthropically, it was time to seal the hatches against a tsunami of bullshit. “So why did you really steer him that way?”
“Junior, I’m hurt that–”
“Dad, I know you. Speaking of psychology, that was your major in college.”
A chuckle came from the other end of the line. Caught as he was in his fabrication, Mr. Fayth couldn’t help but be proud of his son for seeing right through him. “Alright. My line of thought is this: ‘Ani is the highest rated member of all the team. There are already independent fan sites and everything.
“So it’s now just a matter of time before she comes in contact with the public. If she’s moping in the apartment during down time, it doesn’t matter, because they’ll approach her in the field. It’s the reason movie sets have security, after all. And D3I is starting to become concerned that she won’t maintain a fan-friendly image if that happens.
“All I’m proposing is to do something to put her in a mildly better mood.”
Ray massaged his forehead. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“I never kid about business, Junior. D3I wants to keep you all as bankable as possible for as long as possible and the first stage of that is maintaining the ‘new team’ mystique as long as possible.”
“Dad, we both know that won’t last forever.”
Mr. Fayth laughed. “Of course not! But we’re going to ride this thing until it falls apart.”
“And it’s worth going behind my back and manipulating my best friend, the closet think you have to a second son?”
“Junior.” My. Fayth clucked his tongue. “You know that I care about both of you boys, would do anything for you. But the fact is, right now you’re both also clients and—I’m only telling you this because you’re my son—sometimes the client needs to be led by the nose to what they need to do.”
Ray sighed. “And that’s not manipulative.”
“Of course it’s manipulative, son! But I’m an agent. I’m effectively your employee; I can’t give orders, I can only give suggestions. And sometimes those suggestions need to be conveyed in more subtle ways than others.”
Taking time to center himself and keep his tone even, Ray continued. “We had a deal, Dad. You, me and D3I. They get the merchandise rights, movies, TV, comics; they get to approve any costume changes that happen—hell, Felix was going to make Waltzing Matilda modular until they insisted he build separate bikes so they could sell more toys. But the team was independent; mine.”
He paused to give his father an in to object, but he didn’t take advantage of it.
“Just let me do my job, Dad.”
“No, you aren’t. You’re signing us up for appearances, going behind my back and messing with our dynamics. Do you know what goes on with Felix and ‘Ani? You shouldn’t have pressured him to help her without letting me know because she is always pushing him around.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“I live here, Dad. Yeah, I have a pretty good idea what’s going on with everyone. I get that you’re trying to be a good agent, but right now, I need you to be a good dad and let me do this by myself.”
A long silence, then Mr. Fayth sighed. “You’re not the one paying my bill, son. D3I has things they want me to do and as a professional, I have to do them.”
“Dad, that’s such bull–”
“But: as we both know, this argument’s been bubbling for a while and it’s not going to go away. I talked to D3I and they’ve agreed to loosen the leash a bit.”
“I’m not happy hearing they’re calling it a leash.” Ray muttered.
Mr. Fayth ignored him. “However, they have a favor to ask in return. A favor that you personally are uniquely positioned to carry out.”
Ray scowled as his imagination took that particular phrasing and ran with it. D3I was a multinational corporation with its fingers in software, pharmaceuticals and high strength ceramics to name just a few. Corporate espionage wasn’t just rampant, it was so big that it was one of the current national fascinations.
“Dad…” He said, hot anger in his tone.
“Of course you would think that.” Mr. Fayth sighed.
“Favor for favor, that sounds ‘mafia’ enough to make me worry.” Ray admitted. “Plus, these big corps are about five campaign contributions away from being criminal conspiracies anyway.”
“You know, you’ve gotten cynical since you settled on the political science major.”
“I know how it all works now.” Ray pointed out. “So let’s hear what this favor is. I’m not committing to anything, I just want to know.”
“Are you on your palmtop?”
“Then I’m sending you an image now.”
Ray linked his palmtop to the tablet sitting on its recharging pad on his desk where it acted as a television when it wasn’t a text book. Moments later, the image came through of a young woman Ray’s age. She was average height and a tiny bit overweight with an olive complexion and deep brown, almond-shaped eyes behind thick framed glasses. Her black hair only came down just past her earlobes and curled outward at the bottom. It was impossible to nail down her heritage, but Ray guessed Mediterranean.
He leaned closer to the picture. “I know this girl.” he said absently.
“Of course. She’s in your History of Technology class.” Said Mr. Fayth. “Ramona Getty.”
“I didn’t know her name. How the hell do you know so much?” Ray glared at his palmtop, wishing they were talking over a video link.
“Happy coincidence, mostly.” said Mr. Fayth. “See, Ramona is like you, junior: a descendant. Her powers allow her to spontaneously alter her body chemistry, going from normal carbon based life form to a silicon based one. Apparently this is a big deal in the biology field, but for Ramona, the problem is that it’s really just an extended form of proromorphism.”
Ray looked more closely at the picture. “She looks normal.”
“In that picture, yes. But as it turns out, every transformation into her silicon-based form makes it more difficult for her to reverse the process. Worse, a year ago, her changes started becoming involuntary.”
“God, I had no idea…”
“I know Junior, but there is a silver lining: D3I has been working for years to treat unwanted or harmful protomorphism. They’ve got a pill called Normality. As long as she took those pills, it prevented her from changing.”
“Alright, so someone I know is in one of D3I’s drug trials. What do you want me to do about it?”
There was silence as Mr. Fayth tried to formulate the best way to put it. “She was in a drug trial.” He finally said. “It worked for years, but her body is adapting to it, finding new mechanisms to initiate the change.”
The image took on a whole new meaning. Ray let out a hushed breath. “She’s dying?”
“No.” His father said quickly. “But she has started changing again. She’s been able to control it with higher doses, but it won’t be long until she’ll be at the safe limit of how much she can take. Once that happens, one day she’ll wake up and she won’t be able to change back to normal. Ever again.”
“Jesus.” Ray hissed.
Mr. Fayth waited a beat before making the pitch. “D3I is a company that cares about people. You know this. Why else would they have extended a hand to two more or less alien teens they found wandering the woods?”
“They found them in an alley off Rodeo, Dad.”
“Oh. Right. But anyway, D3I wants to look after Ramona; her aunt and uncle who raised her aren’t very accepting of her condition and she’ll need a support network to get through this. I’ve already lined up a therapist that specializes in protomorphs, but that’s never enough…”
“She needs friends.” Ray realized. “I’ve never seen her with anyone aside from the occasional guy trying to hit on her. That’s what you’re asking me to do?”
“That’s exactly what I’m asking. What D3I is asking. They want to make sure she has someone to turn to.”
Ray sat up on the bed. “That sounds way too altruistic for a big corp.”
“Alright,” said Mr. Fayth, “The fact of the matter is, she’s rare for a protomorph in that she can switch back and forth. Sure there are protomorphs made of rock or something else, but once they switch, they stay that way. She let the company observe it happening over and over again. She represents six years of research and they don’t want her killing herself when there’s still so much to learn.”
“Right. That sounds more in character.” Ray got up and started pacing, palmtop in hand.
“But will you do it anyway?”
Ray rubbed his face, groaning in frustration. “It doesn’t feel like I have a choice. It does sound like she needs someone to help her through this and it also sounds like the only way I’m going to get a handle on my team again.”
“You’re a good man, Junior.” Mr. Fayth said, hopeful that he was encouraging his son.
“Either a good man of a good pawn, I suppose. Goodnight, dad.”
It was past ten at night when Ray emerged from his room and came out into the common room. He’d spent quite some time meditating on his situation and what to do about Ramona.
She needed a support system; he believed his father at least on that. He’d been taking psychology on the side with political science and he knew just how important having people who cared about you was to getting through tough times.
At the same time, he was tired of being handled. His father thought everyone could be dealt with like a client. But he wasn’t a client, he was his own damn son and Felix might as well be.
Raymond Fayth had been good to both of them; had been good to Lydia when they all became friends, and had done right by ‘Ani and Josh too. But being generous and helpful wasn’t the same as respect. Ray wasn’t sure his father respected anyone.
But he wanted to make him respect Descendants: LA.
And now he felt he had the leverage to do it. And to let D3I know that the Descendants weren’t their pet superheroes to boot.
Entering the living room, he found Felix and Lydia on the couch, locked in dog-fighting combat. Josh sat off to the side, reading an online magazine about the history of Mexico. The game was two-player, so they had to switch off. He used the downtime to improve his knowledge about Earth.
Icthiani was nowhere to be found. Probably, Ray decided, sulking over the argument earlier. He greeted his friends, only getting distracted grunts from the two gamers, and threw himself down beside Josh.
After a few moments of thought, he turned to the daoine former soldier. “Hey, Josh? When you and ‘Ani first got here, where did you arrive?”
Josh looked up from his reading and shrugged. “I don’t know the word for the type of place exactly. It was some type of ‘cavernous building’, but I couldn’t say if it was a hanger, warehouse, terminal, or hall.”
Ray nodded. “Right. That what you told me before.”
“Why do you ask?”
“Just making sure of something.” Ray sat up suddenly to cover that he was changing the subject to avoid voicing his thoughts. “By the way; what would you guys say to getting a new roommate?”
There was room at the apartments; it was built to make even the most finicky celebrity comfortable. And if D3I wanted to control Ramona Getty, they would have to contend with the Descendants to do it.
To Be Continued…