Issue #0 From There to Here

This entry is part 1 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 1: Welcome to Freeland House

Part 2

It was well past midnight, though Cynthia had no idea how late it was exactly. The adults; Alexis, Laurel and Ian had fallen asleep in the makeshift infirmary a few hours ago after several more hours of soft talking behind the closed doors of the former sun porch.

She remained in the upstairs commons; separated from the sun porch by a long hallway that led to four of the smaller guest rooms of the former inn. Not far from her seat on the floor, Warrick Kaine, a scrawny looking Italian, around her age, with scruffy, black hair, sat on the much patched couch.

Since their arrival at Freeland House, the they’d spent most of that time watching the old television that was the only piece of furniture in the upstairs commons aside from the couch. Very little had been said besides arguing over what to watch.

At this hour, the only programs on were infomercials, but neither was very eager to go to sleep after waking up to learn that they had been prisoners of the Academy, held in stasis for reasons not forthcoming.

Cynthia leaned her head back against the couch and looked over at Warrick. He sat cross-legged on the couch, staring at a demonstration of a new kind of vacuum cleaner on the television. After a few moments, he noticed her watching him in the dim light provided by the TV monitor.

“So…” he began, not really knowing what to say to the strange girl. In the half day he’d known her, the sum of the information he knew about her was limited to her name, her lack of appreciation for crime dramas, and the fact that when Laurel stopped at a fast food place to get everyone something to eat, she put away six cheeseburgers.

On top of it all, she looked like no one he’d ever met; five foot eight, with stark, white hair cut off a few inched above the shoulder. Her skin was nearly as white and almost featureless except for the freckles on her face. The weirdest thing about her were her eyes. Warrick knew lots of people with green eyes, but most people’s irises had flecks of other colors in them. Cynthia’s were pure, uniform green. In a word, she was odd; though in retrospect, Warrick had met far stranger people at the Academy.

“So what?” Cynthia asked after a short silence between the them.

“Um… what are your powers?” Warrick asked. For anyone who spent any time at the Academy, the question was every bit as hackneyed as asking ‘what’s your sign’, but it seemed a less ignorant question than ‘so what’s with your eyes’, which had been Warrick’s original question.

Cynthia rolled her eyes. The question was, after all, one she had answered dozens of times in her life. Still, discussing their powers was more interesting that watching a washed up actor babble about ‘new suction technology’. “Tell me about yours, first.”

“Eh, okay. I control metal. I also have like a metal sense, but it’s kind of complicated.” Warrick started. His ‘metal sense’ was hard to explain; it allowed him to ‘sense’ the composition and condition of elemental metals and their compounds and alloys, but in a way that didn’t lend itself to accurate explanation.

“There’s a lot to it; involving ions and all sorts of other stuff they said they were going to put me in advanced chemistry classes to teach me; but I woke up in a creepy glass coffin before that happened.” There was a pause while he thought of how to explain the more enigmatic side of his powers.

“There’s something else I can do… but it’d be a lot easier to just summon them and show you. Did you see any spare metal around here when we came in?

“Summon?” Cynthia raised an eyebrow. She’d been worried that she was going to sound strange, especially to someone with general elemental powers. Aside from minor telepathy, controlling certain types of matter was the most common power people heard of. Summoning was a new one in her book.

Warrick got up and wandered down the short hall that connected the commons to the open space separating the rooms in the west wing of the house from each other. The area was populated by a now defunct ice machine, a wooden table, placed there long ago for some unknown purpose, and a wire wastebasket.

“Like I said, they’re a lot easier to show than explain.” He picked up the wastebasket and padded back out to the commons.

“They?” Again, Cynthia’s vocabulary was reduced to repeating singular words.

“Yeah, ‘they’.” Warrick shrugged as if Cynthia knew exactly what he was talking about. With no further commentary, he focused his power on the wastebasket, melting it to slag in his hands. Defying all physics, the liquid blob remained in Warrick’s hands instead of running through his fingers as he continued dictating its form. It divided into two roughly equal amounts and slithered up Warrick’s arms, forming into intricate bands around his biceps.

“Neat trick,” Cynthia sighed as the metal solidified once more. “But that’s not exactly summoning anything. That’s just your power working on the metal.” She couldn’t believe that she’d gotten her hopes up that his powers would be interesting.

Warrick held up a finger. “That wasn’t the trick. I just need to have some metal around my arms to do it.” He cracked his neck for effect, then extended his arms out to the sides. “This is the trick!”

From moment wrapped the former wastebasket around his arms, he felt the nascent potential for ‘them’ to come into being in the back of his head. Bringing them into reality was more a matter of allowing the power to work than actively triggering it.

The bands around his arms pulsed, tightening slightly before changing shape once more. Part of them remained wrapped firmly around his upper arms, but the remainder snaked out into a pair of liquid metal tentacles.

Cynthia goggled. The things certainly weren’t acting under the influence of Warrick’s power any longer. He wasn’t concentrating at all and yet, the tentacles still writhed, seeming to sense their environment.

“Well, here they are. On the left is Isp, and on the right is Osp.” Warrick said. “You don’t need to be freaked out or anything, they’re well behaved.”

“Well behaved… tentacles?” Cynthia muttered. “How are you doing that?”

Warrick shrugged, resuming his seat on the couch while the tentacles continued surveying their new surroundings. “I have no idea. Once I summon them, I don’t have to do anything unless I want to tell them to do something. They get by pretty well without me telling them what to do.”

A tiny part of Cynthia was impressed. A slightly larger part was relieved that his powers were as strange as her own. The majority of her, however, was busy recoiling in confusion as one of the tentacles made its way over to her and began to, for lack of a better word, look her over.

“I don’t think she likes that, guys.” Warrick said, apparently to the tentacles. He was able to mentally direct them; but he generally felt better speaking to them aloud.

The tentacle backed away from Cynthia and went off to investigate the underside of the couch.

“Okay,” Warrick said after a few moments of watching a bewildered Cynthia keeping a wary eye on the tentacles “Now it’s your turn.”

Forcing herself to ignore the tentacles as they explored the room, Cynthia looked up at Warrick. “From how they explained my powers when I entered the Academy, I’m a ‘consummate shapeshifter’.” She paused to wait for the inevitable question.

“What’s the ‘consummate’ part about?” Warrick asked on cue.

“It means ‘perfect’.” Cynthia said, settling back against the couch. “Most shapeshifters have limits; they can only turn into forms they’ve seen, they can only assume humanoid forms… the more limited ones can just grow claws or change their skin color. Me, on the other hand, my body’s basically like clay. I can change shape in any way I want/ Even my immune system changes instantly to adapt to things.”

“Sweet.” Warrick grinned. “You’ve got like fifty super powers rolled into one.”

“There is a downside, though.” She moved to sit on the opposite end of the couch from him. As soon as she was sure she had his attention, she made a few, quick alterations. Her eyes flashed red and she opened her mouth to reveal a pair of sharp fangs and a forked tongue.

The tentacles reacted before Warrick did, lashing into position to defend him even before he could let out a yelp of fear. Cynthia herself jumped back at the sight of the tentacles. After a moment of tense silence, both teens realized what had happened and started laughing.

Cynthia recovered first and reverted to her normal self. “Wow, they’re certainly protective of you, aren’t they?”

The tentacles slowly calmed and slithered away to continue their exploration. “Yeah, I know it sounds weird, but they’re actually really good friends to me.” Warrick said, feeling a bit embarrassed. “So what was with the ‘bride of Dracula’ bit?”

“Sorry, but I did owe you for springing the twins on me.” Cynthia grinned mischievously. “Anyway, do you have any idea how much energy it took to make even that tiny little change and go back again?”

“I’m going to guess ‘a lot’.” Warrick admitted.

“Bingo, Sherlock.” Cynthia snorted. “Plus, half of the times I use my powers, its unconscious. Even for little things like minor scrapes, or a cold? My body uses my shapeshifting to deal with it instead of doing things the normal way. To make up for that, my metabolism is insane.”

“That explains eating more than the rest of us combined at the takeout place.” He noted.

Cynthia nodded. “Pretty much. And that does it for my powers.” She glanced over to the TV again. A new program selling exercise equipment was starting. “I still don’t feel like going to bed. How about asking another stupid question?”

“It wasn’t that stupid a question.” Warrick defended himself. “People may ask it a lot, but it’s not stupid.”

“Fine, I’ll ask one then.” Cynthia huffed, refusing to deny that Warrick’s question was stupid. “Where’re you from?”

“Brooklyn.” Warrick beamed, as if his accent didn’t place him as being from there already. “To tell the truth, I can’t wait to get back. I was getting ready to go home for Christmas break before all this happened.”

“I think both of us missed Christmas; it’s May now.” said Cynthia. “I also missed Christmas of ’72 in that damn glass box.” After a second’s thought, she shrugged, “Not that I care. I wasn’t going home for break anyhow.”

“How come?”

“Let’s just say that at home, all my powers amounted to was being about four more mouths to feed.” Cynthia grimaced. “Either that, or a humanoid scratching post. I don’t’ give much of a damn if I ever go back to North Carolina again.”

“Jeez, I’m sorry, Cyn.” Warrick’s expression was serious now. “I didn’t mean to bring up a sore topic.” Even the tentacles seemed to be feeling sorry for her. Suddenly realizing something, Warrick added. “Er… can I call you Cyn?”

“Actually, I made everyone at the Academy call me Cyn.” The white haired girl replied. “And don’t feel bad for me; I asked in the first place.”

“But –“

“Look, I don’t much care for my family, but it’s not something I dwell on, okay? I was doing pretty well at the Academy.” She wrinkled her nose in disgust. “Until they turned out to be evil with the intent to dissect me that is.”

Neither teen said anything for some time after that. Finally, Warrick piped up. “Hey, Cyn? What do you think is going to happen now? I mean, they’re not going to send us home with the Academy still wanting to do whatever the hell it was they were doing.”

Cynthia was very close to falling asleep when Warrick’s question roused her. “I don’t know. They’ll probably think of some way to let our parents know we’re okay. Aside from that… I’ve got no idea. Apparently that Laurel woman’s a super genius or something, so I’m sure they’ll figure something out.”

A few more moments of silence followed.

“Hey, Cyn?” Warrick asked.

“Yeah?” Cynthia asked, pulled once more from the brink of sleep.

“If you don’t want to go back to your family once this is all over, you can come to Brooklyn. My family’s pretty cool. My mom’s in advertising, my dad’s a voice actor and they’re both really laid back. Plus, my sister’s a good kid all in all.”

“Heh.” The white haired girl gave a small laugh. “Thanks Warrick.” As she fell asleep, she wondered if the other people in the house were as decent as the metal controller from New York.

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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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