- Issue #13: Another Kind of Homecoming
- Issue #14: Standing With Titans
- Issue #15: Never Simple
- Issue #16: Psalm of a Soul
- Issue #17: Freaque
- Issue #18: A Tale of Two Churches
- Issue #19: All Girls Want Bad Boys
- Issue #20: The Irrepressible Spark
- Descendants Special #2: Promenade
- Issue #21: Come the Black Clouds
- Issue #22: The Breaking Storm
- A MagiTech Crisis: Epilogue
- Issue #23: June 18 (Post Modern Prometheus)
- Issue #24: Love Like Mad
- Descendants Annual #2
Ten minutes later, the five young women found themselves three blocks from the high school, walking along the sidewalk past a coffee house/bookstore that was known to be a popular hang out for seniors.
Cyn was proudly in the lead as they turned into the store’s parking lot. “I got it Monday and I thought it’d be much cooler to show everyone this weekend when we had time to ride around.” She stopped before a boxy behemoth with a gold paintjob. It wasn’t so much parked as it was crouched, waiting for the other cars to let their guard down so it could kill and devour them.
“The American Auto-cars Ares Humvee: Platinum Edition.” Cyn said proudly gesturing to her new vehicle. “It is to cars what the lion is to cats in general and what the mighty great white shark is to fish.”
Kay’s eyes grew to three times normal. “Whoa…” she murmured. She was in love. It only lasted a moment before she rounded on Juniper. “You knew about this and didn’t tell me?!”
“She said I’d have to take the bus instead of riding with her if I told.” Juniper admitted, hanging her head. “I-it has heated seats. I’m only human.”
“It’s June!” Kay exclaimed, “How can you even think of heated seats this time of year.
“I like being warm.” Juniper defended.
Lisa smirked. “How did you afford this? I mean these things cost almost as much as a flier. My aunt is… was… loaded and even she couldn’t afford one.”
“Laurel knows someone in the industry.” Cyn lied, “This is one of the prototypes with a custom paint job. Still pretty sweet though, right?”
Tink nodded, running an expert eye over the machine. “That it is.” She said, “But why did Ms. Brant pull so many strings for you? She’s just the manager at Freeland after all.”
“You may be going with Warrick,” Cyn said haughtily, “but you don’t know how it is at Freeland House. We’re really close—we look out for one another. Laurel’s more of a parent to me than mine ever were.” She added the last part almost inaudibly.
“She offered to do the same for Warrick and I.” Juniper chimed in. “But we both thought it’d be better to work for our first cars.” She finished with a sage nod.
“I need to have a talk with him about gift horses and their mouths…” Tink said, “I mean it’s really nice that he wants to earn it, but seriously, it’d take a Midas touch to get the money to get a car this nice.”
Cyn snorted for reasons Tink couldn’t comprehend. She covered, by laughing. “Hey, we agree on something, copper-top. He’s a good guy, but there’s such a thing as too good.”
A mischievous smile spread of Kay’s face. “I thought both of you were mad at him for being a pervy bastard.”
Waving a dismissive hand, Cyn unlocked the giant truck’s doors. “That wasn’t him and that’s why we’re following his handsey doppelganger. Come on, ladies, mount up. We need to be in the school parking lot before evil Adel gets back.”
“Okay, they’re not going anywhere near McMurray’s.” Kay watched Warrick, JC and Adel weaving through traffic ahead of them. She was riding shotgun and splitting her attention between following the pursuit and fiddling with all the built in gadgetry in Cyn’s new ride.
“So they’re acting sleazy and heading into a sleazy part of town.” Tink said flatly.
“That they’ve never been to before.” Lisa added.
“The evil twin theory is starting to have merit.” Tink admitted, “There’s an amateur robot battle arena in the back lot of a hardware store here. Warrick freaked out at the idea of me going—said he was worried something might happen. I doubt he’d come here voluntarily.”
Cyn smiled inwardly. This neighborhood was on several patrol routes due to it’s gang activity. Alloy especially prowled it often hoping to break up some of the more violent offenders. “Right.” She said aloud. “And while JC talks him into some dumb stuff, wandering around gangland isn’t something he’d be into.”
“M-maybe we should call someone…” Juniper said. It was as close as she could get to suggesting bringing the other Descendants in on the situation.
“We have no idea what’s going on.” Lisa objected. “There’s nothing illegal about driving through a bad neighborhood, so right now it’s pretty much Tina and I stalking our boyfriends and you stalking your crush.”
“What about us?” Kay grinned, pointing between Cyn and herself.
“You’re just being weird and creepy, dear.” Lisa laughed.
“Awesome.” Kay grinned back at her.
Cyn nodded. “Nothing serious is happening yet, you’re right. And really, if they really are evil pods bent on assimilating and hitting on the human race, who wants to share the glory of defeating them?” She looked up to see Adel pulling into the parking lot of a strip mall containing a Jiffy-Mart, dry cleaners, karate dojo, check cashing center, and a sensory deprivation ‘clinic’.
“What do you think, girls?” Tink asked, looking at the place while Cyn discreetly drove by. “Are they here to pay money to sit in a dark box, to make their kung fu stronger, or to deal with stubborn grass stains on delicate fabric?”
A man and a woman sat in the office of the dojo, watching the main room through a two-way mirror. Warrick, JC and Adel had just entered, bringing the number of arrivals to seven.
“One hundred percent success rate.” The man said, with a smug smile. He was of Anglo descent, in his late teens or early twenties with a head full of long, brown hair tied back in a bushy pony tail. His eyes were hidden by a pair of red tinted sunglasses.
“If you’re so good, why did you have to call them here? Couldn’t you have told them what to do when you first came in contact with them?” She was dark skinned with a mane of black hair cascading over her shoulders. The loose blouse and skirt she was wearing hung off her perfectly, never gathering or bunching.
“Don’t tell me how to do my job.” He said sharply. “It doesn’t work that way. Yes, I could have and then we’d only have a thirty-five to forty percent chance they’d obey. I had to condition them first.” He glared at her. “If your boss—“
“Partner.” The woman corrected.
“Partner. If he’d given me better time tables instead of having me shunt between Mayfield, New York and Atlanta, I’d have had time after first contact to do more direct alterations. Emotion balancing and suggestion was the best I could do since I wasn’t able to be in town yesterday. You’re lucky we managed.”
“I’ll pass that along, Thunderhead.” The woman said, drolly.
“You do that.” He said, “And while I’m in Mayfield, I’m Eduardo Vorran, if you please.”
“Funny, you don’t look like an Eduardo.” The woman mused. “All these names; You’d think you were having a crisis or something.”
“I didn’t before meeting you two.” Vorran snapped. “And if I could figure out how you’re blocking me, I’d make you forget all about me.”
She laughed, which made him glare even harder. “Once everything is up and running, Someone else can become Vorran, Sims and Qin. But right now, we need your talents to build up those men’s criminal enterprises.”
“I thought you said these were going to be cannon fodder.” He waved a hand to indicate the restless young men in the dojo. “To draw out whatever countermeasures Liedecker’s been putting together in response to the Tongs.”
“They are.” The woman said, “but with luck, they’ll also be the seeds of Eduardo Vorran’s organization. You can make it permanent in normals, yes?”
Vorran nodded. “It takes a week or two, but yeah. Longer for psionics. I’m guessing you knew that though; seeing as how you only asked me to push the Tongs into this arms race?”
The woman nodded. “You’re bright.”
“That’s why they call me Thunderhead.” Vorran said, “My synapses fire one hundred times more often than a normal human being’s. I’m not hypercognitive, but it does make me smarter than most.”
“Good.” She gestured at the young men outside. “Show me what you can do.”
Vorran/Thunderhead stood up and moved toward the door. “If Liedecker does have countermeasures, will I have any back up?”
“Only if you need it.”
“Man, why are we here?” JC demanded, leaning against the wall. “And who are these guys supposed to be?” He jerked a thumb at the other four young men.
“Don’t look at me.” Warrick shrugged, “Mills was driving.” His eyes narrowed. “I thought I told you we were going to McMurray’s.”
“You’re the one that led us in here.” JC alleged.
“Wait a minute.” The voice came from a tall, dark man in his twenties with shoulders enough for two men. “You three don’t know why you’re here?” He gestured to the man beside him, a man with a nest of dreadlocks on his head and a flannel shirt. “Neither do we. Just what the hell is going on here?”
“Someone better explain something.” Adel said, teeth on edge, “Because some son of a bitch made me break off time from something real nice for this bullshit.”
“Like you would have done anything.” Warrick scoffed. “She’s been after you since the beginning of the year and all you’ve done is mumble like you’re touched in the brain.”
“You’re one to talk.” Adel shot back, “Hanging around that geek girl so long and just now pulling something? And what happened? She shot you down.”
“Wait, whoa, hold on.” JC said, throwing up his hands. He looked at Warrick like he’d never seen him before. “You tried something on Tina? Holy shit, did hell freeze over? When did you get balls.” He rounded on Adel, “And come to think of it, when did you get the ability to talk?! That shit’s a lot freakier than wandering into this place.”
Outside, Kay made a face. “There goes the pod people explanation, Cyn.” She whispered, “pod people would have… you know, some basic idea of what’s going on.” All five were crouched outside the large windows at the front of the dojo, trying to watch and listen without being seen.
“This is getting really weird.” Tink shook her head. “There’s four other guys that had this happen to them?”
“At least.” Cyn said. “Keep on the lookout for more coming.”
“That still doesn’t explain how any of us got here.” The man that had interrupted them said.
“I believe I can explain that.” All heads in the room turned to see a man with long hair, dressed in a crisp, white button down shirt and suit pants coming out of the door to the back office. He wore red tinted sunglasses that hid his eyes. “Not that you’ll remember any of this later.”
“What the hell are you talking about?!” a teen in jeans and a Blinded by Radiance T-shirt snarled, stepping toward the newcomer with menacing intent.
“Sit.” The man said. Stumbling in mid charge, the teen crumpled to his knees until he landed hard on his rump. “Actually, all of you sit.” Everyone else complied in a similar manner. “Good. Judging by your faces, none of you remember me, which is exactly the way I like it. I am your new employer, Eduardo Vorran. We all met at the Shortstop sports bar, where I implanted the suggestion that summoned you all here.”
If anyone had any questions, Vorran didn’t let them ask them.
He chuckled at their blank stares. “I was never good at sports, never really cared for them. But I’ll be damned if they aren’t useful. The perfect place to find young males who fit the demographic for common criminals. Oh, I know you aren’t common criminals. Not yet at least. After tonight, not so much though. Welcome to the all new Vorran crime syndicate.
“I’m starting to think forcing the boys to try bonding with Adel was a bad plan.” Lisa said in a small voice.
“I don’t.” Cyn said, “I mean, what are the chances that the one night they give in and do it, the very same sports bar would become the hunting ground for a brain blowing megalomaniac.” She sighed, “Probably better than I’d think. Ah well, we’d better bust in and make him fix them.”
She started to get up, but Tink caught her arm. “Wait a minute.” She hissed, “This guy’s a telepath, right? Mind controlling, psychic blasts, that kind of thing?”
“Pretty much, yes.” Cyn nodded, and started to move again.
Tink pulled her back. “Oh, then what makes you think he won’t just take us over too?” Cyn’s jaw worked, but no words came out. Tink nodded. “Right. So we need a plan.”
“We should really call for help, Cyn.” Juniper whispered, hoping the white haired girl would get the hint.
“Who? The cops?” Kay asked.
“Then he’d have pawns with badges and guns.” Tink dismissed the idea. “No, we need to get this guy by surprise—before he can try to take us over.”
Irony being what it is, it was about that time that Lisa started sneezing. Not a single, large sneeze, but a series of small but explosive ones that went on for about half a minute.
Inside the dojo, Vorran paused in his speech to look to the window.
“Hey, JC said, “that sounds like…”
Vorran closed his eyes and focused. He found five minds just outside the window, full of panic and turmoil. “Spies.” He spat, amping up the suggestions he’d be laying into his captive audience during his speech. “Kill them.”