Issue #19: All Girls Want Bad Boys

This entry is part 7 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 2: Magic and Machines

Part 3

When a mentalist in the movies, TV or comic books told people under his sway ‘kill them’, they generally lumbered forward like mindless zombies to do his bidding until something (usually the sight of a loved one or a good, solid blow to the head—which are essentially the same thing.) allowed them to overcome his or her control.

It didn’t work that way for Thunderhead, alias Eduardo Vorran. He suspected there existed minds in the world so utterly subservient on every level of consciousness that one really would respond to direct commands like that instantly, but he’d never met one.

The average human brain fought back. It always sought rationality and equilibrium, ignoring or even suppressing ideas and concepts that seemed to deviate too far from its established norms. Unless it was used to killing people simply because it was told to it wouldn’t. Then it would start noticing the other flaws in the mentalist’s control and start correcting them and then it would all be over.

For Vorran, mind control was like a swan; graceful to the eye, but there was still a lot of work going on under the water. At the speed of thought, he rode the pathways between synapses, searching for what already existed.

The average person changed personas like they would change clothes and rarely noticed it. The loving partner, the angry driver, the fearful child; many hundreds of emotions and mannerisms boiled beneath the surface of every human being even if they never admitted it, even if they never knew it, even if they never exhibited it.

Vorran exerted his control by stimulating the id, then finding the persona deep within a person that thought what he wanted them to do was a desirable option; fudging details and replacing emotional connections as needed to achieve the desired effects. As elegant as his speeches were in his mind, he was still performing the mental equivalent of hotwiring the brain.

Anger flashed across the faces of the seven young men as they caught sight of the spies. Even in those that recognized the faces now had new emotions attached to that recognition. As a mass, they charged for the door.

“Okay, back to the car.” Cyn said.

“But JC knew my sneeze.” Lisa said, staring blankly. Kay and Tink both took an arm and started pulling her back to the car. “That means he’s in there somewhere, right? Maybe we can reach them.”

“Yes, while the other six beat you and the ringleader plays around in your brain.” Cyn said, throwing open the driver’s side door. The engine roared to life and the headlights came on with blinding brilliance.

More than a physical match for the other two girls, Lisa shrugged out of their grasps. For a brief moment, she considered force globing Vorran’s unwilling minions. She wasn’t sure how it worked, but it was possible that it could block his control. She always kept a single marble and a piece of glass handy to conjure up her signature spells on the fly.

But Cyn was right. What was worse, if Vorran saw her casting spells, he’d know what she could do and try to take hr over. Then everyone would have a much bigger problem on their hands. Reluctantly, she turned and ran for the Ares.

She closed the door not a second too soon as the mob of mind controlled men got out the door and dashed at them across the parking lot. Removed form their normal sense of limitation and safety, they were astoundingly fast.

Cyn saw Warrick bringing up the rear and unconsciously noted the other cars in the parking lot around her. Way too much metal to be safe. Even if they were in a big aluminum cage anyway, there was not reason to stack the deck further against them. She threw the car into reverse and stomped the accelerator.

The big Ares rolled over the curb, across the sidewalk and into traffic in a surge of speed that belied its bulk. Cyn didn’t bother looking at her pursuers before throwing it into gear and gunning it down the street.

With their quarry swiftly outpacing them, the mind controlled young men all turned their eyes to their leader who stood in the doorway frowning. “Need I remind you that you drove here?” He asked. There was no need to apply more of his power for that one. He simply needed to overcome the problem solving deficiencies inherent to letting the id run free.

Nodding grimly, all seven headed to the cars they’d arrived in. Vorran caught Warrick and another man by the shoulders. “Except you two. Come with me.”

***

Tink looked out the rear window as three cars roared onto the street in pursuit. “Okay, what do we do now?” She asked warily. She turned around and flopped down in her seat. “Oh my god, we’re being chased by people under honest to god mind control. What the hell? Who does this happen to?”

“Welcome to Mayfield, copper-top.” Cyn said dryly.

“We are fifth in paranormal activity per capita.” Juniper offered, “And have the third largest population of psionics in the world. Oh, not to mention the booming robotics and software industry that makes new breakthroughs yearly while drawing a fringe crowd.” She shrugged, “It makes us pretty ripe for things like this.”

Tink looked at Juniper as if she was from another planet. “That is definitely not helping.”

“I was just explaining.” Juniper said, a bit sadly. “Look, I’m worried about the boys too. And it’s weird, I know, but knowing its weird isn’t going to help, is it?” Tink grimaced and shook her head. “And you’re really smart, Warrick says so. So we need you to help us figure out what to do now.”

Tink took a long, deep breath and nodded. She looked back at the cars. “Okay, we need a way to undo this, right? Fix this before Warrick and the others kill us, or someone has to hurt them to save us. The easiest way is to do that is take out the psychic guy, right? But he’ll try to take us over too, so… what? We block his signal? Tin foil hats, maybe?”

A vision of a rapidly contracting piece of foil slicing open a head like a cantaloupe flashed before Cyn’s eyes. “No!” she said, and then caught her self. “Tin foil… that’s… that’s stupid! It’s an urban legend. You can’t stop a mentalist with tin foil!”

“Lead?” Tink asked, folding her arms across her chest.

Was lead a metal? Cyn wondered. She conjured up a mental periodic table and checked. Yes, yes it was. “Nope, won’t work.”

“Are you shooting down all my ideas because of Warrick?” Tink demanded.

Cyn nearly lost control of the car. “What?! No!”

“Are you sure, because you didn’t seem to be protesting too much when he put his arm around you.”

An angelic chorus couldn’t have properly put into song the relief that Cyn felt. “Oh, is that all? I mean, no. No, of course not.”

“Uh, can we catfight after we get a plan?” Lisa asked, looking at the little monitor across the top of the windshield that showed a panoramic view of everything behind the vehicle, “They’re gaining on us.”

Juniper closed her eyes. It wasn’t fair. Adel had finally asked her out only to have it turn out to be mind control. And now he and Warrick (among others) were trying to kill her. They couldn’t use their powers without giving away who they were to Lisa, Kay and Tina and they couldn’t run for long; the Ares was an ungodly electricity hog that would need a recharge soon after a week of Cyn ‘breaking it in’ followed by a car chase.

She tried to imagine how a normal person without powers (or at least without helpful powers) would handle the situation, but discarded it on the grounds that screaming and praying probably wouldn’t help. So what would a person quirky enough to don a costume and fight villains and save lives do if they found themselves without powers?

“What do we have?” she suddenly asked, interrupting the current argument between Tink and Cyn.

“Huh?” Kay asked.

“To work with.” Juniper said. “I think we’re going to have to fight back. Do we have anything we can use? I mean we don’t want to hurt them, but we may have to knock them out or scare them off. Cyn and I have taken self defense classes, what about the rest of you?” ‘Self defense classes’ meant Jeet Kune Do lessons from Laurel, but to the untrained eye, martial arts were pretty much interchangeable.

“I’ve got my little taser.” Tink said, producing her pink and blue kitten keychain, which did duty as a laser pointer, penlight and incredibly powerful assailant deterrent all in one. “And my multitool – It’s got knives in it, but stabbing them is decidedly not non-lethal. If we had some other electronics or something, I may be able to put something together.”

Kay rummaged in her bag and came up with a can of hairspray. “We could do the old ‘hairspray flame thrower’ bit. That’ll scare ‘em. Aaannnd…” she produced a thumb sized device made of white plastic. “A police band scanner. Can you do something with this, Tink?”

Tink nodded, “I can try. At the very least, I can use the battery to get another shot with my taser.” She frowned. “I wish my pen light’s bulb was brighter, I could blind them.”

Kay’s eyes lit up and she pulled a credit card sized device out of her bag. “Will a digi-cam flash do?”

“Perfectly.” Tink nodded.

“I left my bag at school.” Lisa said with a frown. “But I’m not bad in a fight.”

“I’d say.” Kay snorted, “Remember middle school? When you would have to beat up Randy Macon every week so he’d stop sneaking into the girl’s locker room?”

“Towards the end there, I think he was getting to like it.” Lisa sniffed, “Until I got the sock full of marbles at least.”

“Get this woman something heavy to swing at people.” Cyn declared. The car shook as one of the pursuing cars slammed sideways into them. It was no match in size for Cyn’s gargantuan machine, but nonetheless she had to fight to stay on the road. “Oh, you sons of bitches.” She hissed, “You better not be screwing up my paint job.”

“Okay, we can fight, and Tina is making something to help us.” Juniper said, watching the teenaged mechanist working on removing the flash from Kay’s camera. “That should protect us from the brainwashed guys, right?”

“Yeah, but only as long as we don’t get brain blown ourselves.” Cyn said. “The Vorran guy is the big problem we need to find a way to deal with him.” Juniper nodded dutifully and sank into thought.

“Wow, I didn’t know she had this in her.” Kay whispered to Lisa, watching Juniper turn the situation over in her head.

“Well, she’s so quiet.” Lisa added, “Who knew?”

Once more, the Ares shook as a car was hurled into it. But this time, it kept pressing, pushing the rear wheels into a spin that sent the whole thing careening into and then through a wooden wall into a construction site.

For a horrifying moment, the humvee hung, spinning in air, its passengers screaming and screwing their eyes shut to avoid seeing the ground rushing up to meet them. At some point, they thought they heard Lisa praying in Spanish.

That moment stretched on far longer than it should have for the heavy vehicle to fall five stories into the deep pit in which a new apartment complex was being built in. But three of the five women inside didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth when the tires hit gravel and skidded down a slope of it to the bottom of the pit where it stopped.

Lisa let out a long breath. She’d never levitated something so heavy and moving so fast. But she’d succeeded and they were alive. And engine roared and there was a cracking sound as the barricade blocking the ramp down into the pit was broken by a car driving down it at full speed. Well, for the time being, they were alive.

Cyn looked and saw the car that had crashed the barrier and the two that followed. “Out of the car.” She said quietly, then repeated it louder. “Out of the car!”

The five stumbled out, finding themselves on uneven footing in the gravel at the foot of the still skeletal building.

“Is there any way out?” Juniper asked.

“None that the cars wouldn’t beat us to.” Kay groaned, keeping an eye on the oncoming headlights.

“Then we go where they can’t.” Lisa said, pointing to a nearby construction elevator, then up to the top of the building. “We can get to the street using that crane.”

Cyn looked up at the unfinished building. The tower of steel and rebar. “Bu—“

“No buts.” Tink said, “I don’t get why you’re suddenly arguing with me over everything, but I’m not going to stand here and die, okay?” She took Cyn roughly by the arm and pulled her after the others who were already boarding the elevator. Juniper gave Cyn a worried look indicating she understood as they began to rise.

Unrestrained panic warred with Cyn’s natural baselines, spite and pride. The last thing she wanted to do was to make Tink think she was jealous of her and she couldn’t very well explain to her why climbing into a matrix of steel was a bad plan. But at the same time, she felt like the redhead was pulling her and the others into a burning building.

She rummaged through her conflicting emotions, she didn’t notice that they’d stopped rising until she heard Kay exclaim. “Oh shit.”

“Why are you saying that?” Tink asked, stepping past the short Native American toward the target of Kay’s comment. “We’re freaking saved?!”

Cyn looked up and went cold, even as some part of her hindbrain wondered why Kay would be responding to the situation the way she was.

In front of Tink stood a figure in all too familiar armor. It was a configuration she remembered from a time when Warrick had though she’d been killed when he’d called his armor. The armor’s form mimicked Alloy’s state of mind and at the moment, he looked positively demonic.

“Oh thank god, Alloy!” Tink exclaimed, “Erm, Mr. Alloy.” Tink started with a relieved air, but her speech increased in tempo as she went. “We’re being chased by people—actually they’re brainwashed lackeys for this guy Vorran and he’s turned my boyfriend and her,” she pointed to Lisa, “boyfriend, and her” she pointed to Juniper, “crush against us and we’re trying to stop them without hurting them. But now we’ve got a genuine prelate on our side!” She turned and smiled broadly at her friends, who all wore various expressions of horror and shock on their faces. “Come on, girls! Uh, girls?”

With her back turned, she didn’t see Alloy raise his arm. Nor did she see a flow of metal snake up his arm and form a single, razor sharp talon extending for a two feet from his wrist over his middle knuckle. “Unfortunately for you.” Alloy intoned his voice cold and strangely devoid of the Brooklyn accent Juniper and Cyn had been expecting, “I know all about it.”

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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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