Issue #26: Ace Agenda

This entry is part 2 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 3: A Bright, Bright Summer

Part 2

The rehydration oven chimed its second tone, announcing that its task of transforming the dry, unappetizing brick from a box marked ‘lasagna’ into an actual single sized portion of pseudo Italian cuisine.

A slave to the tantalizing smell that had been drifting to him for the past ten minutes, Ian took a break from his one man pool game and went to the kitchen to retrieve his dinner. After making sure the reconstituted meal was setting properly, he rummaged in the refrigerator for a beer.

“Can I ask you a question, Mr. Smythe?”

Ian straightened in surprise, finding Cyn sitting on the previously unoccupied counter as if she’d been there a while. He quickly became suspicious. “I’ve never heard you call me anything but Ian. Either something’s very wrong, or you’re up to something.”

“I’m not up to something.” Cyn pouted. “And there’s nothing wrong—very wrong. I just wanted to ask you a question. Normally I’d ask Ms. Brant, but she’s not here.”

“So glad I’m your second choice.” Ian smirked.

“Well I sure as hell wouldn’t ask Alexis.” Cyn sneered. “Anyway, will you let me ask the question or not?”

“Fire away.” Ian popped open his beer and took a sip.

“How do you tell if you like someone?”

Ian sat his beer down. “Oh. That kind of question.” He grabbed a chair from the kitchen table and sat down. “Anyone I know?”

“Not particularly your business.” Cyn countered.

“I’m just saying, you know, if it’s that Griffin guy Juniper always talks about that you keep shooting down; he is all state, you know.” Ian joked.

“Then you date him.” Cyn sighed. “No, it’s not him. Sports aren’t my thing.”

“Would geeky types with a thirty dollar a week comic habit and a room down the hall from yours be more your speed then?” Ian regretted it the moment he said it. Not for the icy stare the girl gave him, but because he knew better than that. Cyn prided herself on hiding everything with her shifting, but shapeshifting didn’t change how people talked, their body language. Pointing out that he’d picked up on it was the same as insulting her abilities.

“You know, I’m meeting Kay at the mall in a couple of hours. I think I’ll just wait for her there.” Cyn snapped, sliding off the counter.

“Hold on there.” Ian stood up and caught her by the arm. He knew that if she wanted to, she’d get out of that easily. “Look, I’m sorry, I was just joking. I didn’t know…” A small lie, but it calmed her down.

“Maybe you don’t.” Cyn shrugged. “Maybe it’s nothing. I don’t know.” She slid out of his grasp and returned to her perch on the counter. “See, I never even had a friend before I came here. My brothers and dad made sure of it. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about my friends. And now that they’re not around as much…”

“You think it may be just because you’re lonely and bored.” Ian supplied.

“Exactly.” Cyn nodded. “But I never really liked a boy before either. I’ve thought they were cute or hot—Jonas Griffin is hot—but I never really felt anything… special.”

“Well, a best friend is pretty special.” Ian pointed out. “And I don’t think you’re about to deny Warrick is your best friend and that the feeling there is definitely mutual.”

“Yeah. Maybe.” Cyn frowned.

“No ‘maybes’ about it.” Ian said, taking a sip of beer. “I know that for a fact.”

“Then why does he spend so much time with Tina?” Cyn asked sulkily.

“Because she’s his girlfriend.” Ian said after a minute. “That’s different.”

“How?”

“You seriously want to get into the philosophical stuff behind that?” Ian smirked. “Because a few years ago, I read this book about human relationships and—“

“No, I guess not.” Cyn shook her head. “But either way, it doesn’t really matter if I do like him like that, right? Because he’s taken. If I wanted a chance, I’ve missed it and that’s that.”

Ian snorted. “Hello teenage drama. Cyn; I know that high school seems like everything right now—even when you’re on vacation. But trust me when I say this: It’s not. High school doesn’t reflect the real world, except in a funhouse mirror kind of way. These junior year boyfriend/girlfriend things don’t last.”

Cyn rolled her eyes. “Says the guy who’s dating the girl he liked in high school.”

“Sure, we’re dating now, but back then? You wouldn’t believe the number of other guys Alexis went out with.”

“And did you date other girls? You know, even though you really liked her?”

“Not many. I was kind of a loser back then.” Ian shrugged. He paused with his beer halfway to his lips, realizing with sudden horror that he was at home on a Friday night eating rehydrated food and talking about dating problems. A chill ran up his spine.

“But if you weren’t a loser, and say there was an all-state track star beating down your door… Would you go out with him even if you didn’t really like him?”

Ian snorted. “Nah, track stars aren’t really my type.”

“I’m serious.” Cyn shook her head and wrapped her arms around herself. “Do you think it’d make me feel better to just, you know, have a date. I mean everyone has someone now but me. Even Melissa.”

“Kareem doesn’t.” Ian pointed out.

“Why would he need one, he can eavesdrop on the naughty dreams of every woman in the house.” Cyn grinned.

“I’m infinitely happier that you don’t have psychic powers now.” Ian said slowly. “Look,” He changed the subject swiftly, “I can’t tell you what to do. I don’t think there’s a science or psionic power on Earth that can do that. But if you’re going to do that, at least be honest with the guy. Don’t use him. I’ve been there. It’s not fun.”

Cyn rolled her eyes. “I wouldn’t do it the other way. God, I’m not Lily.” She sighed. “You have a point though; maybe I should give those guys a chance.” Sliding off the counter, she smiled at him. “Thanks, Mr. Smythe, that actually helped.”

“Hey, it’s what I’m here for.” Ian nodded. “And if you’re still feeling lonely, I’m up for a game of pool or whatever.”

“Thanks anyway.” She said, heading for the downstairs commons. “But I should change before I go meet Kay.” With that, she was gone.

Ian smiled to himself as he got up and retrieved his dinner. “Yup, I’m going to be a great dad.” He mused to himself.

***

“Is everyone ready?” Brother Wright asked the members of Aces High as they sat in launch chairs within the passenger compartment of a stealth transport stolen from one of Project Tome’s less used air bases. He was dressed in an imposing red coat with high shoulder guards and a white shirt and pants beneath. The shirt featured a red club symbol inside a black diamond inside a red spade, surrounded by a black heart. A helmet, with decorations resembling that of a crown and an opaque face plate rested in his lap.

From behind him, Legion secured his seat restraints and glowered. “We’ve gone over this plan a dozen times. That doesn’t make me ready in the least. Am I the only one that remembers what happened to your Redeemers squad when they purposefully drew the Descendants into a fight?”

“Scared of a bunch of kids, Legion?” Shine asked from her seat next to Wright.

“Those ‘children’ earned your whole squad trips to Braddock Island. They did the same to Stampede.” Legion countered. “Maybe giving them a little bit of goddamn respect could have changed that, huh?”

“Please, Nothing could have saved that bunch.” Shine laughed. “The only half-way competent one was Wolf and… well, the sin of pride is deadly for a reason.”

“That’s what he’s saying.” Thunderhead chimed in from his seat near the door to the cargo bay. “It’s the height of pride treating them like kids when they’ve beaten us several times before. After the setbacks we’ve had, we need to evaluate our thinking in regard to them.” He had a graphite box in his lap and was nervously toying with the locks.

“They aren’t even all just kids.” Legion added.

“All we really need is to let me give them an eyeful.” Fellgaze shrugged. “It worked on them before. This time I’ll make sure it holds.”

Brother Wright listened to his team’s conversation and agitation and merely smiled. He turned to where Leonardo was sitting. The android was perfectly motionless and belted into his seat. “Nothing to add?” he asked.

“Evaluation of mission objectives and execution are not part of my capabilities.” Leo replied. “I understand and am prepared to initiate my orders when commanded.”

“At least someone believes in me.” Brother grinned. “It’s so nice to have a son who cares.”

Shine leaned over and put a hand on his chest. “Baby, you don’t actually think that machine is your boy, do you?”

Wright laughed. “Call it practice. It may be a very long time before we have a son of our own to carry on our work.” A Cheshire grin came to his face. “Plus, I think it makes me look more eccentric. Image is everything, after all. Hence this get-up I’m wearing.”

“It certainly is eccentric.” Shine shook her head. “But I guess it’s necessary if you don’t want the bitch to recognize you when you’re down there.”

“Exactly.” He turned around in his seat to address his other teammates. “As for the rest of your concerns,” he nodded to Legion in particular. “They’ll be solved very soon. Remember; if all goes as planned—and I expect it will—there will only be one Descendant for us to worry about. Aha, and we will be the very least of her worries.”

As he finished, Shine lowered the helmet onto his head. He gave one last smile to his men before lifting the faceplate into place, replacing his own face with that of a king from a generic deck of cards.

Thusly ensconced in character, Wright nodded to Leo. “Now. Leo, execute your orders.”

“I will comply.” Leo announced, unstrapping and making his way to the cargo bay.

“Excellent.” Wright said brightly. “According to our little shapeshifter’s phone conversation, she should be with Miss Greycloud as we speak. The only question is; will she have the wherewithal to call for help when she could easily hunt down the perpetrator herself.” He chuckled. “Her Academy psych write-up says ‘no’.”

***

“So basically, everyone is gone all the time, doing their own thing.” Cyn bent Kay’s sympathetic ear. They were eating calzones on the glassed in skywalk that connected both halves of the mall over East Sherman St. The latter had her hair died a green so dark as to almost pass as black. “Work, dates, band practice—No offense.”

“None taken.” Kay assured her. “I don’t know, Cyn. It just sounds like they’ve got a lot of stuff going on in their lives. Maybe you should get a hobby or something. Can you draw? Snackrifice could use some promo posters…”

“You think I’m overreacting to this too.” Cyn frowned. She was starting to believe that herself.

“Maybe a little bit.” Kay agreed. “But it’s only natural. Back when Lisa and JC started dating the first time, I felt like that too. They would go out whenever they had the chance and I either ended up being the third wheel or left out altogether.”

“So it gets better?”

“Yeah. I mean, sometimes I still feel like that, but that’s part and parcel with the whole ‘no dating until college thing’. I just have to find new things to keep occupied, you know?”

“Like your hair?” Cyn smirked.

“Pretty much. But you don’t have to, now do you? Last I checked, you aren’t under your parent’s roof and Ms. Brant and Ms. Keyes don’t seem to be the type to report home to your parents.” Kay gave her a devilish grin. “They didn’t make you make the same stupid promise I made to my dad did they?”

Cyn shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “No, my parents pretty much don’t care what I do.”

Normally observant Kay was too engrossed in her scheme to notice Cyn’s discomfort. “Good. Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m tired of hearing you beat all those jocks off with a stick because you don’t want muscle-heads. We’re going to find you a guy you like and make him like you back.”

“Uh, Kay, I don’t think that’s such a…” The awkwardness was cut short by the sound of smashing glass from somewhere across the skywalk. Cyn turned to see a man landing in a roll amid a shower of broken glass.

The patrons of the food court panicked. Not that anyone could blame them.

For his part, the stranger ignored them, striding with purpose toward the table where Kay was suddenly rifling through her purse as if it was the most important thing in the world.

“Kay.” Cyn said, getting up and moving to impose herself between her friend and the stranger. “Run.”

“Kimeya Greycloud sighted.” The stranger said. “Initiating capture procedure.”

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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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