Issue #27: Beyond Good And Medieval

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

The last Saturday in June was one of those rare few that seem to simply happen instead of dawning as per usual. In the crisp cool air, with the sunlight streaming down amid the singing birds and flitting butterflies, one could hardly imagine the sun struggling over the horizon, chasing wisps of late night clouds and darkness before it. Quite simply, the day just felt too lazy for that sort of dramatic glory. It was a day for just relaxing and enjoying the day.

The events of the previous night had made sure that there was one house where no one would be doing that.

“You know, you don’t have to come today.” Ian said to Cyn as the latter handed him the last of their costumes to pack into the back of her humvee.

The white haired girl regarded him as if he’d just announced that he was the prince of Canada. “What? Everyone’s going. If Laurel and Alexis’s plane wasn’t coming in until noon, they’d be going too.” Ian tried to interrupt her, but it was like trying to hold back an avalanche. “And the only reason Kareem’s not going if because the transmitter boost thingy’s not done.”

Ian sighed and closed the back of the humvee. “I just figured you had a hard night. I was trying to be nice.”

“I’m fine.” Cyn insisted. “I’m not some swoony little girl, you know? I’m a freaking superhero!”

“Your friend got attacked and put in the middle of a fight with Tome.” Ian cut her off. “That would shake anyone up. Especially the whole secret identity thing keeping you from letting her know that everything really will be fine.” He turned and headed back to the house.

Behind his back, Cyn rubbed the back of her head and looked vaguely off into the distance. “Yeah, the secret ID is a killer alright.” She tried to sound genuine, but it was more likely the noise from the kitchen that kept Ian from noticing the lie than any guile on her part.

Warrick, Juniper and Melissa were in the kitchen; Juniper dutifully bringing ingredients to Warrick as he worked at the griddle and Melissa sitting at the far end of the kitchen table. If Ian had to describe what she was doing, it would be ‘reading belligerently’. The room was alive with the sizzle of bacon and eggs.

“I thought I said we were going to be eating on the road.” Ian chided them, but didn’t sound half as authoritative as he’d wanted too because the delicious smell was weakening his resolve.

“We are.” Warrick replied, wiping sweat off his brow with the back of his arm. The other arm picked up a large, round piece of bread from a plate beside him. “Behold, sweet corn tortillas: the portable version of the pancake.”

He nodded to Juniper and the brown haired girl took the tortilla and placed it flat on the cutting board. With deft movements of the spatula, she transferred an egg and three strips of bacon to the flat bread. “It was on one of the menus we order lunch from at the museum.” She explained, pouring syrup on top of the assembled food. “Marley Inn’s famous griddlecake burrito.” She finished her construction by quickly wrapping the whole thing up and passing it to Warrick who was ready with a piece of foil to close it up in.

“And… done.” Warrick said, flipping the complete burrito to Cyn who caught it in one hand. “Give it a try.”

“Hey,” Ian frowned. His mouth was watering from the sights and smells. “I’m the one that doubted you. You’re supposed to give it to me so I can eat crow.”

“Sorry.” Juniper smiled sweetly. “No crow, but we can make you some turkey bacon.”

Warrick gave her a sidelong glance, not really knowing if she was joking or not. When he couldn’t confirm or deny, he simply shrugged. “Cyn needs a head start.” He pointed out, patting his best friend on her shoulder as she devoured the culinary treat. “Her powers run on how much she eats and she already had a hell of a time last night.” He inclined his head to her. “Sorry I wasn’t around to help out.”

“Not a problem.” Cyn shrugged. “I didn’t call, so you couldn’t know. Besides, I don’t want to be the reason you have to run out on Tink.”

“She called her ‘Tink’ instead of coppertop.” Juniper whispered to Ian in awe.

That was enough to jump start his previous concern. “He has a point though; You helped us take down Professor P, then fought off a base full of Tome troops and whatever villain convention Shine’s in with now. That must have taken a lot out of you.”

“And I put a lot back into me before I came home.” Cyn countered. “The old guy that runs the hotdog stand on West Warren Street won’t have to worry about this month’s rent, that’s for sure. Anyway, if you guys are taking my car, you have to take me.”

“That reminds me.” Juniper piped up. “Isn’t it a little weird that Shine keeps showing up? I mean the Redeemers, then her claw marks at the construction site, that recruitment thing in New York, now this?”

“Bitch gets around.” Cyn shrugged, finishing off her burrito and licking the foil to get the last dribbles of syrup. “I’m not surprised that no one keeps her around very long to be honest.”

Ian conceded that point. “But still, I don’t like all these cute little coincidences. If she shows up today, we need to catch her, plain and simple. Not just to get her off the street, but because if she’s this well connected, she may be full of useful information.”

“No complaints here.” Warrick nodded. “So what’s the plan for today?”

“Right.” Ian clapped his hands and rubbed them briskly. “Last night, The ROCIC put the lockdown on the Tome anthill Cyn kicked over. Everyone except the scientist Cyn took to the hospital escaped, and they tried to fry their computers too. But they missed a spot.”

He took a seat while Warrick and Juniper went about making the burritos for the road. “Apparently that place was a transfer station where Tome took descendants from Virginia and sent them cross country in their bogus delivery trucks. The SI team managed to pull a transfer that was supposed to happen tomorrow for a kidnapping that they’re going to try today: Joy Michaels Duvall of Virginia Beach.”

“So we get to hang out on the beach and take out any Tome agents that happen by? Sweet.” Cyn beamed.

For the first time since the two had reentered the kitchen, Melissa looked up from her book and spoke. “Isn’t this something those SI teams General Pratt set up should be doing? If Tome is going to be sending agents, shouldn’t they be taking responsibility?”

“The question is ‘do we want them to?’” Ian said, shrugging. He lightly wiped away a bit of sweat that had formed on his brow from the heat of the cooking. “Honestly, General Pratt has been good to us and a big help, but he works for the government and who is in charge of what changes hands often and over politics. My thoughts—and Laurel agrees—“ he added that part for Cyn’s benefit, knowing that she respected his friend’s considerations more than his. “That whenever possible, it should be us dealing with these other descendants. That way, no rogue agency or bureaucrat gets in too deep with them.”

“But they’re still in too deep with us.” Melissa sniffed. “I mean they’re the ones that installed the defenses here, aren’t they?”

Cyn sighed loudly and rolled her eyes. “I knew it was too good to be true; a day of fun and sun and also maybe hurting some guys that really deserve it and we’re saddled with Little Miss Negative.” She gave Ian an imploring look. “Can’t you offer her a chance to stay instead of me?” Melissa gave him the same look, begging not to take part.

Ian shook his head. “You’re free to do whatever you want, but you know I’ll guilt trip you to death. You remember that, don’t you? I mean if you want to leave us with no one to calm down a tweenaged girl who’s about to find out some secret society types want to kidnap her—“

“Fine.” Melissa cut him off. “I’ll go. You knew I was going to anyway.” She shifted her gaze back to her book. “Even after ten years, you’re still annoying.”

“Why do you always have to be so bitchical?” Cyn huffed. She was going to go on further, but Ian held up a hand to stop her.

“Enough.” He intoned. “Please, girls, none of this on the drive out, okay? It’s a two hour drive and I’m going to make you ride on the roof if you can’t get along, understand?”

“Got it covered boss.” Warrick said gesturing to his backpack, sitting in the chair beside Ian. The older man looked inside to see three palm sized, black palm-tops. Noticing Ian’s questioning gaze, Warrick explained. “YIP’s” he said. “Ms. Brant got them for us.”

“Yamauchi Integrated Portables.” Juniper clarified over her shoulder. She was finishing up the last of the burritos. “er… videogames.” She clarified in response to Ian’s silence.

Ian shrugged. “Ah, I remember now. Good, at least you guys have something to keep busy with.” He stood up and put on his most serious expression. “Now let’s saddle up.”

***

The trip was uneventful, including stopping off on a back road to change into their costumes under cover of a forest. Warrick had packed about a months worth of Freeland House’s recycling to use as Alloy’s armor. Once back in the Ares, the group continued on to The Duvall beach house in the Coleman neighborhood of Virginia Beach.

As a group, they walked up the slate walkway leading to the two story beachfront property. “What a waste of money.” Facsimile said, taking stock.

“What are you talking about?” Hope snapped. “This place is gorgeous.”

“Not the house, the lawn.” Facsimile made a wide gesture to indicate the smooth expanse of sand between the boardwalk and the house. “Sand doesn’t sit still like that. They paid to have it smoothed. That’s…”

“Weird.” Zero finished her thought. “Why would anyone want sand perfectly smooth? You’re still going to walk in it, right?”

“Maybe they’ll use some of that money to hire some bodyguards.” Said Chaos, looking at the house. On the drive up, he’d seen that the beach side of the house was either open or glass enclosed. The beach house would definitely not be the place to ride out any funny business on Tome’s part.

“Well, they’ve already got the best in the business, right?” Alloy asked, walking ahead of the group. “Aside from the Whitecoat, of course.”

“Yeah, but we can’t watch them forever.” Chaos pointed out. “And neither can the SI teams. Hopefully, Codex will score that meeting with Liedecker about the school and we’ll have a safe, secure place for Joy and all the kids on that list to go to.”

“Including a certain precocious little spark plug.” Facsimile said happily. She stepped up beside Alloy and gave him a friendly thump on the back as they reached the door.

Alloy rang the bell and the others fanned out behind them in a manner worthy of a comic book cover. “That’s what’s on my mind.” He admitted. Several minutes passed and he tried the bell a handful of times more.

“Maybe they’re not home.” Zero offered.

“Maybe Tome got here first.” Said the utterly ill named Hope.

“I don’t think so.” Chaos said. “There’s a car in the driveway and I don’t think her parents would let her go without a fight.”

“I don’t know.” Alloy gave the door a questioning look. “Maybe we’ve got the wrong—“ The door opened and Alloy’s view of the plain door was replaced by that of a very tall young woman in a corset, old fashioned style dress and kerchief. “—cleavage.”

Facsimile was quick to put an elbow in his side. “Eyes front, mister.” She hissed.

“They are.” Alloy replied without thinking. “She’s just really tall.” Indeed, she was well on her way to six feet even before the added height of her very complicated not-quite-period shoes and the distance from the doorstep to the door. Everything she had on was grey or a variant thereof and her face was caked with makeup and eyeliner.

Instead of taking offense, the woman swept the group with an expression between bored and mildly amused. After a second of scrutiny, she nodded to them. “Uh… hi?” She reached out and tapped Alloy’s faceplate. “Maureen, is that you? Did you get shorter?” She didn’t give Alloy a chance to respond before making an annoyed noise and pointing to the others. “It’s a Ren Faire, Reeny, not cosplay, I thought I told you that.” She made a face. “And if we were going to do the Descendants, I’d get to be Zero, damn it.”

Chaos stepped forward to cut off her litany. “Ma’am, I’m afraid we’re not your friends in disguise. We are the Descendants.” He anticipated a challenge to prove it and before she could utter it, he held up a hand an hit her with a gentle puff of air. She stared at him, wide eyed. “It’s very important that we talk to your parents. Is your mother home perhaps?”

A bitter laugh escaped her involuntarily. “Yeah, right.” She suddenly realized who she was talking to. “Uh, I mean no… sir. I’m Charity.” She fumbled over her words as reality set in. “None of our moms are around. Like, ever. Dad has sole custody and he’s out west on business.”

Chaos regarded the girl. She couldn’t be any more than eighteen. “So who’s in charge?” He asked.

Charity turned and looked toward the stairs that wound up to the second story and took a deep breath before bellowing. “Glory, there’s people in strange costumes here to see you!”

“You’re one to talk.” Facsimile smirked.

“It’s a special occasion.” Charity shrugged. “We’re taking Joy to the Ren Faire up at Sunrise Park for her birthday.” She smiled at Alloy. “You’d fit right in. Who does your armor anyway? I know guys that would fork over their trust funds for high quality stuff like that?”

“They’d pay for armor like that?” Facsimile glanced over at Alloy, remembering the entire ensemble had been about fifty dollar’s worth of empty cans an hour before.

“I’m afraid there’s not going to be any Faire for you today, Ms. Duvall.” Chaos cut in. “You see we’ve gotten word—“

“Pardon me, Mr. Prelate-at-large…” A voice came from the stairs. A tall, moderately chubby blonde stood atop them like royalty waiting to be announced. “But you are in my father’s house, talking to my sister. You are not allowed to tell her what she will and will not do. Father left me in charge and that is for me to decide, not you.”

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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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