Issue #28: The Beach Episode

This entry is part 4 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 3: A Bright, Bright Summer

Part 4

“Player 1: Defeated!” The announcer’s voice declared seconds after the Brutonian’s fist connected with Warrick, causing the entire hologram to flash red for a moment.

Tink took a swing to avenge him, but the level 2 AI was significantly more responsive and the hologram dodged. As she over extended herself, it brought its fist down on the back of her neck, bringing about another red flash.

“Player 2: Defeated! Insert coins to continue.” A ten second countdown appeared in red above the head of the Brutonian, which was doing a ridiculous victory dance.

“That was actually kind of fun up until we got beaten by a cabbage patching monster.” Tink observed. It was then that she caught sight of what had distracted Warrick. JC and Lisa were standing near the steps leading up onto the platform. JC was shirtless with a set of dark green trunks that were too long for him.

Lisa, the only girl she knew taller than she, was showing off that she was also more curvaceous with a white bikini with a print of tiny, black stars. “What are you guys doing here?” Tink tried to put a pleasant turn in her voice, but it still came out as an indictment.

“That’s a very good question.” Warrick directed a stern look at JC, who had earlier offered to make it a double date so they could wing man for one another.

JC, at least, caught the look and held up his hands defensively. “This is not on purpose, okay? If you remember, we specifically asked you where you were going to make sure this didn’t happen.”

“I was all for that.” Warrick nodded, “But Cyn wouldn’t let us.”

“Wonder why that was?” Lisa muttered with a sly smile and an apologetic look in Tink’s direction. Neither JC nor Warrick caught it and continued on in their own vein.

“There’s like a million beaches at Virginia Beach, what are the chances, really that you guys would just happen to pick the same one we picked?” Warrick asked.

“I don’t know, Cyn said she used a random quintuplet… thing or something?” JC was at a loss; he hadn’t been in on any planning, just eager to pay his gas money for a day of sun, fun and Lisa in a bathing suit.

One of Warrick’s eyebrows shot up with recognition and Tink put two and two together. “Wait, was it Quintillion?”

“Was what Quintillion?” JC blinked.

“The web search Cyn used to find this place.” Tink explained.

“Possibly…”

Tink looked over at Warrick. “Is that how you found this place?”

“I was a little pickier than just randomizing it.” Warrick defended.

“But you still used the randomizer button, right?”

His sideways glance to JC for help that wasn’t forthcoming said it all, but Tink trained a look on him that brought the whole situation bubbling to the surface. “I don’t know anything about picking a place for a vacation,” Warrick admitted, “My mom or my dad always did those kinds of things. And mostly that was doing touristy crap in whatever city dad was recording in.” He stepped to the edge of the platform and took a seat on it. Tink stood beside him. “So, I put in ‘Virginia Beach, boardwalk’, and ‘low traffic’ and picked the first place I found that didn’t have one star or a five digit price tag.”

Tink shook her head and tried to keep from laughing.

“What?” Warrick and JC echoed, looking up at her. JC continued, “So what if they used the same search engine? It’s random!”

“Guys, Quintillion’s randomizer isn’t actually random; it’s weighted by search data. Anyone that put in the same general search would get the same results.” Tink’s grin faltered when no one else seemed to think it was so funny. “I read about it in May’s Datastream Monthly.”

“Huh.” JC frowned. “Anyway, none of it’s my fault either way, so there we go.”

Lisa gave Tink a sympathetic glance and took JC by the arm. “Come on, let’s leave these two alone. We can try some of this stuff out later. We’re supposed to be getting sunscreen anyway.” She practically dragged JC away.

Tink bit her lip and looked down at Warrick, who was slowly getting to his feet. She made a decision. “Uh, you guys say you need sunscreen?” She called after them.

Surprised, Lisa was slow to turn around. “Uh, yeah? Yeah! Well, see, Cyn brought some, but then she used it all on herself, so… yeah. We were hurrying because Juniper just plopped herself down on the sand and started sunning with no protection whatsoever and she’s pretty fair skinned, so she’ll cook like a steak.” She punctuated the flood of words with a nervous giggle. She knew that she and JC showing up had gone completely against the purpose of Tink and Warrick’s day together and the fact that Tink hadn’t taken the easy out had thrown her into a very awkward position.

“You can use mine.” Said Tink, reaching into her bag. “I bought a lot because—yeah, the cook like a steak thing.” She came down off the platform and offered it to JC, who was closer.

He glanced at it. “SpraeBlock, spray on… Wait. What? Spray on sunscreen?” He gave Tink a look as if she were from another planet. “What is—“

“Hey, it that a Wizzzard Hat XTRM machine?” Warrick moved with a quickness he rarely showed to interpose himself between JC and Tink. “Sorry, ladies, but this warrants some serious investigation. Doesn’t it JC?”

“Wha?” JC met Warrick’s gaze and immediately knew not to argue. “Yeah, totally. Um… geek stuff. We’ll be doing that. Over there at the video machine… game.” He said dumbly as Warrick hustled him off.

Tink watched them go with clear confusion. “What was that about? Warrick hates the Wizzzard Hat series. He’s got a whole list of jokes making fun of it bookmarked on his computer.”

“Saving JC from making a huge ass out of himself.” Lisa rolled her eyes. “You got the knight errant; I got the comic sidekick.” A satisfied grin crossed her face. “I’d never trade though.”

“I’m not following.” Tink said, “How was JC making and ass of himself this time? What was wrong with the sunscreen? Does he have a problem with the company or something? I mean it’s made in Brazil, but I thought that kind of thing—“

“It’s way dumber than that.” Lisa shook her head. “Our boys over there grew up on TV and movies; you know the kind of stuff.”

“I’m starting to. I didn’t watch that much TV before…”

“Yeah, but you get the idea. Anyway, TV tells them that there are two important things that come with going to the beach with their girlfriend; getting to see her in a swimsuit—“

“Some of us don’t have the figure for it.” Tink said haughtily, looking down at her own outfit.

Lisa snorted, “As if I do. But JC doesn’t seem to mind. Anyway, the other thing is ‘getting to put sunscreen on their girlfriend’s back.”

Tink looked back at her in disbelief. “You’re kidding, right? What’s so special about touching my back? He’s touched my back before.”

“I don’t get it either.” Lisa shrugged, “Maybe it has something to do with the oil or something. But it doesn’t hurt anything, makes them happy and hey, you don’t have to do it yourself. The weird thing though is that in most of the shows they watch, bad things tend to happen to guys putting lotion on a girl’s back. On the last Malady Place beach episode, Renee manifest her body of flame while Tony was trying to do it.”

“My god, how did I not know that?” Tink muttered. “How else am I screwing up?”

Across the room, Warrick and JC reached the Wizzzard Hat XTRM console. “So why are we over here?” JC had the bottle of SpraeBlock still in hand, “And what the hell is this?!”

“That’s why we’re over here.” Warrick said, calmly, putting coins into the machine. “Look, I know, and you know, but Tink doesn’t know and I don’t want her to feel bad about it, okay?”

“How can she not know about that?” JC asked, gesturing with the offending bottle. “I mean how can you grow up in America and not know this stuff? It’s like the basic rules of the beach!”

“Yeah, but Tink wasn’t exactly swimming in pop culture before she met me, okay? She spent most of her time in her basement building stuff and going to demonstrations to figure out how to build other stuff.”

“Isn’t that like half of what the two of you do now?”

“Yeah, but we do it together, man. That’s the point. And I don’t think it’s really fair to yell at her for not watching the right shows.” Warrick said with a warning glance. He mashed buttons at random and tried to drown out the goofy sound effects that were only part of the abysmal gaming experience that was Wizzzard Hat XTRM.

“Still.” JC shrugged, looking sadly at the bottle of sunscreen. “Tough break, man. This must be what dating an Amish girl must be like.”

On screen, there was a sound like a car crash, followed by a cat yowling. “Ho Ho Ho, guess you failed again apprentice.” An elderly sounding voice said from the console. “Try again if you think you can do better.”

“So are we clear now?” Warrick asked.

“Hey, I’m not going to do anything to hurt her; even if you two weren’t going out, Tink’s a pretty cool kid. So we’re clear. And we’ll get the hell out of your way.”

“Would you?” Warrick smiled weakly, “I mean no offence, but…”

“Oh, I know. If Cyn and Kay hadn’t done all the work on this trip, you’d better believe I’d ditch them to spend some time with Lisa, especially since they’ll be playing at the café at the end of the boardwalk tonight before the fireworks contest thing and I’m going to be a lonely, lonely man.” JC shook his head.

“I feel you, man. Tink’s taking all these classes and things this summer and she’s not going to be around much.”

“Dating was probably so much easier before women’s lib.” JC shook his head. “Just find a handy girl in a tower, toss her on the back of your horse and ride off into the sunset.”

“I don’t think it ever actually happened like that.” Warrick puzzled.

“Well it should have.” JC shrugged. “Anyway, better get back to the girls before they start to think we’re talking about them—“

“Which we were.”

“Not the point! Anyway, I’ll get us out of your hair.” The two returned to their girlfriends with mocking chatter about the Wizzzard Hat line on their lips.

Lisa winked surreptitiously to Tink. “If you guys hate the franchise so much, why did you waste you money on it?” She asked JC “Isn’t that paying them to make more?”

“It’s parody value.” Warrick rushed to his friend’s defense.

“Yeah, some things are so bad; you have to make fun of them even if it costs.” JC chimed in. “And this was that bad. I mean XTRMX was bad, but at least it had graphics.” He pretended to stretch while at the same time dropping an arm around Lisa’s shoulders. “Anyway, we’d hate to leave you guys with no sun protection,” He tossed the bottle to Warrick who deftly caught it, “So I think we’ll go and buy some of our own. Take care now.”

Lisa smiled and let JC maneuver her out of the arcade. “Oh, by the way;” She tossed over her shoulder, “Cyn, Juniper and Kay are down by the surf shops if you want to say ‘hi’.”

“Thanks!” Tink shouted after her, thankful to know exactly where not to go.

Warrick rubbed the back of his neck and offered Tink an awkward smile. “Sorry about that. Seriously, I had no idea.”

“I know.” Tink leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Besides, they’re your friends. And a friend of yours is never a problem of mine.”

Two friends that would be problems came instantly to mind. Warrick unconsciously scratched the wrapped metal decoration that became Osp’s orihalcite body when summoned. “Well, I hope after all these months, they’re your friends too.” He managed.

Tink smiled shyly. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right.” She noticed him fiddling with the armband. “Why did you wear those anyway? Won’t they rust when you get in the water?”

Considering the properties of orihalcite he’d been able to glean with his metal sense, it was more realistic to worry about his skin rusting, but he couldn’t very well explain to Tink about how he came to be in possession of a super rare alloy that even military scientists couldn’t explain the manufacture of.

“They’re stainless steel.” He lied, hoping that Tink’s own knowledge of chemistry wouldn’t foul up his lie. “Lucky thing too. I’m pretty attached to them.”

“Did someone important give them to you?”

It was an honest question and on one level, it made Warrick happy to know she cared enough to ask. On another, it made him feel like he was under interrogation as it sent flashes of Manriki’s deadly chains speeding toward his face. The mere memory was enough to trigger a burst of power that silently warped all the change in his pocket.

“Yeah, they’ve got some pretty strong memories attached to them.” He envisioned Isp and Osp to ensure to himself that it wasn’t a lie. “But I’ll put them in you bag if we go in the water. How about we try out your metal detector now? I bet I can find more with it than you.”

Tink grinned and led the way out of the arcade. “You’re on!”

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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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