Issue #30: Strange Times At Dayspring College

This entry is part 6 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 3: A Bright, Bright Summer

A rubber ball made what was probably its hundredth trip across the reception desk of the Dayspring Art and History Museum. Each time it reached the end of its journey; a pen would flick down and send it back in the other direction.

Cyn’s chin almost rested on the desk as she watched and waited to flick the ball again; a white haired, female Poseidon for an Odysseus purchased from a vending machine. “Bored.” She declared without taking her eyes off the ball. When this elicited no reaction, she repeated herself, louder. “Bored.”

Juniper was putting another zero down on the visitor log for the four o’clock hour. Granted, the museum didn’t see much patronage during summer session, and it was a Friday afternoon, but she still managed to be surprised at just how few people had come in.

“Bored.” Cyn announced again, letting the word rise and fall in a kind of one word song. “What time is it anyway?”

“Four ten.” Juniper had just checked her watch herself. “I don’t see why you’re complaining; you didn’t have to do this.” What would have sounded like a scathing indictment of Cyn’s attitude in anyone else’s mouth was just a calm, offhand observation coming from Juniper. “Warrick cleared his time off with Professor Demetrius.”

“Yeah.” Cyn caught the ball and tried unsuccessfully to roll it around on the back of her hand. “But you know like I do that Warrick wouldn’t have taken off if it meant leaving you here alone. It’s the whole chivalry deal he’s got going on.”

Juniper straightened some fliers on the desk. “He promised his little sister she could come down this weekend. I don’t think he’d let her down.”

“True, but he’d still feel bad about it.” The ball refused to stay on the back of her hand, so she bent her fingers backward to catch it before it fell off and rolled away for the tenth time that day. “This way, he doesn’t feel bad.”

“But now you’re bored.” Juniper pointed out. “I don’t see how one person feeling bad instead of another makes it better.”

Cyn cocked any eyebrow at the brunette. Always with the innocent, muddled statements that became far reaching philosophy if you stopped and thought about it. As always, she picked the path of least resistance and ignored it. “Speaking of feeling bad, are you okay? I’ve gotta imagine that cold must have really kicked your ass to have stopped you from coming to Arizona with us. Superheroics and full sun? Sounds like heaven for you.”

Juniper frowned and bowed her head apologetically. “I’m sorry I missed it. I’m glad you guys didn’t need me.”

Giving her a thousand watt smile, Cyn shook her head. “We always need you, Snowball but we’re not going to be mad at you for getting sick.” She threw the ball up and caught it again. “What time is it now?”

“Four fourteen.” Juniper replied after a glance at her watch. “Wait, sorry, four thirteen.”

Groaning, Cyn put her head down on the desk. “This is going to be forever, isn’t it? This weekend is going to be great; Melissa’s going to be off to see her family with Laurel, Ian and the taskmistress are going to pitch the school to that kid with the non-super power—“

“I thought Ms. Brant said he flies.” Juniper interjected.

Cyn shrugged. “I don’t know, I kind of nodded off after ‘maximum human strength and reflexes’. The point is that we’ve got all weekend with fun little sister and absolutely no authority figures. This is going to thrash hardcore.” She turned to look at the clock above the desk and could swear she saw the second hand hold position for a three count. “Or it would if this hour would hurry up and end!”

A mischievous glint came to her eyes and she tossed the ball into the cup used to hold the pens. “You know, this would have been a lot more fun if instead of filling in for Warrick, I impersonated him.” Surreptitiously, she hid one hand behind her back.

“I don’t think that would have been a very good idea…” Juniper fretted.

“Come on, Jun, it would be awesome! Lookit!” Holding up her previously hidden hand, she revealed a sock puppet version of Warrick complete with black button eyes. She made the puppet talk with an exaggerated Brooklyn accent. “Youse don’t thinks I’s can mans a desk?”

Juniper suppressed a giggle. “That’s so cute! Did you make it yourself?”

Cyn and the puppet looked at one another, then glanced to the side. “Yes…” Cyn said in the puppet voice. She didn’t call attention to it, but she never hid that she shifted clothes et all and was frankly stunned Juniper didn’t figure this instance of it out. She was about to explain when The glass doors opened and someone entered the museum’s entry hall.

He was probably in his twenties or late teens, with dark skin and about a week’s worth of beard on his face. He had an average build, made even less impressive by his slouching and the courier bag he carried. Still, Cyn saw a handsomeness in his face that made her take notice. Instantly, she made like she was stowing the puppet in a draw when she was actually just shifting her hand back to normal.

His dour expression gave way to a slight smile as he approached. Gears turned in Cyn’s head, searching for something clever to say once he reached the desk. Juniper beat her to it.

“Hi, Auggie.” She said cheerfully, “I haven’t seen you all week.”

Auggie shook his head, “Yeah, uh, I’ve been having a bad week. I’ve been too busy thinking about things to come by and do some sketches.”

“Auggie’s an art student.” Juniper explained to Cyn, “He sketches some of the pieces for practice.”

“Oh, an artist.” Cyn smiled. “So how’s the art department here… Auggie, right?”

“Short for Augustus. You can call me either or. Doesn’t matter. And I’m not really a student here yet. I will be this coming fall. I just live in the area.”

“I like Augustus, personally.” Cyn tried looking coy. “It sounds royal.”

Augustus avoided eye contact. “Yeah well… I should get to work.” He started to head for the elevator, but then paused. “You girls should be careful though; people around campus have been talking about all kinds of weird things going on lately.”

All thoughts of flirting were suddenly burned from Cyn’s mind. “Weird things? What? Why haven’t we heard of this?”

Augustus turned and shrugged. “Just a lot of weird things. Two sophomores on summer session dropped out because they thought their room was haunted. A couple of my classmates in Abnormal Psychology said that something threw a garbage can at them when they were leaving Monday night. Er… ‘something’ as in it was still light out, but they said they didn’t see anyone. There’s a lot of stuff like that going around this past week.”

“Do you believe any of them?” Cyn pressed.

Augustus shrugged. “Not really, but better safe than sorry. Maybe one of the summer session kids is a psionic or something. I know I wouldn’t want to cross someone like that.” He gave another shrug and disappeared into the elevator.

Cyn narrowed her eyes at that last remark. “’Someone like that’? What does he mean ‘someone like that’?”

“I don’t think he meant it in a bad way.” Juniper offered.

“Yeah, or it could be that he’s got a problem with ‘someone like’ me.” Cyn pouted. “Why are the cute ones always bigots?”

“What?” Juniper frowned at this and blinked as something dawned on her. “Cute? You thought he was cute? Is that why you were so forward with him?”

“Duh.” Cyn crossed her eyes and stuck out her tongue at her. “What other rea—did you just say ‘forward? What are you, eighty?”

“Renee says it all the time to Winter on Malady Place.” Juniper defended.

“Renee claims to have been around when Jesus was around. And I went to Sunday School every week until I was twelve, so I know that was way older than eighty.”

After a long beat, Juniper tried to get back on track, “It’s too bad Auggie has a girlfriend then. Deborah’s a nice girl. But I’m sorry if you liked him, Cyn.”

Cyn knitted her eyebrows for a second, and then pouted, slumping in her chair. “Figures. All the cute ones are also taken.” Juniper could guess who else that referred to, but for the life of her, she couldn’t figure out how he was a bigot. “I’m just tired of being the only one without someone around here. I mean you got someone, even if he’s as interesting as wet paste. Even Melissa has Terry now.”

“You set her and Terry up. It was really nice of you.”

“Yeah, I’m the best friend ever, right?” Cyn said. “But where’s my reward for it?”

“Doing nice things for people is its own reward.” Juniper said cheerfully, but with sympathy in her eyes. “Are you sure you’re okay with dinner? I know Tina’s going to be there, but… you’re really upset already.”

Cyn frowned and slumped in her chair. “It’s not that, Jun. Trust me, I’m over that. I’m happy for him and, well, Tink isn’t the harpy-bitch I wanted her to be. It’s just that…” She looked mournfully at the wastebasket containing the trash from six meals worth of food for a normal person, all consumed at least two hours earlier. “Gold prelate needs food and entertainment badly.”

***

“Transrail Departure 563, non-stop to Los Angeles, will be departing in two minutes from track six. Final call for boarding for Transrail Departure 563 on track six.” A recorded female voice declared to everyone in attendance at Grissom Memorial National Station, Mayfield.

Cyn munched contentedly on the sixth of a full dozen donuts Juniper bought for her from a shop at the terminal. “So how late are Warrick and little sister going to be?” She was looking up at the big board, but the actual times and departures were lost amid the advertisements flashing between them.

“They’re not late yet.” Juniper said, checked her watch and glanced down the track Warrick’s train was supposed to be arriving on.

Cyn helped herself to another donut. “So anyway, do you think we should look into this weird crap Augustus was talking about? Haunted room, invisible garbage tosser… Sounds like a telekinetic to me.”

“But we can’t.” Juniper looked conflicted. “No one’s around but us and Kareem and we can’t just leave Tammy at the house to go check it out.”

“So? We take her with.” Cyn said as if it were the obvious solution. “You remember that Aces High thing. She’s practically a hero already.”

“But Warrick’s parents said she can’t do that anymore.” Juniper countered, already coming to the unsteady realization that once Cyn had thought the idea up, she would do everything in her power to make it happen. “Also, she was technically signing up to be a supervillain that time. She was sitting next to your nemesis.”

Cyn scoffed, “As if Shine was cool enough to be my nemesis. Come to think of it, we need a better class of evil female around so I can have one. Maybe a murderous catgirl or a good girl gone bad. Think Urban Ranger is due for a heel turn?”

“I really don’t think we need more villains.” Said Juniper in an almost pleading tone.

“I was just joking, Jun.” Cyn smirked. “Hey, how come they have a lame name like ‘prelate’ for us, but not for supervillains?” Before that conversation could start, the recorded voice Announced that Omni-Trac Arrival 122, Warrick’s train, was arriving on track two.

The sleek, black mag-lev announced its arrival with a low hum and a gust of wind. Red warning lights and chimes came into play along the length of the track as steadying devices for the levitating train deployed from sleeves hidden in the platform and locked into place. Finally, the doors whispered open and the passengers getting off at Mayfield exited.

“Hey!” Warrick shouted as he exited a door further down the track. He was lugging a suitcase.

“Cyn!” A redheaded flash wove past passengers on the platform to reach where Cyn and Juniper were sitting. Tammy Kaine didn’t stop or slow until she had caught her favorite playmate in a big hug. “I’m going to be here all week! Isn’t the great? And you and my brother can show me the whole city! I didn’t get to see anything interesting last time, but now we can do everything!”

Grinning from ear to ear, Cyn sat her donuts down and returned the hug. “Slow down, okay kid? You’d think it was you that’s been eating sugar all afternoon.”

“She has.” An out of breath Warrick finally caught up. “Omni-Trac has vending machines in the passenger cars. She’s been bouncing off the walls since Jersey.” He gave his sister a big-brotherly glower. “And why am I carrying your suitcase?”

“I could have knocked someone over if I’d have run pass all those people carrying that thing.” Tammy shrugged. She suddenly noticed Juniper and grinned. “Hi, Juniper. I haven’t seen you since you broke that guy’s—“

Warrick’s hand covered her mouth before she could finish. “You promised, no talking about… us in public.”

“Eh, let her talk.” Cyn shrugged. “We were talking shop before the train arrived. No one’s going to pay any attention. People in train stations don’t care about anyone else; they just care that their coffee’s hot.” She recalled what they were talking about before the train’s arrival. “Hey, you read comics. How come we’re stuck with the stupid ‘prelate’ thing and the bad guys get to still be supervillains?”

Series Navigation<< Issue #29: Little Girl LostIssue #31: It Came From a Warped Star >>

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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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