Issue #34: Back to School

This entry is part 11 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 3: A Bright, Bright Summer

Part 3

People tend to forget how dangerous water can be. It is, after all, one of the basic requirements for life, a refreshing beverage, and a key component of swimming pools (otherwise they would be standing pools).

But a human being can drown in far less than a cup of water. Water dissolves many deadly chemicals into itself that can cause terrible ailments if ingested. And thanks to the magic of surface tension, a fall from a sufficient height into water is equivalent to a fall from a far height onto a slab of lead.

A similar effect can be achieved by dropping eight thousand gallons of water (say, from a sundered water tower), from an equally great height (such as from the top of a building) all at once.

Knowing this, Chaos reached out to the falling column of water with his power and pressed his will against it, wicking away density. Surface tension began to break down and the rushing wind of the fall combined with the sudden drop in pressure caused water droplets to fly from one another, transforming the fist of falling water into mist that fell like a velvet cloak over the street

Chaos plunged down through the mist, following the GPS signal from the police car.

“Exactly what you said he’d do.” A pretentious sounding male voice said.

“Shut up and give him the ice!” A female voice with a southern accent said. Some sort of device whined as it started spinning up.

Guided by the voices, Chaos parted the mist with a raking talon of wind. The speakers anticipated the move, dodging left and right out of the way, keeping within the cloak of fog. A thin, high pressure spray of blue fluid came from the right and spattered the prelate’s legs and the ground around him.

Another gush of wind revealed a man dressed very much like the one from earlier, except he wore a red backpack with hoses traveling from it to a pair of nozzles on the backs of his hands. The label on the backpack had been covered over with duct tape.

“Nice try, but—“ Chaos tried to step forward, but found he was frozen to the ground. Where the blue spray had landed, the moisture in the air had frozen to solid ice. His costume kept him from feeling the cold, but that was little comfort as he was still held fast. “Son of a bitch.” He muttered.

“You shouldn’t talk like that: you’re a role model after all.” The ice wielder sent another spray of freezing agent at Chaos, who only just covered his head and face with his cape, which swiftly iced over.

“Wow, I actually did it.” the man said, a hint of reverence in his voice.

There was a surging sound like there was with the other criminal, followed by metal tearing. “Good for you. Let’s get this thing and get out of here before the others show up.” The woman said impatiently. She had no way of knowing that no one else was coming, but Chaos did.

***

“Hey, Kareem.” Lisa set her books down in their sixth period psychology class.

Kareem gave her his usual gentle smile. “Hello, Lisa. I didn’t know that you were taking this class was well.”

She shrugged, “Kay took it last year and it sounds interesting. Besides, it fills my last science requirement.” A look crossed her face that Kareem usually associated with Cyn and Kay. “So, tell me about this girl Kay saw you with.”

The directness was also something he’d come to expect from those two rather than Lisa. He shifted uncomfortably. “Desiree, yes. We are in English 12 and US Government together. She’s an interesting girl.”

Lisa didn’t know how to take that one. Most people used ‘interesting’ as code for something unpleasant, but in the few weeks she’d known Kareem, she’d come to wonder if he ever used euphemisms at all. “Ah. Well I’d like to meet her then.”

“I’m sure she’d like to meet you too.” He says, “Like me, she’s new, but unlike me, she doesn’t have the luxury of having ready-made friends.” The sympathy in his voice as palpable.

“I can’t imagine that people like Lily are making it any easier, her being a psionic and all.” Lisa nodded, chewing absently on her pen.

Kareem hadn’t met Lily, but between Cyn’s less than glowing description and the girl’s behavior earlier in the morning, he dreaded looking at her astral self. “Luckily she hasn’t had to deal with such things yet. I’ve heard that Lily is too busy right now being unpleasant to her friends to be unpleasant to innocent bystanders.”

“Such a sweet girl.” Lisa shook her head. “And I’ve had to put up with her since middle school when she got kicked out of whatever private school her parents had her in.”

“There is probably a reason she acts like that.” Kareem pointed. He was quickly forced to add a concession. “But that doesn’t excuse not restraining it.” His eyes widened. “Speaking of…”

Lisa turned to see Lily stalk into the classroom, her book bag tightly gripped in one hand, a slip of paper held in the other as if it was something out of the sewer. She passed a baleful glare over the whole of the classroom before giving the note to Mrs. Perry, the teacher, who had been manning her desk, waiting for the bell to ring.

“Last minute transfer?” Ms. Perry read aloud. “Okay. You’d think they’d have told you that you were short of requirements before school started.”

“You would think.” Lily muttered as she stomped toward the only available open seat: the one in front of Lisa, who let out a small groan.

Not unlike a she-wolf sizing up her prey, Lily gave Lisa a visual once over. “Oh. You. Still dating that loser and hanging out with that other loser?” Her tongue dripped so much acid that it was a wonder the desk didn’t dissolve as she sat down behind it.

Lisa didn’t rise to the bait, but she wondered if the Digi-book of Reason had anything in it to turn someone into a toad. Then again, Lily’s tongue was already quick enough.

When that tongue failed to hit its mark, Lily added, “You know, sometimes I can’t tell which one it is you’re dating.” She laughed at her own joke and then looked perturbed that none of her usual cronies was in the classroom to join in.

“There was no reason for that.” Kareem said, frowning at her.

“Kareem…” Lisa started, but it was already too late.

“You’re new.” Lily’s eyes narrowed. “Let me give you some advice: I’m not someone you want to get on the wrong side of, okay? I decide who’s cool and who’s not around here.”

“I don’t think I want anyone who would treat my friend, or anyone else for that matter, like that to think I’m cool.” Kareem said in deadpan.

Dangerous light flashed in Lily’s eyes, but her retort was cut off by the bell.

As if some sort of teaching circuit inside her was activated by the chime, Ms. Perry stood up and began her introduction to the class.

***

Trapped in his ice cocoon, Chaos worked. Outside, the woman was cursing the fog and whatever it was she was referring to as ‘this thing’, which was evidentially meant to help with the fog but wasn’t. The man was nervously noting that he could hear the policeman locked in the car calling for back-up.

Chaos wasn’t listening though. He had to concentrate if he wanted to get out of his predicament.

In the short time since the concept had been explained to him, he’d only tried it once, out by the lake. It worked, but much like applying burning embers to remove leeches, the cure could hurt as bad as the affliction. And that was if he could get it to work again.

In the darkness of his cape, a tiny point of light awoke, glittering on the ice enclosing his trapped legs.

Outside, Jessie Kline, the woman of the pair, felt around desperately in the trunk. As it had been explained to her, sensors in her helmet should have been able to easily detect the circuitry in the other suit and show it visually on-screen.

But she didn’t know what circuitry was supposed to look like and emergency equipment in the trunk was cluttering up her view. She wondered if she could just use her suit to wrap the whole thing up in a ball and roll it home.

“I think I hear sirens.” Her partner was a man named Carter James. She also wondered if she could wrap some metal around his mouth as a gag.

“Shut up, I’m going as fast as I can. Here—“ She surged up the power in her suit and tore one of the rear doors open. “Make yourself useful and get Watkins out of there.”

Behind her, there was a noise; somewhere between a pop and a crack. It as followed by more cracking and a swirl in the mist.

“Goddammit.” She said, whirling. “You should have killed him after you froze him.”

“What was I going to do?” Asked Carter, “Stab him through ice? Besides, how could he have gotten out any—” He crumpled as a fist found his face in the fog.

“A little something I’m thinking of calling the Chaos Nova.” Chaos replied. He pulsed his power and the icy cloud lifted. “I’m not very good at banter, so I think I’ll just start naming my attacks.”

Jessie spared a glance into the trunk. Of course now she could clearly see the remains of Watkins’ suit. Not that it was the priority now. “Name this.” She grabbed part of the ruined trunk and pulled as she fed power into it.

The metal distended and stretched out into a liquid metal whip, which she lashed at Chaos. A blast of wind that carried him back out of reach, saving him as the whip scored a groove into the ground.

“You’re not very good at the banter either.” Chaos noted. “So why don’t we just make this a silent fight.”

“Ice!” Jessie ordered.

Chaos held up a hand as he saw the still reeling Carter raise a nozzle. The blue fluid condensed and built up in the hoes, clogging it with ice until the hose snapped, coating Carter in his own cocoon of ice from the neck down.

“I was right, see? You should have stayed quiet about that.” He looked over to make sure Carter was still breathing. “Your buddy’s going to need some chicken soup.”

Jessie stormed forward, swinging the whip in a flurry of easily anticipated strokes. But with his legs still stinging from blasting the ice off them, Chaos was too slow to avoid one and found himself falling back with a stinging bruise on his chest.

He fell hard. Ice crystals jingled as the impact finally shook them loose from his cape.

Jessie reshaped the whip; causing it to straighten and stiffen into a nastily barbed spear. “I didn’t want to do this.” She said, her breath coming in jagged and irregular bursts. “But we’ve got this power now. We don’t need your kind anymore.”

“Freeze!”

Jessie glanced over her shoulder to see the police officer from the car pointing his service weapon at her. He was using the car’s door as a shield.

Wicked thoughts came to her mind. The suit gave her power over metal and he was threatening her with a metal weapon while hiding behind metal. Oh sure, he might get a shot off first, but everyone knew that the MPD loaded their service weapons so that the first shot was a ‘non-lethal’ electric stun bullet. The suit would protect her from that.

“Hands over your head. Get down, do it now.” The officer said authoritatively.

Jessie grinned and turned, surging up the suit’s power. The sound alerted the officer, who fired.

It was indeed a stunner round. But it delivered a disrupting charge directly into the suit’s circuitry. The surging sound died abruptly. Jessie stared blankly at the gun that was stubbornly refusing to become a pile of slag.

A swift kick to the back of her knee took her down the rest of the way. Chaos leaned his full weight on her to make sure she stated down. “Nice shooting, Officer…” Chaos tried to see the name on his badge.

Stunned by the complement, the policeman hesitated. “Torres.” He finally said, “But you can call me Nick.”

“Nice shooting, Nick.” Chaos gave him a thumbs up as he used the other hand to unzip Jessie’s jacket and disarm her of the dangerous suit. There was a tag still on the inner zipper: Rick’s Outfitters for the Modern Outdoorsman. Below the store’s name was what passed for a slogan; ‘new inventions for the extreme hiker, camper and climber’.

There had been a Rick’s label on the first attacker’s helmet. Chaos passed the cursing Jessie over to Officer Torres and went over to the shivering Carter.

“Before I break you out of there…” He said, gathering moisture from the surface of the ice cage to form another Chaos Nova, “I’ve got a question for you; If I rip off the tape on your backpack, is it going to say ‘Rick’s Outfitters’? The look on Carter’s face said it all.

That was a link. Chaos stepped back and lobbed the tiny Nova against Carter’s ice cocoon, the resultant explosion formed a big enough crack for him to start pulling chunks free. “You two got names?” He asked Carter.

By this time, Carter was so cold he wasn’t thinking straight. “C-carter James. Jess Kline.” He breathed.

“And I’ve already met Roy Watkins.” Chaos was already inputting the names into the database Laurel had compiled of various forms of public records. All three lived in the same building in the Carlton Raimes neighborhood. It wasn’t a nice place to live; one of those places the police got called to two or three times a week on a good week.

One of their neighbors was Rick Guadalupe, owner and proprietor of Rick’s Outfitters for the Modern Outdoorsman.

Pay-dirt, thought Chaos. “Hey, Nick, I think I need to you get on the horn and call the cavalry for me.”

Series Navigation<< Issue #33: The Liedecker Institute: Freshman ClassIssue #35: Demonology >>

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore

Bookmark the permalink.

One Comment

  1. I don’t like the idea of such a nice guy under Liedecker’s influence… Eek.

Comments are closed

  • Descendants Serial is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.