Issue #34: Back to School

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

Part 4

The final bell of the day rung and the school’s doors almost instantly started disgorging students. Among them were Warrick, Tink, and Juniper.

Juniper bounded down the stairs ahead of the young couple, full of energy from the improv exercises they’d had in theater class. She was beaming. “That was really a lot of fun. I just wish I was funnier. The guys that did the barbershop sketch were really funny, but I don’t think I can be funny on the spur of the moment.” She paused for air and gave the other two a doleful look. “What did you two think?”

“I think AP Fairbanks is trying to save a dime; making me take theater so I’ll do the techie work without pay.” Tink said with only a hint of bitterness, “It was fun to watch at least. I really wish I didn’t have to get on stage though.”

Warrick gave her a knowing smile. “I’d have thought you’d have loved being back on stage. After all, you’re best known around school for being an actress, Tinkerbell.” He teased.

Tink’s face reddened. “That was elementary school. Everyone in the class had a part. I am not cut out for that kind of thing.” She gave Warrick a teasing look right back, “But I know someone who it’s just killing inside knowing we’re going to be doing Henry V as the first section play.”

“Oh yeah, that’s Shakespeare, right?” Juniper asked, drawing a blank look from Warrick.

After it wore off, he couldn’t contain himself. “Not just Shakespeare, but the best Shakespeare speech ever goes to the lead: the Saint Crispin’s Day speech. I’d do anything to play that.”

“Maybe Mr. Simmons takes bribes.” Juniper said in all seriousness.

A brief vision of presenting the theater teacher with a large, piratey chest full of gold doubloons courtesy of his powers flashed before Warrick’s eyes. “Nah, I’ll just get it by being good.”

“But you’ve never been a lead before.” Juniper said innocently. They’d reached where she’d parked her bike and she unlocked the rear storage to get her helmet.

Warrick was nonplussed by this. “Yeah, so? William Thompson wasn’t a lead before The Element of Imperfection. Jennifer Kinney wasn’t a lead until Malady Place.

“Jennifer Kinney doesn’t play the—“Juniper started before seeing the ‘hush’ gesture Tink was making.

“The point is we’ve all got to start somewhere. My dad voiced dozens and dozens of commercials before he got to do any TV work.” Warrick soldiered on.

“And I know you’re going to do great.” Tink encouraged before Juniper could say anything else. “I’ll even help you practice your lines.”

Juniper grinned at them as she buckled her helmet on. “Well, I’m going to go pick Adel up in front of the school. I promised. Meet you guys at the Dungeon?”

“Yeah.” Tink said, “I’m just going to stop by home to change and I’ll meet you all there. Want me to pick you up at Freeland House, Warrick?”

Warrick shook his head. “JC and Kareem are going to ride with me over to the comic shop so I can get this week’s issues and check out Gary’s advanced preview list before we all head to the Dungeon.”

“Okay.” Tink said, giving him a peck on the cheek. “Drive safely. See you later.”

***

There’d been no answer at Rick Guadalupe’s apartment at Carlton Raimes. The police had the whole building staked out just in case. That freed Chaos up for a trek across town to the cramped storefront beneath an aerobics studio that was home to Rick’s Outfitters or the Modern Outdoorsman.

It was in an only slightly better neighborhood than where the proprietor lived, half the places on the block sporting boarded up windows, whether because they were abandoned or because they’d been recently broken into.

Rick’s Outfitters was in better shape than its neighbors. Evidently, he made good enough money to buy security glass and high-end locks. Chaos wondered if the money for those had come from supplying weaponized power suits to his neighbors.

Whatever the truth, Rick didn’t hide his technological prowess. There were gyroscopically stabilized snowboards, a snowsuit with a solar charged heating element and magnetic grip boots on display in the window.

“At least I’m in the right place.” Chaos mused, pulling the door open. He heard sirens a few blocks away. The police would have the place surrounded soon. But he wanted to go in first in case Rick had some more super-powered friends and neighbors.

A bell tinkled as he opened the door. Surprisingly, there was an actual, physical bell hanging from a hook; it stood out like a sore thumb against the high tech sporting goods the shop sold.

“Hello, be right with you.” The voice belonged to a dark skinned, Hispanic man with his hair done up in black dreadlocks. He was hunched over a circuit board, soldering gun in hand, completely oblivious to who was standing in his shop.

“It’s a bit warm to be showing off snowsuits and snowboards.” Chaos commented, moving forward lightly, his cape swaying with each step. He was ready for Rick to bolt.

“True, but winter stuff is easier to work with. It’s thicker, so you have more places to put circuitry and wires. It makes things a little tighter financial-wise in the summer, but that’s not what this is about.”

“Is what happened this morning what it’s about?” Chaos asked sternly.

“Hmm?” Rick looked up from his work and his jaw dropped. “It’s… it’s you! Sweet Jesus, it’s really you! Chaos is in my shop. Whatever you want, sir, it’s on the house; just let people see the logo and we are completely square.”

He carefully turned off the soldering gun and came around the counter, hand extended. “Ricky G, sir, I’m a big fan of the Descendants.”

Chaos deigned to shake, much to Ricky’s obvious disappointment. “Is that why you built battle suits that copied Zero’s and Alloy’s powers?”

“Huh? How’d you hear… well yeah. Not duplicate though, my designs so far are… a paper doll to a full grown man, but I’m trying.”

Rick’s puzzlement and friendly demeanor came as a complete surprise. Chaos had expected evil gloating, not adoring hero worship and humility. What was going on?”

“Those two are just the start. The tech to pull them off is all off the shelf if you know who to order from. I just thought to put it together. I’m actually working on a suit to copy your powers now. It’s just sort of hard going, seeing as no one on any of the sites can agree on what they actually are.”

Well, I am called Chaos, Chaos thought smugly.

“I can show you what I’ve got so far if you’re like.” Rick said hopefully.

That almost had to be a trap. Chaos thought. But that would require a much higher level of sophistication and acting ability in Rick than any of his neighbors had shown. “Sure, why not?” Chaos finally said. His heads up display gave an ETA of one minute on police arrival. He needed to find out the full range of this as soon as possible.

Ricky led him into the small workshop set up between the main room of the shop and the stockroom. It was cramped and stuffy, with bits and pieces of discarded, abandoned or on hiatus experiments littering every surface and even hanging on the walls.

Chaos noticed replicas of Whitecoat’s signature coat, Darkness’s scarf and several renditions of Isp and Osp amid the flotsam.

The current project, only standing out because it was on a counter by itself instead of in a heap elsewhere, was an air compressor that fed into about a dozen hoses and valves. Other tools and various odds and ends sat alongside the machine, waiting, presumably for their owner to close up shop and start work again.

“I decided to just go with the basic everyone can agree on: wind manipulation.” Rick explained, beaming with pride at his creation. “The compressor is the most streamlined I can find, but I think when all is said and done, I’ll need two to provide enough thrust for most of what you do.”

“Rick?” Chaos cut off what he knew would be a long winded treatise on the device. In a different setting, he’d have been more than happy to talk shop, but the police were closing in.

“Yes?”

“Why are you building these suits in the first place?”

Rick looked like he’d been waiting to be asked and his wide eyed pride grew a dozen times over. “The same reason you do what you do; to help out. The city’s been getting more dangerous these days and even though the Descendants do a great job, you guys deserve someone to do something to take the pressure off. I figured that once the trials are done and I’ve worked out all the bugs, I can sell them to the cops—just to pay for more development of course; this workshop is getting too small for my imagination…”

“Trials.” Chaos was finally putting the pieces together. “Where you get your neighbors from Carlton Raimes to test out the equipment for you?”

Again, it seemed like the question hit Rick out of left field. “Why yeah.” He nodded slowly, “But I only gave them out last night, they were supposed to try them on for size and tonight I’d give them a test run in Wagner Park.”

So that was it. The wolves playing the sheep for all his wonderful toys. Chaos felt bad being the one to snuff Rick’s wide eyed optimism. In a better time, certainly a better neighborhood, Rick would have been able to do great things. Instead, he was an accomplice to assault with a deadly weapon, assaulting police officers, damage to public property and probably a slew of others.

He sighed. “You haven’t seen the news, have you?”

Rick shook his head. “No, I open at seven. I’ve been here all day. Why? Did something happen at the apartments?”

That made Chaos feel even worse. Here this man was, worrying over the safety of the people who had perverted his work and would more than likely hang him out to dry at trial. Best to just get it over with quickly. “Rick… this morning your buddy Roy Watkins went postal on the subway station he used to work for. No one killed, but people were hurt. He was using the suit you gave him.”

The look Rick gave him was probably the same a kitten would give if you hit it with a stick. He was visibly shaking.

“After that, Jessica Kline and Carter James tried to take out the cop car Roy was in and destroy the evidence. They weren’t much more careful about innocent bystanders than Roy was.”

“But they said they wanted to help.” Rick managed to squeak.

“A lot of people will say anything if it lets them get something valuable like your inventions, Rick.” Chaos tried to sound understanding.

Though looking like he was on the verge of crying, Rick drew himself up and looked Chaos in the eye. “I want to turn myself in.” He said.

“I know you didn’t mean—what?”

“I-I want to turn myself in. It’s my fault and I need to earn up to it.” Rick was shivering even more than before.

He was going to suggest it anyway, but Chaos hadn’t expected that reaction. In hindsight, maybe it should have been what he expected of someone like Rick. Despite himself, he asked, “Are you sure about that?”

Rick nodded, his eyes telling a totally different story.

Way to stick to your guns, guy, Chaos though. “I’m going to tell you the truth; the cops are already on their way. In fact, they should already be out front.”

For a second, it looked like Rick was either going to bolt or pass out. To his credit, he didn’t. Instead, he let Chaos lead him out of his shop and into the waiting embrace of the MPD.

***

“It’s really kind of heartwarming in a way.” Alexis said later that evening as she and Ian sat on the patio together. “We really inspired him.”

“Inspired him to make battle suits for his scumbag neighbors.” Ian bitterly slugged back his beer. “The thing that kills me is that I can’t even speak in his favor at trial unless I give up the ghost on who I really am.”

“Well Laurel is hiring him the best defense team money can buy” Alexis assured him, rubbing the back of his neck. “He’ll be okay. I promise.”

“Poor guy’s going to be terrified in jail.” Ian said. “All I can hope for is that the judge sees what I said about him to the reporters that showed up and decides to go soft.”

Alexis frowned and redoubled her efforts in massaging his neck. He was understandably tense and in desperate need of a subject change. “Just so you know I’m proud of you for not blowing in his door and punching him when you thought he was just another mad scientist.”

That got a laugh at least. “That wouldn’t be good detective work, hon. Besides, now you can’t say I didn’t learn anything on the first day back to school.”

***

Rick Guadalupe tried to make himself invisible in the holding cell. It was just luck that Carter and Roy were in separate cells, he guessed. His fellow prisoners were more concerned with harassing the guards and demanding rights they more than likely weren’t entitled to than to pick on him. The best he could do was stay in a corner and wait for his public defender.

It didn’t take nearly as long as he’d expected. Less than two hours after he’d been bought in, a man in a smart suit was bought to the cell by a guard.

“Ricardo Guadalupe?” he asked. Rick just nodded, “I’m your lawyer, Ernst Leonard Yowell. I’m pleased to say I’ve managed to get you moved to a private cell pending your competency hearing.”

“Competency?” Rick blinked. He only had a vague understanding of the legal system, but he knew that those hearings were for people trying for an insanity plea. “You think I’m insane?”

“That’s not for me to say, Mr. Guadalupe, that’s for the doctors to say. But the upshot is that if they do think so you’ll spend your sentence at the Solomon Center instead of prison.”

End Issue #34

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.

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One Comment

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

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