- Issue #25: Summer Session
- Issue #26: Ace Agenda
- Issue #27: Beyond Good And Medieval
- Issue #28: The Beach Episode
- Issue #29: Little Girl Lost
- Issue #30: Strange Times At Dayspring College
- Issue #31: It Came From a Warped Star
- Issue #32: Ahead/Behind
- Descendants Special #3: A Brilliant Twilight
- Issue #33: The Liedecker Institute: Freshman Class
- Issue #34: Back to School
- Issue #35: Demonology
- Issue #36: Let’s Go
- Descendants Annual #3
Pancake batter hit the hot surface of a skillet and sizzled, starting the transition from inedible goop to pancake. Its predecessors were already being slid onto a plate by a spatula wielding Ian Smythe.
Beside him, his long time friend and recent inamorata, Alexis Keyes, was pulling double duty with a pan of sizzling bacon and sausage and another into which she was cracking eggs. It was her turn to cook, but unlike the rest of Freeland House’s residents, she always had a volunteer assistant chef.
“So Kareem, how do you want your eggs?” She asked.
Kareem Utt was sitting at the table, along with Warrick Kaine, Cynthia McAllister, and Melissa Forrester, three other who also called the former bed and breakfast, Freeland House, home. At the opposite counter stood Laurel Brant, Alexis and Ian’s best friend, typing on her computer.
“Just fried today, thank you.” Kareem replied. The preferential treatment on the subject of eggs was understandable; Kareem had only recently been able to partake in meals, having spent more than a year existing on a separate plane of existence and everyone involved was doing what they could to get him back in the practice of experiencing the material plane once more.
“You got it.” Alexis deftly cracked two eggs with one hand into the skillet. As soon as they hit the pan, she shifted her attention to transferring the bacon and sausage from pan to plate. In doing so, she noticed Cyn starting to doze sitting up. “Cyn, wake up.” She said gently but firmly. “You’re about to go face first on the table.”
“Monday…” Cyn grumbled. She was still in her pajamas and determined to squeeze the most sleep out of the morning possible.
“No it’s not.” Warrick poked her in the shoulder, causing her to start awake. “It’s Friday.”
“Thank god. I slept through the rest of the week.” Cyn mumbled, trying to shift back into a comfortable sleeping position.
“Good morning!” Juniper Taylor appeared at the kitchen door, bright eyed and proverbially bushy tailed. Her hair was still wet from the shower.
“Go to bed.” Cyn ordered, fidgeting in her chair and squeezing her eyes shut.
“Morning, Jun.” Ian said, brandishing his spatula. “How many pancakes?”
“None, actually, I’m picking Adel up and we’re going to breakfast.” Juniper looked apologetic. “Thank you so much though.” She smiled at everyone at the table.
“Hold on a minute, Juniper.” Laurel said, abandoning her work to help Alexis put plates on the table. A tall stack with a triple helping of everything was set before Cyn, having the same effect on her as a kiss from Prince Charming. “I wanted to ask, since we’re all here; who’s going out on patrol with me tonight.”
“Not us.” Ian flipped the last pancake onto his own plate. “Tonight, as it ever is and ever shall be as long as there is right in the world is date night.” He shot a smile at Alexis.
She nodded, “Yeah, and Mr. Liedecker got us tickets to The King and I tonight.”
“You’re going to a musical?” Melissa asked Ian with an incredulous edge to her voice as she accepted her plate from Laurel.
“Why does everyone assume that I don’t have any culture?” Ian acted hurt.
“Well you had a belching contest with Cyn yesterday.” Laurel took her seat that the head of the table.
“To be fair to him, I won.” Cyn was rapidly clearing her plate.
“She did.” Ian nodded. “Anyway, I figure the most respected man in town had tickets, so it can’t be a bad thing to go have a look-see.”
“If it’s so good, why did he give the tickets away?” Cyn asked.
Laurel cracked a smile. “Okay, so Ian and Alexis are out. Warrick?”
He shook his head. “Sorry, but with all her homework and studying, Fridays are the only days I can convince Tink to go out for more than an hour. We’re gonna rent some movies and hang out at her place.”
“No need to be sorry, Warrick. There’s not reason being a prelate needs to ruin your social life.” Laurel assured him. She took a long drink of her coffee before asking, “Cyn?”
“No social life here ma’am.” The white haired girl saluted. “At least not today. All the happy couples are dating and Kay is visiting her mom this weekend.”
“I’m one of the happy couples.” Juniper said shyly. “Adel’s brother has a football game and we’re going to go cheer him on.”
“I’m in though.” Melissa said. Everyone paused at this. Melissa never volunteered for anything regarding super-heroics. She knew it too and blushed, “I just thought I need the exercise.”
Laurel regarded her with a mixture of surprise and pride. “Great. It’ll be good to have you along, especially if we run into anyone who’s injured. Well that’s settled—“
“Actually, Ms. Brant.” Kareem interrupted, “I beg your pardon, but I think maybe it is time that I started patrolling again.”
Following his traumatic return to the world, Laurel had insisted Kareem take it easy until the repercussions were thoroughly investigated.
And there had been repercussions. While Kareem was once more able to astral project at will as he had been before his time in stasis, his ability to manipulate the Astral matter had become significantly limited in scope. At the same time, his mental senses had become heightened, the extent of which they hadn’t established.
“I understand,” He continued, “That we have yet to complete mapping my abilities, but could we not do so in the field? Both you and Ms. Keyes emphasize that necessity is the mother of invention when it comes to our powers.”
Faced with that logic, there was little Laurel could argue with. Still, she didn’t want him to feel obligated so soon after returning to the material world. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather spend time with Desiree tonight?” Desiree was the name of a psionic girl Kareem had befriended at school. The two seemed to have connected almost instantly.
“Yeah, you could double with us.” Juniper offered.
“Or us.” Warrick added jovially. Though the girl was odd, the few times he’d met her had been enjoyable.
Kareem shook his head. “She will be out of town starting tonight. It seems she travels with her father on business on the weekends. In any event, I am eager to resume my role as Ephemeral in contributing to Mayfield’s safety.”
“Ew.” Cyn said, sneaking a strip of bacon off Warrick’s plate. “Who would spend all that time with their dad?”
“Not everyone’s family’s like yours.” Melissa pointed out.
That earned her a glare. Family was not a subject to be spoken of lightly with Cyn. “This is my family.” She said levelly.
Melissa gestured at Laurel. “Then you’re spending Friday night with Mom.”
“Hey, hey, hey.” Laurel couldn’t help but chuckle at this, “I’m too young to be anyone’s mom, thank you very much. In any event, we’ll be glad to have you Kareem. I was asking because the MPD have given us something to look out for on patrol tonight.”
“Was there a threat made?” Alexis asked. If it were so, no one in the room doubted that she and Ian would drop everything to help deal with it, however grudgingly they may make it seem.
Laurel shook her head. “No, but it seems we’ve got a new cat burglar in town. A psionic who calls himself Abscondro.”
“That is like the best name ever.” Cyn laughed. “’Prepare to have your valuables absconded with, citizens!’” She said in a voice too deep to have come from her, “’So says Abscondro!’”
“Believe it or not, that’s what this guy’s MO sounds like.” Laurel shrugged. “He’s been working the Piedmont region for the past two years; Madison, Ruckersville, Warrenton, Sperryville… there’s a very long list. Last night, he hit three jewelry stores and left a calling card. In it, he announced that he’s decided to make Mayfield his new home.”
“Small town boy makes good in a bad way.” Ian commented, “Sounds like a pompous ass.”
“You don’t know the half of it.” Said Laurel. “He also posted his calling card on the PrelateWatch website under the name Vamanos along with a long speech about how great he is.”
“Vamanos…” Warrick mused, “Hey, I know that name, serious mad on for bad guys with psionic powers. He was the one that got all up in arms when we thrashed Maven because he thought her flying rig looked cool on the news.”
“Anyone surprised he follows PrelateWatch enough to know posters by name?” Melissa asked. There was no response. “Yeah, didn’t think so.”
“What? It’s important to keep up with the news and that forum sometimes knows about weird goings on before we do.” Warrick defended. “Granted, they don’t know the truth about everything, so some of the theories are… weird.”
“They think I’m an alien.” Cyn supplied.
“I’ll agree it’s a useful information source,” Laurel said, “But I’d never go on just what the forums say. In any event, Vamanos/Abscondro is an attention seeker, which means even though he’s ‘only’ stealing from stores right now, he may try to escalate to get more attention. So we’re going to pay special attention to banks and jewelry stores tonight.”
“You’d think these guys would smarten up and hit some electronics stores or something.” Ian said, “Banks have the best security you can think of. The local ConquestTech or Koshiki outlet? Not so much.”
“That may be the point for Abscondro.” Laurel shook her head. “His calling card sited small town operations no longer being a challenge to him.”
“Of course he’d be one of those.” Alexis groaned. “Well good hunting, I guess. I’ll keep my phone at the ready if you need us.”
“Thanks.” Laurel said, “We’ll keep you posted.”
DeSars Jewelers dealt almost exclusively in diamonds. Not the lab grown, perfect quality diamonds that were by then as common as dirt, but the kind still mined from the earth and marketed as somehow superior for it.
The marketing evidently worked, because DeSars was both able to afford and felt the need to have a made-to-order building designed with maximum security in mind. At night, steel shutters an inch thick slid down to protect the windows and front doors from breakage and bolts thicker than a man’s thumb sealed the steel door in back securely to the reinforced concrete wall. Inside, infrared beams and cameras at all angles swept the room and each case was tied to its own alarm that would trigger if they were opened or broken after hours.
All part of that selfsame marketing, the high level of security at DeSars made frequent appearances in their advertising, implying that unlike other jewelry, DeSars’s diamonds were worth protecting. It was also effective; no DeSars had been robbed after hours in twenty years.
None of it mattered when a man sized blur phased directly through the wall.
Abscondro was covered head to toe in muted gray, a color that blended in with failing light rather than form sharp outlines as black would. A ski mask covered his face and beneath that, he’d daubed charcoal to prevent the cameras from picking up even as basic a description as his race.
What he did want the cameras to see, however, was the black ‘A’ fading from right to left on his chest, his personal sign. It was the only adornment to his work uniform aside from a handyman’s belt with well fitted pouches and compartments for stowing his ill gotten gains.
From one of those compartments, he produced and unfolded a thin visor and placed it over his eyes. Through the specially treated lenses, the world was a foggy red and the infrared beams with a brilliant pink.
From there it was only a matter of timing to sidestep the beams and make his way up front to the display cases. He knew from experience that the truly valuable gems would be in the vault, which would have been child’s play for him to access. But that wasn’t the point.
The displays were prominent and being monitored by multiple cameras. A firm like DeSars, which lived off the reputation of their security would, no doubt keep the reports of a vault theft quiet. But an empty display case… that was the stuff of newspaper spreads.
He came to the central display case where the most flashy and audacious pieces were kept within sight of the entrance. “Multi-thousand dollar impulse buys.” He mused. His left hand blurred and he reached through the glass for an elaborate necklace mounted on a dummy bust. Where his distorted fingers touched it, a similar blurred look expanded to encompass the whole necklace.
There was a sound like water spattering on glass from the front of the store.
Pulling his prize out through the glass, Abscondro rounded on the source. The first thing he noticed was that the glass doors and the steel shutter beyond them quivered ever so slightly in his infrared visor.
The second thing he noticed was the young woman.
Where he dressed out of necessity and an understanding of stealth, she… didn’t. Yellow stockings ran up to a cherry red pleather skirt, which was set off by a yellow, fishnet undershirt and a red baby doll tee featuring a cheap iron-on that said ‘VAMANOS!’ In yellow bubble text across the chest. She wore a red neckerchief over her mouth with a domino mask of the same color. She made no effort to hide her short, blond hair. It was all capped off by a yellow half cape that had obviously been a pillowcase in another life.
In any other situation, Abscondro would have laughed. However, the utter ridiculousness of the sight was overpowered by the fact that she was just about to step through one of the alarm beams.