Issue #36: Let’s Go

This entry is part 13 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 3: A Bright, Bright Summer

Part 3

Teresa Krieger’s brief respite, the scant hour she had between her day shift selling cell phones at an outlet mall and her night shift at the Jiffy-Mart down the street, was interrupted by polite, but insistent knocking on the door to the apartment she shared with her husband and three children.

“Coming.” She shouted, trying to arrange her hair into something passable before muting the television. The knocking paused then continued. It sent her imagination down frightening paths. Her husband was a highway patrolman and it was one of her greatest fears that someone would appear at her door with grave news. Her fear getting the better of her, she skipped further attempts at looking presentable and practically ran to the door.

All of her worries and stress hadn’t even begun to prepare her for the trio standing in the hallway when she opened the door; Codex, Hope and Ephemeral of the Descendants. If anything, their presence drove her apprehension to a new high. “You…” She said before she could catch herself. “I-I mean, yes? Is something the matter?”

“I’m afraid we don’t know yet, Mrs. Krieger.” Codex kept her voice gentle; there was no need to panic the woman, especially working only of Facsimile’s memory for voices. “Do you know where your daughter is?”

“S-Sonja?” the harried mother asked. The image of her oldest, away in Pennsylvania attending college rose up in her mind. “Oh my god, what happened?” her eyes burned at just the thought.

“Nothing, Mrs. Krieger.” Codex said, trying to be soothing. “I’m asking after your other daughter, Callie. We have reason to believe she’s fallen in with a bad element.”

As swiftly as fear had overcome her, Teresa was swept up in indignation. “Callie? A bad element?” She almost felt like laughing, but even if they were making a mistake, she respected Mayfield’s heroes. “No, not a chance. When she’s not out with her cheerleader friends, she locks herself up in her room.” She waved a hand vaguely, “Even when I have time to cook for her, she’d rather eat the junk food she keeps in there. I can’t even get her to look after her little brother. There’s no way she can be into anything bad.”

“We often don’t notice a lot of things about our kids until something big happens, Mrs. Krieger.” Codex replied, “Please, I know it sounds unlikely, but we have reason to believe—“

“Not my girl.” Teresa cut in. “I know, you could say that we work a lot and maybe we’re not with her enough, but I’ve done my best to teach her not to get involved in drugs or gangs. And my girl wouldn’t be involved in that.”

Gangs weren’t the question, Codex thought, but maybe a single bad influence, possibly one she met up with on the internet; that was a possibility. “Do the names Vamanos or Abscondro mean anything to you, Mrs. Krieger?”

A flash of recognition came across Mrs. Krieger’s face and fled so quickly that only Codex noticed it at all. “No, no, I don’t speak Spanish.”

“Thank you for your time, Mrs. Krieger.” From her belt, Codex produced a disposable cell phone; little more than a plastic card with raised blisters for buttons and a stylized, red ‘D’ in place of a traditional screen. “If you think of anything we should know, or if you and your family have any trouble, press and hold the 3 button and you’ll be linked to us through a secure system.”

Teresa stared at the device, unsure what to make of the offer. “T-thank you.”

Codex nodded. “Good night, Mrs. Krieger. Give our best to your family.”

Once the door was closed and the three were on their way back to the elevator, Hope frowned. “That was no help.”

“Don’t be so sure.” Codex replied, closing the pocket on her belt that held more of the specially printed cell phones. “She recognized Vamanos, and knew enough to know at was Spanish, even if she said she didn’t.” She inclined her head to Ephemeral, “Pick up anything else?”

Ephemeral nodded. “I had to limit myself to her surface thoughts because I did not want her to detect me.” He said, “But she most certainly identifies ‘Vamanos’ with her daughter. I find it interesting though; she has no recognition of Abscondro. Nor does she have any memory of the costume Vamanos wore tonight. She does not know that Vamanos is a costumed identity.”

“It’s probably her screen name.” Hope interjected. “Meaning she’s the one that talks Abscondro up on PrelateWatch.”

“Could the two be in an online relationship?” Kareem asked.

“I thought of that.” Codex agreed.

“And that’s what you sent Alloy and Facsimile to do.” Hope guessed. “You really do think of everything. We were just a distraction.”

***

Sixty-seven stories up, Alloy’s shoulders felt like they were separating. Facsimile, sporting two extra arms, was holding up by his arms while in her golden angel form, her two extra appendages gripping the ledge of Callie’s window with hooked claws and her feet doing the same to the top of the window below.

Isp and Osp snaked from Alloy’s shoulders and into a thin space between window and the sash. Inside, they had split their liquid orihalcite bodies into tendrils to better operate the computer.

“Tink would be so jealous if she knew about this.” Facsimile said in Alloy’s ear. He had shucked his armor but for a chain shirt and helmet and she made a point to make him uncomfortable by pressing closer to his back than was strictly necessary.

“Yeah, probably.” He tried to sound dismissive while being thankful for his helm hiding his blush. “Luckily we’re almost done. I’d hate for someone to spot us.”

Facsimile cackled at his awkwardness, but took enough pity on him to change the conversation. “So Isp and Osp are good with computers.” She said nonchalantly.

“Uh-huh.”

“But you’re not good with computers.”

“Yeah.”

“Your powers are so weird.”

“And you’re currently gold, four armed, and hanging from a sheer wall carrying a man.” He pointed out.

“That’s just normal shape-shifting.” She defended. “But really; how did the boys learn this stuff?”

“I have no idea. I think they taught themselves. Sometimes I don’t unsummon them when I got to bed and when I wake up, my computer’s on. They surf the net too.”

“I’m so scared to ask what they look at.”

“Same here. I just clear the history without looking. But one time, there was a monster truck site open.”

“Aw, our little boys are growing up.” Facsimile cooed.

“Ew. Okay, here we go.” He turned his head as if listening to something distant. “More ew.” He finally said.

“What?” Facsimile asked.

“Vamanos isn’t working with Abscondro. They’ve never talked—no voice chats, no instant messages, and no emails; nothing.”

“I’m not getting the ‘ew’.”

“I’m getting to that.” Alloy said. “They searched her history for ‘Abscondro’. Besides PrelateWatch, she’s also on Super-Talk, maintains the Abscondro entry on Factopia, has a page dedicated to him on All Fan Clubs, and get this: She’s written ten fan fictions about him pulling off heists.”

“Okay, feeling the ‘ew’.” Facsimile said.

“Uh-oh.”

“Please don’t tell me they found an X-rated one.”

“Worse… or not.” Alloy corrected himself quickly. “The boys gave them a once over and one of the first ones she wrote was about stealing a big emerald from the Westinghall Building. She’s got a wireframe of the place from City Central on her computer too; it was just accessed ten minutes ago.”

“That’s it then. She’s kidnapped our baddy to make him act out her fan fiction.” Facsimile frowned as Alloy recalled Isp and Osp. “Man, we’ve fought demon monkeys, ghosts and a dude with god powers and this is weird even for me.”

She pushed off the wall as soon as Isp and Osp were clear of the window. For a brief second, they were freefalling between the twin apartment buildings, but then she snapped open her wings and they sailed out over the city.

“I can’t argue.” Alloy said. “I’ll call Codex.”

***

After another high speed, stomach churning jaunt across Mayfield, Abscondro found himself catching his breath in an alley within line of sight of the Westinghall Building.

The girl, Vamanos, was standing at the mouth of the alley with stars in her eyes as she watched the Westinghall Building. She didn’t even look mildly winded from the subsonic speeds she achieved.

He figured it was part of her psionic powers; likely the same power that protected her from collisions by phasing her through them and kept Abscondro himself from being abraded by the wind when she dragged him around. Whatever it was, it did nothing to stop him from losing his breath when she grabbed and accelerated him without warning.

“You ready?” She asked turning back to him. There was something in her gaze that Abscondro thought he probably got in his own when he was a particularly prime target for theft. He didn’t like having that gaze turned on him.

“Yeah.” He said simply. He didn’t want her getting any impression that he in any way enjoyed being dragged along like one of her stuffed ducks. That wasn’t worth even the mammoth score and accompanying wellspring of fame she was offering. “Third floor, right?”

She nodded enthusiastically. “Right. So, I was thinking; we can run in through the sewers and then like, rise up through the floor right in the middle of the wing! It’d be really neat and everyone will be so impressed!”

Abscondro gave her a level look. It didn’t dull her spirit, but it made her quiet down. “No, we take the stairs.”

“What? Why? That’s so… normal.”

“Because contrary to what you may think, my power doesn’t work like that. I can’t float or fly, so I can’t just ‘rise’ up out of the ground.”

“Really?” Vamanos blinked, “Because I sort of figured you’d have to so you can phase and not fall through the ground; just like how I have to be tougher than normal to run as fast as I do.”

She doesn’t even know the half of it, Abscondro thought mournfully. He was being bulldogged into working with someone who didn’t even know how their powers worked.

“No, I don’t fly. I just keep my feet un-phased until I have to move them through.” He finally said.

She looked profoundly disappointed with this. “There’s got to be some other way to do this.” She says. “Using the stairs is so… normal.”

“Sometimes normal is the best way.” Abscondro shrugged. He didn’t give a damn about her ideals of how he did things; he wasn’t going to make anymore of a fool of himself then she’d already done to him. He just wanted the night to be over and to pull off this too-good-to-pass-up opportunity.

“No it’s not.” Vamanos scowled. “No one cares if you’re normal, even if you’re something they say is special. You’re just one of a group; middle kid, bottom of the pyramid, C-student—“

“I’m sure any and all of those problems can be solved by throwing some of the money made off this at them.” Abscondro cut her off. “Money we’re not going to get if you stand here whining instead of running us across the plaza and into the lobby, got it?”

“Won’t there be guards in the lobby?”

“Do to them what you did to Golden Girl back at DeSars.”

“But Facsimile has powers—she can take it. I could kill a normal human ramming into them like that.”

Abscondro did the worst thing to Vamanos that she could imagine: he gave her a disappointed look. “Then I guess we can scrub this whole thing then, can’t we?” He asked, “Because there’s going to be guards, and with a place this rich, the cops would be all over us within a minute if they hit the silents.”

The threat of having her dream of working hand in hand with Abscondro stabbed into Vamanos like a burning knife. She reasoned that she could just knock the guards out; that she was good enough and fast enough with her powers to do it.

Driving down her doubts, she extended her hand to Abscondro and ducked her head. “Let’s go.”

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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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