Issue #36: Let’s Go

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

Part 4

Hank Redding sat his freshly brewed cup of coffee down beside his palmtop computer atop the security desk inside the main lobby of the Westinghall Building and did a quick inventory. He had his coffee, a bag of cookies from the vending machine by the elevators, palmtop (displaying the Mayfield Scribe’s sports page), and a book of crossword puzzles for later.

In many ways, he considered working security to be the perfect job. He was a night owl by nature anyway, and aside from the other guards checking in on the hour, it was almost eight straight hours of nothing but peace and quiet. In four years, the absolute worst that happened was the occasional group of college kids deciding to party in the big fountain out front.

With a contented sigh that all was right in his little corner of the universe, Hank sat down to his sports page. At least he tried to. There was a noise from the direction of the door and suddenly his vision blurred. The next thing he knew, he was in darkness, stumbling on uneven footing.

Lashing out for something to hold on to, his hand caught something. A metal cable? He grabbed it with the other hand and confirmed that yes; he had indeed grabbed hold of a steel cable. His elbow brushed against another.

“Where the hell am I?” He shouted, hoping someone would offer an explanation. The answer came in the form of the same noise he’d heard just before he’d found himself in that strange place. Something slammed into his back with a surprised grunt.

“Sorry!” A girl’s voice said, accompanied by the noise again. It sounded like water splashing.

“What the hell just happened?” Another voice asked.

He recognized the voice; it was one of his fellow security guards. “Milo?”

“Hank? What’s the hell was that? Where are we?”

***

“I put three in the air vents and two on top of the elevator.” Vamanos reported, coming to a stop in front of Abscondro with a nervous little salute. “That should give us plenty of time to get the emerald.”

“Did you take their coms?” Abscondro asked, heading for the stairs.

“Their what?”

“Communicators. So they can’t call anyone.” Abscondro replied.

“Well… n-no, not as such.” Vamanos replied, chagrined, “Was I supposed to?”

Yes!” Abscondro forced his voice into a hiss. Even with the security guards away, the building itself likely still had sensors. “Now they know something’s up and they’ll call the cops. You haven’t bought us any time at all. Why didn’t you bull rush them like I told you too?”

“B-because if I did that, they might get hurt. It’d be like getting hit by a car.”

“What’s a few broken bones on a security guard?” Abscondro asked. His style and powers obviated the need to confront security most of the time, but he never denied himself the option if things came to that. Not that they ever had; he was just that good; but with Vamanos along for it, he didn’t want to take the chance. “That’s what they’re paid for. Now we’ve got to hurry. Run us up to the third floor.” He indicated the stairs.

Vamanos frowned. She wanted to protest, but she wasn’t quite sure why. Clearly, Abscondro was right; that those men would be justly compensated for their injuries if she’d decided to give them any, but she just didn’t want to give them any.

She didn’t want to let down Abscondro either, so instead of voicing her thoughts, she held out her hand. “Let’s go.” She said it more to keep herself from saying something else than anything. In the blink of an eye, they were up the stairs and through the doors of the main gallery.

It was a sight to behold. While many of the exhibits, like the Bahia Emerald, which sat on a glass encased pedestal in the center of the main gallery, were merely acquisitions by the museum, the vast majority of them were actually from Vincent Liedecker’s private collection; obtained in his early years traveling the world.

The whole thing gave Abscondro pause as they stopped just inside the doorway, between twin statues of Athena. Through his visor, he saw that the treasures were only defended by basic pressure plates and sensors. It was a thief’s wildest dream.

“Liedecker must be the stupidest man on Earth.” He said. “All that money and he stores his valuables in plain sight with nothing but a couple of piss-poor guards and dime store security. We can get way more than just the emerald.”

“Then you like it?” Vamanos asked hopefully. “I’ve always imagined you sneaking in here and doing a heist that’d go down in history, like… like… the Baker Street Robbery or Loomis Fargo!”

More than even the spectacular price of the emerald, this stoked the fires in Abscondro’s mind. By virtue of his powers and skill, that was exactly what he deserved; not the adoration of a delusional teenager, but a place in the annals of history; to be known as one of the most famous burglars in history.

While Liedecker wasn’t widely know internationally, the sheer value stolen, one night’s work would make the crown jewels of Ireland look like costume jewelry.

“You do like it… right?” Vamanos chewed her lip at Abscondro’s silence.

“Right.” He said after clearing his head of the cloud of vanity that had descended over him. “Let’s get to work.”

“How about you not?” One of the statues of Athena reached out to wrap her arms around Vamanos from behind, lifting her cleanly off the ground.

Codex, Ephemeral and Hope stepped into the archway to the adjoining gallery. “Welcome to the big city, Abscondro.” Codex said coldly. Beside her, Ephemeral bowed his head in silence as the two women stepped forward.

Hot anger burned in Abscondro’s mind. He hadn’t put up with Vamanos all this time to come away empty handed. Clenching his hand into a fist, he rounded on ‘Athena’, surprising her with a right cross to the jaw.

It was dazing enough that Vamanos managed to get one foot on the floor, which was more than enough to let her take off. In an instant, she and Facsimile were in the middle of the gallery.

Dropping her speed, but denying Facsimile the same courtesy, Vamanos dropped to a knee, allowing the disguised heroine to go flying over her head and into a suit of medieval armor in a glass display case.

The din of the collision gave Abscondro an instant headache, but he kept his wits about him enough to activate his power as Codex reached him and tried to drop him with a single strike to the center with her tonfa.

“Thanks for the welcome.” He sneered, feeling his anger boiling over. Sidestepping so that the tonfa was no longer inside his insubstantial form, he regained solidity long enough to aim a chop at her ribs that she blocked with her other weapon. “And tell Liedecker thanks for the wonderful welcome gifts.”

Avarice and vanity took priority over anger though, so he didn’t take time to press the attack. Instead, he phased through Codex’s arm on the next strike and headed for the Bahia Emerald. If anything, he was still going to get what he came for.

Hope rose up to block his path, but he ghosted directly through her, much to her shock and consternation. He smirked as she made a frightened and disgusted sound when she realized just how he had evaded her. “Ephemeral!” she called with a panicked whine touching her voice.

The man in question still hadn’t left the archway and still hadn’t unbent his head.

What was his power anyway? Upon arriving in Mayfield, Abscondro had done research into the Descendants and the one called Ephemeral was still a gigantic question mark. He rarely participated in battles and there was very little to even hint about his abilities.

It was probably best to ignore him and just get the Emerald as quickly as… Abscondro’s train of thought came to a sudden and screaming halt. He lived and died on being observant. Being able to phase meant nothing if he didn’t pay attention to guard movements and security measures. Ignoring things was the last thing he would ever consider, especially with danger from all sides.

That was why he hadn’t fled when he had the chance, why he’d allowed anger and greed to cloud his thief’s instincts. He gritted his teeth. Even if the anger was coming from tampering with his mind, he certainly wasn’t going to let Ephemeral go unnoticed. “Vamanos! The guy in the back! Take him out!”

Vamanos looked to where Abscondro was pointing and frowned again. Facsimile had disappeared among the display cases in the crash. What was more, she too had seen precious little about Ephemeral’s abilities and was reluctant to try and ram him as she did the durable Facsimile.

That is correct, you do not. A voice came to her head. I can see your thoughts and I know your apprehension. You know this is wrong, but you do not wish to appear weak to your role model.

A shiver ran up Vamanos’s spine. She was already unsure and she certainly didn’t need to hear someone else voicing those uncertainties.

The voice continued. But this man, Abscondro is not a role model. He is a criminal and will soon be bought to task for his crimes. But it is not too late for you. You can stop now and we will return you to your home.

“Vamanos!” Abscondro phased to dodge Codex again, “Do it now!”

Vamanos took a deep breath. She’d already come this far, she reasoned, and Abscondro was a thief, not a killer. Even if he didn’t care if guards got hurt, he wouldn’t tell her to do something that would really and seriously hurt someone. And besides that, Vincent Liedecker had money to spare. He wouldn’t really miss the emerald.

Swallowing hard, she took a step; only to find a gold scaled tail in the way of her first high speed step. The force of the collision flipped her on her back and sent her sprawling into the side of a metal display case, which dented deeply while ejecting its contents through its glass front.

“I could have told you not to bother appealing to this one’s better nature.” Said a giant, golden boa constrictor in Facsimile’s voice. It wrapped Vamanos in its coils and lifted her away from the ground and then bought its face around to its captive’s, tickling her cheek with a forked tongue. “I know your type: probably hanging with the cheerleaders, making fun of people you think are different. It’s no surprise you’d turn out to be a criminal.”

“Bitter much?” Hope asked, trying to hem Abscondro in with punches, while not allowing him to pass through her again. “I thought we were here to save her?”

“Hey, she kidnapped him, remember?” Facsimile pointed out.

“Abscondro!” Vamanos cried out, seeing her mentor finally escape the two prelates by phasing through a tall display case and into arm’s length from the pedestal holding the Bahia Emerald.

He didn’t even glance at her as he reached through the pedestal and grabbed the gem. “Nice knowing you.” He said, “But I don’t need fans.” He dropped through the floor just as Codex reached him.

A gasp caught in Vamanos’s throat. “N-no.” She said weakly. It was hard not to cry, but she tried anyway, being in the presence of prelates. “He… left me.”

“He’s evil, what more did you expect?” Facsimile asked, keeping her coils tight. “Loyalty doesn’t tend to come with the kit.”

“Facsimile.” Codex reprimanded. “I understand how you feel about this… situation.” She finished diplomatically, “But it won’t help to rub salt in the girl’s wound.” She came to stand in front of the still coil wrapped Vamanos.

The girl had gone limp, no longer trying to escape.

“For what it’s worth, Callie, I’m sorry for what’s happened to you. But you chose the wrong person to idolize, I’m afraid. Abscondro only cares about himself and his fame, not for his fans; no matter how much they may care about him.”

“I thought…” Tears were starting to track down the girl’s face, “I thought this would be so amazing… so special. I just wanted to meet him and let him see what I can do.”

Codex nodded sympathetically. “Why haven’t you let anyone else know about your powers, Callie?”

The defeated girl sniffed. “My mom. The same day I found out, she told me she was going to one of those Reverend Stiles meetings. I couldn’t tell her about it after that… she’d hate me. And my friends… they already make fun of me for not having money… they wouldn’t talk to me if they found out I do any of the things I do for fun… much less that I have powers.”

With a nod, Codex gestured for Facsimile to let Vamanos go, which she did grudgingly.

“I have some advice for you, Callie.” Codex said, helping the girl stand. She gave a meaningful glance at the three other Descendants with her. “Find some new friends. I’m sure there are some people at your school that will definitely accept you.”

Vamanos leaned hard on her. “I wish. But the worst part of all this is that Abscondro got away with the emerald.”

“Actually.” Facsimile was still frowning hard, even as a snake, at Codex’s declaration, “You need to do better research before you fic.”

“If you had, you would have known that this is a learning museum.” Hope said, “Everything here is a replica that little kids as allowed to touch and play with. The real thing is in a vault somewhere.”

***

The Lucite imitation of the world’s largest emerald clanked on the end table in Abscondro’s living room as the man himself threw himself likewise down on the couch. It might be worth eighty dollars, tops if it wasn’t for sale in the Westinghall Building gift shop for five each.

The entire night had been a waste, thanks entirely to his worthless number one fan. Abscondro didn’t even bother removing his mask as he lay there on the sofa, thinking of the ways he’d let his anger be known should he ever run into her again.

“Hard night?”

Instantly, Abscondro was sitting up. There was a man standing at the door to the kitchen, wearing a long coat, eating an apple. One of Abscondro’s apples. And he recognized the interloper immediately as well; one of the now wanted former Enforcers from the PTAA; Josiah Colt, AKA Avatar. “What do you want?” He demanded, standing.

“You’re a man of talent.” Colt crunched into the apple and took his time chewing. “My employers appreciate that in a person. They think it should be rewarded.”

“Then what do your employers want?” Abscondro growled.

“They want me to extend a job offer to you.” Colt replied. “There are… very convincing rewards for taking it.”

“I’m not in this for money.”

“Who said money? My guys have been in the information business since World War Two. They know a lot of things that will definitely get your attention.” Colt smiled. “Stick with us and you’ll have the information and means to steal the Rio Grande if you wanted to.”

End Issue #35

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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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