Issue #37 – Of a Feather

This entry is part 1 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 4: Confluence

“Thanks again for coming with me.” Warrick said to Tink as they got out of his car in the ConquesTech underground parking garage. He couldn’t help but notice what a seamless repair job the contractors had done following the damage done to it in June when Morganna and a group of demons from Faerie had attacked it. Remembering he wasn’t alone, he offered a fond smile to Tink as he came around the car to her. “I know you don’t like this, so it means a lot to have you here.”

Tink shook her head as she took his hand. “It isn’t that I don’t like this… it’s just that I don’t understand it. Elizabeth did a horrible thing to you, starting that rumor about you abandoning her at the LoA concert. No matter what she’s been through since then doesn’t change that.” The pair started walking toward the elevator. “That fact that they’ve pushed back the visit you were supposed to make in August to now – October – isn’t helping.”

“I guess it might sound silly or even stupid to you…” Warrick said, “but I kind of feel like what happened to her is kind of my fault.” He shook his head to stop Tink from protesting. “I know it’s not all my fault. But I can’t help but think she wouldn’t have tried that treatment if she hadn’t thought I abandoned her.”

“It’s not silly or stupid, but I do think it’s wrong. Elizabeth had issues long before you even came to Mayfield. Lily and her crew picked on her constantly and she wasn’t the type to make friends in the first place. She would have done this with or without you.”

“Maybe she would have.” Warrick hit the up button on the elevator, “And maybe she wouldn’t. In the end, maybe it doesn’t even matter. But what would it do to her to go through all this and still not have anyone but her brother in her corner?”

Tink looked at him in silence for a long time as they waited for the elevator. As the doors opened, she spoke again, “Sometimes I forget that you really are just this… good.” She smiled at him warmly. “I’m sorry.”

Warrick looked confused and worried at this. “Huh? Why?”

“You don’t know?” She smiled more at this. Of course he wouldn’t know; it wasn’t how he thought. When he shook his head, she explained. “I’ve been so bothered about this because you’re basically taking me to see your ex-girlfriend. But that isn’t what you see at all is it? You’re just worried about some girl that doesn’t have any friends.”

Still not knowing if he should be defending himself or not, Warrick erred on the side of caution. “We never even finished that first date.” He chose the fifth floor on the control panel for the elevator. “And she asked me out, ya know?”

Suppressing a laugh, Tink leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “I know.”

***

Juniper squeezed her eyes tightly and tried to ignore the pain in her arms as the wind tore at the cloak that was a signature part of her Zero costume. It took a lot to rattle her and this was definitely a lot. “We could have taken my bike.” She mewled.

Facsimile scoffed at the very idea. “And make me ride on the back? Fat chance. Besides, you know you can’t be Zero and ride around on Juniper’s very recognizable flying motorcycle with Juniper’s plates on it.” She was flying while carrying Zero under the arms like a small child carrying a cat.

“But Ms… I mean Codex is working on that.” Zero replied. “We could have walked in the meantime.”

“You know we can’t cover nearly as much ground on foot.” Facsimile dropped into a long glide, “We wouldn’t need to do this if you just learned how to make ice slides.”

Ice – at least the ice she made – didn’t work that way. Zero knew this and she was pretty sure Facsimile knew too, or at least would if she wasn’t such a devout worshiper of television.. Nonetheless, she took the path of least resistance. “I’m sorry.” She said, “I just can’t. I don’t think my powers do that.”

“No sweat, Z.” Facsimile said happily. “That’s why you’ve got me to fly ya places, no?”

Zero managed a nervous laugh. “C-could we land for a little bit, please? We’ve been flying for a long time now and my arms are getting tired.”

Snerking at what she thought was a joke on Zero’s part; Facsimile took them down to the roof of a strip mall. “Nothing like a brisk patrol in the a.m. to start the weekend, huh?” She stretched her arms, back and wings before taking a seat on the edge of the roof.

A nod was all Zero could manage as she tried to work the cramp out of her shoulders.

If Facsimile noticed the other girl’s discomfort, she didn’t show it. “So, plans for tonight: Adel?”

Zero shook her head. “No, he’s going to one of his brother’s away games again and I wasn’t really up for going this time.”

“Trouble in bored-adise?” Facsimile turned on her perch and raised a golden eyebrow sympathetically.

“N-no!” Zero said all too quickly. “No. Everything’s fine, really. And he’s not boring. He’s just… not like other boys is all. He doesn’t need to be loud or outgoing, he’s just… nice.” Zero stammered her way out of Facsimile’s question. She really didn’t know how to explain why she liked Adel, she just did. But that would never be enough to satisfy her friend and she knew it.

“Glad you can tell.” Facsimile shrugged. “So if you’re not going out with Adel, you wanna go bowling with me and Kay tonight? We’re working on a new song for Snackrifice.”

“A song about bowling? That sounds nice.” Zero smiled.

“Uh… no.” Facsimile gave her friend and incredulous look. “Why would anyone write a song about bowling?”

“I would.” Zero said shyly, “If I knew how to write songs. It’s never been done before and that’s a shame.”

“You can’t possibly be serious.”

“Oh, I am though.” Zero nodded tentatively. “There’s songs about football and baseball and basketball – it doesn’t seem fair that bowling doesn’t get a song when all the other sports have a bunch.”

Facsimile fixed Zero with a long gaze. “We’re not writing a bowling song.”

“I’m going to bring it up with Kay.” Zero seemed not to hear her declaration. “I’m sure she’ll think it’s a good idea.” She got starry eyed beneath her half mask. “Imagine how famous Snackrifice would be if you guys do the world’s first popular bowling song!”

“They’re a rock band!” Facsimile protested.

“What does that have to do with anything?” The question was utterly innocent coming from Zero.

“Because…” Facsimile started, and then stopped. Adjusting her auditory nerve and ear shape, she listened more carefully. There it was again, squealing tires and car horns, ten blocks away. “Never mind, we’ve got to fly – there’s trouble.”

“Fly?” Zero asked in a small voice.

***

At that moment, ten blocks away, hands covered in slick, black chitin gripped the wheel of a stolen humvee. The owner of those hands was similarly covered in the same black bug-armor with the joints exposing sickly pale flesh. Spikes over his shoulder blades steadily chewed up the seat back as he steered the car.

The roof in back of the truck had been ripped off to allow a nine-foot tall giant of a man with blue skin tattooed with darker blue swirls to sit semi-comfortably with his knees drawn up to his chest and a hand on his chin. He was dressed in long jeans and no shirt.

The middle seat was taken up by a woman in her early twenties with an olive complexion and long black hair. One would scarcely notice those attributes for the patches of dark green scales sprouting at random on her face, neck and all four of her arms or the eight foot serpentine coil that took the place of her legs. She was in the process of fumbling with the clasps of a bulletproof vest, fouled largely due to the knuckle dusters she wore on each hand.

“Can you help us with this, Anura?” she asked the final member of the group, a blond pony-tailed woman in the passenger seat who, like the giant, was forced to fold her legs up to her chest. Even though the rest of her body being of a normal height.

The blond, Anura, turned in her seat and pegged the other woman with a frustrated look. “Kali, you could do it yourself if you didn’t put the stupid brass knuckles on first.” Her voice was thick and clumsy sounding. The snake woman gave her a wide eyed, pathetic look. “Fine.” Anura sighed, reaching out with long, flattened fingers to help close up the vest.

“Thank, Anura.” Kali said sweetly.

“I could have helped.” The blue giant said.

“You just want to cop a feel, Kronos.” Kali grinned at him.

“I still would have helped in the process.” He sniffed, putting a hand in from of his face to shield him from the wind. “Or I would have if I wasn’t blinded by the wind. Geiger, can we please slow down? Just because I’m invulnerable doesn’t mean this wind is necessarily comfortable.”

The bug-armored man weaved in and out of traffic, causing the wheels to scream again and causing the car he cut off to slam on their brakes. “No can do, big man. We’re on a schedule. Well, we were on a schedule before Mari couldn’t find her vest.”

“Kali.” Kali protested. “We’re on a mission, so you call me Kali, Geiger. You don’t hear me calling you Jordan, do you?”

“Fine.” Geiger steered past a truck, which blared its horn in response to his dangerous driving. “The point is that we’re trying to get there before the guard change. We get there past eleven and we’re going to have fresh and sharp eyed guards to deal with instead of night shift zombies.”

“And that could lead to all kinds of problems.” Kronos added. “People could be killed.”

“Except you.” Kali pointed out.

“Yes, but I’d miss any one of you dearly.” The giant of a man finally just closed his eyes against the wind. “And I don’t really want any guards getting killed either.”

“I hope bruising still okay.” Kali said, cracking four sets of knuckles.

“You and me both, sis.” Anura said, still turned around in her seat.

***

“So how are we going to stop them?” Zero asked, once more being carried under her arms high over the light morning traffic.

Facsimile frowned down at the mutilated humvee recklessly dodging through traffic. “I don’t even know if we should.” She says, “They’re really just driving like jerks – we’re super heroes, not traffic cops.”

“But they could hurt someone… or themselves.” Zero reasoned.

“I know.” Facsimile said, locking her wings into a glide. “That’s why we’re going to follow them in case there’s an accident. And we’re going to tell them exactly what the Descendants think of their driving when they stop.”

Zero nodded her agreement of the idea. “I wonder where they’re going in such a hurry anyway.”

***

“Thank you for coming.” An older man in a button down shirt and khakis said as Warrick and Tink cleared the security office in the main research building at ConquesTech. “My name is Dr. Cedric Linus, Miss von Stoker’s personal care consultant.”

“Thanks for letting us come.” Warrick replied, taking Tink’s hand as they followed Dr. Linus.

“Don’t thank me, thank the Descendants. They’re the ones that lobbied us to allow Miss von Stoker visitors outside her immediate family. My professional opinion was against it.” Dr. Linus replied flatly.

“Why’s that?” Tink looked around the corridor he was leading them down, trying to commit the path to memory in case she decided to leave early.

“Patient, doctor privilege.” Dr. Linus replied. “If she wishes for you to know, I’m certain that Miss von Stoker will tell you… or you may see for yourself regardless. I have some ground rules for this visit that I expect both of you to adhere to. If you don’t I will terminate this, celebrity endorsement or no.”

“Okay.” Warrick said nervously. “We can play by the rules. What are they?”

“Under no circumstances will you relate any news of the outside world that may shock or otherwise upset Miss von Stoker, nor are you allowed under any circumstances to antagonize or arouse her.”

“Arouse?” Warrick and Tink queried as one. When they realized that the other had said the same thing, they blushed in unison as well.

“What kind of visit do you think this is, doc?” Warrick asked.

“It’s better to state the rule rather than simply assume it won’t come up.” Dr. Linus spared them a glance back as he submitted his hand to a biometrics scan at an elevator. He clearly regarded them as nothing more than two stupid teenagers.

The elevator opened and all three got in.

“Okay, got it.” Warrick said, “What else?”

“If Miss von Stoker begins exhibiting any unusual behavior, you are expected to terminate the meeting and leave the room immediately. This is for your own safety.”

Warrick already knew why these precautions were in place from intel Laurel had recovered about Elizabeth von Stoker’s condition; that the mood swings and superhuman ability she had gained from the botched treatment for her protomorphism were becoming more rare, but still persisted. They emerged when she was extremely stressed, physically or emotionally.

Still, he had to keep up appearances. “Shouldn’t we know what we’re getting into here, doc?”

Dr. Linus gave him a disapproving glance as they exited the elevator and stepped into what looked like a high-security lab facility. The hallway was lined with recessed, reinforced doors protected by biometric scanners and blast doors ready to seal any section of the hall at a moment’s notice.

“Right.” Tink said for Warrick. “Patient doctor privilege.”

Without confirming this, Dr. Linus bought them before one of the doors and submitted to yet another hand and retina scan. The reinforced, titanium door hissed as its pneumatic seals depressurized and slid open. “In here.” He instructed.

Beyond the door was a semicircular room, furnished with two hard, plastic chairs, a large clear window, and a metal desk built into the wall below the window. The window itself opened up onto what looked like a small, but comfortable bedroom, sporting a bed, desk, vanity, and a television. It was a lived in space that seemed to perfectly contrast with the stark observation room.

Sitting in a computer chair, expectantly watching the door leading into the observation room was a young woman with crimson skin, wings that at the moment haphazardly draped over the back of her chair and a long, thick tail that twitched uncontrollably in her impatience – Elizabeth von Stoker.

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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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