Issue #37 – Of a Feather

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

Part 2

“Warrick.” Elizabeth said pleasantly as she saw him come in. “And… Tina.” She couldn’t keep her voice from betraying her surprise. Recovering quickly she added, “I didn’t expect to see you here.” She knew Tink from a few classes, but the two have never been closer than that.

Tink made sure she had Warrick’s hand in hers. “I’m here for moral support.” She reported.

Elizabeth nodded. As she did, she noticed the tension on both their faces. “You’ve talked with Dr. Linus, I guess?”

They both nodded.

“You really don’t have to worry; he’s just cautious. They’ve got my powers nearly stable. Really.” She tried to give them a smile, realized that this meant baring her fangs, and stopped herself. “It’s okay, have a seat. I’m not dangerous.”

Warrick insisted on not letting anything unnerve him and did so, coaxing Tink into the chair beside him. “Yeah, sorry about that, what with what he said, and this… cell… thing… We didn’t know what to expect.”

Elizabeth’s wings twitched. “I understand, but most of this was my idea. They don’t think I’m strong enough to break out of the regular containment, but I’m… kind of cautious. I don’t want to hurt anyone if I become the Freaque again.”

Giving Warrick a nervous, sidelong glance, Tink voiced her concern. “So you still…”

“Well, Dr. Linus told you. If I get really angry, or… uh…” If she wasn’t already red, she would have blushed, “Excited. Things sort of go weird with my body chemistry. I’m really not myself when that happens and it really scares me. That’s why I haven’t come back to school.”

“Lily.” Warrick and Tink said in stereo.

“She really does completely lack self preservation skills.” Warrick agreed.

“Right.” Elizabeth relaxed as she sensed less tension in the two. “But enough about me – I heard the Descendants swung this for you. Have you met them again since… you know…” She meant the concert, during which Alloy had informed her, he had asked Warrick to make sure everyone got to safety, inadvertently making it look as if Warrick had abandoned her in a time of crisis.

“Seems like all the time.” Tink stepped in, not wanting the conversation to even brush against the concert. “This spring, Warrick got mind controlled along with a bunch of other guys, including Alloy. I actually had to help stop Alloy from doing some things he would have regretted.”

True to his past dabbling in acting, Warrick nodded in agreement. “Makes me sad I didn’t get to see it. Seriously, what’s cooler than my girlfriend taking down the toughest prelate in the world.” He allowed himself that little bit of narcissism. “And that’s not even the last time Tink’s run into Alloy. Tell him about the time the Descendants were fighting monsters at Dayspring and Alloy swung you home.”

“That’s… pretty much all there is to tell, Warrick.” Tink laughed awkwardly.

“I wonder how many people have been saved twice by the same prelate.” Elizabeth wondered aloud. It felt like ages since she’d gotten to talk to people her own age and despite the subject being extraordinary, the act of discussing it made her feel almost normal. “Think you have some competition, Warrick?”

Now there was an idea, Warrick thought; his girlfriend and his alter ego ‘sneaking’ around behind his back. There were so many sly comments he just couldn’t make without blowing his cover. “Not at all.” He replied, realizing that he was taking too long to respond, “I mean the guy keeps his visor down for a reason, right? I’m thinking serious handsomeness deficiency.” He combed his fingers through his hair and made eyes at Tink.

“Right.” Tink giggled, “No one beats you in that department.”

“Still, it’s not like I can compete in the ‘has super powers’ category/” Warrick pointed out.

“Trust me, not all super powers are all they’re cracked up to be.” Elizabeth said, in better humor about her situation than she’d ever been when she was just the girl with bone spurs growing form her arms.

Tink was about to agree when she was cut off by a klaxon horn and red lights coming on along the ceiling of the conjoined rooms. “What’s going on?” She asked instead.

“I don’t know; this hasn’t happened before.” Elizabeth got to her feet and looked around nervously.

A male voice came from a speaker concealed in the room. “Attention all personnel. There is a Code 12 security situation. The campus is not in—“There was a thud and a groan.

A new voice took over for the previous one. “He was going to say that you’re on lockdown. But I think we all knew that.” In the background, there was gunfire and what sounded like explosions. “The plans have changed though. Listen up, ConquesTech; the name’s Geiger and we’re the Outliers. We make it our business to protect out fellow freaks from exploiters like you pricks. We’ve got good intel that you’ve got our girl, the original Freaque held against her will in your labs.”

There were more sounds of battle as he continued.

“So it’s up to you. One minute to think, two minutes to respond, Mr. Mendel. Free the Freaque or we come in and get her. And no one wants that, ‘cause it won’t be pretty. Geiger out.”

Both Warrick and Tink glanced at Elizabeth, who shrank form their stares. “I have no idea who they are.” She said, “I don’t want to leave here… I’m not ready.”

Tink pursed her lips. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe the other girl; she just wasn’t sure if they should get involved. Of course, she knew what her boyfriend would say, and knew that, if only for that fact, it was the right thing to do. So she beat him to the punch. “Don’t worry, Elizabeth. We’ll think of something.”

***

Some time earlier, Zero and Facsimile lighted upon the top of an office building and watched the vehicle filled with odd looking psionics roll up to the main gate of the ConquesTech business campus.

“Oh man, I was hoping not to even get near this place today.” Facsimile groaned.

“How come?” Zero asked, once more trying to work the cramps out of her arms. “Warrick and Tink are visiting Elizabeth von Stoker today.”

“Because Warrick and Tink are visiting Elizabeth von Stoker today, duh.” Facsimile replied. Zero gave her a blank look. She really shouldn’t have expected Zero to get it with such a simple explanation. She decided to explain in better detail.

“Every time Warrick tries to do his romance thing, I somehow end up nearby and looking like a freaky stalker.”

“Oooooh, like the time we got Ladies of Armageddon tickets so you could stalk him and Elizabeth?” Zero asked with complete innocence.

The innocent act was becoming increasingly grating on Facsimile as it was becoming less and less certain to her that it was an act at all. “I was not stalking. I was just worried is all.”

“And the time we followed him and the other guys to that dojo because you thought they were being taken over by something?” Zero added.

“Okay, that so doesn’t count because they really were under mind control.” Facsimile snapped.

“And that time at the beach?” Zero asked, still without a hint of accusation in her voice.

“That was a coincidence!”

“Uh-oh… this looks like it could be bad.” Zero was looking down at the security gate where the car full of psionics had stopped. “I don’t think they’re here for that Become More treatment.”

Facsimile looked down just in time to see the snake-girl surge out of the vehicle to deliver a double left cross to the face of the security officer.

***

One moment, Geiger had been leaning over to find the forged guest placard he needed to give to the security officer. The next, Mariposa, or Kali as she had chosen to be called, had screamed that the guard was on to them and used every muscle in her scaly tail to throw herself into punching range of him.

The dual left crosses connected just as Geiger’s hand found the placard under the seat. Nothing ever went smoothly. Why couldn’t one thing go smoothly just once?

He knew the answer to that. It was because Mari was part of the plan and Mari’s involvement could keep peanut butter from being smooth. Not that he could cut her out of any of his plans; he and Mariposa had grown up on the same street before they’d developed their powers, had gained their powers in the same year, and had been the best of friends the entire time.

As far back as when they were seven, Mari was a bruiser, tried and true, answering every problem with her fists instead of her head. Growing two more fists and a snake tail capable of crushing cement had only served to encourage her in her belief that violence was most certainly the answer.

All of which meant that Geiger already knew that his best laid, non-violent plans would eventually become a brawl upon first contact with Mari. He shifted gears in his plan flawlessly with only a single expletive muttered in Mari’s direction.

“Kronos, Anura, get the gate. I’ll take the other guy in the security hut. Kali, watch our backs.” He said all this as he unbuckled his seatbelt and pulled himself out the driver’s side window.

“You got it.” Anura pulled something out of the bandoleer across her chest; it looked like some form of birth control device, only with a blunt, metal tip; and put it into her mouth. Working her jaw, she opened the car door and stepped out, giving a smug, wide mouthed grin to the security guards coming to defend the gate on the other side.

The next moment, she snapped her head toward the top of the gate. Her tongue shot out, stretching easily to the height of the gate and covered in a prophylactic of thick, red latex. The metal stud rang as the appendage wrapped around the top of the gate. With another grin at the guards, she reeled in her tongue, launching herself up and over gate.

The guards fired on her. At this stage of the game, Geiger had assured her, the guards would only be using specialized foam ‘non-lethal’ bullets, but Anura didn’t take that chance. As she reached her apogee, she tucked in her overly long legs and rolled herself into a ball to make the smallest target possible.

She landed amid the guards in a handstand. Before her powers had manifested, she had been slated to be on the US Olympic gymnastics team. One dream scratched, but if it hadn’t happened, she never would have met up with Geiger and his friends.

Anura put her gymnastics training along with her incredibly strong legs to good use now, kicking out and tumbling as she made her way through the guards on the other side.

While all that was happening, Kronos took the direct approach. Standing up in the humvee, he pushed off and jumped. The tires blew out in the car, but the plan called for taking Lester Mendel’s private helicopter anyway.

He hit the Gate with his full weight and used the leverage, along with his considerable strength to rip it down. The gate tore out of its metal moorings with sounds like explosions.

“Gentlemen.” Kronos addressed the men not currently entangled with Anura; He made a show of bending the ruined gate even further beyond recognition just in case they doubted his strength. “I highly suggest you put your weapons down and let us go on about our business.”

“How about that; big blue dude that’s polite and thoughtful. So original.” Facsimile collided with Kronos’s back, only to find that her full speed impact didn’t even make him waver. Instead, she bounced off him and landed on the ground with the remains of the main gate.

“The ‘big blue dude’.” Kronos made his disdain for this characterization clear, “Is also invulnerable; rating a nine point three on the Riker Scale of Psionic Resilience.” He turned to face Facsimile. “Not to mention that I am on the side of right in this instance, Miss Facsimile.”

“Being wordy isn’t helping the case of your unoriginality, Blue Boy. “ Facsimile kipped up and extruded diamond hard claws.

“I hardly care about originality, but seeing as you do, I suggest using better insults than Blue Boy.” He suddenly noticed something. “Kali, didn’t Geiger tell you to watch our backs?”

Kali, by this time, had surged into battle beside Anura, delivering punches and tail slaps with wild abandon. “Huh?” She grabbed a guard by the collar and threw him into one of his fellows. “Sorry, I forgot. I’ll take on the gold chick now–” She started to slither forward when she hit a patch of ice and slid headlong into the wall of the security hut.

“That was good comedic timing, Z!” Facsimile said, giving her partner standing behind the humvee a thumbs up.

Zero smiled at the approval, but the good feeling was short lived as the door to the security hut swung open to reveal Geiger in his chitinous glory. “Time’s running out, Kronos, they’re not listening so it’s time…” it was around this time that he registered the presence of Facsimile and Zero.

“Time to change plans.” Kronos finished for him. “But plan B is out. We’ve got prelates to worry about, Geiger.”

Facsimile took a defensive stance that kept the two protomorphs in her field of vision. “Geiger? I don’t get it.”

“Didn’t Codex give Alloy a vintage movie poster with something that looked like him on it for Christmas?” Zero suggested.

“Wrong Geiger.” The man said, holding a hand out toward Facsimile. There was no flashy explosion of energy, but the golden heroine did suddenly feel like she was burning on the inside. Shifting wildly to avoid the attack, she screamed in pain. “I really hate doing this.” Geiger admitted. ”But a fellow freak needs the help of the Outliers. Kronos, go.”

The azure titan nodded and pounded off toward the lab complex.

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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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