Issue #39: Descendants 2095

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

Part 2

Warrick playfully flicked the young girl across the ear and sat up all the way. “Don’t call your brothers that. If you’re smart enough to know what a doppelganger is, you should be smart enough to know not to call people names, pipsqueak.”

The irony was not lost on her. She fixed her father with a glare, and then gestured to her height, which was closing on five-five at only twelve. “Hello. Earth to dad; not a pipsqueak anymore.” She made a face at him. “By next year, I’m going to be taller than you. Just like mom.”

“That would be where you got it.” He smiled. It was also where she got her utter fearlessness and spunk too. “Now go down, get your breakfast and let me get dressed, ‘kay pipsqueak?”

Her nose wrinkled in faux rage. “Dad!”

“Okay, okay. Get you breakfast and let me get dressed, Abby.” He rolled his eyes. “Is that good enough or are you going to insist on Abigail?”

She gave him one of her sweetest smiles. “Love you Daddy.”

“Love you too, pipsqueak, now shoo, I’ve got to get ready if anyone’s getting driven anywhere today.”

With a laugh, the girl scampered out of the room. Warrick shook his head and chuckled. It made sense, given that every other woman in his life enjoyed being difficult, his daughter would as well. He’d learned to enjoy the game over twenty years ago and wasn’t feeling it wear thin yet.

***

A shower and a change of clothes later and Warrick found himself heading into the kitchen. Abby had beaten him there, naturally and was already working on a stack of pancakes with eggs and sausage on the side. The twins, Dominic and Corbin, were racing each other to see who could finish their cereal first. Both of them sported their black hair long as they’d refused to let it be cut.

“Whoa, guys, slow down.” Warrick said, laying a hand on each boy’s shoulder. Dom kept shoveling while Cory turned to beam at him with an oat ‘O’ stuck to his chin.

“You’re having the same luck I did.” Warrick glanced up and caught the eye of his wife of over a decade. Meghan Kaine nee Rockwell was six two with long, dark brown hair that reached down to her waist and a round, cherubic face. She had the panel open on her artificial left arm, fiddling with the diagnostics as she sat at the head of the table. “After this box is gone, I swear, no cereal. They can’t race with bacon.”

“Yes we can.” Dom nodded exuberantly and displayed his empty bowl like a trophy. “And I’ll win that too.”

“No one wins if mom blows a fuse.” Warrick informed him, taking the empty bowl to the washer. “Finish your milk.”

The boy scowled at the glass of milk he’d been ignoring. “But there was milk in the cereal!”

“More will be good for you.” Warrick gave him a level look until he reluctantly started drinking. Cory of course was doing all of it without asking. He’s never decided if Dom acted up because Cory was a goodie two-shoes or if Cory acted so sweetly because his brother was a rebel.

Assured that the kids were all being fed and that his wife had a finished plate of her own in the washer, Warrick started on some eggs for himself. “So a little birdie told me you have a call at the lab?”

Meghan gave her daughter a sidelong glance and got an angelic smile in response. “Oh? Well the same little bird said that you were busy.”

Warrick set to scrambling his eggs, laughing. “Busy trying to get up, maybe. Seriously, I’m free until noon; it’s one of the perks of herodom. So what’s up at the lab?”

Satisfied with her adjustments, Meghan closed the panel on her arm. It sealed without leaving a seam visible. “Something that may make your line of work a little safer.” She gave him a warm smile. “Dr. Drew’s team thinks they’re ready for net testing of the Paladin data-vaccine. With luck, we’ll have every computer on the internet immunized against Viral before he manages to pull himself back together again.”

An equally warm smile spread across Warrick’s face. He turned the heat down low on his breakfast and went over to give her an affectionate hug and kiss.

“Ew.” Abby said. “Please, not at the table. I just ate.”

“One day.” Warrick said, heading back to finish cooking. “I’m going to be seeing you kissing some boy and I’m going to have the exact same reaction.”

The twins looked mortified by the idea. “Who’d wanna kiss a girl?” Cory grimaced.

“Who’d wanna kiss a sister?” Dominic added. “Sisters are extra girly.”

Meghan stifled a laugh as she got up and crossed the kitchen floor to her husband. “And as much as I’d love to watch you have to deal with the cootie talk that’s to come, I really have to go now. One for the road?” She got another kiss before heading out, leaving her children in her husband’s capable hands.

Once she was gone and his breakfast was done, Warrick sat down to eat. He always seemed to be last to eat, due in no small part to the fact that he’d fixed it so that he didn’t have to show up for work until noon and thus could afford to sleep late.

“Okay, kids, so both your mom and I are going to be working late, so Cousin Zoë is going to pick you up from school, okay? Be go—“

“Aunt Zoë?” Abby whined. “Not her, she’s so mean! She hates kids, you know? Can’t we stay with Aunt Talia instead? She’s way more fun.”

“Or Uncle JC? He promised to take us flying in his plane next time we visit!” Dominic asked excitedly.

“Sorry ‘squeaks, but Tammy’s working with me and your uncle JC is in California right now.” Warrick said. “Besides, Zoë loves you guys. She’s not mean, she’s just strict.”

“Same thing.” Abby pouted.

“I’m sure you can debate that with her until I pick you three up at eight.” Warrick said.

***

Some time later, Warrick found himself in what felt like an entirely different world without even leaving the city. He hadn’t gone far from Freeland House; attending college at Dayspring and living most of the time after that in an apartment in Prosperity Heights until finally settling down back in the Hills with Meghan and the kids. It was an idyllic life for them, one he and Meghan worked hard to keep reasonably normal for the kids.

The Union of Heroes Headquarters was not normal. It was, in fact, the exact opposite: a sloped tower that hovered one hundred feet over the St. Anne River. It was a fully functional small town in and of itself with laboratories and workshops to maintain the bleeding edge technology required by those it supported as well as apartments, garages restaurants and convenience stores for those super powered heroes that chose to give up on ‘normal’ entirely and live there.

Warrick was in the saucer shaped upper deck where all the public events, meetings and administration went on. He was looking at one of many display cases meant to commemorate the grand history of the Union.

Behind a standing force field stronger than steel was a statue of seven people locked in a pose Warrick knew they’d never struck and likely would never have a chance to.

“So which ‘N’ words should I be using here, big brother?” A voice came from behind him. “Nostalgic or Narcissistic?” Warrick turned away from the Descendants display and gave his little sister a smile.

Talia—she hadn’t let anyone call her Tammy since she’d turned twenty—Kaine was in full costume; a purple body suit with silver lighting bolts on her chest and arms, a matching cape with more silver lightening patterns, and a set of heavy, tungsten bracers on her arms. A domino mask did a poor job of hiding her identity, especially with her long, red-brown hair running wild almost to her waist.

He shrugged and smirked. “You know me, I’m always nostalgic and always the fan-boy. Hell, I still get excited like a kid on Christmas when I get to work with ‘Coat.”

Talia stuck out her tongue at him. “Nerd.” She gestured for him to follow her as she headed for one of the elevators. “So how come no costume today? Did I miss a mind-memo from Ephemeral?”

“I actually just forgot all about it.” Warrick said, falling in beside her. “Meghan got called to the lab and I had to take the kids to school… I never got around to swinging by the house again. Oh! I know you’ll be glad to hear; it looks like Paladin’s made it to the next testing phase.”

An involuntary shiver went down Talia’s spine. “Thank God. I sometimes still have nightmares about the last time he emerged. Almost as bad as the whole Fallen Angel thing.” She shivered again. “Jeez, it’s almost been twenty years and that one still creeps me out.”

They reached the elevator and Talia set it toward the food service floor. “Speaking of, have you heard from Ian lately? You’re the only one he talks to and like five people had asked about him this week alone.”

Frowning at the mention, Warrick shook his head. “Not since we closed the White World rift in Santa Monica. I could tell it really bothered him that Darkness didn’t come…”

“Of course she didn’t come; she’s retired to teaching full time, duh.” Talia rolled her eyes. “Do you want me to call him? Because jeez; how is it that she’s the one that died and somehow he’s the one that doesn’t have a life anymore?”

“This is why you’re not a shrink, sparky.” Warrick gently elbowed her as the elevator doors opened. Around them was essentially a mall food court, but in addition to the fast food, there were a few exceedingly nice sit down restaurants represented as well. It was a special perk all eighty members of the Union and their families and friends ate at any of them for free thanks to a generous yearly grant from Brant Industries.

They got out as Warrick continued. “He still puts a lot of the blame on that whole thing on himself. He thinks that if he’d gone after her instead of listening to her and going for Richter, this all could have turned out differently.”

“Haven’t Templeton Turner’s constant failures at trying to screw up the time stream taught us all that you can’t change the past?” Talia frowned. “So where do you wanna eat? I’m thinking spicy; maybe Indian…”

“I can go for that.” Warrick agreed, walking with her down the ramp from the elevators.

“Maybe you can give him a call and tell him about the Paladin thing.” Talia snapped back to the subject at hand. “Viral thinks that he’s his nemesis or whatever; that’ll at least give him a happy thought.”

That made sense. Warrick nodded. “Yeah, I think I’ll do it as soon as I get home. I’ve heard we’ve got a mission coming up. Hear anything about it?”

“Not a word, but I did see them gassing up the Javelin when I came in. So if we’re going somewhere, it’s not local.”

“Great.” Warrick sighed. “I guess I better call Meghan and make sure she’s not working late. Otherwise, the kids are going to have to spend the night over at Zoë’s.”

“I cannot believe you trust her with your kids.” Talia rounded on him. “For God’s sake, War, she was a villain. And not the bumbling, cute kind like the Brothers Steel. She’s killed people.”

“She’s changed.” Warrick said firmly. “And I wish you should just drop it; she’s family.”

“Blood is not thick enough for that.” Talia shook her head violently. “What? Are you scared your spinster sister isn’t responsible enough with the kids?”

“You’re right here!” Warrick defended. “How can you watch the kids when you’re going to the same place I’m going?”

“Oh.” Talia blinked. “Right. Okay, what about JC?”

“In LA with Lisa working on setting up the West Wizards Tower.” He anticipated the next question, “Kay’s with them. Remember? Headmistress.”

“Those poor kids.” Talia shook her head.

“Warrick!” The voice came across the lightly populated food court from one of the exits leading off to other parts of the complex. It was a voice most people would run away from, all base and gravel. The Kaine siblings looked up to see a great, shaggy gorilla knuckling toward them in a tailored suit, followed by another familiar face. Lucian, the Ape Knight and Cyn were making their way over.

Warrick nodded to Cyn and addressed the Ape Knight. “Lucian, it’s been a while.” He still wasn’t used to Lucian’s recent transformation from humanoid orangutan to gorilla at the hands of a sorcerer trying to copy-cat Morganna’s history, but he didn’t let it show on his face.

Lucian gave him a stoic nod. “It has, my friend. And it likely would have been had not Cyn and Kay asked for my help moving Kay out of the Headquarters. However, that is not why we made such haste to meet you.”

Cyn shook her head. She had refused to let her age show from the moment she turned eighteen and so looked half the age of her best friends and like she could be the child of any of the older former Descendants. “We heard buzz.”

“Buzz?” Talia asked.

“Buzz.” Cyn nodded her head violently.

“What kind of… buzz?” Warrick asked carefully.

“We were having lunch.” Lucian said. “And some of the docking station engineers were having a conversation nearby. I am not one to eavesdrop, but—“

“I’m really nosy.” Cyn said proudly. “Anyway, they were talking about a space shot coming in… from Europe.”

“Please be Voice.” Warrick closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Europe doesn’t mean England. It could be Voice; it could be any of the Guardians of the Realm…”

Cyn frowned sympathetically. “No, I think it’s Metal X. And, before you get your hopes up, I don’t think it’s Randolph “Nearly-Killed-You-Five-Times” Woo either. I think it’s the “Your-Ex-Fiancé-Who-Nearly-Broke-You-And-Meg-Up” Metal X. You know the one you’d probably like to see least right now.”

“Oh.” Talia nodded. “Metal X II”

Warrick tried to find the words to reply to this, but eventually gave up. “Lucian. Let’s get a drink.”

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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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