Issue #39: Descendants 2095

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

Part 3

Moments later, the quartet of veteran heroes were sitting around a table at Wade’s, being served their drinks. Wade’s was only one of three bars in the Headquarters facility and the only one that served as a night club at night. It was also the favorite among the actual members of the Union.

“Excuse me.” Warrick said to the waiter. “This is just coke. I asked for a rum and coke.”

The waiter, one of the few who had been at Wade’s throughout it’s five year existence, looked at the heroes that came and went like any other customers. He didn’t bat an eyelash at a complaint from one of the founding members of the Union. “You know the rules, Alloy. Your card says you’re on active duty, so no alcohol.” He was used to these kinds of complaints, albeit not from Warrick.

“What about them?” Warrick asked, indicating Cyn and Lucian who had a whiskey sour and a glass of chardonnay respectively. “They’re on duty too.”

“There’s an exception for people with enhanced toxin resistance.” The waiter didn’t miss a beat. “You had a hand writing those rules.”

Defeated, Warrick nodded and sank back in his chair. “Right… yeah, okay. Sorry.” The waiter only nodded and went back to the bar.

“Don’t look at me.” Talia said. “I ordered cranberry juice.”

Lucian cleared his throat, a sound like a dump truck full of gravel turning over, and took a sip of wine before speaking. “This Metal X person has you more upset than I’ve ever seen you my friend. And yet I’ve never heard the story. Perhaps speaking of it will put your soul at ease.”

“You, uh… never met her, Lucian.” Warrick took a gulp of soda, hoping it would settle his stomach. “This was before Lightning Night and you coming back to Mayfield for good.”

“Don’t’ feel bad though.” Talia said, “I didn’t hear about it for the longest time either.”

“You were fifteen.” Warrick said. “Like I was going to talk relationship issues with my kid sister.”

Talia smirked. “Sure about the break-up, but I didn’t even hear about the engagement until it was already over.”

“I think I was the only one that really knew about it.” Cyn belted down her whiskey. “And don’t say I didn’t warn you. Long distance relationships are hard enough without all the extra superhero complications people like us bring to the table.”

Lucian noted the increasingly sullen expression on Warrick’s face. “What happened?” He asked sympathetically.

Warrick sighed and rubbed his face. “Okay. It… this whole thing started way before the engagement. You know Randy Woo, Metal X?”

The gorilla-man nodded. “I was instrumental in capturing him when last he reared his foul head.”

Everyone at the table knew that. Warrick was just stalling to get his thoughts together. “Well this was the first time he showed up. He knew who I was and caught me alone. Well, not alone. He caught me with Tink—Tina.”

“That’s the girl we’re talking about.” Cyn related to Lucian.

Warrick only dipped his head to acknowledge this. “He stabbed her.” His voice strained. “He stabbed her with one of those nanite extrusions. I didn’t know that he didn’t hit anything vital at the time. I just knew I had to get the damn thing out of her.”

He took another gulp of soda. It wasn’t helping. “Turns out it was the worst thing I could do. The nanites…” A sigh escaped him and he rubbed his face again with both hands. “You’ve talked to Whitecoat, right? About how he got his powers?”

Lucian nodded.

“Yeah, well his were serendipity.” Warrick said. “His immune system… the fact that they were integrated into his spine; his situation is the only one where that could have worked. When I cut the spike, the nanites disassociated into Tina and ended up becoming essentially a nerve disease.”

He scowled, but continued. “She was in pain for months before Laurel and the ‘Coat built that control frame for her and she still had… probably has bad days when her body forgets to stop trying to reject the machines, or the machines change command frequencies.” He finished off his drink in one long gulp.

“She never said it, but I know she blamed me. Or, if she doesn’t, she should have.”

“That’s bull.” Cyn said. “You had no way of knowing what would have happened. You didn’t even know who Metal X was at the time.”

Talia nodded. “From how you talked about her back then and how brilliant she’s supposed to be with the Guardians, there’s no way she blamed you for anything.”

If he even noticed, Warrick didn’t address this. “Still, uh… senior year ended and by then, she was in the frame and feeling better. And she got into Cambridge.”

“I take it from your expression that you don’t mean Massachusetts.” Lucian noted.

“England.” Warrick shook his head. “It was her dream and I wasn’t going to stand in the way.”

“But…” Cyn stared at the bottom of her glass.

“But I didn’t want to lose her.” Warrick replied to the prompt. “So… I proposed.”

“Right before she was going to fly a whole ocean away.” said Cyn.

“I panicked.” Warrick defended halfheartedly. “The way I saw it, she only liked me because there wasn’t a better choice. Then she was going to England and going to college with all those really, really smart guys, and I wasn’t going to rate anymore.”

Talia and Cyn exchanged a frustrated look. “This coming from my brother.” Talia said to Lucian. “The PhD in Chemistry. The superhero with a Congressional Gold Medal and Presidentail Medal of Freedom. I had this same talk to him on his wedding day.”

Cyn nodded. “Tink knew at that point, by the way that he was Alloy. If that can’t measure up, the guys in Cambridge must be seriously packing.”

“Granted, everyone at this table has a Congressional Gold Medal.” Lucian pointed out. He continued to give Warrick his sympathies. “But as Cyn referred to this woman as your ex-fiancé, I take it that she accepted.”

“Yeah.” Warrick glanced over to the waiter, who nodded and went to fetch another glass of cola. “And we were going to get married. We talked to each other every night; we discussed how to make it work… We were going to wait until after school was done.”

He paused for the waiter to set a new drink before him and waited until he was out of earshot to continue. “And she was practicing. You know, at controlling the nanites with the frame. She wanted to start working with me when she came back to Mayfield for the holidays.”

“That sounds idyllic.” Lucian admitted. “It’s important for couples to share interests.” He noticed the puzzled looks Talia and Cyn were giving him and cleared his throat. “So I’ve read. I have many subscriptions to online periodicals.” Despite this not remedying the looks, he turned back to Warrick. “So what happened?”

Another shrug, another swallow of his drink. “What can I say? I was a stupid kid. I didn’t know what love was. About three months later, I realized I… I didn’t really love her.”

“Bullshit.” Cyn said grimly.

Now it was she who Lucian was questioning.

“You heard me.” She said. “It’s been a long, long time, but I still don’t believe that.” She turned her empty glass upside down on the table. “Because the next time we saw Tink, it was at Warrick and Meg’s engagement party.” A steely eyed gaze pinned Warrick. “And you almost went with her.”

“No I didn’t.” Warrick sputtered.

Cyn sighed. “Warrick, I may suck at my own love life, but you’re my best friend. I can tell these things. And you were.”

“Meg certainly saw something.” Talia backed Cyn up. “Remember how mad she got?

“It was nothing.” Warrick said. “Okay? You guys just got so used to pulling for me and her that…”

“You know what I think?” Cyn asked.

No one got to hear because all three of their cell phones warbled as one.

“Mission signal.” Talia took out her palmtop to give the waiter his tip. “You got lucky, big brother.”

“Oh, no he didn’t.” Cyn said. “When we get back; before Tink leaves, we’re having a talk, mister.”

“What purpose can this possibly serve?” Warrick got up from the table and checked his phone. “No matter how much you’d like us too, we aren’t getting back together. It’s been too long. And more importantly—far more importantly—I’ve got a wife and kids. You remember your godchildren, right?”

“This isn’t about getting you two back together.” Cyn scoffed.

“Then what is it about?”

“Something we’ve been saying we needed to give Ian that you need just as much: Closure.”

***

The Union of Heroes was run as a non-profit organization, funded by grants from Brant Industries as well as several other large concerns as well as the patents from all the devices and processes that were developed or derived in the course of combating the villains and otherworldly creatures that threatened the peace in North America. Like its sister organizations; notably the Guardians of the Realm in Europe, its main function was to monitor malicious activity and coordinate the powered response.

Members were only expected to respond to nearby calls if they were able, but Union policy maintained a force of heroes on the payroll to man the HQ. Some, like Cyn and until recently, Kay, did this in return for room and board at the tower itself.

As fully privileged and pensioned employees of the Union, people like Warrick and Talia were able to make their own hours and were first considered for choice missions. Occasionally, however, the directors would choose teams of five to seven for specific purposes and in those cases; the summons could come without warning.

Someone at the top had serendipitously chosen the quartet of Warrick, Talia, Cyn and Lucian; and so, they made their way to the briefing room indicated in the text message that accompanied the summons.

The briefing room happened to be Briefing Room 1; the large, fully equipped conference room where large scale offensive or defensive efforts involving a dozen or more heroes were planned. It had come to be known cynically as the War Room.

There were no windows there, only mirrored walls surrounding a horseshoe shaped table that encompassed a smaller, semicircular desk upon which sat a holographic projector. A second door was positioned behind the desk so that the presenter, usually one of the directors, wouldn’t have to walk around the room to reach it.

The four weren’t the first there. Two people were already waiting, talking quietly at one end of the horseshoe. Warrick recognized both instantly. One made him smile. The other made him feel a headache coming on.

The first was Kareem, Warrick’s old teammate from the Descendants days, now one of the Deputy Directors of the Union. He had deigned to wear a costume, probably because he had no intention to go into battle in person. Instead, he wore a cream colored fleece shirt that looked more like a tunic on his frame, and khakis. He wore his hair long, almost to the shoulders, with a thin mustache.

He smiled broadly upon seeing his four friends arriving and nodded to the other member of the meeting who upon noticing who the assembled were, leapt to his feet and saluted.

Brian Whitblum often reminded Warrick worryingly of himself at that age: a hero fanboy who got all of his ideas on how prelate life worked from the comics. He practically worshipped the Union and the original Descendants in particular.

About the only difference between Brian at 19 and Warrick at 18 was that instead of having discovered during puberty that he was a descendant with powers engrained directly into his DNA, Brian had, at the age of fifteen, been chosen by an extra-planar artifact called the Aegis to be the next to wield a piece of it which allowed him to transform into a mystic warrior.

All things considered, that wasn’t that large of a difference.

Kareem patted the boy on the shoulder. “At ease, Brian. We aren’t the military. Here, we’re all equals.” Brian didn’t look like he bought that, but he say down all the same, trying desperately to maintain proper posture.

“Except for the Deputy Director.” Cyn grinned at him. “Haven’t seen you all week. How’s life at the top?”

“Extremely involved.” Kareem said, moving over to the center desk. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t help you with Kay’s move, but Laurel asked me to help coordinate some personnel issues with the Guardians.” Warrick didn’t miss the worried glance Kareem threw in his direction.

“Which,” Kareem started up the holographic display and started reviewing the program on the small monitor on the desk, “Brings us to why I assembled you all for this mission.”

Talia glanced around the room and took stock out loud. “Metal controller, electrical blaster, two heavy combat specialists with high endurance and hyper strength…” She pointed to Brian. “And The Junior Varsity squad brings another heavy hitter with a side of walking technobane. I’m guessing we’re going after a tech villain.” She grinned at Kareem’s reaction. “I’m right! Okay, so who is it; Jack, Maven?”

Kareem shook his head. “Sadly, no. You have to go further back for this one.” An image appeared on the display of an elderly man in a lab coat, wearing a ceramic plate helmet that seemed to integrate a brace around his neck. “Anton Paralus.”

“Dr. Perilous?” Cyn marveled. “He’s still alive? I thought Talbot killed him years ago when he blew Deep Twenty.”

“That’s clearly not the case.” Kareem shook his head. “In fact, as it turns out, the good doctor has been busy. Last night, Damocles targeting satellites on routine diagnostics checks happened upon an artificial island. Before some sort of electronic defenses noticed the satellites and blinded them, they were able to identify both Dr. Perilous and the technology he’s using there. It’s technology that was stolen six months ago from the Guardians.”

The door behind him opened and a woman stepped in. She’d been waiting outside on Kareem’s urging, waiting for him to explain things gently to the assembled heroes, but her patience had run out.

Dressed in a gunmetal gray uniform that offset the steel superstructure of the control frame that circled her waist and ran up her spine to the nape of her neck, she let a swirling cloak of silver writhe and billow around her in the still air as she came to stop beside Kareem’s seat.

Once stopped there, she used the simple, metal cane she carried with her to lean on. Her short, copper hair was held away from green eyes that surveyed the assembled heroes by a thick, titanium circlet. Her face refused to betray emotion at what she saw.

“It’s my tech, actually.” Said Christina Carlyle, Metal X II. “And the Guardians have sent me to help you get it back.”

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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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