Issue #4: Juniper

This entry is part 5 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 1: Welcome to Freeland House

Part 4

Energy manipulation was one of the more common psionic abilities. Some only manipulate existing sources, such as the flame of a candle or the sun’s light. Others convert one form of energy, such as kinetic energy, into another form, such as heat. It was uncommon, but not particularly rare for a psionic to be able to shape and sculpt their energy once it was released.

It was funny how little factoids pop into one’s head when one is faced with a rolling cloud of flame, Warrick thought as the tentacles lifted his now armor encased body above the fleeing convention goers.

As he watched, a whirling funnel extended from the cloud to connect with a table, which shattered as if under tons of force and was drawn into the fiery maelstrom. Behind it, Cinder continued to laugh and taunt the fleeing bystanders, oblivious to Warrick’s presence.

Allowing the tentacles to swing him closer, Warrick called the flame wielder out. “I don’t know why you’re doing this, but it’s going to stop right now, pal.” He reached out with his metal sense and seized the copper wiring in the nearby walls.

Cinder laughed. “I didn’t think I rated Mayfield’s homegrown heroes.” The flame-cloud coiled menacingly. “Look here, tin can; your armor may make you bulletproof, but against me, it’s just your own personal pressure cooker.” A finger of flame leapt out of the cloud toward Warrick.

There was a rending sound as copper wires exploded from the wall. The lights when out, leaving the large windows along the hall as the only light source. Liquid copper solidified into a wall between Warrick and the oncoming flame. A wash of uncomfortable heat was all that reached the young hero.

Parting the wall, Warrick sneered under his armor’s visor. “You’re going to have to do a hell of a lot better than that to put me down, Smokey.”

“You can’t do that forever. And without the golden girl, you’re outnumbered by me and my cloud.” Cinder had time to notice a light breeze behind him before Cyn dropped from above, planting her now pointed toes into the backs of his knees. With an oath, he crashed to the ground.

Cyn had not time to recover before he rolled onto his back and reared back onto his shoulders, delivering a kick to her chest that launched her into a display of figurines. Shards of broken ceramics flew everywhere.

“Hey, even with her, you’re not doing so well.” Cinder laughed, regaining his feet. The flame cloud dropped down to envelope him, bathing him in sinister orange light. “It’s been fun, but I still have a job to do. So it’s time to put you Prelates out of commission.” He launched another line of flame toward Warrick.

***

“What’s going on?!” Melissa asked, huddling with Juniper under a table as a herd of humanity thundered past.

“I have no idea.” Juniper said. “But they’re going to trample us to death if we stay here much longer.”

Melissa tried to catch her breath. Juniper was right; the panicked crowd had already knocked over most of the tables nearby and she could see some people already on the ground, stamped to unconsciousness by the fruits of other people’s fight or flight responses being violently thrown toward ‘flight’. “I… I can stop them.” She finally said. “But you need to go find Warrick and Cyn. If anyone can stop whatever caused this, they can.”

“Aren’t they going to be running with everyone else?” Juniper asked, the question of how Melissa intended to stop the fearful mob completely eluding her.

“Not if they know what’s going on.” Melissa admitted. She felt bad telling someone else about the secret of Lifesavers, Inc, but she was more concerned with so many people getting hurt. “Juniper, they’ve been using their powers to help people… in secret.” She stressed the last word.

“They’re prelates?” Juniper blinked. “But how? I thought we weren’t…”

“Ian, Laurel and Alexis don’t know.” Melissa said quickly. “Cyn said they’d stop them if they found out.” She looked into the other girl’s eyes and pled for her to help her.

“Alright, Melissa. I’ll find them.” She looked out at the crowd. “If I can survive that.”

“Go. I’ll take care of it.” Melissa said, already tapping into her power. Juniper noticed an edge of white suddenly circle the redhead’s pupils. Without another word, she ducked out from under the table. The crowd was already slowing, moving around the fallen instead of over them. Melissa could calm them, elevate their mood, but they still knew to move away from danger.

Weaving her way through the sea of people, Juniper thought about Warrick and Cyn. Most psionics were free to use their powers as they saw fit (within the law), but the Freeland House residents couldn’t for fear of discovery by the Academy. Never before did prelates have a better reason to conceal their identities behind costumes and codenames.

A booth caught her eye. It was overturned, but much of the merchandise was still intact. And idea formed in her head. If Warrick and Cyn could do it, so could she.

***

Another gout of flame broke against the hastily erected copper shield. The carpeted floor had burned away to the cement beneath some time ago. The heat that radiated off the copper was becoming unbearable. Warrick was having trouble breathing. Beside him, Cyn shifted her skin to form fireproof, red scales, but even she was having trouble in the heat.

“Just so you know…” Cinder shouted matter-of-factly over the roar of the firestorm, “I’m not going to kill you. I’m just going to bake you until you pass out from heat stroke. I’m sure big, strong prelates like you will be fine after a couple days.”

“I really hate this guy.” Warrick hissed, pulling more bits of metal in to reinforce the shield. “I can’t even see where he is the send the boys after him.”

“You know, he can’t hit both of us at once if we come from different directions…” Cyn considered. “I’m about as fire resistant as I can get and the shield should protect you for a little while… We could rush him.”

“I was thinking the same thing.” Warrick nodded.

“I think that you two are just a little too comfortable behind that thing.” Cinder called. “Let’s see if I can turn up the heat.”

Warrick felt the heat moving through the copper. It was the worst possible shield against heat and the next blast would likely transfer enough heat to knock them both out. “Go, now.” Warrick said, pressing both hands against the shield in hopes of strengthening it with his powers.

The copper shield was red hot, even through his armor as Warrick forced his will into the metal. In his metal sense, he felt every molecule and desperately reached out to steady them against the assault. There was resistance – the heat energy pushing back against his attempts. His metal sense strained, as did his powers.

Then something broke.

White sparks raced over the surface of the copper. Where they danced, the shield shrank and turned black. The burst of flame impacted the shield and – Warrick felt only the smallest traces of heat radiate through. The force of the attack chipped away a few flecks of the black tarnish, revealing smooth white tinged with metallic pink beneath.

Surprised that he had staved off the attack, Warrick breathed a sigh of relief. Then his metal sense detected something unfamiliar. “What the hell did I just do?” He asked himself.

Meanwhile, Cyn beat her wings furiously, keeping just ahead of the whirling vortex of flame Cinder sent after her. The madman actually laughed as he scorched a line across the walls she passed. “One down, one to go, lady. I can keep this up all day! But how long can you keep running?”

“She doesn’t have to.” The air became noticeably more chill, a thin mist rising up along the scorched floor. The fire cloud suddenly flickered out, its fuel of burning tables and other combustibles encased in a thick frost.

“What the hell?” Cinder swore. Even as he formed a new flame in his hands, he found the source of the voice.

She stood proudly on the far side of the hall, a white cloak with green trim wrapped tightly around her, with its hood over her head. She also wore a ceramic half mask that covered the top portion of her face above the nose.

“The paper only said there were two of your people.” Cinder said, causing his flame to wrap protectively around him as he glared at Cyn, who had turned to see who it was that had stopped the assault. “Who are you supposed to be?”

The newcomer smiled a predatory smile. “Call me Zero.”

“Well, Zero.” Cinder mocked her. “I’m Cinder. And I’m going to melt you.” The flame whipped toward the woman in white with deadly intent.

A disc of some pinkish material whipped out ahead of her, borne forward by one of Warrick’s tentacles. The flames scattered before the shield. “What was that about one down?” Warrick asked.

“Son of a bitch.” Cinder growled. “I was pretty damn stupid going easy on you. I’m not a killer… but now…” An aura of flames exploded around him. “I’m going to make an exception!” Before he could manage anything however, he was engulfed in a cloud of white gas and his fire winked out.

“You know…” Cyn say, winging over to him, a fire extinguisher in her hands. “I’m just stupid sometimes. This was the most obvious thing ever and it slipped my mind until just now.”

“That only bought you a second.” Cinder snarled, starting to summon more fire.

“Oh… putting out the fire wasn’t the obvious thing.” She said, “This is.” With that, she swung the safety device underhanded, catching the pyrokinetic in the chin. As he reared back, she expanded her hand to enormous proportions and punched him in the chest, sending him flying into the wall. He bounced once, and then lay still, knocked out.

“Looks like Lifesavers, Inc triumph’s again.” Cyn declared, tossing the extinguisher aside. “Let’s get out of here, Alloy; all that shifting has me starving.” She headed toward Warrick, and then turned to the newcomer. “Oh – thanks, by the way… Zero, right? I didn’t know there were other prelates around here. Anyway, I owe you one.”

“There weren’t until about ten minutes ago.” Zero said. “I almost had the shortest prelate career ever too. Thanks for protecting me, Warrick.”

“Uh…” Warrick started. “I’m pretty sure I have no idea who this Warrick guy is.” The tentacles tried their best to look nonchalant.

“Oh. Sorry.” Zero said. “Alloy. Right.”

“Oh. My. God.” Cyn said. If she wasn’t in her Facsimile guise, she would have flushed. “You’re—“

“Yup. I bet it’d be easier to tell if you’d known what my powers were.” Juniper shrugged. “Anyway, your secret’s safe with me. If you ever decide you need a third…” she left the last part hanging. Glancing back the way she came, she remembered something. “I left Melissa back near the main hall. We’d better get out of costume and go back to her.”

“Yeah.” Cyn said, a bit embarrassed to have been saved by her perceived rival. “Oh no!” She suddenly exclaimed.

“What is it?” Warrick asked.

“The painting! This guy was just a diversion. Some chick called Nightshade was using him to cover her stealing the painting!” Quickly shifting back to normal, she sprinted toward the White Room.

***

“Daring Art Theft Covered By Psionic Battle Royale” read the next day’s Scribe front page. A thin smile crossed Tatiana Farnsworth’s lips. She’d finally made the front page. Not by name of course, or even in the name of Lady Nightshade – but what mattered was that here crime had been front page material.

She traced a finger around the article and the paper parted as if she had cut it with a razor. Her first front page crime and a big payday from her employer; the day was looking fine indeed. By chance, she caught sight of her desk calendar. ‘Dinner with Lisa’ was clearly displayed in red marker. Lady Nightshade smiled; she did enjoy her niece’s visits. And this week, she had something to celebrate.

Across the room, the reason for her celebration, Unknown’s Portrait of Morganna le Fay, lay quietly in a plain brown package.

***

“Oh, come on, Warrick, just jump in the damn pool.” Cyn commanded, bobbing up and down in the water. She had added webbing between her hands and toes to help her swim better.

The tentacles wrapped themselves more tightly around Warrick’s midsection and seemed to shiver with fear. “Sorry, Cyn, but these two are afraid they’ll rust if they get wet.”

“Then un-summon them.” Cyn pouted.

“No can do.” Warrick defended “I figure that it’s bad enough that I un-summon them whenever we’re out in public. It just doesn’t seem fair to them.”

There was a splash and a spray of water crashed over both Warrick and the tentacles.

“Sorry about that.” Juniper said, paddling over to where Cyn was bobbing. She gave Cyn an amused nod.

“See?” Cyn said, taking the hint. “Now they’re going to rust or not rust no matter what. Now get in here!” She extended her arm to catch the Italian’s leg and pull him in.

“Shouldn’t we say something to them about roughhousing in the pool?” Alexis asked, reclining in a deck chair poolside.

Laurel shrugged. “One’s just shifted gills for herself, one has ice powers and the last one has a pair of tentacles that all indicators say could toss a truck if need be. I figure that if they actually start rough housing, we’ll need to move anyway.”

Alexis smirked at this. “You have a point. But really, by now I’m sure they’re more than used to not throwing their powers around.”

The caramel skinned woman shrugged. “I’d like to point out that you and Ian have been throwing your powers around a lot lately. I mean first with the Kin, and then with Juniper?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing.” Laurel smiled. “I’m just saying that you two are great role models for the kids.”

End Issue #4

Series Navigation<< Issue #3: GatherIssue #5 Legends of Chaos and Darkness >>

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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