Issue #41 – Machinations

This entry is part 6 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 4: Confluence

Part 5

“Your majesty shall mock at me;” Her face turned up in a pretty scowl. “I cannot speak your England.”

A soft, caring smile touched his face. “O fair Katharine, if you will love me soundly with your French heart, I will be glad to hear you confess it brokenly with your English tongue. Do you like me, Kate?”

She looked at him with an air of measuring his words and after some time weighing her options in the way of responses, surrendered. “Pardonnez-moi, I cannot tell what is ‘like me.’” He let loose a soft, amused chuckle, tempered by a sharp warning look from her. It wouldn’t do to upset her. “An angel is like you, Kate, and you are like an angel.”

Still looking perplexed, she turned her head to the young woman beside her. “Que dit-il? que je suis semblable a les anges?” Her companion responded in broken, tortured French. “We, vee-ray mint, sauf vo-tay gray-ce, eye-in-see dit-il?” He glanced briefly at the delivery, but swiftly composed himself, setting his eyes on the object of his immediate attention and his hand upon his breast. “I said so, dear Katharine; and I must not blush to affirm it.” She laughed musically and rolled her eyes playfully. “O bon Dieu! les langues des hommes sont pleines de tromperies.” “What says she, fair one?” He cast his gaze once more to her companion and there was more than just a twinkling in his eyes as he called her that. “That the tongues of men are full of deceits?”

That was just as much as Tink could take without breaking down into peals of laughter. When she got enough of her senses, she jabbed Warrick lightly in the arm. “Now that she’s into it, she’s got you nervous now.”

“What?” Warrick shied away from another jab.

“You were utterly scared I would get jealous.” Tink was still shaking with her laughter. “’What says she, fair one?’” She mocked, giving him the same kind of eyes at him as he’d made at her. “That’s so cute, you thought I wanted attention too.”

Warrick’s face reddened at this. He was caught. “You didn’t?”

A coy grin came to her face. “Well I always want some of your attention.” She leaned over and kissed him lightly on the cheek. “But I’m smart enough to know when and when not to demand it.” Still smiling, she tapped the standby icon on her tablet and started to slide out of the booth. “And right now, I’m going to leave you two lovebirds alone just a second to get some chips.

“No skipping to the kiss scenes while I’m gone.” With this last tease, she laughed her way toward the Dungeon’s vending machines.

It took Warrick a few moments to catch himself staring at her leaving and grinning stupidly before he worked up the wherewithal to knock it off. He shifted his attention back to Juniper.

“So taking care of the whole CornerCut case seems to have gotten rid of that case of nerves you had.” He observed.

Juniper blushed modestly and nodded. “After all that, worrying about this just seems… not so important.” She said. “That, and it always feels good to keep a promise.”

“Have you talked to Ms. Brant about what happens now?”

Another nod. “She gave Mr. Liedecker and the Interfacers the secure emergency number we gave to the Institute and the Kin. Oh! And she’s reworking out patrol routes so we can keep an eye out on the places where they live.”

She gave a small, unhappy shrug. “That’s all we can do right now. We can’t get the Interfacers police protection without them getting in trouble and Mr. Liedecker refused it. He said he has his own bodyguards.”

“I can’t imagine him finding anyone who would be a match for Samael or Vorpal.” Warrick shook his head.

It was something Juniper knew they’d have to think about for the future, among other things, but decided it was safe to change the subject in the here and now. “Speaking of Vorpal, what do you think she meant? Cyn told us everything that went on in Clara’s apartment and it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Warrick shrugged and picked up his copy of the script, thumbing to it for want of something to do that didn’t involve exploring that question. “I don’t know. But as long as she’s still running around out there, I can bet it’ll come up again.”

Fidgeting, Juniper pressed a bit more. “If she had powers like you… do you think she’s related to you?” It wasn’t as big a leap as one would assume: There weren’t a great many metal controllers out there and Warrick knew for a fact that at least two of them were related to him; twin third cousins in Florida he’d never met.

Descendant powers were hereditary, after all, albeit to differing degrees; Kareem’s father was an empath, Alexis’s father and one of her sisters had lesser versions of her black heat, and Ian’s brother Issac was actually more powerful than he was.

Even Warrick’s own sister, if Laurel’s theories were correct, possessed a powerful, but uncontrolled version of his ability to manipulate metal by rearranging ionic bonds. Hers just resulted in a mass expulsion of electrons.

But a villain as family? He wasn’t sure he was ready for that.

…Otherwise, the kids are going to have to spend the night over at Zoë’s.”

I cannot believe you trust her with your kids. 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. And I wish you should just drop it; she’s family.”

He shook off the cluttered thoughts that drifted through his mind and shrugged to Juniper again. “I don’t know. I hope not. Vorpal isn’t the kind of person I really want on my Christmas list.”

His discomfort wasn’t lost on Juniper and she changed subjects again. “It was nice of Ms. Keyes to let the Interfacers go.”

Yeah. They were lucky.” Warrick nodded, but he didn’t really mean it. As far as he was concerned, they had broken the law, regardless of who the victim was or what danger they had been in. But it wasn’t his call and he couldn’t really blame Alexis for her decision. “But I think they really have you to thank.”

Juniper’s eyebrows shot up. “Why do you think that?”

Because this was really your mission, Jun. And I think Ms. Keyes understood that. She made the call she thought you would have.”

Well, I don’t think she thought that. Yeah, but I would have.”

Warrick nodded and noticed Tink returning. “I know,” He glanced down at his script and transitioned directly into a line, “I know no ways to mince it in love, but directly to say ‘I love you:’ then if you urge me farther than to say ‘do you in faith?’ I wear out my suit. Give me your answer; i’ faith, do: and so clap hands and a bargain: how say you, lady?”

Smiling at the clever tactic, Juniper played along. “Sauf votre honneur, me understand vell.”

***

With crews already working to repair the damage done by Samael in his own office, Liedecker was taking care of some of his more legitimate business concerns in one commandeered from one of his least favored executives when Rick Charlotte made contact again.

“Secure?” He asked automatically when he heard the warbling sound that indicated Charlotte wanted to talk to him.

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. Give me the run down.”

“Almost all of the Interfacers are back home now.” The information lackey replied. “Vorpal and Samael have reported in—looks like the Descendants bought the Vorran angle.”

“Why wouldn’t they?” Liedecker shrugged. “I’m a pillar of the community, squeaky clean in every way as far as they know and Vorran’s a criminal ghost that doesn’t even have a face. You can’t find a lie you’ve got no reason to look for.”

He scrolled through a list of recommendations from the board of Placida Ceramic Works, one of his holdings, and nodded faintly that the suggestion that they add more money to the Research and Development for the next year due to some recent breakthroughs in self healing structures. “Now, you said almost all of Belle’s little cyborgs are on their way home. Who isn’t.”

There was the sound of Charlotte tapping his work screen until he came back with the answer. “His name’s Trey Phan, a nineteen year old freshman at Emerald College. The missing persons report his family filed is still active and I haven’t caught him on any of the security cameras near their house.”

“Keep an eye out for him.” Liedecker ordered. “At his home, back at the college, and anywhere else he might go, especially places where he can get the gear he needs. I don’t want this boy thinking he can surprise me if that’s what he’s got a mind to do.”

“Yes, sir.” Said Charlotte, followed immediately by, “Sir?”

Liedecker answered with only mild irritation in his voice. “Yes, Charlotte?”

“I was just wondering how you knew that Belle Cummings would even try and contact the Interfacers, much less that she would cover for you with them.”

A cynical laugh came from Liedecker. “She’s already had the chance to put an end to me and she didn’t take it. Regardless of what she thinks of what I do, her and I come from the same place. We both know what it is not to turn on someone. I knew she’d never set up a meeting like I asked though; she’d do anything to keep a body out of what we do.”

“You know her.” Charlotte observed before realizing how bluntly he’d put it.

“Ain’t a secret.” Liedecker said. “I knew her. That’d be a better way of saying it. Long time ago, Charlotte.” Though his henchman couldn’t see him, he kept his expression neutral and transitioned to a new subject. “Anything more than reporting in from Vorpal and Samael?”

“Vorpal was short with me and said that she’d kill me if I kept her from going to bed and if I didn’t call in a sub to cover for her at the Institute today.” Charlotte said. “And Samael didn’t go into any details except for requesting all the files we’ve compiled on Zero.”

“That son of a bitch almost made a mistake he would’ve regretted.” Liedecker snarled. “And I know it wasn’t an accident.”

“Does he even know about the dead man’s switch, sir?”

“No, and it’s best he doesn’t.” Said Liedecker. “When it comes down to it, a man like Haut would more likely than not rather die on his terms than let me hold that card completely. The switch isn’t a deterrent, it’s preemptive revenge.”

“I see, sir. Is there anything else you need?”

“No, just keep the dragnet out for Phan. And keep a file open on the other Interfacers; once this all calms down a mite, I expect to make some job offers.”

***

It was an adrenaline rush that rivaled the simulated one his ventral regulators were giving him. Phan used the increased speed an endurance granted him by his various chemical, electronic and mechanical augmentations to vault the barbed wire fence at Key Biological and rolled under the view of the camera’s positioned there.

Flattening himself against the building, he bought up a diagnostic that overlayed his normal vision. His regulators, all five; ventral, dorsal and the mainline one to his heart were all online at once; a first as the regulators took nearly all the power a suite of kinetic generators could produce.

On top of the regulators, electronic stimulators in his legs and arms that let him move and react faster were also active and running at full power. The new power plant, currently securely strapped to his back, was still putting out enough power to run five times that many systems.

And he intended to take advantage of every joule.

Timing the security guards’ rounds and the camera movement were child’s play and that was the extent of the measures between him and what he sought. No one put much thought into protecting prosthetics, no matter how far advanced.

And advanced was what Key Biological excelled in. Full sensation, body temperature matching artificial limbs were just the tip of the iceberg. Everyone in the self modification community knew that Key also provided performance and custom designs as well.

Custom designs that if combined with his revolutionary new power source would make him far more than human.

***

Thousands of miles and an ocean away, something else more than human was about.

It emerged from a rose hued slash in the air and stepped into the wild and primeval forest. Mist clung to it’s all too human form as its brown eyes surveyed the landscape.

Manikin saw in spectra that science could not and with great effort and a relatively static area, she could even see into the past.

Once, this was a scrubby wood near a tiny stream. Once a stone cottage stood by the stream.

The trees had choked the stream long ago, their roots forced to quest outward to support their attempts to reach the sky. Then they had pulled down the cottage, scattering it’s stones until no mortal eye would guess that the hands of man had placed them.

Once there had been a grave, unmarked for the man who buried the body knew that the soul had not died.

This too had been swallowed and invaded by questing roots.

No one could have guessed where it was, but Manikin knew. She knew it as surely as she knew her mistress, the Heir. Unerringly, she walked atop the roots in the misty Welsh forest until she came to the spot.

She didn’t speak a word, only raised a hand and called on her power. The mighty roots shuddered, groaned and came free from the earth that anchored them. Throwing clods of dirt, the tree teetered over, striking it’s nearest brother before connecting with the ground with a noise that shook the ground.

Manikin hardly noticed. It wasn’t what she had come from. She had come for what it’s roots had held in place for almost a thousand years.

End Issue #41

Series Navigation<< Issue #40 – InterfacersIssue #42 – Metal X >>

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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