Issue #43 – Love You Madly

This entry is part 8 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 4: Confluence

Part 2

Cyn furrowed her brow and stared at the glass figurines in front of her, standing on their alternating frosted and non-frosted squares. She didn’t remember how she got roped into playing in the first place. It was hard enough keeping straight which piece could move where.

Very slowly, she picked up her queen’s side bishop and took a pawn. The move had taken her more than two minutes to see.

It took Tink, sitting on the other side of the table, about five seconds to take the bishop with a knight. She pointed from the knight to her own bishop, and finally to Cyn’s king. “Checkmate.”

The white-haired girl flicked the king over onto its side and frowned petulantly. “Are you really going to be around here all the time now?”

Tink offered her an uneasy smile, not knowing if Cyn was serious in her sour attitude or not. “Pretty much. I mean Warrick doesn’t need to make excuses to keep me from coming over when you guys have—er—business to do.” She started resetting the board. “But I’d be here tonight anyway; are you sure you don’t want to stay for movie night, by the way?”

“Nah.” Cyn shook her head. “With Warrick, Kareem and Jun staying in tonight, somebody’s got to patrol.”

“I think the city can get by on a single night without her heroes.” Tink ventured to tease. It was only a week since winter break had ended and she still didn’t know where she stood with the other residents of Freeland House.

Cyn snorted. “Are you kidding? Friday night is freak night; that’s when they all come out to play. While everyone else in the city is dating or partying, the gobheads turn out to mug those first folks. Plus, all the security guards are wishing they could party, so it’s prime time to hit where they work too.”

“I never put that much thought into it.” Tink admitted.

“Well you should start.” Cyn regarded the freshly reset chessboard with dread, but sent a passably fond smile Tink’s way. “You can’t just hang out here while we’re doing business and expect to be dead weight.”

That smile went a long way toward easing Tink’s mind. “You’re right. I should. You know, I’ve already been thinking about a few ways I can help out.”

They both heard voices coming up the stairs from the downstairs commons. Moments later, Laurel and Alexis appeared.

While Laurel was casual and collected in her jeans and a T-shirt bearing a shocked looking orange smiley face, Alexis was far too overdressed for a night of lounging around the house. She was tightly wrapped in a floor length, gown in deep coffee brown with black accents along the bust and ribs. The multi-use scarf that usually went with her Darkness costume had been re-purposed as a drape over her exposed shoulders.

“…all dressed up, and you just know you’re going to ruin it dodging unfinished projects in my workshop.” Laurel was in the middle of chiding Alexis and helping clasp her faux diamond choker at the same time.

“One little look at the dispatches is all I’m asking.” Alexis fully gained the stairs and smiled at Tink and Cyn and the slumbering form of Melissa, who had fallen asleep on the couch, reading. “Hi girls.”

“Is she doing the workaholic thing again?” Cyn asked Laurel in a bored tone.

“Every Friday night.” Laurel rolled her eyes. “Actually every night when she’s not patrolling.”

“I just want to make sure I’m not skipping out when I’m needed.” Alexis glared at them both.

Melissa stirred from her dozing on the couch. “This coming from the woman that always left her phone in our room on purpose so no one could reach her.”

“That was before I grew up to have an entire city depending on me.” Alexis countered. “Besides, sometimes I just needed to clear my head… or a little bit of privacy.”

Melissa snorted. She knew the kind of privacy Alexis was looking for back then; the one where you weren’t alone and involved four lips and the dark.

Tink boggled at the exchange and looked to Cyn for help. In return, she got a sigh and a mildly troubled look. “It’s… complicated.”

“I’m surprised Warrick hasn’t explained it to you yet.” Laurel was fussing with Alexis’s hair.

“Warrick doesn’t understand it.” Cyn smirked.

A sullen sigh escaped from Melissa and she sat up, red hair falling into her eyes. “It’s not that hard, okay?” She gave Tink a look that said ‘listen up!’. “Did anyone fill you in about how Tome kept us in stasis after they kidnapped us?”

Tink nodded.

“Good.” Melissa said, “So Warrick and Cyn were in there maybe two years. Kareem for a little more than that, but me?” A bitter look crossed her face as she held out her arms as if to present herself. “I got stuck in there for ten years. I’m actually twenty-six.”

“Oh.” Tink goggled. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know…”

“And now that the awkward level is above breathable levels, I think I’m headed out.” Cyn interrupted. She shot Laurel a hopeful look, “Do we have any tuna left? I need to pack some snacks in case I need to do some high level shifting.”

“Yeah, I think there’s two cans.” Laurel replied. “But you know, Codex is meeting with the Liedecker Institute security team tonight. If you want to wait until I’m done there, you can have some company. I’ll even bring donuts.”

Cyn’s eyes brightened with the mention of donuts. “How about we meet at Westinghall Plaza? I want to get away before the date movies start up.”

“What date movies?” Tink asked, “Cyn, this isn’t a couples only thing, it’s a movie night. Kay’s coming and she’s not bringing a date. And we’re not playing date movies; The one Warrick and I picked is Warmaster.”

“That’d be a date movie for Cyn.” Melissa snarked. Cyn made a rude gesture in her direction.

“Well it’s date night for one of us.” Laurel gave Alexis a pointed look. “And oh dear, look at the time, you don’t have time for one more scan. Have you girls seen Ian?”

Cyn stood up, stretched languidly, and shrugged. “He came in a little before copper top here showed up and took Warrick downstairs; said he needed to talk man to man. So I’m guessing it means he’s telling him about the birds and the bees. Not like she was gonna teach him anything.” A salacious grin was directed at Tink.

“Hey!” Tink started to protest before realizing that the statement was a double edged sword. “oh… you!”

Cyn grinned evilly and bolted downstairs.

***

They exited the Solomon Center through the door leading to the staff parking lot. Madrigal was in the lead, stalking among the cars like a man in the mind to buy one. Nikolia straggled behind in a haze of confusion.

He was admiring a low-slung, green sports cars when she finally found her voice again. “What did you do back there?”

A shark’s grin crossed Madrigal’s face and he tapped the hood of the car with the amber cat’s eye. The sound of the doors unlocking sounded. “You may find this difficult to believe,” He gave his cane a sly twirl, “But I hold in my hand, the power of a god.”

“You turned those people to gold!”

“I can do more than gold.” He barked a laugh, “I can do ruby,” A gesture toward the car and the hunter green paint job dissolved into ruby red. “Or, my favorite: obsidian.” Another gesture changed the car to a glossy black and yet another added intricate, golden highlights. “Of course, I still quite enjoy gold. Come on.” He went around to the passenger side and opened the door for her.

“This makes absolutely no sense.” She groaned, slipping into the car seat. In the end, she had already come too far not to take a free ride away from the center.

Madrigal smiled as he returned to the driver’s side and settled in. “Of course not, Nikolia. This… the eye; it isn’t from our world. It’s from somewhere else, or at least that’s the feeling I get. The normal laws of reality and physics don’t matter to it, but it needs a mind to guide it.”

The car’s engine roared to life without any provocation and Nikolia found herself staring at the amber eye at the end of his cane. Her fingers twitched toward it.

Without looking, Madrigal shifted the cane out of her reach. “My mind. You don’t want to try, believe me. It’s too much when you use it the first time; I myself couldn’t handle it. Now that it’s come back to me though, I seem to be more… in control, let’s say.”

He glanced down at the gearshift and clucked his tongue. “Who would buy a car like this and then ruin it with an automatic transmission? Let’s just fix that right now.” Before Nikolia’s eyes the gearshift transformed and a clutch pedal sprouted some strange flower from the floorboard.

“Excellent.” Madrigal put the car in gear and stomped on the gas. Tires squealed and the car leapt into full motion.

Nikolia pursed her lips. She knew that psionics could do many strange, physics-defying things and what rare scraps of news reached her on the inside hinted at the world growing even stranger in the last year. But those things had always seemed so far away (save for when the Descendants interrupted her confrontation with her old ‘friends’ at Capashen Arena.) and this was strikingly close to home.

“Where are we headed?” She asked, if only to be part of the escape instead of being a hanger on.

“No idea.” Madrigal replied. The security gates guarding the staff parking lot raised as they approached, allowing them through without being subject to the required biometric scans. “I’m tempted to do a few things; persuade my former employer to give me job back—no—give me the job I deserve on the board, take vengeance on the Descendants for separating me and the woman I love…” He smiled fondly, “Or find her again.”

“Her?” Nikolia asked, “The woman you love? You never mentioned any of that before.”

For once, Madrigal didn’t have a quick answer. Several seconds passed in silence while he absently caressed the terrible amber eye set into his cane. “It… it didn’t seem important to mention at the time. I didn’t know how long I was going to be stuck in that place; it didn’t serve to remind myself.”

With any other person, it would sound suspect, but there was so much strangeness going on around Madrigal at the moment, Nikolia didn’t know if she should question it. “I don’t know anything about her, but if you want to go against the Descendants, I’d like to help. I owe them.”

“Hmm…” Madrigal mused. “I think I’d like your help, Nikolia… Maven. Tell me; If I got you the right tools, could you redesign those robots you talked about?”

Maven frowned. “Redesign, yes, but I can’t rebuild them just like that. I’ll need materials and time: the power sources alone will cost a small fortune.”

“Ah, ah, ah.” That terrible smile played over Madrigal’s face. “Power of a god, remember? If you design it…” He reached into the center console and picked up a pen. Yellow sparks washed over it and in the span of seconds, it bent and deformed into a pair of amber lensed shades. “I can make it real.”

***

The sun had been down for little over an hour and the streets had given up most of the warmth absorbed from the daylight. High above them, Facsimile swept between the buildings, in search of crime to foil.

It was her first night wearing a new innovation on Laurel’s part; a thermal suit lined with the same ballistic cloth the others’ costumes were made of. It was meant to keep her warm in winter while allowing her some shape-changing capability via hidden, expandable slits and elastic panels.

While wearing it, she could extrude wings and/or a tail, grow up to four extra arms, or extend her reach up to six feet. The ballistic cloth also cut down on the amount of shifting she would need to do to heal wounds from conventional weaponry as well.

In practical terms, it was a godsend, but still, Facsimile chaffed at knowing all the options she was missing out on while wearing it. She especially couldn’t disguise herself as someone else, because the gold and black cloth didn’t change style or color. But at the moment, it was better than freezing her ass off while on patrol.

Mayfield was largely quiet as far as crime as concerned. At least the kind of crime she was looking for. If super-heroics concerned itself with public drunkenness, jay-walking, and noise violations, she would have been extremely busy; it was a party night.

As for theft, murder and the like? She hadn’t even seen a single drug dealer. And despite someplace apparently supplying free flowing alcohol, there weren’t even any accidents. With no action, she was left only with the tall buildings and her thoughts.

She was just starting to reconsider movie night when movement caught her eye. On the forty-ninth floor of an office building, someone was climbing out a window. Upon closer inspection, Cyn saw that the window itself was neatly cut out of its frame. A robbery.

There were no ladder or window washing rig though. Nor did the black suited figure slipping out onto the extremely minimal ledge look to be holding any device to help him climb. Either they could fly, or they were attempting to make their suicide look like robbery.

Facsimile trimmed her wingspan and turned into a glide-path toward the window, but before she could reach them, the would be robber leapt into empty space and plummeted.

Gasping, she tucked her wings and dove, hoping to snag the falling form out of the air before they hit the pavement. Somehow, she over shot, passing below them in a flash of golden feathers. Looking back, she found out why: the jumper’s suit had webbing running between the legs and from knee to elbow; a glider.

Before she could correct from her dive, he was already sailing for the roof of a smaller apartment building, twenty stories below.

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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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