Issue #44 – It’s Official!

This entry is part 9 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 4: Confluence

This issue takes place the morning after Descendants #43

Cyn groaned in her sleep and turned over. Her bed was uncomfortable for some reason and she was still famished from all the energy she’d burned the night before. Even after scavenging uneaten food from the plates of the restaurant patrons, she’d probably lost close to twenty pounds.

The extra mass came off her muscles and from her bones, normally kept extra dense. The end result was that for the first time in months, if not years, she was reduced to the strength and durability of an average girl her age. It felt to her like she was sleeping in a whole other body.

That still didn’t explain what was wrong with her bed. She flipped over on her back, wriggling her shoulders in a vain attempt at getting comfortable. Something made a crinkling sound. Blindly, she groped under her arm and found something slick and crumpled. There were crumbs on it.

“Nuh?” She vocalized poorly and tried opening her eyes. It was dark and close wherever she was. Certainly not her room, that was for sure. All it took was a minor adjustment to allow her eyes to let in enough light to see by, then she bought whatever it was in her hand up to eye level.

Mother MacGrady’s Home-style Potato Chips. Supreme Pizza flavor. The bag had been pulled inside out, crumbs the only evidence of the tasty treat it once held. Without much thought, she absorbed the last crumbs into her skin. It wasn’t much, but she was still hungry.

Tossing the spent bag aside, Cyn gave the room a closer look. What she saw didn’t surprise her: the pantry of Freeland House. Barely there memories of the previous night drifted back: something involving Ian and Alexis being very touchy-feely with one another, Laurel driving her back home, then bursting into the pantry, tired and ravenous.

Evidence of the last was spread all around her; torn open bags and boxes, occasionally themselves riddled with bite or acid-burn marks where she’d forgotten herself and tried eating the packages too. In some cases, especially when it came to the recycled paper items, she actually could eat them, but promised herself she wouldn’t. They were still awfully tempting though.

Quickly, she sought for something else to focus on. The snack shelves had been predictably decimated; everything that had been sitting up there was now torn open on the floor. The canned goods were still standing, if only because she’d been too tired to muster the strength to rend them open with claws or crush them open with strength. She wasn’t mad enough with hunger anymore to try it now.

The dry goods; the pasta, beans and rice that formed the base of every meal Alexis cooked for the household were also intact. Cyn was secretly proud of herself for keeping at least that much pride. Eating dry pasta right out of the box was a desperation bid just above eating cardboard.

Her eye fell on a bag of sweet potatoes on the bottom shelf. It hadn’t been opened and beckoned her with a full sized color picture of a fresh, hot baked yam on the front. With a hungry snarl, she grabbed the bag and tore it open, eating with large, enthusiastic bites.

How much time passed during her feeding frenzy, she didn’t know, but by the time she swallowed the last orange colored morsel, the ravenous, gnawing beast of hunger was reduced to the mild all around craving she was used to.

Sated and happy, she leaned back against a shelf and smiled lazily to herself. For a few minutes, she just took some time to stare up at the ceiling and hum to herself.

Eventually, voices started to drift in from the kitchen. It had likely been going on the entire time and she’d only just noticed. Talk in the kitchen meant it was either morning or dinner time and judging by the way she felt she couldn’t discount either one. The windowless pantry wasn’t offering any clues.

“Well, might as well find out.” She muttered to herself with a languid stretch. Wobbling like a newborn calf, she got to her feet with the help of the shelf at her back. Her body still felt too fragile, too light. It would be a few minutes before the potatoes were added to her mass; she didn’t feel like wasting the effort of will to speed the process.

She hiccuped and a puff of dark smoke escaped her mouth; the only parts of her meal she couldn’t digest.

In the kitchen, someone laughed. Tink by the sound. In the morning. And now that she had her wits about her, she was sure she smelled something delicious cooking.

“Oh really?” She gave a mischievous smirk. Suddenly, she had all the energy and motivation she needed. That didn’t do much to steady her legs though; she tottered her way to the door and slid it open.

Harsh light scourged her eyes and made her wince. She’d forgotten to undo her improved night-vision. Not that she was going to let a pair of agonized retinas get in the way of her fun; she just squinted until her eyes were adjusted.

Just as she suspected, Warrick and Tink were in the kitchen. Tink was at the table, tapping away at her computer while Warrick was manning the stove. There were two short stacks of pancakes on plates with sausage and there were eggs in the frying pan.

Isp and Osp were out also, extending from Warrick’s arms to rummage in the refrigerator. While Cyn watched, Osp came up with a bell pepper. Isp followed, forming into a blade and swiftly dicing a portion of the pepper into the pan before both returned to their foraging.

“Good morning lovebirds.” Cyn chirped, vaulting the nearest chair and landing in a seated position. “I see someone stayed the night.” She offered Tink a salacious wink.

The redhead blushed to her ears. “Cyn! Um, no, I didn’t stay over, I came back. After I left, I mean.”

“They’re so cute when the panic.” Cyn teased.

Warrick looked up from his cooking and had to do a double take. As did Isp and Osp, nearly dropping a brick of cheese in the process. “Cyn… um…” He glanced at the door leading in from the living room and then to the one leading out to the parking lot, both of which had been in his line of sight the entire time. “Where did you…”

“I napped in the pantry apparently.” She stretched dramatically. “And thank god for that, because I got to see Warrick trying to bustle his girlfriend out before the others saw what he was up to after the movie.”

“That’s not what happened.” Both chorused. Even Isp and Osp shook what passed for their heads vehemently.

“Oh.” Cyn snickered. “Too bad for you two then.”

“Um…” Warrick returned to his omelets. “So we were just talking about the MD-Double-E. You know it’s coming up, right?”

“Med-ee?” Cyn furrowed her brow in confusion. “What’s that, another of those stupid tests we’re supposed to take so the school keeps getting money?”

Tink returned to her computer, praying that her cheeks would stop burning sometime soon. “Mayfield Digital Entertainment Expo.” She supplied, avoiding eye contact with the other girl. “You know, the second biggest video game and recreational robot show on the east coast?”

“No, I didn’t know that.” shrugged Cyn. Then she scoffed. “Recreational robot. What a crock, they’re all kid toys or dopey butler-things.”

Tink couldn’t argue with that. She’d long argued that household robots had gone stagnant and squandered a golden opportunity. “Yeah, but that’s not the reason we’re excited.” She turned her tablet around so Cyn could see the screen.

“’Exposition Hall center attraction; Superior Imaging and Design to demo Full Immersion Gaming.’” Cyn read in a bored tone. “So? Is that like a rec-bot that’ll fight you? Hey, Warrick, can I get an omelet too? Fully loaded.”

Warrick nodded and relented to Isp and Osp’s pleas to make Cyn’s omelet. For his part, he bought his own and Tink’s plates over to the table while the twins set about gathering ingredients. “SID is the company that makes Deathgate.” He explained. “This thing they’re demonstrating is supposed to let you climb in and it’ll be like you’re actually in the game—on the Continent of Thameschul. As in you can see, taste, smell and feel it.”

“Interact with any object in game.” Tink added, feeling a bit better now that the topic had changed irrevocably. “Or destroy it.” She added with a mischievous smile of her own.

“I don’t know,” Cyn’s eyes locked on Tink’s omelet as it changed hands between the couple. “I play a meatshield most of the time, I don’t want to feel the thousands of smashes, slashes, crashes and mashes I take in a given adventure. I get that enough already.”

Tink noticed her expression and paused in cutting into her breakfast. “Rough night last night?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe.” the white-haired girl slouched in her chair. “Hey, Warrick, you’ve been out a couple of times when I wasn’t this week—you run into any new bad guys lately?”

“All the time. But you don’t mean like regular petty thugs. We taking super-guys?”

She frowned. “I’m not sure.”

“How can you be not sure?” Tink asked. “I figured it’d be pretty easy to tell.”

“Yeah, normally.” Cyn glanced over to see how the tentacles were doing on her omelet. They seemed to be fighting over who got to use the spatula. “But this guy… I mean he was fast like a freak, but I wouldn’t say he’d beat any of the guys on the track team. And he’s got a hell of a long jump, but nothing that’s going to clear city blocks.”

“Well you can ask Ms. Brant to pull his record when she gets up if it makes you feel better.” Warrick suggested.

“Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.” She frowned. “I… didn’t catch him and I didn’t get a name.”

“You didn’t catch him?” Warrick was more surprised than disappointed. It was like finding out that the Statue of Liberty forgot her torch; no one was more dogged when it came to catching crooks than Cyn.

Though it wasn’t his fault, she felt like glowering at him for calling attention to her now less than perfect record. So she did. “The guy hit me with some kind of chemical net thing.” She defended, “It was like rolling in honey and putting your arm in a fire ant nest—I had to shed my skin to get it off!”

Tink shrank back from her slightly. “You shed you skin?”

“When I have to.” Cyn evaded her gaze. “But anyway, By the time I got loose and stopped being able to taste pain, Laurel called about the thing in the restaurant and—”

Tink held up a hand to stop her. “Wait, hold on, what thing in the restaurant? What happened?”

“You mean you don’t know? They didn’t tell you?” Cyn’s curiosity waned as Isp and Osp presented her with her omelet. Or a not very convincing attempt at one. The eggs were runny and what wasn’t was slightly burned. It smelled like ambrosia all the same to her.

“Who didn’t tell us what?”

The conversation fell into a lull was Cyn shoveled food into her mouth. Only when a third of the omelet was gone did she reply. “Ian and Alexis? Maybe Laurel? You saw them when they got back, right?”

“We heard ’em get in.” Warrick shrugged. “But they didn’t come up. Ms. Brant didn’t even go to her workshop last night. Besides, almost everyone was still here until around two.” Worry suddenly flashed into mind. “Wait, what happened at the restaurant that they needed to call you?”

Cyn snorted. “Mad-Mad came back with a friend. Remember the teched up chick from that Ladies of Armageddon concert? Her.” As if this was business as usual, she didn’t miss a beat in her eating.

Warrick paled. There was just so much in that sentence to panic about; he didn’t know where to start.

“Who’s Mad-Mad?” Tink queried.

“He used to work at the college.” Cyn didn’t look up from her plate. “But then he got this weird crystal eye thing and got magic powers. We put him in the crazy house last summer. He got out, obviously.”

Meanwhile, Warrick’s mind finally picked something to focus on. “Jeez, how unlucky can you be? The whole thing was supposed to go smooth and shiny.”

“What’s he mumbling about?” Cyn asked. Tink shrugged and nibbled a sausage. “Hey!” Cyn snapped her fingers to get his attention. He stopped muttering, but gave her a blank stare. “What was supposed to be shiny?”

Looking haunted, he ran his fingers through his hair. “Well, see… thing is, I helped Mr. Smythe out with something special for last night.”

Both girls were quiet, prompting him to elaborate with their eyes.

The haunted look dissolved into embarrassment, mixed with a hint of guilt. “A ring.” He finally said after some hemming and hawing. “Silver with…” He dropped his voice and refused to make eye contact. “Ruby… sapphire.”

Tink covered her mouth with her hand, an excited, sighing sound escaping nonetheless. Cyn was somewhat less delighted with the idea.

“Wait, you can make those? How come when I asked for one lousy ‘big pirate-y chest full of doubloons’, you gave me a whole song and dance about ‘not destroying the economy’ and ‘having a responsibility when it comes to your powers’, huh?”

An answer was slow in coming to Warrick’s lips, but Tink jumped in to save her boyfriend.

“Cyn, this is different, don’t you get it?”

“All I’m getting is that your boy broke his ‘thou shalt not perform alchemy for profit’ rule for someone else’s girlfriend.

Tink shook her head. “You’re not getting it, Cyn.”

“Getting what?”

“Think about it.” Tink counted off the clues on her fingers. “They went to a fancy restaurant. Mr. Smythe asked Warrick to make a ring for Ms. Keyes.”

“Yeah.” Cyn said dully, frowning down at her now empty plate.

“He proposed!”

Cyn’s eyes narrowed in thought. “So that’s why they were all huggy-kissy in the middle of the aftermath. Heh. Go Ian.”

***

The old wives’s tale goes that if someone talks about you, your ears burn.

Ian’s ears weren’t burning. In fact, he was enjoying the quiet.

Quiet, not silence. There was sound in the room; mostly his own breathing and Alexis’s. He’d been up for some time now, just listening and enjoying it.

His bride to be was curled up next to him, her head on his chest. It wasn’t for the first time, but it was different now. More real. He knew that he should wake her up, that she’d probably thank him, seeing as she would need to brief General Pratt about the night before, and probably had a teacher’s meeting at the Institute. Not to mention telling everyone they could reach about the engagement.

A slow, steady breath escaped him. Somewhere along the way, he’d been trying to match her breath’s rhythm.

Her words from the night before came back to him. About the hardship and chaos and fear and weirdness that was their life together. How it scared her. It scared him too. And they would, one way or another, be going back to that when she woke up.

That could all wait, he decided. Better give her five more minutes.

Series Navigation<< Issue #43 – Love You MadlyIssue #45 – The Gremlin and The Game >>

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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