- Issue #37 – Of a Feather
- Descendants Giant Sized #1
- Issue #38: The Miracles of St Drausinus
- Issue #39: Descendants 2095
- Issue #40 – Interfacers
- Issue #41 – Machinations
- Issue #42 – Metal X
- Issue #43 – Love You Madly
- Issue #44 – It’s Official!
- Issue #45 – The Gremlin and The Game
- Issue #46 – The Juniper Chronicles
- Descendants Special #4 – Some Day In May
- Issue #47 – Everyday People
- Issue #48 – Inexorable
- Descendants Annual #4
With the affairs of his various interests, both legal and not squared away for the day, Vincent T. Liedecker settled in for a private dinner at home, alone save for his various media feeds flickering across the propped up screen of his personal tablet computer. His ever faithful bodyguard, Brill had been given the evening off, as had Rick Charlotte, leaving him undisturbed as he simply enjoyed some rare time to himself. Dinner was smothered pork chops with buttermilk biscuits and collards with applesauce on the side; all made from scratch by his staff chef. Liedecker didn’t go in for singling out favorite foods, or songs or colors, but this was the meal that got his chef the job.
A meal that was being rudely interrupted.
“I never would have guessed that this is how you eat when in private.” Vorpal more or less appeared in the doorway between the dining room and the kitchen, where Liedecker was taking his evening repast.
If her arrival came as any sort of surprise to Liedecker, it didn’t show. He sighed in a mildly put upon way and leaned back from his plate. Showing no signs of being in a hurry to address her, he dabbed his mouth with a linen napkin.
“And I suppose you thought this accent and my fine manners were an act to look every inch the fine southern gentleman for the public at large.” He set the napkin aside. “Sorry to disappoint, but I happen to actually be a fine southern gentleman. I got no need for masks. Now what can I do for you, Miss Carroll. You were expected, but not invited.”
Vorpal sidled up to the table just opposite him and leaned on the back of the chair opposite. “I’m disappointed,” She said, refusing to simply go along with his questions, “You’re alone and without defenses here. It’s wildly out of character.”
In a blur of motion, Liedecker was suddenly holding a compact, gas-powered pistol in his right hand. The only clue as to where it had come from was the fluttering of the table cloth just over his right knee. He didn’t point it at her, he didn’t need to. The pistol was set gently down on the table, it’s barrel perpendicular to them both. “Happy?” He asked in a level tone.
“You have at least two more within reach.” Vorpal stated. “Yes.”
“Then have a seat.” Liedecker said. “’less it’s life or death, it ain’t worth letting this get cold.” He resumed cutting slivers off his meat and rolling them liberally in gravy.
Smirking under her mask, Vorpal did take her seat, settling down casually with her legs crossed, a strange posture for an already strange woman. “I came to say thank you, actually. For giving the students the day off tomorrow.”
“Half the schools in the city are.” He said between forkfuls of greens. “’sides, this is their day, so say the Descendants.” A laugh escaped him. “Now that’s gonna be a heap of confusion; Descendants and descendants. We were better off with psionics, no matter how little sense it made.”
“It doesn’t matter to me at all what we’re called.” Vorpal said. “As long as we’re being treated right. You’ve heard about the counter protest?”
Liedecker nodded. “Gonna be twice as strong now, right after Greenview Ridge. That Groundswell boy made his self into a modern day Arjun Ravi, didn’t he?”
“If I ever meet him, I’ll skin him alive.” Vorpal hissed.
“And do nothing to prove you ain’t dangerous.” Liedecker’s tone had an edge to it as he cut off some more meat. There was a warning there.
The only thing visible of Vorpal under her mask was the patch over her eyes. They said all that was needed to be said: offense, questioning, and with nascent belligerence.”
“You know what I mean.” Liedecker broke a biscuit in half and sopped up a pool of gravy with it. He poised it just within reach of his mouth as he finished the thought. “You wanted me to do something about the protest, else you do it your own self. All I can say is: ‘back off’.”
Vorpal’s eyes narrowed. She knew that any actual violence against the leaders of that hateful throng would turn out badly, but she’d been hoping that the kind of pressure only a major crime boss could apply might do the trick.
“I know I can’t do their leaders myself.” She said with a casual air, “But I would wager…” It was a rarity, but her speech died in her throat as Liedecker shook his head.
“I got my own interest in this; the school first and foremost.” he said, temporarily pausing in his meal. “And it’s a damn good thing for you, ’cause you don’t have the mind for dealing with this type. I do.”
Under her mask, Vorpal smirked and she leaned forward with her elbows on the table. “And what’s the difference between these thugs and any of the criminals you ride herd on all the time.”
“Simple. They aren’t criminals. At least not yet, even if they’re about a hare’s breath from lynching the first poor clod that coughs up a fireball in front of ’em. But the important thing is how they think. The folks I handle, real criminals, they run on greed and pride. You put that on a scale with their life, or just a goodly amount of pain and they’ll back down.”
He took a sip of his heretofore untouched glass of iced tea. “These folks don’t have the goddamn common sense a criminal’s got. They’re just scared, angry, maybe jealous. You threaten them, they’ll scream it from the rooftops even while you cut their damn throat.
“And they’ve got real criminals, the ones after power, whipping ’em hard every day with the idea that some kid is gonna wake up tomorrow and blow their neighborhood off the map.” A cruel smile came to his lips, “Or for some, they’re just worried that one day the folks they like to kick around are gonna have a weapon in the blood that their guns can’t top. I know that for sure ’cause I’ve been sellin’ bigger, more powerful and more concealable guns, for years. You know why they keep buying?”
Vorpal frowned because she did, but let him say it.
“Because they’re scared the other guy brought one first.”
The scowl on Vorpal’s face showed through her mask. “So I’m supposed to sit back and do nothing?”
Liedecker waved the suggestion off casually. “Let the fools try and have their day. For every one of them there tomorrow, there’ll be a hundred down there singing the praises or at least these local ‘heroes’.”
He made a show of scrapping the last of his gravy into a manageable pool on his plate and eating it. “Go on down there. Take the day off and go to the street party, maybe show off your powers for a discount on a manicure; I hear there’s a place making that offer. But don’t pay no mind to the protests…”
Dabbing his mouth with the napkin again, he stood, clearly ready to show her out. “Where the master of the underworld can’t deal with them, a philanthropist who will be right up there on the dais when the mayor makes his speech can do a hell of a lot in the press.”
When Fredrick Carlson was seventeen, he’d lost his virginity. And in the most awkward and traumatic fashion he could imagine, that rush of adrenaline triggered his protomorphism. One minute, he’d been normal and amorous in his father’s tool shed with the girl next door, the next he felt as if he was going through a full body cramp while his date ran screaming and naked out over the lawn.
The transformation left him with an extra set of waterproof eyelids, a mouthful of flat teeth, and skin his doctor described as ‘a living mood ring’ because it changed color with his state of mind.
Over the years, he managed to gain control of that power and, though he still defaulted to green, had a surprising amount of precision in creating patterns and an optical illusion of texture. It was a neat hobby and parlor trick and none of it seemed to interfere with his career scouting talent for The Mayfield Colossi.
Indeed, despite that fateful night and the green skin, he’d led a normal, uneventful life besides once being attacked by a murderous dog monster in the park and requiring rescuing by the prelate called Occult.
He had a lovely wife who adored him, a townhouse in a friendly neighborhood in the Mayfield suburbs, a job he loved… and Edie.
Edith Erin Carlson. Fredrick often joked that having initials that spelled out ‘eec’ and pronounced ‘eek’ would come back and bite her one day, but his wife Laura liked Edith and Erin had been his grandmother’s name, so it stuck. Unexpected, Edie’s arrival had terrified him from the moment he was aware she existed. Now, he couldn’t imagine life without his little girl.
Speaking of whom, the light was on in her room and he could hear giggling well past her bedtime.
Fredrick took a detour on his way to the study to poke his head in. Sure enough, there was Edie in her pink and blue penguin pajamas, sitting at the foot of her bed, scribbling furiously with a crayon on a sheet of blue construction paper.
“I know a little girl who’s supposed to be in bed.” Fredrick said from the door. The books all said to keep your voice firm at times like this, but Fredrick doubted that the books were written while watching a four… or as Edie would correct, four-and-ten-months year old coloring with such an adorable look of determination on her face.
Whether he managed any firmness or not seemed to be immaterial to Edie as she continued drawing. Only now, she shielded the paper from his view with her free arm. “I forgot to draw you a picture for tomorrow.”
It mystified him as to how easily she could fall out of a typical childish lisp to perfectly clear English like she was using at the moment seemingly at random. And she never seemed to notice. The books didn’t cover that. They didn’t cover a lot of things.
“You don’t have to do that for me, sweetie.” Fredrick crossed the room and knelt down beside her. She continued to shield the drawing from him.
“But it’s your special day.” She insisted. By now, he was too close for her to cover up the sheet and keep working on it, so she deftly flipped it over.
Fredrick nodded, making his face the picture of understanding. The idea that it was his special day must have come from Laura. She was always oversensitive to his… he hesitated to call it a condition. It was as if she expected him to have some sort of complex about it, so she spent a lot of time praising his abilities and complementing his ‘handsome jade features’.
In fact, he wouldn’t have noticed what Descendants Appreciation Day was really about if Laura hadn’t pointed it out and insisted he take Edie.
“I know it’s a special day.” He said and grabbed her up into a hug. She giggled and pretended to struggle as he planted a kiss on the top of her head. “It’s because I’m spending the whole day with my most favorite person in the whole world.”
Still giggling, Edie got herself turned around so she could hug him. “But when it’s my special day, or mommy’s we get presents. I was makin’ you a present.” And as quick as that, she was dropping her g’s and ‘present’ came out as ‘pwesent’.
Fredrick smiled. None of the books would have foreseen this; maybe bedtime could be flexible just this once. “That’s really great of you, sweetie, but you don’t have to, it’s not that kind of special day.”
Children conveyed frustrated confusion with twice as much effectiveness and far less violence or cursing than adults. Edie was giving him a demonstration at that very moment. “It’s not?” This was clearly shocking to her.
He shook his head. “Nuh-uh. It’s for people like daddy. People who are different from other people.” That should have been utterly unhelpful, he was sure. Pretty much every psionic (was he supposed to use ‘descendant’ now? He didn’t know how political correctness worked when you were the part of the named group) had different powers or appearances. They weren’t a race or species, they were a ragtag group of misfits on a macro scale.
Still hugging her, he shifted around so he could stand and pick her up at the same time. “See, some folks think it’d be really neat to get together and say how great it is that we are like we are.” He guessed. He didn’t really understand the point, but Laura was insisting.
Just from the gentle bobbling motion he was doing with his arms, Edie was getting sleepy. With droopy eyelids, she powered through another question. “When do I get to be like you, daddy?”
“Oh… I don’t know, Edie. Not until you’re older at least.”
She frowned at this. “When I’m five?” She held up her hand to indicate the number. She was so smart, Fredrick thought.
“Older than that, kiddo.” He laughed softly and deposited her in bed. “But tomorrow, we’re going to have so much fun. We’re going to the park and you get to ride the merry-go-round, and I’m going to buy you your first cotton candy.”
Still fighting sleep, Edie wrinkled her nose. “There’s cotton at Dr. Kilby’s office. Don’t wanna eat that…” She punctuated it with a yawn.
“They just call it cotton, sweetie. Trust me, you’ll love it.” He kissed her on the forehead. “Now go to sleep. The sooner you fall asleep, the sooner tomorrow will be here.”
He had just enough time to straighten up, switch on the bedside lamp, and turn around before Edie’s voice came again, clear and fully awake. “What about the Daddy Monster.”
Fredrick sighed. He wasn’t really upset, but he had been so close to thinking he had convinced Edie to go to bed somewhere near her bedtime. “You were just on the floor.” He pointed out as if logic had any meaning here. “So you know nothing’s under the bed.”
Edie nodded, but pulled the covers up to her chin. “Uh-huh, but what about the closet?”
No arguing with that. “Alright. Are you ready for the Daddy Monster?” Edie nodded enthusiastically.
Flexing and putting on as fierce an expression as he could, Fredrick brought his fists together in front of his chest. “You asked for it.” He grunted. “Here comes the Daddy Monster!” It was nothing to slowly fade his skin to orange and shade it in such a way that it could pass for scaly to a four year old.
After a minute or so of grunting and growling, the illusion was complete. He impressed himself with the detail this time. If he could put on paper what he put on his skin, he might have a new career.
“What lil’ girl want Daddy Monster do?” He said in a snarling voice while adopting a slouching, apish posture.
Edie giggled and clapped. “Check the closet, Daddy Monster!” ‘Monster’ in his instance came out as ‘monstawh’.
“Monster check closet.” Fredrick grunted, hobbling his way to the closet door.
And so their nightly ritual played out. Daddy Monster was ordered to check the closet, behind the dresser, out the window, under the bed, and finally to fetch a drink of water before he turned back to plain old green daddy to say goodnight.
As he closed the door, Fredrick smiled. It would indeed be a wonderful to spend the day with his special girl, no matter what the occasion. But what she had asked stuck in his memory.
When do I get to be like you, Daddy?
It had never really occurred to him, but the potential for protomorphism, or even something he never expected was there in her. It was a legacy he’d left her before he’d even met her. And what exactly was that legacy?
Things were nice in the US, for true. Even without the Academy and the Enforcer Corps, psionics were still generally well thought of. But in the rest of the world? What if she decided to travel and was suddenly transformed by the genes he gave her?
Would she, twenty years from that day, still be treated as a queen in Columbia, but as a dirty secret in England? A military asset of France or government property in China? There were other places that accepted psionics, but a lot could change in the time it took a girl to grow. What was he doing to make sure the world would be good to her?
Suddenly, he was glad Laura made him take the day off work for this.