Issue #47 – Everyday People

This entry is part 13 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 4: Confluence

Part 3

Sonja Remington idly watched Mayfield’s streets pass by through the window of her limousine. It was her first visit to the Machine City and in the ten minutes since they left the airport, nothing was convincing her she ever needed to come back. Tall buildings, a few familiar logos on chain stores. Nothing she couldn’t have seen back in LA. Maybe it was more interesting by daylight. Somehow, her imagination had conjured visions of the Machine City being home to giant robots like the Live Metal events in Salt Lake, Boise, or RapidCity. It occurred to her that Virginia was distinctly lacking in flat, barren land for that sort of thing, but it didn’t stop her from imagining it.

The mental image of the giant robotic spider called Sydney scurrying across a skywalk as the car passed under it made her laugh to herself.

“What?”

She wasn’t alone in the back of the limo. Leonard “Mack” McIntyre was a short, dark skinned man with a thick, well kept beard sized for a man twice his size. It didn’t help that he shaved his head, drawing even more attention to the beard. Nor, that before press events, he was self conscious and nervous to the point of near twitching. Sonja laughing had put it over the top.

“What?” He repeated again, his voice carrying nervousness along with his usual soft, slightly high tone. Mack had been a Revivalist Soul singer before his group abandoned him and he found a new place in the world as a manager. “Did I get something on my suit?” He asked, her.

Sonja tore her eyes away from the city and looked at him. Oh, nothing about you. I was just imagining something funny outside. Which I kind of had to do; this city is boring.”

Mack calmed down a bit. “You’re just cranky because they got your meal wrong on the plane. But don’t worry, I made double sure the car was stocked with your favorite road food. We got macadamias, lemon-lime soda—off-brand like you like, those banana things…”

Sonja’s eyes flashed and that was close enough to literal that Mack stopped talking. Something about the reflectivity of her retinas changed when her mood changed with no indication as to how it changed. “Ooo!” She exclaimed. “Where are they?”

A few moments’ time in the limo’s mini-fridge yielded a small covered tray, which Mack passed over to her. Inside were a number of buttery, round crackers, liberally spread with peanut butter and topped with banana slices that had been spritzed with acidulated water to prevent browning.

They were a treat from before she’d been famous and she always took some along when traveling if she could find a place to store them. Her little tribute to the King, she’d often explain. And being a musician at heart, Mack found her reverence for an artist gone from the world for almost a century to be yet another reason to find her endearing.

Four of the crackers were swiftly devoured before Sonja decided to pace herself and attempt conversation again. “I thought this place had super-heroes. Doesn’t look like they’re doing anything.” When this didn’t draw an answer from Mack, she asked, “Why do I have to be here again?”

“Publicly?” Mack asked. “Because you care deeply about the plight of your fellow psionics in other countries. From the business angle? Opening up more countries to psionics makes international celebrity a real possibility for you, Connie.”

Connie. Short of Consuela Gallegos . Sonja Remington was, and had always been an imagining of the daughter of Peruvian nationals who grew up in an America with bad blood with Venezuela, was on the brink of war with Brazil, and had poor trigger control when it came to its national hatreds.

Once upon a time, she was just a name and a dream for an ugly ducking that had it in her head that even hackneyed and shallow fantasy could be achieved by hoping a lot and pretending in her room all alone.

Hoping and pretending hadn’t worked. But a wild pitch to the chest during a pick-up baseball game did. It was the kind of thing that was known to kill, but when doctors examined her, they found a baseball shaped, hairless ‘bruise’ that looked like mother of pearl instead of regular skin and was impervious to blunt trauma.

Over weeks, the patch grew, and when it reached her scalp, her chocolate locks fell out, replaced with peach fuzz the color of the bloom on a blueberry that eventually grew into razor straight hair she usually let hang free to the small of her back.

Not long after that, she’d been ‘discovered’ by a photographer to model for a gallery show. It didn’t take long for her to realize that the show and the handful of web magazine spreads she landed from it were geared toward the xenophilia crowd. She’d given up on modeling at all at that point, but her portfolio made it’s way to Mack, and he promised her respectable work and a manager that would sell her like the superstar she deserved to be.

Six years later, and she was the twenty-six year old face of a merchandising empire. She had her own clothing line (which she didn’t design), her own line of fine wine (which she neither grew, nor fermented), and innumerable bath soaps, shampoos, and scented oils (which she didn’t formulate). All that on top of a number of sponsorships.

It was a dream come true, except that fame extended all of ten feet across the US border. Or at least that’s how Mack felt. Sonja wasn’t particularly bothered with her pile of fame and money, but Mack wanted her to have a big pile of fame and money.

“I guess.” She said in a non-committal tone. “But when are we going to do the music thing we talked about?”

Mack fought back a wince. Around the time Sonja realized she had more money than some towns, she’d taken it in her head that she wanted to launch a singing career. ‘Like Elvis’ was pretty much the extent of her reasoning, which missed several points in rapid succession and refused to ask for directions.

It was true that she had a decent voice, but she also insisted on writing the lyrics. Some people should not be allowed to attempt prose, let alone, lyrics. Mack imagined that was why God gave her those psionic gifts: to keep her from trying.

The limo was slowing down, Mack noticed. They were at the hotel. Hastily, he cleared his throat. “Well how about this? The Ladies of Armageddon are in town to play tomorrow. I’ll see what I can do to set up a meeting.”

Sonja frowned. “The metal band? My style’s not exactly hard driving.” Then a smile spread across her face and she leaned over and hugged him. “But we’ve all gotta start somewhere. Thanks, Mack, you’re the best!”

He hugged her back and preceded her out of the car. There wasn’t much of a crowd at the hotel, but a few reporters were waiting with cameras and questions at the ready. “I’m doing my best. I know you’re not happy having to come out here, but I think it’s good for you to do this. It’s good to get out and get a good look at who and what you are.”

Sonja came out next, provoking some yelled questions she wasn’t paying attention to. She made a rude sound. “But I don’t have a problem with who I am.” She whined.

“Some people do, that’s what this thing’s about. After the Academy, and the stuff on the news a couple of months ago, it’s kind of important to remind people how much they love you, how scary you are not, and maybe let some of that rub off on the little guys too.”

Both eyebrows shot up, even as her attention was caught by an SUV that pulled up behind the limo. “You don’t think I’m scary?” A man in a dark suit had jumped out and jogged to the back of the car, throwing open the back doors.

Mack saw the SUV too and it made hims smile. “No I do not, Con… Sonja…” He cast about to make sure none of the cameras caught that. “And neither does he.” It took a second for Sonja to realize he was looking at the SUV, where the suit was nervously coaxing a very large dog out into the open.

“Charlie!” She all but squealed. That was all it took to get the huge, coal dust gray beast moving. He was Dane mix with definite signs of sheep dog heritage in his long, shaggy coat. With a single thunderous ‘whuff’ he galloped to his mistress, tongue lolling. Sonja was instantly kneeling beside him, hugging and petting him while laughing like a small child.

“I figured you might feel better with a friend.” Mack smiled. Around him, the reporters were straining to get a shot of the model and her dog. Watching the scene himself, he couldn’t imagine how anyone could not like her. Maybe, he imagined, she was just the kind of person people needed to see when it came to psionics.

***

Kay brushed a bright red lock aside as she took a long pull of coffee. Lisa was across from her at their table in the Dungeon, looking around at the decorations.

As a business that only donated the bare minimum to become an official sponsor of Descendants Appreciation Day, the Dungeon seemed to be trying to make up for it with enthusiasm. Multicolored streamers hung from the ceiling and tucked or hung from them where cartoon-like caricatures of the Descendants and some of the more well publicized foes they had faced: Maven, the Mauler, all of the Redeemers, and even a few renditions of the Inugami.

Things didn’t stop there, posters and wall scrolls created by local artists hung from every wall (with their price tags in plain view), and plush and plastic keychain versions of everyone from the Whitecoat to Occult was for sale in bins by the register.

“Where did they get all this stuff so fast?” Lisa said almost dreamily.

Eyes going from her friend to the tablet computer set between them, Kay shrugged. “Most of it’s cheap. Just ask the crafts crowd for descendant-y stuff and they can knock out a lot in a month.” She grinned mischievously. “You know you want an Occult plushie.”

Lisa snickered at that. “I don’t think my ego’s quite that big yet. Is it creepy that I kind of want one of the Zero ones though? The expression they gave her makes her look like she needs a hug.”

“I wouldn’t worry me head ’bout Jun needin’ hugs, luv. Not now that she’s got the new beau from across the pond.” Kay said in a perfect imitation of a British man, but a purposefully terrible approximation of Juniper’s new boyfriend Malcolm’s accent.

“Now there’s something you don’t do often.” Lisa’s eyebrows went up. “At least not in public.

Evidently, Kay hadn’t even put any thought to it and her face darkened with a blush. “I’ve been hanging around Cyn too much. She’s always doing impressions; almost as good as mine… which makes sense.”

Lisa smiled at her over her coffee. “You know, there’s no time like now to start doing stuff like that publicly.”

Kay shook her head. “Sorry, no can do, anymore than you can give people a look under the hood and give free magic shows on the street corner.”

“Why?” Lisa blinked. “You’re never… evident in… my night job.” She felt very conscious of the other patrons of the Dungeon. She and Kay didn’t have the more sophisticated methods of hiding her identity that the Descendants did, and the options offered in the pages of the Book of Reason were heavy-handed in the best cases. “There’s no reason to hide your powers.”

Her friend fixed her with an expression in her brown eyes that was more serious than she’d seen her in quite a while. “The hell there’s not.” She looked shocked that Lisa didn’t understand. “Lisa, think about it: in the entire time we’ve been friends, what’s been the most important thing to me, the only think I’ve ever really wanted to do with my life?”

That was simple. “Music.” Lisa said, still not understanding why the conversation was turning in this direction. “The band!”

Folding her arms over her chest and sitting far back in her seat, Kay studied the side of her now empty cup. “Exactly. I know you don’t follow industry news and stuff, but the fans, the really Indy folks don’t care about how catchy your songs are, or how good your lyrics are; they just care about your originality and your talent.”

When Lisa still looked blank, Kay continued. “You’re the creativity between the two of us. What few songs we do that aren’t covers, you wrote.”

“Co-wrote.” Lisa said quickly. “With you. You’re the one with the ear, I just write poetry.”

“Maybe that’s true.” Kay said, but her scowl was only growing. “But it won’t matter if people find out I don’t play my own instrument.” Lisa looked even more confused at this for reasons Kay couldn’t parse; after all, she’d known from the start.

“Even you’ve heard of stuff like that.” She said, “People caught lip-synching, even it’s to themselves, bands playing their studio recordings at their live concerts: it can get you nearly run out of the business on its own.”

“Kay…” Lisa started.

“That’s what would happen.” Kay said. “If you’re not getting the sound from the instrument, they don’t think you’re a real musician. If news of my power got out, the best I could do is a segment on late night talk, or a show in the cheep section of Vegas.”

“I don’t think it would come to that.” Lisa said, though she herself wasn’t sure about that. Kay did know far more about the business that she did, but it seemed wrong to her. “Just because the instrument is part of you shouldn’t make any difference if they like your music.”

“Yeah, if I become an instant hit somehow, but let’s get real; you’ve got to get love from the Indy crowd if you’re going to become big the long way around.” Kay noted Lisa’s ambivalent expression. “Look, it’s… it’s just business, Lisa. I’m not like suffering some kind of complex, or shame from it. It’s just the way I’ve got to do things, okay?”

Lisa didn’t answer right away. First, she tipped back the last of her coffee in one long swallow. The cup made a hollow noise as she put it back down on the table. For a few long seconds, she looked thoughtful. “So you’re okay with doing it like that? No angst, no drama?”

“No angst, no drama.” Kay nodded with a smile. “The thing is, it never mattered, you know? I didn’t want to go to the Academy—which turned out to be a really good decision—so we never played it up. Then we both learned the bass, and you were better, and I hated keyboard, so…”

“As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with that.” Lisa said. “You still practice. You still work on your sound and you still know more about music than anyone I know.”

Kay’s blush returned at the praise. “I couldn’t do it without my best friend. And Snackrifice.” She reached out and tapped the screen of her computer, bringing it out of it’s power-saving mode. “The band whose members, by the way, still need a definite set laid out for tomorrow.” Her previous agitation and seriousness melted away. “Can you believe we’re playing the same event as the Ladies of Armageddon?”

This made Lisa laugh out loud. “Sure, except we’re playing the block party in front of the Dungeon with guys like Anger Fist and Melody, Inc and they’re playing Wagner Park with SB and the Fountain of Soul and Rocket Mittens.”

“So there’s a small matter of scale.” Kay shrugged. “The point is, their concert is at the different time than the block party, so there’s a huge chance that we might be mentioned in the same paragraph as LoA! JC did make the changes to the site like I asked, right?”

Lisa nodded, still trying to remember how and when her boyfriend got roped into the task of webmaster for Snackrifice. “All new sample tracks, a special Descendants Appreciation Day discount on downloading our cover album; we’re ready for this surge in interest you expect to see.”

Kay’s usual grin spread across her face. “Awesome. You know, I don’t care that only like ten people know I’m one, I’ve got to say it right now: Damn it feels good to be a descendant.”

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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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2 Comments

  1. Just a note, but at first Fredrick’s wife’s name is Jill, and then it changes to Laura.

    • Thanks, fixed. I think Jill was originally the girlfriend he had when he manifested the first time.

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