Issue #51 – Amore Detestabilis

This entry is part 3 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 5: How the World Changes

Part 3

Warrick found Tink in Laurel’s workshop, which was getting to be a common occurrence. What wasn’t common was that he wasn’t expecting to.

“Hey.” He said tentatively, feeling as he did a little over a year ago when he first asked her out. “I didn’t know you were up here.”

She was hunched over the work area that had become hers over the course of the past two weeks, carefully soldering some sort of actuator. It was all plastic and ceramic, so it wasn’t showing up in his metal sense. “Yeah,” She said distractedly, “I inspiration struck and I wasn’t doing anything better…”

“So… how long you been here?” He swung the heavy claymore he’d been carrying off his shoulder and set it down next to the 3-d printer.

“Half an hour.” she finished her soldering and set the iron down to admire her handiwork.

Warrick used his palmtop to send the file for the leather-like wrap for the sword’s hilt to the printer before coming to sit next to her. “I was down at the boathouse; another order for the site; claymore, plate and mail… the whole nine yards. This guy is basically paying for our whole prom.”

“That’s nice.” She was frowning at the device she’d built, checking it against the plans on her tablet.

A frown played on Warrick’s lips. “Um… so you know that thing we were talk about? The hotel? I took care of that yesterday.” No reaction. They had both blushed their way through the whole discussion before and if anything, he felt more awkward discussing it now than before. “Um… we hadn’t really talked restaurants, or I would have gotten that done too.”

She picked up the actuator, turned it over in her hands, and after apparently locating the problem, grabbed up the soldering iron again.

“You know, we also really have to get a move on with getting our clothes and stuff too. Prom is next week and most people already have theirs…” He was getting desperate now, clothes were low on his list of things he liked discussing, but nothing else he’d tried was getting the conversation to start.

“Any ideas?”She asked, but her interest clearly wasn’t in it. Still, he took the opening to try and interest her with something.

“Actually, I don’t know if you even saw in the paper, but back in November, we fought this guy… I don’t even remember what he called himself, but he used gas pellets. Got me good early on and made me kind of loopy… anyway, while I wasn’t all there, I formed my armor and it came out as like this really, really fine chain mail. We’re talking mithral shirt type stuff.”

He looked over to see if she was paying attention to find her balancing the actuator on the back of her wrist for some reason. “Um… anyway, the stuff was almost like cloth. Pretty cool, so I kept it and… well it’s kind of weird, but people got to prom in duct tape tuxes and dresses, so…”

Still nothing. He wasn’t even sure how he expected her to react, but odds were in favor of either laughter or, knowing Tink, interest. Ignoring him was off the table entirely.

“Did I… Tink, is everything alright?”

Tink shrugged and nodded. “Yeah, why?”

“Are you sure? Because I don’t think you’ve ever ignored me like this before.”

“I’m just busy right now, okay?” Her voice was tinged with annoyance. “I’m working on this thing and I’m really, really focused.”

He knew he should drop it, but his mouth was faster than his brain. “What’re you working on?”

“The gauntlets.” She said all too quickly. “For Chaos.”

“Huh. I thought those were done already.”

“It’s nothing okay!” She snapped. “I’m just… ideas. I’ve got ideas. Let me work on them and leave me alone!”

Warrick started at the sudden rebuke, reeling with hurt he could barely disguise. “O-okay.” He quickly vacated his seat and prepared to do the same for the room. “I was only… I’ll see you later.” In a haze of confusion, he fled, forgetting the sword and the printing job still in progress.

Before he knew it, he found himself in the upstairs commons, where Cyn was sitting on the couch, fiddling with her own palmtop. The TV was also on, tuned to the news, which was doing a scare piece on an uptick in road rage incidents.

She glanced up and the sight of his expression told her that all was not right. “Hey, War, what’s up?”

Upon seeing that he wasn’t alone, he tried to school his expression as best he could and rubbed the back of his neck. “Not much. You?”

It was far too late for his act to fool Cyn. “Something’s up, but lets hear yours first.” She patted the couch cushion beside her. “Sit. Talk.”

After a second’s hesitation, he did as she asked, sitting with his hands balled into fists on his knees. “Did you know Tink was here?”

“I saw her car in the lot earlier when I was down in the kitchen. Why?”

“She’s working on some kind of project now and… I know it’s taking a lot of her attention, but she yelled at me and told her to leave her alone.”

Cyn stared blankly at him. “That’s it?”

“Yeah. She’s never done that before.”

“She’s told you to basically run along, like when she was working on her car.” She pointed out. Out of nowhere, she found herself contemplating his bicep, exposed by the t-shirt he was wearing. They weren’t much, but she wondered how they’d feel wrapped around… Okay. What the hell was that? She mentally slapped herself.

Warrick hung his head. “So… you think I’m overreacting?”

“No more than you were…” Her eyes widened. “Last night.”

“Huh?”

Her attention had gone back to her palmtop. “Okay, remember when I said something’s up? I think your something and my something are the same something.”

“I’m… no, it’s still ‘huh’.”

“Hear me out:” She said. “Last night, you and Jun were on the verge of tears over a TV show.”

“It was a pretty intense episode.” He defended. “I mean, this is going to change every—”

Cyn pulled something up on the palmtop. “Intense episodes that change everything happen like two or three times a season and you never freaked out like someone on an internet forum before. And it’s not just that: I was really worked up in a most un-ladyful way all freaking day. I almost tackled Ollie and gave a whole new meaning to ‘full court press’ at the park. And I’m still getting dumb ideas floating in my head.”

Warrick was still a few steps behind her. “…in an un-ladyful…?”

“Don’t stop and think about it. Besides, there’s more. I heard Alexis crying in her room earlier and Ian’s not even around. You remember what made that happen last time, did you seen any indication of them being in a bad way last night?”

“No, not really.” He admitted, still not knowing where this was going.

“Well I did.” She said. “And I’m not the only one. The morning anchor on News 3 was talking about weird stuff coming up on the police blotter. Last night, an old lady caught two guys breaking into her house and beat them so bad they’re in the hospital the cops say she was so angry that they had to restrain her to get the guys out of there.”

Warrick chuckled. “Sounds like out jobs are in danger.”

“It’d be funny if that was the only thing. You read local gossip?”

“Not really.”

“Well let me set this one up for you: everyone knows that Tony Makie, one of our city councilmen?” Warrick nodded, recalling the name from the apparent VIP list at Descendants Appreciation Day. “He’s been cheating on his wife since forever. This morning? She kicked him out of the house and filed for divorce. Not weird enough for you? You should see the clip of him admitting it. He’s cracking jokes about her!”

He blinked at her. “What, seriously? That’s prickish.”

“And political suicide. At least that’s what they’re saying.” Cyn nodded. “And that’s not all; like a dozen people have turned themselves in over the last day for crimes they pretty much got away with. And people are getting booked for road rage and all the usual being an ass in public stuff you normally only get when Dayspring wins a big basketball game.”

“And you think that all of this is connected.” Warrick guessed. “What are we thinking here, full moon?”

“The news woman already made that joke. Full moon’s not til Monday though. I’m thinking evil plot.”

“Okay. Considering who were are, I’m not going to rule that out, but… why?”

Cyn shrugged. “I was thinking that too. Maybe this is the point; just to work the city into a nice froth and laugh. It sure doesn’t look like they’re picking their targets.”

“I don’t know. I know I’m the last person to say it, but that sounds kind of comic-bookish. Sure there’s a ton of those guys in something like Taskforce:Earth or The Superiority; Hatebringer, Cacophony, The Ultimate Imp… but we’ve never actually met anyone that went to the trouble of stirring something up if there weren’t getting something out of it.”

“Demons.” Cyn pointed out. “Remember what Laurel said about them? They’re emotion eaters and like to cause trouble for humans so they can eat the feelings that come with it.”

Warrick absently scratched his ear. “You think they can do it this way though? Mauler needed to spread panic the old fashioned way.”

“Who knows what they can do?” Cyn asked, standing up. “But I’m convinced that something’s going on and with Laurel out shopping for stuff for the new defenses and Ian and Alexis hit way worse than we are, it’s up to use to figure it out.”

“And how are we going to figure it out?” He got up to follow her as she headed into the unofficial boys’ wing of the former bed and breakfast.

“Seems pretty obvious to me.” She replied. “Someone’s putting major mind woogie on Mayfield, so we got to our expert on mind woogie.” Stopping at Kareem’s door, she knocked loudly. “I just hope he’s in.”

It took another barrage of knocks before the resident mentalist opened the door.

“Dude, you look terrible.” Cyn blurted out. She wasn’t exaggerating. In fact, she’d never seen him look so haggard and run down. Still in his pajama bottoms and long shirt, he winced and squinted in the ambient light of the hallway.

Still, he stepped aside and motioned them in. “Good morning, Cynthia, Warrick. I’m sorry about that, I’m having a bad morning to match a bad night.”

“Tell me about it, maybe I can add it to my list of evidence.” Cyn slipped past him and looked around. Kareem hadn’t done much in the way of decoration; just a very recent picture of himself and his parents and one of Desiree in frames next to his computer dock and a framed Escher print on one wall.

He’d put most of his room allowance into all new furniture; lush, royal purple carpet, a large, comfortable lounge chair with upholstery to match the carpet, a full on four poster bed, and an office chair to go with his professional quality desk that would have been at home in a CEO’s home office.

She glanced back to where he and Warrick were still standing. “No, I meant it. Tell me about it.”

Kareem shook his head. “There isn’t much to tell. Desiree and I went for a walk and then dinner. But in the middle of it, she started apologizing over and over and ran out. She wouldn’t take any calls after that. And this morning, I have the most driving headache I’ve ever had.”

A curious, sly look came over Cyn’s face, a look everyone in Freeland House took as a warning that some serous Cyn-like scheme was afoot. “Would you say that it was out of character for her?” She asked.

“Yes, I would… why?”

“Cyn thinks something’s going on right now that’s making everyone all scrambled.” Warrick supplied.

“And since it’s a brain thing, naturally I thought of you.” Cyn finished for him.

His headache wasn’t helping Kareem process well that the moment and he gave her a curious look. “You believe I’m doing something?”

“Huh? No! I meant that you’re the guy that knows about psychic stuff, so maybe you can help us figure out what’s causing this so we can go shut it down.”

Understanding finally dawned on him. “Ah. I can try and analyze your minds, and possibly examine the astral plane for clues.” He motioned to his bed. “reading your mind should be the fastest. Please have a seat.” He got on the bed and set at the head of it with his legs folded up underneath him.

“All three of us on your bed. Nice.” Cyn said in a sly tone. Warrick gawked at her and Kareem beetled his eyebrows, uncertain that he’d head what he thought he’d heard. Heat flowed to her cheeks as she caught on as well.

Shyness having never been a part of her, she chose boisterousness instead. “You see? This is exactly what I’m talking about. That should not be happening!” We that, she crawled up on the foot of the bed, sitting in the same manner as Kareem. Warrick followed her lead, but sat on the edge, carefully avoiding her.

Out of politeness, Kareem didn’t call attention to it. Clearly, something was wrong though, so he wasted no time. “Alright, now just relax and allow me past the mental defenses we’ve worked on.” His breath became steady and regular as his eyes drifted closed.

Just moments later, his eyes flew open. “You were correct, Cynthia. This is something serious.”

Cyn cringed at hearing him say serious. “So what is it? Are there needles in my soul? Some sort of spirit snake? A succubus?”

Kareem shook his head. “There are no astral representations involved; I was reading your mind,not viewing you on the astral plane.”

“Okay, then what’s happening to us?” Warrick asked, chewing his lip nervously.

“Your emotions have been tampered with.” Kareem said. “But I don’t believe it was direct. Some parts of you have been suppressed and some amplified and that in turn is affecting your judgment. With a few minutes of work, I can set you back the equilibrium and then we can find out the how and why.”

“Um… Kareem?” Cyn said, “It’s not just us. This is happening all over town.”

If what he’d seen in their minds hadn’t that revelation woke him up completely, “The entire…” he murmured, but didn’t finish. “That would require power neither I, nor any psychic or astral entity we’ve encountered could dream of. And altering emotions on that scale… I can’t imagine what that would do to the local astral plane.”

He had to see, had to check. Eyes going out of focus, he slumped where he sat. He was like that less than a minute before coming back to himself with an expression of shock on his face. “No wonder I have a headache.”

Series Navigation<< Issue #50 – Operation: All InIssue #52 – Scenes From a Changing World >>

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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