Issue #52 – Scenes From a Changing World

This entry is part 4 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 5: How the World Changes

Big events change and shape the world. There is no questioning that. When change comes about in a wide scale, it is easy to point it out and say ‘this is the moment where nothing could ever be the same again’. These are the stories that are not just passed down, but ingrained into the very culture, the living memory of mankind.

But for every mountain that rises, every glacier that grinds a continent flat, and every political masterstroke, there are a thousand little boulders, a million drops of water, a billion manipulations and inspirations. The small stories that take little time to tell, but always have consequences far larger than the number of words they contain.

The Mirror

“Okay, I’m ready.” Lisa declared.

“Masks on, guys.” said Warrick. “Even with my powers I can’t keep all the fumes down while it’s actually boiling.”

They were in the boathouse-turned-smithy, but it wasn’t being used for either purpose at the moment. All of Warrick’s supplies had been moved aside, and the graving dock had been pumped dry to provide a safe place for Lisa to work her magic.

A large, antique mirror was on its back atop a table formed from Warrick’s iron stock. Beside it, a rolling tool chest had been made available, the necessary reagents and foci for the ritual helpful arranged. Central-most of them was a flask of roiling silvery liquid with a vented and filtered top.

Warrick and Lisa were already wearing the chemical rebreathers that were standard issue for the Descendants when dealing with fire or aquatic rescue and their audience, Kay and Tink, followed suit quickly. This would be the first time the rebreathers saw action against toxic fumes.

Upon making sure everyone was properly protected, Warrick gave Lisa the thumbs up. She nodded and used a set of tongs to lift the flask of mercury off the Bunsen burner set to warm it.

“You know, it’s ferociously dangerous, but I’ve got to admit, mercury is very pretty.” said Tink. The rebreather added a harsh, mechanical buzz to her words.

Warrick had to agree. “You know, Ms. Brant noticed one time when I was practicing that sometimes I end up making this weird ion of it that’s got a slightly higher surface tension. Keeps it from subliming or leeching into pores, so it’s perfectly safe if you don’t eat it.”

Tink made a sound that probably would have sounded excited if not for the rebreather. It came out like a hornet hitting a bug-zapper. “I have to get a look at that!”

“Sure, if I can figure out how I make it on accident, making it on purpose won’t be a problem.”

“People, please.” Kay said with faux seriousness. “You’re about to miss the cool part.” Her hair for the day with green; several greens; starting at neon at the tips and darkening to forest at the roots.

Lisa laughed at that. “funny you should say ‘cool’, because I feel the heat coming through my gloves off this thing. Got the runes ready?” Kay held up the carved chit containing her prepared runes for the spell. Preemptively, she also gestured to the soon to be key artifacts.

They looked neither like keys, nor ancient enough to be artifacts. Metal badges; ten shaped like a stylized ‘D’ and painted red, ten circular, but painted with black and red enamel so that they bore that same ‘D’ in the center. In truth, they were available online for sixty dollars each from a young woman named Analiza Purcell, as of yet the only officially licensed purveyor of Descendants related merchandise. Ten percent went to Descendants Rights Worldwide and another ten went to a fund for people injured in powered battles.

Kay had arranged them neatly on a round serving platter, onto which she’d already taken the liberty of drawing a magic circle with a soldering iron.

“Best sidekick ever.” Lisa laughed, making a sound like an electric razor. Holding the tongs in one hand, she very carefully reached out and removed the stopper. She then wasted no time tipping the flask over the center of the mirror.

Under her breath, she murmured a string of syllables in what she assumed to be some distant ancestor of Russian. There were no sparks or strobes of light, but when the liquid metal hit the surface of the mirror, it spread in a rectangular, rather than a natural, circular fashion. It covered the mirror over, replacing the reflective surface with its own.

Once the mirror’s surface was covered, Lisa stoppered the flask and placed it back on the burner.

“Now for the flashy stuff.” she declared. “Kay?” Her friend and self appointed sidekick handed her the chit and she broke it over the mirror. The mercury shivered under an unseen force and grooves began to form in it, becoming a series of interlocked magic circles and runic script.

The surrounding metal began to shine with an inner light and the magic circles began to slowly rotate was if floating atop the quicksilver pool. As soon as it began, Lisa began taking up reagents and scattering them over the mirror. Each burst into showers of brilliant, white sparks before they could land.

She intoned the spell in flowing words of a language she understood only in the moment of casting. Here, she spoke of a multitude of paths, passing a hand over the badges. Soon after, she focused on the mirror, the single gate to which all the paths led. Now she vocalized the locks, and again she did the same for walls of will to protect the paths from infiltrators. Somehow, her rebreather failed to distort her voice.

As she came to the end, the inner glow of the mercury ran inward like water, filling the grooves making up the magic circles and intensifying as it did. Moments later, a critical mass was reached and a wave of white fire washed across the mirror’s surface. It span up from it in a divine whirlwind before crashing down upon the badges and finally winking out.

For a moment, almost reverent silence filled the boathouse.

“Okay, that was even better than the Book described!” exclaimed Kay, ruining it, but at the same time paving the way for the others.

“That was amazing.” Tink said. “…can we test it?”

“We’ve got to some time. Might as well be now.” Warrick agreed, pulling off the rebreather. At this, the others knew it was safe to do the same.

“I helped, so I get to go first though.” Kay reached out to grab a badge, only to find that they were still red hot. With a surprised yelp and a reproachful glare at he inanimate objects, she pulled her hand back. “Crap. Where’s Jun when you need her?”

“Hold on, I’ve got you covered.” Tink got up and hurried out of the graving to the regular boathouse floor. Seconds later, she returned with a pair of gloves that looked like they were covered in foil. “Heat resistant.” She explained, “They came with my Bunsen burner.”

“Thanks!” Kay had them donned in no time and immediately picked up one of the round badges. “Okay, so what do I say to open the path?”

“Pokazhite mne dorogu domoĭ.” Lisa said the words as carefully as she could. “At least until I take the time to tweak the triggers… some time after prom at least. Then it’ll be ‘show me the way home’.”

“Gotcha.” Kay flashed the double thumbs up and ran out of the room.

Lisa smiled after her. “Okay guys, let’s get this old timer upright before she gets to the house.”

That task took almost no time at all, once Warrick summoned Isp and Osp (who were excluded from the earlier proceedings for being a tiny bit too curious about the mercury than was healthy for the more organic members of the group.). Long before Kay was halfway up the hill from the boathouse, the mirror was set up against the near wall of the boathouse. The plan was to move it into Freeland House’s former bridal suite once Lisa was sure it was working.

It took five more minutes before something happened. A low level keening filled the room moments before the mirror stopped reflecting and instead showed Kay standing in the downstairs common room and holding the key artifact before her.

She looked mildly surprised that it was working, her mouth forming words they couldn’t hear from their side. After a second’s marveling at the portal, she stepped forward and entered the boathouse as easily as she could have stepped through any door. The moment she was fully across, the mirror reverted to normal.

“Prodigious!” Tink exclaimed, eyes wide.

Kay grinned and casually dusted herself off. “That’s right. Let’s see your science do that.” she teased.

“Actually…” Warrick started.

“Nope. Doesn’t count.” Kay cut him off.

“But the work on the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky bridge…”

“I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over my magic travel mirror.” Kay smirked.

Lisa snuck up behind her and messed up her hair, causing her to mewl angrily and squirm. “It’s not perfect, of course. The trip is still just one way; you can use your key to enter any surface that’s both reflective enough and large enough to fit through, but they all come out through the master mirror, no return trip.”

She stopped harassing Kay and turned to face her creation. “So until I work out something better; this won’t solve to problem of distance entirely, but if everyone needs to come together in a hurry, they can.”

For the Girl Who is Everyone Part 1

“You can order something else if you want.”

It wasn’t that Cyn hadn’t been paying attention to Ollie; she had. It was just that he’d leapt directly from talking about SB and the Fountain of Soul’s new album to a comment about her empty plate. It was probably the first time in her life that the offer of more food felt like a rude interruption.

Well, not so rude. A little rude. A bit. God, she was hungry. Faking normalcy was hard enough she for the little things like holding her strength back, or resisting the urge to add just one more inch of reach when she went to grab something. But the worst part by far was going out to dinner with someone who wasn’t in on the secret.

When she ate with the others, she didn’t hold back. Other restaurant patrons didn’t gauge how much she put away, and a waiter couldn’t be entirely sure she wasn’t sharing. But with a guy sitting right across from her, all her obfuscation and slight of hand was useless.

“Wha-huh?” She asked intelligently.

Ollie gave her an understanding look. “You’re still hungry.”

“No I’m not.” At least she’d avoided saying ‘nuh-uh’ like she had in her head. “Totally satisfied right here.”

He laughed softly and shook his head. “I’ve never met a girl that burns more energy than you. That roast beef wasn’t telling you a thing, I can tell.” A beat, and then he grinned at her, teasing. “Mostly because you’ve been giving my chicken salad more lusty looks than you ever give me.”

“Jerk.” Cyn feigned insult and stuck her tongue out at him.

“I know.” He sounded proud of himself. “So let me make that jerkishness up to you in the form of meat and bread… maybe a little mayo?”

“Add provolone and I’ll be in a forgiving mood.”

“Done and done.” He signaled the girl at the counter and used purely hand signals to convey the order.

“You come here a lot.” Cyn said after witnessing that. He’d done the same to get a refill of ginger ale.

“Good food, near the college… I might eat one or two meals a day here.” He admitted. “Speaking of which… did you never did answer me from before about what you’re doing after graduation.”

She fidgeted in her seat. “I didn’t know until a little while ago. See, with my grades from before I moved her, I didn’t even bother submitting applications.” Ollie frowned a little at this, but didn’t comment. “I mean, I got better with my friends helping me; Nothing under a C except for Bevelacqua’s Health class, but he was just bitter because I never went out for sports. Still, nothing to crow about.”

Ollie swirled his ice around in the glass a bit before sipping. “I’m sensing a ‘but’ coming.”

“Yeah, as in ‘butt in’.” The words were harsh, but she was smiling. “Laurel submitted stuff for me. Said I shouldn’t waste my potential. It was anyone else, I would have flipped my top over that.”

“Sounds like one person you definitely respect.”

Cyn suddenly felt a tiny bit shy and shrank back in her seat, playing with her hair. “More than respect.” She said quietly. “She’s… she’s pretty much my mom.” That came as a shock even to her, but having said it, it made perfect sense n her mind.

“That’s sweet.” Ollie couldn’t help but smile. “So… what happened with the applications?”

“I actually got in a few places. But not Dayspring, Emerald, or UVA; and I’m not moving away.” She folded her arms and pouted as if to stare down the very idea where it stood. After all, she had spent sixteen years looking for home and she wasn’t giving it up so easily after two. “So we made a deal and I’m going to be doing the community college thing, at least until I figure out what I want to do.”

She was glad Ollie didn’t ask after that. Asking a shapeshifter who they wanted to be was a sucker’s game to start. But asking a kid whose driving goal from the age of twelve had been ‘get away from home’ the same question was unfair, plain and simple.

Her second sandwich arrived and she attacked it with gusto.

“See? I knew you were still hungry.” Said a triumphant Ollie. He watched her with a contemplative look on his face for a while, just giving her time to eat before speaking. “So… with finals coming up, some people on campus are trying to organize one last huge capture the flag game this evening. Up for it?”

For once, eating could wait a minute. Cyn shot him a huge grin. “Of course! You know, this is why I like dating you; we do stuff. Most guys, it’s dinner and a movie and while both good, they’re still just variations on sitting there.”

While she and Ollie did have their share of lunch dates and a movie or two (she preferred to go to the movies with groups, preferably groups who had seen the movie and thus wouldn’t mind her running commentary), they also explored off the beaten trial in Wagner Park, played basketball, hit the batting cages, and did the terribly touristy walking tours around town. Doing all of that without her usual sextuple helpings of food left her tired, but it was a satisfied kind of tired that made her post-date Dagwood sandwiches taste even better.

“I kind of feel bad just taking you out to lunch today then.” Ollie chuckled. “Good thing I head about the game.” suddenly, he was interrupted by a series of a-melodic tones from his palmtop. Over the past few weeks, Cyn had started identifying it as the ‘date’s over’ sound.

Ollie’s face fell. “Crap. I’m sorry. Looks like my boss intrudes yet again. I’m really, really sorry Cyn.”

“No, it’s okay.” She said, trying to hide her disappointment. “I get it; no go, no job; no job, no college. Just call me if you get off in time to do the capture the flag thing.” Leaning across the table, she gave him a light kiss on the cheek that left a tiny spot of mayonnaise there.

If the others could see her being so… Juniper… with a guy, she would be utterly mortified. She was pretty sure they would be too. The Cyn they knew ogled guys openly and rushed into everything head first and ready to rumble. She did most vehemently not kiss cheeks. She probably bit too.

The real Cyn was a lot of things, most of them prefaced with the word ‘complicated. It probably came with the powers.

Oblivious to the spot, Ollie said his goodbyes and headed out. Alone with the shapeshifter, the rest of her sandwich and his lasted the space of a gulp, their drinks less so.

Now she was bored, which was a state anyone that knew her was unhealthy for the local environment. While waiting for the two loaded Reubens to go she’d ordered, she weighed her options:

Lisa was supposed to be at the house doing some sort of magic thing with Warrick, Tink and Kay in attendance, but they were probably done by now. Alexis was at the school, Laurel at a board of trustees meeting for Descendants Rights Worldwide, and Ian day-tripping with Majestrix and Zero Point to New York. The plan was to try and win some support for the Descendants Rights movement among the local heroes living under decidedly anti-anyone-super mayor Sarah Raymond, starting with the Whitecoat.

Juniper was on one of those ‘variations on sitting’ dates with Malcolm, or would be soon; she couldn’t remember the time Jun had told her. That left Kareem and Melissa and their psychic training. She could call JC or Callie Kreiger, she guessed, but she and JC never really did anything together without Lisa and Warrick being involved and hanging out with Callie might lead to interaction of some kind with Lily and her other friends. And why ruin a perfectly good Sunday?

She cut her losses and decided to patrol a bit as Facsimile. At bare minimum, that meant flying and no matter how much she did it, she loved that.

Series Navigation<< Issue #51 – Amore DetestabilisIssue #53 – The House on Dawson Bay >>

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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