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

Part 3


A few days later found Cyn climbing the mountain of stairs that fronted Freeland House with two huge bags. She looked like she’d just done a week’s worth of shopping, but it was actually an after school snack from the store on the corner.

As she finally reached the main walk, she spied Juniper. The other girl was lying on her back on the lip of the large, central planter, her wavy brown locks formed a small waterfall off to one side and her eyes were focused on her palmtop, which she held high above her head.

“Hey, Sunshine.” Cyn sing-songed. “Whatcha doin’?”

Juniper glanced over as Cyn came to sit beside her. “Oh. Hi, Cyn. I’m reading the fan fiction section on AllComicsHype.”

Cyn was in the process of unwrapping a deli sandwich, but took the time out to snort. “Seriously? Come on, Jun, all that stuff is unreadable crap about how the Taskforce: Earth crew gets teleported into Imago, or how an ‘average teenage girl’ (who looks and acts suspiciously like the writer) ends up saving Renee and Winter from Malady Place from demons. Why would you read that?”

Cyn’s analysis of the medium didn’t seem to perturb Juniper in any way. “There is stuff like that, but if you know how to set the filters and what to look for, some of it is really good. I usually read the Malady Place or Princess in White fics and they’ve got a pretty good community the reviews the good stuff for you.”

None of that really interested the shapeshifter, but she had nothing better to do and preferred company to solitude, so she asked; “So which one are you reading about now?”

“Neither.” Juniper chirped. “I’m reading the Descendants section.”

Oh.” Cyn shrugged, started to take a bite of her sandwich, then froze. “Wait. What?”

“There’s a section on us. It’s new to AllComicsHype, but people have been doing them for a while, it seems. They just weren’t allowed to post on this site until we had our own comic.”

“Someone is seriously putting out fan fiction about us?” Cyn didn’t know how to feel about that. It was pretty cool to have fans, but the Prelates of Mayfield comic itself sort of bothered her because the stories were told based on a combination of media reports and dramatization. They were exciting and interesting, but she knew what actually happened and it clashed with what was on the page. It didn’t help the comics!Facsimile’s real name was ‘Angela’, a name she despised.

Juniper nodded and sat up, angling her palmtop so both of them could look at the screen. “Yep. Here, see?”

The first thing Cyn noticed was a sidebar that read ‘Top Pairings’, followed by a ranking of weird words in CamelCase like ColdSteel, BlackMetal, Cold&Gold, DarkStorm and FadingWind. “What’s that?”

“This is the romance section. Those are the top character parings.”

“They make no sense.” Cyn groused, then quirked an eyebrow. “Wait… how can there be a romance section when all but two of us are dating outside the team?”

“It doesn’t matter.” Said Juniper. “They don’t know who we’re dating; they just use their imaginations.” A fond smile came to her face. “They got one right though: DarkStorm is Chaos and Darkness. It’s a nickname fans give to pairings they like.”

Cyn examined the screen for a moment. “So… BlackMetal is…”

“Darkness and Alloy.”

With that, Cyn burst out laughing. “Oh my god, that is hilarious! I have to show this to Warrick; the embarrassment might actually melt him!” She controlled her laughter enough to point to another one. “Okay, how about FadingWind? Who fades? Lisa?”

Juniper shook her head. “Fade usually means Ephemeral. They’re not quite sure what he can do.”

“So FadingWind is Kareem and Ian?” Once more, Facsimile exploded into laughter. “I need to read that, it’s probably hot. Okay, okay.” It was more difficult to get control of herself now, because she now had two scenarios bouncing off one another in her head. “ColdSteel; who’s that?”

“Zero and Alloy.” Juniper said with a completely straight face.

Cyn snerked. “You realize that you’re Zero, right?”

“I know, but they don’t.”

“What difference does that make?” Cyn asked, finally calmed down enough to finally take a bite of her sandwich.

Juniper momentarily looked as shy as she used to. “Well… do you think I like Warrick?” Cyn shook her head because her mouth was full. “Okay. And I know I don’t like Warrick. And Warrick knows I don’t like him.” She listed the whole situation off on her fingers. “And these people don’t know any of us, so what’s the harm?”

Swallowing, Cyn squinted at the other girl. “Have… have you read any of it?”

There was no need for a reply. Juniper’s face when red and she fidgeted wildly. “It’s not my fault.” She said in a small voice. “Good2BCold is probably the best romance writer on the cite and he pairs Zero with everyone. They’re really, really good.”

“Everyone?” Cyn suddenly thought of the other pairing name. Without her permission, her mouth asked after it. “So you’re ‘Cold’. Then ‘Gold’ is….” The answer came in the form of Juniper flinching as if she expected Cyn to take a swing at her.

“You’ve got to be kidding me! You’ve read that too, haven’t you.”

“Some of them are really very sweet.” Juniper said nervously. “And, remember you thought FadingWind was funny and hot.”

Yeah, but that didn’t involve me.” Cyn said indignantly. At length, she sighed. “I guess you’re right though; no one knows who we really are, so what’s the harm, huh?”

Juniper smiled and nodded. “And, it’s not all romance. Those are just the ones I like the best.” She changed the tab to ‘Adventure’. “See?”

Deciding to give the other girl the benefit of the doubt, Cyn leaned in and read the top rated story’s summary aloud. “’Facsimile Ascendant. A mystical encounter leaves Facsimile with strange new powers. As the other Descendants set out to find answers, she is forced to come to terms with what she’s becoming. Luckily, someone steps up to stand by here side. Rated T. Mild SolidGold.’” She nodded slightly. “Sounds pretty good. But what’s SolidGold?”

Juniper told her.

Cyn nearly choked her next bite of sandwich almost a full minute before her body remembered that it could just widen her esophagus.

“I am going to kill the entire internet.”

(A/N: Just a little Cyn x Jun Friendship fic. pls r&r)

The Familial Bond

It was a beautiful spring day, the kind that appeared in the last half of Virginia springs to make up for the days of gale force winds and inexplicable cold that characterized the first half of a Virginia spring. The sun was out in its fullness, bringing out the green in the grass and glinting off the gentle waves of Lake Standish like a cascade of cut gems.

The beauty of the day was not lost on Raimi Utt, and if it had been, the emotions he sensed from his wife Atalaya and son, Kareem would have tipped him off. His family was enjoying the end of a picnic dinner in the shade of an elderly maple on the shores of Lake Standish.

“I apologize again for Desiree’s absence.” Kareem was saying, picking at the remnants of a large slice of chocolate cake. “She helps in her family business, and sometimes, she’s called away at inconvenient times.”

Atalaya gave him a look of understanding. “The way I see it is that you have found a very sweet girl who cares about her family. There is no need to apologize for that. We can wait to meet her a bit longer.”

“Indeed.” Raimi added. “What business is her family in, if I may ask?”

Kareem only looked a small bit relieved at how well they were taking the situation. It was the third such meeting that Desiree had been forced to miss and he worried they might think it was deliberate. “They do custom printing.” He explained, “Whenever someone needs, for example, real, physical invitations or brochures, they take care of it, as well as a number of vanity publishing contracts.”

“A very tough business.” Raimi said, impressed, “It seems that more and more print fades each day. They much be very good at what they do to survive in this day and age.”

The younger man nodded, though in reality, he had no idea, having never had need for any paper goods.

Atalaya shot Raimi a look and he nodded in return. Just like they’d discussed, she was making him do the hard part. It was only fair though, he was the empath and could say things tailored to their son’s unspoken responses.

He cleared his throat. “There is something else we wished to speak with you about, son.”

Kareem looked up from his now meticulously clean plate. “Yes? What is it?”

“It concerns your choice of schools.” The last time the Utts visited their son, he explained to them his intentions to attend Emerald University in the coming fall. His reasoning had been sound; Emerald had the best program pertaining to Astral Sciences in the region and he didn’t want to miss an opportunity to improve his gift with learning, even though his intended major was Psychology.

“Is there a problem?” Kareem asked tentatively. The worry washing off him spurred Raimi to speak quickly so as not to panic his progeny.

“Not at all. In fact, I’ve been reading more on the Astral Science program there. Apparently, they are in talks to bring on a prominent name in the field on for the coming year.”

Worry turned to confusion. Kareem was well aware that anyone making a name in the field of Astral studies would be well known to his parents. His father avoiding their name made no sense.

Raimi smiled gently at his son and returned to the original subject. “What we wanted to speak with you about is the other part of your reasoning in choosing Emerald over, say Berkeley, or Empire State, which have much stronger programs.” A measure of pride entered his voice then, as his touch was present in making the former so.

He held up a hand before Kareem could protest. “I know very well why. You don’t want to leave your friends, your mission.”

“And we believe that is an honorable line of reasoning.” Atalaya cut in. She was getting more than a little frustrated at the round about way her husband was approaching the discussion. Normally she loved how methodically and carefully he conducted his business, but this wasn’t business. She made sure he was aware of this when she caught his eyes.

Now firmly in control of the conversation, she continued. “We are very proud of what you’ve done with your life. Never forget that, my son. But Your father and I would like you to consider moving out of Freeland House when you graduate… and live at home while you attend university.”

Kareem’s gaze dropped, as did his heart. He loved his parents dearly, but ‘home’ to them was three thousand miles to the west. ‘Home’ for him was about thirty yards directly behind him. “I am very sorry.” He started quietly. “But—“

His mother took his hand in her own. For a moment, he looked down at those two hands. When had his hands grown so much larger than hers? And since when were her hands, the soft hands that held his on the first day of school and applied band-aids to the cuts from his first fight, lined and wrinkled with age?

“It isn’t what you think.” She told him. “The professor Emerald wishes to bring on for Astral Science is me. But before I made my choice, we wanted to see what you felt about it. And if this decision could make us a true family once more, if even for a short while.”

The young man’s chocolate brown eyes rose to meet hers. He didn’t need his gifts to see the sorrow in her eyes for having lost him for years, or the hope that she might have her little boy under the same roof one more time.

He put his arms around her and squeezed tightly. “We have always been a true family.”

Love Interests

“So…” JC leaned back in his in the Dungeon and folded his arms because he didn’t know what to do with them. Across from him, Malcolm Bookman stirred his lemonade with a straw for the same reason.

Ostensibly, they were there for a double date. Since she started dating Malcolm, Juniper had been all about double dates; already having entreated Warrick and Tink as well as Cyn and Ollie into them. There really had been no avoiding JC and Lisa having their ‘turn’ as well.

And unlike Cyn, JC didn’t really mind the idea in general. But even after two years, he and Juniper weren’t so much ‘close friends’ as ‘people who hung out when their mutual friends did’. It wasn’t anyone’s fault; JC preferred to geek out with Warrick while Juniper usually got sucked in by the other members of Snackrifice. But as for Malcolm, he knew precisely nil about the kid besides that he had an accent.

Now, Juniper and Lisa were late for the date they initiated and the two strangers were left sitting across from one another with nothing to say. That they were late because a terrified troll had been dropped onto the middle of the West Truman Bridge during rush hour and was having ‘fight or flight’ issues was immaterial, as neither young man knew his girlfriends’ ‘night job’.

“So…” JC repeated, studying the bubbles in his cola glass. “Dating Juniper, huh? She’s a really sweet kid.”

“Amazing.” Malcolm agreed quickly. Another moment of silence followed.

“Kind of… I don’t know… naive.” The word he was avoiding was ‘spacy’.

“Hardly.” Malcolm was quick to defend her, but was forced to back down a bit by the look JC gave him. “Alright, I admit that on occasion, she does say or do things that, quite frankly, perplex me, but I wouldn’t say naive. She’s actually rather worldly: when we talk, she can hold her own on almost any subject.”

That was a new one to JC, but he didn’t know the girl well, so he nodded. “You two going to prom?”

The other nodded. “Indeed. I’ve even taken extra shifts to pay for a limousine rental.”

“Prom is this weekend.” JC observed.

“Yes. Your point?”

“Have you reserved your rental?”

“I was planning on doing that after this evening.”

“Prom is this weekend.”

Malcolm narrowed his eyes. “So you keep saying.”

“By now, everything’s been rented, is what I’m saying.” JC took a long drink of his soda.

“I…” Malcolm’s face fell. “Oh my… God, you’re right. How could I have bungled this so badly!?” He palmed his forehead in his hand and glared fitfully at the table.

“Hey.” JC said, upon seeing what he’d done to Juniper’s boyfriend and feeling guilty about it. He had to repeat himself to get his attention. “Hey, listen. Look, unless you were planning on going to a hotel after…”

Malcolm gave him a baleful look. He knew exactly what JC meant and was insulted that the other man thought he’d tell him as much even if he was planning such.

“… yeah. I was just asking because Warrick and Tink were… Um, anyway. A bunch of us are riding with Cyn in her big, giant current-hog of a Humvee. Dinner at Placido courtesy of Ms. Brant, then after party at Connie Delmonico’s. What do you say?”

Considering his options, of which there was only the one JC was offering, Malcolm nodded tentatively. “As long as you’re sure we wouldn’t be imposing…”

JC shook his head. “Nah, Cyn would never disappoint Jun. Plus, we’re all friends, ya know? One condition though: you accept and we go over that and play video games until the girls get here.”

“I’m pretty rubbish with games, actually…”

“It doesn’t matter. The point is, you and I get to stop trying to make small talk.”

Malcolm gave him a look of sublime relief. “Sir, I agree to this venture whole heartedly.”

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. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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