- Issue #49 – George
- Issue #50 – Operation: All In
- Issue #51 – Amore Detestabilis
- Issue #52 – Scenes From a Changing World
- Issue #53 – The House on Dawson Bay
- Issue #54 – Shadow of the Kurounagi
- Issue #55 – Beer Money
- Issue #56 – Family Matters
- Issue #57 – Waylaid
- Descendants Special #5 – Women in Free-fall
- Issue #58 – Alert UMW: Mages
- Issue #59 – Return of the Magi
- Issue #60 – Rust Buckets
- Descendants Annual #5
The Beach House Arc Part 1
Mayfield was known as Machine City because in its formative decades, its largest employers had been robotics firms like Digital Host, ConquesTech’s drone aircraft division, and Rossum Futuristic, all places looking for a place with lots of open space to build new specialized factory floors on the cheap with reasonable access to Washington for lobbying.
In the present day, however, Mayfield had outgrown robotics to become a hub for all manner of commercial and defense research and manufacture. So much so, that the town’s official slogan was merely ‘SCIENCE!’, and when, in the aftermath of the largely tech-driven US-Brazil war, the World Science Summit was formed and constructed its headquarters there. And every year, it held nearly a dozen conferences or symposiums there.
One such symposium; the Sixth Annual Public Symposium on Practical Biology, was partially responsible for what was going on. The hugely modified cattle carrier, which lay on it’s side, partially wrapped around the corner of 1051 Sattler Avenue belonged to one of the presenters.
The rest of the blame belonged to a delivery truck driver. He was currently in the process of deciding if today had been the wrong day for two jack and cokes for lunch. Obviously, they had contributed famously to the crash, but at the moment, he was wondering if now wouldn’t be time to have two more.
And that was the fault of the ten ton triceratops in the middle of the intersection; nine feet at the shoulder, some twenty feet long from nose to tail, and covered in stiff, hairlike bristles over skin like tan leather,.
His name was Henderson-023, but he was affectionately known as ‘Beazley’ by the research team that created him as a flamboyant proof that their methodology of using known genomes in conjunction with ancient DNA fragments could ‘reconstruct’ viable DNA. He was the culmination of twenty-three years of work and twelve billion dollars in both private and public funds.
At his home ‘ranch’ back in North Carolina, his hobbies were browsing off brush, receiving medications for his respiratory condition, and being under constant behavioral study. Today, he was on vacation and giving the Alloy, Facsimile and Occult a quick lesson on saurian behavior.
Lesson one had gone to Facsimile, who learned that while T. horridus looked like they were born to charge and gore, they didn’t do so as a general rule. Instead, they were content to wait for their foe to come to them; raising and lowering their chins to keep their deadly horns moving, and putting all their energy into surprisingly quick pivots that let anything foolish enough to charge them do they job of impaling themselves.
After learning that lesson twice, including once where she learned how quickly a triceratops could turn its body ninety degrees to intercept, she wasn’t eager to try again. But the swiftly closed wounds in her shoulder and rib cage didn’t dampen her spirits.
“I just want to point out one more time how awesome our lives are.” She said over the com. “How many people get to fight a dinosaur?”
“They’ve been selling tickets to ride him all week.” Occult replied, distracted. She was standing next to the cattle carrier, where the senior researcher on the project winced and fretted with every action taken against his creation. Three times already, he’d implored her to remind the others that ‘Beazley has a lung condition. They can’t exert him or frighten him overly much.’.
Between him and Facsimile’s delighted com chatter, it was very hard to search for a spell n the Digi-book of Reason to the bring the fight to a peaceful end. It didn’t help that the Book was having one of its unhelpful days. Sometimes she could just flick it on and the spell she needed was right there. Some days, not only did she have to search, but the device’s CPU seemed to be occupied by other processes besides being useful.
There was no rhyme or reason to it, the Book just acted on its own, capricious whims and as usual, she had no idea why.
“Actually…” Warrick cut in, “He’s not truly a dinosaur. He’s not really anything; his DNA’s all guesswork from a computer. More like a—heh—reasonable facsimile of a dinosaur.”
Facsimile groaned. “I remember when you were just a comic and TV nerd. Then it was chemistry and now Bio. You’re going to end up a mad scientist with a dozen useless degrees like Dr. Powerless if you’re not careful.”
“Heh. You don’t have to worry about me and Bio. Still suck at it; I just read that off the website.”
“Oh god, this science thing is going to be a date night for you two isn’t it?”
Even as they bantered, both circled Beazley. They had made a mistake on arrival; fueled by too many monster movies, they assessed the situation accordingly instead of taking it for what it really was: an animal in distress.
Beazley had made them pay for it, goring Facsimile and knocking down, then stomping Alloy and Isp before blundering into several parked cars and earning himself a nasty gash on his hip. Only then did they get filled in on the situation by his creator, as well as the sensitive nature of his medical condition: Cretaceous creatures were never meant to breath post-Neogene atmosphere. Henderson 001-012 never survived hatching because of it and Beazley did only by the grace of re-engineered lungs.
So the plan was to corral him safely and gently, just as they would with a runaway horse or deer. Only on a much, much larger scale. However, in a discovery that shocked even the man who made his career studying the engineered creature, Beazley was a quick learner and kept a wary eye on both heroes after the initial attack, recognizing them as dangerous.
Isp and Osp were not at all happy with the situation and wanted nothing more than to simply clock the troublesome dinosaur in the head and call it a day. Apparently all the biology talk the beast invited upset their delicate inorganic sensibilities.
Alloy chuckled at their complaints and directed his power into a street light at the opposite end of the intersection. It’s pole deformed and melted, lowering the overhanging shaft where the actual lights connected down to about six feet above street level. It wouldn’t stop Beazley if he become motivated to bolt in that direction, but it would do the job of keeping him from wandering.
Nearby, Facsimile was also changing tactics. Flying out of the triceratops’s view, she shifted forms. She chose one cribbed right out of one of Juniper’s anime movies; a tall, impossibly slim and long-limbed woman dressed in a dark gray spandex bodysuit and pieces of glossy black armor that covered her hips, chest, shoulders, neck and absolutely nothing else. A white scarf covered the lower half of her face and approximately five feet of lilac hair both fluttered in the wind despite there being no wind.
Thusly disguised, she walked back around into Beazley’s view and approached him.
“What are you doing?” Alloy asked, nervous for her safety, considering he’d already seen her get impaled twice.
“Hoping to god this thing doesn’t have a good sense of smell.” She replied, still walking carefully forward. To Beazley, she spoke in the smokey, mysterious tone that was also cribbed from the character she was impersonating. “Easy there, big guy. No one wants to hurt you… anymore. Totally learned my lesson.”
She was very close now. Close enough to see just how big the beast was, but also to see the soft, almost bovine quality of its eyes and how the stiffer bristles on its back were actually outgrowths of softer ones all over most of his body, save his feet and the tip of his beak. Then she was close enough to feel his hot, uneven breath and her outstretch palm touched the side of his face, just past the beak.
It was warm and soft, like holding a parakeet. Except the parakeet lowed loudly and shied away, shaking his head in a way he hadn’t done previously.
“I just petted a dinosaur.” She whispered into her calm. Staring into the big creature’s eye, she reached out to do it again. That eye blinked once, twice… then closed as Beazley simply crumpled to the ground, asleep.
“I… I didn’t do that, right?” Facsimile asked, nevertheless staring at her hand in awe.
“Sorry Fax, but that was all me.” Occult laughed. Turning to the scientist,s he read his staff badge before speaking. “He’s all yours, Dr. Grant. That spell will keep him under for at least two hours; enough time to get him moved, I hope. Even if not, he’ll have residual calm for a few hours after that.” She turned back to the intersection, which was in shambles both from the accident and the ensuing dinosaur related mayhem.
“I’d say it was a happy ending, but if the city can’t recoup their losses from the delivery driver or his company, they’re going to come knocking on your door.”
Dr. Grant scrubbed his fingers through thinning brown hair. “Of course they will. Luckily, we have all of our permits and insurance up to date. Whatever happens will be worth it as long as Beazley’s okay. Thank you and your team so much for bringing this to a positive end.”
She nodded graciously, face concealed by the shadows her hood magically generated. “I’ll pass your sentiments on. I hope you and Beazley have a pleasant stay in the rest of the city.” With that, she struck off across the intersection to meet with her friends.
Facsimile remained at the triceratops’s side, so they convened there.
“We done?” Facsimile asked.
“Yep, It’s kind of weird being thanked by the mad scientist for stopping his creation.”
“I wouldn’t call him mad…” Alloy started.
“He grew a real, live dinosaur to prove his computer program worked. He told me this and was very proud of it.” Occult pointed out. “Therefore, ‘mad scientist’.”
“Yeah, but Mayfield mad.” He shrugged. “The economy depends on it.”
Occult snorted, realizing he was right. Without people breeding giant spiders, building military robots, and researching things like real life weather machines, where would Mayfield be? On the other hand, it was a wonder that incidents like Elizabeth von Stoker becoming Freaque didn’t happen more often considering the amount of experimental tech was floating around town.
Maybe it was a matter of scrutiny. The top tier firms were under such oversight that the feds might as well open branch offices in their headquarters, while smaller companies could afford to fly under the radar and cut corners for profit… right up into six-foot long cockroaches broke containment and infested a section of Philadelphia’s sewers.
She shrugged it off. “So, either of you want a ‘ride’ back?” Both knew she meant teleportation.
“Not I.” said Facsimile. “Getting holes punched in me always works up an appetite and Burger Builders has two dollar cheeseburgers on Sundays.” She shifted back into her golden heroic form and flared her wings. “Want me to bring anything back to the house?”
Occult shook her head, and Alloy did as well.
“Suit yourself.” the golden heroine said. With a powerful pump of her wings, she was airborne and away.
Only when she was gone did Alloy turn to Occult. “I’ll take you up on the teleport. But once we’re back, we need to talk.”
She cocked her head, the best she could do to emote with her hood up. “Oh?”
“Kind of important.” He said. “Beach House stuff.”
Graduation had been the week before and at the graduation party, Warrick had floated the idea among the now college age members of the team. His business selling replica arms and armor online had a smell client base, but since he paid next to nothing for materials, the profit margins were obscene. With some of that money, he had already put a down payment on a beach house on Dawson Bay.
Unfortunately, his timing was way off. Kareem would already be spending half his time in California, helping his parents get their house ready for sale. Juniper and Melissa were likewise going to be spending most of the summer with their respective families. Of course, Tink would be going, or he wouldn’t have even furthered the idea. That left Cyn, Kay and Lisa, all of whom were more than game.
Lisa’s stipulation, easily agreed to, was that she could bring JC.
The teleportation was getting to be routine now; a sinking, seasick feeling as they shifted into the astral, and then a jarring ‘heart in the throat’ feeling when they emerged in the boathouse at Freeland House.
Months of superhuman habitation had transformed the place into a combination blacksmith’s forge, chem lab, and magical workshop and that reflected in the fact that it looked like a fantasy movie could break out at any minute. A long work bench on one side was covered with flasks and vials of strange liquids, many of which had unidentifiable object floating within, or delicate webs of writing scribed across their surface. One the other side, another bench was piled high with ingots of strangely colored metal, many partially covered with sticky notes. There were swords and staves, and bits of costume jewelry everywhere to the point that neither was entirely sure what belonged to the other without the help if a divination spell.
And yet, the clutter and weirdness felt as much like a second home as the rest of Freeland House to Lisa. Leaning her staff against the wall, she lowered her hood and dispelled both the magical shadow and the glamor that hid her Hispanic features behind Nordic ones.
“So what’s up?” She asked, taking a seat on a stool.
Warrick let his armor simply melt into a puddle at his feet before forming it up into a passable chair beneath him. “We leave this weekend.” He said, obviously holding something back.
“Yeah. I know that.” She gave him an odd look. They were holding back because they wanted to be there to see Juniper off.
“So…” He said expectantly.
Having just spent entirely too long trying to figure out the perfect search terms to find a spell for putting ancient herbivores to sleep, Lisa didn’t have much patience for his stalling. “So what? War, I have no idea what you’re getting at.”
He licked his lips nervously. “JC. Have you told him?”
“Told him about…” She trailed off. Of course she had told JC about the beach house. In fact, he’d immediately called Warrick about it to help add to the plan for their six week vacation. But that wasn’t what Warrick was asking after. “Oh you mean… No! Of course not! I would never do that to you guys!”
A small grin touched his lips. It was always nice to see just how loyal your friends were. “Actually, I was kind of hoping you had.”
“What.” She deadpanned. “Why?”
“Well think about who all else is going to be there besides team members; Tink, Kay… chances of obligatory and recreational power usage was nearing one hundred percent. The only person who isn’t in the know is JC. Which now that I think about it, since you’ve known since forever, means he’s been the only person cut out of the loop for a really long time.”
“Yeah, well that’s why I haven’t told him.” She felt suddenly very silly explaining it that way.”
But Warrick clearly didn’t follow, so she had to explain.
“The same thing occurred to me too. He’s the last to know. Not just the last to know, but the last by a lot. He’s not going to be happy when this comes out… and it worried me. And because it worries me, I let it go longer, which only makes it worse.”
Warrick snorted. “Are you kidding me? This is JC we’re talking about. All he’s going to hear is ‘my friends are superheroes’. He’s going to be so stoked that the secret ID thing won’t be a thing. Plus, you know, being probably only a tiny bit less geeky than me means he understands about secret IDs. You’ve got nothing to worry about.”
Lisa frowned. “But what if I do? You could be wrong you know?”
“How could I be wrong? JC’s my best friend.”
“He’s my boyfriend.” She pointed out. “Besides, I know a thing or two about secret identities too. And there’s some very good reasons not to let your significant other know these things. Why aren’t you worried about that?”
Shrugging, he glanced over to where Isp and Osp had stacked a number of ingots into a tower and were not trying to remove pieces from the tower without knocking it over. “I dunno. The decision kind of got taken out of my hand.” He turned back and gave her a meaningful look. “I’ve been where you are, Lis, really. The guilt, the excuses for standing Tink up, or having to ditch in the middle of a date, the fear that once she found out, she’d be so angry…”
Lisa nodded along with his description. It really was just how she felt.
“But then she did find out,” He continued, “And I was completely and totally wrong. I mean I still worry about her getting hurt because of who I am… it happened already; pretty much immediately after she found out…” The tips of his fingers tingled, remembering tracing the scar. It was faint now, but still there. “I’ll tell you though, I can’t imagine her not knowing now; not being able to tell her about what I do… let her see who I really am.” He gestured to the twins, who, suddenly aware they were being observed, tried to pretend to know nothing about the violently teetering tower on the bench. Warrick laughed. “It’s nice.”
Despite the complex thoughts rolling around in her head, Lisa found herself laughing too. “Well if you put it that way, I guess I’ll have to at least try.”
Inwardly though, she doubted that it would be that easy.