- 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
JC absently scratched his chin as he flicked through a tourism site for Dawson Bay on his palmtop. He hadn’t shaved since the morning they left and despite his inability to grow a decent beard, he could still manage itchy, uneven stubble. All of his shaving stuff was in the room he planned to share with Lisa.
Retrieving it would mean risking a talk and at the moment, he was afraid what would come out of his mouth. He was angry, more than a little hurt, but he didn’t want to let that lead him to hurting Lisa. He’d honestly had enough of that kind of thing, especially after the episode only a few weeks earlier which neither of them even seemed to understand why the fight happened.
This time at least he knew why he was angry. For the longest time he’d been worried about being a nobody. That was the path his life was taking; his prospects for college were going into computer science and becoming a software designer. The best he could reasonably hope for was that he’d get his name buried deep in the credits of a popular game, which to him was as good as being anonymous. He wasn’t a future rock star like Kay, he didn’t have hopes of acting and becoming a star like Warrick or Juniper, and he wasn’t as outgoing as Lisa or Cyn. He was just JC, that guy. If life was a TV show, he would be an uncredited extra.
And all this time, it wasn’t true. Maybe he wasn’t someone truly big, or important, but he was the boyfriend of Occult, the best friend of Alloy. They Mattered with all the capitalization that entailed, and since he stood beside them and supported them and gave advise just as much as they did him, that meant he mattered. Maybe he didn’t get the capital letter, but that made him important somehow. It was a bit part in the scheme of the world, but it meant something to him.
Or it would have if he had known.
How could they not tell him? He was a geek, he knew the many, many reasons for the secret identity, but really, how did it come to pass that he was last to know? Was he untrustworthy? God, he hoped not, but that was a big reason why he couldn’t just call them on it.
He went to take another sip of his drink and found only ice. A cursory glance at his empty plate told him that lunch was over. Time to move on. He slipped some bills under the plate as a tip and walked all of three feet to the moped parked on the street. The last thing he wanted was for his return to his friends to come in the form of explaining to Warrick that his rental had been stolen, so he kept the thing in his sight at all times except when he ran into a store for a few minutes.
What to do next? He wondered, starting the moped. He snuck out early and realized that unless the others went out, he would have to sneak in late. Not knowing how long he might be staying in the basement, he’d already collected supplies: a pack of sports drinks, some energy bars, a change of clothes, and a travel kit with shaving stuff so he didn’t end up looking like a hermit.
With everything he needed to do taken care of, as well as some preliminary exploring, he sill had many hours to kill, so he drove along the streets, still trying to get his thoughts together.
There were other good reasons for keeping him in the dark, he knew. Maybe they thought this would change the way he saw them. To be completely honest with himself, he was pretty overly enthusiastic about the local heroes. He’d been excited about the idea of Mayfield having its own superheroes from the day Life Savers, Inc saved Lester Mendel and his business associates from falling tot heir deaths in an elevator. He actually went out and bought a print edition of the Scribe to get a clipping of that event.
But what endeared them personally to him was how Chaos and Darkness saved Lisa from Morganna. The idea of these people, who until three days ago were so far beyond mere mortals that it never even occurred to him to consider their personal lives, had taken it upon themselves to protect someone he personally cared about was stunning in a way that transcended celebrity.
If they thought that changed how he thought of them, the were wrong. It changed how he saw Occult and Alloy and Facsimile, but not Lisa, Warrick and Cyn. They were the real people. Those others were… he didn’t know what they were. Before they were idols to look up to and celebrity worship, but he couldn’t do that anymore. A demigod was not the same after you’ve wiped the floor with him in a dozen games and listened to him whine about how he was going to fail his history test if you don’t come over right now and help him study. And a goddess wasn’t the same once you’ve gotten to third base. Actually, she was still a goddess, but not the one he’d expected.
Which got him wondering. If those three were who they were and Kay and Tink was relatively normal (Relatively. JC had the sudden creeping realization that with Kay being a ‘sidekick’ when it came to magic, and Tink’s never-secret tech skill, he was the only actual baseline person in the group.), then who were the other Descendants?
Mean logic pointed out that there were seven people at Freeland House and seven Descendants plus Occult. But was quiet, slightly spacey Juniper masquerading as the fierce and destructive Darkness, or the badass kung-fu expert Codex? He decided that was way off base. More than likely, she was Hope. Snarky and withdrawn Melissa was closer to how he imagined Codex to be under the helmet.
Not for the first time, he wished he’d actually stayed and asked some questions before scarpering. It didn’t help for him to stew in his thoughts with incomplete information. Maybe he could get one of the group he was less likely to snap and react on alone at some point and ask.
For now, he felt he still needed to calm down. He was confused and hurt and in the past, that was the perfect mix for stupidity that he didn’t feel he could afford.
After a bit of driving, he found himself on the drive running above the boardwalk. Dawson Bay was entirely manufactured, from its topography to it’s coastline to its reefs, and expertly so. The town itself was about fifty feet above sea level on an artificial rise, allowing the main drag along the coast to afford an unobstructed view of the entire crescent shaped coastline. The boardwalk took up most of the south end and the beach houses the north. At the farthest inland point of the boardwalk was a huge pier.
Normally, it was populated by vendors and fishermen. Today, JC saw the tops of colorful tents and rides, including a huge enclosed Ferris wheel. A carnival. The carnival. He remembered it from the tourist site. It was there for one week only.
He didn’t feel right going and doing something fun without his friends, but he did need the distraction and in any case, he hoped they were having fun in his absence, so it was only fair he try and do the same. Plus, maybe he could buy or win some kind of peace offering for Lisa.
The rubber mallet hit the red painted panel and sent the plastic puck at the other end skyward. The high striker game’s tower was helpfully painted with colored bars bearing labels for ease of ridicule/praise. The puck quickly passed ‘Really?’, ‘Pathetic’, and ‘Sickly’, continued on past ‘Ten Year Old Girl’, and ‘Wimp’. It was slowing down as it passed ‘Girly Man’ and ‘Okay, I Guess’ and wasn’t going any higher once it reached ‘Not Weak’ and began it’s descent from there.
“Too bad, too bad, young man.” The barker, like all the operators was dressed the part of the old-timey barkers from television; red and white striped suit, round straw hat with a flat top and a bola tie. A black lacquered cane wouldn’t have gone amiss, but alas, he didn’t have it. He did have a black pencil mustache though, so he got some credit there.
Warrick didn’t feel half as embarrassed as he imagined anyone else would. He really wasn’t a physical guy and he took the swing because he’d always wanted to; carnivals he knew didn’t seem to have nearly half the stuff they did on television.
Nevertheless, the barker assumed he’d just been embarrassed in front of his girlfriend and took pity on him, grabbing him by the shoulder. “But ya ain’t weak. Says so right up there, not weak. So I’m gonna let your little lady pick out a small prize anyway, just to make the day special, ya see.”
All part of the act, they knew. There was a reason it cost forty dollars for admission: there was a certain minimum level of ‘carnival experience’ that money bought the customer. Certain games gave you a prize no matter what, plus a song and dance as to why.
“So what’ll it be little lady?” The barker asked Tink, gesturing to the bottom shelf of his prize wall. She picked out a stuffed yellow chick with a little elastic band between its feet so that it could be worn as a wrist or hair ornament.
“I’m just kinda happy I managed to avoid ‘girly man’.” Warrick admitted to her as she fastened the doll to her wrist.
She grinned at him. “Oh, don’t worry. ‘Not weak’ is better than I’m going to get with my bookworm physique. Can I give it a try?” She directed that last part to the barker.
“You sure can.” He smiled, tipping his hat to her while indicating the payment kiosk. She swiped her palmtop over the sensor to pay her three dollars and he handed the mallet to her with a wink. “Show your boyfriend how it’s done.”
“We’ll see.” The mallet was surprisingly light. She always thought those things were solid rubber, but she guessed not. Hefting the thing with ease, she didn’t notice the impressed look the barker gave her.
“Make it a good one.” Warrick shouted encouragement. “I want a stuffie too.”
She put her all into it, bringing the hammer up into the air and over her head in a swift arc.
The puck was past ‘Wimp’ in an instant and left ‘Not Weak’ behind a second later. ‘Getting there’, ‘Pretty strong’, and ‘Attaboy’ went by just as quickly. It passed ‘Studly’ and then ‘Muscles Galore’ shortly thereafter and then broke past ‘He-man’.
Tink was left staring as the puck began it’s downward path, leaving the bell Quivering under the red lettering the says ‘A Regular Hercules’. She didn’t come out of her shock until Warrick slipped up behind her and put his arms around her.
“That was awesome! Why didn’t you tell me you’ve been working out? We could have like hit the gym together or something.”
She shook her head. “I… haven’t.” She said, but was drowned out by the barker.
“Ladies and Geeeentleman we have a winnah! Fantastic show there, little lady, didn’t know you had it in ya! You’re a regular powerhouse!” Passers by were gawking, less at her than by the scene the barker was causing to convince others to come try their hand. Still, she blushed a little at her attention.
“I guess I never knew my own strength.” She said lamely. But it was the simplest explanation. It wasn’t like she went around trying to left heavy things every day.
It wasn’t long before they were walking away from the high striker game. Tink hadn’t let Warrick back out of his earlier claims of wanting a stuffed animal and so he was saddled with an enormous stuffed penguin with a top hat, bow tie and monocle.
“So.” He ventured as they walked. “When do we fit you for a costume?”
She snorted. “Very funny. I’m not that strong.”
“Stronger than me. Not that that’s saying much but…” He noticed her staring at him pensively. “What?”
“You’re not upset about that, are you?”
Now it was his turn to snort. “Why would I be?”
“I don’t know… I think most guys would get a bruised ego over this kind of thing.” She stepped closer to him she their arms brushed against each other. “Not that I’m saying you’re most guys, but I thought maybe this might be a big deal what with you’re extra-curriculars…”
“If I ever had that kind of hang up, Cyn would have disabused me of it a long time ago. And she probably would have to stand in line behind Ms. Brant. Hell, by the end of summer, Tammy’s probably going to be taller and stronger than me—my little sister. As for the hero thing, bending an iron bar with your bare hands kind of pales beside bending it with your mind at range, right?”
Tink smiled and threw an arm around him, leaning down to kiss him on the cheek. “Right. It was kind of silly even to think about it. It’s just that the past few days have made me really think about it. I don’t think I ever sat down and done that before. Have you?”
He shifted the penguin around so he had a free hand to snake around her waist. “Sometimes. To tell the truth, sometimes I kind of forget.”
“How can you possibly forget?”
“Easy. I figure pretty much everyone has one of those days where they just don’t believe in themselves. It doesn’t matter what you can do, or who you’ve helped in the past, you’re just sure you suck.” He tried to shrug, which didn’t go well, considering the position he was in.
“Well next time you feel that way, just call me.” Tink pulled him closer. “I promise to yell at you until we know that you don’t suck.”
He smiled. “Another reason why you’re the best girlfriend. And… if you ever feel that—and don’t say you don’t because I’ve been around to hear what you say to yourself when you can’t get a design working—you can call me and, well I’m not so much with yelling, but I’ll be there to remind you of how much of a creative, smart, wonderful person you are.”
Tink made a contented sound and locked eyes with him just in time to see the mischievous glint in them. “I’ll probably toss something in there about ‘incredibly hot redhead’ too, but I’m claiming that as boyfriend privilege, so you can’t get mad.”
She responded by disentangling herself from him and promptly flicking his nose, which only made him laugh. “Moment killer.” She chided though her own laughter.
“I’m holding a huge penguin, I’m powerless against the inherent funniness.” He defended, offering his arm as if it was a peace offering.
She linked her arm in his and they started off again. “Just for that, you’re buying lunch.”
“Way ahead of you, I was already planning on it.”
“I’m getting coffee with lunch.”
“I’m still not getting where this is punishment.”
“Cyn’s been coaching me on insanely large drink orders.”
“Oh. Good punishment.”
“Why thank you.”
The concessions were arranged on either side of the bank of pavilion style tents provided so the carnival goers could sit and eat or just get out of the sun. Ten minutes later found Tink sitting at one of those tables across from the well dressed stuffed penguin. Warrick had gone it alone, promising that his experience at Coney Island made him an expert at finding the tastiest carnival food and that he would bring her back something she’d never had before that she’d love.
In the meantime, she planned on calling Kay and telling her to bring Cyn and Lisa to the pavilion so they could all have lunch and plan the rest of the day together. At least what the plan was.
No sooner did Warrick disappear than someone sidled up beside her. “Mind if I have a seat, or are you and your date looking to be alone?” The person beside her indicated the penguin.
“JC!” She almost jumped. JC was one of the last people she expected to see at the carnival. Metal X would have surprised her less. “This is great, you’re back. Now we can…”
“I’m not really back yet.” He said flatly, taking the chair to her left and sitting in it backward.
“Wait. What do you mean you’re not back yet? Didn’t you come to the carnival to patch things up with Lisa?”
He leaned against the back of the chair, resting his chin against it. So things needed patching up. He had absolutely no right to be surprised there.
“I actually came here to try and distract myself.” He admitted. “Then I saw you two playing the test your strength game—awesome swing, by the way—and ghosted you two until you were alone.”
“Why wait until I was alone? Warrick’s your best friend, he’s the one you should be talking to.”
“Probably, but I… can’t talk to him right now.”
“Guy thing?” She asked skeptically.
He grimaced. “More like a geek thing. Probably a stupid geek thing, but right now it’s got meet feeling like I want to punch him.” Looking up in the direction Warrick left, he cocked his head. “You know, it’s kind of disappointing; he never even noticed you were being followed. I always thought he had a sixth sense.”
Tink laughed a little despite the strange situation. “He does, it’s just not a danger sense. Plus there’s Isp and Osp…”
“It’s complicated. They’re complicated.” Truer words were never spoken. Even Warrick was forced to admit that he really had no idea how they worked or exactly what they were.
JC groaned and lowered his head so his forehead was resting on the back of the chair. “I have a lot to learn, don’t I?”
“I still have a lot to learn.” said Tink. “But don’t worry, there’s not going to be a test. We’re getting off the subject though, why did you want to talk to me?”
“Because of the whole ‘I’ve got a lot to learn’ thing; I had my freak-out without knowing anything about… anything. I was kind of hoping to ask you a few questions.”
This was progress, Tink knew. And she was more than happy to help. “Sure, go ahead.”
He smiled his thanks and nodded. “First thing’s first then: how did you find out anyway?”