Issue #56 – Family Matters

This entry is part 8 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 5: How the World Changes

Part 2

There was a lot of unpacking to do.

Kareem sat on the edge of his new bed in his family’s new apartment and stared at the boxes. It surprised him how many boxes were needed to hold his things after less than a year of needing material objects. Most of those were outfits; he found himself to be a bit of a clothes horse after all his time wearing an astral manifestation of a simple shirt and pants. Most of the generous allowance Laurel gave them at Freeland House was bound up in nice clothes and furniture.

Laurel originally promised to continue such allowances, but he politely declined. He was a man now, and he needed to stand on his own two feet, ironically by moving back in with his parents. It didn’t bother him though; he needed to make up for time lost with them, and though he never stated it outright, he felt that living without the luxury Laurel and Freeland House provided was important.

Not that the apartment his parents picked out was exactly humble. It was a six-room apartment on the tenth floor of a building only two blocks from Dayspring College and rent was reasonable for them only because the landlord and the administration of Dayspring had an understanding when it came to professors the college desperately wanted to retain.

His room was a third the size of the one at Freeland House, leaving him to amiably donate his armchairs and coffee table to the living room so that he still had room for his cherry-wood armoire and glass fronted bookshelves. If anything, he felt the new room to be more comfortable than the old. He was under no illusions that he wasn’t still living a life of luxury, but he was trying to offset it by looking for work to pay his part of the rent and for his own food and transportation.

That would wait for a few days more. Now, the priority was getting unpacked and settled in. Two things he wasn’t doing. It was a dreary and overcast day, the kind that drained motivation out of a person and made on long for a nap.

Having had enough lying down for anyone’s lifetime, Kareem left his room full of boxes and pulled on his raincoat, opting to go out and get to know the building and the surrounding neighborhood.

Like many apartment towers, this one was multi-zoned, so the lower, street-side levels were commercial while the rest as residential. Instead of a a laundry room, there were a dry cleaners and a laundromat that paid rent just the same as the residents. Additionally, there was a small gym with a pay-per-entry door, a little coffee shop, and a convenience store.

Being a higher class area meant everything was better maintained and sold ‘better’ items, but it was the same format in almost any standalone apartment tower in the city, with some even directly attached to department stores and malls.

Kareem peeked into the cafe. It didn’t have the unique, slightly awkward charm of the Dungeon, geared more toward professionals and college students of the ilk that wanted to imply a certain level of pretension to their day to day habits. There were high back chairs and leather couches in the main dining area, and the counter was sculpted to look vaguely artistic and hand-crafted. Kareem’s increasingly discerning eye told him everything was rapid-fabricated. Still, he felt that the place might be a nice place to study quietly, or maybe even work in his near future.

He moved on, passing the convenience store by. It was just a condensed copy of the one only a few blocks from Freeland House and he didn’t think there was anything new to see there. Next was the gym. There was shades over the windows, so he had to pay the eight dollars via his palmtop to go inside for a look around.

Shortly after his return to the material plane, Laurel got Kareem a membership to the gym down the street and personally worked up a physical therapy regimen for him. Strangely, a dedicated gym was something Freeland House, home to The Descendants, lacked.

Laurel had a set of free weights the others used on occasion, and a mat they could roll out to practice martial arts, but only Juniper and Melissa took part in that. The others relied solely on their powers, and for good reason; there was nothing Warrick could do that would ever match Isp and Osp for raw physicality, for example, and exercise was literally pointless for Cyn.

That was something else Kareem meant to add to his future. His powers were strong, but left him defenseless in the case of ambush. Further, outside of Mayfield, with the astral transceiver network, his range was sorely lacking. Therefore, he resolved to train his body to match his mind.

Not today of course, but it never hurt to know what one had to work with. As it was, the gym was adequate to start training. There were rows of treadmills and stair machines as well of various weights stations and stationary bikes. Two large mats provided room for anyone who wanted to spar as well. There were also saunas and showers in back, both on separate pay systems, as were the bathrooms.

All of the machines were a dollar an hour, but the free weights cost nothing to use, so Kareem shed his coat and decided to get a feel for them. After a few minutes, someone else entered the gym. If he hadn’t heard the doors tone, he certainly would have heard her chattering on her phone.

“”Look, I’m not the one who wanted to live close to campus. I’m not even going to Dayspring, okay? But this place fills up really quick at the start of the school year, especially the apartments like we wanted with the adjoining balcony.”

She paused listening to the other end. “Of course people want that. Every frat idiot in the state wanted this place: off campus means you can drink and smoke MJ while adjacent balconies means great parties. Oh, by the way, housewarming part first weekend of August. You better be back by then.”

Kareem was trying not to eavesdrop, but her sheer volume was making that difficult.

Another pause. “No she’s not. It’s just me and our own superhero girl here right now and she’s all mopy and homesick for that matchbox she lived in. Oh. And hope you like ducks. She has a billion of them. …Yes I told her it was uncool, but you know how she gets. But I’m such a saint: I have an antique hope chest being delivered this afternoon to stuff them into when I have a guy in our room.”

Then she made a purring sound that got Kareem’s attention. “Speaking of guys in my room… I’m going to have to call you back, Kim. I see something tall, dark and muscly that I need to talk to. Later, babe.”

Did she just call him something? Kareem pondered as she sauntered into his peripheral vision.

“Hi there. Do you live in this building?”

Now there were more things to worry him than being called a ‘thing’. He knew that voice.

“I do.” He said evenly. He’d never had a direct quarrel with her and had no desire to start one now. “Apartment 10-15, Miss Goldenmeyer.”

Lily Goldenmeyer, self styled nemesis to Cyn, who taunted Warrick and Tink and pushed Juniper around in spite of or perhaps because of the girl’s cheerful exterior, flinched when the ‘stranger’ she was trying to hit on said her name. But then he looked up and finally she recognized him.

She was in track pants and a sports bra with a light jacket thrown over it. Suddenly, she felt exposed and tugged the jacket close around her. “Oh god, you’re that guy who was friends with those Freeland kids. Please tell me they aren’t living here too. I would die if I had to live another four years with them.”

Kareem frowned. “They are not. But I would appreciate if you did not disrespect my friends in my presence. It is both rude and unbecoming.”

Now Lily was frowning. People usually laughed along, however awkwardly, or put up a verbal fight. A calm request wasn’t the norm. She shrugged. “Than again, Melissa couldn’t stop talking about you when she was hanging out with us… at least until she got all depressed again at the end of the year… Is she okay?”

“She is getting better I spoke with her yesterday and she is doing well with her new family. They’re on an old fashioned road trip across America. She will be back in Mayfield in time for school.”

“Good for her.” Lily said with none of her usual overtures. “Tell her hi next time you talk to her. She never even gave us a reason why she stopped hanging out with us, be we could all tell she was all kinds of depressed.”

“I will relay the sentiment. I’m certain hearing from you will make her happy.”

“So are you and her…”

“Together? No.” He caught a glimpse of what was coming and cut her off. “In fact, my girlfriend will be visiting me this evening to see my new apartment.”

There was clear disappointment in Lily’s voice. “Ah. Still with the shark girl?”

“Desiree, yes.”

“Too bad.” She said and headed for the treadmill. Kareem couldn’t help but notice that she picked the one directly in his line of sight.

***

“Keyes family greetings are really an endurance sport.” Ian belatedly informed his brother as the latter sprawled in a recliner in the upstairs commons. He only dared to put up the foot rest after making sure Maxwell was occupied with Alexis’s parents and unable to reprimand him for how ungentlemanly it looked. Ian was on the couch with his arm around Alexis and Kylie was mixing a drink at the rolling bar bought up just for the occasion. It was original to the hotel and surprisingly well preserved.

“And a contact sport.” Issac chuckled, pretending to nurse bruised ribs. Your mother knows how to hug a guy so he stays hugged, Alex.”

“Now imagine that happening every day when you get home from school.” Alexis swirled her cocktail before sipping at it. “Mom gets very excited over family matters.”

“You think this is bad?” Kylie delivered Issac’s scotch neat before grabbing up her own martini and flopped gracelessly down on the couch, putting her legs across both Ian and her sister’s laps. “Wait until one of us gets a baby on board. We better pray Vicky’s not first, because on the day mom learns she’s going to be a grandma for the first time, she’s going to rupture some organs and we’re going to need a surgeon on hand.”

They all laughed and Issac sipped his drink. “So is that how you trained up for being prelates? Toughening up through hugs?”

“Maybe a little.” Ian had a martini just like Kylie, but had barely touched it. “But it’s not all powers. It’s about will. Some people have it, some people don’t.”

Kylie interrupted before Issac could return the barb. “So do you have powers like Ian’s?”

“Not exactly.” Both of them said at the same time.

“Oh God. Why did you have to do that, Kylie?” Alexis scolded.

“Do what?”

“Break out the measuring tape.” Alexis rolled her eyes.

“Same basics.” Issac took the initiative. “But while Ian’s all raw power, I’ve got far better control.” He raised on hand and Kylie’s drink started to ripple. It rose up from her glass and as it did, the top widened and curved while the bottom narrowed to a delicate column. Within moments, there was a martini glass made of a martini standing in her real glass.

“Wow.” Kylie breathed. “Can you do that, Ian?”

Alexis spoke for him. “He can do shapes.” A warm smile came to her lips. “One of his favorite tricks is putting a rose blossom in my wineglass. It’s just that…”

“Top heavy shapes.” said Ian, patting his fiancee’s hand. “I can’t maintain the property distribution of density needed to make surface tension for in my favor like that.”

Issac lowered his hand and the martini-martini melted back into the glass. “There is one thing you can do that I can’t figure out though: how do you… well fly?”

Ian smirked. “I don’t know, brother-of-mine. If I teach you how to fly, what’s keeping you from claiming you’re the better brother powers-wise?”

After a moment of pretending to be in thought, Issac shrugged. “Absolutely nothing…. unless you can beat me in a race.”

“You’re on.” Ian said, shooing Kylie’s legs off him so he could stand. “The first step is to suit up.” Taking time to lean over and kiss Alexis on the cheek, he started downstairs to where his uniform was kept.

“See what you did?” Alexis made a face at Kylie just like back in grade school.

“I do.” Kylie said, downing her drink quickly. “And it’s going to be awesome! How long do you figure it’ll take for the news crews to notice them? I want to get the whole family together to watch.”

***

It felt almost as if he was Philip Gold again instead of a half-human monster shackled into high tech slavery. For once, there was an objective that needed stealing, and a plan to steal it. They were also in real clothes without a hint of ‘soldier’ or ‘dragon’ involved.

Unfortunately, someone in Project Tome had seen too many crime movies and thought that leather longcoats, designer shirts and pants, and dark glasses were something a thief trying to pull of a daylight robbery would wear to blend in at a medical technology firm. I made him paranoid that someone would take them as thieves thanks to Hollywood.

He checked his watch. “Fifty-five minutes, starting now.” He told Maleficent as they climbed the stairs of the Brighton-Leer administrative building. It was rare that they were together on jobs. One sibling would always hang back to do the technical work, which was now being handled by Jack.

Maleficent kept her eyes forward, her cavalier attitude from before Tome’s invasion of their lives was gone. Now, she was focused and intense in ways that worried him. He’d heard that she was a model prisoner/employee, earning a much longer leash on her activities than Tome gave Beowulf. At first he thought it was to avoid punishment, but now he wasn’t so sure.

“We’ll need to be in the lab in twenty.” She held the door open for him and they entered the lobby. “And we need to be on the south tower for pick-up. Do you think we’ll be able to make that without scaling up?”

ID badges supplied by Jack got them past the reception area and on to the alcove where the elevators lay.

“I hope so.” Beowulf replied. “I don’t want to do that any more often than I have to.”

They passed the main elevators. The column that housed them concealed another elevator behind, the express for the executives. Beowulf took out his Tome-issued palmtop and sent the signal for Jack to do his work.

“Does it still hurt when you do it?” Maleficent asked, finally looking at her brother.

“Yeah. Like my bones are being broken and I’m pulling ever muscle in my body. It’s not the same for you?”

She looked away. “It stops feeling like that if you do it enough. Your body needs to get used to it.”

Beowulf tried not to grit his teeth. “They don’t send us on missions alone. How is it that you’ve gotten… used to it… and not me?”

Maleficent folds her arms and continued to avoid his gaze. “It isn’t like I this, Phil. But we don’t have any options left to us.”

Silence passed between them and Beowulf looked down at the palmtop screen. There was an animation of Jack’s sneering smilie-face logo with stick arms trying to grab at wafting gossamer tendrils. “You can get that elevator down here any time, Jack.”

“Patience, kids.” Jack said, his cartoon hands passing through tendrils like they were made of smoke. “There’s a thousand and one unsecured palmtops, tablets, and miscellaneous appliances in your average office building and most programs can’t tell what’s important and what’s not. Look at this! This guy’s got a top of the line Superion palmtop with hi-res holographic screen, on-the-fly augmented reality, and dual Celerity processors and he’s just using it for messages and note taking! This is a travesty!”

“The elevator, Jack.” Beowulf said urgently.

Jack made a rude noise. “Guess I shouldn’t have expected a cage lizard to appreciate how beautiful the Superion III is. Why can’t you be more like your sister?”

Both the Cadmus Twins flinched at this, causing him to laugh wildly. “Alright, fun has been had.” He reached out and grabbed a tendril which then became red. “Your chariot is on the way kids. Have fun storming the laboratory!”

Series Navigation<< Issue #55 – Beer MoneyIssue #57 – Waylaid >>

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

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed

  • Descendants Serial is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.