Issue #60 – Rust Buckets

This entry is part 13 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 5: How the World Changes
“You’re looking around like you’re confused or something.” Tink said teasingly as She and Warrick got off the escalator on the second floor of the Gaiman & Moore department store.
 
Warrick held up his thumb and forefinger with the digits spaced a miniscule distance apart. “Little bit. I’ve never been in a place like this before.”
 
Tink laughed. “Never? For real?”
 
“Maybe when I was little, but never when I could remember. You’ve gotta remember, I’m from New York; if there’s not some little shop you can walk to from the house, there’s one you can walk to from the subway stop that you can walk to. And if that doesn’t work, you’ve got a mall.”
 
Tink shook her head and poked him in the shoulder before leading him past a display of lower end designer backpacks set out for the back to school crowd. “That’s just weird. I know there are department stores in New York.”
 
“If there are, my mom or dad went to it.” He waved his palmtop and the list that appeared on its screen vaguely. “They were the ones to normally buy this stuff anyway. Is this even serious? I need my own microwave and hydration oven dishes? Glasses and plates? I thought they had a cafeteria.”
 
“A cafeteria you have to pay for.” She paused to look at a shelf of executive toys, particularly a magnetism based one with a set of chrome plated disks that jumped around a circular base, forming multiple shapes.
 
“I’ve got the meal plan.” He shrugged.
 
Tink tore her eyes off the toy and leaned down to give him a quick peck on the cheek. “My cousin’s a sophomore at UVA: trust me when I say that you will be eating in your room pretty often. Besides, wouldn’t you want us to have a private dinner sometimes when I visit?”
 
He smiled crookedly, but wasn’t giving up on his attempts at trying to get out of buying dishes. “JC’s got the same list. I could mooch off him.”
 
“And what are the chances that he’s thinking the exact same thing?”
 
Warrick thought about it, then gestured in the direction they were going. “Lead on.”
 
They passed a section that was nothing but couches, end tables and coffee tables arranged together as they would be in a real living room. Warrick thought about how much he was going to miss the couch in his room and wondered if JC would object to sacrificing precious floor space for one.
 
At least, they came to another area that did the same thing with tables and chairs, each pseudo dining room set with silverware, plates, bowls and cups. Shelves on the perimeter held stacks of the same, each marked to correspond to the display models.
 
Warrick picked up a plain white plate and turned it over to see if it was safe in microwaves or hydration ovens. F he could reduce the number of dishes he had, he could reduce the number he had to clean. “So did you get a list like this for Cambridge?”
 
“It’s way worse than yours let me tell you.” She was looking at a black set with gold trim in Egyptian patterns. “Not only do I need to ship anything I don’t buy over there, but I also need to supply my own lab safety equipment like goggles to make sure they fit properly and I can work in them.”
 
The plain plate proved to not even be safe for dishwashers, so Warrick abandoned it, only to be dismayed at the fact that there were no other plain plates on display. “So I guess we’ll be doing this for you at the end of September.”
 
He’s never been so happy as when he learned that the University of Cambridge’s ‘Michealmas Term’ started in October instead of September as he’d expected.
 
Tink laughed so hard that she almost dropped the red, marble patterned plate she was examining when she embarrassed herself with a snort. “Have you forgotten who my dad is? He looked the list up online while we were at the beach house. Everything but my clothes has been packed and ready to go since the end of July, and he’s go a pick-up scheduled for shipping already. Which is kind of amazing considering how torn up he is about me going so far from home for school.”
 
Relinquishing his search for the most bland tableware possible, Warrick came over and slipped his hand into hers, leaning heavily into her side. “He’s not the only one.” It wasn’t until after he’d already said it that his internal censor caught his tone and forced an addendum, “But it’s worth it because this is something you’ve wanted forever.”
 
Sometimes his inner censor surprised him with its eloquence while in the throes of panic.
 
“Thanks.” She rewarded him with a kiss, but he wasn’t escaping the purpose of their outing that easily. She let go of his hand to pick up a nicely plain black plate, flipping it over to reveal that it was safe in the microwave, dishwasher and hydration oven. “What do you think of this? Not too fancy, plus there’re bowls, saucers and mugs from the same brand right here.”
 
“Does that mean I can just get two of each,” He emphasized two, “and then we’re done with plate shopping?”
 
“Yup.”
 
“Excellent. Done.”
 
“Great.” Tink smiled in a way that told Warrick both that she was about to shoot down his high hopes of spending the rest of the day at the Dungeon and that she had been spending far too much time with Cyn. “Now on to the rest of the list. Silverware, right.”
 
Warrick groaned and check the list. “Why can’t I just eat with my… huh.”
 
“Huh what?” Tink looked over his shoulder at what had gotten his attention.
 
“All my icons are gone.” He raised the screen so she could see the barren icon bar at the bottom. “Quintessence mail alerts, Yakkity Chat client, my news feeds, and even my instant key for MyMovieVault.”
 
Tink took out her own palmtop and checked. “Same here. Even my Datacrunch stream’s cut out. Maybe the wireless nodes to the store cut out. I’m sure we’ll get net access back once we’re back on the street and linked to the city grid. Besides, that doesn’t get you out of this, because the list is downloaded.”
 
Again, Warrick groaned. There was no escaping it.
 
***
 
“Coming up on Mayfield, Switch to freelevs.” Sean McAllister’s mecha rode a pillar of flame from its feet and back through the sky, maintaining a rough formation with the other five. On his order, the mecha doused their flames, one by one and suffered jarring drops before their freelev systems caught them. The freelevs were last minute additions, the result of Billy Jolson finding out that there was a plant that made engines for ‘flying’ cars about sixty miles down the road from them. The mecha themselves proved instrumental in procuring them.
 
He made sure no one fell to their deaths before asking over the radio, “Al, you got eyes on them drones?”
 
“They’re not reacting.” All replied, watching one of the many, many OLDEA screens plastered all over the inside of his cabin. “They won’t. Drones what out for radiation and planes unless otherwise ordered. We’re not radioactive and as long as we don’t get too close to one another, we’re too small to show up as planes.”
 
“What about pigs?” asked Sean.
 
“MOD has patrol airships, but their ceiling is five hundred feet. They depend on the drones to spot anything higher. As long as we’re above fifty stories inside their patrol paths, they won’t see us until they’re looking for us.”
 
“Good.” said Sean. On his forward screen, he saw the city approaching rapidly.
 
There was silence in the comms for a minute, but Al hated silences. “Oh, hey. If anyone gets thirsty, there’s a hose with a mouthpiece on the right hand side of your seat, next to the ejection handle. Put it in your mouth and bite down: you’ll get a mouthful of All American Brew. Everyone’s got a keg. I call it ‘The Beer-pacitor’.”
 
“Little brother,” said the rough, tobacco ruined voice of Joe, “You are a goddamn genius.”
 
“Joseph Tyson, I don’t care if you’re gonna swear; a man can’t be faulted for swearing, but you will not take the Lord’s name in vain while I’m in earshot, you hear me?”
 
Dead silence in the comms and then. “…Yes, ma’am.”
 
None of the self dubbed ‘Rustbucket Boys’ could believe it when the ‘sixth’ Billy had in mind turned out to be his mother, ‘Liza-Beth. All of them had been friends since boyhood, and so had more than enough experience with her wrath than to dare deny her a place if she demanded it. As luck would have it, she was just as enthusiastic at putting the psionics in their place as even Sean. And that was all that mattered, as a giant robot made even a nearly seventy year old woman a formidable warrior.
 
“Good.” ‘Liza=Beth said as primly as she could from the heart of a war machine. “Now Alfred, you were saying?”
 
Al laughed nervously. “That was about it, ma’am.”
 
Sean had been trying to tune all of them out and failed. “Alright, listen up; from here on in, call signs only. Sound off so we know your sign. Papa Bear, standing by.”
 
This was the part that all the guys had secretly been waiting for; the secret hope of their inner little boys playing with toy planes and dreaming of being a flying ace.
 
“Handyman, standing by.” said Al.
 
“Bad Boy, cocked locked and ready to rock.” said Billy, overcompensating for the fact that his mother was there.
 
“Tough here. Let’s show these freaks what humans can do.” added Joe.
 
“Sanballat, standing by.” said Zeke.
 
“San-what?” asked Billy.
 
“What the hell kinda of name is that?” added Joe.
 
Zeke coughed into his comm. “I wanted something biblical.”
 
“That’s biblical?” Joe guffawed derisively. “Sounds like a town in California where everybody drinks expensive coffee.”
 
“You never heard of Sanballat? King of the Samaritans? Mrs. Jolson, help me out here.”
 
“I’m sorry Ezekiel, but it’s not really good. Though I don’ see the point of making up stupid names in the first place. Makes you sound like prelates and that’s who we’re against.”
 
They passed over the first building ins Mayfield and the squabbling continued.
 
“It’s to make sure the cops don’t know our names if they tap our comms.” Sean finally explained.
 
“Speaking of which…” Inside his cockpit, Al was monitoring his many screens and looking confused,” there’s unusually little chatter from them. Everything’s on the radio frequencies instead of the wireless. Strange.”
 
“Strange as in ‘abort’?” asked Sean.
 
“No, like they might be having a big Internal Affairs take-down like they had in Dallas back in November. This might be good luck.”
 
Sean nodded and checked his gauges again. Most importantly, he made sure that his oversized tesla arc was fully charged. “Let’s hope so then.”
 
“I still don’t have a name.” ‘Liza-Beth informed everyone.
 
“Why can’t we just call ya ‘Mama’, mama?” Billy asked, voice pleading that she not embarrass him with his friends.
 
“I s’ppose that’ll work.”
 
“Are we done?” Sean asked, weary. Everyone confirmed that they were. “Good. Handyman, lay out the plan we worked out.”
 
Inside his cabin, Al tore himself away from watching the passing buildings to activate one of his panels. “Everyone take a look at your top right screen.”
 
Onscreen, a building appeared; a three story structure in the midst of upscale storefronts and apartment towers. It was built in an angular ‘c’ shape that left it’s roofless center open to the street. The many stores within looked out onto this open courtyard, which had sections of lawn with small trees, patio tables, and fountains laid out in an attractive pattern.
 
“That’s ‘The Shops at Albemerle Town Center’. It’s where the highfalutin types go to shop and a likely place where someone with power might drop in and start looting. Bad Boy, that’s you. You’re our decoy. Fly in and take what you want. Make a big, big scene, got it?”
 
Billy laughed. “Oh yeah, I think I can do that. Why though?”
 
“Draw ’em out.” said Sean. Especially the on n the armor. We can’t risk all getting to close to him because he’s got metal powers. So you get their attention. Once he’s got it, Tough and… uh… Mama, you two have the long range snipe anyone that comes to fight him. San… sanbla…”
 
“It’s not that had to pronounce.” muttered Zeke.
 
“You need to pick a new name. Not every name in the bible is impossible to pronounce.” said Sean.
 
Zeke let out a frustrated groan. “Fine. I’ll be David then.”
 
Joe scoffed. “David? Ain’t that a little regular for a call sign?”
 
“I get to pick and you didn’t like Sanballat, so I’m David, okay? It’s not my real name, it’s not too hard to say. Go with it.”
 
“G…” Sean caught himself before he angered ‘Liza-Beth, “Gosh, just shut up! You can be David. Just—we’re clear on the plan then, right?”
 
“What about the rest of them?” Joe asked, “Not just the ‘heroes’ you know they’ve got a school somewhere around here? The whole damn town is lousy with ’em. The paper’s got some woman writing a weekly column about ’em even.”
 
Sean clucked his tongue. “First the prelates. They’re the ones that can fight back against us. As for the rest; both other psionics and sympathizers; well Joe, you’ve got a fifteen ton iron monkey suit stuffed full of guns and flamethrowers—use your imagination.”
 
Joe and Billy let out loud whoops at this.
 
“Only one rule,” added Sean. “I’ve got the gold one.”
 
“How come?” asked Zeke.
 
“Yeah, from what I’ve seen, that one’s gonna take more than one.” said Joe.
 
“That’s the rule. You put me in charge, I make the rules!” Sean shouted into the comm, baffling both into silence. He didn’t want anyone to know that his daughter was the shapeshifting Descendant known as Facsimile. Though he blamed his wife for her defective genetics, he didn’t want his friends thinking there might be something wrong with him.
 
“I just really hate the shapeshifters.” He said, “All they are is dishonest, ungrateful shits. And a waste of good money feeding ’em. Did you know they eat five times what a person eats? Mostly because they can, I imagine.”
 
“Never heard anything like that.” said Al.
 
“Yeah, well you don’t have my sources.” muttered Sean. Then louder; “Alright, we’ve got the plan, now let’s get these ‘Descendants’!”

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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