Issue #65: Fond Farewell

This entry is part 5 of 16 in the series The Descendants Vol 6: Returns and Departures
This issue follows the loosely connected scenes leading up to a fated departure.
 
Part 1 – Patrol
 
Club Perfect didn’t really live up to its name. Situated a long walk from Mayfield’s main drag, it had opened a year earlier to great fanfare and then, like so many night clubs before it, the gilding tarnished with unnatural speed.
 
Most of what could be said about it was negative: the drinks were too high, the DJ was lame, it wasn’t popular with the beautiful, the rich, or the famous, and the staff were rude and haughty despite working in the club people only came to when they were too drunk and disorderly (or underage) for the other clubs. Not even the college freshmen bothered with it.
 
Many who cared to even think about it wondered how the place hadn’t shut down long ago. They didn’t know that drinks and cover charges weren’t the primary revenue stream.
 
In the gathering dark of a late September evening, a young man, no older than sixteen, walked briskly toward the rear of Club Perfect, his steps determined but stilted, as if he was afraid that if he stopped, he wouldn’t convince himself to start again.
 
There was only one light on behind the club: a stout, steel door painted a flaking green.
 
The young man walked up the three shallow steps and knocked three times, paused, then knocked twice more, just as he’d been told.
 
After long minutes, there was a groan of metal on metal as locks were disengaged. The door pulled open an inch and a dark eye glared out. “Yeah?”
 
The young man cleared his throat, trying to keep himself from shaking. He was thin and while his skin was a bronze color, it was a faded bronze, sun-kissed by genetics, paled by more hours spent inside than out. He ran his fingers through spiky black hair. “Um, I was told to say Kim sent me—for a Chinese delivery?”
 
“Can you pay for it?” The man behind the door asked after some deliberation.
 
A nervous laugh left the boy as he patted his jacket. “I think so. Had to clear out my savings, sell some stuff, but I need to protect myself. You don’t know how it is.”
 
“I don’t care either.” The door closed and the boy slumped his shoulders, dejected. But a moment later, there was a jangling sound as the chain on the door was disconnected and the door came fully open.
 
A tall man, somewhere between being muscular and fat, like a former football player, leaned out, looking left, right and upward before stepping up to lean on the door frame. Instead of talking to the boy, he looked behind him. “What do ya think, Paul?”
 
Another shape resolved itself in the dim light spilling into the hallway from the room at the end of it. He was slightly shorter than the first, but still tall. Where his partner seemed to still be in some kind of shape, he was hugely fat. He was also shirtless and covered in tattoos. With his face still in the shadows, he nodded lightly. “He got money?”
 
The first man, the one who was not Paul, didn’t repeat the question, he just stared at the boy.
 
Despite standing in the back of a seedy club with the hopes of buying a black market firearm, there was still some common sense left in the boy. Instead of saying how much he had or in what form it was, he nodded. “I can pay.”
 
Seconds ticked by as not-Paul considered him, obviously trying to decide if he was worth the trouble. “It’ll cost an extra two hundred.” He finally said. “We don’t keep any product here at the club, so you’ve gotta pay gas money.”
 
“Alright.” The boy said quickly. The concept of ‘gas money’ was too archaic for someone his age to fully understand, but all he really needed to know was that the price had gone up and he was going to get what he was after.
 
There was a rustle and Paul pulled a long, heavy coat from somewhere and threw it over his shoulders. Something large and solid inside a pocket slapped his considerable thigh. “Let’s roll.”
 
***
They drove to Prosperity Heights in relative silence, not-Paul, whose name turned out to be Matthew, drove while the young man rode in the back with Paul, who ignored him to play a game on his palmtop, grunting in frustration at continual losses at the hands of the Glitterpires to controlled Level 14 of Tower Craze.
 
Finally, they rolled into the parking lot of a supermarket off the main thoroughfare. The owners and workers at the stores nearby all had the fear of god put into them to make sure they didn’t call the cops, but there was still the threat of being seen by a patrol. Mayfield’s smarter criminals felt that was a fare trade for doing business out in the open where no superhero could sneak up on them.
 
At the top of the lot, there was a tractor trailer parked across several spaces; not an unusual sight in the city, as many truckers picked spots like that to get some sleep between stints on the road. Of course, if they regularly passed through Mayfield, truckers knew that there were some places they weren’t welcome. That very lot, for example.
 
The only other vehicle nearby was a car haphazardly parked across two spaces. It was the same make as the MPD’s cruisers, so Matt took a detour to check it out. It didn’t take him long to see there was nothing to worry about: the windows were steamed up in the back and he could make out the shape of two young people joined at the lips through the fog.
 
He smirked and gave the all clear to Paul, who had the boy get out and follow him to the back of the truck, where he pounded out a certain rhythm with his palm. A knock from inside answered him, to which he replied with three more in rapid succession.
 
A latch thumped inside and the doors were pushed open by a skinny man in his twenties, wearing jeans, an oversized Mayfield Collossi jersey, a black bucket hat and sunglasses. A cigarette dangled from his lips.
 
Behind him, the back of the truck was being used as a makeshift rec room for him and the other two occupants; a bull-necked Chinese man with tattoos on his bald head and the bulging biceps revealed by the torn off sleeves of his shirt, and a stout, bearded man who was in the middle of shuffling a deck of cards. They were sitting on cushions strewn atop plastic shipping crates before a folding card table covered with chips, beer cans and packages of assorted junk food.
 
“Hope it’s somethin’ big, Paul. We’re on commission here with the big man, know what I’m sayin’?” The bucket hatted man said, crouching down to speak.
 
“Money’s money.” Paul said, clearly not happy that he was doing so much work for such a paltry sum as the price of one gun. “The kid here needs something to keep his hands warm.”
 
“There’s a couple of gangs in my school…” the young man started, but trailed off when he realized they didn’t care.
 
Bucket Hat rolled his eyes and looked back to his companions. “Squeak, hand me one of those rattlers.”
 
The Chinese man made an annoyed sound and got up. He threw open on of the crates and came up with a device that he threw to Bucket Hat, who neatly caught it and held it out to show it off. It was done up in chrome and black plastic, sleek and compact.
 
“Radd and Teller compact machine pistol.” Bucket Hat explained to the boy. “Colombian make, Twenty shot mag, expandable to forty, no locks, not remote disable, and it’s designed to get past the kinds of scanners malls and schools have.” He noticed the skeptical look on the boy’s face. “What? This ain’t good enough for ya?”
 
The boy looked sheepish. “It just looks… like a sci-fi prop is a.. I guess I’ve never seen one up close. It doesn’t look real.”
 
Bucket Hat exhaled in frustration. “Look, kid, you probably can’t afford nothin’ better and you don’t know what you’re doin’, so don’t come here and tell me how to do my goddamn job. Is it real? Of course it’s real.” He smacked the gun on the floor of the truck.
 
It fell into pieces on the first blow. All the fasteners, solders and screws spattered out in a puddle of silvery liquid.
 
Matt was the first to see that last detail and he knew exactly what it meant. “Fu—“
 
Something exploded in air above them; multiple somethings that spewed white smoke that fell over them in an all-concealing curtain. In the same instant, something cold and flexible wrapped around Matt’s waist and flung him hard into the side of the truck. In the middle distance, a car door slammed.
 
“I knew it.” Paul snarled. “I knew it! Well I got something for your ass.” He charged out of the smoke, pulling a wide barreled, fully weaponized plasma lance out of his coat. Rage filled his eyes as he searched for Alloy, the hero he was sure would be there.
 
He only had the armored hero in his sights a split second before a barbed spike penetrated the weapon’s plastic shell. A thin metal line trailed from it back to the gauntleted hand of Renaissance, who gave a surprisingly strong tug and wrenched the weapon form his hands.
 
With one hand pulling down the hem of her costume’s shirt, she used the other to pull the plasma lance around in an arc and whirl it overhead before releasing it again to fly forcefully into Paul’s face, breaking his nose and knocking him out.
 
The smoke was starting to clear now, and Squeak, displaying far more brawn than brains leapt form the truck in a screaming charge at the gauntlet wearing woman. He never saw Osp sweep low to trip him, causing his charge to become a stumble that was only arrested when Renaissance stepped into his rush with an open palm strike that sent him careening back, tumbling over and over along the ground.
 
She didn’t have time to celebrate her victory before a green ball of energy slammed into the ground at her feet and exploded with enough force to throw her to the ground.
 
The third man, the one formerly with the deck of cards and still in possession of a beard knelt at the entrance to the truck with a heavy contraption of tubes and moving parts on his shoulder. Green light built up in its barrel as it readied another blast, one that wouldn’t miss this time.
 
Alloy made his presence known by stepping into the line of fire between Renaissance and the weapon. Hardly taking the time to look, he raised a hand and the charging weapon sputtered, groaned, then dissolved into a spray of metal filings, plastic tubing, and ceramic components.
 
After a split second of disbelieving panic, the bearded man leapt further back into the truck, taking cover among the crates.
 
In all the chaos, the teen who had been trying to buy from Paul and his gang hadn’t moved. Paralyzed with fear, he’d simply dropped into a crouch, his hands covering his head and shivered. The shivering became a flinch as two pairs of feet came to a stop very nearby him.
 
Timidly, he looked up to find Alloy and Renaissance standing over him.
 
“You know,” Alloy said thoughtfully, “My school had gangs too. My powers kicked in during a drive-by.” He folded his arms, mimicking how his father would when he was dropping some paternal wisdom on him. “The point is, I get it. The teachers are probably too scared to do anything, the cops have bigger fish to fry and every day, you’re worried that it’s X-day; the day that there’s crossfire and you’re in it or you say the wrong thing to the wrong person, or somebody decides you’d just make a good target.”
 
The trembling teen fell back to sit on the pavement. “If you got it, you’d understand why I need something to defend myself.” He said haltingly, trying to control the fears in his mind that came from all directions.
 
“Believe me, that bullshit’s only gonna make things worse.” Alloy said. “If they see you’re strapped, they’ll kill you before you can kill them.”
 
Renaissance moved over to the side of the truck and checked something on the palmtop built into her gauntlet.
 
“Then what am I supposed to do?” the teen demanded. “In case you didn’t notice, not everyone’s got powers!”
 
Deep inside his helmet, Alloy sighed. He didn’t actually know. Hadn’t known back then, didn’t know in the present. “What school do you go too, kid?” He asked at length.
 
“Polk High.” replied the young man. He lowered his eyes to the ground, hopeless.
 
Alloy nodded. “Alright then. Here’s the deal: you get out of here now and never, ever let me catch you trying to buy one of these things and I swing by Polk every once in a while and make sure the place in a gun-free zone like only a guy with metal powers can. Sound good?”
 
The kid goggled up at him. “R-really?”
 
“Like I said, I’ve been where you are. Now get out of here.”
 
He didn’t have to tell the boy twice. He scrambled to his feet and made haste out of the parking lot. Alloy watched him go in silence.
 
“That was really sweet.” said Renaissance, returning his attention to the task still at hand.
 
Inside his helm, he smiled, walking over to her. “It feels good to manage something like that once in a while. Helping the scared nerds of the world feels better than punching some guy for stealing jewelry or something. I’m glad you decided you wanted to go out on patrol tonight.”
 
She smiled and took a cylindrical device with a ring attached to one end out of a pocket in her kilt. “Are you kidding? I only just started getting to do this, and it’s another thing I’m really going to miss doing.” Before she could get too down, she quirked a grin an added, “Plus, the pulling the old ‘fake-out make-out’ scam from the movies without the ‘fake’ part was nice.”
 
“We could get back to that.” he offered hopefully looking back at her car. There wasn’t a lot they could do to hide the make and model, but a little aluminum and oxidation went a long way to changing the paint job. He looked back at the back of the truck, “After we get this last guy.”
 
Renaissance pulled the ring on the cylinder, which cause the cap on top to fly off. “Done.” She said, tossing the device into the back of the truck. At the surprised shout from inside, she tapped her palmtop and doors swung shut on their hydraulic casters, locking thereafter. There were some shouts of rage and confusion, then the sound of an unconscious body hitting the floor.
 
“You are an evil woman.” he chuckles, offering his crooked arm.
 
“In my defense, he shot at me with something meant to take down enemy powered armor. It was self defense.” She took his arm and they headed for the car.
 
“Keep telling yourself that.” he laughed. As they walked, she slipped closer to him and he put his arm around her. “Somewhere, some fanboy with a long range camera is ten minutes from making himself internet famous off this.” He laughed.
 
She did too. “Maybe this’ll a stop to all those Prelates of Mayfield stories that put you and Darkness together.”
 
“God I hope so. That’s uncomfortable for everyone. And you should see the fanfics.”
 
They reached the car and she went around to get in the driver’s side. “I think I’ll pass. Ever sense I found that one where I’m suicidal and Zero Point gives me ‘therapy’ in the Marvin Gaye sense of the word, I stay far, far away.”
 
He got in on his side laughing almost uncontrollably. “Feeling bad about the one you wrote about Renee Faust and Lightbringer?”
 
She shook her head and started the car. “It’s not creepy if they’re fictional.”
 
“No, it’s creepy because there’s still a possibility that Renee is Lightbringer.” Alloy pointed out as they drove off.
 
***
A short time later, they were parked atop a parking garage not far from the supermarket lot, watching the lights as the police arrived to clean up after them. Or they would have been if they weren’t watching each other.
 
After an unnecessarily long silence, Alloy spoke. “So you’re going to miss this? Uh, the patrolling, I mean?”
 
Renaissance nodded and started undoing the releases on her gloves. “If you told me this time last year that I would be running around the city manhandling thugs and generally saving the day, I would have laughed. And not just one of those polite laughs; there would have been guffaws. And snorting.” She slid her arms out of the heavy gauntlets and set them carefully down on the floorboards. Then she put on bare hand atop his armored one.
 
There was a slight creak and the aluminum and iron encasing her boyfriend’s arm peeled and melted away to expose his black gloved hand, leaving him free to intertwine their fingers.
 
“I like when you snort.” Alloy said matter-of-factly. It’s cute.”
 
She bumped his shoulder with her own. “You’re the cute one between the two of us.”
 
“I also snort. When it’s funny enough.” He pointed out. There was another creak and his helm started to reform. The visor plastered itself to his face, curving over his nose and leaving clear holes for his eyes, while the metal covering his mouth and lower jaw shifted away entirely, leaving him with a cowl instead of a helm.
 
He leaned over, and they kissed, slow and deep. The rest of his armor sloughed off, revealing the simple uniform of close fitting black ballistics cloth underneath. Free from the confines of the armor, he pulled her closer, putting his arms around her.
 
When they finally broke apart, it was from need for air more than anything. They panted, her forehead resting against his, their eyes locked.
 
She reached up and trailed her fingertips along his smooth, exposed jawline. “I’m going to miss that too.”
 
Using a bit more of her strength than she normally would have been comfortable displaying, she pulled him over to her. Being the shorter of the two, he ended up with his head resting against the crook of her neck, which suited her find, because she didn’t want him to see her tearing up.
 
Alloy kissed her collarbone. “Ready for your party tomorrow?”
 
His voice reverberated through her and made her sigh. “Definitely. It’ll be great to see everyone together again… outside of the context of someone trying to kill us, of course.” She smiled despite the other emotions coursing through her, then gently pulled him up and into another kiss.

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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