Issue #68 – One Week

This entry is part 9 of 16 in the series The Descendants Vol 6: Returns and Departures
[This issue takes place one hour after Descendants Special #6]
 
Part 1 – Tuesday
 
Today had been a big day, but a mixed bag in Alloy’s reckoning. The marina and surrounding neighborhoods had taken a pounding that would take weeks if not months to repair, but news had come in from Mayfield General that there had been no life threatening injuries thanks to the intervention of the Descendants.
 
Warpstar had escaped, but without achieving his goal of gaining control of either Augustus or the Book of Passions. Facsimile had also reduced the number of major powers he could take by one while also robbing him of Codex’s vast store of knowledge and skill.
 
And at long last, Codex was looking into networking the nation’s heroes together, just like the Society For Better Worlds from Taskforce: Earth (except no aliens… unless Lucian the Ape Knight counted). The downside to that was that he’d come face to face with a fangirl of his.
 
They all knew about and occasionally had brushes with fans that made them uncomfortable, but Damsel was the first to have powers of her own. That was only slightly bothersome. What was worrisome was just how much she knew about Alloy and his adventures, including the lithium sword trick he’d used against Metal X and Morganna’s dragon-golems—something he was pretty sure there hadn’t been any cameras around to see.
 
And on top of that, the Whitecoat had found the whole thing hilarious, which embarrassed Alloy terribly.
 
So yeah; mixed bag.
 
He had Isp and Osp set him down under a power shed for the elevated train and cast around for possible witnesses before dismissing his armor. The metal split into sections like an orange around his chest and peeled back from him while his helm melted and sloughed off down his back. In short order, the once formidable armor was in a mercurial puddle at his feet.
 
It didn’t have time to settle before he caused a portion of it to rise up and wrap around his waist to take the shape of a belt of thick chain links. Stepping out of the puddle of metal, Alloy waved a hand over it dramatically and made it form up into a trashcan.
 
If anyone came and tried to actually empty it, they would find it to be surprisingly heavy, but he’d found the trashcan disguise to be a good way to stash extra metal around the city without anyone noticing.
 
The tentacles whipped the air in frustration, but he shook his head. “Sorry guys, but I’m headed back on campus. You know the rules.” Even though they were made of featureless metal, they affected a hangdog expression just before he un-summoned them into snake-shaped armbands fitted around his biceps under his shirt.
 
Now plain old, ordinary college student, Warrick Kaine, he slipped out from behind the power shed and headed for campus.
 
It was two weeks before Halloween (and two plus a day until his birthday), and the neighborhood around the college was already at the saturation point for decorations and things for sale. Walking through it all reminded him that he still needed a costume.
 
He’d entertained the idea of going as the Whitecoat, but after meeting Damsel, who he wouldn’t put it past to be dressing as Alloy for Halloween, he didn’t have the stomach for that anymore. Normal fare like vampires, zombies or soldiers were right out: he was a geek and had to protect his cred with a properly geeky costume.
 
As luck would have it, the store he was passing had a bunch of costumes in the window. Some of them were just hanging up while others had been placed over robotic mannequins to display their range of motion. Most of those were variations on a theme: green skinned brutish figures with heavy brows, tusks and thick fingers with blackened nails—only they were dressed in anything from biker leathers to what on anything else would be sexy nurse uniforms, to a rather dapper black tuxedo.
 
Warrick stared at the creature in the tux. He also had a compact toy gun in one hand and a martini glass in the other. “What is up with all the orcs?”
 
Someone laughed behind him; a female someone. “You’ve never heard of orcing?”
 
In the window’s reflection, Warrick saw her and almost choked as her turned around. There she was again: Meghan Rockwell, the young woman who, in a different time, might have become his wife. In all the chaos, with golems attacking and the day being saved by his Mythology textbook, he’d almost forgotten about her.
 
Her hair was plastered to her head with sweat, and she wore just a royal blue sports bra under an unbuttoned, teal and pink plaid woodcutter’s shirt and dark blue sweatpants. A gym bag was over one shoulder. It was a really good look on her, he realized to his dismay.
 
“Um… not really?” he managed. Somewhere along the way he’d heard people online mocking it, but the internet mocked everything with no explanation given.
 
Meghan didn’t notice the awkwardness he was feeling and pointed back at the window. “It’s a cosplaying fad. You know how some people dress up for conventions as their favorite characters?”
 
Warrick nodded and turned his gaze on the display so that he wouldn’t be looking at her. Every time he did, he saw her twenty years in the future. “Oh yeah, I know that. I was Captain Abel from Imago last Halloween.”
 
“LeJean from Witch Seed.” Meghan said, then reached up and touched her prosthetic arm.
 
The motion wasn’t missed by Warrick, who saw it in the reflection. “So that’s when…”
 
“Yeah.” she replied thoughtfully. “Drunk guy ran me off the road when I was on my way home from a party. I’m lucky though: the doctor said it was basically a coin flip that I didn’t lose both arms.”
 
Or just the other one. Warrick thought.
 
“But whatever.” She said airily. “I look on the bright side: I always liked machines, always thought about doing the spark jockey thing, and now I am. But like I was saying, orcing is like cosplay, only you dress up as an orc dressing up in costume—two layers. It’s been around a few years… I went to a convention senior year in high school, actually.”
 
Warrick couldn’t help but chuckle. “So you’ve got an orc costume somewhere in your closet?”
 
“Not just an orc, my friend, but an orc Bride of Frankenstein. Her name is Greeve.” She looked at Warrick, expecting a reaction, and when she didn’t get it, added, “Green Eve. You know, because the Monster’s name was Adam?”
 
This time, he got it and snorted. “Wow, that took a lot more thought than an orc name should.”
 
She grinned. “A lot more work too. Real orcers make their own costumes and animatronics—it’s a step below interfacing, really.”
 
“And you built your own?” Part of Warrick was screaming for him to stop, that this wasn’t something he should be doing. Another part was too curious about ‘orcer’ subculture to entertain the cross-time ramifications. And still another (which spoke in JC’s voice, was pointing out that there was no harm in making friends with her as long as ‘friend’ was the operative word. It was probably that one that prompted him to add, “My girlfriend is really techy too. She might get a kick out of this stuff.”
 
Meghan pouted, which made Warrick’s stomach twist until she said, “Lucky you. My boyfriend is not a fan. He even begged me not to go orc for Halloween this year.
 
Never had a college guy ever been so happy to hear that the cute girl he was talking to had a boyfriend. It felt like the danger had passed somehow. There was no chance for some quirk of the time stream to jump up and blindside him with some unwanted romance, and when he told Tink about his new friend, Meghan, he could also mention her boyfriend and all would be well.
 
Hoping she couldn’t read the relief on his face, he shrugged. “Can’t win ’em all, I guess. What are you doing instead?”
 
“I just bought mine Sunday, actually.” she said, “There’s a place on Waid Avenue that’s going all out with prelate costumes.”
 
This won’t end well. Warrick thought. “Oh, really?”
 
She nodded. “They’ve got everyone: the Descendants, Descendants: LA, like twelve New York prelates, even some I’ve never heard of from around the country.” Her smile turned conspiratorial. “And they’ve got sexy versions of most of them too.”
 
Definitely won’t end well. Warrick felt his throat go dry.
 
“So I got one of for my favorite Descendant.” Meghan said proudly. Her conspiratorial smile widened. “Guess which.”
 
Please god don’t let her be going to Halloween as sexy Renaissance. I may explode right here from the paradox. “Um…” I really shouldn’t be thinking about sexy versions of any of my teammates. “Facsimile?” It felt like a safe guess, as he’d gotten used to the fact that Cyn in ‘hero mode’ was basically naked (though, as she frequently pointed out, ‘lacking visible ‘attributes”.) long ago.
 
“Nope. Actually, I don’t think I saw any for her now that I think about it. Guess again.”
 
“D-darkness?” He couldn’t imagine how someone could make a ‘sexy’ version of her when she usually looked like a vaguely woman-shaped shadow.
 
Meghan shook her head.
 
“I give up then. Who?” Please don’t be Renaissance. Please don’t be Renaissance.
 
Adjusting her gym bag on her shoulder, Meghan folded her arms. “Zero. Pardon the pun, but she’s totally the coolest, especially now that she can fly and do those blue energy bolts. Plus, she’s my boyfriend’s favorite too.” She added a conspiratorial wink to the smile.
 
“I’m sure he’ll be very happy about that. Last year, when I was Captain Abel, Tink—uh, my girlfriend—was P.H.O.E.B.E.”
 
“Oh, that’s cute.” said Meghan. “So what are you going as this year.”
 
He started to speak before he thought and had to close his mouth after a second. “Actually, I’ve got nothin’. And believe me, staying home is not an option because I’m an All Saint’s baby and Halloween is also my birthday party. It’s been a pretty big tradition two years running.”
 
“Then you don’t have a lot of time to decide. Might I recommend…” she shot the tuxedoed orc costume a meaningful look.
 
“I don’t think I’m ready to go orcing just yet.” Warrick laughed. “Plus, I play so much Deathgate and Heroes & Adventurers that I’m like the natural enemy of the orc now.”
 
“I play H&A too, but that doesn’t make it less fun to play the other side sometimes. Just something to consider.” said Meghan with a twinkle in her eye. She then tugged on the collar of her sweat-moistened shirt and wrinkled her nose in mild disgust. “Listen; I should probably get back to my dorm an grab a shower. Good luck picking a costume.”
 
“Thanks.” Warrick said with a duck of his head.
 
“See you in class Thursday?”
 
“Sure thing.” Warrick said with a wave. “Have a good night.”
 
Meghan readjusted her bag again and turned to walk up the street toward the college “You too!”
 
Warrick watched her disappear into the foot traffic on the sidewalk before stuffing his hands in his pockets. Things had gone better than he’d feared. Though he’d admit that he could fear a lot.
 
Funny thing that: while he wasn’t going to lie and say he wasn’t scared when confronted with clay giants capable of breaking ever bone in his body if they ever got a good hit on him, the fact that he could stand against that kind of threat didn’t make personal worries any less real—even when they were bizarre.
 
With one more look at the orc costumes and a private vow to find something that wasn’t orcish to be for Halloween, he turned toward the college himself. Along the way, he checked his palmtop for the time.
 
Eight forty-five. With some quick math, he’d become intimately acquainted with over the past few weeks, he deduced that it would be almost two in the morning in England. Given Tink’s normal hours, there was a good chance she wouldn’t be asleep already. However, she had two flatmates who might not be as nocturnal, so he settled for sending a text.
 
‘ @)–>– 4U! Still coming 4 10/13? I hv no costume yet. Ideas?’
 
Since it might be a while before she got back to him, especially if she was working on something, he pocketed the palmtop, but not before hitting the macro he’d set up to order a pizza. He hadn’t had a chance to eat since breakfast and he might just end up eating the whole thing himself.
 
***
“So you find out she’s got a boyfriend and now it’s totally cool to be friends with her.” JC said, not-so stealthily stealing a slice from the pizza box on Warrick’s bed. “There is so much wrong with your logic there.”
 
Warrick was already on his third, sitting on the floor with his back against the bed. “Man, can we drop it, please? We just talked and I’m going to mention her to Tink and… you know, everything is cool right now.” He motioned to the television “Now can we just relax and watch the premier of Genesis Alchemist it’s going to go live in a few minutes.”
 
Gnawing on his pizza, JC returned to his computer chair, which had a good view of the TV. “If you say so. What’s this show about, anyway? I don’t remember seeing anything online.”
 
“You just don’t know where to look.” said Warrick. “It’s an indie animated show out of England. The setting is like steampunk, only the tech is alchemy instead of steam and gears. The promo for it was so badass, I can’t even describe it to you. Go check it out online before it starts.”
 
JC gave him a wary look. “You never said it was indie before. You know what I think of indie animation, man. Especially after Stars and Symphony.” Never the less, he typed in the search for the promo.
 
“Corporate sheep.” Warrick teased as he settled back against the bed. He took a bite of pizza and chewed thoughtfully as he listened to the promo starting on JC’s computer. About a minute in, he frowned slightly. “Hey?”
 
“Yeah?” JC asked, distracted. Despite his misgivings and the catastrophic letdown of Stars and Symphony, JC was finding himself engrossed.
 
“What… what was wrong with my logic?”
 
JC sighed dramatically and paused the promo. “Dude. Seriously?”
 
“Yeah, seriously. I thought I had some airtight logic, but it there’s something wrong, I ought to know. I don’t want to screw up because I was dumb about this.”
 
“Man, you really don’t get it.” said JC.
 
“Get what?”
 
“That the dumb part is that you think there’s a ‘this’. Look; you don’t actually want to get with Ms. Quantum USA, right? You love Tink and she’s the one you want to be with, right?”
 
Warrick sat up and gave him a dirty look. “Duh! I wouldn’t be worried and freaked out if that weren’t the case.”
 
“Right.” JC said, scrubbing his hands through his hair. “I know that and you know that. And this other girl: she doesn’t want you, right?” Warrick nodded. “And Tink… well Tink doesn’t know that she or the averted timeline exist at all.”
 
“Yeah…” Warrick said slowly, trying to figure out where this was going.
 
“So you’re treating this like a love triangle when the only actual conflict is that you have convinced yourself that your life is a science fiction story and the plot is going to force you to fall for The Future Mrs. Heisenberg.”
 
Warrick’s eyes narrowed. “What, do you have a list of those?”
 
“Pretty much, yeah.” JC grinned. “’Schrodinger’s wifey’ was off the top of my head, but then I went to this name generator online…”
 
“Okay, I get it, I’m being dumb.” Warrick groaned. “Maybe my life is so close to a comic book that I forget it’s not sometimes.”
 
JC took a big bite of pizza and chewed thoughtfully. “No worries, brotha. That’s why you keep one normal schlub around as a best friend. Someone around here has to live in a world not swarming with magic robots and full of quantum.”
 
A flurry of trumpets on the television signaled the start of Genesis Alchemist and both fell silent to watch.
 
As if on cue, there came a pounding on the door to the bathroom they shared with their suitemates. “Hey, can you two keep it down? I’m trying to take sleep here.”
 
“It’s not even nine-thirty!” Warrick shouted back. “And quiet hours don’t start until eleven.”
 
There was an indignant huff as heir suitemate, Mike stepped back form his door. “You know what? Okay. If that’s how you’re going to be… if you’re going to be rude, I can send a message to the RA about your lack of cooperation and general attitude. You know, if that’s what you want.”
 
Warrick grit his teeth and felt over his head on the bed to find his palmtop. “Jesus, fine. Just shut up.” Seizing the palmtop, he turned down the volume on the TV.
 
“Thanks, bud!” came Mike’s suddenly friendly voice.
 
“You know Ryan doesn’t even pay attention to complaints from these two rooms anymore?” Warrick said to JC. “Not even two full months in and he’s sick of us.”
 
JC shook his head and twiddled the pizza crust in his fingers. “You know, if you find some way to shunt him off into another dimension, I—in my capacity as normal guy—give you complete permission to do it.”
 
Warrick glared at the door before looking back at the screen. “And I would be so very, very tempted to do it.”

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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9 Comments

  1. Kaine and A’belle, huh?

  2. No one said Wendy was creative. :p

  3. Rereading this one and…
    “and the Lily, short her usual summer tan”
    THE Lily? I mean, I know she’s a bit full of herself, even with her newfound epiphany, but… 😛

  4. and flares his nostrils
    flared

    How fitting you can fly
    fitting that you can fly?

    I know exactly how you deal with an unnatural human
    how to deal

    some thirty points of vicious raptor
    probably “pounds”

    and blasted sent an unpleasant chill
    one superfluous word, but I’m not sure which

    done that, however, then the Haast’s eagle
    than

    of Zero while be low, she heard
    I’d put “of Zero while, below, she heard”

    her hip pouch. Are you sure?
    missing quotation mark

    “Just keep in mind that if the police don’t know about magic. If a controlled animal attacks them, they’ll use anything to can to stop them.”
    that the police […] anything they can

    the exhibit only feature
    featured

    We ere protesting
    were

    No wonder her was so ‘successful’
    he

    she dropped thing around her
    dropped… the temperature?

    Zero over the animals’ heads
    flew over?

    • Also the low-land gorilla transmogrifies to mountain variety at some point.

      30 points of raptor may not be a mistake though, could just be mechanics showing through. You can make a pretty swell bird with 30 points.

      (That last part was a joke.)

  5. Hmm… Do eagles and gorillas have superior hearing compared to humans? Or do the Descendants have ear protection in their standard kit? (Along with the bulletproof costumes and all the other goodies.)

    • Humans lack the ability to perceive a wide spectrum of sound frequencies. The screamers have a setting to target those frequencies when dealing with animals and another for humans, which links to a noise cancelling device in the comms.

  6. I am bad at this writering thing. Corrections should go up tonight along with the month’s posting schedule.

  7. Ah, Lifesavers Inc. is back! I wondered whatever happened to that! That’s a really great way to bring it back. I definitely approve.

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