- Issue #61 – Higher Education
- Issue #62 – Poor Relations
- Issue #63 – Storm Cage
- Issue #64 – Stormfall
- Issue #65: Fond Farewell
- Issue #66 – City by the Lake
- Issue #67 – Emet
- Descendants Special #6 – Things to Come
- Issue #68 – One Week
- Issue #69 – Crashers
- Descendants Giant-sized #2 – After-Party
- Issue #70: Gold and Glory
- Issue #71: Yellow
- CynQuest: Yellow Fallout
- Issue #72: Turmoil Returns
- Descendants Annual #6
Issue #69 – Crashers
“Ms. Brant and the others will not be here?” Kareem was asking Warrick.
He was dressed as if he’d stepped directly out of a penny dreadful with dark tan trousers, and a matching waistcoat over a frilly silk shirt and burgundy vest. A felt top hat was perched on his head at a jaunty angle and a yellow ascot was tied ’round his neck with impeccable skill. His black period boots were shined until Warrick could almost see himself in them, and he carried a cane under one arm that was tipped with a silver bird of prey with wings spread. That same hand held a doctor’s bag that was half open, revealing several of the hellish instruments physicians of the day used in their trade. As the finishing touch, he was also wearing a fake, black mustache that twirled at the ends like a cartoon villain’s.
What distinguished him from a generic dandy of the era and made clear exactly who he was portraying was the spattering of fake blood that slashed across his fine clothes, gleamed on the medical instruments, and even left little dots on his hat and face. That made it clear that tonight Kareem was Jack the Ripper.
Warrick couldn’t help but stare at his friend. They’d talked about the ‘come as you aren’t’ concept, but he never expected Kareem of all people to take it in that direction. It was so unsettling that he almost forgot the question. “Huh? Oh, no. They left their gifts and wished me a happy birthday before Tink go here, but V.T. Liedecker’s got this charity masquerade ball going on and Ms. Brant and Ms. Keyes are invited so…” He finished with a shrug.
Even without mental powers, Kareem could since the other man’s discomfort and offered him a calming smile. “Oh. Speaking of gifts…” He reached into the innet breast pocket of his waistcoat and came out with a small box wrapped in red paper with a white ribbon. “Happy birthday, my friend.”
“Thanks.” Warrick grinned. “Mind if I open it now?”
“Of course not. Go ahead.”
While Warrick carefully undid the ribbon, a figure glided up to them. Or gilded up to them, which seemed to be a more fitting description of the costume Lily was wearing.
Styled after the hip-hugging dresses favored by actresses from the Golden Age of Hollywood, her gown glittered with golden sequins and flared out into a riot of ruffle around her ankles. A saffron feather boa was wrapped around her neck, making it look a bit like she was going for a lion costume. Her blonde hair was covered by a wig of straight, black hair in a severe cut around chin length, and she had enough eyeliner on to put an entire glam rock band to shame.
“Kareem!” She said, flashing a bright smile. “Look at you; you look so… dangerous.” The way she said dangerous and the look in her eyes made it clear that while he might be dressed like the Ripper, he wasn’t the one on the prowl.
Diplomatic as always, Kareem tipped his hat to her. “Good evening Lily. Your costume is very nice as well.”
“Sweet! Thanks, man!” Warrick exclaimed, oblivious to Lily’s presence. He held up the now open gift from Kareem. Inside the wrapping was a box with a clear plastic top revealing the cloth covered interior. And resting on the cloth was a set of polygonal dice: one each bearing four, eight, twelve and twenty sides, a pair of ten-siders, and ten six-siders; all carved from black stone with silver numbers. A manufacturer’s stamp identified them as coming from Gary’s Specialty Dice.
Kareem smiled at his friend’s enthusiasm. “I might not understand most of the games you play, but I do remember you saying to prefer real dice to rolling apps. There’s a certificate in the box promising that those are carved from obsidian from Hawaii—the new island.”
“You are beyond awesome.” said Warrick, who had dice in every metal imaginable and was starting to become a collector in his own right.
Unable to help herself, Lily leaned over to see what the conversation was about. The results disappointed her. “Oh.” She said flatly. “Nerd stuff.”
Only then did Warrick notice her and respond with the exact same flatness. “Lily. At… another of our parties. Aren’t there much bigger ticket parties going on tonight? Like the Liedecker charity thing?” He wouldn’t normally wish Lily on his mentors, but it was his birthday and he felt justified.
“Oh there are.” Lily said with a noblewoman’s laugh that grated both men’s souls. “Did you know that Kimberly Wyatt—one of the hottest actresses in Hollywood—is having a party at the Dornez Hotel tonight?” She sighed in what she Warrick thought she probably thought was a gallant matter. “But this was the party Callie wanted to go to and I wasn’t going to make her got to a party alone. Both me and Kim came to keep her company.”
She pointed over to the couch where Callie, dressed as a soldier with BDUs and a camouflage jacket worn open over an olive tanktop and fake dog tags, was talking with Juniper while Kim, dressed in an impressive kabuki costume hovered nearby; for once she was the awkward outsider.
“But we’re Callie’s friends. She wouldn’t be alone.” Warrick argued.
Lily paid no attention. Instead, she held up the little, gold clutch she was carrying. “And before I forget, we all chipped in and got you a present.”
There was a slight glazing of Warrick’s eyes. “The conserv girls chipped in and bought me a birthday present.” He looked at Kareem. “Did you wander into an alternate dimension or something?” Given his normal life, that wouldn’t have been a big leap.
Another noblewoman’s laugh from Lily. “We haven’t been ‘conserv’ since Junior year. That trend is so very over.” She produced a laminated card printed on thick stock with silver accents from her clutch. “But yes: this is for you. It’s for a suit from Vinchenzo Dee—fitting included. From the last few parties I’ve noticed that you dress a little…”
She made a face and accompanied it with a sound she probably made when noticing she stepped in something unpleasant.
“Although you’re almost acceptable tonight—what are you supposed to be?”
A sly grin came to his face. “I’m in the business of international banking.” He lifted his hand and Isp quickly snapped one of the printed business cards out of his sleeve and in between his middle and index fingers. “I’m sure you’ve heard of me.”
Lily took the card, looking bemused. A moment later, she gave him a confused look. “Your name isn’t James.”
He stared at her blankly. “You never… okay, let me give you a hint:” He reached down and grabbed his belt-buckle. It came off, revealing that it had merely been fitted over top of his real belt buckle. Holding it out, he squeezed the sides, causing a port to open on one side. Unseen by Lily, Osp was feeding itself into the other side, and when the port opened, extended and unfolded into a grappling hook. “See? The grappling hook belt buckle from the last movie: Never Is Always Again.”
For a second, Lily seemed to consider asking what he was walking about, but decided to ignore the topic completely. “Anyway, Vinchenzo does suits for Micheal Bayard, so he’s used to working with short men and that means he’ll definitely make you look good.” She pressed the card into Warrick’s hand.
Something about the genuine pride she seemed to have in giving him the present made Warrick feel off. It was like she was really trying to be nice, but wasn’t able to overcome the fact that she was… Lily. “Thanks.” He said haltingly. Out of respect for the fact that she really was trying, he didn’t point out that she’d just called him short and accused him of dressing like a hobo.
“Of course.” Lily said brightly. And with that out of the way, her attention went right back to Kareem. “So Kareem…”
“Kareem.” Desiree came up to them, her movement hampered by the full gown she was wearing as well as the several pounds of of brass and woodwork attached to it. The gown itself was light gray, accented with black at the seams and on the skirts. The corset top was reinforced on the outside by brass ribs connected by a series of showy looking, but non-functional hydraulics. There was a belt around her waist featuring a working wood and clockwork piece that clicked and whirred as she walked. She carried with her a parasol covered in toggles and gears. White powder made her normally gray skin take on a more ethereal look, and her natural teeth did more than an adequate job standing in for predator fangs.
Seeing Lily standing there, Desiree was quick to thread her arm through Kareem’s. “I wanted to see what Warrick thought of the gift you picked out for him. Oh. Hello—Lily, right?”
Lily’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Right. Desiree was it?”
“I actually really liked it.” Warrick intervened before the tension could reach choking levels. “I’m a huge sucker for dice you know.”
Across the room, he noticed that the awkward exchange was being watched. It took him a moment to realize who it was doing the watching because the outfit was almost as out of character as it was for the person wearing it to be wearing a costume at all.
Melissa was wearing an ankle length trench coat over a charcoal colored dress and blouse combination, dark glasses, and a fedora. The not-realistic-at-all squirt gun in her hand marked her for a noir femme-fatale.
She was sitting on the couch with Lisa, who had painted seams and bolts on her arms, neck, face and legs, which coupled with plastic ‘antennae’ extending from behind her ears made her into a robot girl, and JC, who in a fit of laziness had thrown on a lab coat and was calling himself her creator. But she wasn’t really listening to them—she was watching Kareem.
Suddenly, Warrick was very glad to be himself instead of his friend, whose life was about to get very, very messy.
The moment he thought that, his glance landed on the refreshment table, where a man in a purposefully tacky suit he didn’t know was chatting with a green-skiinned, tusk mouthed orc girl in a jumpsuit, carrying an enormous plastic wrench. He knew immediately who that was: Meghan, the girl who, in an alternate timeline would have been his wife.
Maybe he did want to be Kareem instead after all.
The doorbell rang, immediately answered with a boisterous “Yar!” As Cyn made her way to the door. She was at once glorious and ridiculous in her pirate captain get-up. She wore massive, clopping boots with red velvet trousers and an elaborate greatcoat of the same material. Her hair hung down in white sausage curls beneath a leather tri-corn hat. The coat hung open to reveal the frilliest white silk shirt in the history of mankind, and a crimson sash into which were shoved a cutlass, spyglass, and a vintage flintlock pistol she’d purchased online just for the costume.
She clomped her way to the door, almost running into the side table thanks to the poor depth perception afforded by her mandatory eyepatch and grabbed up the big bowl of giant candy bars sitting there before throwing open the door to reveal a gaggle of trick-or-treaters and their chaperone.
“Ahoy there! Ye be the first lubbers to brave the long steps o’ Freeland House.” She proclaimed. “Here by yer just reward!” The kids actually cheered upon seeing the plus-sized candy Laurel had bought for them to had out.
After a chorus of thank yous and Cyn doting on the costumes, the kids were on their way and a smiling Cyn closed the door.
“Man, I can’t imagine I was ever that cute at that age.” Her boyfriend, Ollie said, taking the bowl from her. He was dressed in a long leather coat, gun belt and cowboy hat.
“Ha.” Cyn grinned. “Putting a kid in costume is instant cute. Even if you make them a zombie or something. But I bet you were a cute kid. What was your favorite costume back then?”
“Zorro.” he answered instantly. “I thought the mustache made me look grownup and my mom bought me with awesome plastic rapier. How about you?”
Cyn’s smile faltered as she considered her own childhood, but it didn’t stay that way for long. “Well, we didn’t have store bought costumes; we had to get creative, which usually meant being a ghost or a hobo way too often. But one year I did grab an old bed sheet, put on my mom’s flip-flops, thread a vine from the back yard through my hair and go as Caesar.”
She smiled fondly at the memory of the pride she’d felt for coming up with that. “I got mad trick-or-treat loot that year. Man, I love Halloween.”
“As it turns out, Halloween is the only night we really have a chance of pulling this off with even a chance of getting the element of surprise.” McDonnell explained to her team as two vans parked several blocks down from both the stairs and driveway leading to Freeland House.
“They have a military grade friend-or-foe security system in place that flags anyone approaching and begins threat assessment: advanced firearms and explosive detection, facial recognition matching across several major databases, and high level, non-lethal responses if something comes up hinkey. It’s all controlled by a computer inside the house with no internet connection, as it’s a bitch to bypass.
“Thankfully,” She said with a self-satisfied smirk, “They’re big believers in Halloween. Makes sense since they’re so cozy with monsters. With a party going on and trick-or-treaters coming and going, the friend-or-foe watching the driveway and stairs are going to be disables, leaving only passive scanning online and we can spoof that.”
Her comm crackled and the voice of Benjamin Cuccinelli came through. “When are we moving in?”
Cuccinelli was the closest thing she had to a second in command in the group of volunteers. He was known for not being afraid to get his hands dirty, but didn’t like taking orders from a woman, as evidenced by the slight sneer in his voice when he asked.
McDonnell chose not to get into a supremacy battle right then and instead just laid out the situation. “A group of trick-or-treaters just went up the steps. We wait for them to come out and leave visual contact. Team Three, once they’re gone, hit the utility and cut the lights on the street so no one else comes this way. As soon as that’s done, we roll.”
“I want to make it clear that our objective is the computer. If we can get in and out without being noticed, more power to us. Myself and Team One will access the perimeter and if we can break in without detection, that’s what we’re going to do. If we can’t Team Two with Cuccinelli will go in the front with the prepared story and Team One will breach using them as cover. Got that?”
“Got it, boss.” came the voice of Lee Sheridan, the leader of Team Three.
“Yeah, yeah.” said Cuccinelli, which was the best McDonnell knew she could hope for out of him.
The trick-or-treating group appeared, coming off the daunting steps leading up to Freeland House. The two teenaged chaperones took a breather at the bottom while the kids busied themselves with an impromptu game of tag; rambunctious and full of sugar already.
To McDonnell’s dismay, one little girl was dressed in a tiny version the cape and half mask worn by Zero of the Descendants. She wasn’t the only one that noticed.
“What kind of parent lets their kid dress up as one of them?” asked Pamela Kyle, one of the Team One members seated behind McDonnell in the van. “Dont’ they know how dangerous they can be? Do they not remember Ravi or Braylocke? At least those two can kill you quick—imagine being frozen to death.”
“Media brainwashing.” replied Alec Strutt, who was seated beside her. “They play up all the ‘good deeds’ they do and never, ever mention just how dangerous they could be if they went off the rails. Even after Braylocke and Braddock Island, people keep getting fed this fantasy that these are superheroes made real when they’re really just dangerous vigilantes not beholden to the government who do nothing the police can’t besides cause massive property damage.”
“Aren’t some of the prelates humans through?” asked Kyle. “Majestrix just has a robot, and Barn Owl’s a guy in a suit.”
McDonnell snorted, interrupting them both. “It’s not about where they get the power, it’s the fact that having that power at all is dangerous. Psionics are just worse because that’s power that crops up in random people at random times—puts everyone in danger. If they just accepted that they’re bad for society, went away and stopped breeding with normal humans, it wouldn’t come to this.”
She watched as the teenagers started herding the kids down the street toward the next street and more candy.
“Weapons hot, people. Team Three… go.”
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