- 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
“So he attacks me with his Bearers of the Sacred Flame—which is insane, because he just used Precognition to see that I had Tsunami Wall at the top of my Defense Reserve deck…” JC was saying to Callie and Kim. Both young women sat on the couch next to him giving him identical ‘I have no idea what you’re saying, but I’m trying to be polite’ looks.
He noticed not at all and continued. “It’s pretty much over at that point. I used my Forward Scout’s sacrifice ability to flip the Wall onto the table, and it takes out the Bearers like nothing. Next turn, he’s got zero creatures in play and I stomp him.”
“Saga of Sorcerers.” The name of the card game JC had been on about got the attention of all three on the couch. The speaker turned out to be a green faced young woman in an Air Force pilot’s jumpsuit complete with fake versions of the accompanying insignia. She wore a wig of hair done up in thick, oily braids the color of coal mixed with a dark mossy tint, and a pair of prosthetic tusks poked out of her mouth. Bits of putty reshaped her face to have a slightly uneven appearance, especially around the eyes and nose, and she wore complex gloves that gave her stubby, four-fingered hands.
Only by having been privy to her earlier discussion with Warrick about costumes did JC realize who it was. “OH hey. You’re… Meghan right?”
“Yep, and this is my boyfriend, Hank.” She stepped aside to allow a man in a cartoonishly cheap suit to step forward. He was carrying a toy ambulance.
“Hank Kinneman. Hey.” He said, extending a hand.
JC shook it. “JC Slate and these are Callie Kreiger and… um…”
Kim frowned, not sure if she should be all that annoyed that someone she’d spent all of high school thinking was beneath her didn’t know her name. She hadn’t known his name was ‘Slate’ until just that moment, so it felt fair somehow. Still, after Callie shook Hank’s hand, she introduced herself. “Kim Wayne.”
“So…” JC said, realizing that as Warrick’s friend, he was obligated to make an effort talking to Meghan. He wasn’t really sure of why that was; based on his extensive pop cultural training in the field of time travel, the timeline in which Meghan would become Warrick’s wife was averted. Therefore, he didn’t really have a reason to try and get along with her. But he did anyway. “I thought you had a different costume you were going to wear.”
There was a sparkle of laughter in Meghan’s eyes. “I was going to, but then it turns out this isn’t the only party we’re invited to. My computer science teacher is having a thing for the CS majors, and as it turns out, she’s… not a fan of our friendly neighborhood prelates. Got way into the Reverend Stiles thing last year and everything.”
She rolled her eyes. “Can you imagine someone in a science field buying into that bullshit?”
Callie laughed nervously. “Ha-ha… no, not really…”
Seeing how uncomfortable her friend was, Kim jumped in to change the subject. “So Hank, I see that you’re a…”
Hank smirked. “Personal injury attorney. See, I’ve got my own little…” he held up the toy, “ambulance to chase. It’s… a horrible costume, isn’t it? I don’t usually do Halloween. My parents were the crazy kind that made us hand out religious tracts instead of collecting candy.”
“Dude.” JC said, shaking his head, “You have my sympathies.”
“Hey, people we don’t know.” Kay said in a tone most people would reserve for a newly discovered species. She came over with Lisa and a young woman in a full body, gray mouse suit with painted on whiskers.
Kay herself was dressed as an old lady, complete with frumpy black dress, hose, faux pearl necklace, and her hair done up in a bun and dyed the odd gray-blue old women in the movies often exhibited. She regarded the strangers with bright-eyed curiosity.
It was Lisa that ended up having to make the introductions. “Hi, I’m Lisa. This is Kay, and Amy—she’s Kay’s roommate.” The last part was for JC’s video. “Are you… Warrick’s friends?”
“We have a class together and it turns out we’re geeky in some of the same ways.” Meghan said. “I’m Meghan, by the way, and this is my boyfriend, Hank.”
JC looked up at Amy with a wry grin. “So Kay really does have a roommate. I was starting you were completely made up like aliens, but it turns out you’re just wily and elusive like Bigfoot.”
Before Amy could do more than laugh at that, Kim cut in. “And I’m Kim,” She grabbed Callie by the shoulders as if presenting her for inspection. “And this is Callie. Callie Kreiger? You might have heard of her from the Descendants Appreciation Day fiasco with that Inexorable guy? Callie got a medal for that. And she just got accepted as a member of the Descendants.”
Callie turned red from the attention almost immediately.
“Whoa.” Said Meghan. “You’re that Callie? Vamanos?”
“Weren’t you in a beer commercial not long ago?” asked Amy.
Trying to affect a shy laugh, Callie looked into her cup of punch instead of at the others. “I’m… well they said I’m a member, but we haven’t fought any villains since the golems, and they don’t trust me with their secret identities or anything, and… and…” she shrugged. “Um, yeah, I was in a couple of beer commercials.”
“She’s just modest.” Kim said quickly. “And a little nervous. Her first official mission with the Descendants is going to be big. Bigger than that Inexorable guy, the Redeemers and Braylocke put together!”
Just then, Lisa’s palmtop started to chime quietly. To add to her robot costume, she’d attached it to a cradle in her arm. “Oh that’s…” She shot meaningful looks to Kay and JC. “If you’ll excuse me. I’ve got something I need to do.”
Breaking away from them, she saw that she wasn’t the only one. Cyn was making excuses to Ollie while Warrick, Tink and Kareem were heading to the kitchen. Juniper was nowhere to be seen, but judging by Malcolm, who was standing against one wall looking a bit abandoned, she guessed she was already there.
Melissa appeared beside her as she started in that direction.
“What’s going on?” Lisa asked the redhead. “I’ve never heard that tone, but it’s the same pattern we get if one of us is in trouble.”
“I’ve never heard it either, but my palmtop said ‘House Alert’.” said Melissa. “I guess we’re about to find out.”
She held the door open for Lisa as they both went through the door to the kitchen. As there were still refills for the refreshments on the table and counter, everyone was forced to cluster together in the middle of the floor. Cyn had a tray of mini-pizzas, chewing idly. She offered one to Lisa and Melissa as they came in.
In the middle of the group, Kareem had his palmtop out and was in the middle of connecting a call.
“Is it Laurel?” Cyn asked, still looking worried even as she stuffed her face. “Did the Liedecker thing get attacked? Because that guy is a trouble lightning rod almost as bad as we are.”
Laurel answered a few moments later. “I was just getting somewhere private to call you.” she said by way of greeting. “Fill me in: what’s happened?”
“We were actually worried something happened to you.” said Kareem. “I take it this isn’t the case?”
“No, it’s a house alert.” Laurel said, realizing just after she said it that they didn’t know what that meant. “It’s the lowest level response the security system at Freeland House can return. It indicates incongruity in the sensor readings that might be consistent with someone trying to sneak in under over of an electronic warfare attack.”
“What—“ started Warrick.
“The security system noticed something weird.” Tink translated. “It might just be a hiccup, or it might be someone trying to hack the system to get in.”
“Precisely.” said Laurel. “You’ll want to check it out: both outside and from my console in the workshop.”
“Great, so let’s split up and deal with this.” Cyn said before tossing back two more mini-pizzas.
Juniper held up her hand. “Wait, we can’t.”
Cyn gave her a haughty look. “And just why can’t we?”
“Because the people at the party are going to notice if we all go running upstairs or outside? Actually, we should come up with a good reason we all came in here in the first place.” Juniper pointed out. In the way that only she could, she made it sound like an innocent observation.
“Are you sure?” asked Warrick.
Just then, the kitchen door opened and Tammy stuck her head in. “Hey, why’d you guys all…” She took one look at their faces and modulated her voice so people in the downstairs commons couldn’t hear her. “Is there trouble?”
Warrick motioned for her to come in and she did. “Where are your friends?” He asked once she was inside.
“Kura’s teaching Maya to do the dance from the new Selma Ashby video. That’ll keep them busy for about ten minute or until Maya figures out how to escape. So: is there trouble? Because I’d like to remind you that it’s pretty much just me and the beer ad girl that can and would use their powers openly here.”
After a brief look to Warrick that got him a returned glance that said the other man would rather be skinned alive rather than pulling his little sister in, Kareem shook his head. “We have what is likely a false alarm. You can help use though: if anyone else wonders why we ran off, please tell them that we have our own special birthday tradition for birthdays here at Freeland House.”
He shot Warrick a sly look. “You may tell them that it is an embarrassing one if you would like.”
Tammy’s grin made Warrick fidget nervously. “Oh, I can so do that. And speaking of which, War; mom called today and told me not to forget our embarrassing family B-day tradition.” She opened the door and started back to the party, but added over her shoulder, “Be afraid, big brother.”
That had Tink grinning maliciously as well. “What tradition is that?”
“Oh, is it—“
Warrick was quick to talk over Cyn. “So this alarm deal: how do we handle it?”
“I can check the grounds from the Astral Plane.” Kareem volunteered. “Cynthia; since you can move about undetected, if you could slip outside just in case there are enemies about that might need to be covertly disabled?”
Cyn nodded and Kareem continued, nodding to Tink. “If you could go up to the workshop? And Lisa, if you could go with her just in case someone attacks from the upper floors? Christina does not have her costume with her after all and unlike us, it is the source of her power.”
Unnoticed by the others, Tink flushed a little at that mention.
“Everyone else, back to the party… try to spread out in case things spill over into the house?”
Melissa raised a hand as the others started to move. “Shouldn’t someone stay with you? After all, if you go into the Astral Plane, your body will be vulnerable. The kitchen door leads right to the parking lot back there, after all.”
“That’s a good point.” Juniper said. “I’ll stay with you, Kareem. Melissa, could you please talk to Malcolm while I’m back here? He’s not really a party person and I bet he’s not comfortable right now.”
Looking a little shocked at her suggestion being subverted, Melissa just nodded and walked out.
Frowning at her last expression, Kareem nonetheless knew what he needed to do and took a seat at the table furthest away from the snacks. “If you could catch me if I fall out of the chair, Juniper?” he asked.
“Sure thing.” Juniper went to the back of the chair and rested her hands lightly on his shoulders.
He took a deep, cleansing breath and shut his eyes. “Now: let’s see if this is a real threat or not.”
Projecting himself into the Astral Plane became easier each time he did it. After months of practice, it now felt rather like opening a second set of eyelids and feeling this body; the weight, the limited physical senses, and the ebb and flow of the various neuro-chemicals slip away from him.
Free from his mortal coil temporarily, he stood up and looked around.
In an age where most places were built up and torn down over and over again and changed hands so often no one formed many real, emotional attachments to their dwellings, he would have been able to look out on the Freeland House grounds from where he stood had he been in almost any other building.
The walls would have been wispy and translucent at best; the mere suggestion of a house.
But Freeland House wasn’t just an old bed and breakfast, or a dwelling. It had borne witness to hundreds of honeymoons, romantic retreats, and family vacations over the decades, collecting emotional connections and attachments all the while. And for the last few years, it had been home to the seven of them; the original Descendants.
Even to him, even now that he was living with his parents once more, Freeland House still felt like home and that resonated with Freeland House’s astral representation such that the walls were as solid and opaque in the world of emotional energy that was the Astral Plane as they were on the material.
Juniper’s astral form flickered there, standing behind his body. She appeared to be two women who looked mostly like Juniper, standing in the same place at the same time. Often, they would seem to collide and repel each other even as they were drawn together, but tonight, they seemed at peace.
Only sparing her a quick glance and none at all for the inert form of his own body, Kareem walked through the rose-lit kitchen to the door. With a though, he made it open without touching it and stepped out into the garden.
Like the building, the garden held a special place in so many hearts that it was a tangible thing on the Astral as well; a riot of all the many flowers and fixtures that formed those special memories; all mostly long-gone in the present.
Beyond them, he saw the first group of intruders sneaking up the driveway and into the parking lot. They tried to keep cover behind the cars, but apart from Lily’s most of those only held enough emotional resonance to be faint outlines.
Their astral forms were blue, like most humans. Most of those blues were pale and washed out; a visual cue Kareem had noticed most people Warrick or Cyn would term ‘henchmen’ showed. It indicated people who, on some level knew that they were in the wrong, but were driven forward anyway.
A few were more intense; people set in their convictions. Kareem had once thought vibrant blues were a mark of goodness, but the Astral had no moral alignment. Intensity was a marker for strength of will. That mean those people were dangerous on many levels:
One, they were far more difficult for Kareem’s powers to effect. Some would actually be impossible. Two, they were the kind that would got the farthest in the service of their beliefs. Just as he and his friends put themselves in harm’s way to protect the innocent, so to would these people soldier on in the face of injury or death for their cause. And they might not hesitate to dole them out as well.
Kareem took no time projecting his findings to the others.
Everyone, he turned a slow circle, noticing another group moving up from the stairs, using various planters for cover, This was no false alarm.
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