Issue #71: Yellow

This entry is part 13 of 16 in the series The Descendants Vol 6: Returns and Departures

(Part 6)
There wasn’t anyone or anything to actually face off against, so Cyn just tilted her gaze generally upward and adopted a fighting stance. She tried to extrude the orihalcite claws she kept hidden in her arms, but found nothing. Her stance faltered, but she forced herself back into stable footing.
“A proposal? Well I’ve got a proposal for you, asshole. I propose that you’ve got two choices: give my friends back, or show yourself so I can beat on you until you feel like giving them back. Sound fun?”
Silence answered for long moments before the not-voice returned. “Why do you think you are here?” Even though the voice wasn’t necessarily a sound, Cyn detected stress in it, as if speaking was uncomfortable, even painful.
“Nothing good, that’s for sure.” she muttered to herself. “Who are you?”
More words started to pour into her head before she even got the words out. “You are here because I need you The magic of this world allows us to converse.”
A slight shiver went through Cyn and her stance softened once again. “Wait. ‘This world’? This isn’t Earth?”
An Earth. A possibility. An iteration. I searched for one that you would be amenable to.” Said the voice. “Here you are loved. Here you have the family you choose. Here you are a hero. You are wealthy, powerful. You will be queen. This world is my gift to you.”
Between being ‘needed’ and talk of gifts, Cyn was getting a sick feeling in her gut over what this might be about.
“In exchange, I want only your body.”
Claws as hard as diamond sprouted from the ends of Cyn’s finger tips and for the first time, she realized that she’d reverted to human form when the protective dome collapsed on top of her. “That’s enough. You’re not getting my body for anything. We’ve already dealt with this kind of thing with Mad-Mad Madigan and I’m still pissed I didn’t get to punch the smug off that psychotic stalker’s face. Either you release my friends, or I’ll tear this tower apart to get at you, got it?”
“You misunderstand.” The voice sounded as if the air had gone out of it. Cyn had the mental image of someone hanging their head and looking tired.
“Do I look like I give a damn about understanding you? You sealed my friends up in yellow crystal!”
A beam of yellow light shot down from the tower’s hidden ceiling to fall upon the stairs leading down, where they had been heading before the monsters attacked. “They can be returned to you. Come to me.”
Cyn bristled again and glared at the stairs. Her mind showed her the many, many horrible traps something with enough magic to defeat the Descendants (or the fantasy world equivalent might place on some stairs. In her head, she was impales, fried, diced, engulfed, melted, crushed and variously humiliated a thousand ways upon touching the first step.
“How about you coming to me?” She asked, now unwilling to look away from the dark hole of the staircase.
“I cannot. I am anchored only tenuously to this world. Its magic allows me to converse with you, but also fights me. The Canker is the result of this battle. Destruction, decay, instead of the perfection and harmony I seek.”
She snorted at this. “So now you’re a good guy? Spreading harmony? You sound like you’re trying to hit all the villain cliches now. Are you going to tell me you want to take over the world next?” While she managed to keep a cocky expression on her face, she wasn’t feeling good about the whole situation. Bantering with the villain was usually a good way to build confidence and leave the enemy off balance, but the things she was facing now didn’t seem to understand what she was saying.
As if to emphasize that feeling, the voice continued. “Your world is inharmonious. Time, space, causality all separates existence into things, forces them into disparate definitions rather than allowing them to exist in perfect simultaneity. I seek to fix this.
“But I cannot. Not on your world. I cannot act except through others and the man, Etlelooaat, who you know as Warpstar, has a mind that I could not harmonize with. His will was adamant toward controlling the magic of your world.”
Memory flooded back to Cyn. Laurel had gone to bed around midnight, but she stayed in the workshop to look over the design specs for the new Life Savers, Inc secret headquarters. Somewhere along the way, she’d gotten curious about the stone she’d ripped out of Warpstar during his golem attack.
Seeing as how the government had failed to keep Mad-Mad’s own weird yellow rock under lock and key, Laurel and Lisa had placed Warpstar’s in a magic circle in the workshop that kept anyone from touching it unless they had one of the D-icons that stored their costumes and acted as keys to the mirror gate. Laurel was in the process of designing a magi-tech vault for the HQ to keep it and other dangerous objects in.
Cyn, on the other hand, didn’t see what the problem was. Warpstar wasn’t driven crazy like Mad-Mad, so the yellow rock he had probably wasn’t like Mad-Mad’s either. Besides, it now contained all of Laurel’s intelligence and skills…
It made her feel silly, like a little kid trying to walk around in her mother’s high heels, but she couldn’t help but wonder what it was like to be like Laurel; to know so much, to have so many ideas. So she took out her D-icon and reached through the magical containment.
“Oh god, I’m so stupid.” Cyn breathed, looking up toward the source of the yellow light. “You’re Warpstar’s power-stealing rock, aren’t you? You’re… alive?”
“I am an intellect from a better world than yours. A harmonious world. Once, we were all iterations of the same existing in the same moment at the same point. Then we were ripped away. Splintered. Individual.” There was disgust in the voice at that last part. “We can never return as we would taint our home. Your world harms us, the stretch of time and space is agony. We seek to fix that.”
“What? Be smashing us all together?” Cyn asked even as the truth took hold of her mind. “No… by letting people use your power to make things into the same kind of weird uber-chaos you came from.”
“Yes. We cannot act so well on our own. We need to use another’s intellect or magic from your world to be able to comprehend and interact with your strange physics. That is why I need your body, Formless.”
Cyn looked down at her hands and their shifted claws. Formless. She wasn’t as good with her powers as she should have been. She knew that she should study up on biology and organic chemistry and all that, but she didn’t really have the head for it. What she did know was what kind of potential she had. If she knew how genes worked well enough, she could copy other descendant’s powers. And if she copied, say Rose Abernathy, the girl whose body had inexplicably transmuted into a silica-based lifeform, she could make the jump from organic to inorganic matter—and then she might be powerful enough to do exactly what the yellow-rock entity wanted.
It was better that her kind of power stayed in the hands of someone who didn’t know how to unlock its full potential, she decided. But if she was so useful to it… “Why ask me? Why make a deal at all instead of taking it?”
“I cannot.” the entity said simply. “As I said, we are limited in your world.”
“But powerful enough to make another universe to offer me?”
There was another silence and when the voice returned, it once again had that deflated sound. “This world was always here. It is a possibility you cannot perceive from your limited world. I sent your mind here into the body of Princess Cynthia, your other self of this world, but you cling tenaciously to your old world. I need you to let go so that I may take your body.”
“Aaand me going down the stairs to meet you helps this how?”
A pressure moved through the room, a soft shudder that might have been an attempt to affect a sigh. “I in turn must cling to this world, holding to the body of my other elf of this world; a body lain by the Scion of the Warped Star so that he might steal my power. My intention is to exchange body for body.”
“And you’ll let my friends go?” Cyn asked.
Cyn considered her options and dropped her defensive stance entirely. “I don’t trust you, so here’s how it’s going to happen: you bring all my friends down there too and the second, you let them go. I don’t want them out of my sight until then.”
“This is acceptable.” replied the entity. “Proceed and I will bring the others to me.”
“Fine.” Cyn spat. Squeezing her clawed hands into fists, she marched toward the stairs and began to descend. Every step brought doubt. Simply being alone as she was set a pressure upon her chest, but knowing that her friends—and Princess Cynthia’s—depended on her made it worse. She wasn’t the planner, she wasn’t the tactician. As much as she liked to play the outlier, she always either went in swinging or followed other people’s leads. Now swinging wasn’t going to be enough and there was no one to lead.
She wished Laurel was with her. Or Kareem. Even Alexis would be good.
Her prayer was answered in the worst possible way. The stairs opened up into a room straight out of DeathGate: a roughly round chamber likely cut form an existing cave and shorn up with pillars all around. Each of the pillars had an amber tablet placed in front of it and inside each tablet was one of her friends.
The nearest was Juniper and she ran to her, putting a hand up against the cool, smooth surface of the other woman’s prison. Looking through the yellow haze, she saw that it was Wil, not the Juniper (or rather Willow Chamberlain) she knew. The bow was still clutched over the woman’s breast, but her eyes were closed as if she was sleeping in the depths of the slab.
It never occurred to Cyn how much she’d taken Juniper for granted before. She was usually just the butt of jokes or that weird girl she hung out with. But Juniper was just as good a friend to her as any of her others and far more intelligent and resourceful than Cyn gave her credit for.
“I’ll fix this.” She promised the entombed woman. She might have moved on to the next person in line or looked for Laurel, but when she turned, she was face to face with the entity.
It filled the space at the back of the cavern and probably both more and less besides. Its actual features were eye-twisting, especially through the shimmer in the air as light itself reflected off it in uncertain ways. Cyn got the sense of something like a gigantic, pulsating glob of chewed gum that boiled around a single catlike amber eye the size of a basketball, but her gaze kept slipping off it.
Before it was an iron pedestal with three curved spikes rising from it to hold an irregular, translucent yellow stone between their points. It was more dull than the Warpstar gem Cyn remembered, but the same potato-like shape.
“Here is a source of power you cannot imagine.” said the entity. It still wasn’t using actual, sound-based words. “Relinquish your claim to your body and it is yours.”
Cyn took a step forward, then stopped, glaring at the thing hovering in the air behind the pedestal. “Wait a minute. How can I even trust you that far? You get what you want and then… what? I don’t even know if that thing still works. Warpstar killed the other you, after all.”
Stillness filled the room and even the ever-changing form of the entity stopped moving as it considered. At length, it say,s “Take it and see. I will still have your friends to exchange in the deal.”
Warily, Cyn approached the pedestal. She half expected it to catch on, but then if it didn’t get banter, it didn’t know much about movies and TV either. Her hand closed over the stone and lifted it. Sensation ran up her arm and into her brain. Awareness of the hyper-cognition and collected knowledge inside the gem coursed into her along with how to access it.
Cyn was suddenly aware of just how desperate and stupid her plan had been: to use the stone and hope Laurel’s intelligence gave her a better plan. Still…
With a working of her will, she pulled Laurel’s power and experience into her. For a brief moment, she understood why the entity hated reality as information overwhelmed her and she went from blissful ignorance to knowing more about the world around her than most people on Earth knew.
But through it all, she found exactly what she’d been looking for and took it for her own. A nasty smile crept across her face.
“Now. Give me your body.” ordered the entity.
“In a second. I need to check something.” Cyn said, moving laterally over to Warrick’s prison. She let go of Laurel’s hypercognition, but kept just enough of the knowledge in her own brain. Then she took Warrick’s power. “Actually, maybe not. Remember how I said I’d beat you until you let them go?”
The response to this wasn’t verbal, but a wave of confusion that eddied out into the room. The entity had never known lies. As it quailed, Cyn whipped her hand around, using her new metal control powers to form the iron pedestal into s pike which she sent lancing into the thing’s body.
Pain. The room filled with the concept of pain and confusion and betrayal. The entity lashed out by calling another winged monster into being, but Cyn was already on the move.
Juniper was next. Cyn whirled from facing her slab and held out two clawed fingers. The creature barreled into her, freezing as it came. Its own momentum carried it into Cyn’s claws and it shattered against them. Eyes wild with adrenaline, she focused her power on the entity next, leaching the heat out of the very air around it until it solidified.
Rage overcame pain and the entity converted that into heat, subliming the ice-air into a cloud of steam and a rain of water vapor. But while it was breaking free, Cyn had switch to another power. It seemed as if she was coming at it from all sides, striking it with claws and punches and stabbing strokes with superhuman speed borrowed from Callie.
Now the thing didn’t even bother with a catspaw. It extruded a massive pseudopod and tried its best to smash her under it. Cyn, however, dashed out of range and skidded to a stop in front of Ian’s slab. She raised her arms overhead in an exalting gesture, causing the puddles of water to form up into half a dozen dense spheres, each with the burning heart of a Chaos Nova.
The explosions went off in series, all around the entity. Before the smoke and flames relented, they were followed by an undulating blast of black heat that slammed into it, searing its body and driving it back hard against the rear wall of the cavern, pulverizing the rock.
A scream rang out, audible and rending the air. The entity emerged from the swirling rock dust, it’s form shifting so that it was now covered in plates of armor and dozens of sharp-edged limbs. It found Cyn already on the ground, however, lying in front of Kareem’s slab.
“I bet that hurt a lot.” said Cyn, watching the burning yellow hole in existence that was the entity’s astral form as it flickered with confusion. “I wonder how this feels to you.” She didn’t even have to gesture, as the astral roiled and bent into hundreds of pikes that exploded into being all around the entity, piercing it from every direction.
It’s agony and shock made the local astral pitch like a ship in stormy seas and Cyn retreated from it.
On the material plane, the entity spasmed and changed form uncontrollably, floating back involuntarily so smash more stone loose from the crater Cyn had pounded it into with Alexis’s powers. “You cannot.” It mewled, turning a confused circle like a moth with a broken wing. “Only I can free them. Defeating me means nothing.”
Cyn rose from where she’d fallen upon astrally projecting. Her breath was coming hard and her white hair was matted to her head with sweat. “I gave the some though, actually. You know, while I was the seventh smartest person on the planet? I don’t want to kill anyone, even something like you. And really, I’ve only got Lisa and Tink left and I don’t know what Id’ get if I use their powers.”
“Then you accept that there is nothing left.” said the entity, trying desperately to right itself.
Cyn let go of Kareem’s power and became Facsimile, all golden skin and glorious wings. “Nope. There’s one power left.” She snapped her wings down, propelling herself forward.
The entity didn’t detect what she was doing, so occupied was it repairing the damage to itself on both the material and astral planes. “What power is that?” It demanded.
The next thing Cyn knew, her back hit the workshop door so hard that her spine, shoulder blades and ribs became a jumble of shattered edges sloshing around under her skin and muscle. The next moment, she was hitting the floor with no breath in her body and hardly any sense in her head.
She heard running steps. Someone had heard her hitting the door, she suspected. That, to the impact had tripped some sort of alarm. Pulling her bones back into alignment, she smiled at the idea of seeing any of the others again, safe and whole.
When she finally opened her eyes, she was face-to-face with the Warpstar stone. It was dull like the one in the cavern—a dead body. One last memory fell into place for her. The feeling of power over reality itself, over an entire multiverse. She didn’t need that though, not when she had her family—her friends.
And so she used it just once: to find an Earth with no sapient life for the yellow world entity to warp.
“Let’s see how you like being booted into another universe, asshole.” She murmured just before the workshop door opened.
To Be Concluded in… the CynQuest: Yellow Fallout One-shot
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About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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