Issue #74 – Bit Part Bad Guys

This entry is part 2 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 7: The New World
“Usman, we need more of the chicken, okay?” Jarrod Speilman informed his partner as he bent over three open tortillas, two of which had the proper amount of chicken filling while the third was only three-quarters filled. In the meantime, he spooned salsa over the two there were ready for it and reached for the block cheese and grater.
 
From his place in the kitchen section of the Taco Terrifico food truck, Usman Nanda nodded, watching the electronic timer/thermometer monitoring the sizzling skillet of chicken. “Coming up in a minuter or so.” He said, then shouted up to the window, which was being manned by his daughter, Fatima, “Make sure the customers know there’ll be a short wait.”
 
Fatima started to reply when the truck shook, the impact coming from the front. She turned toward the open door between the truck’s main compartment and the cab. Through the windshield, she saw someone the top of someone’s head bobbing just beyond the hood and noticed some of the people waiting on line to order looking in that direction as well.
 
“What in the world…” She held up a finger to the woman in overall and hardhat that had just given her order, “One moment please.”
 
Stepping up to the door to the cabin, she had a better view, and what she saw was a man in a red and black sweat sit and red ski mask with black circles around the eyes and a black backpack. He was holding the food truck’s bumper and staring at it as if he’d never seen anything like it.
 
“Hey!” She shouted, thumping her hand against the windscreen. “What are you doing! Leave that alone!”
 
The man looked up and blinked at her behind his mask. At the same time, one of the men from the line came charging around from the side, presumably to defend the honor of his favorite lunchtime option. The masked man intercepted the punch aimed at him with childish ease, grabbed his assailant by the collar and threw him fifteen feet into a row of shrubs separating the still in development office block from the street.
 
After another spacy, perplexed look at the distance he’d achieve in throwing a grown man, the masked man returned his attention to the truck, this time grabbing the grill and yanking. The entire truck shook again before that too snapped off like the bumper.
 
Fatima already knew this wasn’t a problem she could take care of by yelling at it. She turned back to the main compartment. “Father! Mr. Speilman! There is a man who is… pulling things off our truck!”
 
By the time she finished her declaration, the man was at the order window, gripping the fold-out metal shelf where the napkins and condiments sat.
 
Usman grabbed up a skillet and Jarrod hefted a cleaver as they both rushed to the window to defend their place of business. They arrived just in time for the bolts securing the shelf to the truck to give up the ghost with a series of squealing pops.
 
“Get out of here before we all the police!” Usman ordered, skillet held at the ready should braining his enemy become necessary.
 
He was summarily ignored as the masked man threw the shelf and its entire contents to the ground, scattering everything across the ground. “God damn it!” He shouted, “What the hell is this? I’m stupid strong, but I can’t pick up a measly truck?”
 
After contemplating his hands for a moment, he noticed Jarrod and Usman watching him and pointed. “You two! I’m hungry and really strong. I want all your tacos right the hell now!”
 
“Are you insane?” Jarrod asked, not believing what he just heard, “Or high?”
 
The masked man grunted in frustration. “I said I want tacos!” He charged the truck and got his hands up under the side panels, taking hold of the vehicle’s frame and lifting. This time nothing tore off and the truck tilted dangerously.
 
Cooking implements and ingredients flew off shelves, crashing around the three in the truck. Usman leaned out the order window and brought his skillet down hard over the masked man’s head. The hard metal rebounded off the brute’s skull and bounced right out of Usman’s hand.
 
His last hope at saving the business he and his friend had been building up for five years sank and he found himself almost too numb to move until Fatima grabbed his arm, pulling him toward the truck’s cab, shouting at him to get out.
 
All three leapt from the driver’s side door just in time for the masked man to get himself beneath the truck and settle it across his bulky shoulders.
 
“Ha-ha!” crowed the masked man, “All your tacos are belong to me!”
 
He took one ponderous step after another, hampered by the pavement cracking under his feet as he started retreating with his prize. He only made it some twenty steps before his legs started to quiver.
 
“No.” He muttered. “Not yet, it hasn’t been that long.” Another step and he almost dropped the truck. “Shit, shit, shit.”
 
Shifting the truck to one shoulder, he reached back into a pocket on the side of his backpack and fumbled around in it. Whatever he was looking for, he didn’t find it. “I forgot it? How the hell could I forget it?!” His legs were quivering uncontrollably now.
 
He saw what was next coming. “Oh f—“
 
His knees gave out, sending him down hard so that they hit the pavement with nearly audible cracks. For just a bright, hopeful moment, he managed to start to shift the truck’s weight back enough to toss it aside. But by then, his strength was gone. The food truck became too heavy and he ended up dropping it on himself. The only way the witnesses knew he even survived it was because they could hear him bawling like a child and cursing.
 
***
 
While Alexis had no particular aversion to hospitals, she found herself feeling increasingly awkward walking through one in full costume as Darkness. Even in the secure wing as she was, where the nurses and orderlies were used to seeing armed police officers and known, even famous criminals, she was getting stares and confused looks.
 
None of it seemed to bother her escort, Detective Roberta Rodgers of Mayfield’s Special Investigations division. The tall, lanky woman met her at the entrance for the secure wing without fanfare and started the rundown.
 
“The suspect is Kennith Richards, twenty-three, of Riverside. Rich kid, some priors for vandalism and petty theft. EMTs brought him in six hours ago after he tried to steal a food truck.”
 
Darkness tried to nod politely to a nurse. It didn’t change the confused expression on the woman’s face. “Considering SI wanted you to consult with the Descendants, I’m willing to bet it wasn’t via hot-wiring it.”
 
“No.” There was only the slightest hint of humor in the detective’s voice, “By lifting it over his head and walking off. He didn’t get very far though. Witnesses say he started to shake… then the truck fell on him.”
 
That made Darkness frown. “It’s rare for a descendant to have that much strength without some level of durability to back it up. Is he an interfacer?”
 
Rodgers shook her head. “No sign of him being a spark jockey. No sign of any kind of designer steroids in his bloodwork either before you ask. Also no signs of him even having enhanced strength anymore, but I’ll let the doctor explain that.”
 
By that time, they reached the room where Richards was being kept. There was a uniformed officer posted at the door, and Darkness noticed two other rooms with such a posting further down the hall. Rodgers presented her badge and the officer on duty checked a list on his tablet before letting them in.
 
Kennith Richards wasn’t restrained to the bed as Darkness expected of a patient in the hospital’s secure wing. There was hardly a need, as he was in a cast from his waist down to his calves, had his left arm in another cast, and was wearing a neck brace. That he was hooked up to a catheter and several intravenous lines drove home the fact that he was going nowhere soon.
 
He also had guests; a woman dressed in an expensive blouse and skirt combo and a couple thousand dollars worth of jewelry hanging from her ears, around her neck and dangling from her wrists. She was sitting in the chair next to the bed, speaking with an older man who was nearly bald, dressed in a white coat, slacks and a powder blue shirt with cheap red tie.
 
Rodgers and the woman entered a brief staredown before Rodgers gestured toward the man. “This is Dr. Chase. Dr. Chase, this is Darkness, the consultant the mayor requested.”
 
Things suddenly made a great deal more sense to Darkness. A rich kid meant rich parents who evidently used those riches to secure Mayfield’s mayor his place in office. If Kenneth had been from Prosperity Heights, Special Investigations wouldn’t have been allowed to consider calling on the Descendants over it.
 
Before the doctor could say anything, the posh woman was inserting herself into the conversation. “Finally, someone who might actually do something about what they did to my boy.”
 
Detective Rodgers didn’t bat an eye. “And this is Pamela Richards, the suspect’s mother.”
 
“Suspect!” Pamela squawked. “Suspect? You keep calling him that! That’s how I know you’re not really interested in doing your job and finding the monsters who did this to my boy—all you can think about is how he allegedly tried to steal some stupid car. I’ll have you know they he has a car—we bought it for him when he turned twenty-one.”
 
“Ma’am, it was a food truck. And I have eyewitness testimony that your son tore several parts off of it before scaring the occupants out of it, lifting it over his head, and attempting to flee the scene with it.”
 
“That’s insane.” scoffed Pamela, “My boy doesn’t have any—ha—powers. We had him tested at birth.”
 
Darkness wondered if the woman even knew that she wasn’t making her case sound any better. Ignoring her, she looked to the doctor. “Dr. Chase, the detective said something about Mr. Richards here not showing signs of enhanced strength ‘any more’?”
 
With a glance toward Pamela, Dr. Chase nodded. “When he was admitted, he had significantly more muscle mass than he has now. You can see the stretch marks on his good arm, for example and once Mr. Richards wakes up, I might be able to convince him to release the photos taken of him when he was admitted.
 
“Over the past few hours though, he’s been sweating and eliminating at an alarming rate and losing a corresponding amount of muscle mass.” He shook his head, “Just like the others, he went from largely healthy to dangerously malnourished—nearly starving to death before we hoked him up to intravenous feeding.”
 
“Others?”
 
“The reason why SI thought we might need to discuss this with the Descendants.” said Detective Rodgers, giving Pamela a pointed look that told the woman that it wasn’t her connections at work after all. “This isn’t an isolated incident. Two more people this week have committed crimes with powers only to have them seemingly fail before suffering the same starvation sickness Mr. Richards here is experiencing.”
 
She tapped on her palmtop a few moments to bring up the pertinent information. “Jo Anne Stark, twenty-six, also of Riverside, though with no connections to the Richards family. Thursday, she beat two girls at her school severely with what witnesses describe as ‘water control’, flooding the girl’s bathroom of Emerald College’s economics building in the process. She also assaulted a campus police officer before fleeing. She was arrested six blocks away at the Burger Builders, stealing food from patron’s trays and eating ravenously.”
 
Another tap. “Joshua Kelser, twenty-two of Park Terrace. At two in the morning Tuesday, he entered Silver, a nightclub in City Central and witnesses allege that he accosted at least five women using telepathic images of a lewd nature. When someone called a bouncer, he caused the man to pass out before being knocked out by a second bouncer. SI was called to fit him with a theta wave inhibitor, but has started showing signs of illness in custody, which landed him here.”
 
“What does any of the have to do with my boy?” Pamela demanded.
 
Darkness shot her a glare from behind her cowl. “Mrs. Richards, your son is the least of our problems right now. From what I’m hearing the MPD thinks they might be looking at a powered crime wave out on the streets right now and we’re lucky that for the moment it’s relegated to petty crime.”
 
“More than that,” volunteered Dr. Chase, “We have no idea what’s causing this, and everyone we know of who has been afflicted would have died without medical attention. We could be looking at a public health crisis if this isn’t limited to a few isolated incidents.”
 
“I understand.” said Darkness with a nod. “Both of you. The Descendants are ready to help in any way we can. Detective, if you can give me a copy of everything you’ve gathered so far? I promise to keep you in the loop. Same for you doctor: anything you can give us that isn’t covered by doctor-patient privilege.”
 
She looked at Kennith, who hadn’t stirred since the meeting started. “Are any of them in any shape to answer questions?”
 
“Not yet.” said Dr. Chase. “The drugs we’re giving them to correct the damage done to their metabolisms put them to sleep. I might be able to let you speak to the first young man, Kelser sometimes tomorrow evening if he’s stable enough.”
 
“Thank you, doctor.” said Darkness, then turned to Detective Rodgers, “I think it might be a good idea for you to get a warrant for all these peoples’ homes.”
 
“Absolutely not!” Pamela was on her feet now, fists clenched. “I know my rights! You have no probable cause to come into my house!”
 
Darkness let a few wisps of black heat rise from her shoulders. “Mrs. Richards, if you know anything about your rights, you know that whether the police have cause to enter and search your home is up to the issuing judge. And right now, we have no idea what caused this. Are you really self-righteous enough to risk coming in contact with whatever did this to your son? Do you want to share this room with him?”
 
Pamela said nothing, just growled and lowered her gaze.
 
“I thought so.” said Darkness, turning to leave. “Let’s hope we get to the bottom of this before anyone else gets hurt.”
 
***
“What the hell is this?” the leader of the Prosperity Princes was a rather small, man with a fake tan and his hair on cornrows. The man he was addressing thought that the secret to his leadership position had something to do with the crazy tic in his left eye that probably wasn’t an affectation.
 
Two other Princes, both hugely muscular and gruff—they could have been twins if one wasn’t black and the other white—dragged a third man in between them. At least he had once been a man; now he looked like a shriveled mummy. Only the fact that he was shivering proved he wasn’t dead.
 
“I warned you.” The man before the four Princes threw up his hands and paced a bit in the darkened room. The place looked like a clinic: there was a pair of military-style infirmary beds to one side, a dentist’s chair behind him, and locked chests and cabinets everywhere. From the sink to the floor, all of it was clean to the point of sterility.
 
He jabbed a finger savagely in the direction of the leader. “Don’t you dare say I didn’t warn you. It’s obvious he didn’t follow the diet chart and I bet he used more than a quarter-amp of the gold too. Goddamn ‘bangers. You can’t follow instructions.”
 
The leader caught him by the shoulder and turned him about forcibly when he came too near. “Don’t you ever talk shit about the Princes, man. I don’t care who you are or who backs you, I will slash you up if you do that again.” His eye twitched, then twitched again when he didn’t see the fear he expected. “Now this is my cousin. You fix him and you fix him now, got me?”
 
“He needs the nutrient shot you refused to buy the first time.” replied the man, unmoved by the threat. “Two thousand. Cash.”
 
The Princes’ leader squeezed the man’s shoulder, working his thumb into the joint where he knew it cause the most pain. Only he couldn’t seem to find the tendon he normally put pressure on. “I said—”.
 
A strong—far too strong– hand caught his wrist and applied pressure, grinding the bones together. His next threat came out as a groan and he felt himself starting to sink to his knees. The man he’d sought to intimidate easily pried his arm off his shoulder. “I said Twenty-five hundred. Cash money.”
 
:”Alright. Alright.” the Princes’ leader groaned.
 
“That’s what I figured.” said Trey Phan, throwing his would-be attacker back. “Just remember: a worried as you are about Vorran: I’m the one that’s right here. And I’m the one that can hurt you.” He nodded to the two goons. “Put him on the table.”
 
 
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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.

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21 Comments

  1. I’m going to guess the super-granny with her super-crocheting isn’t going to turn out to be directly connected with the case…

  2. on the vane part of the term
    vane -> vain

    a cult compound is viewed from
    if viewed

    two level houses contributed to
    houses,

    previous visit the Picket Lane, huffed
    visit to
    Lane huffed

    “just look at this!”
    Just

    looked at his fiance
    fiancée

    With that,s he turned
    , she

    said Munroe. Most of
    “Most

    by they wouldn’t come cheap
    but they

    who you can’t just
    whom? (don’t take my word on this)

    “Lenny? Is there some kind of trouble.
    trouble?”

    man.“Not if
    man. “Not

    sanding her crashing back down
    sending

  3. Aww, I’m caught up. Now I guess I have to go back to writing.

    Anyway, Helen’s power and how she uses it is hilarious. Epic level pranking.

  4. Ooh, sinister. Using Cyn’s DNA for genemodding is pretty genius, though.

  5. “base-heavy music” should be “Bass-heavy music.” It’s not a fish, but it’s spelled the same.

    Otherwise, thoroughly enjoyable.

  6. Rum and coke without lemon? Tsk tsk tsk…

  7. First thought when cyborg dude mentions the magic batteries: that would sure be useful for life-saving equipment like pacemakers.

    Second thought: never having to worry about forgetting to charge my cellphone would sure make my privileged western life better in a quasi-insignificant way.

    I am unrepentant. Your cellphone shutting down in the middle of a conversation totally sucks.

    • And yet you don’t want some sort of arm gun? I mean that solves many problems first through fourth (like if, say Darksied is giving you guff).

  8. Wait, so something happens while the heroes are having their mandatory dramatic ten-minute argument about what they’ll do now that they have no time to waste? Astounding! Wasn’t talking supposed to be a free action?!

    Kids, this sort of thing is why real world soldiers are trained to follow orders without question: Stuff keeps happening while you’re busy questioning your orders.

    • But I bet soldiers aren’t half as good as superheroes to get in that little exposition speech explaining the situation!

    • Alexis needs to establish a chain of command.

      That’s a chain she goes and gets and beat the other with ’til they realize she’s in ruttin’ command there.

  9. “Codex squeezed the young woman’s shoulder, forgoing the hug she wanted to give her due to the surrounding media and police.”
    So what’s the fan nickname for the Codex+Facsimile ship, anyway? :p

  10. “He’s burning oxygen fast. Below them,” Missing end quote.

    • Thanks. Will fix. I need to go back and collect a bunch of back issues soon and integrate the corrections from comments.

  11. Vaal, found The Descendants not too long ago and I’ve quite enjoyed reading their stories so far. Just wanted to let you know you picked up a new reader. Fun stories, good superheroes, not pointlessly dark. Thanks for sharing them with us.

    Corrections:
    He ceiling above them dissolved and the dust was blasted aside by Chaos’s powers.
    “He” should be “The”

    Maybe they didn’t here the warning
    “here” should be “hear”

    The second floor hallway, too damaged to stand on its own, was dragged down along with it, taking the hall above it along with it.
    Repetition of “along with it” seems likely to be an accident.

    All of their security personnel was on the Gold: super-powered.
    “was” should be “were”.

    We won’t know for sure until the lab results are back for the hire muscle, Brand
    “hire” should be “hired”

    • Welcome to the party! And thanks for the heads up. I’m going to be editing and collecting the last few stories soon and will add your corrections.

  12. You’re quite welcome. It’s a little thing, but I hope it helps you in your rather large project. If I had the time to make it a regular commitment, I’d offer my services as a proofreader, but unfortunately I’d almost certainly end up letting you down at some point.

    CG

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