- Issue #73 – Give Thanks
- Issue #74 – Bit Part Bad Guys
- Issue #75 – Kaiju for Christmas
- Issue #76 – Silicon Soul, Adamantine Will
- Issue #77 – Date Night
- Issue #78 – Delved Too Deep (Une Mascarade Brisée Part 1)
- Issue #79 – Tome of Secrets (Une Mascarade Brisée Part 2)
- Descendants Special #7 – The Curtain Rises
- Issue #80 – Bitter Work
- Issue #81 – Kin, Speed and Ducks
- Issue #82 – What To Do With Your Downtime
- Issue #83 – Avalon Rises
- Issue #84 – Darkness Falling
- Descendants Annual #7 – First Frost
Bitter Work (Part 2)
Just to be a pain, Tammy let herself become dead weight halfway up the short flight of stairs leading into the jet. Grunting and snarling curses, the Black Oak goon dragged her the rest of the way up and dropped her into a forward-facing seat near the rear of the cabin.
The moment her butt hit the chair, he had the line that once tethered her to the car door locked onto the arm of the aisle seat.
“Hey! What if I have to go to the bathroom?”
“That’s why you’re all the way back here.” He said, giving her an unpleasant smile. “Hold it in if you don’t want to soak in it all the way cross-country.” Still looking pleased with himself, he headed toward the front of the cabin where the woman was speaking on the phone.
Glaring at his back, Tammy threw herself back in the seat. It was only after she’d spent a good thirty seconds that she noticed she wasn’t alone.
There was another teenager sitting across the aisle. At first blush, she couldn’t tell if they were male or female: a pair of black sweat pants and a button-down shirt in black, blue and green plaid hid any shape they may have had and an unruly mop of dark brown hair that came down just past their ears and more or less covered their eyes didn’t offer any clues.
Boy or girl, they were similarly tethered to their seat, feet braced against the seat in front of them while they curled forward over crossed arms in an aggressively sullen slouch.
Tammy took a moment to check and make sure the two goons weren’t watching them. The woman was still on the phone while the guy was missing, the open door to the cockpit suggesting where he’d gone missing to. Ensured at least a small window of privacy, Tammy leaned over and knocked gently. “Hey/”
Very slowly, the teen tilted their head enough to get a look at her through a tangle of hair. From what little she could see, “Hey.” His (Tammy decided whoever this was, they were a kind of cute boy, even if ‘plain girl’ was still possible.) voice was low and raspy, like someone who’d just woke up and needed a glass of water badly.
“So they got you too?”
“My parents called them on me just because I spray painted a couple of commuter pod stations.” the boy replied. He was glaring, but not at Tammy. “I try to explain to them that it’s not like gang tagging, it’s art. But you know, they don’t get it.”
Tammy made a face. “You mean you’re not even here for your powers?”
“Well it does help getting up high for some of the painting.”
“Flight?” she guessed. It was usually a safe guess; it seemed to her that anyone with an active power that tried to find other ways to use it eventually figured out how to fly with it eventually, and every third protomorph seemed to come with it built in. A tiny smirk threatened to break out on her face as she imagined Ms. Brant explaining it as an evolutionary response to apartment towers and poor safety regulations.
The boy laughed, which was barely more than just one ‘ha’. “Nothing like that. I can just stick to stuff like a gecko.”
“Sweet, wall-crawling.” Tammy said, grinning. “I can’t fly either by the way. I shoot sparks if I’ve got metal around. I tried shooting down, but that hasn’t gotten me off the ground yet. I’m Tammy by the way. Tammy Kaine.”
“Rupert Falcone… just call me Falcone.”
Outside, the engines started up. Tammy nodded and glanced to make sure the goons were still busy. The woman had taken a seat up front and was strapping in. The man was still in the cockpit.
“You know anything about this Black Oak place we’re going to?” Tammy asked.
“I’ve seen that video. You know the one the Descendants Rights people put out?” said Falcone. Tammy again nodded. “Yeah, so with the dragging me our of my house in the middle of the night and tying me down, I’m thinking most of it’s true: the making people dig holes in the sun, putting people in sheds to punish them—the fights. Probably worse.”
Tammy frowned and cast her eyes downward. “Don’t worry, Falcone. I’ve got a feeling at we’re not going to have to put up with it for long.” She turned her head and watched the lights of the airport moving by. “… I hope.”
“Sidelined.” Warrick muttered, sitting on the end of his bed, flicking furiously through his tablet. “Can you believe that shit? They didn’t even tell me when it was going down—I had to get a panicked text from that Maya girl to find out!”
JC was sitting cross-legged in his computer chair eating a cinnamon bun and drinking a beer. He knew better than to argue, and besides that, Warrick was livid enough to fill in his part of the conversation for him anyway.
“And this is not overreacting. But I would be so justified if I was. I’m her brother, damn it. When I said ‘no’ to this whole stupid idea, they should at least have had the common courtesy to pretend to give a damn, you know?”
“Mmmhmm.” said JC, assuming it was okay to offer something along those lines, along with ‘that’s the way it is’, ‘preach it’ and ‘testify’.
“Right. But no, suddenly it’s all ‘Tammy’s old enough to make choices as long as she talks it out with us first’. I never got that! And then Cyn—even Cyn was on me about it. All like ‘She doesn’t want other kids to get hurt. I thought you’d be proud’.”
As a matter of fact, JC had thought Warrick would be proud. Then he remembered how over-protective his friend was.
“Sure, I’m a little proud, but this is a bad day in Spring, let me tell you.”
“It’s still Winter.” JC said without thinking.
In for a penny… “You said it’s a bad day in spring, but it’s still February. It’s Winter.”
“It’s an expression, okay?” Warrick growled.
Warrick shook his head violently. “Never mind. What I mean is, this is a bad idea, sending her up there to get incriminating evidence against these assholes. She’s too young. I was too young to be Damascus and she’s too young to be The Spark.”
JC rolled his eyes. There was no other time where Warrick would every admit that he’d been too young and dumb when he first tried his hand at superheroics. “War… if this Maya girl wanted to become, say Flame Girl or something, what would you think of that?”
Partially distracted by his internet searches and partially distracted by his anger, Warrick immediately huffed out a laugh. “Dude, did you see here when Cyn’s dad and his crew attacked the city? She’s like a tiny hell-storm. A dude in a giant robot didn’t have a chance, so I pity the idiot gangers that show up on that kid’s patrol.”
“So… Maya’s not too young for heroing, but Tammy is?”
“Tammy’s my sister! And this isn’t just a normal ‘punch things’ kind of mission. She’s undercover and they’re going to know about her powers. That’s about as vulnerable as someone can get.”
“You think your parents would really be okay with this whole thing if Ms. Brant didn’t come up with a brilliant plan to keep her safe?” said JC, now completely throwing away his earlier wisdom. His best friends senses were tingling and he could sense his friend was thinking about doing something stupid.
Warrick scowled. “We’ve had plans fall through before.” He said. “I trust Ms. Brant and her smarts, but… this is my sister man.”
“Yeah, but think about it the other way, man. She’s your sister. I know a thing or two about you Kaines now and the first one is that even when you get thrown into a lose-lose situation, you go for the third option, do something crazy, and pull through. Dude, you pulled a ‘You Cannot Pass’ on a dragon a couple of weeks ago—and Tammy’s crazier than you are.”
When Warrick didn’t reply, JC set his beer down, crammed the rest of the cinnamon bun in his mouth, then went over to see what was distracting him. “Wuf ah oo mwookie et?”
“Huh?” Warrick said, looking up from the tablet.
JC took the time to chew and swallow this time. “What are you looking at?” When his friend waffled, he leaned over to take a look. “You’re trying to find out where the camp is? What? So you’re going to go there yourself? Without back-up?”
“All my back-up is shutting me out.”
Looking again at the out-dated satellite images of the mountain the Black Oak camp was located on. “War? We’re like brothers, right?”
“JC, can we please not do the guilt-trip thing?”
“Here me out.” JC said. Stepping away, he started pacing the floor. “You know I’m on your side even if I think it’s crazy to haul ass out of here without any kind of plan or back-up, right?”
Warrick continued searching the map for any signs of the camp. “You’re not going to talk me out of this.”
“Just trying to point something out. When’s the last time you’ve been camping in the mountains, War?”
“I dunno… probably eight grade, it was an overnight with my scout troop. Why?”
JC came to stand in front of his friend. “Because camps and mountains—unless they’re mining camps on mountains with mines—tend not to have a shit-ton of metal in them. You’re super-badass in the city, but how are you going to take on a bunch of corrupt councilors who apparently keep control of a camp of fifty super-powered juvenile delinquents?”
Frowning, Warrick tried to focus on his search. “I… I’ll fill a backpack with those aluminum bricks.”
“Which you’ll have to take on a plane because I don’t think Ms. Brant is going to hand over the keys to the jet you don’t know how to fly. I’m sure security isn’t going to question a bag of aluminum bricks.”
“I’ll convert it to something that doesn’t set off the metal detectors and wear it on board.” Warrick tried.
“Enough that it’s going to be useful at this camp? Metal’s pretty damn heavy, dude.”
At this, Warrick tossed the tablet aside and pressed the heels of his hands over his eyes. “JC, I have to do this. I can’t just sit here and look stupid while my sister is off doing something dangerous. If she needs me I need to be there for her.”
Before JC could say anything, Alloy’s phone rang. Not Warrick’s phone, because Warrick only had a palmtop with a phone app. Alloy had a palmtop and also a burner phone he replaced every week or so.
“Maybe they agree.” said JC as Warrick got up to grab the phone from the jacket pocket it was tucked into.
“Hopefully.” Warrick agreed before answering, “I’m here.”
Laurel spoke quickly and calmly. “Please listen to everything I have to say before you get angry with me. First of all, none of this operation was my idea. The office of someone else from Descendants Rights Worldwide contacted the your parents without my knowledge because they hear how Tammy conducted herself over spring break in Colorado and were impressed.”
“So DRW thinks my sister is their personal secret agent?”
“That’s about the shape of things and Tammy seems to agree.” said Laurel. “When this is over, I’m going to the Board about this, let me assure you. The only reason I went along was to make sure Tammy would be safe. And you can yell and scream at me as much as you want later, but I have an important mission for you.”
Warrick really wanted to get started right in on the screaming and yelling, but if Laurel said a mission was important, she meant it. He didn’t even put any conditions on it. “What do you need?”
Laurel sighed. “Tammy friend, Kura Akagi… kicked one of the Black Oak workers… in the crotch. He pressed charges and had the police take her in.” Warrick didn’t know whether to wince for the groin attack, or for the teenaged girl being thrown in jail on the behest of a shady organization. “I went down to the station to bail her out—and she’s already posted bail. I have no idea how. Her Institute-provided tracking devices are all offline as well.”
“You’re thinking the Black Oak guy decided to get revenge?”
“That’s a possibility, but then again…”
“…it’s Kura.” said Warrick. “Say no more. I’m on my way out now. I’ll start my search at the police station she was bailed out from and work my way outward from there. You already called her parents?”
“Of course.” said Laurel. “Mr. Akagi thinks his daughter is probably angry with the Institute right now and won’t sleep there. This being Kura, that’s a possibility. I’ll be calling the hotels in the area while you’re searching.”
Warrick stood, reaching over to his desk for his D-icon, which was currently disguised as a bronze belt buckle stamped with a dragon fighting a phoenix, their bodies circling a twenty-sided dice. “I’m on my way out. Keep me posted if you learn anything.” After exchanging goodbyes, Warrick hung up.
“What’s going on?” asked JC.
“My sister’s friend, Kura, got arrested because of Black Oak, now she’s suddenly out of jail and no one knows where she got to afterward. I’m going out to see if I can track her down.”
JC nodded. “A different little sister in need of protection then?”
By then, Warrick already had his jacket on and the door open. He looked back to his friend and shook his head. “With Kura? Someone’s probably going to have to protect me from her. Have a good night, brotha.”
Warrick rushed down the hall to the dorm elevator. Thankfully, it was Friday and almost everyone was out for the night or in for the night, depending on their plans. He and JC were the odd men out because Warrick had already drawn short straw for patrolling, and the situation with Tammy had caused Lisa to break her date with JC.
On the ride to the ground floor, Warrick tried to put himself in Kura’s shoes. First of all, he wondered how a minor, no matter how rich and privileged Kura was, managed to bail herself out without a parent or other legal guardian.
An accomplice? How could she manage that between kicking some guy in the fork and being tossed into jail? He doubted any of other students could make it happen. Considering Kura’s way of thinking, it would be hard figuring out how she did it, but it was probably his best chance of finding her.
The elevator doors dinged.
“…not related, but this is way too important! You’ve gotta let me up to see—wait there he is!”
On the other hand, she might find him.
Warrick looked across the lobby to find the girl in question on the tail end of harangue the desk monitor in charge of signing in guests and calling up to announce deliveries. By the time he stepped out of the elevator, Kura was already barreling toward him.
“Warrick! It’s a good thing I found you! Some fake guys saying they had permission came and took Tammy and no one’s doing anything about it, then I got arrested!” It was a good thing Warrick already knew what was going on, because the words coming out of the girl’s mouth made no sense. She took a flying leap and floated the remaining distance to him, latching her arms around his.
“I want to go save her, but the airport won’t let me get on a plane by myself and the cabbie won’t fly to Montana with me.” She sniffed.
He blinked down at her. “Wait. What?”
Kura looked up at him with wide, teary eyes, “They took her to Montana. So I need you to go with me to save her.” Letting go with one arm, she dug in her jacket and jammed a wad of bills in her stomach. “And I’ll give you my whole allowance, two thousand dollars to do it. I just want my friend safe!”