- 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
A moment later, Callie’s face colored. “I didn’t mean that she might be my grandmother. She’s younger than me, first of all, then again, in film class first semester, we watched this one episode of old classic this show were this guy from the future ended up becoming his own grandfather, and given all the stories you guys have told me, I can’t rule out time travel so…”
“I didn’t think that’s what you meant.” Codex waved off the idea and laughed lightly. “But there is a chance that the Kin’s Tillie might have been named after a relative of hers who happens to be your grandmother. I’m… not sure how you might want to approach this.”
Callie shrugged. She was wishing she hadn’t brought it up in the first place now that she considered the longer-reaching implications. “Maybe I can just wait until she brings it up.” She didn’t even wait for a response before trying to justify it, “She might. We do have really similar powers, after all.”
“This is true.” said Codex. “But I want you to give some more thought to this: it would probably help Tillie and by extension the family she’s found now if she had real and friendly family here in the city. And it might also help me piece together who her parents are. On the other hand… well the Kin aren’t especially trusting of outsiders and might think it’s a trick to cajole them into putting down roots.”
Avoiding eye contact (as much as eye contact was possible given Codex’s helmet), Callie ducked her head. “Sure. I’ll think about it. No promises though.”
“I’m not going to make you do anything you don’t want to.” Codex said in a tone that Callie took to mean that she really meant that. “In any event, we should get going.”
Callie let go of the tension that had seized her body. “Yeah, good idea. Should I suit up then?” She indicated her D-icon.
With a shake of her head, Codex headed out of the room. “No need. You’re not going over there with Codex anyway, I’m going as myself—that’s who the Kin are used to dealing with.” Callie hurried after her, taking note that she wasn’t headed for the secret pod station or the museum access elevator. Instead they were heading…”
“The mirror gates?” Callie asked.
“I have a few things to pick up at home.” Codex explained. “Plus, I’m not sure if it would make sense for me to arrive with you carrying me along or something. Laurel Brant travels by car, so it’s probably best for the Kin to see me arrive that way.”
It wasn’t a long walk to the gate room, which was more like the inside of a bank vault. The walls were taken over on two side by locker doors with locks that could be keyed to biometrics, D-icons and similar devices given to non-members of the Descendants.
The perspective members of Lifesavers Inc might have agreed to work together, but they didn’t have much reason to award every other member full trust either. So Codex added an option for them to lock up their tech (or magic, as was the case for a few) just after arriving at the base.
The wall opposite the secure sliding doors to the gate room was taken up by the biggest contiguous mirror Callie had ever seen. It was big enough to drive a car or even a small truck through, with a bronze frame worked with creeping ivy designs.
“Where did you get this made?” Callie wondered aloud as they waited for the gate rooms doors to close and enter their secure cycle behind them.
“I didn’t.” said Codex, approaching the mirror with her D-icon, “A friend in France procured it for me. This was actually the property of a minor aristocrat just prior to the revolution. An enterprising gunsmith led the looting for his manor and this mirror was part of the collection.”
She presented the icon and spoke the command phrase. The mirror’s surface rippled like quicksilver and its reflected image gave way to a view of the boat house at Freeland House.
Or rather, what was only ostensibly the boathouse at Freeland House. Over the months, Warrick’s workshop forge and Lisa’s magic lab had grown to fully engulf the boathouse. Suits of half-constructed armor and bins of metal ingots warred with he esoteric crystals, bottles of herbs, and wooden blocks with magic circles burned into them.
As they stepped through the mirror frame and into the former boathouse, the smell of faint ozone and not-so-faint burnt cinnamon stung their noses. Callie looked over the various and sundry devices of her friends’ respective trades until she paused at a taxidermied cayman sitting on one of Lisa’s worktables. She stifled a snort of laughter.
“Oh, that?” Codex asked, possibly misinterpreting the sound that managed to escape Callie. “Juniper gave her that. I never got a chance to asked what it meant.”
“No wizard’s lab would be complete without a stuffed alligator.” Juniper had given her a flat format collection of the show she’d gotten that line from as a ‘welcome to the team present’. It quickly became one of her favorites and even the other girls at the apartment watched them with her.
Codex touched her D-icon and in an eye-bending instant, her costume was replaced with a business casual ensemble of a wine-colored suit, matching trousers and a black blouse. She chuckled. “Oh. I didn’t even think of that because it’s a cayman. Jun’s been getting everyone into that show since it started airing. If you haven’ read them though,I highly recommend the books.”
“Maybe I’ll give them a try over summer break.” Callie said. There was no way he class load would allow any pleasure reading, and there was even less chance that Lily wouldn’t be dragging the girls to something for Spring break.
Codex—now Laurel—went to the door with a nod. “I’ll lone them to you. Now, I won’t be long, just have to get some things from upstairs. You can wait in my car or hang out downstairs if you’d like.”
“I’ll see you at the car, I think.” said Callie. A little fresh air and a little full-speed running around the Freeland House grounds would do her some god.
A man in his late twenties was waiting in the foyer of the up town restaurant, Rondo’s, when up and coming local strongman Eduardo Vorran left the dining room.
Vorran was rarely seen in Mayfield unless something required his direct attention; something that the young man, his personal assistant counted as a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, he worked maybe a few days a month for a solid salary and a ‘company’ car. On the other, his boss could call at any moment with the most esoteric demands one could imagine.
Thus, Martin Lister, assistant to the soon to be most powerful man in the Mayfield underworld, had been through heaven and hell in the past year. One day he might be arranging meetings between the town’s smaller gangs and an arms dealer on Vorran’s payroll. The next, he found himself… inspecting… illicit ‘massage parlors’ Vorran was moving in under the city’s secret boss’s nose. Crime was an eclectic business.
Lister rose as his boss approached, taking out a palmtop. Other people saw a tall Hispanic man with silvering hair and a build that remained imposing even at what might be his seventieth decade. Martin saw the truth thanks to mismatched blue and green eyes he kept hidden behind his sunglasses.
Beneath the mental illusion, Eduardo Vorran was a skinny Caucasian kid of nineteen at the absolute oldest with shaggy, brown hair and a perpetual smirk. The kind of smirk that made a person’s hand slap the air slightly in preparation for whatever no doubt smarmy thing the kid was going to say.
Young though the young man, Thunderhead, might be, he dressed the part of Vorran even behind his veil and walked with all the confidence Vorran exuded. Even though he was a decade or more older, Martin didn’t hesitate in calling him ‘sir’.
“The PI you hired just sent you the pictures, sir.” Martin reported with all the dutifulness of a collie. “He gave an address too: 14305 Brassland Avenue, Tower Four, apartment 1712.”
Thunderhead took the palmtop and started flicking through the pictures. “They’re here already?”
As instructed, Martin had been through the photos already, though they held little meaning to him. “They arrived two hours ago, spent most of that time at Descendants Right Worldwide’s offices, then went to the apartment.”
“I would have thought it would have started raining already.”
“What’s the weather like, Martin?”
He needed to take out his own palmtop and check that one. “Clear with a few clouds. High sixty-seven. Still rather warm for March…”
“No rain. No falling pressure?”
“Not that I can see, sir.”
Thunderhead remained focused on the pictures. “Hmm. Interesting. The PI send the building’s security specs?”
“He did. I sent them to Mr. Cayhill like you asked.” said Martin. “I… Sir, can I ask a question?”
“Go ahead.” Thunderhead kept walking, right out the door, leaving Martin to jog alongside.
“Well I just wondered… well why you’re interested in those kids. “I read some of the other information… as you requested… and their powers wouldn’t be a good addition to the Gold, and they don’t seem to be connected to anyone so hostages doesn’t seem a likely purpose…”
Thunderhead finally stopped browsing long enough to look at Martin. “Except they do have a connection. To me.”
“To… you, sir?”
A raised eyebrow and the deepening of his smirk only served to confuse Martin more. “They are my peers, after all. For a while, we had a lot in common. Call the car, I’ll tell you about it.”
Nodding, Martin tapped the onscreen button to do so. Meanwhile, Thunderhead has paused to look around the sidewalk and the people passing them by. No one seemed to notice them and yet, their paths diverged just enough the no one ran into them.
“You heard about that thing that happened a couple of years ago, right? The Psionics Academy getting shut down, all those kids that turned up missing?” Thunderhead waited for Martin to nod to keep going. “I was one of those kids. I was fifteen and they stuck me in a stasis cell for six goddamn years.”
Martin’s expression soured. “Jesus.”
“I know. But that’s not the worst part. See, as far as I knew at the time, all I could so was read thoughts. Turns out there’s way more to it and the astral plane than I could imagine. When they put you in stasis, you’re supposed to more or less fall asleep and wake up like nothing happened when they take you out of it.
“That’s not what happened with me. My mind isn’t like other peoples’. I was conscious the whole time, my mind just floating in the astral, barely picking up the scientists and guards at the place they were keeping us.”
He took a moment to look down at the picture again. “Six years. Alone. With my powers. I learned to push them. The exercise them. Our powers? They’re not what you think. Just like anything else, you can train yourself to get better, stronger—learn new tricks. I went from reading minds to playing with them. The sensory cortexes were my favorite playgrounds. It made me strong. I could have just been a malevolent ghost if they hadn’t bought her in.”
A horn sounded as the town car pulled up to the curve for them. Thunderhead pause his story only long enough for them to get in the back. When he began again, his mood had grown somber and cold. “I was a foster kid. Once of the ones you see on TV when they need some sad-sack kid and proof that the system doesn’t work. I bounced around a lot because of my power. At first some of them thought I was hearing voices.
“I’m not gonna lie; a lot of them tried to help, but they didn’t have the first idea what was going on. Once someone figured it out though, well a ten year-old that can read your mind isn’t what most folks sign up for when they want to be foster parents.
“Eventually though, there was one family that didn’t mind. They had another foster kid—younger than me—that had powers that could be a problem too. Those are the folks that sent me to the Academy. Not their fault I wound up where I wound up, but…” He shook his head and quickly composed himself.
“To make a long story short, I was there for everything they did to kids at that place. They scanned them, hooked them up to things I can’t even describe… and they cut on ’em. A lot. I didn’t give a shit; I didn’t know ’em and it didn’t matter so much to me… until I picked up memories with me in ’em and saw that they had my younger foster sister in there.”
At this, he purposefully turned off the screen of the palmtop and turned it face-down on his lap. “I did what I had to. Not everyone survived being on that table and even if I had to do some damage, I brought the whole place down—including the stasis cells.”
“So… you rescued your sister…” Martin asked, unclear on where things were going.
“And got my body back.” Thunderhead nodded. “…Which turned out to be the problem. Five years cut off form hormones, sensation and all the things your body does to your mind? All that coming back was like taking all the PCP in the world. I had just enough thought in my head to know I was dangerous to be around as I was and got the hell out of there. Only when I came back… her and her friends were gone.”
He gave the phone a gentle pat, then smirked malevolently. “I’ve been tracking them ever since, and they’ve come into contact with the Descendants a few times. I think you understand why that might be a problem, especially now that it looks like they’ve come to Mayfield to stay.”
Martin nodded. “So… what are you going to do about it, sir? Is there something I should be working on?”
“No need.” Thunderhead switched to another program on his palmtop and relayed his destination to the driver. “I’ve already brought someone here to Mayfield to deal with it. I’d do it myself, but the Descendants have a mentalist and I can’t risk him connecting me to Vorran or to my foster sister. I have reason to believe the Descendants work with or for Liedecker.”
He took note of Martin fidgeting and addressed it. “Something bothering you, Martin?”
The assistant shook his head, but then decided to speak up. “It’s just that… of course it’s always your call, sir… but a mercenary or one of your gangsters to get this kid? Her friends did protect her for you. Are you sure you want the possibility of them being killed in the attempt to take her?”
Thunderhead smiled a thin-lipped smile. “I wouldn’t worry too much. The man I hired isn’t some thug off the street; he’s a consummate professional. A former Marine who left the Corps with an honorable discharge. The only misgiving I have is that he goes by the handle his squaddies gave him. I’m not certain about how I’ll feel in later stages of the game when I’m deploying ‘The AquaMarine’.”
To Be Continued…