Issue #81 – Kin, Speed and Ducks

This entry is part 10 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 7: The New World

“This seems like a nice place.” Callie looked out through the wide windows of the covered walkway leaving from the Brassland Apartment Towers parking garage to the eponymous four towers. It was nice than the old, rundown apartment her mother was still living in. The elevators all seemed to be working for one. And the windows on the lower level were all intact.

Laurel nodded, her hands full with the housewarming present she brought along. “The owner of the towers is very sympathetic to descendants; he has family in Europe… I’m not sure where, but from how he talks about them, it sounds like one of the countries that aren’t the friendly toward us yet. We were able to negotiate a good deal for them.”

Nodding distractedly, Callie suppressed a wince. Sometimes she forgot that even with things like Braylocke Laws, there were worse places to be a descendant. Mayfield seemed to be a haven though, as much as one could be without being Columbia, Australia, or maybe Canada if one could stomach and trust the registry.

She shook her head. Things weren’t so bad, she reminded herself. The camp the team helped bust had been illegal after all. “Um, it was apartment 1712, right?”

“It is, but we’re meeting them in the main delivery area so we can help them move their things in.”

“After being on the move for so long, they have things?”

Laurel gave her a little smile. “Tillie made a lot of friends working on a political campaign in Chicago. When her whole story came out, a lot of her co-workers donated some of their used furniture for the new place.” She laughed quietly. “Never assume we’re the only people who can make a big difference for people—not everyone needs their lives saved or a monster driven away.”

“Oh I know.” Callie said. “I wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for…” she paused, unsure of whether she should finish the sentence.

It wasn’t hard for Laurel to infer what she meant. “I know it’s hard not to tell your friends, Callie. And I’m sorry it has to be this way. We all have people in our lives that we have to keep things from for the same reasons.”

“I get it.” Callie said, lowering her head. “But do you ever stop feeling guilty?”

Laurel tried for a minute to shuffle the package in her hands so she could pat the girl on the shoulder, but it proved to ungainly for that. She gave up with a sigh. “I wish I could say it gets easier, but in all honesty, it probably says better things about your character if it doesn’t.”

Callie reached up and played with her hair, still unused to the new style. “It’s just that I keep wondering if I could have fixed things back then… convinced her not to be…” She winced, “Well such a huge bitch. Then we could have all been friends and…”

“None of this is your fault, Callie.” Laurel cut her off. “Lily is responsible for her own actions and if she’s every going to earn trust from the rest of the group, that’s up to her too.”

“That’s… probably not likely, is it?” They reached the double doors at the end of the walk and Callie opened them for Laurel to go through. Inside, the ground floor of the tower was like a mall in miniature; a wide open walking space with a few benches and standalone kiosks and shops to either side. Halfway down the way on the left, a sign indicated the receiving area for postage and deliveries.

Laurel said nothing and headed in that direction, Callie lagging slightly behind.

“Lily’s my friend and she’s helped me more than I can ever repay her… but she just can’t behave herself, especially when it comes to Warrick or Cyn or Tink. And then there’s the thing with Kareem?”

That gave Laurel pause. “What thing with Kareem?”

A tiny squeak emerged from Callie’s throat. “Oh. You didn’t know?”

“Hyper-cog doesn’t mean omniscient.” Laurel chided.

“Okay, well the thing is, Lily’s kind of… really hot for Kareem. I can’t say I blame her because he’s super—um never mind. Anyway, he’s got a girlfriend and back in high school, that was usually enough for her to back off, but now it’s like she’s twice as attracted to him out of spite.”

Laurel frowned, knowing there was another component to that situation that would make it even worse. “I can see how that could be a problem.”

“Yeah, so I don’t think anyone’s going to change their vote on Lily anytime soon.”

They turned the corner of the delivery area to find a small, concrete-floored storefront. Aside from the clerk, a fifty-something Hispanic woman, there were four teens standing off to the side next to a small hill composed of boxes and furniture.

Callie took them in in turn. First, and the closest to her age, was a young man. He was gaunt and serious-looking with brown hair down to his shoulders and a short, narrow goatee. The heavy winter coat he wrapped himself in hid his thin build, but not the wary looks he was casting about.

Speaking with him was a girl of about seventeen. Her wiry, strawberry-blonde hair instantly reminded Callie of some of her cousins. Her back was to them, so there wasn’t much more to see beyond her khakis and long sleeved shirt.

Another young man, probably around sixteen, was standing off to the side, playing a game on a hand-held console. His hair had been dyed a darker brown, but dusty blonde roots were starting to show. He was more sturdily built than the older boy, but he was neither particularly muscular nor fat. He had on an old tan trench coat over a Chicago Bulls jersey and navy blue sweats.

Finally, there was the youngest who was probably around fifteen. Her hair was cut short and dyed blue-black. While the others were dressed for the cold, she was just in jeans and a T-shirt reading ‘I Believe in Peace Through Superior Superpowers’.

The oldest of the four seemed to sense them, his head swung in their direction even as same of the tension in his shoulders relaxed. “Miss Brant.” He said, looking a tiny bit less skittish.

“Noah,” Laurel smiled at him the way Callie had seen her smile at many of the other members of the Descendants, but especially Cyn. Even though she wasn’t the focus of it, it made her feel warm. “You’re feeling well, I hope?”

Noah nodded. “I haven’t had any… issues in months.”

“Those meditation techniques Rain found helped Noah too.” The blonde had turned when Noah noticed their arrival. “Thanks for coming, Miss Brant. You have no idea what all of this means to us—especially our getting to stay together.”

“You don’t need to thank me.” said Laurel, “After all, I’m the one that’s been trying to get you here. In fact, thank you for trusting me; I know it was difficult, but in the end, I’m sure that Mayfield is the best, safest place for you.” She brightened and inclined her head toward Callie. “Speaking of which, this is Callie Kreiger. You might know her as—”

“Vamanos.” the younger girl said, giving Callie a curious and excited look. “Tillie, this is the one I was telling you about. PrelateWatch says you have the exact same powers!”

Callie felt her face heat up at the scrutiny that was suddenly upon her. “Oh, well super speed isn’t that uncommon, I’m sure.”

“Not according to PrelateWatch.” Rain said. “Besides you, I’ve only seen people there mention one other person with super speed; a guy in Milwaukee who doesn’t even have a codename—and he doesn’t phase.” She tilted her head, giving both Tillie and Callie a measured look. “Powers are genetic, right?”

“Genetic or just people with ancestors from the same experimental group.” Laurel stepped in. “I actually brought that up with Callie on the way over. Tillie, I know you asked me not to dig too deep beyond the foster system… but this was more of a happy accident—if it’s anything at all.”

Uncomfortable silence fell on the group. Noah resumed his vigil, watching their surroundings. Tillie and Rain were watching Callie for some kind of reaction. The fourth member of the Kin, the boy in the long coat who hadn’t said anything yet suddenly let out a stunned, “Hey!” that made everyone, even the clerk who had been pretending not to eavesdrop, jump.

The boy gave a nervous laugh at the reaction. “It’s just that the internet just cut out.” He looked over at the clerk. “Is that served here, or is there like a superintendent for the building that deals with this kind of thing?”

“Kevin…” Tillie groaned before returning her attention to Laurel. “But no, I understand. Who knows… maybe we are related. That, uh, totally doesn’t mean I’d want anything from you, Vamanos.”

“You can call me Callie. And about the being related… Um… you weren’t named after anyone, were you?”

Tillie blinked. “My great aunt, Tillie Ro–”

“–bertson-Haines.” Callie finished with her. “That’d be my grandma.” She offered a tentative smile, “That would make us cousins, right?”

There was another silence broken this time by Rain. “Well that answers that. This is good news, right Tillie?” When she didn’t get an answer, she asked again, “Tillie?”

Tillie was staring at the floor. Her armed were crossed and her lips were tightly pressed together as she seemed to tune to everyone and every thing.

“I… said something wrong, didn’t I?” asked Callie. “Y-you didn’t really want to run into family—even if we don’t actually know each other—when you moved here, did you?”

Laurel sat her housewarming gift on the counter and carefully approached Tillie. “Tillie… if this is too much, we can…”

Tillie flinched away before she could reach out. “It’s not your fault. Either of you.” She said quietly, still refusing to look up.

“What’s wrong?” Noah moved closer to her, but didn’t try to touch her. “This seems much worse than anything we’ve talked about, Tillie.”

“Except she’s never talked about her real family before.” Kevin said, keeping his voice low.

Once again, all eyes went back to Callie, who shrugged, completely helpless. “I didn’t even know I had any cousins on my mom’s side of the family. Well, I knew I had cousins, but we never met them or exchanged Christmas cards…”

Noah glared around, taking note of the people just outside the storefront. “Maybe we should go up to the apartment. At least get out of public so Tillie can calm down.

“I can… start running things up.” said Callie. “And after this, you never have to see me again if you don’t want, Tillie, okay?”

“That’s a good idea, Noah. Let’s all go up and give Tillie some privacy. I’ll help.”

“No, I’ve got her.” Kevin said, coming forward to get Tillie’s arm and throw it over his shoulder. “Come on, Til.”

They tried to lead her out, but she waved them off. “I’m fine. Really.” She ducked her head in Callie’s direction. “I just didn’t expect us to be directly related and I thought you might have known my parents…”

Callie pursed her lips. “It was that bad?”

“Pretty much. I don’t really want to talk about it in public, okay?”

“Fine by me.” said Callie. “Let’s get you guys moved in.” She went over to the pile of furniture and boxes and grabbed a box. “Say, I know you can phase while running, but can you run up walls?”

The sudden shift stopped Tillie short. “Can I what?”

“Run up walls.” Callie repeated with a smile. “I get how you might not know—it take serious timing and even given how things slow down while I’m running, it’s tough to gauge.”

Tillie shook her head. “It’s never really come up. All I know about my powers is how fast I have to go to phase through stuff and go invisible.”

“Invisible?” asked Callie. “You’re going to have to show me how to do that one.”

Both young women were grinning at each other, and Tillie came over to grab a box of her own. “Well for now, how about a race? We can use the fire stairs.”

“You’re on.” said Callie as they trotted to the door.

Laurel looked to the boys plus Rain. “And in the meantime, we can do our part with the stuff they can’t carry. Noah, care to help me move the sofa t the cargo elevator?”

“Sure, Miss Brant.” said Noah, absently. He was watching the two speedsters as the par looked around for the entrance to the fire stairs. By the time he reached the sofa and had lifted his end, they were both gone.

Kevin rolled his eyes at the scene and came over to grab a box of his own. “A guy could get whiplash with all the back and forth going on here.” He said to Rain.

“We should get used to it.” said Rain. “If this Liedecker Institute place is anything like high school on TV, drama is going to be a thing from now on. I’m not excited for it.”

Watching her grab up a box of her own, Kevin sighed. “You’re not even a little happy that we’ve finally got somewhere to stay, you know, permanently? Or even that we’re finally getting to do something normal kids do instead of scrape and steal to survive?”

Rain shrugged, almost tipping the box out of her hands. “I was okay with how we lived. I’m mostly okay with doing this two. As long as we’re together, that’s the main thing.”

Kevin shook his head and started off after Noah. “You know, I still remember when you were this timid little kid.”

She smiled and followed. “That’s part of why I was happy with how we did things before: it toughened me up.”

They didn’t get five steps before the sound of glass shattering came from somewhere distant. Then there was a resounding thud from the entrance. It looked like Noah and Laurel had dropped the sofa, but Laurel was nowhere to be seen and Noah was rushing around the side of the fallen piece of furniture, looking furtively at something behind it.

Then, just as he made it to the other side, Noah’s head jerked to the side and the crumpled to the ground.

Rain didn’t even feel the box leaving her arms. She just dropped it and broke into a sprint toward her fallen friend, her eldest adoptive brother. His name tore out of her throat and somewhere in the back of her mind, she felt her tightly held control slip.

Fog was rolling into the open space between stores and people were screaming, but Rain pay them any heed. She vaulted the sofa at speed, almost trampling over the prone forms of Noah and Laurel.

Her first thought was relief that she didn’t see any blood.

Her second was a creeping fear at what could have possibly dropped both of them without doing lethal damage.

That was the last thing she thought with much coherency before the rising mist coiled around her and began to solidify into some kind of hardened crystal.

And in the skies above Mayfield, the barometric pressure dropped precipitously. A storm cloud formed above the Brassland Towers and rapidly began to expand across the city.

To Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< Issue #80 – Bitter WorkIssue #82 – What To Do With Your Downtime >>

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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  1. * Lily1

    Oooh, this is going to be interesting.

  2. This is a cool setup, and I’m interested to see where it goes. Also nice that it’s effectively foreshadowed by the way powers work in this setting.

    I have to say, I do like the Kin as characters a well. Should be nice to see them again. I have a feeling they won’t necessarily react all that well to having this topic broached, though.

  3. “Mandatory Karaoke” sounds like a great name for a band.

  4. “I’ll lone them…”

    So Martin here sees through Thunderhead’s illusion due to his eye colour? Since we’re discussing a story about magic and superheroes I’ll skip the fact eye colour has nothing to do with vision, but the very next sentence explicitly states it’s a mental illusion rather than a visual one so it shouldn’t have anything to do with eyes.

    • I read that as him having a perceptual power, which is focused through his eyes or that he associates with his eyes.

      • This would be it. Martin’s sight includes a level of sense Thunderhead can’t target.

        The fact that he has boatlights is just a nice visual.

        • I thought it might be a faerie thing. Supposedly that was one thing that could let people see through fairy illusions.

          Also, I still don’t trust Christopher.

  5. “might be his seventieth decade.” It may just be me, but this reads odd. Seventh decade adds to 70, seventieth decade adds to 700, or I may just be reading it wrong.

  6. Typos

    he esoteric
    the esoteric

    you haven’ read

    Not 100% sure about this – up town restaurant

    hostages doesn’t seem

    just enough the no one
    that no one

    form hormones

    her and her friends
    she and her friends

    want the possibility
    Could be ‘any possibility’ or ‘a possibility’

  7. “The second she was out in the call..”

    “…sheer, encyclopedic knowledge…”
    No comma needed there.

  8. >“I’m going to get them to shoot at me.”

    In a dangerous situation, Callie’s first instinct is to help other people, at the risk of her own life.

    And she thinks she’s not a good person.

    Maybe she’s not yet the hero she wants to be, but she’s well on her way. What she really needs to learn is to be brave when there’s no immediate crisis. To be brave in her personal life.

    • That’s part of what I like about writing her. She has none of the bravado or genre savvy of the others. She’s just in this because she’s a good person even though she doesn’t believe she’s as good at it as she is.

  9. So I found this online years ago. I thought it might be appropriate here.

    “I keep hearing people talk about how Superman’s the best super hero or Batman’s better or how great Wonder Woman or Oracle is
    — and they compare their muscles or their powers or their smarts like it all came down to the stats printed on the back of the
    cards their action figures came on.”

    “But that’s not it?”

    “No. That’s not it. None of that’s it. None of those heroes are better or worse than each other, regardless of powers, because
    there’s only one measure that counts.”

    “And that is?”

    “When everyone else is running away, super heroes run toward.”

  10. Not sure if the “Excelsior!” is a reference to Stan Lee or the South Park depiction of Al Gore.

  11. >After all, Tillie had done all she could to keep Rain safe and >there was no way Vamanos was going to let that go to waste or >unrewarded. This, she thought, was the way of heroes. She’d >worried so much about fitting in with the group, and about how >different they all were, but this was what they all shared. >Ricking (sic) it all so other people were safe. Doing what was >right even when it hurt.

    >Because they could. Because something crazy that happened to >their ancestors made them better able to take it and give it >back. Because if they didn’t, they would have to live knowing >that they could have and failed.

    And she doesn’t think of herself as heroic???

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