Issue #81 – Kin, Speed and Ducks

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

Tillie was fast.

Granted, that was a given considering her powers, but Callie was looking at it from her point of view as a fellow speedster and no—she was fast. There wasn’t even a question of who was going to make it to the seventeenth floor first even though Callie had the advantage of being able to run on the stairwell walls rather than trying to corner on the actual stairs.

By the time she came to a stop outside the Kin’s apartment, Tillie already had the door unlocked and was heading in.

“Wow,” Callie said with a grin, “I didn’t even stand a chance back there did I? Maybe you should be the one on a super team, Tillie. Um… Tillie?”

The other young woman didn’t so much as glance back as she entered the apartment, nor did she bother holding the door for Callie, who was so caught off-guard by suddenly being ignored that she almost let it hit her in the face.

Catching the door with her hip at the last minute, Callie pushed into the room beyond and watched Tillie stalking through the living room to the hall leading to the other rooms. “Um… is something wrong?”

Tillie paused in the archway and visibly took a deep breath. Slowly, she turned, the friendly look that had been in her eye earlier had fled, replaced by the same guarded coolness Noah had. “Look. Ms. Brant has done a lot for us. I mean a lot. We probably wouldn’t be alive at this point if it wasn’t for her. I don’t want to repay her by seeming ungrateful or making her feel bad for something she didn’t know would be an issue.”

“I don’t want to either?” Callie heard the words come out her own mouth as a question. It felt like she’d skipped several minutes of conversation.

“But it is and issue. I just don’t want her to know that, understand?”

“…” Callie winced a little. “Not really. I thought we were kind of bonding and…”

“She doesn’t know my family. Our family. What they were like.” said Tillie. Before Callie could say she didn’t know either—or at least what was wrong with them, Tillie turned and headed toward the furthest bedroom. “Maybe you don’t either, since we’ve never met.

“I do though. I wasn’t in foster care for the same reasons as Noah or Kevin. We don’t know much about Rain, but it’s not likely she went through that either. It had nothing to do with my powers; it was about my parents. They were criminals. Like… huge criminals—big players in the meth scene in the Midwest. Just like my mom’s mom.”

She pushed open the door and put the box in her hand down on the floor of the empty room. “Probably just like me if I hadn’t been taken away from them.” Turning back to Callie, she gave a bitter laugh. “But I still ended up stealing and squatting in places to survive. It’s like out family is cursed to be criminals!”

Callie gave her a bewildered look. No wonder Grandma Tillie was the only member of her father’s side of the family her mother talked about. Still… “Wait… but what does that have to do with me?”

Avoiding her eyes, Tillie headed back to the main room. “It’s not your fault, okay? It’s just… our family. I never met anyone in it that’s any good. And you might be a hero and all, but now that I know you’re related to me, that’s all I see.”

She paused, giving the room a once-over. It was larger than anywhere the group had lived in the two years since they escaped Tome even if most people would call it ‘modest’. “I worked hard, okay? Keeping us all together, keeping us safe and fed. Noah tried, Noah wanted to, but his power makes it hard… Rain’s like my sister now and I don’t want to pass this sort of thing on to her.”

“You think I’m going to be a bad influence?” Callie asked.

In retrospect, she couldn’t argue that she wasn’t. She did beer commercials and sponsored a gym she’d gone to once. Not necessarily mortal sins, but nothing a kid could look up to—and no one could aspire to grow up to have descendants powers; not seriously anyway.

Calling her an influence at all was pushing it. She had very little sway with anyone, not like her teammates. Not like Lily. If Lily were in her place, she would have picked apart everything Tillie was saying and come up with the perfect counterpoint. Not being Lily, Callie just looked at her feet.

“I’m sorry…”

“Let’s just go back down there before they start wondering why we’re up her.” Tillie said tiredly. “And look; I’m sorry about this, but I could just do without the constant reminder.”

Callie knew it shouldn’t have hurt. She didn’t even know Tillie existed until a few hours earlier. Really, she hadn’t even thought that hard about what she was even going to do about this new, unexpected member of her family tree.

But it did hurt. Maybe because it had been just her and her mom for so long and for the first time in a long time, she was thinking about her dad disappearing from her life, but it stung in a way she hadn’t expected when it just seemed Tillie was having a hard time with the revelation.

“Okay.” She said quietly. “I’ll just help out today so Miss Brant doesn’t know and then you won’t have to see me again.” With that, Callie turned and fled the room.

The second she was out in the call, she broke into a run and let her powers kick in.

Talking to others about her powers was always funny to her. People had ideas about how super-speed should work, and even how it should feel. They always expected things to get blurry from her perspective, or the world to slow down. That’s not what happened at all—well it did get blurry for people she brought along, but not for her.

No, the world didn’t become a blur—it was thrown into sharp contrast as her senses accelerated to match her speed. Things didn’t slow down, she just took in every detail in an instant to the point that she could predict where any given person or thing would be based on trajectories and micro-motions. It was precognition, but it was nicely close.

Back in high school when her class read some Sherlock Holmes stories, she imagined that and sheer, encyclopedic knowledge, had to be what Holmes used to figure out impossible amounts of information about people just by looking at them.

Of course, Holmes didn’t have to be at full sprint to do it.

Callie sighted on the stairwell door and breathed out. No good reason for it, but she was always afraid she might inhale a piece of door or wall if she breathed while running through them.

The act of phasing through it sent electric tingles coursing all over and through her body. Miss Brant said it was related to electromagnetic fields and quantum tunneling—or that was her best guess. Callie just figured passing through stuff built up static.

Emerging in the stairwell, she kipped up off the floor and made contact with the wall with her shoe. All it took was a little traction, and she was able to stay nearly perpendicular to the stairs as she ran down the wall. Miss Brant said that part didn’t make any scientific sense at all and compared it to Miss Keyes’s black heat. It just made it worse once Callie demonstrated that she could run down a wall faster than she could fall or run down steps. Here, Callie preferred Lily’s theory: that she phased through gravity.

The problem with having her mind run faster than normal though, was that she had just as much time to think running down the side of the stairwell in a minute than she would have taking ten to walk down the actual stairs at normal speed.

As distracting as ruminating on her powers was, she was eventually left once again with the thoughts she’d been avoiding: Tillie, her family’s apparent seedy side, and disappointing Miss Brant.

Ironically, these were the exact problems the other Descendants went to Miss Brant about.

Tillie not liking her aside, the idea that her family was cursed with being bad people twisted her stomach. Yes, her mother was a wonderful, loving person… but Grandma Tillie was her father’s mother. And from what little time he’d been with her and her mother, he wasn’t such a nice guy.

And maybe she wasn’t such a nice girl either. She wanted to. All she ever wanted was to have lots of friends and to occasionally snuggle a stuff duck; but then Lily ‘grew up’ and dragged everyone but Christina along with her. Then came the ‘conserv girls’ thing and being mean and catty to everyone. Callie tried not to take part in it herself, but she never took a stand to stop it either.

In fact, if the others, especially Lily, hadn’t turned over new leafs in college, Callie realized she’d still be sitting back and letting it happen. No, that wasn’t the kind of thing a truly good person would be doing, she was pretty sure. Tillie might have the right of things. That thought made Callie’s eyes sting with unshed tears.

The ground floor was coming up, so Callie breathed out again, visions of particles of partially phased aluminum in her lungs overriding all logic.

Then she was out in the open again, in the wide mall-like hall at the base of the tower.

Immediately, her accelerated senses told her something was wrong. All the people were in mid-panic, the glass from the high windows had been shattered and shards of it was still skittering and bouncing along the tile floor, and she could see Miss Brant on the floor with Noah in the process of falling. Rain, with Kevin not far behind, was running toward them.

Somewhere near the windows, Callie spied a flicker of motion. It was too small for her to see what it was, but could tell it was moving fast and headed for Kevin—or rather, where Kevin would be when it got there.

All she knew was that she didn’t want the two to meet. Action without thought, she changed direction and pushed herself to her limit, running full-out until the world started to turn blue at the edges of her vision. She grabbed both Rain and Kevin, feeling the violent tug as her powers transferred to them.

No sooner had she done so, than she let it all go, pulling both down to the ground behind the sofa.

Something went tink against the tile, a sound like a really tiny glass shattering. Callie looked up to fine tiny, clear shards of something she couldn’t identify scattering about a pockmark on the floor a few yards away. As she watched, they lost cohesion and collapsed into puddles of liquid.

“Oh my god, what’s going on!?”

One second Tillie hadn’t been there, the next, she was, standing above Laurel and her adoptive family with a look of horror on her face.

Action without thought, Callie lunged for her. She had just enough space to slip into her power again and to know her instincts had been right. Something was headed for Tillie. Up close, it looked like a marble as big as her thumb and made of some kind of translucent material.

Callie collided with Tillie and they both fell over. Something stung her ear, but the pan of that was dulled by the shrill, staticy noise that followed as the comm she wore went nuts.

“Gah!” Callie winced, trying to claw the device out of her ear while disentangling herself from Tillie at the same time. Her hand came into contact with something wet.

For just a moment, her breath caught in her throat. Had she been shot in the head? Was she going to die? Had she already died? Well no to the last one, but it couldn’t be good for her to be sitting there with hot blood running…

It was in the middle of that thought that she realized that the wetness wasn’t hot. It wasn’t even lukewarm, just cool. Room temperature or a little below. She explored her very tender ear and found that her earpiece’s was case was cracked and drenched, explaining why her comm was in the fritz.

Finally, it call came crashing together as if she was running at full speed again at least mentally. The melting shards on the floor, the ‘marble’ aimed at Tillie that she tackled her out of the way of, and now the wet impact crater in her comm.

“An ice bullet.” Callie said, disbelief tinging her thinking aloud.

She didn’t get much further, because Tillie grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her around to face her. “What was that?! What happened to Noah and Miss Brant?! Are they…”

Right, she had to figure out what happened. Callie didn’t bother replying, just shrugging off Tillie grip and crawling over to Noah, who was closer. That there was no blood was a good sign. That there was a huge welt on his temple wasn’t—that was a scarily impressive shot and a nasty hit if Noah hadn’t come to yet.

Tillie grabbed her shoulder. “Noah!” She shouted at the unconscious man. “What… is he…”

“No. he’s breathing.” said Callie. “But he needs a hospital. So does Miss Brant, I’m pretty sure. Or Hope. We need to call the other Descendants.”

Her comm was ruined, but it was running through her palmtop, so Callie pulled it out of her pocket.

When she did, she cursed herself for not expecting something like this. She’d heard more than enough of Warrick and Cyn’s stories to know that danger and crazy super-powerful things happened at any given time. She should have known better than think a peaceful mission like this one couldn’t turn hot.

She’d bought her normal old, personal palmtop instead of the one she took on patrol. And this one didn’t have the panic button app.

“Oh no.”

“What?” Tillie demanded, trying to split her attention in several directions at once. With Noah out cold, Rain and Kevin huddle together behind the couch, and the apparent superhero sounding like she was having a panic attack, there was a lot for her to keep track of.

“I’m really stupid, that’s what. Mi… the Descendants told me I should carry both my normal palmtop and my patrol one on me, but I totally forgot because this was just going to be some community outreach kind of thing. But now there’s a sniper except he knocks you out and Miss Brant is unconscious…”

“A sniper?!” Callie could practically feel the interobang at the end of that one. She ignored it though because she was having another moment of high-speed clarity.

“Okay. Okay. I’ve got it.” She manually dialed a number and handed the device to Tillie. “Hit dial and when the person on the other end picks up, tell them where we are and what’s going on, then hang up. Don’t ask names, don’t give names. Got it?”

Tillie opened her mouth to question or protested, but Callie cut her off. “I have other things to do. Whoever did this wanted everyone they hit alive. This could be Project Tome trying to take you guys back or something. I’m not going to let them do that. I’m going to keep them busy until the others get here.”

“How are you going to do that? If it’s a sniper, how are you even going to find them?”

Callie got up into a runner’s stance while keeping in the shelter of the couch. “Oh, that’s the easy part.” She fiddled with her bracelet and the glammer over it faded, revealing her D-icon. A quick utterance of a command word found her fully garbed in her professionally designed speed suit.

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

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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