- 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
“Mmm.” Cyn purred as she pulled out of a heavy session of kissing with Ollie. “Told you this was better than a housewarming party.”
They were on the couch of Ollie’s new apartment; his first place on his own after moving out of his parent’s apartment.
He leaned in and kissed her neck, hands roaming up her rib cage. “You were right.” he said breathlessly. “And you know… there’s enough room here. Plenty for two people…”
Cyn laughed breathily as his lips moved to the hollow of her neck. “I’m all for moving fast, Ollie, but not ‘moving in fast. Maybe someday though…” She guided his hands higher and more toward her front. “But in the meantime, I think it’s time you unwrapped you housewarming present.”
“Yes ma’am.” Ollie said cheekily as his hands found the buttons of her shirt.
-Bzzzzt- ‘When you’re in trouble! you know who to run and find! When you’re in peril! You know who it is you seeeek!’.
“Oh no you don’t.” Cyn groaned, turning her head to glare at her palmtop, lying unfortunately unforgotten on the coffee table.
Ollie’s hand cupped her cheek. “You can ignore it this once, can’t you?”
Reluctantly, she closed her hand over his wrist and moved his hand away from her face. “Any other ring but that one? I’d consider it. But that’s… that’s the ‘Cyn I really need you’ ring.” She shook her head as he started to protest. “I told you a long time ago that no guy… however hot and chocolatey-handsome…”
She gave him a quick peck on the lips. “…get to come between me and my friends. One of them needs me and… sorry, Ollie, I’ve got to go.”
Now it was Ollie’s turn to shake his head, a gentle smile replacing the mild frustration on his dark features. “No… no I get it, Cyn. It’s something I love about you… even if it can be inconvenient sometimes. We can just christen the new place later.”
“Oh you bet.” Cyn said, giving him a second, deeper kiss. As she went to grab her palmtop, she did a double take. “Hold up: did you say you liked that about me, or that you loved that about me.”
Ollie sat back on the couch and offered a teasing smile. “Loved. Definitely.”
Cyn couldn’t help to smile back. “Well. In that case, let’s hope the apartment survives that christening.” With a salacious wink, she grabbed her purse, dropped the palmtop inside, and headed out. Her mood was lighter now– such that she wasn’t likely to utterly maul whoever or whatever caused the All Hands On Deck call.
“Great practice, guys.” Kay said, clapping her hands over her heads. Of course, given her powers, it was mostly pantomime practice for Juniper and their newest replacement drummer, JC and singing practice for Juniper, but they all needed work on their theatrics.
“Now don’t forget, the concert is Saturday night at Mary Wash—anyone who doesn’t have a ride can ride with me and my brand new minibus.”
Lisa shook her head. “Your parents promise you a car for not having a boyfriend until college and you pick a minibus. Unbelievable.”
“You haven’t seen my baby yet.” Kay grinned. “This isn’t just a minibus. It’s more like a tiny RV or… well a miniature tour bus. I’ve got a couch in back, a mini-fridge for snacks—even a TV. I’m actually thinking of saving on dorm housing next year and just parking if off campus.”
“You can’t live in your car.” JC. “At least not yet. It’s backwards for the Standard Rock star trajectory. It goes: Obscurity, Discovery, Fame, Drugs, Egotism, Scandal, and only then do you hit ‘Living in Your Car’. Either that, or you start out living in your car. Too late for that, what with three albums online so far.”
Kay sniffed. “It would be living in an awesome car with an extra fifteen-K on my bank account for the year that I can spend on getting us some actual studio recordings.”
At this, Juniper blinked owlishly. “Why didn’t you say we needed money? Couldn’t we ask Ms. Brant for a loan? Or Warrick—I’m sure he can loan us the money. Have you seen his site? Some of those armors cost thousands of dollars.”
“Recycling pays off.” JC agreed.
But Kay just shook her head. “We don’t actually need the money or the studio, Jun. With my powers, all our recordings are studio quality anyway. It’s just something I want to do eventually. All great bands have studio albums.” She ran her hand trough her hair—currently blue with white ‘frost’ like a blueberry.
“But anyway, I’ve got class early in the morning and I know some of you do too, so let’s call it a wrap.”
Even as the words left her mouth, Lisa and Juniper’s palmtops both started playing ominous-sounding ringtones.
“…Or superheroes. That works too.”
“Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t know that anyone not part of the team would be here at this time.” Ephemeral said by way of explanation upon barging in on New York’s own Whitecoat as the other man emerged from the hall leading to the LSI HQ’s rather spartan cafeteria.
“No worries, I’m just here on a consultation.” replied the Whitecoat. “Though I figure I might hang around the HQ in case you all need some extra help out there. I hear these Adriel are bad dudes.”
Ephemeral nodded and decided to fall into step with his friend’s old mentor. “Religious fanatics. We’ve dealt with their affiliate group once before while Chaos and Darkness have encountered the core group once as well. To be honest, from what I know of them, I am not certain they merit an ‘All Hands On Deck’ call. Two of ours defeated four of theirs previously.”
“Hmmm.” Whitecoat twirled the power bar he’d grabbed from the cafeteria between his fingers as he considered this. “Any idea what may have changed?”
“Several that I might guess at; none that I would stake any wager to.” Ephemeral admitted. That this would be a foreign mission was a good reason, but from what he could tell, they learned the Adriel’s destination after the call had gone out. The dragon Armigal’s prophecy/warning was another. But in the end, Ephemeral feared that Chaos wanted everyone in because he couldn’t trust his own objectivity when dealing with the Adriel, who personally offended his religious sensibilities.
Whitecoat, still trying to suss things out, merely nodded again. “So. Do you really think this new island is Avalon? King Arthur, Round Table? All that? I mean, you do have a ‘Morganna’ in your rogue’s gallery.”
“To be honest, I gave up on all skepticism at some point between discovering that demons from another plane walk the world and when an orangutan knight errant who rides a rhinoceros became a trusted ally. While we have reason to believe Morganna is merely inspired by the Arthurian Legend, I cannot discount the possibility that some or all of it is true.”
Ephemeral shrugged. “In any event, what matters now is that the Adriel believe there is something on that island—which will no doubt be attracting many innocent people they may hurt.”
“Good answer.” said Whitecoat. “You’d bee mortified to hear how many people in our line of work still go ‘but that’s impossible’ then things go all wizard-shaped. Part and parcel with the thing where they can’t bring themselves to call us ‘superheroes’, I guess.”
The heavy tromp of metal books on the HQ’s tiled floors alerted the two men to Alloy’s approach before he appeared around the next corner. The armored hero stopped short when he got a look at them. “Kar… Eph… Oh, whoa. ‘Coat? What are you doing here?”
“Internet in my apartment’s out, so I decided to use the HQ’s to update my Vengeance Unlimited character.” the older hero deadpanned.
Whitecoat sighed dramatically. “Never mind. Actually, I don’t think I’m supposed to go blabbing about this, so I’m just going to say I was consulting and you should go catch up with Codex and your girlfriend down in the med bay.”
Alloy cocked his head in confusion. The two metal tentacles emerging from beneath the armor over his upper arms, Isp and Osp, coiled closely around him, trying to comfort him despite not really understanding how. “Med bay? Why are they there? I-is something wrong? Are we at All Hands because there’s already been a fight? Who’s hurt.”
“Whoa. Hold your horses, kid.” Whitecoat held up his hand. It was less the request and more the return to calling him ‘kid’ that got Warrick’s attention and paused him in mid-panic. “No one’s hurt, and if my consulting work is worth bringing me in, No one is in any danger either. Just… you probably need to go talk to her is all, okay?”
Even with the visor of his helm firmly closed, Alloy managed to look perplexed. “Well yeah… I was actually up here looking for her. All Hands and all meant she was going to be here. Yeah, I should head down to the med bay then. Um… are you coming with us, ‘Coat?”
“You all seem to have it in hand.” Whitecoat waved the matter away flippantly. “I’ll just crash in the ops center and watch you guys hand the Church Militant their asses.”
“I’ll make it a good show then.” Alloy gave a quick thumbs-up before heading off to the med bay.
Once he was gone, Ephemeral gave Whitecoat a sidelong look. “If I might ask… what is it you were consulting about?”
Whitecoat gave him an enigmatic look right back. “Something only I’m intimately familiar with. And something our boy there’s been in the dark about for too long. God help the kid though, I hope he doesn’t react to this in a ‘high school’ sort of way.”
“Wow, I really like the new look.” Vamanos said, taking a seat in the HQ’s war room next to Hope. “The only problem is… well Facsimile is always saying purple is a villain color.”
Purple was really more of a highlight in the mostly red and white costume that was third in Hope’s increasingly long line of costumes. At its base, it was a white ballistic cloth bodysuit with dark purple piping at the seams. Around her waist, she wore a brown leather utility belt with metal compartments painted the same purple as the piping. Over the suit, she wore a crimson padded jacket with matching hiking boots and armored leather gloves. The suit came with a cowl that hid her hair and she finished securing her identity with a domino mask the same color as the jacket. Last but not least, she carried a white leather messenger bag holding a more extensive emergency medical aid kit than the others carried on their belts. She was equipped with every man-portable piece of life-saving equipment that could physically fit into a messenger bag.
“Facsimile talks to Alloy too much, who watches too much everything.” hope pointed out. “But thanks. It took forever to get it just right. I think it says ‘World War II field medic but with powers’.”
“It totally says that.” Vamanos nodded vigorously. Then she turned pensive. “Um… hope? Do you think you can tell me about these Adriel guys? I don’t remember ever reading anything about them on Prelate Watch. None of them except Richter, of course—he is the guy that shot the Mayfield Mauler, right?”
“More like the person the Mauler was infecting.” said Hope. “And I know about as much as you. They fought Chaos and Darkness over some holy relic armor of invincibility or something like that and all of them ended up in jail.”
She chuckled briefly. “That might be why they’re going to England: no prelates.”
Vamanos blinked owlishly. “You think there are no prelates in the UK?”
Hope fidgeted with her bag, still unused to its weight. “You mean there are?”
“Well, they weren’t officially prelates until last year sometime. Before that, they were agents in the intelligence services, soldiers, guards—that kind of thing. Now they’re the Guardians of the Realm. You never heard of them?”
“I don’t follow prelate stuff.” said Hope. “But if that’s the case, why aren’t we calling them, telling them about the Adriel and letting them handle things? It’s their country.”
“That’s… actually a good question.”
“Laurel should be doing this part.” Darkness said as she waited for the call to connect. “I’m no diplomat. And frankly, General Pratt was right: it’s a long shot that we’ll even get permission to operate over there anyway, emergency or no, Adriel or no.”
Chaos sat in the seat next to her in the communications room. He couldn’t keep still, folding and unfolding his hands and tapping his foot on the floor. “We have to try, and it’ll go better for us if we at least ask before going in. Technically, we might even be able to question if Avalon is their territory anyway.”
“Unlikely.” The image of a man had appeared on the screen while he was speaking. He was of average build with thinning hair and a thick, dark mustache. The earliness of the hour on the other side of the Atlantic was evident in the slump of his shoulders and the growl in his voice. “This new island is well within our waters.”
Straightening her back, Darkness did her best to salvage the bad first impression. “I’m sorry about that, Minister Hallsey. We were just discussing alternative avenues to dealing with this situation.”
“Junior Minister, actually.” Hallsey said dryly. “And I would appreciate it if you remove any attempts at violating our sovereignty from your list of alternatives.”
“It’s really more of a jurisdictional pursuit.” Chaos pointed out.
The junior minister raised a hand. “Semantics will have us here until even later. Let us get to business, shall we? The Foreign Office has been apprised of the situation. Normally, we would politely inform you that we can and will handle matters on out own, but as you are well aware, we have more pressing concerns. Namely, tsunami evacuations in areas we never expected to need them.
“As you can imagine, then being informed the super-powered American religious fanatics are about to invade an island of ours that did not exist two hours ago is a complication we cannot afford. My principal has instructed me to allow you entry into the country, but to keep you on a tight leash. Therefore, there will be caveats.”
“Caveats?” Chaos asked, “With all due respect, sir, you have no idea what could be at stake.”
“With all due respect.” The words hissed out of Hallsey’s mouth, “You are not the only nation in the world has dealt with… anomalies… since what we have been calling the Green Flash Event. In fact, since your little escapade with the dragon, we, along with the United States and select other nations have been sharing information—comparing notes as it were. We have some very go guesses as to what it is that just appeared in the Celtic Sea.”
Darkness reached out and closed her gloved hand over Chaos’s upper arm to calm him. “We meant no disrespected, sir. We just don’t often work with people who have awareness of that… Magical World. If you’ll tell us the caveats you have in mind, we can see if some arrangements can be made.”
“Hmph.” replied Hallsey. “You will land at Birmingham Airport in Solihull. There, you will rendezvous with your minder: a member of our own powered forces, a man we’ve codenamed Grand Dodger. Once he checks you out, he will then accompany you to the island. If at any point he says the excursion is over, you will leave without protest. Are we clear on this?”
“Perfectly.” said Darkness. “Thank you for your cooperation.”
“Believe me, Miss, none if it was my own.” With that, the connection was broken.
Chaos frowned at the screen. “That seemed too easy.”
“Like they were actually hoping someone besides their own people would set foot on the island first?” Darkness asked.
“Exactly. Makes me wonder what they know that they didn’t ‘compare’ with the rest of the class.” Chaos said, then rose. “I guess we’ll find out soon enough. Let’s get everyone on the jet and informed of this new little wrinkle in the plan…”
To Be Continued…