- 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 tap of her gauntlet’s on-board palmtop’s screen brought up a wire-frame schematic of Tink’s body with a green glow to indicate sites of heightened nanite activity. Alongside the schematic was a scrolling readout of the nanite colony’s make-up and diagnostics.
“This… is just a tiny bit morbid.” She remarked. Her cowl was off as she sat on one of the clinic beds, though she was otherwise in full costume.
“But necessary if we’re going to start keeping a better eye on your stowaways.” Laurel also had her helmet off and was locking down the medical records relating to Tink’s check-up. “If this is how they act up, we need to know everything we can about them. And since The Whitecoat is only familiar with the Type VII nanites, not Metal X’s type VIII, to this new hybrid colony, proper study is going to be key.”
Tink switched the screen over to default. “Think it’s time I tell my parents?”
“I think it’s time you tell everyone. This was a fluke, but let’s be honest: Earth experiences a major solar flare every few years, and that’s not even taking into account the possibility of us coming up against someone with magnetic powers. The team needs to know so they can look out for you.
As if he’d been waiting for that moment, Alloy stuck his head in, hand over his eyes, and knocked. “Um… everyone decent in here? Med bay and all…”
“Some more than others.” Laurel said quietly, then turned to the young man. “We’re all done in here, Warrick. Come on in.”
The metal helm covering his head split down the center and melted into his gorget and pauldrons as Warrick stepped into the room. His eyes still darted to everything but the two women, though this case of nerves had nothing to do with the possibility of nudity.
“Uh… ‘Coat said maybe I should come down here.”
Laurel rolled her eyes. “And here I expected him to keep things confidential.”
Instead of being upset, Tink only shook her head and smiled softly. “It’s a mentor thing, I’m sure.”
“He didn’t say anything more than that.” Warrick quickly made his way over to the table Tink occupied. “Only that you were down here, that you weren’t in danger… and that you needed his consultation? Not to bust his secret ID, but is Whitecoat a doctor?”
“His name would make more sense then, admittedly.” Laurel smiled, then went to pick up her helmet from a rolling medicine cabinet. “I’m going to give you two some time alone. Just remember, we gate over to the Karasu no Yūrei in ten minutes.”
Taking note of her hasty departure, Warrick’s eyes narrowed, “…give us some time..” his eyes widened and he reached out and armored hand to take Tink by the shoulder. “Tink… are you pregnant? I-it’s okay if you are. Of course it’s okay, It’s great—amazing even. I just didn’t think… I mean we’re careful and we’re both pretty young but—“
Mercifully, Tink covered his mouth with her hand with a nervous laugh. “Relax, I’m not pregnant. Believe me, if that were the case, the All Hands On Deck would have involved my father scrambling some of his old war buddies for a shotgun wedding.”
“Bff…” Warrick protested around the silencing hand.
She took her hand away and brought it down to cover the one she had on his arm. “Look, this is going to really hard to explain or justify. Especially keeping it secret. ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time’ doesn’t really seem to cut it…”
Warrick resisted shivering at the tone of her voice. It said nothing good: just guilt, fear, worry and a lot of nerves. “Tink…” He said softly and put his other hand on the opposite arm. “Whatever it is, I promise to hear you out, okay? Whatever it is, I will not flip out, even if you say that you’re the one that told tome about the beach house… it’s not that, is it?”
“What?” She asked, the moment broken. “No!”
“Oh thank god.”
“You thought it could have been me?”
“Tink, they have all kinds of ways. Maybe some dude that alters minds, or a lady that turns incorporeal like a Puppet Master from Heroes and Adventurers and then she steps inside you and takes over your body—as far as I’m concerned, anything can happen. Hell, the mole could be me.”
He looked deeply into her eyes. “…so it’s not you, right?”
Tink snorted. “Of course it’s not me… I mean as far as I know—you’re right that they might have all sorts of things we never heard of—but even if it is and I don’t know, it’s not about that. Just listen: remember back when you told me you were Alloy? When Metal X attacked?”
Visions of an alternate future ghosted before Warrick’s eyes. That didn’t sound promising in context. “Yeah…” He said cautiously.
“Well, When Metal X stabbed The Whitecoat, his spear went through ‘Coat and into me. I swear I only thought I’d been scratched back then. But… over the next couple of months, I started eating a lot more, and I had fevers without any other symptoms… it was weird.
“Then one day, I dropped my keys and they bounced under my couch… and when I went to get them, I accidentally lifted the whole couch.”
Warrick blinked at her. “Wait. So… you didn’t get sick?”
“The nanites. They didn’t make you sick? I—uh–don’t know a lot about nanotech, but I figured it would have made you…” Too late, he realized what he’d done wrong.
Tink regarded him with open confusion and backed slightly away from him. “I hadn’t gotten to the nanites yet. Warrick, how did you know that?”
He waffled a bit, then sighed. “Okay. I guess since you were going to admit something, I ought to too. Remember when there was that fortune teller at my birthday and she put me in that trance?” Tink nodded. “Yeah, well while I was under, I saw some of the future—a future.
“Part of it was that Metal X stabbed you and his nanites ended up being like this nerve disease. You have to wear this powered armor thing to keep them from killing you and… well you blamed me for what happened. I didn’t know how or when it happened, just that it happened—that’s why I was so eager to run from Metal X when he attacked us: I had to get you as far away as possible.”
“…and then I came back to help you anyway.” said Tink, looking thoughtful, Except I guess just by running, you changed things.”
Warrick did a double take at his girlfriend. “You’re taking the alternate timeline thing really well.”
“I already knew about George,” she pointed out. “But you don’t have to worry: the thing you say happened would have happened if Metal X had just stabbed me, but because The Whitecoat got between us, I got some of his nanites too.”
“Wait.” Warrick cocked his head to the side. “’Coat has nanites?”
Tink nodded. “He told us when he was here helping us earlier. He didn’t say how, but an accident left him with a colony at the base of his spine. It gives him his strength, reflexes and fast healing. Apparently, he survived it because he has a super-immune system, but I survived, because his nanites are now used to improving human bodies—and took control of Metal X’s.”
“So… you’re super-strong?”
“Not super, but I can one-hand the couch.” Tink gave him a relieved smile.
He nodded, “So what was the problem ‘Coat was helping you with, if the nanites aren’t hurting you?”
“The magnetic storm gave me something like a seizure. Actually, Laurel pointed out that this means I kind of have a weakness to strong magnetic anomalies. The others kind of need to know about.” She slid off the table and wrapped her arms around him, ignoring the cold, hard armor. “But I had to tell you first. Come on, let’s head to the jet—I think we know what we’re going to be talking about on the flight. And I really want to hear about future-me.”
Warrick returned the embrace. “I guess there’s not a lot to worry about now, so sure. I mean, the timeline is way different now. The Union of Heroes is LSI, you got powers instead of sick, and I’m not even sure the Guardians of the Realm even exist.”
It took him a moment to realize that Tink had stopped moving. “What?”
“Did you say Guardians of the Realm?”
“Uh… yeah? Why?”
“Because Laurel got a call from Ian and Alexis earlier—we’re going to be picking up a member of theirs in England before heading to the island.”
3 hours later
“Evacuations along the southwestern coast have been aided not only by the military but also super-humans who appear to be civilians but whom are working in concert with national and local forces. Who these mystery lades and gentlemen are remains to be revealed, as authorities have responded to all inquiries with no comment.”
On the screen, a fifteen-foot tall woman, glowing with a purple-red nimbus of light easily erected concrete slabs into a ditch dug along a shoreline by military engineers to create a flood wall. This image was then replaced by another image, this time of a man in a red and blue body suit flying out of a three-story building, carrying an old man in his arms. Yet another image came after, showing a large, pink… something on a bus full of happy children.
“The day is coming, is it not?”
The man known as Grand Dodger looked up from his palmtop and then hastily straightened up to give a proper salute. “Silence, sir I didn’t know you would be here to see me off.” He was in his mid-thirties with dark, neat hair and spectacles. His costume, such as it was, consisted of soft, black boots, loose black pants, a white cotton shirt under a black knit vest, and a long, black and white speckled great coat that concealed the pair of kali sticks strapped at his hips.
Hugo Lansdale, also known in some circles as Absolute Silence, waved away the salute. He was tall, in his early sixties or late fifties with a full head of white hair, wearing a three-piece gray suit, dress shoes, and held a white domino mask in one hand. “Officially, I am not here at all, Grant. I am in no way affiliated with Queen Charlotte’s service any longer, you see? However, I do occasionally hear things and have opinions.”
Grand Dodger nodded thoughtfully. “And what opinions do you have on this? Magnetic storms, earthquakes, an island rising from the sea. Sounds a bit like the End of Days, doesn’t it?”
Lansdale laughed, a thin laugh, but boisterous in its own way. “Sounds like, but I doubt it is. Times are changing though. The other Guardians making their television debut, you working with some of the Americans’ ‘prelates’. My thought is that you can learn a few things from them. We all could.”
“Pray tell what that would be? They’ve made a spectacle of themselves right enough.”
The older man shook his head. “In case you haven’t noticed, Dodger, the world has been making a spectacle of itself. Unless you believe the Americans faked that dragon, or that tower that popped out of the ground at that college—or our own Milly’s ability to become a giantess with a rhyming phrase.
“What I am saying is this: maybe it’s time for a bit of spectacle. People are getting frightened and they don’t know that anyone will be able to help if, say, that dragon appeared here instead of across the pond.”
Grand Dodger frowned. “You’re suggesting we go public?”
“Not with the entire department, mind.” said Lansdale, “But the Guardians at least. After today, they will be public anyway. We might as well take advantage of both the good will and the chance to learn from those who have gone before.”
He gestured out of the airport windows where a black jet was taxiing to a stop on the tarmac. “For Queen and Country, Grand Dodger.”
The other man nodded. “For Queen and Country, Absolute Silence.”
A ten-year veteran of the clandestine Ministry of Superhuman Activity, Grant Farber-Williams Jr still found himself at a loss as to what to expect as he approached the impossibly sleek, black aircraft belonging to The Descendants.
Where his group preferred to remain out of the public eye and only a few donned ‘traditional’ super-heroic garb, the Descendants and in fact, most of the American super-heroic set—which they called ‘prelates’ for some convoluted reason—were massively, almost gleefully public. They made speeches and special appearances. The newspaper in their home town had a dedicated column and reporter for them. There were toys and fancy dress costumes featuring them.
As he rounded the corner of the craft, making for the lowered cargo ramp, he half-expected to hear loud rap or heavy metal booming out of it along with the sounds of drunken cavorting. It was an ugly stereotype of Americans, he supposed (and he would admit, more described some of his fellows in their private lives better), but considering how… overt… these people were, he expected them to be behaving like celebrities.
It was a surprise, then, to find what looked like a formal welcoming committee standing at the top of the ramp. From the dossiers provided to him, he recognized Codex, Chaos and Darkness.
“Welcome to the Karasu no Yūrei, Grand Dodger.” Codex came down to meet him halfway up the ramp. Despite the motorcyclist’s helmet she wore, every words was perfectly audible. She extended a hand, which he shook. “I’m Codex and these are Chaos and Darkness.”
She led him up the ramp where he shook hands with the rest of the senior members of the team in turn. “Pleased to meet you both.” said Grand Dodger. “As you might well know, I’m on loan to the Foreign Office to be on loan to you for the duration. I understand that might seem like babysitting, but whatever is going on on that island is our responsibility and we can’t well have outsiders cleaning up our messes for us.”
“The Adriel are looking to be everyone’s mess.” said Chaos. “Did anyone brief you on them?”
Grand Dodger nodded. “The information was spotty at best, but we’ve also had a few run-ins with disciples of their leader; a man named Tang. That group called themselves Sineaters and killed three men shortly after they were recovered after disappearing on a camping trip. I would regard them as dangerous, especially given the… exotic nature of their weaponry.”
Darkness looked to Chaos and they nodded to one another. Before Grand Dodger could consider what that was all about, Chaos was speaking again.
“We were led to believe that your end was aware of… well the nature of these exotic weapons.”
Strong discipline kept his face neutral. “I wasn’t led to believe that you were aware at all.”
Now Darkness joined in. “We are. The Magical World has crossed our paths multiple times As most people have already guessed, the dragon in Georgia was not a lab experiment or experimental aircraft.”
Grand Dodger nodded slowly, then as if the subject of magic meant little to him, said, “Speaking of aircraft, I would like to think I know mine well—but I’ve never seen this make before.”
“You wouldn’t.” Codex said, her voice still friendly, “It was custom built. Now as to the subject of magic, we have reason to believe that it’s at the center of the magnetic storms, as well as the earthquakes.”
“And the Adriel are hunting for something big and magical on Avalon.” Chaos added.
Grand Dodge frowned. “Don’t tell me you believe that nonsense as well. I thought the clerks at the Foreign Office had gone daft suggesting that.”
“We have reason to believe it isn’t nearly as ‘daft’ as it seems.” said Codex. “If you’ll follow me up to the passenger cabin, we can get airborne and begin our briefing.
To Be Continued…