- Issue #85 – The Ballad of Bad Lass
- Issue #86 – Those Not Forgotten
- Issue #87 – Descendants… In Space
- Issue #88 – Tome of Battle
- Issue #89 – All That Glitters
- Issue #90 – Just Us Sidekicks
- Issue #91 – Rock and Roll Lifestyle
- Descendants Special #8 – The Heart of Rock ‘N Roll
- Issue #92 – Homage
- Issue #93 – Day of Recovery
- Issue #94 – The Knight, The Witch and the Gadgeteer (FaerieQuest Part 1)
- Issue #95 – Into The Woods (FaerieQuest Part 2)
Those Not Forgotten (Part 2)
“So you’re going to fly there.” Laurel said with an amused smirk. She and Alexis had just pulled into the Freeland House side lot after a day of work at the Liedecker Institute.
Alexis blushed, remembering how much of a big deal Laurel had made of her embracing her powers before. “It just feels like a good idea. Masters keeps suggesting I might start being afraid of my powers, and I am not going to let that happen. I like flying and this will be good for me.”
Shutting down the driving program, Laurel opened her door. “You know it’s an eight hour drive by car. Are you even able to stay in the air that long?”
“I’m going to take rests.” Alexis promised, getting out as well. “In fact, I’ve booked a hotel room at the halfway point in Maryland. I won’t try to push myself the whole way.”
Laurel nodded and led the way to the house. “I guessed as much. You’re going to look odd, flying with a suitcase.”
“Um…” Alexis said awkwardly, “I guess I could levitate one with my powers. I didn’t actually think of that.”
Unlocking the door, Laurel turned back and gave her friend a wink .”It’s certainly a good think you have you best friend around to think of this sort of thing for you then, huh?”
Alexis playfully made a face at her. “Oh yes, whatever would I do without my resident super-genius.”
“Step into my workshop and we’ll see if we can get you to say that once more without sarcasm.” said Laurel.
It was something of a relief to Alexis that Laurel’s ‘present’ didn’t take up one of the main work tables of Laurel’s lab. Those held her high-priority works; improvements to the old Braddock Island mental defense earpieces, new devices to go in her belt, the latest upgrades to Ian’s Chaos gauntlets, and magical devices Alexis dared not identify. She didn’t want to even imagine that something for her side trip might have taken Laurel’s brainpower away from such important work.
Instead, Laurel walked her over to a side table where a small, sleek and rigid-framed backpack and a set of infrared goggles lay.
“Now pay attention, Double-oh Seven,” Laurel said, affecting a terrible British accent. “An aerodynamically designed survival pack normally used by extreme hikers who skydive into a location and then hike back out again. I’ve modified it to have one-and-a-half times the capacity, plus quick-access pouches for snacks and a half gallon camel pouch for water. I replaced the straps with the same material as your costume’s belt, which should give you more maneuverability than the regular pack would allow… just in case.”
“Really?” Alexis asked, “You honestly think I’m going to run into trouble on my….” They looked at one another. “Yeah, good thinking.” she conceded.
Laurel sniffed her superiority and continued, redirecting her attention to the goggles. “And I finally got around to making you a custom set of IR goggles to replace your ROCIC loner. In addition to IR, you now have night vision, six additional spectra, plus a linkage to your ‘on the job’ palmtop with all the same goodies Tink gave herself: GPS pop-ups, a custom augmented reality program, and such. I pre-loaded it with the best route from here to Rhode Island for your trip.”
“You really are too good to me, Laurel.” said Alexis with a spreading grin.
“’Too good’ would have been if I took the time to fill the camel pouch and snack pockets. For that, you’re on your own.”
The door to the workshop opened. “So,” Ian’s voice said. He didn’t finish that; he had no idea what else to say at the moment.
“So.” Alexis said, turning to face him and offering him a smile. She took a deliberate breath. “You know it’s only for the weekend, right? Til Sunday. And it isn’t as if this is a mission: I’m going to talk to Dana and her parents. It’s all.”
Even as she said such, she was forced to reflect on the life she and the others had lived the past three years. Kids went to a concert? Attack by a tech genius and her robots. Valentine’s Day? Cyborg geeks. The night Ian proposed? A reality warping madman and the same tech genius. Juniper went home for Christmas? A fey-possessed robot attack.
“…Right, I’ll keep my common hand.”
Ian stepped forward and embraced her. “You know you don’t have to be in a life-or-death situation to warrant a call.”
“No worries about that. I’ll call as soon as I reach the hotel.” promised Alexis.
Her fiance leaned in for a quick kiss. “Just enjoy your trip, sweetheart. I know this trip has a purpose, but since you’ll be making stops, try and get out, enjoy the local sights, eat out and the like.” He made an expansive gesture, “Unwind.”
Alexis rolled her eyes, amused. “I’ll see what I can do.” She gestured to the backpack. “Care to help me pack?”
Behind them, Laurel chuckled. “Maybe we can put come brandy in the camel pouch to make sure some unwinding happens. Think Maryland’s state police write tickets for flying under the influence?”
It was around six in the afternoon when all of Alexis’s packing had been done and her goodbyes said. After using her D-icon to switch her clothes out with her costume, and putting on her new backpack and headset, she took off from Freeland House’s back deck, headed north.
Precisely one minute later, a fox emerged from the low hedges planted at the foot of the deck and glanced north. It twitched its nose and coughed once before nimbly making its way around the side of the house toward the garden.
As one might imagine, this was no ordinary fox. Anyone looking closely would notice that it was more like a creature that was fox-shaped than a natural creature. For one, its legs tapered to cartoonishly small feet. For another, careful observation revealed that its tail was actually three tails that stayed very close together except for the tufts at the ends of its tail. Its face, rather than red-orange with black ears and a white throat, featured a number of triangular, white spots along its lips, making it seem as if the creature was grinning at all times.
Navigating its way into the garden, it found a place among the planters where it couldn’t be seen from the first floor windows, but could see the second floor windows—particularly one that had been clocked off, and sat down to stare at said blocked window.
Its tails flicked as it sat, and its eyes glowed a dim amber while it licked its chops.
On the other side of that window sat Laurel’s workshop, specifically the dedicated server that administered all of the Descendants comms, which Laurel had dubbed Miss Sarah. No one noticed when all of the comm frequencies were switched to a new channel. All, except one.
Satisfied, the fox got up, stretched, then ran off down to the shore of Lake Standish. There, it slipped into the woods that formed the edge of the Freeland House grounds, following along the water’s edge until it was satisfied that none of the neighbors could see.
Coughing again, its whole body shivered and then expanded, unfolding smoothly into a heavily cloaked female figure wearing a hood and a mask like a grinning fox. She shook one hand free of her sleeves, revealing skin the same color as the fox’s fur with a white palm, and held it out, palm-down over the water.
Vapor began boiling out from beneath the surface of the lake, forming a pale, golden cloud. Minutes ticked by, and the loud grew thicker and wider, and took on a solidity that made it resemble cotton candy. Once it did, the cloaked woman stood and stepped onto the cloud. The material only gave as much as a feather mattress under her tread.
She turned toward the north, then became a fox again, melting and collapsing into the shape as easily as she had expanded out of it. Splaying all three tails, the fox lifted her chin and the cloud lifted off from the lake’s edged and took off for the north, rising steadily.
Many miles ahead and completely unaware of her vulpine pursuer, Alexis flew on toward her destination. The shortest distance might have been a straight line (or a curved one, seeing as earth was round), but a straight line would have taken her along highways, over population centers, and other places where people had camera and internet connections.
Years of being Darkness had ground away Alexis’s shyness, at least when she was in costume, but if someone strung together sightings of her over time, they might have been able to figure out where she was going. In the interest of the Rice-Keely family’s privacy, she needed to be more discreet than was standard operating procedure for a superhero.
Therefore, she skirted civilization, flying over forests and farms. To avoid radar, she stayed low. None of that would have been possible without her new headset. She made a note to do something nice for Laurel, maybe take over some of her paperwork at the Institute.
Courtesy to a family forced into hiding was all well and good, but the route itself was profoundly boring. Not far into her journey, Alexis found her mind wandering.
When she told Ian that she was concerned about all the loose ends, she hadn’t been exaggerating. While she knew that Laurel was doing everything within her considerable mental and financial resources to deal with the increasing pile of things on the group’s metaphorical plate, but that didn’t make her feel any better about the actual issues.
It would have helped if she knew how to run the algorithmic searches or systematic raids that Laurel and the ROCIC were using to monitor for Tome activity or other known villains. Or if she was able to take a more active hand in seeing that the new containment procedures at Braddock Island were up to snuff.
But she couldn’t. Those things were out of her hands.
The kids weren’t though. In the end, dozens, perhaps hundreds of children were the ultimate victims of Tome and its machinations. Whether they were left without somewhere to learn to control their powers, or were now left exposed to the predations of every bent lab and fake ‘school’… or were still out there somewhere, locked in stasis and undergoing horrific procedures, all their woes could be traced back to Tome.
And she’d spent several ears of her life unwittingly feeding them to the beast.
The Institute fixed some of the damage, helped some of the kids, but there were always others still left out in the cold—or worse. The memory of seeing Dana Rice-Kelly back at the Tome fearie containment installation, sealed in a stasis cell, run through with wires and hoses that transformed her into the core of the facility’s generator, stuck with her. Sometimes it replaced murdering everyone she loved in her nightmares.
For that reason, she picked that to be her proverbial hill to die on. Dana wasn’t going to be a dangling thread. She wasn’t going to be forgotten and lost in the shuffle of the eighty-some odd issues that surrounded the residents of Freeland House, their friends and allies.
A frantic beeping from her headset pulled her out of her thoughts just before the augmented reality system threw up a curtain of red about ten miles distant and labeled it ‘Washington, DC restricted airspace’. While a human-sized flier might go unnoticed as a radar glitch or a flock of birds, but flying using her black heat generated a lot of heat that could be picked up by other instruments.
Not wanting to be harried by anti-air drones, Alexis veered west. Once firmly out of danger of encounters with DC’s anti-air weaponry, she turned her thoughts back toward Dana.
Everyone that knew both of them constantly suggested that Cyn was a mirror image of Alexis in her high school years; bullheaded, impulsive, and defensive. As far as she was concerned, they were being nice. Dana Rice-Kelly was more like high school Alexis.
‘Rebellious’ was the word the people used to describe the attitude. If there was authority, they fought against it as a manner of principle. If there were rules, they were broken, no matter how foolhardy the attempt. They did what they wanted and to hell with whoever told them otherwise.
The difference was, Dana hadn’t had an Ian or a Laurel in her life. Oh, she had friends, but they were so like-minded that there was no mitigating factors to it. Laurel had subtly redirected Alexis’s energies into things that were crazy and fun but not likely to result in her expulsion, early pregnancy, or death. Ian had been good at pointing out the bad ideas that managed to slip by Laurel.
Their similarities hadn’t been lost on Alexis and she tried to take the girl under her wing once she got her in her Powers class. Admittedly, it hadn’t been working. It wasn’t unexpected that the girl who hated authority would be wary of a teacher trying to play the concerned and caring educator or cool big sister. Alexis had still been trying approaches when the girl went missing, only to resurface again inside a stasis cell.
That made her the first; the original ‘loose end’. Even before her discovery of Tome or the formation of the Descendants, failing to get through to Dana had been her first piece of unfinished business Alexis ever had.
She had no idea how the Rice-Kellys were going to react to her visit. Honestly, she didn’t even have any idea what she was going to say or do. All she knew was that she had to do something.