- 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 3)
Alexis flew non-stop and reached the hotel at around nine-thirty. After checking in, she called Ian, talked to him for half an hour, then decided to settle in for some pay-per-view. She fell asleep before the first act of The Secret Diaries of Matahari was even over. She’d just flown longer and used more black heat than she ever had before and it made itself known; she’d barely had time to change clothes before crashing, let alone shower.
By 3am though, the temperature in the room was hovering around thirty and the air conditioner was roaring. At first, she just pulled all of her covers closer, but that didn’t do much when there was a duvet but no proper blanket and all she was wearing was a tank top and silk pajama pants.
Rising blearily, she located the room’s thermostat. It was set to seventy-three. Clearly that wasn’t representative of actual conditions. Next stop was the AC unit. Somehow the knob had been turned to max. “I must have been beyond out of it to knock into this and not remember,” she mused, going to turn it down. The knob stuck for just a second before coming off in her hand.
“You have got to be kidding me.” Alexis stomped over tot he room phone, conjuring a cloud of black heat that settled around her like a warm robe. The room phone came with an icon on the handset for the front desk, and she pushed it harder than was strictly necessary..
A voice answered almost immediately. “Front de—aaarrr—zzt.” distortion and then failure claimed the voice as the phone glitched, then the screen announced it was dialing a number located in Paris, Texas. Teeth grit, Alexis turned the phone off before a long distance call ended up on her bill.
Exchanging a fluffy, white hotel robe for her dark matter one, she made sure her palmtop and keycard were in her pocket and stomped out to go see the front desk herself. When she reached the elevators, she considered them carefully before deciding that given her luck with the hotel’s fixtures, getting in something that could fall twenty-odd stories with her inside was a poor idea, and took the stairs.
Seeing someone come out of the stairwell in the wee hours of the morning made the desk clerk jump. He was in his twenties and overweight with blonde hair and a beard the same color. Upon realizing it was a guest who emerged from the door he’d never seen anyone use, he straightened up, hopping off the stool he’d ben perched on. “Can I help you with something, ma’am?”
Alexis fought down her irritation at being ma’am’d. It normally wouldn’t have bothered her, but her ordeal with her room was getting to her. Besides,the guy was just the hired help and not responsible for anythign that was bothering her. “Yes, my air conditioner is broken—stuck on, actually.”
The desk clerk blinked owlishly at this. It was late spring, and in a rarity for Virginia, the punishing heat of summer hadn’t set in yet. Guests were weird though, so he opted not to question it. “Let me call one of our maintenance people up to look at it.”
Stifling a yawn (but only just barely), Alexis nodded. “Great. Um… how long do you think that’ll take?”
“Hmm… I really can’t say, ma’am.” The desk clerk had no idea just how powerful the woman in front of him was, or her probably would have rethought using that word again. “It depends on what’s wrong. Maybe an hour?”
She couldn’t help it; she groaned and cupped her face in her hands for a moment. After some deep breaths, she ran her hand up through her tangled hair and asked, “Okay, how about this: can you move me? Put me in another room?”
Nothing like this had every happened on his shift, so the desk clerk (whose name take identified as Don) dithered, trying to think back to his day and a half of orientation. “I’m not…”
“I will buy another room.” Alexis said quickly. Normally, she wouldn’t have even considered it, but between using her powers and having been awakened the day before by her nightmares, she was in desperate need of shuteye. Besides, the Institute was paying well and it wasn’t like she’d paid for a luxury room.
Don sent the request for the maintenance worker, then checked the available rooms. He frowned when he saw what the system returned. He was sure there wasn’t any kind of convention in town, or big event of any kind. And yet… “I’m sorry, ma’am, but we’re booked full. Unless you want the Presidential suite… that’s nine hundred dollars a night.”
At first, Alexis only stared at Don—through him. Something in the back of her head was insisting that what she’d just heard was a drowsiness-induced hallucination. “You have got to be kidding me.” she deadpanned.
“I-it’s the best I can do.” said Don. “That, or you’ll just have to wait until your air conditioner is fixed. You’re welcome to make use of our gym or office center while you wait.”
“Yeah… thanks.” Alexis said, reminding herself that Don wasn’t at fault to keep herself from yelling. “I’ll go wait in the office center. Let me know when things are fixed.”
Cursing under her breath, she went past the first floor elevators and down the hall where signage promised the conference rooms and office center were located. Briefly, she contemplated going up to the room, grabbing her sheets, and taking a nap on one of the conference tables.
Instead, she went into the office center and booted up on of the computers, immediately bringing up and instant messenger client once it was ready. Even though it was three in the morning, she was still in public, so she used text only.
EmpressAlex: u there?
InABook: Just about to shut down the workshop for the night. What are you doing up?
EmpressAlex: ac n my room went nuts. Cldnt get another.
InABook: Air conditioner or room? If it’s the latter, I can get you one.
EmpressAlex: thnx but only prez suite left $900. not going thr.
There was a long pause and Alexis was starting to drift off when a new line of text appeared.
InABook: Are you sure? I just opened their instant booking app and there are plenty of free rooms.
EmpressAlex: seriously? Do u thnk the dsk guy is messing with me?
InABook: No idea. Nothing for it but to experiment. I just booked a room in your name. I’ll send you the reservation link and you can see if you can claim it.
EmpressAlex: thnk, L. will pay u bk. Brb f this doesn’t work.
After checking her palmtop to make sure she had the reservation, Alexis logged off and headed back to the front desk. The weariness was starting to sink down to the bone now. Back in high school, and college, she lived for the late nights, preferably in a club or bar. She would have traded every minute of that to get in bed right that minute.
When she got back to the front desk, Don was talking with a woman in her fifties; well built and with a hard-worn expression. They both saw her coming an exchanged a look that made Alexis wonder what sort of conspiracy late night hotel staff could get up to.
“You room is ready.” Don said in a fakey, cheerful tone before she could say anything.
Alexis almost slumped against the desk in relief. “Great. What was the problem?”
“No problem.” The other woman said with a heavy Germanic accent. “The knob was turned up too high. I turned it down, cleaned out the console.”
That made Alexis blink. “Wait… the knob broke off in my hand.”
“Then you did a good job putting it back.” the maintenance woman said. “If only you pulled the leaves out too.”
“…” Alexis was pretty sure she hadn’t heard that right. “Excuse me? Leaves?”
“Ja. Very strange leaves. Are first, we were thinking one of the guests didn’t want to pay for the honor bar and brought their own.” the woman winked and pulled something out of the front pocket of her overalls and put it on the deck.
It was a leaf, alright. But only someone who had never seen the real thing in person before would mistake it for marijuana. It had similar superficial ‘fingers’ like a pot leaf, but they were all joined together by a lighter material in a manner that resembled a duck’s webbed foot. And the tips… the tips curled in on themselves into something less plantlike and more… well it looked like a cat’s claw. An incredibly sweet scent wafted off of it too—pungent enough to reach her three feet away.
“Huh.” was all Alexis could say. But she knew the knob had come off in her hand. And she knew that she hadn’t put it back on. She looked back at Don. “Well, I guess I need to cancel the reservation I made.”
“Oh.” said Don. “I’m sorry. Where did you book?”
Alexis observed him closely. “Here. I think your booking computer is glitched.” The surprise on the man’s face seemed genuine, which roused Alexis’s curiosity. “Actually, I won’t cancel it. I have a friend flying in and… can you just confirm I have the rom and give me a key?”
Don gave her a look of confusion, but nodded. A few keystrokes revealed that despite every other room being booked, Laurel had, in fact, managed to book a second room for Alexis Keyes. Within minutes, she had her new keycard and was about to start back to her room.
She paused right before she could turn away. Something weird was happening and it was either happening tot he hotel or to her. “Mind if I keep this?” She asked, pointing to the leaf. “My friend is a botanist and she might be able to identify it for you.”
The maintenance woman shrugged and gave her a little smile that implied she was sure that leaf was going to be smoke. “Suit yourself. Besides, ya look like you need to relax a bit.”
Opting to ignore that, Alexis took the leaf and headed back to her room. Climbing up six flights of stairs didn’t appeal to her already near-comatose mind, but neither did spending the rest of the night trapped in an elevator—or flattened at the bottom of the shaft—so she soldiered through the climb anyway.
Then she went up one more, because the room Laurel booked for her was 717.
An old familiar feeling was creeping over her. Back when staying up late was a goal, not an imposition, it wasn’t uncommon for her to fight off sleep and tiredness long enough to come out the other side of sleepiness. At a certain point in the night, the body gave up, the brain took a holiday, and an extreme giddiness took over. Laurel had dubbed it ‘stupid o’clock’ thanks to how many turly bad ideas all three of them thought were genius around that time.
Alexis chalked her curiosity up to being on the verge of stupid o’clock, and went to 717 to check it out.
No sooner had she reached the door than it swung open.
The part of her brain that really had achieved stupid o’clock spent a long moment wondering if she’d opened it with her mind and if that was a new evolution of her powers. The rest of her took a step back as she registred the woman standing there.
To call the occupant of 717 ‘attractive’ was both true and false. Thought Alexis knew far too many guys (and a few women) who would have stopped caring about other features after ‘leggy redhead’, she was able to pick out less than attractive features right off the bat. Her eyes were small and beady and looked like they were struggling to stay open—as if they were meant to be kept shut. Her features were too sharp all around. Not just pointed either: one could cut glass with her chin, nose and cheekbones. ‘Skinny’ was a poor description, the woman was healthy, but under the blue and pink floral print kimono she was wearing, she was all flat muscle. The word ‘rangy’ came to mind. And there was something altogether unsettling about the shade of black the fingernails of the hand holding her ice bucket were painted. As if it wasn’t paint at all.
And the reddish brown sash the was wearing looked like it was… wagging behind her.
Alexis squeezed her eyes closed. Now she was very much hallucinating.
But the odd thing was the she was still beautiful. Radiant. Radiant was a good way to put it. There were some people who, despite not being objectively good looking were still just so damn charismatic in a physical sense that they bypassed normal bias and landed on ‘beautiful’ regardless. The woman before her was one of them.
“Can I help you with something.” the redhead’s voice was high and chipper and in no way as tired and rundown as Alexis felt. At this point, that actually made her angry.
“You’re in my room.” she replied flatly, holding up her keycard. “I just booked this room. 717.”
Regarding her with stormy eyes—maybe blue, maybe genuinely grey—the other woman scoffed softly and shook her head. That’s not possible. I’ve been here all week and I’m supposed to be here another week. Let me see that.”
On any other day, Alexis’s reflexes, honed by years of danger… and then after she stopped teaching, being a superhero… wouldn’t have allowed it, but tonight, the redhead was able to easily snatch the keycard from her hand and examine it.
“Ah. See? You’re wrong. This says 719.”
Alexis stared hard at the woman. She’d read the damn card a dozen times on the way up. She’d read the instructions for what to do if the card didn’t work, for how to link the card to a palmtop for remote control of the locks, temperature controls and TV, and even the fine print that stated that the card had been made in Brazil. It had been a very long trip up the stairs.
Not even trying not to be rude, she snatched the card away from her. “I know what I read. Let me…” She finished that sentence with a word she’d never have used as a teacher. “How did… WHAT?!”
The redhead gave her a sympathetic look at felt sarcastic. “Honey, you looked crazy tired. Your mind probably just isn’t so sharp in this state.” She tittered a little laugh. “It’s a good thing you’re just looking for a room and not in the middle of some life or death fight, huh?”
Alexis gave her a long stare. She hated this woman. If asked why, she couldn’t explain it. Something in her marrow, some ancestral memory of snooty mean girls the likes of which she never really dealt with as a peer thanks to going to the Academy reacted to her bearing, her voice, and calling her ‘honey’ with a desire to plant her fist in the woman’s face… or arrange for her to crash into some sort of dung heap.
Rather than act on those feelings, she just turned and walked stiffly toward room 719.
For her part, the redhead left her room with a little smile on her face, headed, presumably, for the ice machine.
Still muttering words she probably shouldn’t have been, plus a few made up by a half-asleep mind, Alexis tried her keycard on room 719. The reader buzzed softly and the light flickered red. It did the same three more times before she stopped and leaned on the door, eyes squeezed shut.
It took herculean effort to open them again, and when she raised the card to slide it through again, she found herself holding the weird leaf the maintenance woman handed her. Giving it a glare, she managed to see past it to find her keycard lying on the carpeted floor at her feet.
After staring at it far too long, she bent down and picked it up.
The room number on it aid 717.
She probably should have went back to the room and confronted the redhead. She probably should have consulted the front desk. She should have contacted Laurel and used the sensors in her ‘work’ palmtop the sense her some scans of the leaf.
But it was at that moment that she instead decided enough was enough and she didn’t care how cold it was, she was going downstairs and going right the hell to bed.