- 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)
Descendants… In Space (Part 2)
The sky was starting to lighten while the van was waved through the private entrance outside Norfolk International Aerospaceport and into the reserved parking area. A burgundy sedan was waiting for them, and as soon as they parked, and started to pile out of the van, a man got out of the driver’s side.
He was like a small mountain made of muscle wrapped in a very nice cream-colored suit that contrasted nicely with his dark skin. Dark brown hair with highlights of auburn was arranged into braids that spilled over his shoulders down to mid-ribs. Even at night, he was wearing shades—the kind that doubled as mobile computer screens.
“Ms. Brant, I presume.” he said, his voice somehow smooth and raspy and low all at once, creating an effect that was pleasing to the ear but seemed like it shouldn’t be. Stepping forward, he offered his hand, and when she returned the gesture, he lifted it to brush his lips across the back of it, just barely tickling her with his finely manicured beard. “A pleasure to meet you at last. Silas Beauchamp, Miss Strong’s personal pilot.”
Laurel gave him a smile of measured warmth and a nod. “Pleased to meet you as well, Mr. Beauchamp. And these are…” She started to gesture to the others as they climbed out of the van.
“Oh, they need no introduction.”said Beauchamp with a broad smile. “Members of the legendary Descendants.” He went to the women first, taking the hand of each in turn and brushing his lips to their hands of gloves in the same fashion he had with Laurel’s. “The versatile Facsimile. The enigmatic Occult. The incredibly skilled Codex. And the angelic Hope. Enchanted, my dears.”
After the female members of the team finished returning his greeting, he turned to Ephemeral, grasping his hand in a firm shake. “Ephemeral: the man shourded in mystery on the team. It is a treat to be able to see you in person.” He then went to Chaos, who had been standing at the rear of the group. “And Chaos. You sir, are my daughter’s favorite.”
He paused, regarding the other man. Under the lights of the lot, the others could see now what he was looking at. “My, another change of costume sir?” Indeed, Chaos was wearing a chunkier set of gauntlets than he’d been using the past few months as well as a thicker cowl with a cloth that covered his mouth and nose.
“Upgrades.” Chaos said in a terrifically hoarse voice, then cleared his throat. “Sorry, I strained my voice.” He added, miming grabing his own throat.
“Think nothing of it, sir.” Beauchamp said with a jovial air, then turned and gestured with both hands toward a side gate leading to one of the private hangars. “Now, we have a very long trip ahead, so if you will all make yourselves comfortable in the plane, we can take off. I hope no one has special dietary restrictions, as we only have the meals Ms. Strong kept on hand to eat along the way. I assure you though, the food, beverages and snacks are of the highest quality.”
He struck off toward the door, just expecting the others to follow them. Ephemeral, Chaos, Hope, Occult, and Tink took up the plastic bins Laurel had brought along and did so. Facsimile, however, caught Laurel by the arm as her adoptive mother was shouldering a duffel bag and pulling a long, plastic case from under the van’s front bench seat, and made sure they brought up the rear. Without saying a word, she widened her eyes and inclined her head toward Chaos.
For her part, Laurel shook her head and looked apologetic.
Undeterred, Facsimile nodded in the direction of Tink, who was watching Chaos’s back. With just facial expressions, she implied, she’s going to figure it out. Then she pointed explicitly ad Kareem, and he sure as hell will.
Laurel replied by pointing toward Beauchamp and making an indecisive gesture. She was keeping the real person in the Chaos costume a secret for a reason just like she put Tink in a Codex costume for and she couldn’t trust the Beauchamp was really trustworthy.
Unable to voice her complaints aloud, Facsimile fell silent and grabbed the last couple of bins, doubling her strength to do so.
By the time they got to the hangar, Beauchamp had already entered his security code for entry, revealing that the private hangar was the home of a single engine airplane painted dark red with pink stripes, bearing the painted image of a wolf wearing old timey aviator goggles and a scarf.
Beyond it, much larger, was a sleek, white space plane, its profile looking somewhat like the worlds most aerodynamic frog complete with cartoonish overbite. An automated mechanic was in the process of clamping on a fresh booster pack to the vehicle’s rear.
Happily listing off the features of the plane with the certainty of someone who kept the flight manual on their bookshelf, Beauchamp produced a palmtop and used it to call over an automated set of boarding stairs to grant them access to the boarding door.
As expected of a private space plane, Rebecca Strong’s was designed with luxury and comfort in mind. There was a forward compartment adjacent to the cockpit fitted with rows of acceleration chairs for use when the craft was boosting out of the atmosphere.
Past that, there was a carpeted room with comfortable couches and tables. There was a bar with special shelves to keep the alcohol firmly in place during boosts and re-entry, as well as a small kitchenette with a refrigerator and pantry. Every chair and table had a holographic projector built in.
The cargo hold, where they stowed the bins, was accessed via a hatch concealed in the floor of the room with the acceleration seats and featured its own locking bins and reinforced cargo webbing to keep items in place.
Despite its opulence, everything was built with a serious eye toward keeping items from flying around during boosts or zero gravity while also keeping guests comfortable. Beauchamp made sure to personally make sure everything was secured and his passengers were in their acceleration seats before heading for the cockpit.
By the time they were taxiing out of the hangar, Facsimile couldn’t hold it anymore. “Guys, we’re going into space. Space-space. Like we’re leaving Earth. I know I say this a lot, but I freaking love being a superhero! How many people our age get to do this? How many people at all get to do this!?”
“I think its still a little early to lose my mind just yet.” Occult said, clearly nervous. “We’re still on the ground right now.”
“Yes, but we still know where we’re going.” Ephemeral said, looking at the gradually accelerating landscape of the runway outside. “I agree with Facsimile: it is a bit overwhelming even after all of the other things we’ve been through.”
Hope, sitting in the acceleration chair next to Ephemeral, closed her eyes and breathed. “You all are aware that we’re going into space because someone’s hijacked a space station and the place might go haywire and kill us all, right?”
“How many things have we dealt with in the past month could we use the words ‘kill us all’ describing?” Facsimile asked, rolling her eyes, “And now how many would you say would ‘kill us all…’ in space?”
Awkward silence reigned in the cabin as the plane left the ground. Finally, Ephemeral spoke up, “We have survived everything else we’ve been involved with. And indeed, it’s highly likely that the people who have taken over the station have just as little desire to die as we have—otherwise, they have destroyed it already.”
“That’s a really good point.” Facsimile agreed, craning (and stretching) her neck to look smugly at Hope. “See?”
Hope growled her annoyance. “Whatever. I’ll admit that I never thought I’d be going into space. I wanted to be a librarian when I grew up—fewer people to talk to and lots of reasons not to talk at all.”
“Is that what you still want to do?” Tink asked. The plane started to move faster as it climbed, and the acceleration started to push them all into the heavy padding of their chairs.
With a heavy sigh, Hope looked to the ceiling of the cabin as if for a way out of the question. At length, she groaned again. “I have no idea what I want to be anymore. I think I’m really just wasting everyone’s time and money on my classes right now.”
Facsimile made a rude noise. “Now’s the time to be deciding. If we all grew up to be what we wanted to be when we grew up, I’d have to find a college that offered Miss America classes.”
“Miss America? Seriously?” Occult asked over Chaos coughing loudly.
“What?” asked Facsimile. “I didn’t wan to be president after learning in class that the one before last shot himself in the Lincoln bedroom over blowing up Brazil or whatever. And when I was a kid, I thought Miss America was like an actual office with power and money and stuff, not the whole spokesmodel thing.”
She gave them all an annoyed look. “Well what did you guys want to be?”
“Rock star.” Occult said automatically even though everyone knew as much already. “But as a back-up, I’ve been taking accounting classes. Best case scenario, I do my own money management, worst case, I have something I can do if we don’t make it.”
“I actually did consider politics. Not president perhaps,” said Ephemeral, “but my sights may have been set on Congress. Given my gifts, however, studying the astral plane seems to be the more responsible choice.”
Tink, still wearing her Codex helmet, looked over at him. “Really? I sort of thought you decided to go into that because you were genuinely interested.”
Ephemeral shrugged. “I am interested in a practical, exploratory manner, not empirical study. But until we discover someone else with similar abilities to mine, there is no one else who can study the plane as intimately as I. Even with the ability to enter the astral by other means, there are the creatures that live there to worry over. We know nothing about them, and I am the only person who can escape with a thought.”
“Still…” Facsimile said.
“Maybe Occult can find a spell for that.” Hope offered hesitantly.
Ephemeral shook his head. “No offense to Occult, but I suspect a lengthy, uphill battle before scientists will accept the use of spells.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” said Tink, “I’ve been paying attention to her spells, and they do work on repeatable principles even if they seem to be illogical on the surface. A spell performed in the same way yields the same result, so it’s something science can definitely study, I’d say.”
“See?” Facsimile said happily. “Sciene can learn magic, then use that to learn… astral… stuff. And then you can run for Congress—I know I’d vote for you over, um, whoever our Congress guy is.”
“Patrick Shaw.” Ephemeral supplied.
“Yeah, him. He sucks compared to you.” She grinned. “So…” her attention tracked back to Laurel. “We probably all know what ‘Codex’ wanted to do, but what about you, Ms. Brant? Being a teacher, being on the DRW board, and of course being our unofficial public liason… but what did you want to do when you were young” She remembered that just over five years separated her from her new mother in age, “…er?”
Laurel laughed softly despite the concerns and plans running through her head. “It’s a bit embarassing, all things considered.”
“That might be why I asked.” Facsimile smiled cheekily.
Before Laurel could reply, a tone announced the intercom had come on. Beauchamp’s voice announced, “Attention passengers, this is your pilot speaking. We are no cruising at optimal speed for atmospheric boost. Please secure any objects within the cabin, swallow any food or drink, and clear away anything that may press against your windpipe such as necklaces. “Boost acceleration lasts between forty seconds and sixty five seconds after which you are invited to enjoy the lounge. Approximate time to the Indus River: seventeen hours, forty-two minutes.”
He cleared his throat. “Boost will begin in mark three…two… one—ignition.”
The roar and the vibration hit them all despite the considerable design that had gone into keeping it at a minimum for the passengers. The G forces crushed them all into their seats and all their gear pressed itself back up against them hard enough to bruise.
Everyone braced an groaned against the seats as the windows flashed with plasma where atmospheric friction contacted the standing field generator around the plane, then faded, revealing a vast field of stars, more than any terrestrial eye had ever seen.
Laurel stared out into the bejeweled black with unrestrained awe. “This.” she said with a dreamy voice. “Exactly this. I wouldn’t change where I am and how I got here for anything in the world.”
“Sir, a message was just relayed from out people in the WSA: a space plane just got high level clearance to break atmosphere with a heading that could include this station. The plane is registered to the sys admin of the station.” The hireling this time was a woman who was busy helping reconfigure the drone launch bays.
The boss on the other line laughed. “Of course. I calculated that she would contact her old friend—that’s why the virus didn’t infect her personal systems. You see, our Ms. Strong was not-entirely friends with Laurel Brant—who has several prominent connections to the Descendants.”
The woman stopped working entirely. “Sir? Does that mean that…”
“It’s all according to plan, Dunn. The inspiration of all these so-called ‘heroes’ who spit in the face of the natural order of things, need to be made an example of. Have Hooks and Taelani go down to the emergency rescue dock with their squads; that’s where they’ll try and dock.”
“What are their orders? I doubt shooting them with the low-yield hollow points we brought is going to hurt them.”
On the other end, the boss laughed again. “We’re not gong to engage them: I just need their corpses. Tell them to wait until the docking is complete… then seal the module and blow the oxygen seals.”