- 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)
All That Glitters (Part 2)
Laurel groaned and set back from her console.
“Not good news?” Ian asked. Alexis was off to her therapy session with Patricia Masters, leaving him to pick up the slack playing Laurel’s lab assistant.
Getting up, Laurel started to pace. “I’ve run it through a mass spectrometer, used conventional chemical analysis, military-grade scans… I even sent Lisa a sample to see if there was magic involved, but there’s nothing. The glitter found at the scene is just plastic, titanium dioxide and normal dye. It has nothing to do with the paralysis.”
“Then what did?” Ian asked, getting out of her way.
“Brick wall.” She shook her head and moved over to check her notes on a separate computer. “I got a hold of the medical records of the victims and there’s nothing chemical in their blood and only minimal and inconsistent anomalies in their CAT scans. Nothing that points to any sort of drugs.”
Ian found an empty space on a work bench and leaned there. “So what’s left?”
Not looking up from her notes, Laurel said, “Until I can confirm something else, I can never rule out descendant powers. We could be looking at an effect like Melissa’s where the biochemistry is altered, but regains equilibrium over time.”
“Well,” Ian started, folding his arms in thought, “we know descendant powers run in families—at least in a fashion. With so many descendants moving here to Mayfield, maybe Melissa has family around here—newly arrived or not. That, or the descendant of someone from the same program that her powers came from.”
A sigh escaped Laurel. “That will be very hard to run down, sadly. Melissa’s powers aren’t the result of any domestic ‘super soldier’ attempt. Her originating ancestor was a POW in a Nazi camp in France, and at least three of the scientists there ended up escaping justice to South America. I’ll do a genealogy check on Melissa to see if she’s related as far back as World War II to anyone living in Mayfield, but I don’t hold out a lot of hope for that.”
“Any other leads to go on in the meantime?”
Laurel set her tablet down and turned to face him. “Just one: of the actual clothing stolen, it was only stolen in three dress sizes. That slightly narrows the pool of suspects and tells me there are at least three.”
To this, Ian raised an eyebrow. “I only ask this because I’ve been getting an earful about Alexis’s wedding dress, but wouldn’t a high end place like the ones that got robbed normally tailor their clothes to you when you buy them? Maybe our thieves took their new threads to an independent tailor to have them fitted?”
As the idea sank in for her, a smile replaced the scowl Laurel had been sporting. “And they call me a genius. Ian, you’re beautiful!”
“I do try.”
Rushing to her computer chair, Laurel all but threw herself into it and started typing. “I’ll start by locating all the tailors in the city, then expand out to other fashion enthusiasts that make their own clothes—they often offer their services online on forums and listing sites…”
Ian grinned in satisfaction. “My work here is done. If you don’t need me for anything else, I’m heading over to the LSI HQ. I’ve got some things to talk to Issac about that I don’t want Alexis hearing about—or hearing from you.” He laughed at the last part.
“Bachelor party?” Laurel asked, not turning around.
She grinned like a Cheshire cat even though he couldn’t see it. “Tell Issac he’s going to have to work pretty hard to make your party half as wild as Alexis’s bachelorette.”
Swiveling around, Laurel shook her head at him. “Come on, Ian: a party I’m planning that’s going to have all of Alexis’s sisters, most of the Institute’s female faculty, plus Cyn in attendance? I’m going to have to make it really damn exciting if only to keep Cyn or Kylie from making it worse.”
“Somewhere a male stripper is crying and he doesn’t know why.” Ian chuckled and moved toward the door.
“Oh, I’m sure Count Pecula, Doctor Hugenstein and The (Very) Big, Bad Wolf have seen much, much worse.”
Ian almost choked on the laugh that brought on. “A Halloween theme? Seriously?”
“Your September 17th wedding date is just a flimsy enough excuse. The stores will all have Halloween stuff in stores so…” Laurel tapped her index fingers together, feigning ignorance. “Either that, or I might have already met Count Pecula via Descendants Rights Worldwide.”
Now gaping at her openly, Ian ran his fingers through his hair. “You met… he’s a descendant?”
“His wife actually. She opened a descendants-friendly adult novelty shop and wanted to get D.R.W stickers for the windows and cash registers. He and his gym buddies do themed dancing as a side gig. His wife gave out their card. It’s supporting a descendant-friendly business.”
“You meet all kinds of people in your line of work, don’t you?”
Laurel shrugged. “What? You don’t meet a lot of strippers volunteering with the nuns?”
“Shockingly no.” Then something from earlier registered with him. “Wait. You sent a sample of that stuff to Lisa? Isn’t the band out of town?”
“We’re up to about eight pounds of non-living matter with your ‘less-horse hair’ long-range teleportation spell. Now didn’t you have somewhere to get to?”
Ian nodded. “Yeah, apparently to plan a comparatively far more boring bachelor party.”
“Thank you, Newport News! You’re beautiful!” Energized by the performance and the crowd at Rico’s Brew Pub, Juniper was hardly recognizable as the shy, retiring young woman she normally was. Behind her, the rest of Snackrifice was waving their own goodbyes while she did her lead singer duties of hawking their next show. “If you liked it, don’t forget to come back tonight starting at nine!”
After a beat to remember what she’d planned earlier, she gestured beside her to Jessica. “And let’s have a special hand for Snackrifice’s new lead guitar, Jessica Kowalski!” The crowd applauded loudly and Jessica turned red, giving a little bow while trying to get off stage was quickly as possible.
Taking a few more bows (because it was expected of the lead singer, according to Kay), Juniper finally made her way off stage and out to the back area behind it. Lisa, Kay and JC (playing drums for the evening) had already disappeared into the owner’s office, but Jessica was leaning against the wall outside the door, cradling her guitar.”
“You okay?” asked Juniper, mirroring here words from the first time she’d met the other young woman.
Unlike the last time, Jessica didn’t look like she was scared, but she was shaking a little. “Yeah, I guess I am. It’s just…”
“Your first time in front of such a big crowd?”
Jessica looked back toward the stage door and nodded. “There must have been a thousand people out there.”
“Only about three hundred. Maybe three-fifty. But I got the same feeling when I first started doing this. You’ve just got to remember that these people? They’re here because they want to hear us play, not because they think we’ll suck or something.”
“Thank goodness for Tink’s auto-tune thing,” said Jessica, suddenly staring intently at the floor. “I’d hate to let the rest of the band down.”
Juniper was glad that Jessica wasn’t looking at her because she imagined a giant, blinking neon sign above her head saying ‘liar’. “I’m sure you won’t,” she said quickly, hoping to get away from the subject quickly. Giving it a little thought, she decided to put her hand on Jessica’s shoulder. “I really want to thank you though. It has to be really hard for you to go up on stage in front of a lot of people like this, and it really means a lot to the group to have someone with a lead guitar up there.”
Technically it wasn’t a lie. She never said ‘playing’ the lead guitar, or ‘being heard’ playing the lead guitar. Telling Jessica should really be Kay’s job after all: Jessica was her roommate after all, and Snackrifice was her and Lisa’s band. Not that that made her feel any better about it.
She felt even worse when Jessica turned a bright smile to her. “No, thank you. You guys have been so nice to me about giving me a chance and everything even though I’m not very good and need all sorts of tech assistance and stuff. It’s a really amazing experience, and I have you to thank for it.”
Then she threw her arms around Juniper (slapping her back with the guitar in the process. “Thank you so much!”
Juniper stiffened as Jessica’s chin grazed her shoulder. Not so much at the contact but from the awkward feeling that she totally didn’t deserve that much thanks or trust or even friendship.
After what felt like a very long time—the sort of extended moment an after school special might use to draw out the lesson that was meant to be learned (non-superhero secret powers are bad? Lies are wrong when it doesn’t involve your secret ID… or fake name… or partially adopted fake personas?)–Jessica said, “Oh. We’d better go meet the others in the office.
She let go, and Juniper started to relax.
Then she pecked her on the cheek and hurried into the office.
Somewhere in the back of Juniper’s head, as if to match the after school special analogy in terms of hackneyed tropes, a record scratched as her train of thought came to a screeching halt. Had Jessica just… Did she…
Juniper blushed. She definitely didn’t deserve that.
Well that was going to make coming clean to Jessica and somehow remaining her friend a lot more difficult.
The doorbell to apartment 3146 in the St Ann Apartment Towers rang a second time.
After some muffled words on the other side of it, the door opened. “I’m sorry Mrs. Harris, but—” The woman of the house paused, her eyes widening as she took on who was standing there. Instinctively, she tried to straighten the blouse—a silk designer number that was too upscale for the middle class families that inhabited the St. Ann Towers.
“Father,” she said, somewhere between relieved and aghast.
The well-dressed man from the White Lotus smiled warmly at her and bowed his head in greeting. “My darling Rosaline. It has been too long. Why did you not tell me that you moved from the Archipelago Estates?”
Rosaline looked away with a deep frown. “I… didn’t want you to worry, Father. The firm lost a few important contracts and…”
Her father took a step forward and put one hand on her arm before leaning down and kissing the top of her head. “It is nothing to be ashamed of, my girl. Every great story of success must have obstacles or else that success would be hollow and turn to frivolity and waste. You are the daughter of myself and my wonderful Margaret: you will earn from this and rebuild stronger.”
“You knew everything?”
“What kind of father would I be if I did not keep tabs?” he laughed gently. “How is Harold?”
Rosaline motioned for him to come in the rest of the way and closed the door once her did. “Harry’s under a lot of stress now that we’re living only on his income. He’s at work right now, actually.”
“And my little Perdita?”
That drew a sigh from her. “Not taking it well. She was… well you were very right about the frivolity and waste: she was in love with it. Oh, and I have to warn you: she calls herself Perry now.”
He laughed more boisterously at this. “Ah, the oddities of youth. I remember one summer when I went by Stormcrow because I thought it made me sound more brooding and deep. Is she at home?” Rosaline started to call for her daughter, but her father held up a hand. “Actually, I wish to surprise her—perhaps improve her attitude about everything that’s happened. Where is her room?”
Rosaline pointed down the hall leading from the living room. “The second door on the right. I hope you have better luck than we’ve had. She’s very bitter about it.”
“We shall see.” He moved on down the hall to the indicated room and put his hand on the door. It turned easily. “No lock?”
“It just seemed a good idea not to let a moody teen seal herself in.”
“Very smart,” he said before entering.
The room was the poor victim of being the successor of a much larger room while its occupant refused to give up any of their furnishings to storage. There was a couch crammed up against a bed and partially blocking a chest of drawers, across from a dresser with an OLED television set up against the mirror.
There was a girl of fifteen stretched out on the couch, playing a game on a tablet. She had olive-colored skin like her grandfather and mother, with black hair pulled up into a lazy pony tail. “Mom, I thought I told you—Grandpa Javi!” Upon seeing who was at her door, she put the tablet down and jumped up to give the man a hug.
“That I am,” agreed Javier Rivera, returning the hug, “but I hear that you are no longer my sweet Perdita.”
“You can call me that. I just hate when everyone else calls me that. They never say it right,” said Perdita, squeezing him tighter.
Javier patted her on the back. “That is nice to hear. You do a poor old man an honor.” As he spoke, his eyes roamed the room until they landed on something of interest on the dresser. “And I have brought something for you.”
“Really?” Perdita’s eyes lit up, “What?”
Gingerly, Javier separated from her and quietly closed the door to her room. Then he strolled over to the dresser and picked up the round, plastic container of glitter he’d spied. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Perdita wince, as he knew she would.
“I bring you wisdom, sweet Perdita. Wisdom about this.” he shook the glitter for emphasis.
A denial died on Perdita’s tongue as she met his gaze. “I… how did you know?”
“I would not be a very good grandfather if I did not keep tabs, now would I?” he asked with a small, playful smile.
Perdita looked down, shamefaced. “I… you’re going to make me give the stuff back, aren’t you? I won’t say who helped me though, whatever you say—they’re my friends and I don’t want to get them in more trouble.”
Javier surprised her with a hearty laugh. “Ah, such loyalty. A very good quality to have, my granddaughter. As for giving things back… perhaps. But what I am really here for is to teach you how to do these things correctly. We cannot have you sullying the good reputation I have built up so well for this family.”