Issue #9 Ladies of Ragnarok

This entry is part 10 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 1: Welcome to Freeland House

Part 2

Ian had decided that being at Freeland House simply wasn’t conducive to muddling through his dilemma concerning Alexis. Cyn’s corkboard torture was evidence enough of the importance of LSI’s activities in Mayfield. But it also served to keep the injury fresh in Alexis’s mind and made her even harder to approach.

So he had checked into the Westmoreland for a few days. As it turned out, sitting in a posh hotel room thinking about how much he wished things hadn’t ended up the way they had equally non-conducive to the process. So he took a walk.

He knew he had to apologize for lying to Alexis. For some reason, him lying to her seemed to bother her an order of magnitude more than Laurel lying to her. The trick was not to back down on the issue of Life Savers, Inc. That was just another fight waiting to happen, especially with Cyn prowling around, waiting for a chance to dive into the fray and make things worse.

Frowning, he stared down his straw into the plastic coffee cup he’d just emptied. Things were a complete mess. They should be following up on Pratt’s leads and finding out more about Project Tome’s aims. Instead, they were bickering and falling apart. At least Laurel was still on task; though she was most certainly being stressed by the undue angst in the house and her repeated failures to extend Kareem’s astral projection range.

An ambulance screamed past him and cut around a corner a few blocks away. Its presence made him realize that he’d been hearing sirens for quite a while. Looking after it, he saw a police car turn down the same street, red and blues lit. Something was definitely wrong. He broke into a sprint in the direction of the sirens.

Five blocks later, he turned the corner to see a war zone. A single city block was crawling with first responders, all trying to aid the injured and make some sense of what had just happened. A faint haze of white smoke still hung in the air, almost every pane of glass on the street level had been shattered inward, and many people were being treated for lacerations and burns.

Ian stood by the freshly strung police tape and took it all in. Occasionally, he could hear bits and pieces as panicked civilians tried to tell their story to the police. “flying machines”, “everything gone!”, “some kind of lasers… burned right through!” The plaintive and confused cries all ran together. People on the outside of the shops had seen even less thanks to the smoke grenades.

“It’s a damn shame.” Someone said.

Ian turned to find that an elderly man had come up beside him as he was trying to make sense of what he saw. The old man was taller than he was, easily past the halfway mark on six feet and stood with such strikingly perfect posture that he seemed even taller. He was black; not Laurel’s caramel color, but a ruddy, almost rust complexion that came from a combination of genetics and many years in the sun. He wore an aged, but perfectly maintained gray suit coat over an equally aged cream colored shirt with gray slacks and held a plain, wooden cane. A wide brimmed hat covered his white hair and a pair of black sunglasses covered his eyes just as well.

“Some people just don’t know what to do with themselves.” The old man continued, seeing he had Ian’s attention. “Imagine, tearing up the city like that, robbing and hurting people just to make money. Someone ought to do something – don’t you agree, son?”

Ian nodded, watching a security guard being helped out of the Farrell Bank branch.

“’Course, this city used to have heroes.” The old man said. “Can’t imagine where they’ve gone to now that a genuine villain’s come calling.”

“I can’t either.” Ian frowned, feeling a bit guilty.

“Sorry, I shouldn’t be bothering a young man like you with talk of the good old days – even if they were only weeks ago. I can tell by your face and your posture that you’ve got problems of your own.” He smiled at Ian’s discomfort and put a hand on his shoulder. “Tell me… it’s a woman, isn’t it?”

Ian almost jumped as much from the contact as the accusation. “Have we met?” he asked, moving out of range of another shoulder pat with a deft sidestep.

“Not in this lifetime.” The man said. “The name’s George and I was just being neighborly.”

“Well, George, I’m not exactly feeling neighborly today, sorry.” He meant it; he wasn’t in the mood to exchange pleasantries with a stranger.

George scratched his chin. “I was right, wasn’t I? She’s the reason you’re not feeling very friendly.”

Ian grimaced. All pretense of politeness dropped out of his voice. “That’s not really any of your business, George.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say it’s not my business. I like to help people.” He reached into his pocket and produced two long strips of plastic. “For example, I think these will help you. Take them… as an apology for putting my nose in your business.”

Months later, Ian still wouldn’t recall why, but he accepted the proffered tickets and read the writing on them. “Ladies of Armageddon? I don’t think she’s into them…” he muttered, dumbly.

“I didn’t think so.” George said, “But you don’t need to use them personally for them to help.”

“That doesn’t really make much…” Ian blinked. Hadn’t George just been standing there? He was now alone, standing at the police tape. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he felt sure the something very important had just happened. Elsewhere in his mind, he was fairly certain that for once, that important thing was in his favor.

***

Nikolia Petrov glanced over as a mechanical iris opened in the floor of the converted apartment she was temporarily calling home. A flight of five tech-wings; her precious creations, floated up from the sewer access, the bright light flashing on their blade like wings and round central cores.

“That’s the last flight.” She said, speaking into the microphone attached to her headset. She was a woman of middling height with reddish brown hair pulled up into a tight bun. The headset included a digital HUD that protruded over her right eye. She wore utilitarian clothes with a snug fit. These clashed with the brushed chrome of her headset, and her white, vinyl gloves that sported circuitry traced over their surface. She sat in a large, leather chair and moved her gloved hands occasionally as if typing or using an imaginary touch screen.

“And all of the goods are snug and safe in my warehouse.” Vincent Liedecker’s face said on Nikolia’s heads up display. “Excellent work, Ms. Petrov.”

“Please, let’s keep this professional. Call me Maven.” She said.

“I’ve got to wonder how you came upon you nom de guerre, Maven.” Liedecker said, “Doesn’t have much to do with robots and all…”

“How many robots, Mr. Liedecker, do you know that could have pulled off the job my creations carried out this morning without direct human assistance?” Maven asked.

“None as of yet.” Liedecker said

“That’s because I am a technological expert. A master. Or, in the Hebrew language: a maven. That is where my name comes from, sir. I am the best expert in the fields of electronics and robotics bar none. There are psionic geniuses in this world that are not but whimpering babes in my shadow. You wanted the best to procure the items you wanted, Mr. Liedecker and you got her. I trust the parts I requested are in route?”

Liedecker smiled. “As promised, Maven. I always keep my word. I even threw in a bonus for your little machines’ excellent performance in covering their tracks with the other robberies on the street.”

Maven smiled. “Thank you, sir.”

“Now… I’m well aware that you’ve got your own ball in the air right now – else you wouldn’t need me and mine to pull together so much material.” Liedecker began. “But as you know, I’m always on the look out for new talent…”

“I’d prefer this to be a strictly business relationship.” Maven said stoically.

Chuckling, Liedecker continued. “No, Maven, I’m not trying to play doctor with you. I’ve just recently moved most of my science boys over to work on something special. That means, I’m very interested in putting a few more on the payroll—interested?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Liedecker, but once this is done, I really don’t feel that I want to continue in a life of crime. Not that I don’t feel flattered by a job offer from the most powerful man in Mayfield.”

“Now who’s the one, flirting, Maven?” Liedecker smirked. “Now I’m curious though… if you don’t want to be on my side of law and order… why do this at all?”

Maven got up and walked across the room, past where the tech-wings were resting in sixty separate recharging cradles and a clear space where two half built, humanoid machines were lain on lab tables. “I’ll tell you this much, Mr. Liedecker…” she went over to her drafting table and moved schematics aside to find a poster advertising the Ladies of Armageddon. “Sometimes to achieve justice, one has to work outside of the law.”

***

Cyn leaned her head back until it rested on the stone bench she was leaning against and gazed up into the cloudy sky above. She was out in front of Freeland House at around five o’clock. Warrick had stayed after school to put in some extra work on his latest art project. Juniper was somewhere on the roof, taking in the sun – presumably because she converted it to pure cheeriness. Melissa was in her room.

“And then there was one.” She said to the empty air. She hated being left alone. It agitated her, it called back unpleasant memories of childhood, and worst of all, it forced her to reflect. The situation she found herself in assembled itself in her head like a word problem: The best friend she’s had since long before she developed her powers had a date in four days time. If that date turned into something more, then he’d invariably have less time to be, for lack of a better word, her playmate. As an extra fun complication, she had been asked to help ensure that the date did turn into something more.

“Thanks, tin head.” She muttered. He would be back soon and then she’d have no excuse not to go help plan the end of their friendship. She made an unhappy sound. This was all on top of having Facsimile taken away from her. Facsimile the hero, the celebrated saint that people praised and were happy to have around. Now she was back to being Cyn the appropriately named cynic and all around ‘bad girl’. She cursed bitterly to herself.

“I’m glad to see you too, sunshine.” Cyn looked up in time to see Ian’s head come into view at the top of the stairs.

The shapeshifter sat up. “Ian! Oh, please tell me you’re here to show some backbone and tell Alexis that she’s off her nut.”

Ian frowned and looked from Cyn to the house “Cyn… things aren’t that simple and I think you know that. Yes, it was wrong for her to force this on you – even with her good intentions – but it was wrong for me to lie to her about it too, understand?”

“Not like she gave you a choice.” Cyn shrugged. “No matter when you told her, she’d have freaked out on us. At least by not telling her, you bought us some time. What I don’t get is where she gets off telling us not to do it. She’s said she’s not trying to play ‘mommy’ but she’s not living up to that promise.” She shot him a measured glare. “And you and Laurel didn’t exactly fight her on this.”

Ian groaned and sat on the bench she was propping herself against. “How come you haven’t just ignored her? Why did you put so much time and effort into convincing her – making her feel bad for it?” Cyn was silent. “I figure that even if you don’t admit it, you still kind of respect her. At the very least, you feel you owe her for saving you from the Academy.”

She didn’t respond, she just frowned. What he said was true. In some small way, she did still respect Alexis, even if she despised her decision. From the stories Laurel told, Alexis hadn’t been that much different from her when she was Cyn’s age.

“See, it’s sort of the same thing for us.” Ian said, oblivious to the goings on in Cyn’s mind. “Alexis is doing something we don’t agree with, but she’s still our friend, and this is so important to her that it’s hard to confront her on it. It doesn’t help that my lying to her really hurt her.”

“Losing LSI really hurt us – and Mayfield.” Cyn let out an inhumanly long sigh. “It’s all just fallen apart. LSI’s gone, now Warrick’s got this date coming up Saturday and I’ve got to help because I’m too soft—“

“Wait, Warrick’s got a date? I thought you two were—“

“Hell no.” Cyn said quickly. “And that’s not what I want, no matter what the little red haired girl tells you, got it?”

“Okay, then why is this date such a problem for you?” Ian asked.

“Because… You wouldn’t understand, okay? It just bothers me.”

“I’d say something about teenaged angst right now,” Ian looked back toward the house, “but I’m sorry to report that being in your twenties doesn’t make that crap go away.”

“And you had the nerve to call me sunshine.” Cyn rolled her eyes.

Ian thought a minute and then pulled out his wallet. “Actually, maybe I’ve got something to make you feel better. You’re a big metal fan, right?” Cyn nodded. “Don’t ask where I got ‘em, but here…” He produced the tickets George had given him. “Why don’t you find a nice guy at school and take him to the Armageddon Girls concert this weekend?”

“Holy hell!” Cyn exclaimed, sitting up. “You got Ladies of Armageddon tickets?! And you’re just giving them to me? You just shot right past Laurel in my popularity contest.”

Smirking, Ian allowed Cyn’s hyper extended hand to snatch the tickets from him. “Hey, I may not be too good at video games, but when it comes to falling ass first into things, I’m the expert.”

Cyn didn’t hear, she was too busy reading every scrap of information on the tickets. “Seriously, you’ve completely proven that you’re – wait… this is the concert Liz is taking Warrick to…”

“Is that going to be a problem? I mean the Capashen Arena holds like thirty thousand people – you two shouldn’t even run into each other.” Ian offered.

“No, that’s not going to be a problem at all.” Cyn’s familiar, predatory grin played on her face.

Ian knew that look all too well, but decided that asking what it was for would just ruin plausible deniability. “You need to do me a favor for those tickets, though.”

Cyn’s mind was already forming a plan, so she didn’t even consider any possible consequences. “Name it.”

“Lay off Alexis with the news clipping thing.”

“But—“

“I promise I’ll talk to her. Soon. It’s not going to do any of us any good if you keep making her more hurt and angry, okay?”

Heaving a sigh, Cyn nodded.

“That a girl.” Ian smiled. “If it’s any consolation, I’m really proud of what you three accomplished.”

“It’s not.” Cyn said, “But it’s nice to hear someone say it.”

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Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

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