- 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)
Just Us Sidekicks (Part 1)
“So anyone free to keep me company while I’m hard at work at the forge tonight?” Warrick asked. He was at his desk in the dorm room he shared with JC while JC himself sat on his bed, half reading on his tablet and Cyn was in JC’s computer chair, working her way through a box of doughnuts.
“Camf,” Cyn said, then took a moment to swallow before trying again. “Sorry, can’t. Me and Ollie are going to the Fuentes vs. Brown fight at the Arena.”
Warrick raised an eyebrow at her. “Boxing?”
“Powered Combat League. Descendants versus Spark-jockeys versus Powered armor or anything people can come up with—it’s awesome!”
Glancing at her from over his tablet, JC made a face. “Doesn’t it bother you that they’re using people like you for what’re basically human cock fights?”
“Pfft.” Cyn waved him off. “A cock fight with a ten million dollar purse. I’m considering making up a new identity so I can get a piece of that.” She grinned with pure avarice at the thought. “If it takes off at least. Fuentes vs Brown is like the pilot fight for a new US league.”
When no one expressed any enthusiasm she made a face and turned to JC. “So we know War’s gonna be stuck at the boat house this evening, what’re you up to?”
“Hanging out with Kay,” he said, “Lisa’s got some business stuff to do for Snackrifice’s LA trip, so me and Kay are just gonna hang out, hit the Dungeon, maybe watch some movies. It’s been forever since we hung out, so it’s gonna be awesome.”
Before Cyn could say anything, the knob on the door leading to the bathroom Warrick and JC shared with their suitemates rattled.
“Here he goes again,” Warrick announced, rolling his eyes. The door started to swing open, only to be stopped less of an inch open by the dresser the pair had pushed in front of it.
Swallowing her latest doughnut whole, Cyn glared at the door. “Seriously? That guy’s still at it? Why do you two put up with this crap? Want me to handle him for you?”
Shaking his head, Warrick pushed himself away from his desk. “Don’t worry about it. Three more weeks and we’ll never going to have to worry about this asshole again. Thanks to the job I’m working on tonight, JC and I are going to have a kick-ass apartment in Kareem and Callie’s building this time next year.”
“This new gig’s paying you that much?” Cyn asked.
“Yeah, it’s unbelievable!” Warrick said. “I mean, it’s exacting and finicky as all hell, but whoever this ‘Malkin’ guy is, he’s willing to pay fifty thousand to have this armor built. It’s not even powered armor, or even special alloys: just straight unalloyed iron.”
Cyn quirked an eyebrow as the door knob stopped rattling. “Fifty thousand? That’s three times as much as you’ve ever gotten for anything! You know it’s going to turn out to be fore a supervillain, right? Some guy with a bizarre weakness to steel or something?”
He snorted. “Good luck. With how thick he wants the armor and how he wants it built? It’s basically a statue. Even someone with the strength to move it couldn’t move the joints.”
“Don’t say I didn’t say ‘told you so’.” Cyn sing-songed.
Warrick opened his mouth to argue when there was a knock on the door.
“And here comes Mike,” JC muttered. Cyn started to stand, but he shook hi head. “Don’t answer that; then we’d have to talk to him.”
“Oh, I’m gonna talk to him alright.” Cyn rose, putting the nearly empty doughnut box aside on JC’s desk. Despite wearing a tank top, she made a motion as if rolling up her sleeves. “I’m going to talk to him about how it’s a very bad thing to mess with my friends when he hasn’t discovered a punching-proof mask to cover his ugly gob.”
Both young men started to get up as well, hoping in vain to stop her.
It was no use. She threw open the door just as there was a second knock. “Listen up, you primitive screeee-you’re not their suitemate.”
Meghan Rockwell had leaned back from Cyn’s tirade with a confused look in her eyes that cleared as soon as it was clear the sound and fury wasn’t meant for her. “That’d be a ‘no’,” she said, relaxing before slipping past Cyn (who did have the decency to look embarrassed.
“Hey War, JC. So what’d the Charming Mr. Mike do this time? Hit on Lisa again? Insult Tink? Steal food from your fridge?”
“Nothing yet, thanks to the magic of heavy things in front of doors,” Said JC, who was now sitting on the side of his bed.
With a vicious little grin directed at Cyn, Meghan laughed. “I’d hate to have been him if you didn’t have a heavy thing blocking the door. Just me talking: I’m glad someone here wants to kick his ass for the crap he’s pulled.”
“Amen sister,” Cyn gave a little bow.
Warrick rolled his eyes. “It’s not like we don’t want to kick his ass. It’s just that it’d be wrong to do it over something so petty as… repeated breaking and entering—JC, where was I going with this?”
“We beat on him, he tells the RA, who tells the Honor Council, and we’re out on our asses.” JC folded his arms haughtily. “Of course, the Honor Council want ‘proof’,” he added the requisite finger quotes, “of him breaking in, which we never manage to get, so here we are.”
“This is why you should just let me resort to violence for you,” said Cyn, “I don’t even go to this school, so what’re they going to do?” She started to push the door closed, but it hit an obstruction and was pushed back, almost hitting her in the face. “Hey!”
“Oh. Heeey.” The greeting turned from bland to lecherous in the space of a breath, making Cyn recoil in disgust. Mike Cole slouched into the door frame and leaned on it. It didn’t help matters that he made it a point to visibly lick his lips upon surveying the two women in the room.
Mike was reasonably tall and well-built with red hair and a bushy, red bead that almost hid his lips entirely. In general, he wasn’t an unattractive person, but his personality showed in every expression and posture, leaving him with an infinitely punchable look about him that made men hate him and women want to flee him. It didn’t help that, as it turned out, his uncle was Mayfield’s two-term, until-recently-beloved Mayor, which gave him an inaccurate idea that he was part of a political family of some consequence when he really wasn’t.
His original purpose now forgotten in the presence of Cyn and Meghan, he raised his eyebrows at them and gave them what he surely thought was a charming smile. “You know, you two are in the wrong room. Me and Sully’s place? That’s one door over.”
“Get out.” Cyn said automatically. This wasn’t the first time she’d heard that line from him.
Naturally, instead of taking the hint, he held up his hands defensively. “Hey, sorry. I was just curious why so many fine females come hang out with these dorks when there’s real men around. I mean, with the exception of the beanpole, these two are swinging way over their weight class.”
“Get out, Mike.” This time it was Warrick who said it, and he stood up while he was saying it. While he wasn’t a big guy in any respect, he let his voice both take on the slightly deeper quality he used as his ‘Alloy voice’, and exaggerated his Brooklyn accent a bit more.
Mike was unaffected, however. “Only here for my beers.”
“Only…” Warrick looked in the direction of the mini-fridge, then back at Mike before walking over and opening it. “Oh you son of a bitch! You know there’s no beer or weed allowed in freshman dorm. I thought I told you this last time.”
“Why do you think I put my beers in your fridge?” Asked Mike with a shrug. “The RAs search my stuff all the time, but they never think of checking up on punks you like two—you’re to lame to break the rules like that.”
“Get. Out.” Cyn repeated.
Mike shrugged nonchalantly. “that’s okay. I’ll just tell the RAs I saw you sneaking booze in here. They’ll have to check then…”
Teeth grinding, Warrick took the six pack of bottles out of the min-fridge. “Oh for the love of…”
Before he could hand them over, Meghan took it with her prosthetic hand. “Here, jackass. Take it.” She thrust the beer into his center with enough force to send him stumbling back into the hall.
“Oh,” she said, feigning surprise. “Sorry about that: sometimes this arm just goes haywire.” She made a point of rotating the wrist three-hundred and sixty degrees, then slammed the door on Mike. She shot one more glare at the door, then turned back to Warrick. “So… the reason I came over was to ask if you ever got around to fixing that clasp on my necklace, Warrick.”
Warrick also gave the door a look, half-expecting Mike to come knocking again, before nodded. “Oh right. I’ve got it right here in my desk.” He made his way back around and retrieved a slightly tarnished silver chain with an irregular chunk of amber hanging from a pendant from the top drawer of his desk. “Here you go. The clasp is good as new.”
With a grateful smile, Meghan took the necklace and tested the clasp a few times. “Wow, you really are the handyman you made yourself out to be! I was afraid I was going to have to take great-grandma’s necklace to some jewelers’. Thanks!”
“No problem, I’ve got what you call a knack,” said Warrick, returning to his seat.
“That you do.” Meghan took the time to put the necklace on. “Thanks so much again. I’d stay and hang out, but Hank’s taking me out tonight. He said it was important, so I want to look my best and I’ve still got to get dressed.”
Warrick waved to her. “Don’t let us keep you then. We were just discussing how we all had our own thing going on tonight anyway. Seems like tonight’s the night everyone’s got plans.”
Mike stood out in the hall, doubled over around his beers for almost a full thirty seconds before recovering his composure and resuming something resembling a dignified posture.
“Freak.” he muttered to himself before heading back to his room. His roommate, Sully, was out as usual, so he was free drop them in his gym bag so he could carry them over to his friends’ dorm across campus without anyone being the wiser.
He gave the room a once-over, checked his Quintessence for new posts, then headed out. He was just passing through the entry hall to the dorm when he spotted Troy Clayton coming in from outside with a large box with the campus post office’s stickers on it.
“Clay!” He said, making a beeline for the other young man. They weren’t really friends; it was more like they shared a few classes and Mike, in the way he was wont to, insinuated himself into Troy’s life in a way that was not quite a reasonable facsimile of friendship. As much as Mike irritated Troy, he’d made friends with some of Troy’s friends who didn’t have to spend as much time with him as Troy did, locking Troy into an existence of putting up with Mike for the sake of his friends.
Caught in the open, Troy merely nodded. His friends called him Clay, but he’d have rather Mike not do so.
“Look man, remember when I said I’d give you fifty bucks to write my program for this week’s Automation Programming class?”
Troy nodded, sensing what was coming next. It was like being a deer in front of an oncoming train.
“Yeah,” Mike drew the word out. “So my parents are late on this month’s care package…”
“There’s only three more weeks in the term. How late can they possibly be?” Troy asked flatly, folding his arms. Unlike Warrick, he was a big guy: six-foot-one and one-hundred and eighty pounds. He’d been on the baseball team before deciding it took up time doing something he was only ‘okay’ at when he could be programming and preparing for his real future career in digital security.
Mike shrugged helplessly. “No idea, but you’ll be the first to know when I’ve got the money. Did you still write the program though?”
“Yes.” Troy said with a heavy sigh. He had no doubts that Mike had some kind of dirt on him that he could take to the Honor Council if he didn’t take his ‘deals’. His eyes narrowed in barely concealed satisfaction. Besides, Mike would get his soon enough.
“Great.” Mike clapped Troy on the shoulder. “I’ll pay you as soon as I can. Just send the code to my Quintessence.”
“Right,” Troy said, moving away before Mike could ask for more. Luckily, there was a telltale rattle in the other young man’s gym bags that suggested he had other places to go and Mike did, in fact go—without even saying goodbye.
Troy huffed out an annoyed breath and headed straight for the elevators and then to his room.
There, he discovered another stroke of luck: his roommate had already left for home for the weekend, meaning he didn’t have to wait to open his ‘care package’.
While the shipping label said it came from ShopEverythingOnline.shopping, once he opened it up and pulled off the first layer of impact-resistant wrapping, he found a second box—one with the emblem of a golden spider embossed on it.
A slow smile spread across Troy’s face as he took the box over to his desk.
It was like an answer to his prayers. There was a waiting list for ‘credit’ sales on the orb Weaver’s Dark Network, but there was a ‘venture capital’ option where one could send in their plan, and if it met the Orb Weaver’s fancy, their application was fast-tracked.
Troy liked to think of it less as venture capital and more like a scholarship, because a scholarship was exactly what he’d lost dropping out of Dayspring’s baseball program. Without money from somewhere to pick up the slack, he’d be out before he even made it to Sophomore year.
Meanwhile, he knew of other kids a lot more deserving that were getting scholarships and more—money he could put too much better use. All he really needed was access to the school’s billing servers, which had no incoming connection from any internet-capable computer.
He had the skills to break into the computer and do whatever he wanted—but not to physically access it—and certainly not to keep from getting caught by the police and security if normal patrols went as scheduled.
For that, he needed a little help from the Orb Weaver…”
He opened several programs at once, typing with one hand while he opened the Orb Weaver box with the other.
Exactly as he expected, his future lay therein: a blue and black patterned set of padded clothing, a pair of bladed gauntlets with circuitry running through them, and an inhaler packaged with two bottles of pills.
Everything he needed to become… he smiled as he thought of the identity he’d invented. Oh, this was going to be fun…