- 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 4)
Further from JC and Warrick’s dorm, the campus wasn’t quite so devoid of life. On Wolfe Circle, a large group of students locked out of their dorms had built a bonfire and were partying around it. Someone had even driven their car up onto the lawn to use the speakers as a sound system.
No one looked particularly bothered by the lockdown, and students from the surrounding dorms had found ways to force open some security grated first floor windows so they could come out and join in.
“Oh to be normal, eh Tonto?” Kay whispered to JC as they passed. “They don’t even know there’s a dude running around here trying to kill someone.”
“I’m not even sure which is better,” said JC, “Knowing or not knowing. I guess at least we’ve got the option of doing something.”
“Damn right we do.” It was then that Kay noticed Meghan watching them with a raised eyebrow and chuckled a little too loudly. “So Meghan; you said you figured Crack and Splash was someone that lived at the dorm because he had to bust his way out?”
“If he decided to go after Mike, he would have had to break in otherwise. And if he did that, he could have just left the way he came in.”
JC nodded. “Makes sense. But that still only narrows it down to a couple hundred people.
“Only the ones with super strength,” said Meghan, “How many people in your dorm could have kicked that door in? You live with these people, you can’t tell me you wouldn’t notice if one was a descendant.”
Trying (albeit not very hard) not to puff up with pride, Kay declared, “You never know. Maybe whoever it is decided to hide it for whatever reason.”
“Why would anyone ever want to hide that they had superpowers?”
JC quietly bumped Kay with his elbow to keep her from arguing any further. “It’s a good question, but if whoever he is planned to go evil this whole time, maybe he hid it for that reason. That, or he just got these powers. Or he might not be a descendant at all: who knows what kind of mad science is floating around Mayfield?”
After a bit of thought, Meghan conceded the point. “I guess it doesn’t matter who it is anyway. We’ll find out who they are after the police arrest them.”
It wasn’t long after this that the trio caught sight of light up ahead: several windows from the IT building—and that wasn’t all.
“Okay, there’s something suspicious,” said Kay, her gaze fixed not on the windows at the IT building, but across the walk from it where there were also lights on at the administration building. I get why he needs power to the communications hub, but why the admin building when everything else on campus is blacked out?”
“Something else to find out when the cops get here.” Meghan made an effort to not even look in that direction as she headed straight for the IT building.
Kay and JC glanced at one another and shrugged. Meghan had a point, but at the same time, their curiosity had helped them out in the past. Nevertheless, they followed after her. When she reached the handicap ramp leading up to the main doors, however, JC caught her by the shoulder.
“Not in through the front—he’ll be keeping an eye on that.”
“Won’t he keep an eye on the other doors too? What’s the difference?”
JC pointed around the side of the building. Like the dorms, the first floor windows had security grates across them to keep people from just breaking in that way. “He won’t expect us going in through there. Think your arm is strong enough to rip the bars off?”
Meghan flexed her artificial fist muscles. “I’m pretty sure I can deal with that.” With that, she headed for the nearest window and grabbed hold of the grating. Metal groaned as she started to pull, but at the same time, the junction point where her prosthetic arm to her flesh and blood shoulder started to complain, sending tears to her eyes.
As it happened, however, the concrete anchor points keeping the grate in place was made of less stern stuff than Meghan was and crumbled apart, allowing the grate to pull free. Tossing it aside, she grasped the window sash and pulled upward in a single, powerful heave. The lock, built on the assumption that no one could get through the grating, popped like a wishbone being split, allowing the window to fly open, leaving the way clear into whatever office lay beyond.
“If we’re going to do this,” she said, eyeing the window nervously, “here’s our way in.”
The parking lot that served the Sarah L Johannssen Library of the Arts and the Piedmont Theater and Arts Center was blocked off from sight by the wings of said buildings, making them the perfect place for students to hang out without being spotted by wandering eyes.
If it hadn’t been for the lights lining the lot going out, the campus-wide blackout would have gone completely unnoticed by the three young women and five young men hanging out, lounging on the hoods and trunks of their cars, passing beers and bongs around.
Mike was sitting on the roof of one of his friend’s car; an old beaten-up town car that had seen better and more dignified days. There was a Burger Builder’s bag at his feet (on the hood of the car), a warm beer in one hand, and a brunette who was slightly too tipsy to notice his clumsy attempts to wrap his arm around her and cop a feel leaning against his right side.
“I tell you, something’s wrong in this world, Tony,” he was saying to his friend, who was currently taking a hit off a bong. Tony was actually the only one old enough to buy pot, but he was generous to a fault, even when it came to friends who never returned the favor. “The two losers that suite with me? Incredible—like super-fine, grade-A tail is coming over to their room every single day, bro. Every day. And like, at least the gangly dude, he kinda appreciates it—he’s going out with this smokin’ hot Mexican chick, right? But the short dork that wears those snake things all the time? I got no idea what’s wrong with him. He’s going with like…”
He waved his beer dismissively and unwrapped his arm from around the brunette to cup his free hand in front of his chest. “Nothin’ going on up here, right? Decent ass, but compared to the white-haired chica and the short little Pocahontas? Or the strong bitch with the arm? Damn, I think even he could do better, you know?”
“But anyway, I’m thinking why can’t I ever get talent like that?”
This finally penetrated the alcohol and THC-induced haze over the brunette. “Hey!”
Mike completely ignored her. “I mean, right? I’m buff. I’m an athlete. I got the manly chest hairs of a goddamn Celtic god, right? What am I doing wrong?”
Another of his friends, Sam, cackled from where he was lying on the hood of a two-door coupe with a camping lantern illuminating him. “Maybe your roommate’s scaring ’em off, Mike. Or the fact that your chest hair looks like you fell over in a field of red tumbleweed.”
“Or maybe you’re an asshole and no one really likes you.”
That suggestion came from outside the circle of friends and drew everyone’s attention.
Tony coughed up a lungful of smoke and grabbed up the flashlight he’d fished out of his car’s emergency kit once the lights went out. “Harsh, man. Who the hell are you to… what the shit?”
The beam of his light played over a figure in blue and black—but mostly over the blades extending from his wrists.
“Is everyone else seeing this?” Tony asked, casting a betrayed glance to the bong.
“Yeah,” Another girl in the group, Cindy, sat up from the trunk of the car she was lying on. “Hey man, are you one of the Descendants?”
Sam laughed again. “Heeeey, it’s Knife Man! The Cutlery Crusader! The Sultan of Stab!”
The figure narrowed his eyes behind his goggles. “I don’t have time for this.” He took several loping steps forward, rearing back with one of his blades. “Time to go, Mikey.”
“Time to go—AH!” Mike leaned back away from the swing, overbalanced and pitched himself off the hood of the car, beer, brunette and all. They landed in a heap on the textured solar paneling of he parking lot while their assailant leaps up onto their place on the car’s roof with a single bound.
“Dude!” Mike shouted, agog, “What the hell is wrong with you!?”
“You.” Came the furious reply as the figure leapt down to stand tall above Mike. “You are a sponge. A leech. A drain on everything you ever come in contact with. All you do is grind away at people; grind, grind, grind—until there’s nothing left of their patience and even when they do yell at you, when they do call you out, you seem to have no idea why. I don’t know if it’s because you’re stupid or malicious, but after a year of it, I don’t much care which it is because all I can think of is making it stop with a foot of sharp steel!”
Mike flailed in panic, throwing the brunette off him. “I’m not a leech! I brought six beers tonight!”
The armed man screamed in frustration and in a white-hot flash of common sense, Mike took the opening to scramble under Tony’s pick-up truck, seemingly out of reach of any comeuppance.
“Who is this guy?” Cindy asked, still watching, awestruck.
“I got no idea! Who would want to hurt me?!”
Clenching both his fists and his teeth, the attacker stomped over to the truck and grabbed the underside of it. “You…” he grunted and heaved, flipping the truck on its side and sending the two freshmen that had been sitting in the bed flying, “have no idea.”
Screaming like a child at their first Halloween haunted house, Mike crab-walked away, eventually reaching the edge of the parking lot where the paneling gave way to dirt. This finally gave him enough traction to stand shakily to his feet.
That proved to have been a poor choice, as his assailant covered the space between them in an instant and dealt him a ringing blow with a backhand that incorporated the flat of his blade. Mike’s lip split and his teeth tore into his cheek, causing him to spit blood as he toppled to the ground.
“Don’t think this is going to be quick,” warned his attacker, “I’ve got months of pent-up rage to pay you back for. Let’s see… we’ll start with your fingers…”
He knelt down to decide which finger to cut off when something made of glass shattered against the side of his head, drenching him in foul-smelling water.
Recoiling from the stench, he turned to find Tony standing there, with some of the other teens from the party he’d interrupted. Tony, having used the only weapon at hand to him, was unarmed, but some of the others had gotten out tire irons or other improvised weapons from the cars.
“Hey, he’s an ass, but he’s our ass, bro,” said Tony, who was way braver than he would be later when his high wore off. “And you’re gonna pay for my truck.”
“No, I’ll show you your asses when I hand them to you… bro.” The assailant flashed his knives and prepared to lunge. With his strength and reflexes, they didn’t stand a chance.
But then of course, the alarm he’d set on his palmtop started to sound. Someone had set off the motion detectors inside the communications hub. If they shut down the signal capture… “Shit.”
“That’s right, you don’t want none of this!” Sam brandished two beer bottles like they were escrima sticks.
“Not you, you idiot.” The attacker growled his annoyance, then turned and ripped the bumper off the town car. With his incredible strength, he bent it into a horse shoe, then slammed it deep into the ground on either side of Mike, effectively stapling him to the ground, unable to move. “I’ll be back for you.”
And wit that, he ran off in the direction of the IT building.
For a moment, Mike’s friends all stared after him. Then Sam let out a “Woo! And you stay gone, Stab Man! Your kung-fu is no match for… the Beer Bro! Just like those guys from the commercial with Vamanos!” He then twisted off the cap of both beers and started chugging them.
“Can Beer Bro help me roll my truck back on its wheels?”
“Why was that guy trying to kill Mike?”
“…Guys? Can you see if you can get this thing off me?” Mike asked weakly. “I gotta get back to my dorm… maybe change my shorts…”
The elevator doors opened on the eighth floor of the IT building, where the directory in the lobby said the communications hub was located.
“…just thinking that if he was really planning to keep an eye on this place, he’d tap into the cameras and the rest of the security system.” Meghan was saying as they stepped out into the T intersection where the building’s three elevators let out. Helpful signs pointed them off to the right.
“It’s a risk we’ve gotta take,” said Kay. “Hopefully, tripping alarms in here will alert the cops or a security company or something even if we don’t figure out how to turn the blocking off.”
The hall they followed had pale green walls and a carpet that looked a little like raw, lint-covered meat. Doors appeared at random intervals and at they passed another T intersection before reaching a dead end that terminated in a glass wall with a security door set into it. A plate above the door read ‘Communications Master Server Room’.
“I think the real thing we should be worried about is failing and then the campus police finding a tape of us breaking and entering.” JC tried the handle of the door and found it locked. “Should have figured that. Hold this, Kay.” He slipped off the satchel and passed it to her before raising the bat he’d ‘borrowed’ from Sully. Raising an arm to protect his eyes from flying glass, he swung at the glass wall next tot he door full force. It rang with the sound of a home run belt, but rebounded off the glass.
“I don’t think that’s glass.” Meghan moved past him and put her good hand to the glass, running it over the surface. “Lucite, maybe? Whatever it is, it’s like five inches thick: we’re not going to bust our way through this.”
JC shouldered the bat and accepted the satchel back from Kay. “Can you break the lock on the door?”
Dutifully, Meghan rapped on the security device over the door’s locking mechanism. It sounded solid. “Doubtful. I’m strong, but not ‘tear chunks of steel in half’ strong.”
“So we wasted a trip coming out here.” JC hung his head morosely. “Sorry girls, I thought this was a good plan—and we got so close too.”
Kay stood back sizing up the door and looking through the glass to the server room beyond. It was a big area that would have been open except for the ring of servers there. A set of stairs led down into the ring, but from the door, it wasn’t possible to see the actual work space.
“Maybe not such a waste. How confident are you that The Hack will be keeping an eye on this place, JC?”
“Pretty confident. If he’s a hacker—and going by the blacked out campus and the whacked out name, I think it’s safe to guess that, he’s probably monitoring the security—he probably knows we’re here.”
A sly grin spread over Kay’s face. “Yeah… I bet he does. And that means I’d got a plan. First: Meghan, I have to explain something to you…”