- 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)
Homage (Part 1)
In most other cities, with the possibility of New York or Mayfield being exceptions, the sight of him would have drawn a lot of stares. Just under seven feet tall, he was chalk white and bald with black tattoos on his face that seemed to outline his skull, there was a lot to stare at as he lounged on a street corner, smoking a cigarette, thumbing at his palmtop.
In LA, people just scoffed and made snide remarks about him blowing smoke in their air or standing slightly in their way.
He didn’t pay them any attention. While he pretended to look at picture on his palmtop, his real focus was elsewhere: first on a storefront down the street from him, then on a couple who appeared to have similar interests.
The woman of the pair was blonde with her hair in a long, thick braid and a robust build that suggested Northern European or Russian descent. She wore a cherry-red blouse with a flowing black skirt that reached to her calves and black ballet flats. Her male companion was tall, tanned and buff with dark brown hair cut square and blocky. He worse a faded green muscle shirt, black jeans, and sunglasses.
They were talking to one another, but the woman’s eyes strayed to the storefront on a regular basis.
As he watched them, another couple—another man and a woman—came up the street. Even without actually seeing them looking toward the storefront, it was clear there was something odd about them.
The guy wasn’t especially tall, but he had a bulky build that he was covering with baggy jeans that came down to cover even his shoes, and a huge, gray UCLA hoodie. He had dark skin, but his features were obscured by the hood, sunglasses and about an inch worth of beard.
His companion was a tall, lithe woman in light blue sweat pants, a SB and the Fountain of Soul t-shirt and a leather jacket. Her black hair hung straight down under a canvas bucket hat that she wore with red-tinted sunglasses. It was her that caught his attention because she moved with such prefect, feline grace that there was no way she was a normal human.
Or human at all.
The new pair met up with the one he’d been watching. The big guy went into the cafe they’d been standing out front of and bought coffee and scones, which they had while sitting on the seats outside. Both women seemed to be the only ones keeping watch on the suspect storefront.
Which was interesting.
He dropped his cigarette and stomped it with a huge, heavy biker boot, grinding it out. With his now-free hand, he reached into a pocket, rifling through several plastic sandwich bags until he found one containing a square swatch of rabbit fur.
Rubbing a circle in it with his thumb, he squinted at the quartet. The image of the original couple blurred in his vision; the guy replaced by a skinny, college-aged white boy and a Hispanic woman of the same age with dark hair.
He recognized the later. “Oh damn, that’s the bassist for Snackrifice.” he muttered. Context and from there a very good guess as to who the other two were made a few connections come together they made him purse his lips. He’d just blow someone’s secret identity.
“Damn, this is gonna get awkward.” A glance toward the storefront reminded him why he and presumably they were there in the first place. So he pocketed his palmtop, went to the cafe, and bought a ham and cheese croissant along with a gourmet lemonade.
Thus armed, he came out and made hi way over to the table the others were sitting at, allowing his shadow to fall over them as a warning. Predictably, their discussion stopped and all eyes turned his way.
He flashed them a big grin. “Sorry to interrupt, folks, but I can’t help but think I can be of assistance.” Before they could try and argue, he nodded subtly in the direction of the shop they were all fixated on. “With that.”
The blonde held up a hand to the others and took the lead in questioning him. “What do you mean by ‘that’?”
Not bothering to ask permission, the pale stranger grabbed a chair from another table and dragged it over to sit in. “The pawnshop between 235 West Monroe and 237 West Monroe? The one that isn’t on any mapping program? The one that I’m guessing these guys,” he pointed at the two men at the table, “can’t even tell you is there unless you specifically point it out.”
“Okay,” said the guy in the muscle shirt, “Who the hell is this guy?” He looked at the second pair, “Is he in your rogue’s gallery? Some kind of faerie… guy?”
“What is a ‘rogue’s gallery’?” The black-haired woman asked. Up close, it was evident that she’d used way too much foundation and… no other make-up at all.
With a laugh, the pale man ran a hand over his bald pate. “Yeah, well none of us have met officially, but Codex, Facsimile and Zero met me a while ago in Chi-town. The thing with the griffin?”
“You don’t look like one of the Outliers,” Muscle shirt guy was giving him a suspicious look. “And I kind of doubt The Shade would come out to LA to hang out.”
The pale man rolled his eyes. “It’s Umbrage now. And you’re missing one.”
“You’re a little giant, male and albino for Shade’s apprentice.”
“And you’re not tanned and ripped, nerd boy.”
The blonde studied him more closely. “A glamor. I’ve never done an opposite sex one before. Yours is really well done too.”
“Well the boss is a master of illusion.” Shade’s Apprentice shrugged and took a sip of lemonade. There was mint in it. He—actually she wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.
The big guy, who hadn’t spoken yet, asked. “Dude, you’re really Shade’s Apprentice? That’s awesome. But… why’re you… y’know… here. Chicago’s a long way off.”
“Vacation,” said Shade’s Apprentice, “I’m in town for the Music Festival, but then I got a bad case of the willies centered on this place.”
The black-haired woman looked to the big guy. As if this was something they’d worked down to a routine, he immediately explained, “’Willies’ is like a skin-crawl-y kinda feeling. Um…” He realized that wasn’t helping her. “Like the feeling you’d get right as some big, horrible thing is getting ready to jump out and eat you.”
That got her to nod. “Yes, that is the sensation I felt too. Something is wrong here.”
“Well yeah, it’s a Little Shop The Wasn’t There Yesterday; nothing good comes of those.” that came from muscle shirt guy through a mouthful of scone.
“That’s not necessarily true. Sometimes they give the hero what they need,” said the big guy.
Shade’s Apprentice shook her head. “No he… hold on, can I get an introduction? I’m thinking of you as ‘big dude’, ‘black hair’, ‘blonde’ and ‘muscle shirt’ right now.”
“Oh.” said the blonde, looking around to make sure no one was listening in. “I’m Occult—which you probably guessed. These are Teen Machine and Lady D of Descendants: LA, and… an observer.”
“The Observer.” said muscle shirt guy, waving his hands as if that was going to make it look more dramatic.
Occult tried to look annoyed, but was still clearly amused, “Seriously?”
“I like it.” Teen Machine gave him the double thumbs up.
“The Observer’s fine with me,” said Shade’s Apprentice, “The Observer is right: eldritch locations like these, they are almost always bad news. The really bad part? They’ve been showing up regularly throughout all of human history unlike the crossovers that stopped sometime in the 1200s and only recently started again.
“Sometimes they distribute dangerous magical devices, sometimes they drop off creatures—and not always from Faerie, and sometimes they stick around to form cults. Worse case though is when they’re here to eat.”
Teen Machine almost choked on his coffee. “Excuse me? Did you just say eat?”
“Believe me, I wish I didn’t. But there are records. One even got documented by a blog about seventy years ago. You might want to check it out before we stick our noses in this one: dionaea-house.com.”
The Observer looked across the street, tried searching for the place and failed. “So that place… could eat us if we go in?
“Not necessarily, but I wanted to make sure you guys knew the dangers. ‘creepy house’ and ‘mystery store’ are template favored by some of the scarier magical beasties.”
Teen Machine made a face that wasn’t helped by the fake beard. “That still means we should deal with it sooner than later. Lady D’s been sensing the thing since Thursday, but I convinced her to wait for backup given we have company on the way.”
Shade’s Apprentice took a bite of her croissant and chewed thoughtfully before speaking. “You’re right. We can’t wait around: who knows what the thing is doing here—maybe getting stronger of of the energy of passersby or something. I’d put your full teams on high alert in case we disappear—or come back wrong.”
“Already done,” said Teen Machine. “We don’t check in every ten minutes and the Calvary comes running.”
Occult nodded, “And Alloy’s insisted for years that we all have passwords in the event of alternate reality duplicates, evil clones or doppelgangers. After we discovered an actual alternate universe, we followed through on it.”
“Then there’s no reason to delay. Let’s shut this thing down.”
They all stood up and started throwing the garbage of their meal away. Occult stopped and gave The Observer a look.
“Are… you really planning on coming wit us?” she asked, “You did hear what she said about places like this.”
He hesitated, but then nodded, patting a place on his belt that the glamor rendered invisible. “Hey, I said I wanted to come along, and… well I’m not helpless. Alloy set me up with some of his James Bond toys that Renaissance made him. Plus I’ve got an air gun that shoots that slippery cow birth gunk. I’m good.”
“Just stay close to me.” Occult took his hand and gave it a squeeze. “And if you have to: run.”
He gave her a smile and nodded. “Hey, I know better than to try and wear the hero pants here.”
With that dealt with, they didn’t try to hide it anymore: the five of them trooped across the street with the light and headed right for the store in question.
It took the form of a pawn shop. Not any special pawn shop either. It just had the words ‘Pawn Shop’ on the sign and assorted junk in the window. Shade’s Apprentice took note of a space there, next to some speakers. It might have been sloppy window dressing. Or it might have been that something had been sold. The idea of that made her shiver.
Teen Machine tried to take point, but Lady D had to lead him to the door because he kept losing sight of it. As it turned out, they both pushed the door open and stepped inside.
The place looked like a typical pawn shop too: lots of barely-organized glass cases, musical instruments—mostly guitars and basses—hanging on the walls, power tools, dirt bikes and an ATV lending a strong scent of oil to the air. At the back, a caged bird with black feathers started screaming.
Someone had set a high backed leather office chair up in the middle of the floor.
As weird as that was, none of that seemed all that important for one very big reason: Instead of the blonde and the buff dude in the muscle shirt, Occult and a scrawny guy Shade’s Apprentice recognized as Snackrifice’s drummer stood beside her.
Then she looked down and instead of a pale albino, she found.. herself: a twenty-five year old woman with light (but not white skin), and long, black hair, wearing a tight, black blouse with red metal buttons shaped like dragonflies, a black pleated skirt that came to her knees and knee-high black boots. She was the quintessential Goth if you discounted the black fanny pack with the Super Magical Soldier Girl Armui logo on it.
“Craaaap.” She couldn’t stop herself from saying it as what had happened sank in. Wherever they were, illusion didn’t work. Which mean other magic might not work.
“Crap indeed.” the voice that came from the other side of the chair was as grating as it was full of itself. As they spoke, the chair turned slowly and dramatically without any indication of being pushed by the occupant.
“You see my dear heroes I—” He managed to turn all the way around before getting sidetracked. Lanky and probably tall if he had been standing, the speaker was blonde and middle-aged with his hair styled in such a way that it looked like his head had wings. Some people might have called his toucan’s beak of a nose ‘Roman’, but no one was going to call his neck—which looked like something that would be drawn on a cartoon vulture ‘swan-like’.
“–honestly, what is this?” He demanded, gesturing to Teen Machine and Lady D. “You came to a magical event wearing what? Make-up and a fake beard? I’m ashamed. I am ashamed for you. It’s slip-shod is what it is!”
Teen Machine took the opportunity to convert his arm into a weapon and aimed the barrel at the strange man. “I also bought a grenade launcher, so if you’d get to the point, I’d totally appreciate it.”
The man glared at him. “Oh please. Whatever. I’m more than happy to explain: I am Hermes. Yes, the Hermes. Messenger of the gods, the original speedster, and of course one of the better tricksters among gods who like that sort of thing.
“I am here to have some fun. Oh sure, originally I was just attracted to the music. That’s technically Apollo’s thing, but he’d be nothing without me. The bastard Pete Best’d me.” He seemed to notice he was getting off track and cut himself off, “But anyway, then I noticed there were superheroes everywhere. Two full teams and a sidekick.”
“Partner.” Shade’s Apprentice insisted.
“Apprentice is right in your name, don’t even pretend.” scoff Hermes.
“As I was saying: I noticed so many of you were here and nothing was being done with you. Okay, an assassination plot, but that was barely a cameo for Descendants LA. Plus, let’s face it, nothing—absolutely nothing happened for the nine-year anniversary!”
The Observer—or rather JC, drummer for Snackrifice– leaned over to Occult. “Nine year anniversary? Did something happen in 2066 I didn’t hear about?”
“Not your…. arg! Stupid three-dimensional thought processes. You wouldn’t understand!” Hermes raged. “So I’m going to show you. You and all your friends!”
The world exploded into light and color…
…And crackling dots of energy.