A MagiTech Crisis: Epilogue

This entry is part 12 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 2: Magic and Machines

“Good afternoon, General.” Laurel said as General Pratt’s visage appeared on screen. To say that she looked haggard would have been an affront to the beauty and pep of hags everywhere. The remainder of the previous night and the entire day had been dedicated to tending to her team, monitoring the news, and trying very, very hard to look calm. It hadn’t helped that the coffeemaker had chosen the morning of all the mornings to go on the fritz.

“Codex.” The General nodded to her. With apt professionalism, he deigned to comment on her state. “I got the preliminary report. I appreciate that, considering that you’re under no obligation to us. What’s the situation in Mayfield?”

“Almost everything is out of our hands at the moment.” Laurel said. “The three former hosts have been interviewed by the MPD and taken to City General for observation.”

***

“Can I get you something, Ms. Summers?” a nurse asked as he passed Darleen Summers’s room.

Darleen looked up and shook her head. “No, thank you.” Before he could go, she held up a hand, “Actually, wait, can I see a mirror?”

The nurse shrugged. “Sure, miss. I’ll be right back.” He returned a few minutes later with a small hand mirror in a plastic frame. “Here you are.” He said politely. “Just leave it on the table when you’re done with it.”

Darleen nodded her thanks as he left. She waited fro him to leave before looking in the mirror. The reflection wasn’t her face, but Rehenimaru’s. “What now?” Darleen asked of the demon.

“Like I promised you,” the demoness said, “We will share power.”

“But you didn’t have to even let me out, why are you doing this?”

“Because Lord Colos traded me for weapons to use against the Heir of Hyrilius.” Rehenimaru said. “It doesn’t matter if Sai’n’shree was at stake, it doesn’t matter if he had nothing to bargain with aside from that. Betrayal is still betrayal.”

“So you want revenge? Through me?”

“No. I want freedom. In my world, I was a vassal of Lord Colos, destined to serve at his side and follow his orders to the letter. But now I’m here in Mankind’s world and I will not serve another.”

“That still doesn’t explain my part in all this… not that I’m arguing against not being enslaved to you.” Darleen said.

“You wouldn’t.” Rehenimaru sighed. “You see, demons are different from Mankinds—humans—our loyalty isn’t a feeling, it is a tangible thing. I am bound to do as Lord Colos’s bargain entails, to serve Liedecker as part of it. But if you and I are equals, then your resistance can keep me free.”

“So you’re using me to break your boss’s word? You’ve got the wrong lady; I can’t even stand up to my boss in any meaningful way beyond sarcasm.”

“You have the potential to.” Rehenimaru said, “Which is more than I have. And as for using you; even when I subsumed you, I sympathized with and acted on your deepest desires. It is something we demons must do to integrate with our host. If you help me, I will let you use my powers yourself. To do whatever you wish.”

Avarice flashed in Darleen’s eyes. “Really?” Common sense clouted avarice in the head. “But this is like a deal with the devil. Isn’t the Faust always the sucker?”

“I don’t know what the means.” Rehenimaru admitted, “but I have no choice and you can feel what I feel; you know this to be true.”

It was true. Darleen could feel the demoness’s fear and desperation like it was her own. It was enough to make her want to cry. And if Rehenimaru had wanted to, she could have simply taken her over completely. Slowly, she nodded.

Rehenimaru smiled. Not a malicious smile, but the smile the relief. “Good.” She declared, “then we are one.”

***

Back at Freeland House, Laurel continued recounting the situation in Mayfield.

“Lester Mendel is allowing investigators full access to Building Seven, but I doubt they’ll find anything. He’s just happy all his people are safe; Hope healed them all and led them to the underground parking lot. They rode out the battle under her mood elevating influence. The worst they’ll feel is some endorphin imbalance for a few days.”

“Good to see that Hope is doing better. You were concerned about her state before.” The General commented.

“We’re not out of the woods on that yet, I’m afraid, but the others are doing what they can to boost her confidence. She’s really a valued member, whether she believes it or not.” Laurel said. “at the moment, she’s tending to Ephemeral.”

Pratt nodded. “Yes, you said that there were Astral disturbances in conjunction with this. Is the boy alright?”

Laurel nodded and allowed herself a small smile. “Better than ever actually. The Astral seems to have been reestablished in Mayfield intact after everything that happened last night. Being shunted out of it seems to have reestablished his connection with his body and while he can’t seem to wake up in the physical world yet, he’s shown the ability to enter and leave it at will now. I have high hopes for him.”

“Good to hear.” Pratt said, with genuine compassion. “I wish everything was going as well in the rest of the country. I’ve got all three Superhuman Intervention units deployed as of right now and frankly it isn’t enough if these reports are true. Hauntings, pyrotechnic events, monster sightings—its nationwide.”

Laurel shook her head. “As far as our nationalistically vain media is concerned. But I’ve been online all day and… it’s global, General. The British Museum has quarantined its Egyptian wing, it’s touched off riots from Calcutta to Perth, there’s minor seismic activity in parts of South America that have no fault lines… it’s only by the grace of god that the casualties are so low.”

Pratt nodded. He hared being called on his tunnel vision, but Codex was right. “The world governments will be in either full panic mode, or full denial within the week, I’m sure.” He said wearily. “I only hope they’ll approach this intelligently.”

“And how are we approaching it, General?”

“Not well.” Pratt admitted. “We never anticipated anything on this scale. If there was a threat, we always assumed it would be from a small number of superhumans or mutants. Three SI units simply aren’t enough. Luckily, I’ve managed to get authorization to expand the program to ten teams, but they won’t be active in time to deal with the direct fallout. I’ve had to call in favors to cover the major bases here; Prometheus, Infinity—I even managed to coax Zero Point and the Majestrix out of retirement to help out.”

“I didn’t even know they were retired.” Laurel admitted.

“They didn’t do it publicly so the lingering threat of them showing up would still keep crime in Phoenix to around five percent of the national average, but they haven’t been active in two years—since their daughter Willow went missing.”

“That’s terrible.” Laurel sympathized.

Pratt nodded, “Actually, if you can look into the case with your unique intellect, I’m sure they’d appreciate it.”

“Of course.” Laurel said. “I’ll get right on it as soon as we’re done here.”

“Thank you.” Pratt replied. “Back to business then.” He pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger as he reached this part. Knowing Laurel for the past year had taught him that if she felt she needed to lie to him, she simply would tell him nothing, and that she wasn’t someone who took their professional interactions lightly. Those facts only made the headache at the absolute absurdity of her report worse. “You said that part of this incident involved a sorceress and a group of… demons?”

“I know how insane that sounds,” Laurel said, “But it’s true… at least objectively. These weren’t demons in the biblical sense, but that is what they called themselves and they were from a dimension that is tangential to ours. I can hypothesize all day on this, but one thing that really bothers me is where they obtained the weapon their leader arrived with near the end of the confrontation…”

***

“Mr. Liedecker, the window has been replaced in your office and the clean-up job is done.” Brill stood at the door to Liedecker’s home office. It was very much like his regular office; spacious, well appointed and meticulously organized. The only difference was that the weapons on display were behind glass windows; actual valuable relics with famous histories attached rather than ornaments meant to convey menace. Hastily, he added, “Dr. Drew also says that Scuff Singer is awake again and the magitech has stopped resonating.”

“Good man, Brill.” Liedecker said, casually browsing through expense reports from some of his legitimate holdings. His arm was in a sling; though looking at him invoked the idea in the observer that that made him more dangerous, not less.

Silence held in the air for a moment. Brill broke it by coughing nervously. “Sir?” he asked.

“I’m busy at the moment, Brill, this better be important.”

“I just wanted to apologize, sir, for not staying and doing my job last night.”

“I sent you down to the vault to guard the magitech research, Brill.” Liedecker said evenly. “That is what I wanted done and that’s what you did, that makes you a good dog, Brill. But don’t expect a pat on the head, understand? Being a good dog is what you’re supposed to be. No one gets rewarded for doing what they’re supposed to.”

“It wasn’t that at all, sir, I just thought—“

“That you’d get back to your army days?” Liedecker asked, accusingly. “Get one last war story in before going to Hell by shooting the Devil himself? You didn’t stand the chance a slow mouse has in a cattery.”

“But my job—“

“Didn’t mean goddamn thing last night, Brill.” Liedecker cut him off. “I pay you because you’re good at spotting threats, not because I need protection, you shaved ape. I’ll have you remember that I’ve done your job and I never would have been damn fool enough to put myself between that critter and what he wanted.”

He set the flat computer screen he’d been using to go over the books down and stood. “Besides, it turned out a fight with me wasn’t what he was after.” His mood changed to one Brill didn’t see often, confusion. “Funny thing though; usually, when a body wants something and gets it free, they don’t demand to pay for it. ‘Course his is a demon and you’ve heard the translation, right Brill?”

Brill nodded. He knew that his other job, aside from target of abuse and bodyguard was sounding board.

“’Gifts are equal or not at all’ the fourth law of Faerie. The Book said it and Colos said it.” Liedecker mused. “And not that I’m hanging on the word of the Devil, but I’ve got to wonder what it is I’m supposed to be getting.”

***

“Possibly a simple theft.” Pratt rationalized. “There are plenty of military contractors in the Mayfield area and they could have picked it up anywhere.”

“I’ll keep an eye out for any reports of grand theft or corporate espionage.” Laurel nodded.

“Now as to your specific explanation of what triggered these events…” Pratt began.

“Worse than the demons. I know.” Laurel said, “But I’ve discussed Morganna with you before; the danger she and the power she wielded posed.”

Pratt sighed, “Yes, I’ve heard your explanations, Codex, and after two field reports from the SI units today describing encounters with obviously powered entities that completely failed to register as descendant, mutant or mechinoid, I’m frankly open to all the possibilities. But I have to ask; you mention Occult in this briefing only in the most vague terms. Is that power in the right hands with her?”

***

“Saved the world and got to skip her Chem. final.” Kay beamed as she and Lisa sat in a booth at The Dungeon. Her hair was pink with green stripes from some inscrutable reason that Lisa had almost chalked up to the magical release the night before. “Tell you what, in celebration, I’m buying today, kid. Anything you want.”

Lisa forced herself to smile. “Can I get a rain check on that? I’m not really thirsty today.”

Kay frowned. That wasn’t a good sign for anyone on the business end of that expression. “Oh come on, I at least owe you a drink. After all, I wouldn’t have my magical voice power when I woke up if it wasn’t for you. And without that… I mean I can’t actually play keyboard; there goes Snackrifice.”

This time, Lisa’s smile was for real. Intellectually, she knew that she had saved the Descendants powers, prevented god knew how many slow, horrible deaths of psionics whose lives depended on their powers, and probably kept nations like Columbia, which was more or less ruled by psionics from becoming a sea of political chaos. But nothing made it hit home for her more than the fact that she had kept her best friend’s musical dream afloat; something she had done years earlier simply by learning to play bass.

“Okay, one drink then.” She said.

“Cool, see if you can get it up to eleven adjectives, it looks like there’s a new girl playing barista today.” Kay grinned mischievously. As Lisa started to write her order on a napkin, Kay leaned over. “So… yesterday was a pretty good time, you know…”

“Time for what?”

“You know, to tell them who you are, that you know who they are. From Warrick’s accounts, I figured that was what super team-ups were all about. Kind of the heroic version of a marriage retreat.”

Lisa shook her head. For a moment, the memory of her aunt fluttered through her mind. She resisted shivering with guilt. “Sorry, Kay, I think Occult’s solo days are still ahead of her.”

Kay made a whining noise better associated with small dogs that double as fashion accessories for the rich, vapid and hilariously cruel. “Awww, but why? I mean Laurel gave you a spellbook – that totally means she wants you in the club!”

“Two reasons.” Lisa held up the appropriate number of fingers. “One, I just want to stay friends with them. As long as that’s possible. If I joined, I’d be more of a co-worker. Plus, now that I’ve waited so long, they’ll be pissed that I waited so long.”

“Okay, one is that you’re a chicken.” Kay nodded sagely. “Go on.”

Lisa shook her head. “And two is that right now, it’s kind of nice to have something that really is just me and my best friend. Like when we were twelve at summer camp and formed the ‘get us out of here’ club?”

Kay smirked. “You go right for the smaltz, don’t you? I’m ashamed beyond reason that it worked.”

They shared a laugh.

‘Reason three,’ Lisa added mentally, ‘it’s personal between Morganna and I. More so now than before.’

***

“Absolutely.” Laurel said. “General, you’re going to have to take my word on this because the Descendants aren’t in the business of revealing the secret identities of other prelates.”

“An admirable principle, Codex.” Pratt said. “One I can agree with, given my position of working with various prelates as well as our resident experts in the field of superhuman psychology. But you can appreciate my concern. After all, this magic phenomenon is a new and potentially dangerous vector of threat to public safety and national security.”

“I can appreciate that, yes.” Laurel agreed. “But I can also assure you that from what I’ve observed; magic is just as much of a non-moral tool as psionic ability or cybernetic modification.”

“And you’ve seen how the current administration has been cracking down on illegal modding.” Pratt pointed out. “They’re this close to using the ever popular ‘declaring war’ trope in their literature. If they get wind of magic, which is shaping up to be far more difficult to regulate, they’ll lose their minds. And the racism card won’t be there to stay their hand like it has with psionics.”

“I’ll keep Occult and any other potential magic users abreast of the politics of the matter.” Laurel said dryly. “Is there anything else in my report we need to go over? The kids will be home in an hour and I’m on dinner duty this week.”

“I’ll make this last part brief then.” The General said amiably. “I notice that you don’t even chance to speculate on Morganna’s fate at the culmination of the ConquesTech Event. Care to speculate with me now?”

“With no data, no eyewitness account, and the very nature of magic to consider, General, I don’t think I can.” She said honestly. “But considering that she survived the battle on the West Truman Bridge, I wouldn’t put her in the KIA pile just yet, General.”

***

Paramedics rushed down the hall of Queen of Angels Hospital in Chicago, shouting vital statistics to the ER doctors.

“Hispanic female, early thirties. Anonymous tip led the cops to find her in a back lot by the docks. She’s showing signs of shock and superficial burns… I have no idea how it happened, but it looks like a lightning strike.”

“Get her to triage and we’ll find out exactly what’s going on.” A doctor replied.

Hidden from their eyes and ears, but cleaving to the gurney like its own shadow, Manikin followed, Staff of Hyrilius gripped tightly in her hand. Had she failed in her mission? Should she have risked the teleport to avoid the Heir being discovered?

Naife gave voice to her concerns as all three motes hurried along at her side, also hidden in the glammer. “Is it going to be alright?” it asked plaintively.

Manikin looked to the glowing creature and, despite its lack of body, much less facial expression, felt the worry and pain coursing through its mind. She wanted to comfort it, but knew it was impossible to touch.

“Yes, little mote.” She said. “the Heir will be just fine.” She said, following the gurney through the door and into the triage ward.

End A MagiTech Crisis: Epilogue

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About Vaal

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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