Descendants #101 – The Battle of Freeland House Chp.1

This entry is part 32 of 33 in the series Current

When the LSI Headquarters had been a domestic government black site, it had been built with the idea of temporarily housing both high risk informants and prisoners for interrogation. So it came as no surprise that there were cells on the lower levels.

Given the nature of the threats LSI and specifically The Descendants dealt with, those cells were woefully inadequate even if they were in the business of keeping covert prisoners. At least they hadn’t been until they gained a voluntary one in the form of a centuries-old magical construct wearing the face of a friend.

Since the Manikin had no need for food or water, and no reason to exercise, she stayed alone in the locked cell reinforced by mystic wards with only the occasional visits from Laurel to interview her to provide company. Lisa had been skittish of coming face-to-face with her.

Until now.

The normally invisible ward on the door flared to life before fading away. Moments later there was a beep and the magnetic locks in the door disengaged. Finally, the door opened and Lisa Ortega stood there, turned to a silhouette by the harsh lights in the corridor.

She’d been prepared to say something the moment the door was open, but found herself frozen, staring into a face that had been her own two years ago. The Manikin’s disguise didn’t age. It hadn’t spent the last two years losing sleep by going out into the night to protect hearth and home. It hadn’t stayed up nights worrying about her aunt both while she’d been possessed by Morganna and after when she’d been forced to start a new life in Morganna’s old guise. It hadn’t been lost on another world for weeks learning that it was a messiah for being it didn’t even know existed a year ago.

The face of a Lisa Ortega who was still innocent to how massive and complicated the world was stared back at her. Innocent yes, but with an expression more serious then her own as the Manikin dropped to a knee and bowed low.

“I have awaited your arrival, O Heir,” she intoned with her head lowered. “Your ally has come to me with questions that I have answered to the best of my ability, but there are things meant only for you. How may I serve?”

Lisa swallowed and stepped into the room. “You know we still don’t trust you.” Behind her, Warrick and Tink stepped up to block the door while Cyn moved into position behind them.

“So your ally has informed me. It is because I was mistook the one who styles herself after Morgan LeFaye and aided her in doing harm to you, your family and your allies. Please accept my most humble apologies for the harm I’ve done. I will accept any penance you levy against me, but please allow me to pass on the wisdom of Hyrilius that you may be prepared for the coming of Maeve.”

Hearing once more about Hyrilius and the looming threat from Faerie, Lisa had to take a moment to breath through the rising case of nerves coming over her. One crisis at a time, no matter how many were piling up at their feet.

She set her jaw, trying to look as authoritarian as possible. First and foremost, she’d decided it was better that the Manikin not know just how much of an emergency they were facing. That would give the construct too much power over them. “What can you offer to satisfy our concerns over your loyalty?”

“My loyalty is to Hyrilius and his entire line, but above all the Heir for whom he wished to prepare to complete his great work. To you, O Heir. But if you cannot trust me to ask upon your orders, I can give to you the core of my creation, which if sundered will end my existence.”

Without prompting, the Manikin reached up to her forehead. The glamor that made her look like Lisa flickered and failed, revealing a vaguely feminine shape made of polished wood and wire. Her face was a featureless mask carved from dozens of slats of wood fitted together inside a brace of metal struts. The slats began to move aside, revealing a hollow in her forehead.

From it, she extracted an oblong amber stone with a twisted silver strand at its heart that curled and changed before the eyes of her audience, taking on the shapes of flowing sigils and angular runes.”

Once the stone was secure in her palm, the hollow closed up and the glamor of Lisa’s face and flesh reasserted itself. She offered the stone to Lisa, still remaining in a kneeling position.

Reluctant to touch any magical artifact without knowing what it was, Lisa held on hand over it and closed her eyes, murmuring a quick spell she’d learned from her visit to the Orerry of Worlds where she’d encountered the Manikin’s predecessor, a being called Rangi Nzuri.

Behind her eyes, the a world or light and patterns unfolded before her. A second spell translated the patterns of energy into cause and effect, flows and pools of energy. Within moments, she understood the stone’s purpose. It was the seat of the Manikin’s existence: her thoughts, her memories, the motive force behind her body and limbs. There were other spells embedded in the rest of the body; protection, glamors, storage for magical energy, but without what was bound to the stone, the Manikin would cease to be.

“There is a word, which when said with intent will cause it to shatter,” said Manikin. “You do not have to concern yourself with the loss of my knowledge: I have prepared a contingency to catalog it all.”

“You don’t care whether you live or die?”

“I was created to impart my knowledge and skill to you, to assist in your works and to ensure that this world is prepared to repel Maeve. My continued existence is not necessarily part of Hyrilius’s plan.” The Manikin didn’t even bat an eye in saying that, simply continuing to offer up the stone.

Warrick made a concerned noise from the door. “I thought he was the good guy in all this.”

For the first time, the Manikin’s expression turned to something more than complete neutrality: offense. “Hyrilius saved this world from the predations of the Queen of Air and Darkness. If not for him, Mankind would be extinct or enslaved like all others whose thresholds have been darkened by her.”

“Not saying I don’t appreciate that, but you can’t make someone who talks and thinks, then make it so they don’t think their lives matter. That’s bullshit.”

Now Manikin stood, rage starting to contort her features. “I will not stand by and allow you to besmirch Hyrilius! You know nothing of what he sacrificed—what he never had that you and all of Mankind might! You know nothing about him or his compassion.” She hung her head. “He would not wish me to sacrifice myself, but he also created me with the moral capacity to know that I am not worth the entire Blue World.

She took a step forward, eyes hard and blazing vengeance. A slim, tan arm blocked her passage. Even in defense of her former master, the Manikin stopped for the Heir.

“You’re right,” said Lisa. “We don’t know anything about him. And we should. I should because I’m supposed to be following in his footsteps and there are a lot of people counting on me. Eventually I’m going to need to trust you and listen to you, and learn from you. But today something else needs our attention. It isn’t Maeve, but it’s a more immediate threat we need to deal with now.”

Manikin’s head bowed. “I will do as you will, O Heir.”

Reaching for Manikin’s hand, Lisa took the stone from the construct’s hand. “Alright. Here’s the mission: a group has launched an assault on my friends and our allies. What’s worse, they’ve taken some of our friends and family. We’re mounting a mission to get them back, but our enemies are all over the country and we need every mage we can teleporting people around.”

“I will not be part of the force sallied forth to rescue the captured?”

“No, you’ll be transportation bringing people to and from this place as they make sure others aren’t being captured.”

The Manikin nodded. “Understood. I require only instruction as to who and where as well as necessary reagents: horse hair, oak wood.”

“Not a problem,” Cyn piped up. “We’re the best customer of every art, music and fishing supply store in the city right now.” Before any conversation could continue, all their comms warbled. “Ugh, what now? What else could possibly happen?”

Shortly after the warble, Laurel’s voice came in over the comms, overriding the normal call and answer mechanic. “We need everyone who isn’t currently assigned to an extraction in the war room as soon as possible please be geared up and ready for battle.”

“That doesn’t sound good…” Tink said, looking pale.

“Remember what I said, this isn’t your fault.” Warrick put his arm around her. “Let’s just get through this and the rescue mission and then we can all take a break.” With exaggerated care, he steered her around and started leading her back up the corridor. Cyn followed, leaving Lisa alone with the Manikin.

The construct’s eyes followed Warrick’s back, still alight with vengeful flame, but the rest of her expression returned to passivity under the gaze of her master. “You appear to have other tasks. Shall I await your return, O Heir?”

Lisa considered it briefly, but then gazed down at the mystic stone in her hand. “No. She said we needed everyone. That includes you.”

“As you wish.” She calmly followed as Lisa left the cell, headed for the war room.

***

For the first time ever, the war room was at capacity. Besides most of the Descendants, Teen Machine, Green Boarder and Glass of Descendants LA, The Whitecoat and the other New York prelates he’d brought with him, Umbrage, the Mayfield Irregulars, the Outliers, Noah and Tillie from the Kin, and appearing on a holographic screen were two voice-only comm connections labeled Majestrix and Zero Point.

When Warrick and Tink, now fully restored to their full regalia as Alloy and Renaissance, entered, Zero leapt to her feet and gave them a concerned look. Tink replied with an unhappy shake of her head. The call to action had interrupted the planned mission to rescue Malcolm and the others who had been taken.

Their arrival also seemed to mark the start of the meeting, as Codex stood and lowered the lights in the room so everyone could see the holographic displays she was calling up more clearly.

“I’d like to start by thanking you all of coming. I know it’s been a long, tiring day for everyone and none of you had any obligation to come to us in a time of need, especially before we could even ask.”

“Like hell,” Whitecoat interrupted. “You guys have teams up and helped all of us at one time or another and even if you didn’t, your work normalizing descendants and with LSI helping us out with resources, we owe you all—big time. Like I told all these guys,” he jerked his thumb toward the other New Yorkers, “I’d have had zero respect for anyone who didn’t come.”

Teen Machine nodded. “Yeah. You guys changed everything. Half my group wouldn’t even have met if you guys hadn’t blazed the trail.”

The rest of the room rumbled with the agreement of several dozen extraordinarily powered and motivated people. Codex ducked her helmeted head. “We can’t thank you all enough—for what you’ve done and for volunteering for what comes next. In case you didn’t know, out rush to extract our friends and family from their homes and workplaces today after our identities became known was complicated by an all-out offensive by Project Tome. Unfortunately, we weren’t completely successful in that regard: Tome was able to kidnap Alejandro Keyes, Timothy Forester, Malcolm Bookman, and Desiree Sweeny as well as Sean McAllister and his cohorts.”

Even without being able to see her face, Warrick felt her gaze land on him. “Thanks to some independent information,” by which she meant the tracking coordinates Tink had laid into the jet’s computer while she’d prepped it for takeoff, “we know they’re being held at a facility in Indiana.”

She paused to tap on a holographic control panel, bringing up a map of Mayfield which quickly zoomed into the Hills and the area near Lake Standish. “However, we’ve detected Tome cloaked transports congregating near Freeland House. In case any of you hasn’t figured it out now, this was and still is home to many of us. But that’s not the highest point of concern. Before this facility, Freeland House also served as our base of operations: one we never fully moved out of.”

The image zoomed in farther, becoming a wireframe of Freeland House and the surrounding grounds. “ At the moment, a military grade standing field generator array is protecting the site, but it won’t hold up forever, especially not up against attacks from their more powerful enforcers. There are a number of high-risk items and locations that need to be secured before the array goes down.”

Red dots appeared on the wireframe map: One on the far side of either wing of the second floor, one in the downstairs commons, two in the boathouse. “We’ll be sending you in teams and teleporting you in. Unfortunately, from experiments we’ve run, we know that the standing fields won’t block magical teleportation, but it will scatter them—that also rules out the mirror gate. Finally, while we defend and secure Freeland House, we can’t allow Tome to dig in and hide their hostages. Therefore, we’ll be sending in a strike team of heavy hitters to take them back while Tome thinks they have us distracted.”

“Freeland House teams: you’ll be tasked to deal with whatever you land closest to. In the boathouse, we have Alloy’s metals lab and stores. Given his powers, he’s created a few unique alloys and admixtures of currently unknown value. These need to be removed from the area, every scrap and bar because that might be all it takes to give Tome a new weapon. Second, there’s Occult’s sorcery lab. The same thing goes for that, but Occult will be going with you to supervise moving or destroying everything there safely. I understand some of you might not even believe in magic, but take this seriously.”

She then pointed to the north wing of the house. “Here you’ll find my workshop and network systems. I’d like to keep my computers, but if that’s not possible, I have initiated an encrypted backup to a beta site. If things get close, you each have a data drive that once connected will wipe the entire system unrecoverably in twenty-seven seconds.”

“Also in that room are the spares and replacements for our costumes and armaments. Again, recover or destroy these. You’ve all been supplied with today’s codes for all the vaults there. Facsimile and Renaissance are most familiar with these and will be instructed to head directly for the workshop.”

“Finally, there’s the mirror gate, formerly in the boathouse, but that we moved tot he downstairs commons. This will need to be destroyed, but the team that reaches it first should attempt to hold it as long as possible so it can serve as a backup escape route in case things get too bad. Do we all understand what needs to be done?”

A general murmur of agreement met her question.

“Good. Then let’s get the rescue team moving first. This mission won’t be one of finesse: it will be a smash and grab. Take down all defenses, rescue all hostages and bolt. To that end, the team will be lead by Alloy—”

“Um… what?”

Codex ignored him. “And will include Zero, Adamantine, Kronos, Vamanos, Miss Reynolds of the Kin, Teen Machine and the Green Boarder.”

Despite his shock over being called leader, Alloy quickly grokked to the plan Codex had already cooked up. “So the smash and grab…”

He earned a nod.

“But who’s going to be our pilot if you’re here and Renaissance is going to Freeland House?”

“Don’t worry about it, dude.” Teen Machine gave him a thumb’s up. “If it can move, I can pilot it; from dog sled to rocket car. The whole ‘celebrity superhero’ thing means I got access to all sorts of certifications.”

Nodding absently, Alloy looked back toward Codex. “And you’re sure you want me to lead?”

His answer came from a slap on the back from the Whitecoat, who had made it over to his side. “Scuttlebutt says it wouldn’t be the first time. And that you came up with the plan to beat that smug asshole Joykiller the first time. You’re up for it, so stop second-guessing yourself and get going. You’ve got people that need saving.”

Before her could even think of arguing, Renaissance touched his gauntleted hand with her own. “You’ll do great. I wouldn’t want anyone else in charge of cleaning up my mess.”

From behind his visor, he smiled at his mentor and his love. “Thanks. Both of you.” He took a deep breath and then spoke with his Brooklyn accent in full force. “Alright team, wheels up in five. We’ve got folks t’ save!”

To Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< The Descendants #100 – Paradigm Shift pt.6

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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3 Comments

  1. Welcomes back Vaal. We missed you.

  2. The story is looking good. I hope that means your life’s in better shape now.

    We now return you to your regular typos.

    messiah for being
    messiah for a being

    It is because I was mistook the one who styles herself
    maybe,
    It is because I was mistaken. The one who styles herself
    or,
    It is because I mistook the one who styles herself

    angular runes.”
    angular runes.

    their lives matter.
    their life matters.

    entire Blue World.
    entire Blue World.”

    possible please be geared
    either
    possible, please be geared
    or
    possible please, be geared

    out rush to extract
    our rush to extract

    a thumb’s up.
    a thumbs up.

    tot he
    to the

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