Descendants #101 – The Battle of Freeland House Chp.7

This entry is part 8 of 55 in the series Current

A dozen ROCIC carriers had were landed all across the Freeland House lawns as agents worked with MPD officers to disarm and round up the Moreau Corps soldiers. At least thirty had been left behind when TOME pulled its forces out, along with a handful of injured inugami whose self-destruct mechanisms hadn’t detonated them whether by error or because those devices had been destroyed.

“Looks like they did a number on your house, Miss Brant.” Jonathan Edward Tyler, aka Prometheus came to stand beside Codex who was watching as ROCIC agents worked to haul Kali and Beowulf out of the freshly discovered Freeland House basement.

Her visor was open since there was no point in trying to hide her identity anymore, and the expression it revealed was unreadable. “Interesting bit of symmetry. This all started when you destroyed Ian’s house, now you’re at mine after someone tried to destroy it.” She turned to face him fully. “What brings you here anyway? The last I heard, you were helping assemble the president’s Superhuman Affairs agency.”

“I am. You wouldn’t believe how much time’s been wasted by the politicians trying to name it with a forced acronym.” He paused to watch as Kali finally released her captive, uncoiling from Beowulf who remained markedly resigned and complacent. “Believe it or not, I’m sorry I missed the action. Might have been a chance to balance my books with you folks.”

“What kept you away then?” Laurel asked with a bit of an edge hinting she had a good idea what the answer was.

Prometheus didn’t beat around the bush. “I was summoned by a handful of pro-Braylocke senators to watch and try to explain what went on today. The line they’re trying to sell is that you just conducted a private super-powered war on US soil. People used the word ‘Columbia’ more than once.”

For a moment, Laurel just stared at him, considering.

Columbia had ‘fallen’ to a descendant insurgency in the early 2060’s after both the cartels and the government attempted to conscript descendants into fighting cadres to use against one another. The press-ganged descendants organized in secret and overthrew their enslavers and took over, forming a government where those with powers were the only ones allowed to participate in governance.

Second only to Arjun Ravi, Columbia was a major source of anti-descendant hysteria. It was also frequently sited alongside the Braddock Island incident and Braylocke himself when justifying the Braylocke laws.

“This isn’t anything like that,” she said at last. “We were protecting our families. Tome was the aggressor.”

“We both know these guys will gloss over that fact and focus on the battles in the street and the fact that you were able to muster every big-name hero in the nation aside from Hurricane in a matter of hours.”

Laurel’s lips pressed into a firm line. “We’re not an army. Those people were all friends we’ve helped or worked with in the past.”

When the ROCIC agents started pressing Beowulf to move forward, he resisted. “No. I’m not going anywhere until someone tells me where my sister is.”

Both Laurel and Prometheus focused on him, the former reaching down to grasp a tonfa, the latter’s arms starting to exude thick curls of smoke.

“I’m just telling you what the other side of the aisle’s been saying behind closed doors. Giving you a head’s up.”

She nodded as six agents started forcing a belligerent Beowulf out toward a waiting transport. As she did, she pulled out her palmtop and checked something before speaking again. “Thanks for that. Even if this is really just a continuation of the same old fight we’ve been fighting since Reverend Stiles.”

“Wheel just keeps turning,” Prometheus said with a weary sigh. “Not saying I condone what happened in Columbia… but I understand.”

“And it’s our job to make sure more people aren’t pushed to those lengths.”

As the agents forced Beowulf outside, a bright light surrounded them. Prometheus cursed and started forward, only to have Codex draw her tonfa and use it to halt his progress. Instead, she shouted to the agents. “Get away from him, now!”

The agents leapt away as the light intensified.

“No!” Beowulf shouted. “Get me back inside! You can’t let them take me back!” He tried to turn and run, but the energy of the light beam hemmed him in. “My sister! I need—” And then he was gone in a flare of white light.

Prometheus glared at Codex. “You knew that was going to happen.”

She nodded. “Tome doesn’t abandon their enforcers like they do the inugami or Moreaus. We already saw this earlier when they beamed Metal X out of California. The difference is that this time they beamed Beowulf out of the sensory grid I installed to canvas all the Freeland House grounds after we were attacked on Halloween.”

“And that means you can track where they beamed him?”

“Unfortunately not. But it will allow me to identify the satellite they’re using—and from there, I’ll be able to reverse-engineer the tech, both giving us that capability and giving me a chance to develop a way to block the transmission. One enforcer gets away today, they won’t be able to get away at all tomorrow.”

Prometheus smirked. “Nice.”

But Laurel shook her head. “This was just making the best of a bad situation. This… wasn’t worth it. Not the extra scrutiny, not the danger to our loved ones… and especially not when we didn’t save everyone.” Prometheus raised an eyebrow. “Your rabble-rousing politicians didn’t hear?” she asked with dire solemnity.

***

Kareem sat on the bed of one of the HQ’s bunks, legs crossed under him, head bowed. In his hands was Desiree’s palmtop—the only thing he had left of her. The other captives didn’t recall seeing her or hearing anything about her during the time they were in Tome’s hand and they had no other leads to suggest where she’d been taken.

It made a twisted kind of sense: as a telepath, it was entirely possible that he’d have developed a psychic rapport with her, or learned her mental signature well enough to detect her over distance. In such a case, it only made sense to keep her separate from the others.

Unfortunately, he hadn’t done any of those things. No, he’d felt that the only way to truly have a relationship with her was to not use his powers on her—at least not until he was able to reveal his secret identity to her and have her consent.

Warrick had jokingly called his policy ‘Mind of Manners’ and now he was cursing his own ethics. If he’d connected to her mind even a little, maybe he’d have something to work with—something that would let him help instead of being left useless and powerless.

A knock on the door frame snapped him out of his daze. He hadn’t noticed the door opening or Lily standing there until the sound.

When she saw him look up, Lily gave him a pensive look. “Sorry to bother you. I’d… ask if you were alright, but that’s a pretty stupid question right now.” He merely nodded, waiting for her to explain why she’d come to find him. “Right… I’m supposed to reach out to Desiree’s father, but there’s no Sweeney family in Mayfield with a daughter named Desiree. Did her father have a different last name?”

Kareem thought for a moment, then frowned. “I don’t know. Strange isn’t it? We’ve been dating so long and I’ve never met her father. I don’t even know his name now that I think of it. He was always away of business.”

Lily frowned as well, thinking of her own parents and what they’d do if she suddenly disappeared. Then her eyes lit upon the palmtop in his hands. “They said Tome stole your palmtop. Is that hers?” When he nodded, she continued, “Maybe she’s got him in her contact info.”

“I suppose it is worth trying, thought I do not know her password.” He switched on the device and was surprised to find the password lock had been disabled. But any surprise he felt from that was overshadowed by something else. “That’s strange; the last program used is still open—and it’s the sound recorder.”

Coming over to see, Lily could only shrug. Were you recording bird songs or something?”

Kareem shook his head, his jaw tightening. “But Tome left this with me on purpose. Perhaps they intended to leave me demands. Or instructions.” Without wasting another second, he went to the latest file created and pressed play.

It wasn’t the voice of Simon Talbot or other Tome lackey who Kareem might have expected that they heard, but Desiree’s: “There’s no way to explain this to you in a way that will make things right, Kareem…”

The two listened in slowly unfolding horror as the truth unspooled to disbelieving ears. When it was over, it was Lily that broke the silence. “Oh my god…”

For his part, Kareem didn’t say anything. He couldn’t find the words. Instead, he just sat there, staring at the palmtop, waiting for some proof that it was a hoax.

Only he knew what the real hoax was: everything he’d shared with Desiree. No matter what she’d said about really coming to love him he couldn’t trust it. Even if she wasn’t still trying to manipulate him for Tome, her words could still just be the sad self-justification of a woman wracked with guilt.

It was made even worse when he factored in the pheromones. After spending years trapped on the astral plane, he though that if there was any one mind and suite of emotions he knew perfectly, it would be his own. With the revelation of the pheromones, however…

He dropped the palmtop, watching without really seeing as it landed in his lap, then slip off onto the bed. After a stifling silence, he felt the bed dip as another weight settled onto it beside him. Then a pair of arms slipped around him.

“I’m so sorry.” Lily murmured. Kareem stiffened at the touch and she drew back as much as she could without breaking contact. “Look I’ll leave you alone if you want me to.”

“I just didn’t expect this from… you.” At the moment, he couldn’t muster the strength to be polite.

Lily sighed. “Yeah, I know. I’m a bitch. But I’ve been trying to get better.” After a beat, she added, “And this isn’t me trying to get something out of you.

After a quiet moment, Kareem admitted. “I know.”

It took a beat for what he really meant to sink in. “Oh.” Then the full implications hit her and she panicked. “Look, whatever else you got from going through my head…”

He shook his head, suddenly realizing what it was he’d just done. “P-please, don’t be embarrassed. I shouldn’t have violated your privacy. If you do not want to talk about it, we can pretend this never happened.”

At first, Lily hesitated, wondering is she really should take his offer. But at the same time, Lily Goldenmeyer was not a woman who shied away from things. She met them head on with maximum force. Working up her nerve, she shook her head, but out of deference to the nature of the discussion, she released her hold on him and gave him space. “What if I want to talk about it?”

His eyes met hers briefly, then he looked away. “What you feel for me is purely physical, Lily. You don’t know me. You haven’t gotten to know me at all aside from speaking once or twice a week at the gym in our building. Twenty-four hours ago, you didn’t even know that I was a descendant and a hero—one of the heroes your friend and client has been working with for months now.”

“I’d say that was harsh, but I’m thinking I shouldn’t have tried to make you talk about it.” Lily sighed, slowly getting up from the bed. “Plus, you’re totally right. And get that we’re not close enough for me to be who you need right now. Just… please talk to someone, okay? Your parents are here and they’ve been asking after you. Some of your teammates are back too. I can go get whoever you need.”

Kareem shook his head. “Not just yet. They have other things to deal with, on top of just needing time to rest and recuperate. Can you just be the one to tell them what really happened to Desiree?” He picked up the phone and offered it to her.

Taking it, Lily nodded. “Of course. I’ll leave you alone now.”

She turned to leave, but a strong hand caught her wrist, halting her. “Lily?”

“Hmm?”

“Thank you. Regardless of everything else I might have seen in my mind, I saw that your sympathy was genuine. That you really do care.” This time when he made eye contact with her, he held it. “I also sensed the fear and shame in you: about how some of the people you tormented in high school are and always have been significantly more powerful and influential than you.”

He paused, considering his words carefully. “I can’t promise that everyone will feel the same, but for my part? Welcome to the Descendants.”

***

“You know what sucks?” Cyn lay sprawled on her stomach across one of the bench sections of the warroom. The old lounges and break rooms had been hastily converted to places where the temporarily relocated families could eat and talk with a little privacy, so after making sure their own families were secure, some of the younger Descendants, plus the members of Descendants LA had set up some movies in the warroom to help them unwind.

“What’s that?” asked Rebound, in the middle of passing a two liter of cola to Callie.

“None of this feels like a win,” Cyn said almost before he was done talking. “We beat the baddies in probably a dozen fights, put fifty of those Moreau assholes in prison, protected all the stuff at the house, and found out just how many people have our backs… and it’s like that doesn’t matter. We’re outed to the world, have no idea how we’re going to keep your families safe, the house is all torn up, it turns out I was totally right about Desiree, and the worst part is, we still don’t know how all this is going to shake out.”

She rolled over on her back, snagging a slice of pizza out of a nearby box in the process. “And were seriously don’t need more crap on top of the Maeve thing. What we really need is a vacation.”

“Dude, you could always come out to Cali and hang out with us again,” offered Teen Machine.

“Or, I mean I still have an option open to rent the beach house again,” said Warrick. He had an arm wrapped around Tink, who had fallen asleep from all the stress of the day.

Sitting at the actual warroom round table, Kay called up a holographic image of a mesa rising out of a jungle, greenery cloaking its flanks as fingers of mist cascaded off its edges. “Oooor. How about Venezuela?”

“What’s in Venezuela?” asked Callie, confused.

“Magical whatisits,” Kay replied proudly. “When Avalon rose, there were other non-earthquake seismic events all over the globe. One of my side projects with Ms. Brant has been going through and mapping them. The strongest one? It’s half-way up a rainforest mountain in Venezuela.”

She pointed to the image. “Whatever it is, it’s either connected to Avalon or reacted to it. Someone should go look into it. And spend some time relaxing in the sun and sand in between hunting for badass Faerie-god killing artifacts. Sound good?”

End Descendants #101

Series Navigation<< Descendants #102 – Tales of Consequence Chp. 1Descendants #101 – The Battle of Freeland House Chp.6 >>

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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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2 Comments

  1. Just a thought, but have you ever considered character tags, links back to related chapters, anything like that? I checked back to reread Desiree’s monologue, but it took me a while to find it. I have no idea what happened with Prometheus.

    Typos

    frequently sited
    frequently cited

    always away of business.”
    always away on business.”

    wondering is she
    wondering if she

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