Descendants #102 – Tales of Consequence Chp. 6

This entry is part 3 of 55 in the series Current

I apologize for taking so long getting back to you.” Laurel took the seat offered her opposite Vincent Liedecker’s in his main office at the Westinghall Building. The man himself was pouring measures of brandy into snifters at a sideboard near the window.

Nothin’ of it, Miss Brant,” Liedecker said, delivering one of the drinks to her before pacing back to the window to look out over Westinghall Plaza. “I think you can be forgiven for bein’ busy this week.” His expression grew dire. “I hear they attacked your house. Any of yours hurt worse than the news says?”

Laurel took the accepted drink but found herself staring into it rather than drinking. Even now, she was tense, trying her best to conceal just how stressed and tired she was. “Nothing we can’t handle. Injuries come with the job, and thankfully we have a healer among us.”

Liedecker sipped his own brandy, still watching the people below. “Good to hear. Good to hear.”

At length, Laurel finally heaved a sigh. “At this point, should I play coy and wonder aloud about how you’re taking this all so well, or do we respect one another enough for me to just ask how long you’ve known?”

That made Liedecker huff out a short laugh. “I started findin’ holes in your story around the time you and Miss Keyes came to me about the school. Had my own background checks done on you—folks that don’t just use the usual channels for that sort of thing. They came back with the odd little fact that you attended the Academy back when you were high school age. I found it kind of strange that the champion of the descendant was hidin’ that she was one.”

It would still be a long leap to say I’m a superhero from that.”

Liedecker turned from the window, meeting her eye. “Once I was lookin’ into you, I looked into Miss Keyes. Unlike you, her power is pretty damn obvious. I’m surprised folks you went to school with didn’t figure it out long ago.”

Alexis never used the black heat like she does today back at the Academy,” said Laurel. “And it isn’t as if people expect powers to be unique; there are dozens of other hypercognatives, telekinetics, elementalists, and psychics for example.”

A fair point, and one I kept in mind, but little things started to add up: how easily and without any paperwork of record The Descendants started working with Descendants Rights Worldwide, how The Descendants seemed to always know when somethin’ was happenin’ over here—I’d say that was either you, Miss Keyes, or the little Kaine girl’s brother’s doin’.”

Laurel nodded.

Right. Plus there’s the fact that I’ve come to know you, Miss Brant. You’ve got a fierceness to you that made me not just think but know that you’re not the kind of person who could just stand by watchin’ things go by, only actin’ by throwin’ money at it.” He shook his head. “No, you’re a fighter. There’s a fire in you that makes you want to get elbow deep in it. Only I never saw proof that you ever did… anything. Which made me wonder…”

I see now that you were in a unique position to put all the pieces together,” conceded Laurel.

Finally easing himself into his seat, Liedecker raised a glass in salute. “Indeed I was. But let’s make this show of respect mutual, Miss Brant.” He took a longer drink and set his snifter deliberately and firmly on the desk like punctuation. “How long have you know?”

Laurel’s expression didn’t change, but at last she took a sip of her drink. “As long as you it sounds like. You didn’t used to be as subtle as you are now, Vincent. You father was murdered by the Wild Men and not long after, the bulk of the gang of that same gang dies in a demolition accident at one of your buildings? And that year also marks the start of a drastic change in the crime statistics of Mayfield.”

She paused, considering, “The same thing you said about me applies to you. Your lifestyle doesn’t match your personality. From what I can tell, you’re a man who appreciates being hands on and in control—there’s a reason you have an actual office that you use at the school, for example—and yet you don’t assert that much control on your holdings. That tells me that you exercise that control elsewhere.

After that, I looked deeper and found that some of your associates—such as Joseph Callahan have gainful and high paid jobs… at companies that don’t exist. Callahan’s filed for patents though—one that highly resembles some of the modifications I’ve observed on the Sky Tyrant’s powered armor.”

Liedecker nodded. “I couldn’t let him just sit on what he’d made and hope no one else took it from him. Of course I didn’t figure on someone with a perfect memory diggin’ through his patents.”

Laurel nodded. “Of course it all came together after the girls’ trip to Walking Bear. As much as Miss Carroll impressed upon them to keep quiet, one can never expect total silence from that group. Just with a little eavesdropping told me that the two staff members that saved them were Sky Tyrant and Vorpal—both of whom I knew had connections to the Mayfield Underworld.”

Imagine that,” Liedecker said, sounding a bit fond, “of all the crime I’ve done in my days, it was sendin’ some folks to save those girls that finally pulled back the curtain, huh? So let me ask you this: you’ve known for almost two years, right? So why haven’t you rained on me and mine like a Georgia Thunderstorm? Smart woman like you? It’d be easy.”

A small smirk twitched Laurel’s lips. “I’d be lying if I said one reason was because I suspected you’d have my secret to play against me and mine. That and the thing you’ve left unspoken: why you’re doing it. Why you want control so much. I’ve gotten to know that psychology quite well in the past few years. Losing your father changed things for you and you couldn’t just sit back and let it keep happening.

For some of us, that drive leads us to going out at night and punch villains until they stop threatening the peace. For you, it mean putting a leash on high level crime in the city. A lofty goal, but you managed to make it work. Mayfield is the ninth safest city in the country in terms of gang crime, prostitution and the drug trade. Though I won’t sing your praises for your part in continuing Virginia’s streak of being the source of illicit firearms to the rest of the country.”

Liedecker sat his drink down and folded his arms. “You can’t keep the criminals hard at work without crime. Way I see it, it’s better to export it than import it.”

You are the best possible realistic alternative,” Laurel agreed, taking another sip of her drink. “In the end, it boils down to a fact I’ve been drilling into the rest of the team: we aren’t the police. Our concern isn’t stopping crime and enforcing ordinances—you won’t see us swinging in to stop people speeding or insider trading… unless we feel very strongly about it. The Descendants are about protecting Mayfield’s people and any other people we can help. And in the end, I honestly believe having you in place protects more people than anyone who I can see filling that vacuum.

At the very least, Vincent, you can be reasoned with. You didn’t kill Belle’s cyborgs, you only fielded Samael once, and you’ve made a genuine effort in doing right by the school and the kids. The fact is, even without the massive, violent gang war that would spring up in your absence, a lot of people would suffer with the loss of Vincent Liedecker as well.”

She paused, taking note of Liedecker’s expression. “I’m going to have to admit I didn’t expect that to not be what you wanted to hear.”

Indeed, Liedecker’s face had grown somber upon hearing her enumerate how important he was to the city and holding Mayfield’s crime in check. In a rare, candid moment, he allowed himself to huff out an unhappy breath. “That’d be because I was hopin’ you of all people wouldn’t see me as as indispensable as I feared I was.”

Rising from his seat, he sauntered back to the window. “Yes, I’ve got money. And power. Public and private. But Miss Brant, I am only a poor old man when it boils down to it. I’m never gonna be with the only woman I ever loved. The only family I got left is my sister and I ain’t heard from her for on near four years now. And the smartest person I know is sittin’ here telling me that my importance boils down to how I oversee ten murders a year when someone else might be overseein’ a hundred.”

He ran his hand through his hair and turned back to Laurel, looking older than she’d ever seen him. “I want to end it, Miss Brant. The Underworld or maybe just my part of it. In a word, I’m tired. Tired of holdin’ the leash of meaner, more dangerous dogs with every passin’ year. Tired of bein’ the bad guy. When I decided to run for mayor, it was because I think I can actually do something on the right side of things—and give myself a reason to divest myself of ‘the Master of the Mayfield Underworld’.”

Still looking tired, he managed to meet Laurel’s eye. “The reason I invited you here… it was to discuss the terms of my surrender as it were. I was gonna offer you the title—the promise that you’d be able to dismantle my monster from the inside out. But damn, you’ve got enough on your plate as it is even without everything that happened this past week.”

Laurel’s eyes widened. This was something she hadn’t foreseen. “You… wanted to… give me control of your criminal empire?”

He nodded. “You’re the first pick, Miss Brant. From a very, very short list. And the only one I thought had a snowball’s chance in the devil’s armpit to actually put the Underworld down. The rest? Substitute teachers to try and hold it together.”

I couldn’t possibly do that. You had to know that: I can’t order people killed or just watch dangerous weapons being shipped out to the rest of the world.”

That’s why I’d be able to trust you to come up with a way to dismantle it. But you’re right of course. That’s just me sleep-walkin’. Instead of that, I was maybe hopin’ you’d help me find a replacement?”

After a long moment of thought, Laurel chewed her lip and said, “For the good of the city? You’ve got my help there. But keep in mind: if I think you or whoever replaces you has gone too far, the truce we’ve been enjoying ends immediately.”

Liedecker’s expression lightened a bit and he chuckled. “I wouldn’t expect anything less, Miss Brant. And thank you. At the very least, maybe this will see the Age of Superheroes startin’ out with one less villain.”

***

Losing faith,” growled Virgil Mosley. He was in his lab elsewhere in the Westinghall building, but the Book of Madness was whispering its disappointment in Liedecker wishing to abandon his ways. The Book had been excited to see what would come of the dissemination of so-called Magitech into a world already bristling with chaos. It feared that now those days would never come.

Oh, but it will,” Virgil assured his silent companion, sending a glance toward the book, sealed as it was inside a pillar of glass. “Remember I’ve been here since the beginning. I know how it was all made. I can remake it with or without Liedecker.”

After some thought, he added, “Most likely ‘without’ it seems. Maybe it’s time for us to leave—go out on our own.” Then a sick grin split his face. “Oh, but not alone, my friend. You know who we should bring? Samael.”

***

Elsewhen…

“People won’t believe it: the great leader of heroes cutting deals with one of the infamous.”

“That is why they will never hear of it,” came the clipped reply. “Besides, if the current theories are correct, this will remove that same infamous from our world forever.” The man speaking was tall, dusky-skinned and handsome. Obviously of Iranian descent, he smirked a tiny bit as he added, “Infinity is a big place after all.”

The two speakers were standing in a cramped storage room some sixty stories up where the only light came from one dingy window. Between them, resting on a table, was a canvas duffel bag.

“Just imagine: in the infinite worlds and times there will be infinite versions of me hoping to find a ‘close enough’ world to call home.” He was a head shorter than the other with bleached hair combed forward into a small forest of spikes. Dark eyes betrayed his amusement.

“Somehow, I find it difficult to imagine there being a worse version of you; we’ll break even at worst.”

A smirk twitched the blond’s lips. “If that eases your mind. Can I go now?” He reached toward the bag with a hand made of dozens of plates of steel only to have the other man grab the handles.

“One moment. You should know that she left on her own accord. She may not be legally an adult, but she’s mature enough to make her choices.”

The amusement from the other man’s eyes turned cold. “Again. If that eases your mind. I have parental rights, and you, my ex and the monkey trampled all over them. Some heroes.”

“As if you would abide by the rulings of a court.”

“You have a point.” This time the blond wrested the bag from his companion’s hands.

Before he could leave, the other man had one last question. “Will you make war on her new home?”

“Heh. We’ll see. I’ll keep a low key at first, build up a power base, then see what needs to be done.” He shouldered the bag. “Too bad I can’t use my name on the other side. But at least it let’s me use one to make a point: New world, meet Warren Slaughter.”

To Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< The Descendants #103 – Power and Responsibility Chp.3Descendants #102 – Tales of Consequence Chp. 5 >>

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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One Comment

  1. Typos

    champion of the descendant
    champion of the descendants

    a Georgia Thunderstorm?
    a Georgia thunderstorm?

    it let’s me
    it lets me

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