Descendants #99 – Huddled Masses Chp.1

This entry is part 17 of 55 in the series Current

This issue takes place immediately after the events of Descendants #99.

“Welcome to the Karasu no Yūrei.” Lisa announced as she accompanied JC up the rear loading ramp of said aircraft, making a grandiose gesture

JC looked around the cargo bay, noting the blocks of aluminum secured in one corner and the various and sundry transport cases that filled the rest of the spaces along the sides of the area. He could only guess what was in them considering how many people on the team were obsessed with being prepared. Then again, half of it was probably emergency rations for Cyn.

Lisa lowered her arms. “Okay, so this is actually the least impressive part. Let’s go up to the passenger cabin.” She then led him to a set of metal stairs leading up to the carpeted lounge-like area above.

“Whoa.” JC said, taking in the accommodations. “I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting this when Warrick first told me you guys had a crime fighting plane.” He glanced around behind the surround where the stairs emerged and found a bar. “Really didn’t expect it.”

“I had the same reaction.” Lisa laughed, heading over to the couch across from the one Warrick, Tink and Cyn were sharing. Since his return, Cyn hadn’t moved more than five feet from his best friend, and Tink seemed to be understanding of that.

Taking a seat next to Lisa, he waved to Juniper, Melissa, Callie and Kareem who were sitting on the couches across the aisle. “Hey guys… all hands on deck?”

“More than I guessed,” said a familiar voice. Kay Greycloud rounded the surround, having been retrieving a can of cola from the bar. “You’re coming with us?”

“He was kidnapped by a supervillain earlier today,” said Lisa, casting a hard look around the cabin in case someone wanted to argue about that.

Kay almost spat out the sip of soda she was taking, coughed a few times, then asked: “Wait. What?”

“She was a kid who had a crush on him.” Warrick chimed in.”

“…I think my question stands: Wait. What?”

Before JC could even finish with his long-suffering sigh, Lisa stepped in. “It’s a very long story. But what about you? Cyn said you couldn’t get away from family night.”

“I couldn’t.” Kay shook her head. “At least I couldn’t until Ms. Brant called pretending to be Sonia’s representative saying we had a meeting I forgot.” She waved off the obvious next question because she was just about to answer it. “Apparently my ‘unique expertise’ is necessary for this mission.”

“To retrieve stolen missiles?” asked Tink.

Kareem politely cleared his throat. “That was actually only the cover story being provided to those not involved in the ongoing situation. During the briefing, General Pratt read us into the real crisis at hand: the dirigible that disappeared was not carrying weapons. It was carrying refugees.”

“I’m going to guess we’re not talking about regular asylum seekers,” Tink guessed looking quizzically at the others. Her gaze settled on Kay, whose ‘expertise’ gave her a big hint as to what was going on.

“Correct,” said Kareem, “These are refugees from Faerie.”

Tink gave him a skeptical look. “Our government—which waited six months to let refugees from Brazil—a crisis we caused because they said they were scared of lone wolf actors sneaking in with plans for revenge—is fast-tracking super-powered aliens? Not that I’m against it but… it’s a little out of character.”

JC shrugged. “That’s how it works: it’s easy to be obstructionist and racist toward humans in general—especially if they’re poor and can’t fight back. It’s a lot harder when the guy you wanna pick on is ten feet tall and has laser breath.”

“Explain how some yahoos treat Descendants then,” Cyn grumbled.

“Well it’s one thing to be the kind of racist that refuses to help people and pretend that’s because they might be dangerous. It’s another to be the kind of idiot that stands up and screams ‘white power’ or ‘purify humanity’ in public. Those second guys have no sense of self preservation.” It wasn’t JC who replied but Chaos, appearing in the doorway leading to the flight deck.

His eyes fleetingly fell on JC, but he made the swift decision not to question the other man’s presence. “Alright, folks, we’re about to take off, so buckle up. For those of you who missed the briefing with General Pratt, we’re headed for Montauk, New York. From what we’ve been told, the government’s been working with crossovers from Faerie since not long after the green flash event when the magic came back. They’ve been housing them, making translations, conducting interviews—turns out they knew about Maeve before Armigaal showed up.”

“Figures they’d only give that up now and let the huge dragon be a big surprise,” Cyn said, rolling her eyes.

“I agree completely, but for now, we’ve got to focus on the situation at hand. Three hours ago, a dirigible left a facility that’s serving as a kind of Faerie Ellis Island in Mercer County Pennsylvania. On board were six marines, five crew members and three dozen assorted creatures of Faerie on their way to what they call Camp Hero Beta Site, a community set up for the Faeries who aren’t going to easily integrate into society at large. They lost contact with it shortly after a course correction that had it heading toward the Catskills.

“We’re supposed to join up with a government team at Camp Hero Alpha Site on the site of the original Camp Hero and roll from there. They don’t know anything more than that: could be a kidnapping, could be a fey mutiny. Either way, the General wanted us all-in on this.”

Juniper shivered. “Imagine what could be powerful enough to take that many Faeries somewhere they don’t want to go.”

“Or how dangerous a hoard of bad faeries would be,” added Melissa in a somber tone.

“Only means this battle is going to be epic!” Cyn cheered before reaching down to pull something out from under the table in front of her. “Which means even more reason to celebrate. Not only are we all back together again, but we’re going to kick some ass too. I got this when I thought it was just about our lost lil’ lambs coming home, but it’s even better now.

She sat a large, pink box labeled ‘Malhavoc Confectioners’ on the table.

“You bought a cake on a mission?” Callie asked, sounding more excited than incredulous.

Cyn snorted. “Cake? Nothing so ordinary my friend. This—“ she threw open the top to reveal a tall cylinder of soft material airbrushed a shiny gold, “–is the signature candy of Malhavoc Confectioners: the Omega-mallow. A twelve pound marshmallow in any flavor you want. I picked banana split.”

With a gesture, she extended an orihalcite blade from the knuckle of her middle finger and stared slicing. “Now let’s turn this flight into a party.”

***

Steel cables groaned as powerful winches wound them in, slowly pulling the captured dirigible to the ground. The drones that attacked the power, communications and ventilation systems of the vehicle while it was in flight remained attached to the hulk, fleas clinging to the flesh of a great beast.

Slowly; painfully slowly, the airship was secured into place in a deep wound in the earth that was once a strip-mining operation. The re-purposed office and loading depot overseeing it.

From within the office, wide too-blue eyes watched workers attaching more cables and rolling the gantry that would allow entry into place. They were moving quickly; mindful of the marines who would wake up soon from the gas introduced b the drones and be more than a match for the security forces in the mine who were hired by a lowest bidder contract.

He brushed aside greasy black hair and continued staring. Before he’d only ever made contact with one or two at a time and most of them weren’t any more advanced than animals. There were more complex—advanced and there were many, many more. Thirty-eight by his count.

“Excellent.” he muttered, then straightened in the high-backed executive chair he’d been sitting in. The five other people in the room, all arrayed at an old fashioned boardroom table, all shared various reactions among themselves ranging from uncomfortable fidgeting to amused smirks at the man’s antics.

Unaware of their actions, he grinned widely. “You know for the longest time, I was jealous of my brother?” Rising from the chair, he approached the window, his back hunched, neck bobbing like a bird of prey’s. “He’s a descendant. Able to make these big… platforms in the air. They’re not a flashy was what you see in the news or on television, but they’re useful. More important, they made him more special than me, his ‘normal’ brother.”

He reached the window and pressed his palms against it, leaning on it was he seemed to be trying to reach out and touch the airship.

“Then the flash happened. Most people didn’t see it. Don’t even believe in it. But it happened whether you believe in it,” at the second ‘believe’, he took his hands off the window and gesticulated wildly. “or not because none of you would be here if it didn’t happen because it awakened my power.”

Slowly, framed in the light coming through the window, he turned to face the others at the table. “I started to dream of another world. A better world. Wilder. More… magical.” His expression grew hard. “If it hadn’t been for that dragon a few months ago, you’ve be laughing at the mention of magic too,” he accused.

As quickly as that started, he went back to smiling, though more subdued this time. “But here. We. Are.” Turning back to the window at the airship, he continued. “The world I saw we know now is Faerie and it is full of fantastic beasts with wondrous powers. And they are all susceptible to being brought under my sway.”

“That is what we hired you for,” said one of the men seated before him; a man in his late thirties with close-cropped brown hair. “What you’ve been doing for us over the past year. Has something changed we’re not aware of or are you just recapping all this to us for the drama?” He didn’t bother hiding his condescending expression.

The man at the head of the table replied with a sarcastic laugh. “No, this isn’t for the drama, Wallace. This. Is. Very. Different. These Faeries aren’t mere animals; they’re as sapient as you. Or. I. This makes their minds more difficult to control, more apt to break that control.” Despite his less than encouraging words, his eyes burned with excitement and his voice dropped to a whisper. “And their abilities are so much more diverse.”

The only woman in the room, of the same age as the first to speak with long, jet black hair, heaved a powerful sigh and rolled her eyes. Gideon, if you’re done now, could you just scoot down to the ship and offload our new delivery? I want them under control before the humans on board wake up.”

The original speaker, Gideon, laughed sardonically. “Oh in due time Bev. But right now, I want to have a serious discussion here. I think you all owe me that much considering none of you are giving me all that much money for my services.”

“You’re being paid the industry standard.” said one of the other people around the table. He was the oldest among them by a good forty years at least; a huge balding man with permanently flared nostrils. “Don’t bother trying to hold out for more.”

Gideon clasped his hands together and began to stalk around the table so that he was behind the older man. “Need I remind you that I am the sole being on Earth capable of doing what you want.”

“And the rate we’ve been paying you has become the industry standard.” the older man replied smugly. “Fifty thousand dollars a head. Take it… or leave it.”

Faced darkening, Gideon took a moment to swallow down his rage. “Those were different cases: a colony of faerie rodents to dig tunnels efficiently, fey hounds to replace security guards, a brownie to automate a factory without having to pay programmers or buy new robotic equipment. None of those was ‘enslave a small, diverse army’.”

“They’re not humans, so they technically aren’t slaves,” the woman called Bev said quickly. “Our lawyers ensure us that at the moment, the crossovers don’t have any legal status at all, so let’s be careful with the language they use here.”

Gideon set his jaw. “Yes, but… Let’s. Be. Honest.” He resumed his slow circle around the table. “They’re meant to be slaves. And I would much rather they be… subjects.”

There was a brief silence before the fourth person at the table, a middle-aged man with deeply tanned skin, a van-dyke and a shaved head broke it. “…Subjects. And what difference would that make?”

“And subjects of whom?” Asked the first man to speak.

The laugh that came out of Gideon’s mouth made all of them pause. “Actually, now that we’re on the subject, I have some things to admit.” He held out a hand palm up and the air above it seemed to crackle and blister away light burning celluloid until a tiny creature—no taller than the span of his palm—appeared. It seemed like a cross between an insect and a tiny human with green-gold tinted and segmented limbs and torso and hair like a green and white dandelion seed head.

“You’ve all met Goulemanda, my proof of concept who convinced you to give me money for a far-fetched but unique business opportunity. This little lady allowed a poor tech support operator from Connecticut make something of himself.”

That chilling smile split his face once more. “Well today, I have a confession to make. Goulemanda isn’t the first being of Faerie I ever met.” As the assembled conspirators looked to one another to try and gauge if any of the others knew this, Gideon stopped his stroll around the table until he was behind the bald man and directly across from the older one.

“Frank, allow me to introduce you to…” he flipped his wrist so his hand was palm-up, fingers pointing toward the older man—Frank. His cuff link, formerly just a brass stud, flowed and melted into the form of a long, wickedly serrated blade before launching forward on a leather appendage to plunge into Frank’s chest. “Lishuura.” It struck him so hard that it knocked him and his chair backward onto the floor with a deafening thud that stunned everyone else in the room into silence.

Gideon’s suit and dress shirt melted and flowed into a leathery black-brown mantle that fell to the floor. Several sets of orange cat-like eyes opened along the shoulders, rolling confusedly to focus on the downed man as the harpoon extracted itself.

“What is this?!” The bald man exclaimed. “You just killed him! You… are you insane? We needed him?”

:On the contrary: The. Only. One. You need… Is me.” Gideon reached up and stroked his mantle at the shoulders just above the eyes. “The rest of you are utterly disposable. Remember that.” that said, he casually returned to his seat and stood before it. “But as I was saying, this is Lishuura. She is a symbiotic being called a flowbeast. I found her in my own home town. Someone had—” he locked eyes with Bev “–enslaved her and was using her to kill psionic criminals; blissfully unaware that his crime was worse in almost every case.”

He smiled wryly. “She’s young, but once I could talk to her, she certainly understood what her freedom was. So does Goulemanda. That’s why I haven’t had to use my power on them in a long, long time.”

Another silence fell like a hammer. Gideon chuckled. “Yes, that’s what I mean when I say ‘subjects’. Willing. Subjects. That’s the plan. Those are the new terms. Bigger, better terms than you were imagining. A few million dollars in saved costs? Feh. I plan to mint my own currency. Join me… and you’ll all be rewarded beyond anything you could have hoped for. Back out or defy me and…” He gestured to Frank, who was lying in a steadily-growing pool of blade.

He then nodded toward Goulemanda, who had taken to the air when he made his attack. The pixie went through a series of motions and Something that looked like a giant wooden doll appeared in front of the door. A beam of green light flashed across the room and cut the table in half, sending two heavy, smoking pieces of wood to crash to the ground.

“…you’ll find out what other facts I’ve been hiding.”

Meeting the eye of each in turn, Gideon extended his arms. The flowbeast wrapped around him shifted and changed, its leathery flesh taking on new colors and aspects until he was wearing a midnight blue shirt of chainmail crossed by black, silver-studded leather straps; a set of black trousers and boots matching the chainmail; an all-encompassing black cloak with blue lining; and a five-horned helm that sported a mouthpiece across the bottom half of his face styled to look like a mouthful of filed, black teeth.

“All in favor of this change in leadership? Say ‘All Hail the Nightmare King.”

To Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< Descendants #99 – Huddled Masses Chp. 5Descendants 98 – The Precocious Prodigy Chp.2 >>

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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. Typos

    culperate
    culprit
    (On the short description on the main page)

    the events of Descendants #99.
    the events of Descendants #98.

    from his best friend,
    from her best friend,

    rounded the surround, having been retrieving
    (Maybe reword this? It looks ugly. Not actually a typo though, I admit.)

    a hoard of bad faeries
    a horde of bad faeries

    introduced b the
    introduced by the

    There were more complex—advanced
    These were more complex—advanced

    away light burning
    away like burning

    :On the contrary:
    “On the contrary:

    pool of blade.
    pool of blood.

    and Something that
    and something that

    • & a couple more:

      grandiose gesture
      grandiose gesture.

      They’re not a flashy was what
      They’re not a flashy power like what (I think)

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