Descendants Annual #1

This entry is part 15 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 1: Welcome to Freeland House

“…spectacular cross-city battle…”

“…taken into custody by United States Marines…”

“…referred to in the media as ‘Void-storm’, identified by General Pratt as Darkness…”

“…codenamed: Shine is still at large…”

“…identified as Prometheus confirmed allegations of criminal behavior within the Enforcer Corps…”

Five monitors, tuned to news providers in five separate regions of the country, squawked over one another as Laurel worked. To anyone else, it would be just background noise, by Laurel’s hyper-cognition sifted through all to it to gather the useful information presented.

The sun hadn’t fully set properly on the day of the Redeemers’ assault on Life Savers, Inc and eventually the entire prelate population of Mayfield and already the Enforcer Corps was mortally wounded. Jonathan Edward Tyler and Patricia Masters, with the backing of General Pratt would be appearing before Congress the following week. In the meantime, the President had suspended the special police powers granted to the private agency and had ordered every agent accounted for.

Simon Talbot, Director of the Psionic Training and Application Academy, the grounds on which the Corps’s Deep Eleven Facility was housed, had been quick to point out that while the Corps rented space and tapped graduates for its staff, it was not under the same management. When asked about Tyler’s apparent allegations of kidnapped students, Talbot denied it vehemently and hinted at filing a slander suit.

Apparently the mere idea had had a chilling effect on the parents of young psionics. The New York affiliate was reporting that almost a dozen teens had already been withdrawn from the program. Laurel privately wondered how long it would take for a parent to arrive at the Langley campus to find that their child was missing.

As for who had ordered the ill fated and equally ill planned attack, the captured Redeemers weren’t speaking. For whatever reason, they were all convinced that the battery of criminal charges leveled at them wouldn’t stick. Either that, or they were worried that Shine still being unaccounted for put them in danger if they divulged information.

Predictably, the military had taken the inugami corpses in for containment and, Laurel was sure, for study. Pratt had promised to get her all the reports, but she was certain those reports would be riddled with black bars.

Those were important issues to deal with, examine and possibly manipulate later. At the moment, she was concerned with the repercussions the Redeemers’ attack would have closer to home.

Project Tome, almost certainly the people holding the Redeemers’ leashes, knew that they were in Mayfield now. The fact that the attack hadn’t been directed at Freeland House meant they didn’t have the locations narrowed down very far, but it was close enough.

There was no more reason to try hiding behind her digital chaff of fake credit transactions and identification spoofing. More importantly, there was no more reason not to try contacting the kids’ parents at least in a covert manner.

For all of her genius and natural people skills, Laurel couldn’t imagine how she’d start. As recently as a month ago, her systems had detected an email sent to Raimi and Atalaya Utt from someone claiming to be Kareem. She hadn’t read the body of the missive, but she didn’t need to in order to realize how difficult it would be to reveal the hard truths of the Academy’s betrayal, not to mention Kareem’s true condition.

Removing her glasses, she rubbed the bridge of her nose. The delicacy of the situation was not lost on her. Telling them via secure email or communiqué sent by private messenger was out of the question. If she was a parent, she’d want to have everything explained in person; to have a chance to see her offspring alive and healthy.

To make that happen would require finding an alternate way of bringing the families to Mayfield. Luckily, Laurel knew someone whose celebrity and influence was sure to come in handy. She put her glasses back on and opened a secure telephony line, dialing a number she only used in case of emergencies.

Tones, indicating the dozens of layers of encryption the call was going through, played over the speakers for a few seconds. Then, a deep, proud voice spoke. “I’ve been waiting for this call ever since I saw the news, Kitten, are you alright?”

Laurel smiled at her father’s nickname for her. “Perfectly, Daddy. You saw the broadcast, we won… for now.”

“It’s the ‘for now’ that worries me.” William Brant said with a sigh. “This Tome place you’ve sent me files on… my people have turned the corporate world on its ear and they have no idea who’s funding them. I’m afraid that again I won’t be much help and you’ll be on your own.”

“I’m never on my own, Daddy.” Laurel reassured him. “I’ve got Ian and Alexis here. And you’ve been plenty of help; Freeland House may have been the greatest gift you ever gave me.”

“I’m glad you’re safe, Kitten.” Her father said, “But I know you and you’re not about to leave your friends or those kids until you’ve seen this Tome thing through to the end.” He heaved another sigh. “I guess your mother and I won’t be seeing you for Thanksgiving.”

“I’m sorry, but that’s how you raised me. But it is funny you mention Thanksgiving…”

***

“The ballistic cloth seems to have held up well.” Ian said, sitting on Alexis’s bed with its owner lying nearby on her stomach as he applied bruise reducing cream to her red and inflamed back. “No deep bruising, no broken bones—you’re very lucky.”

Alexis groaned into a face full of her comforter. “Luck hurts.” She concluded. “And I’m not even the one that took Launch down in the end.” She pouted.

“Look at you.” Ian smirked, gently pulling the back of her shirt down. He didn’t expound upon the point, he just gave her a Cheshire grin as she sat up.

“Okay, you were right, I can’t just give this up now that I’ve seen and done all this. I can’t even say that it’s just the Academy and Tome either; Sky Tyrant’s dangerous and someone needs to put a stop to him and whoever hired him too.” She took a breath before leaning against him.

“We’ll get him.” Ian wrapped his arms around her. He felt a twinge in the shoulder he’d used to lead his tackle into War-torn, but ignored it. They sat like that for a few minutes, before Alexis gave a nervous chuckle. “So, we’ve felt the experience; want to watch the highlights on TV?”

She slipped out of his grasp before he could answer to grab the remote. He let out a dejected sigh that he hoped she hadn’t heard. “Sure. I wonder if they got our Ebony Wind technique on film.”

“Ebony Wind?” Alexis quirked an eyebrow as she switched the TV on and selected a local new provider from the ‘favorites’ list on the remote’s LCD screen.

“You know, you launching me like a missile while my wind and the hot needle thing you do screws with the bad guys?”

“I don’t think it warrants a name.” Alexis snorted.

On TV, a round woman with anger reddened cheeks was ranting about how she had to pull her ‘poor Finny’ out of the Academy over the day’s incident and how she had never trusted the Academy in the first place. Her hands clutched the shoulders of a teenage boy of about fourteen with green, leaf-like skin and hair, luminous, orange eyes and a mouthful of nettle-teeth; presumably Finny. For his part, Finny looked mortified at his mother’s tantrum in front of a national audience.

Both Ian and Alexis watched the exchange until the shot cut back to the reporter. Ian grinned. “We’ve got to name it something if we want that kid, Finny telling all of his friends about it whenever we do it. You know, so we’ll be role models.”

“I am not throwing you again.” Alexis retorted firmly.

Ian made a fake sound of disappointment. “Some team we are if we can’t agree on simple tactics.”

Alexis smirked and leaned into him again. “There are plenty of things we can do as a team that don’t involve using you as ordinance.” It was her turn to give him a Cheshire grin. “For example…” she didn’t enumerate. She didn’t have to; Ian clearly got the message when their lips met.

***

“Wow.” Cyn said, peering at the twin grease stains that had an hour ago been two freshly delivered extra large Chicago-style deep dish pizzas with the works. Not a pepperoni had survived the slaughter. Her gaze traveled up to the pair that had dismantled the doomed pies: Warrick and Melissa. “This is a switch; you two pigging out and me full?”

“That’s because you’ve already eaten everything in the house!” Melissa snapped.

“That’s not true.” Juniper offered. “There’s still…” she trailed off as she started taking mental inventory. Her eyes widened as she came to the inevitable conclusion. “Oh my god, you did!” A slight frown crossed her features. “What am I going to eat tonight?”

“I’ll order Chinese with you.” Warrick offered.

Melissa gave him a cross look. “You’re still hungry? I know my healing screws up your metabolism, but those cuts shouldn’t make you this starved.”

The metal controller shrugged “Whatever I did at the end there when I summoned Isp and Osp again took a lot out of me. I knocked myself out.”

Hearing their names mentioned, Isp and Osp turned from the house of cards they’d been attempting to build on the kitchen counter to see if they were being addressed. Except for being made of a slightly darker colored metal, they seemed unchanged by their experience.

Melissa made a disgusted sound. “I’m just glad this day is over and Hope can disappear never to be seen again.”

Kareem, who had been watching silently until that moment, spoke up, via his monitor. “No one will force you to take up that mantle again, but you were a great help. I only wish I had been capable of aiding in the fight against the Redeemers.”

“I wasn’t any help.” Melissa shrugged. “Those cuts weren’t going to kill Warrick. I just saved him a trip to the hospital.”

“But,” Juniper pointed out as she sifted through the various take out menus in front of her, “If he had gone to the hospital, the doctors would have found out his secret identity.”

Cyn shrugged. Usually bolstering Melissa’s non-existent confidence was sport to her, but something had been bothering her all day and she had to give voice to it. “What do secret identities matter anyway now?” She asked. “The Academy knows where we are and the Redeemers were just their first shot.”

“Isn’t this what all the training we’ve been doing for the past week is all about?” Warrick asked. “Planning for them to finally find us?”

“A week and a half of training wouldn’t really make up for the decade of training some of the Enforcers have.” Cyn frowned. “Sure, we kicked the Redeemers’ collective asses, but those guys sucked on a blowful scale.”

“Mr. Smythe always says that we can’t just run away.” Juniper said. “And we don’t know that we won’t be able to beat the next Enforcers they send.”

“I agree with Cyn though.” Kareem said pensively. “We may be able to stop the next wave of enemies, but what about the next, or the next? “

“Maybe we should just tell everyone what happened now.” Melissa said, “The Academy is already in big trouble over the Redeemers.”

“The Academy, yes.” Laurel said, appearing in the doorway of the kitchen. “But Project Tome is much more than the Academy and the Enforcer Corps. Taking them out is like cutting off a lizard’s tail – it’ll just grow a new one.”

“So just how boned are we?” Cyn grumbled.

“Not as bad as you’d think.” Laurel said. “As of this evening, the President’s pulled he plug on the Enforcer program and the CIA is working on a full accounting of the thirty-eight Enforcers. From the files Prometheus picked up, the Corps was essentially being used to do Tome’s grunt work. With them gone, it’s going to be a while before we can expect a new attack.”

“But we can expect new attacks.” Cyn pointed out, “plus more inugami.”

Laurel came over to put her hand on the pouting girl’s shoulder. “We will. We can’t stop that, but we can’t just pick up and move. Doing that this time will mean completely erasing our identities, never using our powers again, and worst of all, never seeing the people we care about again.”

“Like I care about the people I care about.” Cyn glowered.

“I don’t mean you parents and brothers, Cyn; you’ve made it clear that you don’t want anything to do with them anymore and since legally, you’re nineteen now anyway, I can’t force you to do anything about that.” She frowned at this; the legal ramification for the stasis bound teens was a kettle of fish she didn’t like muddling through. “I’m talking about that fact that we’ll all have to split up this time. The group of us would be too conspicuous. If we have to pick up now, the five of you will never be able to see each other again.”

“Not to mention Life Savers, Inc… uh, The Descendants” Warrick corrected himself, “will be gone for good.”

That drove the whole thing home. Cyn had never been happy; not at home in North Carolina, not at the Academy, but she was happy at Freeland House and as part of LSI. That was something she’d die to protect. But she certainly didn’t want death to be certainty.

“What about Tome?” Cyn asked again, “I mean even you admit that they’ll come for us again.”

“They’ll find that psionic powers aren’t the only things protecting us.” Laurel gave a cryptic smile. “General Pratt has offered us plans and materiel for an automated defense system. I’m strongly considering accepting.”

“That is going to be difficult to hide from Kay, JC and Lisa.” Kareem noted, mentally aware that he himself had been difficult to hide from the aforementioned youths.

“Not as difficult as you think, Kareem.” Laurel smiled. “The only difficulty will be hiding it from the electric company.”

***

Simon Talbot slammed his cell phone down upon the conference table so hard that the assembled section heads jumped. His glare pinioned them all to their seats as he rose from his chair to pace the marble floor.

“Two more.” He growled. “Two more subjects judged as potentials for B24 level consideration were removed from the Academy by their parents in the past three hours. That’s a total of fifteen students removed from the Langley campus alone since Operation Redeemer went south. Combined with Chicago, Los Angeles, Jacksonville and Fort Worth, we’ve lost over two score students today alone, not to mention the Enforcers.”

“Has Wright reported in?” Thomas Cross asked. “He has a great deal to answer for. How could three adolescent prelates defeat five rank one Enforcers and two inugami units if not poor mission planning?”

“Perhaps because the Redeemers weren’t real rank one Enforcers?” Brandy Dillinger, head of the superhuman psychology division offered. “They were promoted at Wright’s request specifically for what he thought was a mission of vengeance. The only one with a prayer of not being removed from active duty by the end of this year was Shine.”

“No surprise that she was the one that managed to escape.” Cross said.

“This still wouldn’t have been such a catastrophe if Prometheus hadn’t flipped on us.” Devon Matthews, head of the pharmaceutical section pointed out. “Wasn’t your man Stevens supposed to keep him out of the loop, Richards?”

Clark Richards, former head of the now defunct Enforcer Corps sat hunched in his chair, jaw clenched. He’d be facing jail time in this gambit, though he was being paid more than enough to accept the maximum five years for his ‘part’ in the fiasco. “He was, but then Wright suggested we use Prometheus to find the rogues…”

“And without even knowing it, his suggestions led to Prometheus helping bring down the Corps. Perfect.” Dillinger drummed her crimson fingernails on the tabletop.

“Prometheus didn’t even lead us to an address, the clever bastard.” Matthews added, “He left his car and the hidden tracer we put in it in a parking garage and took at least three cabs to loose our tails in Mayfield.”

“I agree Wright is to blame,” Cross said, “but the Prometheus incident can’t be blamed on him. He didn’t know that the descendants he was carrying his grudge against were the same ones he suggested sending Prometheus after. If anything, the problem was his total lack of leadership. Wolf’s last transmission was to complain that they have no orders. That’s what led to the failure of the mission.”

Talbot had had enough. Gears ground in his head as the stress of the day combined with a sudden, stomach churning revelation. “Shut up, all of you!” he bellowed. “Don’t you see it? Are you too eager to play politics that it hasn’t come to you yet?”

He stomped up and down the room, fuming. “Yes, the Enforcers are gone. Yes, the Academy is hemorrhaging and we may soon lose our preferred collection method. But we still have the bio-mapping process. We still have dozens of psionics to process. We should be focusing on that. Like an animal that chews off a limb to slip a trap, we have to abandon the Enforcers and the Academy now so that the Project will survive.”

A glower came to his face. “But no, we can’t avoid dwelling on it. And I know why. I didn’t see it until it was too late.” He found himself standing at the window, staring out upon the city. “Wright isn’t a moron. He would know that people like the Redeemers would need specific orders to succeed. He knows people; that’s why I hired him.”

“Are you saying…?” Cross started.

“Wright played us. He infiltrated our organization, took what he needed, and then sacrificed our entire operation on the altar of his ambition.” Talbot span on his heel. “Go back to your sections – NOW! He’s not reporting because he’s not coming back. And that means he has what he wanted from us. I want to know what it was. Audit everything, from data to pencils; I want to know what he took and who he’s gotten to!”

The gathered section leads practically fell over each other rushing out the door. A breech in security on this level hadn’t happened within Tome in any of their lifetimes and they didn’t want to be the ones whose sections were compromised.

Alone in the conference room, Talbot snarled wordlessly. This morning, he had had the missing pieces of his grand puzzle in the palm of his hand. Everything had been falling into place and Wright and the Redeemers had been his unwitting pawns. This morning, as it turned out, had been not but a dream. With a howl of rage, he bought a fist down upon the oak conference table. It shattered into kindling.

***

It was difficult to tell if it was late at night or early in the morning. Nothing on the lonely country road somewhere in Madison County, VA offered any clue to the lone traveler, walking down it in the pitch dark.

A limousine, the first to ever encounter this particular stretch of road, suddenly broke the blackness as it topped a hill. Its headlights played over the strange ensemble of a hooded sweatshirt and sarong the traveler wore and glinted off smoked goggles in the depths of the hood.

The limo slowed to a stop beside her and the door opened. Without an invitation, the traveler got in and the limo took off again. Its headlights weren’t strong enough to penetrate the fog that was rising over the nearby fields, but sometime in the next few hours, some poor farmer would be shocked to find an illegally modified troop transport, its three man crew seemingly mauled by a wild animal, in his fallow cornfield.

“Did you get it?” Brother Wright asked the traveler as she hastily shucked her hoodie and sarong.

“I don’t fail.” Shine smirked, pulling a two inch long, glass vial from the folds of her discarded sweatshirt. “But shouldn’t this stuff be on ice?” She regarded the crimson and gold liquid within the vial with doubt.

“Ordinary blood would have clotted and become useless by now.” Wright said. “But this tissue is very special and it’s nothing if not hardy.”

Shine handed the vial over to Wright and sprawled on the seat across from him. “Disgusting, but whatever, as long as it’s valuable.” She gave him a toothy smile. “So, how long do you think it’ll take Talbot to realize we screwed him?”

“He’s a smart man. Even though he underestimated me by trying to keep me in the dark about the A14 group, he knows I’m not stupid enough to have let your ignorant ‘comrades’ off their leashes on accident. And if he doesn’t know it by now, I suppose he’ll find out about the mass defections of his lab technicians by morning.”

Shine purred. “You call him smart, but he still gave you of all people access to an unlimited amount of unfulfilled geeks with tons of simple to realize dreams.”

“No one ever appreciates the amount of power that comes from giving little people a little kindness.” Wright agreed. “Liedecker didn’t, Talbot didn’t…”

Shine pounced from her seat to the one next to Wright in a single, fluid motion. “But I do.” She pointed out.

“And that, my dear is why you’re my partner in crime. And I’m very lucky to have found such an… irresistible force to ally myself with.” He held up the vial. “Once we get this to a friendly lab, you and I will be able to make all of our dreams come true.” He snaked an arm around the barely clad proto-morph. “What do you want first?”

Shine’s goggles glinted with the red light filtered through the vial. “Me? I’m a simple girl. The first thing I want is to be able to put that gold bitch in her place.” She reached up to the dome light and flipped the switch she knew would be there. The cabin of the car was bathed in red light as the UV inhibitor activated.

Wright took the cue and reached up to unbuckle the fasteners on Shine’s goggles. “I don’t think that will be a problem.” He gave her a wry grin. “Allow me again to remark, my dear on how lovely your eyes are.”

“You’re manipulating me. It’s what you do.” A single claw, thankfully sans orihalcite attachment, traced his jaw. “Of course, I don’t care…”

***

Vincent Liedecker held a sword in his hands, much to the discomfort of Brill and the two technicians who were in the office with him. The man was deadly with any weapon; in fact, he was always within arm’s reach of ten to fifteen things he could take a life with while inside his office. They should have been used to the fact by now.

Of course, none of the guns, swords, daggers, maces, or the lone rocket launcher in the office was thrumming with eldritch power in the crimelord’s hands. All three feet of bare steel gave off a mother of pearl sheen, save for the blood red runes scribed along the tang.

“I’ve seen a damn sight more than a man ought to.” Liedecker said, eyes fixed on the weapon. “In the last year, I’ve had prelates, witches, and werewolves of one sort of the other running around my city and this is about the damnedest thing I’ve seen yet.” He moved the sword through the air, feeling the air part unnaturally in its path.

“You said it can cut through steel?” he queried the technicians.

“Yes, sir.” The braver of the two spoke. “The only thing it won’t cut with enough force behind it is the sample metal you sent us.” They both cringed as Liedecker brandished the weapon again.

“Any luck with that, yet?” the arms dealer asked, still fascinated with the sword.

“Maven has managed to synthesize a reasonable proto-type.” The second said.

“Reasonable?!” Liedecker swung the sword in a circle before him, bowling the two men over with the gust of wind the maneuver created. “What the hell is ‘reasonable’, boy? Don’t try and weasel around me—weasels don’t live very long.”

The terrified man gulped, “The formula is inexact… we don’t know the process. It’s the best she could do without further research.”

Liedecker seemed satisfied with that. “Well use whatever she’s cooked up to build the things I sent you schematics for.” He said, “Then put them through the ‘process’ you put this here pig-sticker though.”

The first man, still on his knees, stammered, “But sir, those are highly technological devices we don’t know how the magic will interact with them; the books we recovered…”

“Get creative then.” Liedecker said. “I am the biggest arms dealer on the East Coast besides the Tongs and I got that way by selling the best, the most cutting edge in technology that lets you put the other guy in a body bag. I am not offering my customers dark age technology with the promise that it was forged with pixie dust and puppy dog whiskers.”

“Sir—“the technician started, only to come face to point with the eldritch blade.

“Get to work, boy. I’ve got plenty of brains on my payroll and yours is starting to get in the way of business, understand?” The technician only nodded and backed away. Liedecker sneered, pleased that he was still firmly in charge. “Brill, call the two out-of-towners we scrounged up; tell them we’re going to need their services demonstrating the new merchandise.”

***

Early Saturday morning dawned in New York, sending grey light into the windows of an apartment in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn. One of the occupants was already up and about, following a weekly ritual passed down to her by her elder sibling.

Talia Coulmni Kaine, known as Tammy because she was so much like her father, Tommy, yawned widely as she poured milk into a bowl of cereal. Nearby, Baxter, a grey tabby almost as old as she was, was enjoying his own breakfast, courtesy of the automatic feeder.

“I should make my own feeder thing.” Tammy drawled, watching her fuzzy companion luxuriating in a meal he didn’t have to prepare. She sighed wistfully and carried her cereal into the living room.

Plopping down on the couch, she managed a glance toward the big family portrait that hung over a low bookcase. It had been taken two years before; depicting her mother and father dressed in their finest, a then eleven year old Tammy holding Baxter in her lap, and her brother, Warrick trying and failing to look cool for the camera.

She missed her brother. She knew he was of at some Academy workshop getting special training for his powers, but that didn’t make up for not having her brother around. He was the one that used to get her up early on Saturdays to watch cartoons and make a quick pancake breakfast.

The thought of pancakes made her glare at the cereal as if it were somehow at fault. Thinking about it wasn’t going to make Warrick come back any sooner, she thought. At least the cartoons would be distracting. The remote beeped as she touched her thumb to the ‘power’ icon.

Tommy Kaine had been watching the local news provider a few days ago and between his studio sessions, his wife’s late night stints working on her latest account, and Tammy’s crushing amount of homework, the television hadn’t been on since then. The morning report appeared on the screen.

Rolling her eyes, Tammy moved her finger to the favorites icon for the network that broadcast the better animated features. But then she saw something that froze her in place. An armored figure was fighting a giant and a man wielding three chains on the top of a train while the news crawl stated that the event had occurred the day before in Virginia.

The remote tumbled from the girl’s surprise numbed hands. She recognized the armor vaguely, but she definitely recognized the two tentacle-like lengths of metal sprouting from the warrior’s arms.

She had only one recourse in dealing with this new information – the same recourse every thirteen year old had. “MOOOOOOOOOOOOM!” She shouted at the top of her lungs.

End Annual #1

Series Navigation<< Issue #12: Here and Now

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. This is some great storytelling. Interesting take on the superhero genre. Good characters. Interesting powers. Thanks for writing it. I hope it will continue.

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