Descendants Annual #6

This entry is part 16 of 16 in the series The Descendants Vol 6: Returns and Departures
“A power shed for the commuter pods?” Issac asked dubiously as the brothers landed beneath a flyover deep in the heart of downtown Mayfield. “Really?”
 
Ian made it a point to flourish his cape as he led his brother along the rusted chain-link fence that surrounded the dilapidated power shed. It was little more than a squat metal box with peeling green paint and slowly rusting high voltage signs hanging from it. On the door hang another sign declaring it to be ‘City of Mayfield Department of Public Transit Power Facility 117c’. The gate built into the surrounding fence was so badly rusted that it didn’t matter that the chain securing it in place looked as if it might disintegrate if someone looked at it sternly.
 
The younger Smythe brother didn’t go to that gate, however, but around to the rear of the installation. “It’s the perfect cover.” He assured Issac. There was a second gate around the rear of the building, but it didn’t look like it would be of any use to anyone who might want to get in because it was flush against the read wall.
 
“Especially if you take the cleverness one step further.” he added, lifting the padlock that seemed to be there as a ‘better safe than sorry’ measure. When the front belonged to the NSA, there had been a different padlock with a multi-stage biometric lock on it. Under the purview of the resurrected Lifesavers, Inc, the device was something a bit more exotic. Ian touched his D-icon to it and waited for the click.
 
Issac quirked and eyebrow. “Don’t I recall you bitching about magic all the time not so long ago?”
 
A proud grin came to his brother’s face. “This one is all science, actually. That’s a chip in them linked to our local astral transceivers. The chips calls the transceiver when I operate the lock, the transceiver scans for my astral signature, and if it’s really me standing here, it gives the high sign. Ephemeral came up with that one. Without both the chip and my astral body, this door doesn’t open.”
 
He then did just that, pulling on the padlock which was not only a lock, but the handle to a cleverly disguised door built into the rear wall of the power shed. A series of overhead lamps flickered on inside, revealing a concrete bunker within about half the size of the she’d external dimensions.
 
There was a workbench along one wall, next to a set of storage lockers and a steel trunk with a red cross painted on it.
 
“That… came with the place.” Ian explained, ushering his brother inside so he could shut the door. “Emergency supplied for agents who have to go off the grid and things like that. Cod…” He paused—they were completely safe from prying ears now, “Laurel figures it can serve the same purpose for other heroes. She’s got it in her head to set up other caches in this and other cities.”
 
Issac’s attention, however, was not on the caches, but on the thing that dominated the rear of the room. “It that what I think it is?”
 
Unlike those he was familiar with, no one had bothered painting the sleek sides of this one, and through the open door, it was evident that no one had put much thought into comfort or cargo space when they designed the cabin. It also lacked windows of any kind.
 
A commuter pod.
 
“Not only is it what you think it is, but it’s the first one in the city. L says it was installed in 2031, more than eight years before the city’s pod system opened.” Ian explained. “Of course this one only goes between two points and the view sucks.”
 
Issac let out a low whistle. “You people do have the most fascinating toys, you know that? By the way, how are you going to transport gym equipment to your secret HQ in this thing? It’s a historical building, right? I can’t imagine movers going in and out wouldn’t get a bit of notice.”
 
Chuckling, Ian stepped past his brother and boarded the pod, motioning for him to do the same. “This isn’t the only secret entrance. You know how every town has at least one space for rent that’s like a black hole for businesses? This month it’s a deli, next month it’s an electronics store, pretty soon there’s a grand opening for a mattress outlet?”
 
“There’s a place right down the street from me that’s like that…” Issac gave his brother a suspicious look as he climbed into the pod beside him and pulled the doors shut. It was cramped inside, made worse by their costumes.
 
Ian reached up to a control panel above their heads and flipped three switches in sequence. The pod seemed to start sinking into the ground. “Yeah, a lot of places like that are criminal fronts… or government fronts. One or the other. Going in and out of business all the time is great cover for moving things in and out.”
 
“I’ll be damned.” Issac said as the pod started moving laterally. “I knew those Cuban sandwiches were too good to be true.” He snorted. “I’ve probably laundered so much money for them in the past couple of months if this is true.”
 
After a second’s thought, he gave Ian an odd look. “Wait a minute, how did you guys get hold of a former spook house anyway?”
 
“Internet.” Ian was grinning madly now. “The G-men have places even more super-secret than this now. This one was declassified and put up for sale under the Public Property Sustainability Act. Laurel was also considering an honest-to-God missile silo.”
 
“I have to admit: this is insanely cool.” said Issac as the pod slowed to a stop.
 
The door opened automatically, revealing them to be in a nearly circular room with walls covered in metal panels and sensor strips indicated by green lights blinking in sequence down their lengths. At the far end, set into the only flat wall, were a pair of heavy-looking steel doors in a rounded off frame that made them look like some kind of space station airlock.
 
“Come on,” said Ian, “It gets cooler.”
 
Issac hurried up to his brother’s side, reaching him just as the green sensor lights all came on steadily, bathing the entire room in a verdant glow.
 
“Incoming visitors,” intoned a digitized female voice that might have been Laurel’s with heavy distortion and pitch shifting. “LSI Zero-Zero-Three: Chaos. Registered Guest Zero-Zero-One: Turmoil. Entry confirmed.” There was a hissing sound as something in the doors depressurized and they slid apart into the recesses in the door frame.
 
The hallway beyond them had rounded walls reinforced by rib-like steel struts It only extended three yards before meeting a similarly designed hallway running perpendicular to it.
 
“What’s with the robot voice?” Issac asked, if only to keep his mouth from hanging open in a foolish manner.
 
“It’s a pretty big place,” said Ian, “The announcement plays in ops, the main hallways, cafeteria, and a few other places to let people know who just showed up.” They stepped into the adjoining hall where several doors like the one they just stepped through were set into the walls, thought these had switches to open them rather than sensors.
 
“You have a cafeteria?”
 
Ian shrugged, “We have a big room where there used to be tables and an attached room with all the gas fixtures for stoves and such to go in. They cleaned this place out of anything they wouldn’t have to tear up concrete to remove when they left.
 
“To be honest, a lot of this place will probably never be used for more than storage: it used to have eighty people working here, plus all the equipment and tech to run some massive servers and service or replace them on site. We’ll be lucky if there’s ten people here at any given time here once LSI is all set up.”
 
“So… what’s the point to all this?” Issac asked, “Not saying it’s not cool, but you guys already have Freeland House and I suspect these other heroes got by just fine without this place.”
 
They followed the hall to a T intersection and took a left turn into another hall, this one ending about twenty yards in with a junction where there were three doors: one in the center, one on opposite side of the hall to either side of it.
 
Ian paused at the junction. “’Getting by’ is a good way to put it. Suffice to say, almost no other heroes out there have what amounts to a small hotel to keep their things in, or Laurel’s money to get what they need or want to help in their fight. They’re working day jobs and doing all the stuff I and the others do in their free time using money they probably should be saving instead. Most of them are more or less all alone, playing it by ear.
 
“The New York crew started this, more or less: they started meeting, sharing information, loaning whatever skills they have to one another for the same in return. This is really just a bigger, more formal version of that: tying everyone in to a central location where we can meet in secret and in safety; where we can train without showing the world our powers and identities; and where the people who need it can get access to some of the expensive toys we here in Mayfield have been taking for granted…”
 
He pressed the panel next to the doors at the very end of the hall and they hissed before sliding open to reveal a room with a tiled floor, populated by several consoles at semi-private stations. At the very center, a central server hummed softly, a physical data trunk sprouting from its top to run up unto the ceiling, no down forming a secure hardwired connection to the consoles and other nodes in the building.
 
“…Including Laurel’s own data-crawling system: jumbo sized to handle thousands of simultaneous and continuous searches across every public page on the internet and filtering them for relevance, even making connections we might not.” He grinned as he could almost sense the same idea floating into Issac’s head as had formed in his own. “Yes, it’s a crime computer. Meet Vimes 2.0.”
 
***
If anyone asked her, Lily Goldenmeyer would tell them that she hated eating out alone. For the most part, that was true; she loved eating with her friends or even with her mother and father (when the rare chance presented itself) and if given the choice of going to most restaurants alone or calling in take-out, she didn’t count that as a choice at all.
 
Zettai ni was the exception to that rule. While she did go to the little sushi place just a few blocks from the convention center with her friends, sometimes she went alone. This was because when she was with her friends, she ate like they did: ordering a roll of this or that as the mood struck without putting much thought in it. But alone, she could indulge in the full and proper sushi way to eat so as to maximize the flavor (or at least the way she’d seen foodies on TV explain it).
 
She’d ordered a full course of various pieces of nigiri, starting with red snapper, then on to two types of bluefin tuna: milky-pink chu-toro and then deep red akami. She was just starting in on her akami, when she noticed something odd.
 
The restaurant was almost never empty even though she made a conscious effort to come during the off-peak hours. Now, it was almost completely silent. In the back of her head, she prayed it wasn’t because of some health scare or other. As the silence continued, that thought gnawed at her more and more. Some tiny, nervous voice that sounded a lot like her mother wondered if she might be coming closer and closer to eating something full of mercury or salmonella.
 
Could you get salmonella from fish? It sounded right to her, seeing as there was a fish name in it, but then again, she always heard it associated with chickens, which made no sense to her.
 
“Hello, Lily.” Someone slid into the booth across from her. The voice was odd, muffled.
 
Lily almost bit her tongue when she looked up and found herself face-to-helmet with Codex of the descendants. Her chopsticks tumbled out of her hands before she could recover from the surprise. “You? What are… did you actually get those emails I tried to send you that stupid fan site? Because we need to talk about Callie’s place on the team. I don’t think—“
 
“This isn’t about that.” Codex said so sharply that Lily flinched. “And it isn’t about Vamanos. We trust her. The person who we have our doubts about is you.”
 
The blonde woman tried to cover her bewilderment by picking up her chopsticks. “Me? Why would you even need to trust me? Callie knows the deal: she hasn’t told me anything about you guys that’s supposed to be secret.”
 
Codex tilted her head slightly, absorbing that new piece of information. She didn’t let that distract her from her mission though. “As I said, this has nothing to do with Vamanos. If you don’t mind, I’ll skip right to my questions. First: do you have your palmtop?”
 
It took an effort not to roll her eyes, but Lily managed it, realizing how serious the situation must be. “Um, yeah? I never go anywhere without it. I thought I lost it a couple weeks ago—almost have a total cardiac. Why?”
 
“Let me see it.”
 
Lily’s brow furrowed even as she reached for her purse to comply. “What’s this about?”
 
Codex took a slim handheld device out of a compartment on her belt. “That depends on what I find.”
 
“Look, you guys never trademarked your logo, so it’s totally fair game for me to use it for Callie’s promo loops. Plus, she’s a member of your team anyway.” Lily chattered as she passed her palmtop over to Codex. “And any good publicity she gets is good for you too.”
 
The hero ignored her, bringing the palmtop close to her handheld. After a few minutes of silence, she asked. “You said you thought you lost it? When?”
 
“Like just after Halloween.” Lily shrugged. “I tore the apartment apart, went through my parent’s place, even backtracked all over campus—then Kim decided to try and call me on it and we heard the ringtone coming from under my car seat. I felt like such an idiot.”
 
Codex continued to stare at the screen of her device. “When you search for something, you often ask where you remember seeing it last. Where did you see your phone last before thinking you lost it?”
 
Something about the line of questioning and whatever the little machine Codex was using made Lily’s stomach tremble. “I… I don’t know. I remember having it at this party we went to… and that’s it, I guess. I probably dropped it while I was getting Kim in the car. You probably herd all about it: thugs attacked, me and Callie and some high school kids saved the day—it was in the Scribe. That Northbrooke woman even interviewed me.”
 
“I am familiar with the incident. The reason I asked,” Codex turned her screen around so that Lily could see it. There was a phone number at the top, followed by a long list of locations and company names, some that Lily recognized as phone carriers. “…is because I’ve been investigating the incident. As you are likely aware, two of the women who live at Freeland House also work at the Liedecker Institute, a school for descendants. Do you remember what happened at the Academy?”
 
Lily shrugged, “A little bit. I wasn’t really into the news in high school.”
 
Codex nodded, “The things the Academy was shut down for were done on the behest of a group called Project Tome. They are dedicated to capturing and experimenting on descendants with the intent to find a way to graft our powers into their own agents. The Redeemers, the breakout on Braddock Island—they were Tome’s doing; they have an extremely long reach from shell companies to people in the government.”
 
“What’s that got to do with me?”
 
“Because I was concerned that Tome might have taken student records or security information from Freeland House. I pulled the activity log from the cell tower that services the area around Lake Standish and the Hills and I was only able to find one related to a person at the party—one that contacted a switchboard we suspect belongs to one of Tome’s front operations. And the originating number was yours.”
 
This time Lily set her chopsticks down instead of dropping them. “You think I’m the one that called in those guys? Are you crazy? I’m one of the heroes from that story, remember? Why would I do that? I could have been killed! My friends could have been killed!”
 
“I know that now.” said Codex, causing the other woman to sink back into puzzlement. “If it was you, you would have wiped your palmtop’s memory and formatted it so I couldn’t pull the information about the call off it. Someone stole your palmtop to make that call and then they gave it back to you hoping to put the suspicion on you.”
 
Lily’s eyes narrowed as righteous indignation took over. “Those assholes! That’s… I’ll sue them! I’ll take them for everything they’re worth! No one touches my palmtop—no one!” more anger flashed across her features. “I bet I know who did it too—you know that white-haired smart-ass, McAllister? She lives at Freeland House too and she totally hates me. I bet she took my phone while I was distracted with Kim just to screw me over!”
 
She missed Codex’s hand flexing dangerously and the other woman didn’t express her reaction to that in words. “Tome is an illegal organization with its leaders wanted by the US government—I doubt a lawsuit will do anything to them. For now, Miss Goldenmeyer, I advise you to contact me through the fan site with the subject ‘off kilter’ if you ever suspect that someone has been tampering with your things.”
 
“What, that’s it?” asked Lily as Codex rose to go.
 
“Essentially.” said Codex.
 
“You came here to accuse of betraying my friends and now you just leave?” Lily demanded. “I’m not just going to let this go!”
 
Codex shook her head. “Let us handle it, Miss Goldenmeyer. It’s what we’re here for.” She turned to go again. “By the way, the Ishidas, the owners of this restaurant, have a daughter who Facsimile saved from a carjacking. Consider your lunch on her and thank her kindly if you meet her in person.”
 
“…thank you.” Lily said, wondering why the heroine might add that last part. No sooner than Codex was gone (and the Ishida’s started letting other customers in) then she had her palmtop out, searching an online directory until she had a list of private investigators.
 
“I’m not leaving this alone.” She muttered defiantly, “And the first step is finding out what the hell Project Tome is.”
 
***
Dead brush and fallen twigs crackled under the wheels of ATVs somewhere in an Oklahoma scrub forest, just five miles north of the town of Gold Run. Their headlights cut through the night as the riders weaved around trees and across uneven terrain.
 
“IR is picking up heat to the northwest.” one of the riders informed his colleagues over their radio.
 
“That’s where I saw her last. Damn wind is blowing the leaves around—covering up her trail though.” replied another. She was the furthest north of the four ATV-mounted riders and the last to spot the target. Just in case, she had her shotgun, loaded with taser rounds, at the ready. One of the three motorbike-mounted riders, the second half of their contingent, cut across her path. “Hey, Hodge! What the hell’re you doing?”
 
The man on the bike leapt off as his bike went tumbling into the brush. His radio crackled on, sputtered for a second, broadcasting some choice curse words to the others. “Contact right! The bitch spiked my front wheel!”
 
Something flashed through the ATV’s headlights, a metallic gleam before it was gone and a sound like an ax biting into wood coming from somewhere to the ATV rider’s left. She didn’t need to see it to know what it would be: a five inch long, dull gray spike made up of what looked like something that was a cross between a beetle’s shell and steel weave. It hadn’t been the first one she’d seen that night.
 
Four hours ago, the Interstate Psionic Bounty Agency had been contacted about one Regina Schurig, a psionic who was wanted for assault after punching a man in a club in Gold Run. The team dispatched didn’t know the circumstances behind the assault—that was for the courts to sort out—all they knew what that the local police were invoking Oklahoma’s Braylocke law because they didn’t think they could deal with Regina’s powers.
 
Those powers, it seemed, included bio-metallic spikes that grew out of her skin and could be launched with enough force to bury them in trees.
 
“Shit.” the rider muttered and pulled her ATV to a stop. She vaulted off it and sheltered behind its bulk while fumbling for her radio. “She’s here and she is engaging. No eyes on her, but she just let off two more spikes. Setting my beacon, everyone else converge on me.”
 
The man from the bike, himself using a stump for cover, took this moment to switch on his infrared goggles and call out to the fugitive. “Regina Schurig, by the powers granted us by the state of Oklahoma, you are ordered to stand down and submit to citizen’s arrest for the crime of assault and battery.”
 
Another spike flashed out of the darkness and stuck in the stump. “Leave me alone!” screamed a distressed voice. “I know what you people do! I would’ve move if I had the money.”
 
The woman behind the ATV took the distraction to reach up and undo the straps holding a black case to the back of her vehicle before pulling it down next to her. She quickly undid the latches and opened the case to reveal a heavy looking gun with no barrel, but instead two folded tines on either side of the front edge: an electrostatic net.
 
“That’s not our problem.” The man continued, staying out of line of sight in case more spikes flew. “You punched a man in the face and cracked two of his teeth.”
 
“He was harassing me and wouldn’t let me leave!”
 
“And you can tell that to the judge when your court date comes up.” replied the man.
 
Something flashed above them, bathing the area in orange. “Ah yes.” came a smooth, cultured voice that boomed out at them. “And under the Oklahoma version of the Braylocke law, she can be held for five days without charge so that her powers can be ‘evaluated’ to see if they might pose a danger to the court and neutralized. Unlike non-psionics, who might be arraigned in an hour or two.”
 
The orange glow dimmed, revealing the form of a man standing in the air. He wasn’t dressed grandly, just a suit, long wool coat, and hat that was pulled down to hide his eyes.
 
The woman behind the ATV activated the net device, causing the tines to unfold and a crackling matrix of electric arcs to dance between them. She aimed it at the figure above her. “Power down!” She ordered, “You are interfering with a legal arrest!”
 
“You aren’t police.” the man said with contempt dripping from his voice, “And this is a farce. You are simply playground bullies, all grown up with more dangerous toys. I never backed down from them before, and I will not start now.”
 
From behind the stump, a shotgun went off with a reverberating ‘boom’, the blue streak of a taser round leaping into the sky. It bounced off an orange plane of force that flaring into being on contact and then dissipated.
 
The floating man shook his head. “After twenty years away, it seems thing have gotten worse. I though that we psionics would be more accepted, not less. That mindless fear would be the exception, not the rule. But I suspect I was a fool. I was certainly a fool back then.”
 
Orange light surrounded the stump and ripped it out of the ground, exposing the agent hiding behind it. Another spike flew at him, but was deflected by another orange plane of force. Then another orange light surrounded the man’s shotgun and in the space of a few seconds, took it apart; undoing welds, removing screws and tearing apart glued edges.
 
Terror hitched in the female agent’s throat and she went to fire the net. Her weapon two was also consumed in orange light and reduced to its component parts, right down to solder being pulled off each circuit board. Then her ATV was pulled apart in the same fashion.
 
The interloper tipped up his hat, looking at them with old, sad eyes. “If I wasn’t… perhaps things would have turned out differently. Perhaps small minded idiots wouldn’t have had the clout to do all this if they didn’t have the specter of Arjun Ravi to point to.”
 
End Descendants Annual #6
Series Navigation<< Issue #72: Turmoil Returns

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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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3 Comments

  1. I like this twist. I can’t wait to hear what the actual story of that whole situation was. Also, his power seems pretty epic-level. I am glad he didn’t let her hurt them, either, but just wouldn’t let them play police.

    Thinking about Warrick’s future vision, Chaos was so wrong about LSI staying small. But I guess nothing seems that huge in the beginning. Especially the events that change the world as you know it.

    At this point I’ve read everything Descendants-related but the Liedecker institute. It never really captured my interest much. Some of the earlier stories I’ve actually read thrice. I feel like there’s a good bit of payoff coming up soon. Is there a definite endpoint in mind? How far from that are we? I don’t imagine it’s soon, just curious.

    Also, if you ever do want to hire an editor, I can offer my services. I love this world, but sometimes I’m jarred out of it by some of the errors. Happens in published novels too, though, so this isn’t the only time.

    • Thanks for putting up for me all this time :p

      There really isn’t an endpoint planned out, but there are endpoints to longer story arcs (I have, for example, an end for some of the big bads).

      As for editing, the truth is, I have no money for it. Even for the books, I’m depending on friends and family to get them cleaned up. Once I start making money, that’s definately something I’ll be doing, but as for now, that woudl take the site from ‘paying for itself’ to ‘viciously in the hole’.

      • I’ve been waiting for this guy to pop back up since the prison break. He’s such a cool character, especially since basically all we know about him is the fact that he’s pretty much nothing like the psychopath everyone thinks he was.

        And as for editing, there’s probably plenty of readers who’d do it gratis, myself included.

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