- Issue #61 – Higher Education
- Issue #62 – Poor Relations
- Issue #63 – Storm Cage
- Issue #64 – Stormfall
- Issue #65: Fond Farewell
- Issue #66 – City by the Lake
- Issue #67 – Emet
- Descendants Special #6 – Things to Come
- Issue #68 – One Week
- Issue #69 – Crashers
- Descendants Giant-sized #2 – After-Party
- Issue #70: Gold and Glory
- Issue #71: Yellow
- CynQuest: Yellow Fallout
- Issue #72: Turmoil Returns
- Descendants Annual #6
Descendants Giant-sized #2 – After-Party
It was past two in the morning by the time the older members of the team of Freeland House were brought completely up to speed on what transpired earlier that night. By then, many of the younger members and secret keepers had gone; either back to their dorms and apartments of up to their old rooms to bed.
Kareem, Melissa and Cyn remained in the kitchen (the latter two combining to demolish any and all leftovers between them) along side Alexis, Laurel and Ian as they considered the attack and its implications.
“I’m sorry, guys.” Laurel was sitting at the table with her tablet, going over logs from the security and defense systems. Like her two friends, she hadn’t bothered changing out of her costume; a long black cape with silver lining that attached at the ends to her wrists with a black leotard and thigh-high black boots underneath. The white hair-coloring spray she’d put in earlier was wearing off. “I should have anticipated a backlash after my hacks got discovered. I never expected the IPBA to be so brazen as to send a strike team to the house.”
“How did they even track you back here?” Ian asked, sitting across from her. He had a long blonde wig with yellow doo-rag on the table in front of him, but still wore the matching fake mustache, yellow spandex tank-top and yellow wrestling trunks. “You the most careful person I know with that kind of thing.”
Laurel sighed. “There’s always someone better. And whoever they have on they’re side; they are good. If it wasn’t for who the IPBA are, I would suspect another hypercog or some sort of technopath. In fact, I really can’t discount that. It wouldn’t be the first time we saw a self-hating or unaware descendant.”
“Is there any chance that they know that we are the Descendants?” asked Kareem. He was sitting on a stool at the counter next to Melissa.
“None.” said Laurel. “Even if they hacked Vimes, all of our mission files, communiques with the ROCIC, and anything else that might clue them in is on a separate server: Artemis. That server isn’t connected to the internet at all.”
“But they might have found it if they got into your workshop.” Alexis supplied from her seat beside Laurel. Her green body paint was flaking, but the spiky red and mottled green wig was still on her head. The complicated rig of skeletal looking wing-arms that strapped to her back had been left on the couch in the downstairs commons.
“I know.” said Laurel. “Luckily, I’m already in the process of remedying it. Remember that idea I had? The union of heroes?”
Cyn, who was sitting on the end of the counter with a bag of chips, looked up and grinned. Laurel had told her the new name.
“I do.” Ian said, giving Cyn’s changed expression a wary look. “But what does that have to do with securing your data systems?”
Laurel smiled for the first time since she’d learned of the debacle. A spark of pride kindled in her eyes. “I’ve put feelers out for a headquarters and recently got a hit. I was waiting until after Codex took a tour of the place before I said anything though.”
Alexis folded her elbows on the table and put her head down on it. “Please say it isn’t something from that ‘Real Life Supervillain Lairs’ site you were browsing a few weeks ago.”
A Cheshire grin came to her friend’s face. “Well actually…”
“We don’t have to embrace all the comic book tropes, L.” said Alexis.
“I want you to know that I did pass up the cold war era spy listening post in Brandy Station.” Laurel said, “And the missile silo—but that was because it didn’t have the central location I required.”
If Alexis was aghast at the idea, Ian was the opposite. “We could have been working out of an old spy station?”
“Still might.” said Laurel. “If this one falls through. Let me set the stage for you:
“Sixty years ago, following the declared official end of the war on terror, the United States Government still needed two more years to completely consolidate its intelligence services. Because of the rise of cyber-warfare, it was decided that a pure cloud computing environment would lead to certain vulnerabilities.
“The solution was a group of networked back-up facilities. And when I say ‘back-up’, I mean they backed up and consolidated everything. I’m talking about buildings storing every ounce of knowledge the US government has ever archived since its creation and the supercomputers charged with sifting through all of it and helping human agents make connections concerning national security. Ultra-high tech, ultra-secure, and until last year when their decommissioning was declassified: ultra secret.”
Laurel’s eyes twinkled. “And one of them was right here in Mayfield. You know the historical Jameson Garlock tower?”
“I think so.” said Alexis. “It’s on the other end of the Rogers Boulevard from Wagner Park.”
“I know the place.” Kareem added.
“No you don’t.” Laurel said and laced her fingers in front of her. “Because there never was a Jameson Garlock and there’s nothing historical about that building. The 2025 era furnishings, the museum, the gift shop—they’re all there to give cover to the agents and techs coming and going back then. Even after being decommissioned, the government just sealed all the real entrances and let the city take over running a completely bogus historical site.”
“That…” Cyn cocked her head in thought, “is actually exactly the kind of thing I can see happening.”
Alexis grudgingly nodded, “The story makes some sense at least: a historical site has to go through layers of red tape for any changes to be made to it—that alone would keep people from stumbling on formerly sensitive areas because they decided to remodel or dig out a new pool. I’m sort of disturbed that the government fabricated history to do it though. And I’m not happy with the idea we would be as well.”
“Fabrication is a bit much.” said Laurel. “It all amounts to the information at the site itself and never approving funding for any studies involving it. Besides, if we do make use of the building, I don’t see much of an ethical leap from secret identities to operating a minor tourist trap.
“The main thing is that we need this to separate our personal lives the rest of the way from our heroic identities. We were lucky tonight, but next time, the threat that follows the breadcrumbs back to Freeland House might be far, far worse.
Alexis sighed, knowing that she’d been beat. “Okay, fine. Go check the place out. I guess we couldn’t exactly have operated the Union of Heroes thing out in the open anyway.” She shrugged, “Besides, it would be nice to have a dedicated training facility.”
“Not to mention a bigger, better equipped workshop. Maybe ‘ll start putting in some gadgeteering time again too. I kind of miss designing powered armor.”
“In the meantime though,” Alexis said, “we need to be twice as careful now that our civilian identities are picking up enemies as well. For all we know this attack wasn’t just a backlash against your hacking. It might have been politically motivated. Remember there’s an election next week. Since Descendants Rights Worldwide has put so much support behind Senator Simone and her opposition to a national Braylocke Law, they might have been here looking for a late October Surprise.”
“That’s just what we need;” Melissa said, with a yawn, “This thing turning ugly in even more ways.”
“Identify One-Zero-Eight-Zeta-Rho-Zero-Two. I need to speak to Flint.”
“My records say that this is not one of your approved secure lines.”
“Secure this one then. This is part of my mission flexibility. Run my voice-print”
There was a pause on the other end of the line before the operator said, “Ready voice-print”
“Confirm: ‘Sweet and Orange’.”
“Confirmed. Sending you to Flint. One moment.”
More silence. It was almost five n the morning where Morgan Flint was and for all the called knew, his systems may have needed to be booted up before he could awaken.
Finally, the call connected. The first thing on the line was the wheeze of Flint’s replacement lungs. “Flint. Be quick: why did you need to make contact outside of your designated reporting times?”
“The Descendants’ house was attacked tonight. I was there.” replied the caller.
Flint pondered this a moment. “It wasn’t Talbot. He’s still trying to consolidate his gains from Braddock Island.”
“Definitely not Talbot.” said the caller. “It was a paramilitary strike. No psionics, or other Tome technology, not even an inugami. I’m ruling out Brother Right’s group too for the same reason. One of the goons mentioned the ‘Interstate Psionic bounty Agency. Are you familiar with them?”
“They’re customers of several of our operations both legal and extra-legal.” said Flint. “But that doesn’t make sense: the IPBA makes its money on the Braylocke Laws. Directly attacking the Descendants would only hurt sentiment toward Braylocke going national.”
The caller cleared their throat. “I can’t speak to their real motivations. I suspect the hired guns wouldn’t know the real reasons anyway. What concerns me is that they truck during the party; when half of them were out and the other half couldn’t act without revealing themselves. They seem to be working on the same intel I’ve been gathering for Tome.”
Flint contemplated this. “Are you worried that they’ll suspect a mole? Should you be removed from this case?”
“Of course not.” The caller said derisively, “I have then where I want them. Besides, I’m already taking precautions to divert their attention to someone they already neither like nor trust.”
“Good then.” said Flint. “Continue as planned, and I’ll bring our new problem with the IPBA up with the Board. They won’t like it at all—not with what’s been happening with the CrossWorlds Initiative. Flint out.”
The caller didn’t bother saying goodbye. They merely hit ‘end call’ on Lily’s palmtop. They still had a night of work ahead of them; cloning the device and surreptitiously returning it to its owner.
As they were all baseline humans without powers or cybernetics, the IPBA volunteer squads were all brought to the MPD’s fifth precinct in The Hills to await arraignment. Once there, they were searched one more time for contraband, processed, and placed into holding cells; men and women in separate halls in the same wing.
Because they were people of dubious morality with connections to a company of dubious morality, a lawyer naturally arrived within hours of them being processed.
“Russell Payton.” He introduced himself to the officer putting him through the security check. “I’m on retainer for these people. Anything they’ve said before my arrival will be considered inadmissible in court. I’ll make sure of that.”
His briefcase passed the sensors for bombs, chemical weapons, and biological threats easily, but the second officer at the checkpoint stopped it at the X-ray.
“Mr. Payton was it?” the second officer said, getting up from his chair. “I’m going to need you to open up your case, sir.” He nodded to the other cop and took a dust mask off his belt, holding it over his face. His partner followed suit.
“What… seems to be the problem?” asked Payton.
“Please open the case, Mr. Payton.” repeated the officer.
The lawyer sighed. “Alright. But this had better not be a stalling tactic.” He grabbed his case, set it on the table next to the X-ray machine, and popped the locks. The case opened to reveal a stack of legal briefs, a tablet computer, a hypospray gun, and four glass ampules.
One of the officers picked on of them up and regarded the colorless liquid within. “You should know better than to try bringing something like this in here.”
“I’m diabetic.” Payton shot back.
“We’ll see. But you need to have special clearance for it. Especially the injector.”
“Fine. Can I leave them here then?”
The officer holding the ampule grunted. “You don’t have a choice in the matter. Joe, send him through and I’ll keep the contraband here until we can call someone down to check it out.”
The other officer, Joe, nodded. “Alright Mr. Payton, let’s got.”
Payton glanced up and focused in on the vents. The same vents fed into the rest of the precinct as well as the holding cells. “Close enough.” He muttered.
“What was that?” asked Joe.
“Nothing. Just wondering if you’ve been inoculated against HHG-4242.”
“What does that mean?”
“Well if the answer’s ‘no’, it means about six months worth of memory loss– and if you’re in the unhappy ten percent, permanent brain damage.” Payton grabbed a button on his suit and rotated it until it clicked. All four ampules shattered.
The clear liquid sublimed into barely visible smoke that dispersed into the room and was swept up into the vents.
After just a whiff of the gas, the officers suddenly seized up and fell over in spasms as their nerves started misfiring. Payton just straightened his jacket and tie. Once the cops passed out completely, he only needed to go make sure the prisoners had gotten their doses of gas as well, and then erase the charging documents and last half-hour of security footage.
Good luck to the brats Brant had hosted the Halloween party for pressing any charges when neither the suspects, nor the arresting officers had any idea what they were talking about. The IPBA hadn’t gained anything that night, but they certainly didn’t lose either.
End Descendants Giant-Sized #2
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