Descendants: LA #18 – Fiends and Falsehood Part 6

This entry is part 6 of 13 in the series Descendants: LA Volume 2
The SUV was silent as they pulled drove off and remained that way until they were well on their way along the interstate.
“So… that’s it then?” Felix was trying to hide his disappointment in just how little they’d learned from the trip. “Now we know D3I somehow knew where you were going to arrive and were able to wait for you. That might mean they made it happen, or it might not, really. I’d hate to say it guys, but without faces or something like logos on the equipment, we’re at a dead end on this.”
Ray glanced into the rearview. “We might not have been if ‘Ani had volunteered to be read too.”
“It is best for everyone if no one attempts to enter my mind.” the woman in question replied darkly.
Josh stared down at his hands. They were callused from almost twenty years of training with the sword. As second child of only two, he was slated to become his father’s general by default while Icthiani was the heir to his earldom. It was not only common but expected for sibling to squabble and manipulate against one another for the highest title, but he’d been happy with becoming the general and by extension, a Knight of the Zephyr in the High Soder King’s service by extension.
The military culture agreed with him. While most of life in Faerie revolved around back-biting and schemes, most militarizes had strict rules had strict (and lethally enforced) rules against plotting against superior or fellow officers. For any coherent defense to be met, an army had to be built out of people who could trust one another in battle. Loyalty was paramount there unlike any other institution among daoine.
Which was what made the knowledge he was considering withholding so troubling. He’d taken to the military because of those values and found that in his new life, they served him well. But to tell what he knew or not was a test of where his true loyalty stood: with his new friends and the people of the Blue World; or…
Everyone was aware of his sister’s difficulties in adapting to Earth, but they all took his own as a given. True, he did enjoy having a new world to learn about and explore, and he found humanity fascinating, but deep down there was still a part that hoped to one day go home, no matter how slim the chance.
Realistically, he knew that wasn’t going to happen. Icthiani would never be safe to return, even if she somehow separated herself from her sangrelogos, and Josh would never abandon his sister. But knowing the facts and abandoning hope were two different matters.
And picking a side now… well it would mean that his personal honor would never allow him to return.
“Everything alright Josh?” Evidently, he’d been far too quiet for Lydia’s liking and the blonde was giving him a curious and concerned look. “Did what you remembered bother you that much?”
Lydia. Looking at her and thinking of how she’d bent over backward to make sure that both he and his sister felt welcome and comfortable made Josh wonder why it had even been a question as to whose side he should be one. Not just her, but all the others. Descendants: LA felt like a family to him—at least the conception of ‘family’ that he’d learned about on Earth.
And on the other side of the equation, the evidence that any loyalty Josh might feel he owed the other party didn’t flow both ways. Not only that, but if even half of what was detailed in the stolen D3I papers was really going on, they were betraying all of Faerie.
He looked at Lydia again and swallowed to moisten his throat. “No. Not really.” Before she could follow up, he caught Felix’s eye in the rearview. “And we’re not at a complete dead end. There’s… there’s something else I didn’t mention earlier.”
To their credit, no one in the car asked why he’d held back, though Ramona was giving him a hard look that said she wanted to.
Josh returned to looking at his hands in the silence that followed that announcement. “Right before we were drugged, someone spoke to us. And when I say they spoke to us, I mean we understood what he was saying—this was before ‘Ani’s translation spells or D3I tutoring us in English. He was speaking Focail Nó Fiú: our language.”
The uncomfortable feeling in the car practically crawled over his skin. Everyone knew on some level that this was bad news. They didn’t know just how bad. Josh didn’t make them wait before her dropped the bombshell.
“But that’s not the most important part. I—we recognized him.”
“What do you mean ‘we’ recognized him?” Icthiani asked from the back seat.
Josh closed his eyes and sank back against the seat. “We both know his voice: we’ve heard it enough, ‘Ani. You cursed loudly and creatively when you heard him.” For the benefit of the others, he continued: “His name is Zales Fron ga’Tinnemao Hyxes-Soder.”
No sooner did the first name pass his lips than Icthiani started cursing, exactly as she had in his restored memory.
Opening his eyes, Josh looked around at his friends, who looked back at him, expectantly because that name meant nothing to them. “He is the heir to the King of the High Soder and Commander of all armies beneath the King’s command.”
Icthiani instantly began spitting the same litany of curses from his recovered memory as the others clamored over the ramifications.
“Heir to the king?” Ramona asked, “So he’s the elf prince?”
“Only of my people the High Soder.” Josh tried to say, but the questions and comments were coming fast and furious.
“That can’t be a coincidence.” Ray was saying. “Out of all the daoine in your world, they manage to bring three nobles across?”
“Maybe he came across first and told them how to pull people across.” Felix ventured.
“That wouldn’t explain all the random faerie animals and monsters.” Ray pointed out. “Still, by all accounts, he was waiting for them. This is huge.”
“But we still don’t know how or why they’re doing this.” said Ramona. “Or why he erased their memories of him being here.”
Lydia was still watching Josh, concerned as ever, but couldn’t help but enter the fray, “Maybe bringing Josh and ‘Ani across wasn’t part of the plan. That would explain why he erased their memories. And if he was feeling sentimental, that could explain why he set them up with us: it’s a lot better than just letting them wander homeless or keeping them in a dungeon or lab somewhere.”
Felix looked thoughtful at the suggestion. “They had tranqs that worked on daoine ready. Now, tranquilizer loads have to be tailored for the target—I would guess that they were looking for a daoine at the very least and they were ready take them, willing or not.”
“If we had but one more sibling, I might have been groomed to compete for marriage to that varfeine.” Icthiani was ranting. “Maeve’s teeth, what good fortune I wasn’t. I can imagine having my mind taken from me to suit the ‘Prince’…”
“We need to find out how long he’s been working with D3I.” Ray said, “And where he’s based. A mentalist like that could be very bad news if they ever catch on that we know too much about their operations.”
“Totally, dude.” said Felix. “No way we’d be able to go against these guys head to head if they have a guy that can mind blast us into loyal little soldiers at the first sign of trouble.”
Josh raised his hands, but found it hard to find his voice. “Everyone…”
“So where does that leave us?” Lydia asked, “Still pretending nothing happened and cleaning up the unwanted faerie creatures for D3I?”
“I hate to sound selfish, but what about my pills?” asked Ramona. “Without them, I’ll have worse attacks than I do now. The newest formulation isn’t perfect, but it’s helping and if we go against D3I…”
“Everyone.” Josh said again. Lydia stopped and looked to see what he wanted to say, but it didn’t stop the others.
“As far as I ever heard, Zales has never displayed the gifts his mother’s blood might have given him at all. If he had the sidhe-granted mesmer held by the House of White Island, why did he keep it hidden?”
“Don’t worry, Ramona, I sent out samples to a friend on the other coast and we should be able to cook up a generic for you in a month or so.” Felix said, having turned all the way around in his seat.
“We can’t do anything right now. We need more information and we need to make a plan.” Ray was saying, eyes fixed on the road.
“Everyone, stop!” Josh finally bellowed, cutting through the chatter. “First of all, I don’t believe that Zales is as powerful as you fear. As Icthiani just said, he kept it a secret in Faerie and the likely reason for that is the power itself being limited.
“Zales is the fourth eldest of nine legitimate heirs and twenty illegitimate ones. It make sense now that he managed to rise to be in position to one day become King of all High Soder if he had some sort of subtle mesmer, possibly requiring time or contact that no one was aware of and thus couldn’t defend against. Recall that we were rendered unconscious before anything was done to out minds.”
“How do we know that he’s the one working the mind-whammies though?” Felix asked.
“We don’t.” admitted Josh. “But it makes sense and he is part of a bloodline with the mesmer. Ray is right: we need to learn more.
Ray sighed at the wheel. “And to do that, we’re going to have to play along with them for a while longer. In the meantime, we start acting like heroes instead of corporate shills. No more waiting for a call from my dad or D3I: we patrol, we develop our own contacts: everything real prelates do. We’ll still take those calls, but underneath it all, we’re going to sniff out the full extent of D3I’s operations.”
“If we’re going to do this,” Lydia said with a frown, “We should find out more about the people that led us to the papers. What do you want to bet that first attack a few months ago was also trying to get at them?”
“I couldn’t agree more.” said Ray. “Nothing says that they set us against D3I for good intentions. They could even be worse than D3I. After all, the only damning evidence we have there came from someone who shot Felix and may have been involved with people who were shooting at cops.”
Lydia looked around the car with an expression the Josh couldn’t read. “So it’s just us then? Six against the people that brought us together? All while we’re still living right under their noses, on their payroll?” She smirked a tiny bit. “Well I’m in. Let’s see my sister top fighting against an inter-dimensional conspiracy.”
“As long a Zales pays dearly for entering my mind uninvited.” said Icthiani.
Ramona turned to look out the window. “I just wish I knew why they were doing all this. Just to capture mon… er, faerie creatures? If it was money, they could have probably gotten a government grant to study them, seeing how exactly what’s been happening has been a news story for a while now.”
“Maybe what happened was their fault.” Lydia suggested. “That would be a good reason to hide everything.”
Suddenly from the front seat, Felix gasped at a shocking epiphany. “Dude… maybe it’s way, way worse than we’re thinking.”
“Worse than capturing innocent beings from an alien world and experimenting on them?”
“Oh yeah.” Felix said, making a sour face. “Assume that this Sales guy—“
“Zales.” Josh and Icthiani replied as one.
“Zales, yeah. That’s what I said. So anyway, what if he was one of the early arrivals? What if he shows up, sees that they’re capturing faeries for study and works some of that mesmer stuff on the guys holding him? Back when we were first going through the papers, Josh said something about how the Soder daoine—“
“High Soder.” said Icthiani with a regal sniff.
“Um… right. It was the thing he said about the gremlins, how the High Soder have tried to weaponize every species they ever met. And suddenly a military head honcho finds himself in a place where they’re all just collected in one place for him, probably with state-of-the-art genetics technology? If I were a bad guy, I know that would have me cackling.”
Everyone fell quiet, even Icthiani. Finally, Lydia broke the silence. “Well now we’ve certainly got a worst case scenario to keep in mind.”
“Worst case and entirely plausible.” said Josh. “That’s exactly what his father would do in this situation.”
Ray drummed the wheel with his fingertips. “Then that’s what we keep on guard for. Knowing that, I think we might need to ask someone for advice on how to proceed in establishing ourselves without D3I’s help.”
“I thought we just said it was just us.” Ramona pointed out.
“No one said we had to tell them everything. But the fact is, we are massively dependent on D3I for intel and supplies right now. If we’re lucky, my dad hasn’t told them where the apartment is, but even then, we need to be able to operate against them without them knowing.” He chewed the inside of his cheek. “And I know of only one independent team of prelate out there…”
“Dude, I would so like to meet them.” said Felix, “… but how are we going to contact them?”
“Well, I had an idea about that. I might be straight out of a comic book, but then again, we are superheroes, so it might work…”
“So the mayor got an interesting call today.” Laurel Brant was sitting in her workshop, typing away in front of her massive bank of computer monitors. A dark skinned beauty in her late twenties, she had her long, black hair back away from her face but worn long, and was wearing glasses.
“It came from a printed cell phone with a fake name attached. Whoever it was wanted to be put in touch with The Descendants and left a number to contact them at.”
She brought up the records of the call, and the history of the fake name and credit card it was attached to. The alias was solid and didn’t lead back to anyone real, but whoever was using it had been using it for almost a year, indicating someone in witness protection, an amateur who didn’t know better and didn’t know they should burn such card after each use, or a professional in a long con who just made a mistake in using that card while contacting a secure line.
“But that’s not the best part. The best part is that they claim to be Descendants: Los Angeles and that they need our help. They refused to elaborate with the mayor beyond saying it wasn’t time sensitive.
“Descendants: LA?” Warrick Kaine asked from where he was sitting on one of the work tables. A few months shy of nineteen, he was wiry with a head of messy, black hair and eager eyes. “Dude, I would so like to meet them!”
Sitting on a rolling chair next to him, Cynthia McAllister, an athletic young woman with white hair made a face. “Find them and beat them for stealing our name.”
“I find it to be more of an homage.” said Kareem Utt, who was leaning against the table with his arms folded. He was Iranian by heritage and had sun-kissed skin and dark hair that he kept cut conservatively short. Turning his attention back to Laurel, he added, “But if you called us here to tell us about this, I suppose you’ve already decided that we should investigate, yes?”
Laurel nodded while turning her chair around to face them. “I feel like we should make a point of helping fellow heroes in need. We’ve had to ask for help one or twice ourselves, after all and we should pay that forward. But to be honest, I’ve been uncomfortable with the arrangement they have there with D3I. They seem to be packing a lot of firepower I’d rather not see a corporation holding sway over.”
Warrick frowned. “So we’re heading out there to see if they’re on the up and up? I’m not sure they’ll appreciate that.”
“Yeah, they definitely won’t if they’re really just a powered private army.” said Cyn. “In which case, we get to apply ‘gentle correction’.” She cracked her knuckles.
Laurel sighed. “It’s… not off the table. But let’s hope this meeting goes well. It would nice to have some friends on the left coast.”
End Fiends and Falsehoods.
Next: Wolverine Publicity
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About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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