Descendants Special #9 – Outted

This entry is part 43 of 49 in the series Current

“Are you sure this is the best way to take care of this?” Ian turned his costume’s visor over in his hands, feeling the weight more keenly than he usually did in the face of what they were discussing. Despite his protest, they were already past the point of no return seeing as the press conference had already been called and the mayor was providing his own press briefing room for them.

Laurel nodded. Her usual open posture replaced with crossed arms as she leaned against the wall. “We need to get out ahead of speculation and make sure the majority of the public is very clear on the fact that just because we’re superheroes, it doesn’t mean we’re not human. I’ve given everyone the option to back out—except Christina of course, seeing as she no longer has a choice.”

“It’s also a show of solidarity,” Alexis added. “We can’t let her got through this alone. So we’ll stand together and show a united front.”

Ian nodded. “Just trying one more time to see if there’s another way. I suppose there’s no magic spell in the Books that would erase everyone’s memory, huh?”

“Well that’d just be too easy, now wouldn’t it?” Laurel offered a small smile. “Though since that new super Facsimile told us, Chords, says she’s backed by two gods, maybe there really is a devil we can make a deal with?”

At this, Ian snorted. “Yeah, but instead of a soul, they’d probably ask for something pointlessly esoteric like my sense of smell, or our engagement,” he gestured between himself and Alexis. Then he leaned his head back and sighed before putting his visor back on. “So we’re really doing this then. I never imagined the day would actually come that the world knew who we were. This is going to change everything, you know.”

Alexis laid a hand on his shoulder. “Something seems to come along to change everything every few months.” She offered him a bright smile. “Besides, remember back in high school? You always said you wanted to be a celebrity. Your dream’s about to come true.”

Her smile proved to be infectious, coaxing a small one from Ian’s lips before he leaned in and gave her a quick kiss. “That already happened when you said ‘yes’.” After the pair exchanged longing looks, he finally turned to Laurel. “Alright. I guess we’re ready now.”

***

All of Mayfield’s top media outlets as well as every major national network were represented in the press briefing room at Mayfield’s city hall. The room buzzed with murmured conversations as journalists compared notes, speculated and communicated with their home offices. After hours of being in the dark as superheroes and a shadowy organization classed in the streets and skies all over America following Renaissance’s unmasking, they were finally going to get answers.

The first of those came in the form of a young blonde woman, barely out of her teens if that, coming out to the podium. She wore a powder blue suit and matching skirt, a pearl necklace with matching earrings, and had her hair up in a businesslike bun. The mayor’s seal on the podium had been replaced with a new seal with the now-well known D-icon logo of the Descendants.

For a moment, the noise in the room grew louder instead of more quiet. No one had expected such a young woman running the press conference and her inclusion was starting a minor uproar. It only got worse as they started realizing that this was Vamanos’s public relations secretary.

To her credit, she merely waited until things settled down before speaking. “Thank you. My name is Lilith Goldenmeyer, as of today, I am the official Press Secretary to the Descendants. I will be reading a brief statement after which the team members have their own message they wish to deliver. The team will not be answering any questions at this time, but if you hold your inquiries to the end, I will be fielding a limited amount of questions.

From an inner pocket of her suit coat, she withdrew a set of cards and began to read. “Starting at eleven this morning, an organization known as Project Tome—the same organization behind the Psionics Training and Application Academy—began operations to attempt to assault and abduct the families of the Descendants team members. At the moment, we believe this was in response to Renaissance’s unmasking and the subsequent media coverage.

“Upon word reaching them about what was happening, various groups and individuals who previously worked with the Descendants volunteered to help protect the team’s families and bring them to safety. In doing so, these individuals as well as members of the team in conjunction with local and federal authorities engaged Project Tome forces across the country.

“Unfortunately, Tome’s agents did manage to kill a total of four officers and agents as well as hospitalize ten local police officers and thirty civilians. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the fallen and injured and the Descendants Foundation with a generous donation from Brant Industries will be doing everything possible to help them through this trying time.”

This said, Lily went silent for a few seconds before continuing. “At two-thirty this afternoon, Project Tome launched the second half of their offensive: an aerial bombardment and invasion of Laurel Brant’s home Freeland House located in the Hills neighborhood of Mayfield. A coalition of the Descendants and their allies with the backing of federal authorities successfully repelled the attack, arresting over fifty Tome agents and private soldiers.

“The Descendants regret the casualties, stress and damage caused by Tome’s attacks. Again, the Descendants Foundation will be acting to make things right where they can.”

Lily put the cards back into her pocket and took a moment to visibly compose herself. “The team would like to say a few words at this juncture, but first, I feel I must say something on a personal note: I ask that the public and government officials please remember that this day has affected the team deeply. They have had their families threatened and endangered. Freeland House, which is or has been home to many of them was badly damaged. The identity of one of their own has been revealed, putting her in harm’s way. And there are tolls this day has taken too personal to ever discuss in public. These are heroes, yes. But they are also people. Please be mindful of the whole of their story and show them empathy in exchange for the many sacrifices they’ve made for all of us.”

Giving the press a moment to let that set in, she concluded with: “And now the team will give their remarks.”

She abandoned the podium to Renaissance, who stepped up to it while the rest of the team plus Kay and JC filled in and formed a line behind her.

“Good evening,” Renaissance said, a bit shakily. “I suppose this isn’t really an announcement anymore, but my name is Christina Carlyle and earlier today the world learned that I am the prelate… the superheroine known as Renaissance. This has obviously been a very trying day for me… but the team—my friends—as well as my loving family have been there for me through it all. My life is going to change forever because of this and I’m just so thankful that I have people beside me to help me through it.”

Taking a moment to clear her throat, she continued: “I told the others they don’t have to do this but…”

When she hesitated, Alloy stepped forward, gently putting an arm around her waist and leaning toward the mic. As he did so, he used his powers on his helmet, splitting it in half and making it fold down into his gorget, revealing his face to a waiting ocean of camera flashes. “But there’s no way we were going to let her do this alone,” he finished for her. “You all know me as the Alloy, but my real name is Warrick Miles Kaine.”

***

In a small apartment just a short bus ride from the Dayspring College campus, Meghan Rockwell was just taking her dinner out of the rehydration oven when she heard those words coming from her TV. Red beans and rice almost redecorated her kitchen as she raced into her living room to see what was going on.

She was just in time to see two of her friends, wearing the costumes of the Descendants sans masks walking away from the podium.

“Holy shit,” she whispered. But then, that made a lot of things start to make a lot more sense…

***

Cyn followed Warrick and Tink, stepping up to the mic in her golden winged form. Folding her arms, she took a moment to mug for the camera. “I don’t need a mask obviously, but this is my true form,” with that, she became her everyday self; all pale skin and white hair. “Cynthia McAllister.”

***

Across town, out on the street, like many of his fellow Mayfieldians, Ollie Butler had stopped to watch the press conference live on the giant screen outside of the Mayfield Credit Union building.

His reaction wasn’t shock, however, since he’d been trying to call Cyn since Tink was outed and had been turning the whole situation over in his mind. There had been no doubt in his mind that Cyn was one of the heroines of the Descendants since that revelation. The only question had been ‘which one?’.

Now he had his answer…

…And he couldn’t help but laugh, confusing several people standing around him.

Once things died down and he could reach her again, he had some things to say to his girlfriend. And she was probably going to punch him through a wall.

***

Zero took Cyn’s place. More than anyone else there, she felt incredibly awkward.

She hadn’t even had a chance to talk to Malcolm yet after he’d been kidnapped because of her. Not only that, but unlike the others, she wasn’t going to be revealing her ‘true’ identity. After she was done, the world still wouldn’t know about Willow Chamberlain, just Juniper Taylor. It felt dishonest and immoral, but at least it was something that would make sense to people—to her friends who weren’t part of the team and to the world at large.

Besides, in many ways she’d left Willow behind. Still her parent’s daughter, but with a new name and attitude and outlook.

And celebrity.

That was something she hadn’t thought of; that none of Snackrifice had thought of: putting their true identities out there in the world also cast their other career in a whole new light. One they couldn’t predict. Was she about to end her music career and crush Kay and Lisa’s dream?

Her throat constricted as she felt herself starting to freeze up.

But, she reminded herself, it was too late to turn back. Whatever came of this, she and the others would have to deal with it. Licking her lips, she leaned toward the mic and spoke…

***

To say a lot of Snackrifice fans, freshly minted from the group’s appearance at the Global Systematics Festival of Music, was surprised when the lead singer turned out to be noted superheroine Zero would be a gross understatement.

It hit even harder for her biggest fan.

Chords struck a wrong chord on her guitar upon seeing whose face was under Zero’s cowl and for a second, she seemed to explode into a cloud of golden, gleaming notes, which slowly drifted away like fog to reveal not the glam rock nightmare with the multi-colored hair and radical attitude, but timid young woman with mousy brown hair holding a legendary instrument as if to shield herself with it.

Jessica Kowalski.

Snackrifice’s guitarist.

As her hair fluttered down around her eyes and the confidence and courage that came with being Three Chords and the Truth ebbed out of her, she could only blink. “Huh. What does it say that I didn’t even recognize her with just a mask and a thing holding her hair out of her face? I honestly thought she was Darkness.”

Across the cluttered main room of a pawnshop that existed anywhere it wanted to be, the god Hermes was sitting on a stool behind the register reading an ancient copy of The Flash—he had the entire original run in a long box for two dollars each; right under one of the original copies of the US Constitution for twelve-fifty.

He glanced up at her, watching her stare sadly at the bank of old CRT and 3-D televisions he was never going to be able to get rid of. “Starting to doubt your crush?”

Jessica sighed and leaned against one of the glass cases, avoiding watching as Ephemeral and Hope revealed themselves by studying the parachute of DB Cooper inside said case. “I don’t know. I mean can I really say I love her or even care that much about her when I was fooled into drooling over another woman by a piece of fabric?”

The Messenger of the Gods rolled his eyes and flipped a page in his comic. “Okay, one: you are not in love. Love at first sight is incredibly rare and it’s not something you have. You’re attracted to her. Granted on more than just a superficial level, but attraction? It ain’t love. It can get pretty strong way before it becomes love. Like a stick turning red hot before it catches fire.”

He reached over to a bowl beside the register and retrieved a bon-bon, which he ate with gusto. “And as for not recognizing her? Half of her friends weren’t recognized by their own parents. Actual loving parents, okay? Don’t worry too much about it.”

The mousy woman looked back at him. “Are you really egging me on to do this? I mean Juniper isn’t even gay.”

“Oh you mortals and your obsession with dualities an binaries. I blame Janus.” He ignored the confused look her was getting. “Anyway, you’ve still got a chance, kiddo. I mean have you not been paying attention? We just learned that shark girl had pheromones. That’s why all the guys liked her and…” He rolled his wrist trying to get her to reach his conclusion.

When she didn’t he finished himself. “And why the girls all hated her. The pheromone made their instincts see her as a threat. However your girl was still nice to her meaning…”

Jessica blinked. “I’m sorry… I think you lost me at shark girl and pheromones. Who are we talking about.”

Hermes deflated. “Are you telling me you don’t keep all that juicy meta-knowledge you get as Chords?”

“Only when she mentions it out loud?” she offered, unsure of herself. “Oh, and I remember something she doesn’t. It’s about the girl from the future! She’s—”

But the god interrupted her. “Hold on there, padawan. Don’t say it yet… we’re being watched…”

***

One by one, The Descendants revealed themselves to the world. Lisa had pulled down her hood and then dropped her glamour fully. Even Kay and JC, not wanting to leave their friends to face this alone and having spent the better part of the day discussing the implications with their families. Finally, it fell to the final member of the team; the defacto leader no matter how much she might insist she didn’t do so alone.

Chaos and Darkness stepped back and separated so as to flank Codex as she stepped forward. Steady fingers reached up and undid the clasps on her helmet.

Laurel Brant had been born gifted not with powers to bend physics, emit energy, or perform humanly impossible physical feats but with a powerful mind almost unmatched by any in her generation. Her brain processed information faster, stored and recalled it more efficiently and was capable of seeing patterns and connections far more easily.

And she had indeed seen the patterns. She’d known this day was inevitable even if she didn’t know when it would come. This had always been the plan for that day: to get out ahead of it, to make the revelation their own before someone else could use it against them, to force the government to help protect their families. Eventually, to use the celebrity it would create to help further their goals of making the world better and safer.

It all started here and now.

The helmet opened along a vertical seam that ran past her ear and as she pulled it off, she let her finger snag the tie that kept her hair gathered, allowing her dark mane to cascade dramatically down around her face.

Because this had to be a moment.

This had to be the moment. The one they would show in history classes in a hundred years when they were discussing the Turning Point. Even though her incredible mind couldn’t tell the future, it did help her set goals in making one.

Yes, she’d seen it coming.

Now she had to execute the contingency she had for it.

Closing the helmet, she set it on the podium; off to the side where it wouldn’t get in the way of the cameras.

“My name is Laurel Brant. Many of you know me as the daughter of William Brant of Brant Industries. Many of you also know me as Codex from the many times my team has intervened in dangerous situations across the country with an aim to defend the people against threats that until recently have been outside the capability and purview of the usual authorities.

“For almost three years, we have been your humble shields, risking life and limb for your protection without asking anything in return. But repay us you have; in the respect and adoration and thanks we’ve received from our home city and around the world. For this, we are truly thankful.

“After today’s events however, we must come to you all—the citizens of the world and ask a small favor. Today we have become exposed. We have bared out greatest vulnerability—our identities—to not only you, but all of our enemies. Already, I’m sure, our addresses, phone numbers and those of our loved ones are surely making their way onto the internet. We ask only one thing of you: basic human decency. Please grant us and those we care about the privacy and respect we afford you. If you see someone threatening or harassing someone close to us, please report it as soon as possible.

“However…” and now she looked directly into the nearest camera with her eyes blazing, “Our enemies should not take this as a sign of humility. What happened today is unacceptable. For you and for anyone who poses a danger to those we love we will not be a humble shield but avenging angels with swords of fire and terrible vengeance. Today will not happen again.”

With one more hard look at the camera, she allowed her expression to soften. “But for everyone else: we—not just the descendants, but all the powered heroes who have become our friends and allies over the years, are here to protect you. To save you. To raise you up.”

She took a deep breath without letting it be evident she was doing so before settling in for the master stroke. “Like the word ‘psionic’ for descendants, the word ‘prelate’ is a terrible misnomer. It implies that we are somehow above normal people; that we are somehow superior to others. And while granted that etymology is suggests the same, I believe everyone understands what I mean when I propose that the age of the prelate is over: and that the age of the Superhero has dawned!”

***

“You can practically hear the cheerin’ in the streets from here, can’t you?” Ice clinked in his glass as Vincent Liedecker swirled his scotch and watched the press conference continue with Lily trying to deal with the rush of questions Laurel’s speech had prompted. “My, my. If I was ten, twenty years younger… You gotta admire that fire and conviction.”

Seated in an armchair to the side of where her employer sat, Vorpal gave him a measured look. “I would have expected a much different reaction. I recall I was hired because you hated superheroes.”

Her terminology change didn’t go unnoticed, but Liedecker chose not to remark on it. “Year ago, I was moren’ a little pissed to see ’em because they were a threat to profits.” He gave a bitter laugh and sipped his scotch. “Wasn’t always like that though. Things change. People especially. You know how you ended up as basically my second in command?”

“I always assumed it was because I was the most competent of your hires. That’s not it?”

“Oh I wouldn’t say that wasn’t true. But thing is, you’ve got an agenda. ‘Better angels’ some might say. You got your sights on somethin’ better—better for your people, descendants. All this?” He gestured around vaguely with his drink, “It’s all a means to an end. You got no love of crime or criminals.” He sat the glass down on the coffee table and waved away whatever her response was going to be. “Thing is, I’m the same. Or I was the same.

“Took over the Mayfield Underworld so I could put a chain ’round the beast’s neck. I thought I could take over all crime and keep what happened to my old man and m’ lovely Izzy from happenin’ ever again.” Feeling very old, the crime boss shook his head. “Along the way? I forgot all that and became a businessman—and the business of crime was too good to pass up.”

Vorpal raised an eyebrow under her mask. “Why are you telling me all this now? Is this about your run for mayor?”

Liedecker smiled an enigmatic smile she’d never seen him smile before and stood from the love seat he occupied. “Like I said, Miss Vorpal: people change. The game changes. And Miss Brant just flipped over the whole goddamn board.”

***

Elsewhere.

“A stirring speech, Laurel,” Orb Weaver sat in a veritable spider’s web of computer screens and controls with a monitor showing a replay of Laurel’s press conference at the center. His natural and mechanical arms manipulated other screens, both touch OLEDs and holograms all around him while the eight eyes in his helmet seemed to look at all of them.

“To be expected of one of the smarted people on Earth. But you forget: even the most brilliant mind can be distracted: especially when dealing with a contingency plan you need to unfold like you did today.”

Black, shining eyes scanned screens scrolling all sorts of data: the digi-Books of Reason and Passions, bios and personal information on every hero not just in the Descendants, but taking part in Lifesavers, Inc, the HQ’s blueprints, classified ROCIC information, specs on every technological or magical gadget the Descendants had employed or captured—everything Laurel knew and stored in her highly encrypted servers.

All of which had been captured when it was wirelessly backed up during Tome’s attack and decrypted by the most sophisticated code-breaking algorithm ever written.

A garbled cackle filled the room as Orb Weaver added. “You also forget that I’m smarted then you.”

Series Navigation<< Descendants #101 – The Battle of Freeland House Chp.1Descendants #102 – Tales of Consequence Chp. 2 >>

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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5 Comments

  1. I think I smell nemeses!
    Let the Age of Superheroes begin!

    Really like what’s going on with Liedecker getting a caught up in the superhero hype despite trying not to show it. Just my personal opinion but every page with him in it is A+. Never fails to make me smile, or hang on to the edge of my seat.

  2. Typos

    Outted
    Outed

    but timid young
    but a timid young

    dualities an binaries.
    dualities and binaries.

    is suggests the same,
    suggests the same, (or ‘is the same,’; not both.)

    the smarted people
    the smartest people

    I’m smarted then you.”
    I’m smarter than you.”

  3. I posted typos yesterday but they’re held up somewhere, likely by an overenthusiastic spam filter.

  4. Can I just say that given the context of Orb Weaver’s dialogue, having “smarter” typo as “smarted” is utterly hilarious?

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