Issue #0 From There to Here

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

Part 4

Laurel woke up at seven the next morning, groaning slightly from the aches in her back from sleeping on the futon. Having proper mattresses and, if need be, beds brought in had climbed quickly to the top of her list of priorities.

Indeed, she already had quite a list in her head. Hypercognition was not an ability one could turn on and off and, as a result, she already began figuring out what needed to be done at Freeland House.

Beds were number one now; actually number two, second only to medical devices to treat Kareem’s condition. On top of the futons being uncomfortable, she and Alexis already discovered that most of the mattresses in the place had either been removed by the previous owners or had totally dry rotted. The futons themselves had needed to be covered in trash bags to protect Ian and Kareem from possible mold in the cushions.

Appliances were next on the list. A quick survey of the place revealed that only the lights, televisions in the upstairs and downstairs commons, and heating/air-conditioning unit were operational. Most of the rest had either been left to fall into disrepair or taken by the previous owner.

General repairs to the house itself would be trickier…

It occurred to Laurel that she should be recording this all in her notebook computer. It wasn’t that she needed it to remember it all; she just felt surer of her ideas once she saw them written out on a screen.

With a yawn and a stretch, she listened to the satisfying cracking sound her back made before reaching for her bag. It wasn’t there. A hazy recollection of leaving the bag in the car while Alexis and Warrick were trying to carry Kareem out of the back seat came to her. With one last stretch, she got up and left the sun porch.

The wooden floorboards squeaked slightly under her feet as she walked up the short hall to the upstairs commons. They too would need to be replaced. Laurel had a sinking feeling that everything but the structure would need renovation before everything was said and done. But the floorboards wear merely loose, not rotten, so they fell near the bottom of Laurel’s mental list.

Warrick and Cynthia were still asleep on the couch in the commons. Laurel spared them a smile as she switched the television off.

The commons had a staircase on either side leading to the downstairs commons as well as a sliding glass door that led out to the deck overlooking to swimming pool outside. Laurel took the stairs, coming out on the east end of the downstairs commons.

The furniture here had fared better than their upstairs counterparts. Three couches; two upholstered and one made of leather sat in the middle of the room, all facing a coffee table. On the western wall sat an oak dinette set complete with sturdy wooden chairs. A plasma television dominated the northern wall between the staircases.

At least this room needed very little work, Laurel thought. Apart from that, most of the guest rooms needed only new carpeting and beds. The other furniture, if not the fixtures were intact.

Still trying to shake off sleep as well as mentally populating the rooms she passed through for her list, Laurel contemplated checking the rooms in the east wing’s first floor as well as the ones on the hallway running behind the stairs. She decided just to get her computer first.

She cut through the kitchen on her way outside. The room had been gutted of everything but the built in cabinets, table and the broken refrigerator. That room was going to cost most of all. Adding everything needed to make the kitchen usable again kept her occupied as she unlocked the side door and stepped out into what was once the garden.

At one time, Freeland House’s it might have rivaled any in the state. Now, all but the hedgerow had died; leaving weed filled plots flanking an overgrown, cobblestone path. A stone bench and dried up pond were the only proof the place of what had been.

Beautification of the property would have to wait until the necessities were taken care of, Laurel’s pragmatic side pointed out. Nonetheless, her softer side placed landscaping somewhat ahead of the squeaky floorboards.

The parking lot for Freeland House was just beyond the garden. It was large enough to hold a dozen cars, but only Laurel’s sport utility vehicle sat there, parked across four spaces in her haste to get Ian and Kareem inside.

She opened the back door of the huge, silver vehicle and retrieved the wayward messenger bag and headed back into the house. Before she even closed the door, she heard someone coming down the stairs.

“Hello?” Cyn asked, looking around the downstairs commons.

“Good morning, Cynthia. Did you sleep well?” Laurel asked, emerging from the kitchen.

Cyn shrugged.

Laurel smiled. “Don’t worry; by the end of the day, you’ll have your own bed. No more couches, I promise.”

“So then we were right.” the girl said. “You guys do plan on keeping us here?”

Laurel sighed. “Don’t make it sound as bad as all that. If you really want to take your chances with the Academy, you’re free to go.” She crossed over to the leather couch. “But I’ll be honest with you; I think this place is the best place for the four of you at the moment. You parents simply don’t have the ability to deal with people like Prometheus if he should find you. And there’s less of a chance that he’ll find you here.”

“I never said anything about going back to my family.” Cyn took a seat on one of the other couches. “But yeah, you’re right. After all, you are the super genius.”

For a moment, Laurel considered asking what the white haired girl meant about her family, but she decided to leave it alone for the time being. “That’s what they tell me.”

She opened her computer and switched it on. “In any event, I’m going to try to do my best for you all. All three of us are. But first, let’s see what we can do to make this place livable, shall we?”

“I hope that’s Laurel-speak for ‘I’ve already ordered real beds and they’ll be here soon’.” Ian said, coming down the stairs. He’d found time to wash the blood out of his dark brown hair, but still wore his slashed and blood blackened shirt. A five-o’clock shadow made him look far older than he was.

“Not yet, my computer’s still trying to find the wireless internet frequency for Mayfield.” Laurel replied.

“But they will be here soon, right?” He sat across from Cyn and shot both women a grin. “Not that I didn’t mind sleeping between two hot women last night, but that sofa is the worst bed ever. It even smells funny.”

“Yes, Ian.” Laurel said.

Ian suddenly acted as if he’d just seen Cyn. “Oh, hey… Cynthia, right?”

“Everyone can just call me Cyn, if you don’t mind.” She gave him a quizzical look. “You really don’t act like a guy who just got the crap kicked out of him and now has a bunch of Academy Enforcers on his trail.”

Ian looked to Laurel. “She’s an optimistic one, isn’t she?”

Laurel gave a small shrug.

With a sigh, Ian turned back to Cyn. “I guess you and all the others pretty much know what’s going on then? I was pretty… well bloody and unconscious on the car ride here.” When she nodded, he continued. “The important thing right now is that we’re all safe, okay?

“We’re going to try to deal with this whole deal with the Academy quickly, but it may take a long time. I’m really sorry for all this – especially since it was my idea in the first place, but it’s better than being in those stasis cells another year.”

Cyn nodded. “That’s true. I guess you guys just want us to try not to get underfoot while you three try to find a way to fix things then?”

Ian nodded. “We’re not going to try to be your parents” he gave Laurel a sidelong look. “At least I’m not going to.”

The conversation was cut short as Warrick stumbled down the stairs. The tentacles had wrapped most of their length around his arms, but about two feet of each still waved in the air, occasionally grabbing the sides of the banister to steady him. It wasn’t his entrance that had cut off conversation, but the determined look on his face.

The young man certainly didn’t cut an imposing figure; he only topped five feet, six inches because of the unkempt mass of brown-black hair on his head and he probably didn’t weight more than 120 pounds soaking wet. Even the tentacles looked very non-threatening. In fact, their current attempts to take in all of the downstairs commons at once made them look comical.

But the young man had come downstairs with a purpose; that much was clear from the look in his eyes. It was a deeply soulful look that barely fit with the goofy guy Cyn remembered watching television with the night before. They looked like the eyes of a man who had gazed into his own destiny and found that he was missing something vital, something he would not be complete without.

“I need eggs.” Warrick finally said to no one in particular, possibly the tentacles themselves.

Cyn snorted in spite of herself.

Laurel stifled her own laughter before speaking. “I’m going to head down to the Burger Builders down the street in a little bit to get everyone breakfast. Why don’t you come over here and talk with us?”

Warrick shrugged and headed over to sit next to Cyn. “Is this about us staying here while you guys deal with all of this stuff with the Academy?”

“Not anymore.” Laurel said, “Apparently all of you reached that conclusion on your own, so there’s not a lot of point to repeating myself.”

“As long as I get to let my family know I’m okay.” Warrick shrugged. “I can’t image what my sister must have gone through; Christmas without her big brother and all.”

“I’ll see what we can do.” Laurel said, trying to keep the conversation upbeat. “In the meantime… those are new.” She pointed to the tentacles. The one around Warrick’s left arm turned toward her as if it was being questioned.

“He made them last night.” Cyn said. “I think they’re alive.”

Warrick gave another shrug. “I’ve had them pretty much since my first started using my powers. I figure we got separated when they jammed my in that coffin thing.” He idly teased Osp by waving his finger in front of it.

“So are they alive?” Ian asked. “They act like it.”

“No idea.” Warrick said. “My advisor at the Academy said they worked off my subconscious or something.”

“Your powers are weird.” Cyn smirked. “Not that I’m one to talk.”

It was Ian’s turn to laugh. “Don’t worry too much about. Except for Laurel, I don’t think any of us have your garden variety ‘super powers’. I still don’t understand Alexis’s. She can turn invisible, she flies, and whenever she does she turns into a shadow.”

“Even I don’t want to get into the whole ‘black heat’ thing.” Laurel added.

She started typing furiously and for the next few moments, the only sounds were of keys clacking. “And that does it for the mattresses I’ve also ordered the medical equipment we need for Kareem. So, since we’re all going to be living here; is there anything special you all want for your rooms?”

“I don’t have any money…” Warrick started.

“Money’s not going to be a problem; I’ve already back-doored my way into my bank account.” Laurel grinned. “I’ve already listed the basics; sheets, pillows, computer equipment, a couple of my favorite games so we can LAN…”

“You have the best priorities.” Ian snickered.

“Ain’t that a little much to be spending on kids you don’t even know?” Warrick asked, immediately earning himself an elbow in the ribs courtesy of Cyn.

Cyn glared at him for a minute. “Actually, he does have a good point, aside from looking a gift horse in the mouth; how can you afford to blow thousands of dollars just to keep us occupied?”

“Ever hear of Brant Industries?” Ian asked, giving Warrick a sympathetic look. There was a lot of his high school self in the boy.

“A little, I guess.” said Cyn. “They make armor and tanks and stuff. Nothing that has anything to do with us.”

“Well they have a lot to do with you now.” Laurel directed a warm smile at her as she continued typing. “This place – Freeland House – is sort of a gift to all of us from my father, the owner.”

“That’s really generous of him.” Warrick said. “Generous of both of you, really.”

“That’s just how they are.” Ian grinned. “Laurel takes after her dad and they both take good care of the people they care about.” He stretched out on his couch. “She’s a good role model for the rest of us.”

“Notice how I’m not putting my shoes up on the couch.” Laurel chided.

Ian chuckled and sat back up. “See what I mean?”

***

Back on the sun porch, the sun tried valiantly to pierce through the layers of grime and mildew on the windows and failed spectacularly. Only the thinnest slivers of light illuminated the room.

From the astral side, Kareem barely noticed. What he did notice was Melissa was trying to pretend to be asleep while Alexis tended to Kareem’s physical body. He could have told her that he was fine; or at least as fine as he could be. His only concern was how long his body could survive without food.

Melissa worried him though. He couldn’t bear the feelings of apprehension and outright fear he received from her whenever Alexis glanced in her direction.

Why are you so afraid of speaking with her? He asked the redhead. Was she not your friend?

This time, she gave much less of a start at his sudden presence in her mind. She used to be. She replied, but that was a long time ago in her mind.

You cannot go on like this. Kareem said; you know as well as I that living here will not be a temporary arrangement. Avoiding her will be impossible. Is it not better that you speak to her on your own terms?

I will, Melissa gave a mental nod, just not now, okay? Kareem gave a nod of his own.

Across the room, Alexis had satisfied herself that Kareem was in no danger and looked across the room at Melissa. She was the only other person in the room, aside from the comatose young man.

She wanted to go and comfort her; to try and explain everything that had happened; almost as much as she wanted to quietly slip from the room without waking her so as to avoid the entire thing.

Miss Keyes? It is me, Kareem. A voice said in her head. Kareem previously spoke to her just after she pulled him from the stasis cell, so her reaction was less severe than Melissa’s.

Yes, Kareem? Do you need something? Alexis asked, owing the ease of doing so to her previous work with young telepaths at the Academy.

I could not help but overhear your thoughts about Melissa. I think it is best that you not speak with her just yet. She is still very upset and confused right now.

Alexis nodded, both mentally and physically. I think I’ll take your word for it. Thanks for looking out for her.

It is my pleasure, Miss Keyes. I am aware of your previous relationship with Melissa and do not wish to see your bond broken.

You’re a really sweet boy, Kareem. You’re going to be a real lady killer once you wake up from that coma, aren’t you?

I do not put much hope in that, Miss Keyes, but thank you.

Hey, Alexis thought, you need to be more optimistic here. If I know Laurel, she’s already working on something to help you.

I would be most appreciative. Kareem said.

With a final salutation, Alexis left the room, leaving Kareem to muse to himself on the astral plane. The echoes of feelings left in Freeland House on the astral side could not be denied. Something about the place attracted good people and the new residents of Freeland House; the gifted descendants of a time long past were no exception.

End Issue #0

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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.

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