Issue #1: Life Savers, Inc

This entry is part 2 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 1: Welcome to Freeland House

Part 2

Less than a ten minute drive from downtown Mayfield, VA lay the suburb of Hill Springs, affectionately referred to by its citizens as The Hills. Once it was what could be called an upper class neighborhood, a place for the rich to play in relative privacy without being too far from the city; but the sprawl of Mayfield had encroached and chased the wealthy away, making way for middle class housing and commerce centers. Still, some remnants of the days of magnates and vacationing celebrities clung to existence, barely visible.

Atop a hill located off a disused road behind the Perfect Brew coffee house and the scrapbook supply shop rather un-creatively dubbed ‘Scrapbook Supplies’, one such building stood. For most of the year, it was screened by the stands of cherry trees planted along the front gate; accessible either by the daunting stone steps that led to the front, or by the winding driveway that eventually found its way into the private parking lot. That building was called Freeland House.

Construction had been taking place for the past few weeks; tarps stretched in place around the areas currently under renovation, a few stacks of lumber sat idle on the stone patio out front and empty crates and boxes from various appliances in the construction dumpster in the yard. Ever so slowly, Freeland House was being reborn.

Warrick paid none of it any attention as he finally reached the summit of the stairs. He was too tired from the long climb to care. With the construction workers coming and going as they pleased during the daylight hours of the weekdays; Alexis had placed a moratorium on any of the Freeland House residents using their powers anywhere except their own rooms until the renovations were complete. This, of course, meant that Warrick had to climb the stairs under his own power, rather than have his tentacles carry him, as he was accustomed to.

Pausing to catch his breath, he opened the bag he had been carrying and checked its contents. Despite his less than delicate handling of them on the climb, none of the glazed donuts in the bag showed any signs of damage.

“These better be the best damn donuts ever.” Warrick frowned. If he had remembered how tiring the return trip would be, he certainly wouldn’t have made a special trip to the bakery to get them.

“Language, young Warrick.” Ian said in an almost comedic stern voice. He was coming out of the front door with the crumpled remains of a large, cardboard box in his hands.

“Huh? Oh, sorry, Mr. Smythe;” Warrick ducked his head apologetically. “I didn’t see you there.”

The older man snorted. “You do realize I was joking right?” He tossed the box onto a pile of the same in the dumpster. Frowning at the bewildered look on the teen’s face, Ian slapped a palm on his forehead and he shook his head. “Seriously, I don’t care how you talk around here.”

Seeing Warrick’s nodded response, Ian shrugged. “Forget it, okay? I just set up the new pool table; you play?”

“A little;” Warrick said, “There was a pool hall down the street from home, but it wasn’t the friendliest place if you know what I mean.”

“You got hustled, didn’t you?” Ian asked, following Warrick into the house.

“Pretty much, yeah.” Warrick muttered. “Not that I had a lot of money to bet.

The pool table resided on the south end of the downstairs commons, across from the TV. Four cues lay across it, fresh out of the box with the box containing the balls, rack and chalk beside them.

The pair played the first game with little fanfare; Ian easily beating Warrick. Determined not to be humiliated, Warrick battled back in the second game and was a thirteen and an eight ball away from victory when Ian blindsided him.

“Hear about those prelates that saved the head of ConquesTech the other day?” the older man asked as Warrick prepared to shoot. The cue ball bounced off the table as Warrick’s shot went wild. Smirking with satisfaction, Ian arrested the ball’s movement and placed it back on the table.

“How’d you find out?” Warrick stammered. It had been two days since he and Cyn had engaged in their little stint of heroics and both had agreed to keep things quiet. After two full days of no mention, he had figured they were in the clear.

“Did you really believe that I wouldn’t put two and two together when a winged woman and a guy with metal tentacles save a bunch of people a couple weeks after a shapeshifter and a kid with metal tentacles move in here?”

“I was kind of hoping it wouldn’t make the papers…” Warrick admitted. “Does Ms. Keyes know?” He suddenly looked around, half expecting the raven haired older woman to descend upon him to scold him as she typically did when he broke her ‘no powers’ rule.

“You got lucky, kid.” Ian said, shouldering his cue. “Alexis gets all of her news from the internet and Laurel spends so much time working on all of her projects that she hardly ever pays attention to current events.” He noted Warrick’s nervous glances. “They’re not here. Laurel dragged all the girls into the city to ‘bond’ – that’s code for shopping if I ever heard it – and it’s just you me and Kareem holding down the fort for the time being.” He paused and glanced around. “At least I think Kareem’s here. I can never tell.”

“How am I lucky?” Warrick said. “You’re not mad?”

Ian snorted. “Are you kidding? You and Cyn saved three people’s lives. How the hell can I be mad at that?”

“Because we weren’t supposed to use our powers in public and we may have made it easier for the Academy to find us? Those are the reasons Ms. Keyes gave us.”

“Oh, Alexis would be pissed if she found out. No doubt about it.” Ian said. “She got mad at me for way, way less stupid things when we were younger.”

“You mean you’re not going to tell her?” Warrick gulped at even the idea of what Alexis would do if she found out about he and Cyn’s vigilantism. “Even if it was stupid of us?”

“Kid, I think you aren’t quite aware of who you’re talking to. I’m the one that suggested that we break into an Academy building to save you four. Look; did you do something stupid? Yes, very much. However; did you do something right? Also yes. Understand?”

“Not really.” Warrick said honestly.

“Okay, I’ll go slower then.” He wandered over to one of the couches and sat on the arm. “Alexis is probably right that you two shouldn’t be using your powers in public. That’s basic, simian common sense and it’s for your own good for true.” He tossed the cue over his shoulder, onto the couch.

“But the thing is – at least in my experience – sometimes ‘for your own good’ is outweighed by other things. In this case, not letting a bunch of people go splat when you can do something to stop it.”

Warrick nodded and leaned on the pool table.

“It’s actually a lot easier to just do as you’re told than to take a risk and do some good. I’m proud of you two for doing what you did.” Ian finished.

“So… you don’t mind if we keep up with the whole ‘Lifesavers Inc’ thing?”

“I didn’t say that.” Ian said. “This time was okay because it was an emergency and lives were at stake. We can’t have you two running around stopping petty muggings and crap though. Plus, Alexis is bound to find out sometime if you two keep this up.”

Warrick lowered his head unhappily. He hadn’t actually expected an official go ahead, but it was still disappointing.

“On the other hand,” Ian continued, “lots of people die in the city every year. I would bet that a lot of those would be considered emergencies… hmm…” He shrugged. “Anyway, good game kid, I need to run down the hill to grab some lunch and some clothes for the trip.”

He feigned realization as he headed for the door. “By the way, Alexis and I will be heading to Florida next week to follow up some Academy dirt Laurel dug up. I hope you kids will be okay with just Laurel here. You know – without Alexis keeping an eye out?”

With that, Ian was out of the house and Warrick was left alone, blinking in confusion. “He didn’t just tell me exactly when we can get away with doing prelate work;” The metal controller muttered to himself. “Did he?”

***

That night, a storm front moved in over Mayfield and its surrounding suburbs. Driving rain reduced visibility to nil and forced most sensible people inside for the night. It also made a constant, drumming cacophony on the windows of the warehouse Brill now traversed.

Tenth Street Shipping was one of Liedecker’s many front operations, though unlike Moore Cinemas or any of his dozen restaurants in the city, TSS made no real attempts to maintain operations. The ever expanding lab facilities made that increasingly impossible.

“I’ve always done a good job for the boss, right Brill?” the man following him asked, absently. Calvin ‘Scuff’ Singer was, by nature just as nervous as Brill was around Liedecker. The difference was that Scuff had never been to TSS and had the rising fear that this place was a body dump for people who had outlived their usefulness to the arms dealer. “I’m always on time… I’ve never been arrested… A-and you know I’m totally loyal.”

Brill nodded. He was fairly sure he knew exactly what was panicking Scuff, but letting the man squirm appealed to him. “The boss knows, Scuff. And he appreciates all that you’ve done for the operation. He just thinks there’s a better place for you right now.”

A chill ran up Scuff’s spine at that. He combed his fingers through his black hair nervously. “What kind of p-place, Brill?”

“Oh, a good place, Scuff. One worthy of you, see? Say, you were in the army a while back, right?”

“A-air Force, actually.” Scuff said, peering warily around at the endless rows of shipping crates and up to the high ceiling that was completely lost in the shadows.

“Oh yeah,” Brill said, stopping at a forklift. “Air Force. You were a pilot, right?”

“Light jump jet.” The terrified man replied. “You know; recon, first strike, nothing special. Brill, why are you asking that?”

Brill stepped around the forklift and pushed the crate behind it aside, revealing a set of concrete stairs leading down into a darkened room.

Scuff yelped. “Wait, what is this, Brill? I didn’t do anything wrong…”

“Stop pissing yourself, Scuff and follow me.” Brill said. “I’m not going to kill you.” He headed down the stairs and opened the door. Shivering in a non-existent draft, Scuff followed.

It took Brill a moment to find the switch and when he did, the single, bare light bulb did little to illuminate the room. The place was referred to among Liedecker’s inner circle as the ‘showroom’; a place where clients could view the fruits of the lab’s labor without risking anyone finding out exactly where the lab was hidden.

Tonight there was only one crate in the showroom; a huge, nine foot box that resembled a casket in ways that stirred even more fear in Scuff. Brill however, simply continued about his job, moving to the side of it and waiting for Scuff to come closer.

“Come on, Scuff;” Brill mocked. “It’s not every day that the boss gives anybody a damn thing, much less an eighty million dollar prize.”

“Eighty million dollars? What the hell are you talking about, Brill?” Scuff set his jaw angrily. It was one thing to try to kill him, but to mock him as well was infuriating.

“That’s what I said, Scuff. Take a look.” With that, Brill hauled hard on the crate lid, pushing it to the side and revealing its contents.

Scuff gasped. “He’s seriously giving this thing to me? I’ve read about something like this in the paper, but…”

“Mr. Liedecker doesn’t play around, Scuff. There is a catch though.”

Scuff leaned over the crate, placing a hand on the cool, black surface of the device. “This thing isn’t even supposed to exist for another five years…”

“Yeah, but that’s because of things like tests, government approval – shit Mr. Liedecker doesn’t care too much about. The best part; Brant Industries doesn’t even know it’s gone.”

“Do you have any idea what I could do in this thing, Brill? Especially if all the weapons work?”

“That’s what Mr. Liedecker’s counting on.” Brill said.

Scuff’s face fell. “Right, the catch you mentioned.”

“Don’t be like that, Scuff.” Brill sneered. “Don’t think of it as paying to fly; think of it as getting Mr. Liedecker’s help to give this little lady a test run.”

“That doesn’t tell me what I have to do.”

“You read the paper, Scuff?” Brill asked, as if changing the subject.

“Sometimes, yeah…” was the hesitant response.

“Then you should know exactly what I’m talking about. Some bad front page news?”

“You’re talking about the prelates?” Scuff snorted. “There’s no way. One of them was shaping metal; he’d just crush me like a bug in this thing.”

“Look again, pal.” Brill said, rapping a fist on the device in the crate. “That’s not titanium, its ceramic and carbon. No metal involved.”

Scuff nodded. “Hmm… that just about evens the playing field, doesn’t it?” He had to admit, he was intrigued by the idea of him being known as the man that put and end to the prelates of Mayfield.

“Should I tell Mr. Liedecker that we’ve got a deal?” Brill asked.

Scuff nodded. “Yeah, we do. I can’t say I can pass this up.”

“Excellent.” Brill said. “I knew we had the right man for the job. So, what are you going to name your new toy?”

Both men looked down into the crate where the jet black suit of powered armor lay. A set of ebon wings, shaped vaguely like those of a jet, were folded along its sides, framing its eight foot length. Even with all of its weapons retracted, the machine cut an imposing form.

Nodded at his new weapon, Scuff grinned. “I’m thinking… Sky Tyrant.”

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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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