Issue #11: We Will Be Villians

This entry is part 13 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 1: Welcome to Freeland House

Part 2

The Bravo site was a group of hangers some thirty miles south of Project Tome’s east coast headquarters. Normally, it was only manned by a skeleton crew that maintained the facilities and aircraft. It had been transformed into a hive of activity in preparation for the launch of Operation: Redeemer.

Wright walked down the short ramp leading to the concrete floor of Hanger 2. Off to his right, he saw a gang of handlers coaxing one of the promised inugami into a cargo container.

This beast looked nothing like the specimens he had deployed a week ago. It was indisputably larger, measuring perhaps thirty six inches at the shoulder. The orihalcite armor protecting it was lighter, only applied over its skull, claws, ribs, and a narrow strip of overlapping, spiked plates going down its spine. A ruff of shaggy, grey fur rose up around its neck, deepening to a darker grey on the rest of its body. The champron over the creature’s face was also very different. Lenses covered its eyes and glowed a soft green – digital imaging was in play there.

Tearing his attention away from the beast, Wright looked straight ahead, to the stack of supply crates where his team awaited. Only one seemed to notice his arrival and the only indication he had of that was that she had shifted to keep him in her field of vision.

Latonya Haynes, codenamed Shine wore a white sports bra and a pair of biking shorts of the same color. Aside from that, her skin was totally exposed; white and finely scaled. She was a protomorph; the moment her powers manifested, she transformed irrevocably into something clearly inhuman. The white scales were just the start; her fingers and toes ended in claws and all the joints in her hands were double jointed, a whip like, reptilian tail poked out of a hole cut in her shorts, twitching nervously. Wright had never seen her hair – since before he had arrived, she kept her head shaved clean and according to rumor, buffed.

Aside from the minimal attempt at covering her private parts, she wore two other accessories; a pair of specially fitted gauntlets that augmented her formidable claws with orihalcite (specially ordered by Wright), and a pair of dark goggles with smoked lenses. Other effects of her transformation had left her eyes so sensitive to ultraviolet light, that she was unable to function without them.

As Wright came closer, the others took notice of him. One, a giant of a man, standing just under eight feet tall, stood up, and gave a stiff salute. When no one else joined him, he shot them all a glare.

“At ease, War-torn.” Wright said. “You don’t need to do that for me. I’m your handler, not your CO.”

“Doesn’t give us the right to disrespect you, sir.” The giant said with a hint of a Scots accent. Marcus Dumoulin, known among the Enforcer Corps as War-torn, returned to the crate he’d been using as a seat. He had blonde hair and wore a simple, black bodysuit, the kind with special connectors needed to synchronize a pilot with powered armor. War-torn was a brick hit house, blessed with exceptional durability and accelerated healing, but his strength hadn’t increased all that much in proportion with his body, thus, a powered armor frame had been issued to him.

A cackle came from a black haired man seated at the top of a stack of crates. “There’s a line between respect and groveling, Mark.” Jeremy Brown, codenamed Launch, wore his usual garish ensemble, consisting of a green jumpsuit, purple vest and tatty half cape covered in a green and purple flame design. He wasn’t paying much attention, instead marveling at the new wrist mounted pulse guns Wright had requisitioned for him.

“Excuse me if some of us have a little discipline.” War-torn rumbled, glaring up at his heckler.

“He’s right though.” Shine said in her low, rasping voice. “You practically beg for praise like a dog instead of earning it like you’re supposed to.” She jerked a clawed hand in the direction of the inugami being loaded into the transport for emphasis.

“I don’t have to take this from someone who’s been reprimanded for roughing up people for being too pretty.” War-torn snapped.

“You’re one to talk.” Trent Kinsey, also known as Wolf, interrupted. Dark haired and in his late twenties, he wore a no nonsense expression as he frowned at his teammates. The blue light from his inhibitors cast a strange pallor over his face. “After what happened with The Soliloquy and Rapscallion? I’m surprised they let you get to rank one after wailing on two semi-famous prelates on live television.”

“If it was necessary for psionics to ‘protect’ civilians from criminals—“War-torn started.

“The government would field an agency full of them.” Launch cut him off with a bored tone. “Yes, we know, Mark. Shut up about it already.”

Wright rolled his eyes. He’d borne witness to this argument time and time again before and after combat simulations. All five of the team had at least a general distain for the others, but readily turned a blind eye on their own transgressions. It never occurred to them that expansive disciplinary problems were the common thread between them.

Speaking of disciplinary problems… He turned a glance to the final member of the team.

At twenty-nine, Jonathan Jones, AKA Manriki, was older than his teammates, save the thirty-one year old War-torn. That didn’t mean much, however, considering he was also the one with the most strikes against him. With only a minor strength telekinetic ability, that was further limited by the fact that he had to maintain physical contact to exert it, his dossier revealed that he only barely passed muster to become a cadet. Little had been expected of him and so little had been asked of him—until he discovered that flexible items, like ropes and chains were awesome weapons when combined with his power. Then much had been asked of him, mostly along the lines of ‘please stop beating rogue psionics to death’ and ‘remember, strangling targets into unconsciousness is not a valid form of apprehension’.

Manriki watched his teammates verbally spar with passive annoyance, occasionally rattling the chains looped though every available space on his costume. Only one of those was orihalcite – the metal was simply too hard to work and too expensive to fabricate the dozens of chains of varying lengths Manriki carried. The rest had been constructed of ceramics for this mission.

“Do you have anything to add?” Wright asked the chain wielding sociopath. Manriki shook his head ‘no’. He didn’t particularly care as long as he was getting a good fight. So satisfied, Wright cleared his throat. “Alright, task group.” He said in his most authoritative voice.

The bickering ceased. As hot as some of the assembled tempers were, all of them were eager for action. Shine leapt up to one of the crates in the stack holding Launch aloft to get a better vantage point.

“Good to see you’re all as ready for this as I am.” The master manipulator said. “I won’t waste any of your time then.” He began to pace back and forth in front of them, making sure to look each of them in the eyes (or goggles) in turn.

“Today, we will be debarking from the Bravo site and landing in Mayfield, Virginia; approximately one hour’s flight by heavy transport from here. Your objective is the draw out and capture the prelate,” he made sure to look directly at War-torn when he said the word, “team known as Life Savers, Incorporated, designated, Alloy, Facsimile and Zero.”

He continued pacing, building his voice as he continued the briefing. “There are several prelates who may attempt to interfere with this task. Two have designations; Void-storm and Occult. Two other unknowns have also been noted. You have all the information we have regarding them. Instructions are to capture if possible any of these collaborators.”

“Two inugami units have been provided to me to deploy at my discretion. If you feel you need the support, call for it. Also, be advised, the subject Alloy is a metal controller – do NOT and I stress this, bring any metal with you on this mission.”

Taking a breath, he began to issue the final, most important instructions. “Be advised, the enemy have ingratiated themselves with the city of Mayfield. The citizenry including the local law enforcement will be on their side. Do not expect any aide from them, only hindrances and obstacles. For that reason, we will use that to our advantage. We will come to Mayfield in the guise of rogue psionics, wishing to extort from the town. Make no mistake; this is necessary for the completion of our duty. But for it, we will be feared. We will be despised. We will be villains.”

***

“Someone explain to me again why Captain Flambé is here, in our house when Laurel keeps everything about us hidden from the outside world?” Ian fumed as he glared at Edward who sat near the main server bank of Laurel’s workshop.

When Alexis had called, Laurel had left him the task making sure the teens did their meditation exercises before getting ready for school. He’d arrived over an hour later to receive the rude surprise of seeing the man he hated most in the world sitting in the workshop, talking to his best friends.

“Ian…” Alexis touched his arm in an effort to calm him down. “I don’t like it either, but he may have brought us something that may help us. Shouldn’t we at least hear him out?”

Ian put his own hand over the one Alexis had put on his arm. “I don’t care if the General trusts him, I don’t. And I don’t like the sound of that ‘may’.” He glared at Edward. “Either the thing you bought here helps us, or it doesn’t. What’s with this ‘may’?”

The older man gave Ian a level look. He wanted nothing more than to put the stupid boy in his place, but there were some things more important than pride. “That hard drive is copied from the personal computer of Samuel Paige, Deputy Director of the Enforcer Corps. If this Project Tome General Pratt told me about really does have its claws in the Corps, Paige is my bet for one of their men.”

“You still aren’t convinced?” Alexis asked, incredulously. “After everything we told you? After everything the General and Dr. Masters told you?”

Edward heaved a sigh. “Patricia Masters is a close friend of mine. General Pratt is a man I respect greatly… but I… there used to be good people in the organization. We did a lot of good protecting public from psionics out to use their powers for personal gain at the expense of others.” He grimaced. “I don’t want to believe that we’ve all been pawns for this shady organization.”

“We’ve all been pawns on one level or another all our lives.” Laurel said, fingers flying over the keyboard and touch pad as she decrypted the contents of the hard drive. “Face it, Tyler, your great, great grandpa, or some other relation thereof had his DNA scrambled so some government or other could get a super soldier. You blood is the end product of someone playing with your genes and that’s about as pawn as you can get without standing on a chessboard.”

“That’s not as direct as what we’re talking about.” Edward said. “I’m going to need good, solid evidence before I accept that I’ve been working for the black hats.”

“The four kids we got out of deep freeze under your nose isn’t enough hard evidence, sparky?” Ian asked. “And just so we don’t stray from the subject, you still haven’t told us how you found us in spite of Laurel’s air tight security.”

Edward shrugged. “Same reason you didn’t bother changing your names. Everything’s done electronically now. It isn’t that hard to bypass even the most sophisticated cryptology in the world if no one considers old fashioned leg work and paper trail following.”

“You found us by just asking around?” Laurel asked, as she finished her decryption. File icons began to appear one by one on her monitor. “I’m genuinely impressed.” She caught a hard look from Ian. “You’re still a bad, bad man, but I’m still impressed.”

She opened a word processing file and scanned it. “Hmm… it’s a high level memo addressed to a set of IP addresses outside of the Corps network complaining about recent promotions of certain Enforcers…”

“I recently put in my own complaints about what I assume to be the same people Deputy Director Paige is mentioning.” Edward added. “Part of the corruption I was talking about. That bunch is an incident waiting to happen.”

“I’m sure.” Laurel nodded out of hand. “What’s this? Deep Nineteen?”

“Deep Nineteen?” Edward sat up, curious.

“That rings a bell?” Laurel asked, opening the correspondent file. It was a set of blueprints.

“Not exactly. Deep Eleven is the nickname of the Enforcer Corps HQ. I always thought it had something to do with its placement in the Academy subbasements, but this is too big a coincidence to be ignored.”

“What is this Deep Nineteen?” Alexis asked, leaving Ian to come look at the blueprints.

Laurel scanned quickly over the page, noting the design specifications printed in the margins. “They’re calling it a research facility… located in the Catskill Mountains. But from the looks of all this – containment cells, blast doors, guard emplacements – it looks like a prison.”

Reluctantly, Ian moved up to the others as well. “Based on what we saw at Florida, that’s about par for the course.”

“This is ten times the size of Florida.” Laurel said. “And it doesn’t just consist of surgery bays and stasis cells – it looks like they’re prepared to contain people fully awake and functional.”

“Why would they want to do that?” Alexis asked. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“I don’t know, Alexis.” Laurel frowned as she looked over the Deep Nineteen schematics. “Yet.”

“You know anything about this?” Ian asked Edward, managing to bite back the added insult.

The Enforcer shrugged. “The Enforcers keep a training center in upstate New York, that’s the closest I can think of. And before you ask, all rogues we capture are processed and imprisoned at the Braddock Island Facility.”

“Braddock Island?” Alexis asked.

“Artificial island complex in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s equipped with the most up to date safeguards against the full spectrum of powers.” Edward shot Ian a look. “And it’s fully within federal prison standards and regulations.”

“So there’s no way this place is a mislabeled detention facility.” Laurel confirmed what she already suspected. “Which begs the question; why does the Deputy Director of the Enforcer Corps have the blueprint of Tome’s research facility?”

Edward ground his teeth. “Because he’s pulling double duty working for the bad guys.”

“Smart boy.” Laurel said. “Got it in one. This is pretty damning evidence that some of the upper echelons of the Corps are in bed with Project Tome. We already know that the Academy itself is also under their auspices and I bet some of the Enforcers are also on the wrong side.”

“Let’s not go down this road…” Edward said darkly.

“Do the handles Avatar and Impact ring a bell?” Ian demanded.

“What about them?” Edward snarled.

“We read their ID’s after we ran into them in Quinn Bluffs, Florida.” Alexis supplied. “…after Impact tried to kill a twelve year old girl.”

Edward studied the ground for a moment. “I knew Gina Sheldon, Impact. She was—“The alarms on one of Laurel’s computers sounded, cutting him off.

“Story time will have to wait.” Laurel said, apologetically as she rolled her chair over to the console.

“What’s going on?” Edward demanded.

“Astral plane early alarm.” Laurel said, typing swiftly. “We’ve had some trouble with a couple of baddies that we can track via the Astral.”

“Please don’t be a spellcaster…” Ian whispered hopefully.

“Your wish is my command.” Laurel said. “No spellcasters—“

“Spellcasters?” Edward almost shouted in his surprise.

“Long story.” Alexis said by way of explanation.

“—but this could be worse.” Laurel finished. “We’ve got two of those hellhounds from last week… And they’re airborne.”

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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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