Issue #13: Another Kind of Homecoming

This entry is part 1 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 2: Magic and Machines

Part 3

Mr. Kaine let out a long breath as he sat back following Ian and Alexis’s recounting of events that had transpired around his son and his new friends since their rescue from the Academy. For simplicity’s sake, the pair had omitted the involvement of magic and skin-riding twelfth century witches. If Warrick chose to share those details, explaining them would fall to him.

“That’s a lot to take in.” he admitted, raising a hand to rub his temples. “I started thinking of scenarios that made things make sense the moment Tammy told us what she saw on the news and then a multinational corporation gives us a suite at the Dornez Hotel for nothing and I realized that things would be far more complicated. Still, this… this is something I never imagined happening.”

“We can understand that, Mr. Kaine.” Alexis said. “To be honest, sometimes we feel a bit in awe of everything that’s happened too. But we try to just do the best we can – to find ways to deal with everything being thrown at us. We’re just sorry that the kids had to be part of it.” She was putting the finishing touches on the meal she had been creating.

“And you’re sure it isn’t over? I mean the Enforcer Corps is being dismantled, and I can’t imagine the Academy getting away with anything now that the public eye is on them.”

Mrs. Kaine shook her head. “Not that any child of mine is ever setting foot on one of those campuses again.”

“Of course not.” Mr. Kaine said. “I’m just saying that with all the media attention and Congressional hearings… Project Tome is dead now, isn’t it? That’s why you finally contacted us.” He looked hopefully at Alexis, then to Ian, not seeing the affirmation he was looking for.

“Most likely not, I’m sorry to say.” Ian looked anywhere but into the faces of the worried parents. “Tome isn’t just a single organization. It was funding the Corps and the Academy, yeah, but those were just heads of the Hydra. They may have lost their method of covertly kidnapping students and losing the Enforcers certainly means they lost a lot of muscle, but they’re not down for the count. They’ll be back.”

“And they’ll be coming for the kids.” Alexis said in a small voice. “Like we said, for whatever reason, Warrick, Cyn, Melissa and Kareem are a high priority target for them.”

“Excuse me,” Mrs. Kaine asked, “But if this isn’t over and the kids are still in danger, why did you risk calling us?”

Alexis toweled her hands off and came back from behind the counter. “You have to understand, Mrs. Kaine, that we only delayed calling you because we were afraid of exposing where we were. You were certainly being watched and contacting you would have sent up red flags.”

“But,” Mr. Brant offered, breaking his long silence, “The episode with the Redeemers proves that they know where you are now. No more reason to not call the parents.”

Alexis nodded. “That’s why we called you. What to do from here is your decision. I know it’s a hard thing to be part of, but it wasn’t our right to keep you in the dark any longer.”

“I can appreciate why you did what you did.” Mr. Kaine said, “But you never considered that we wouldn’t know what to do either in this situation.”

Mrs. Kaine gave him a sharp look. “What Tommy means to say is that we’re in the same position as you. Of course we’re part of this; we were part of this the second our boy became part of this.”

“You learn the value of family fairly quickly with a family name like mine.” Mr. Kaine gave a nervous chuckle.

“But, what do we do?” Mrs. Kaine asked. “Are these people going to be sending their Enforcers to our apartment now?”

“They may, and until the first time we met Prometheus, I’d have said that was too brazen for them.” Ian frowned. “But there are other options; General Pratt mentioned some foreign programs that have already been smuggling young psionics out of the country…”

“But how do we know we can trust them?” Mr. Kaine blurted out. Everyone else nodded mechanically in response.

“You can’t.” Ian said, “Alexis has had some correspondence with the Brunswick School in England, but they think she’s requesting teaching guides for an Academy center, so they could go either way.”

Mrs. Kaine nodded. “I understand. This isn’t going to be an easy decision to make, but we need to speak with our son about all this first. Is there somewhere we can talk in private, as a family?”

Alexis nodded. “Of course, the property extends all the way down to the lake. That’s as private as if gets this close to Mayfield.”

“Thank you.” Mrs. Kaine said. “And for what it’s worth, thank you for taking care of my oldest.”

“Of course, Mrs. Kaine.” Alexis said, “And… if you all decide to stay for dinner, you’re more than welcome, I made enough expecting at least half the kids’ parents coming…”

Mrs. Kaine gave the younger woman a warm smile. “I believe we’ll take you up on that.”

***

Laurel managed to close the door behind her before the tears started flowing. Drawing ragged breaths, she started down the hall toward the stairs.

“Things didn’t go well?” Melissa asked. The biting tone she would normally ask such a question with was oddly replaced by genuine concern. “Were they upset?” She was just coming out of Warrick’s room with Juniper bringing up the rear. A flash of red hair rounding a corner up ahead clued Laurel in that Warrick and his little sister were heading down stairs.

“I can’t imagine that they’d be upset with you.” Juniper said. “Anyone that raised Kareem had to have been at least as understanding as their son is, right?”

“My parents were optimistic, uplifting people when they weren’t doing exactly what people expected of them.” Melissa said dryly.

“No, it wasn’t that.” Laurel said solemnly. “In fact, I wish that they would have shouted at me, cursed me – been anything but as sweet and understanding as they’ve been.” She rested her back against the wall and felt herself sliding down it. “It’s just that standing there, watching them talking to Kareem in the same room as his… as him…” She finally found herself sitting on the floor. “I should have done more.”

“There wasn’t a lot more that you could have done.” Juniper said.

“Of course there was, if I’d only taken the time.” She waved a hand in the air as if to conjure the time back. “All those experiments with the Book of Reason, designing the Descendants’ uniforms, do you know how much time I’ve wasted just playing videogames? They emigrated all the way from Iran to make a better life for their son and I can’t even get him back on this plane.”

“Kareem wouldn’t want you to abandon everything else for him.” Juniper sat down next to the older woman.

“Those uniforms did come in handy with Morganna and the inugami. Not to mention the Redeemers. I mean, I’m not sure that Ian and Alexis would have survived the first Morganna… thing without them, much less everything else that’s happened.” Melissa admitted.

“And about the videogames,” Juniper said, feeling a little guilty now for her part in that. “You were playing them with Cyn and Warrick and I. I can’t speak for them, but that really made me feel more at home.”

Laurel gave the brown haired girl a pat on the head. “That’s sweet, but I’m old enough to deal with my own mistakes.” She sniffed unhappily. “I should be the one talking to you this way. I mean I never even got the chance to tell you why your parents couldn’t make it…”

“You couldn’t find mine.” Juniper said simply. She gave a quick smile at Laurel’s questioning look. “We moved a lot back before I went to the Academy. Don’t worry, I’ll find them eventually and until then, they can take care of themselves.”

“And my parents?” Melissa asked slowly.

“We didn’t tell any of your parents that you were here.” Laurel explained, more calm now. “We just told them they won a contest and offered them a free trip. Once they were here, we told those that came. Your family didn’t accept the trip. They already had plans to visit family in Canada.”

“My uncle Ted.” Melissa nodded. “Good to know they didn’t simply forget about me, I guess.”

“So only Warrick and Kareem’s parents ended up coming.” Juniper noted. “Its sad that Cyn’s parents didn’t come to the house. I would have liked to have met them.”

“I don’t…” Laurel blinked, doing a quick mental inventory. “Where is Cyn, by the way?”

Melissa shrugged. “I don’t know, we were talking about what Warrick’s going to have to do about his powers when he leaves here and she suddenly just up and left.”

“It was about five minutes before Alexis called up here and told Warrick and Tammy that their parents wanted to talk to them.” Juniper added.

“She’s not going to take any of this very well.” Laurel sighed. Her own problems were temporarily forgotten.

“I don’t see why.” Melissa folded her arms across her chest. “She’s the one person here that would do just fine on her own. She could walk out of the house right now, shift into someone else and never have another problem with the Academy again.”

“That’s not the point for Cyn.” Laurel stood up and straightened her clothes. “She’s the most social person here. She needs people and from what I can tell, her parents aren’t going to be there for her if the rest of us disband.” She brushed a stray lock of hair out of her eyes and nodded to the two younger women. “You two should get ready for dinner. Alexis worked pretty hard on making a special meal for today and you should enjoy it. I’ll go talk to Cyn – wherever she ran off to.”

***

A cab pulled away from the curb and headed toward Mayfield with Cyn sitting in the back holding a duffel bag. The cabbie gave her a semi-concerned look through the rear view as she scowled into the seat back.

Cyn hated when she felt like this. She had spent the majority of her teen years secure in the knowledge that she was effectively invincible and completely independent. Then she had come to Freeland House and realized how much she’d been missing out on having been deprived of friends at home and from her self imposed exile among her classmates at the Academy.

Her best friend may well be gone before she even got back. Even tempered, non-judgmental Kareem would be gone soon after. She doubted Melissa’s parents would abandon her no matter how time-lost she was and then Cyn would be without her special ‘project’. Now that she thought of it, she’d even mourn Juniper’s exit, no matter how much her rampant optimism irritated her.

The worst part was that she wasn’t capable of stopping it. Actually, that wasn’t true. She figured that with enough conniving and subtle shapeshifting, she could, in fact, manage to keep everyone together. To her shame, she had even begun half forming a plan to do just that the moment the parents had arrived. But despite how much she liked to insinuate that she was capable of such things, she knew she hadn’t the right and would never have gone through with it.

She didn’t know whether to commend herself on her honorable decision or to admonish herself for weakness. What she did know was whose fault her current mindset was. For the first decade or so of her life, they had instilled in her the cutthroat, loner attitude that had kept her from forming any relationships even when she was on her own at the Academy. They had robbed her of a normal childhood where these sorts of situations would have already happened and the hurt would have been less. Not to mention all the pain she had endured after her powers had manifested.

Her family didn’t want her and even on the deepest, most primal level, she didn’t care. She didn’t want them either after all she had been through. Whoever had said ‘blood is thicker than water’ had never met the McAllisters. She thought she knew who her real family was now. Maybe she’d even manage to stay around with Ian, Alexis and Laurel – but first there was something she had to do. Most would call it revenge. She called it closure.

Quietly, she unzipped the duffel bag and touched the suit she’d ‘borrowed’ from Ian’s closet. With luck, it would be back where it belonged before anyone noticed. Suits were too complicated for her to replicate with her powers comfortably. She figured that being comfortable would make what she planned to do easier.

***

“I’ll say this, “ Lee McAllister said, helping himself to a third chicken wing courtesy of the Dornez’s room service facilities. “Little sister has connections to get us set up like this.” He was just under six feet tall and very lean with long, auburn hair he kept tied back away from his face.

“You’re ruining a good time gabbing about her, Lee.” His father, Sean shook his head, trying to keep an eye on the basketball game playing out on the giant screen TV. “Just enjoy this shit as long as we’ve got it and ignore the guilt trip they’re trying to lay on us over the little freak. She’s nineteen now, she’s not our problem, even if she wants to be.” The elder McAllister was the same height as his son with grey touching his own short, red hair. The early stages of a beer belly threatened to erupt from under his shirt.

“Yeah, Lee, it’s a free ride, everything paid for. I’m going to take this gift horse for all its worth! Tonight, me and Liz are gonna hit this town like the fist of an angry god. What the hell was Brant thinking giving us limitless credit on this trip?” Robert, Lee’s younger brother was his father’s spitting image except for the sea of freckles that covered his nose and his overly large ears.

“You ought to check out the talent in this town yourself, boy.” Sean ordered more than suggested, reaching for a piece of chocolate cake. “You’re closing on thirty and you’ve got no prospects? I’m starting to wonder about you…”

“I’m not gay.” Lee defended with a sniff. “I just don’t like any of the girls back at home.”

“Well good thing you’re not at home, huh?” Sean pointed out. “Get your ass out there and enjoy the night life! You know your momma wants grandbabies – don’t make Rob do all the work with Liz – he’s your younger brother and he’s already married. You should be showing him how it’s done.”

“Yeah, I guess I’ll go out tonight.” Lee shrugged.

“No guessing about it.” Sean said. “No one’s going to come to you. You got to get out there.“ At that moment, there was a knock on the door. All three men stared at each other long enough for another knock to come. “Cheryl!” Sean bellowed. “Get the damn door!”

A middle aged woman with dark hair, touched with some red and some silver bustled out of one of the other rooms of the suite, a paperback novel still clutched in one hand. She offered no comment and didn’t even look at the trio as she went to answer the door.

It opened to reveal a dour looking man with dark hair and slightly tanned skin. He wore a plain, unassuming suit and sunglasses, but still conveyed that he was glaring from behind them.

“Heh.” Robert snickered. “Someone did come for Lee and it’s a man.” He slurred the last word as his father socked him none too lightly in the gut.

“Cheryl McAllister?” the man asked, looking as if he was avoiding looking directly at her. She nodded and he continued. “Good. Agent Richards, Child Services Investigation. I’m here to speak to your husband.”

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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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