Issue #2 The Kin

This entry is part 3 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 1: Welcome to Freeland House

Part 2

Laurel’s SUV blazed down I-95 somewhere south of Brunswick, Georgia. The sun had only recently gone down, but on this particular stretch, there was very little traffic at all. The pair had decided to drive straight on through the night to reach Quinn Bluffs as soon as possible. A few miles back, they had stopped at a convenience store for snacks and to switch places along the way.

Alexis was at the wheel, with Ian rummaging through the brown paper bag containing their dinner.

“I got you a chicken wrap when we stopped at the Jiffy-Mart back there.” Ian asked, removing a foil wrapped package from the bag. “You still like these, right?”

Alexis let herself smile. Ian had a knack for remembering even the smallest details when it came to his friends. He could hardly remember what he’d had for breakfast, but he remembered her favorite junk food from years ago. “Thanks Ian.” She said, accepting the item.

She thought back to a few days earlier when she had remarked to herself how different Ian had become. She took a bite of the tortilla wrapped chicken. The taste was almost nostalgic, even though the truth was that up until coming to Freeland House, she had still treated herself to one at least once a week. Smiling at the feeling, she glanced over at Ian, who was unwrapping his own sandwich; a pile of meat forced between two slices of bread which were making a valiant effort to contain the shear volume of pastrami, turkey breast and roast beef that strained to be free.

The more things change, the more things stay the same, she mused. Unbidden, a bit of worry tarnished her walk down memory lane. The truth was that she had felt guilty for all the times she and Laurel has dragged Ian into trouble. Learning that Ian had become much more independent had stymied the guilt, but what if it was all just an act. She couldn’t put it past Ian to lie to make things go smoother for everyone involved except him.

“This is pretty good, isn’t it?” Ian asked, looking out the window into the darkness.

“Huh?” Alexis blinked, her decent into her own guilt abruptly halted by reality.

“This is like that time Laurel’s purse got stolen while she was in New York and we had to go pick her up. Good times.” Ian said, still looking out the window. “We hit a Jiffy-mart on the way up that time too. Same stuff too, I think – except Satin Cream Shakes didn’t exist back then. I think I had a green tea instead…”

Alexis smiled. “I remember that time, I didn’t want to drive to New York in the dark alone, so I woke you…” she trailed off. The guilt was back and it seemed to Alexis’s mind that it bought friends.

“Yeah, you dragged me out of bed so I could ride shotgun with you.” Ian chuckled. “My roommate was pissed too. He didn’t shut up about that for weeks.” He shrugged. “Not that he didn’t deserve it. Did I ever tell you that he stole my alarm clock when we moved out?”

That got a laugh. “Your alarm clock? Why?”

“I don’t know. I guess he needed one.” The two old friends shared a laugh at that. Still, the guilt ate at Alexis until she said something.

“Ian?”

“Hmm?” Ian said with a mouthful of Satin Cream chocolate milkshake.

“Tell me the truth. Did you mind getting up and riding up to NYC?”

Ian raised an eyebrow. What an odd question… “Why would I?”

“Well it seemed like Laurel and I – especially me – made you do an awful lot back then. Whenever we got in trouble, you seemed to get in trouble too. And none of it was any of your doing. Why did you let me do that to you?”

Ian snorted incredulously. “Made me? You guys never made me do anything. I went along with it one my own, thank you very much.”

“But why?” Alexis persisted. “You didn’t have anything to gain from doing things like get up at dawn to drive to another state.”

“I got the hang out with one of my best friends and a great memory – that’s enough of a reason to be happy I did it.” Ian grinned, taking another sip of his drink. “What bought this on?”

Alexis sighed. “No reason I guess.” She glanced over at her friend, who was now attacking his sandwich with gusto. “You know, I’m glad you’re here, Ian. Not just on the road trip, but at Freeland House as a whole. You and Laurel being there will definitely keep me from going overboard with the kids.”

Ian only nodded, but at the mention of the kids, Alexis noticed a twinkle in his eyes she was used to seeing Laurel’s eyes shortly after getting away with some form of mischief. Inwardly, she wondered if she should be worried.

***

The next morning, in a Sleep and Go Motel in Quinn Bluffs, Florida, Gina Sheldon was miserable. She had been in Quinn Bluffs for two months. In that time, the light drizzle that fell on the city had not stopped for a minute. She was cold, she was tired, and the mold growing rampant in the humid environment was playing havoc with her allergies. Grimacing, she blew her nose loudly. “Goddamn rain girl. When I find her, I’ll wring every last damn drop of rain out of her.” She hissed, brushing a few stray blonde locks out of her face.

“A big, snotty trumpet, followed by profanity. Really, Gina, you are the most soft – the most feminine lady I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.” Josiah Colt said dryly. He was sitting on one of the beds in the room.

The room was a carbon copy of all cheap chain motel rooms across the country; a couple of deceptively wide beds, topped with two woefully inadequate pillows, a night stand between the two to which a phone and a remote control were shackled, and a television set upon a low dresser that no one ever dared use to store clothing.

Josiah was doing his best to ignore the poor accommodations, instead opting to concentrate on the solitaire game he had going on his computer. He was a short man of Mediterranean heritage, his long, black hair hanging free around his face, neatly framing his well manicured moustache.

“Oh, I’m so very sorry if my suffering is bothering you.” Gina rolled her eyes. Two months of living with Josiah had her on the verge of killing the arrogant Enforcer from Los Angeles. He had spent the entire time not spent searching for the Psionics who had escaped and effectively demolished the Quinn Bluffs facility needling Gina about everything from her looks to her habits.

“Don’t let it happen again, love.” Josiah said with a shrug.

Gina grimaced and took a look at what Josiah was doing. “The finest technology a government grant can buy, a computer capable of processing at half the speed of the human brain and rendering photorealistic images in real time – and you use it to play cards.”

“Solitaire is a game of kings, Gina. I don’t expect you to understand.”

“Yeah, lonely pathetic kings. And one obnoxious drama queen.” Gina said mocking Josiah’s dry wit. She walked over to the door and took down her dark red rain slicker. “I can’t take being stuck in here anymore; I’m going out to do a sweep for those brats.” She picked up what looked like a palm-top computer, switched it on and nodded at it approvingly.

“Oh sure, I’m sure you’ll do much better than we’ve done in the past seven weeks.” Josiah sneered at her back as she went out the door.

***

The slick streets were no hindrance for Tillie Reynolds, also known as Tesser. She had discovered long ago that her special gift, superhuman speed, had a number of interesting side effects. The foremost of these was that the moment she exceeded six miles per hour, it became almost impossible for normal terrain, even ice, to cause her to lose her footing.

Later, she had learned that breaking other speed barriers granted her other benefits. At twenty-two miles per hour, she became insubstantial, capable of passing through solid objects. At her top speed, thirty miles per hour, she was difficult to track with the naked eye.

She was exercising all three of these side effects at the moment, dashing down the streets of Quinn Bluffs toward the abandoned apartment she and her new friends called home.

While thirty miles an hour was hardly what most people considered when they thought of superhuman speed, to achieve such a speed under one’s own power was an exhilarating experience for Tesser. Despite carrying a backpack crammed with food and other pilfered necessities bound for her friends, Tesser couldn’t help but take a circuitous route through the commercial district to earn just a bit more time exercising her powers.

All too soon, however, the rundown building she had called home since February came into view and she was forced to slow down so that she could climb the stairs instead of passing through them. Now fully visible and corporeal, Tesser stopped to admire herself in the grimy, but still usable mirror in the hall outside of apartment 303, down the hall from where the group of escaped Psionics lived.

Despite being on the run and being forced by necessity to steal for her daily bread, Tesser maintained the vanity her mother had instilled in her from an early age. Thrusting a hand into the backpack, she produced a comb she had taken from the purse of a passerby on the street. The teeth weren’t as fine as she’d like, but beggars couldn’t be choosers. Removing the knit cap she had been wearing, the tall, thin seventeen year old attempted to corral the rat’s nest of red locks that had replaced what she remembered to be a full, lustrous coif before she had awakened in a glass stasis cell after what had apparently been eighteen months.

The door to apartment 311 opened and Kevin Quaid poked his head out. “Noah said he sensed you. Come on, Tillie, get inside – we’re starving here and don’t have time for your hair.”

Tesser pegged the younger boy with an icy glare and continued to wrestle with her tangled hair.

“Seriously. Noah’s just gotten back to his self. Don’t piss him off again.”

Tesser heaved an overly dramatic sigh, took one last look at her still poorly managed hair and stomped toward Kevin, shaking her head. “I don’t see why we’re so afraid of pissing Noah off and not afraid of pissing me off.”

“Because we’ve all seen what I look like pissed off.” A new figure said, stepping up behind Kevin from inside the apartment. He was nineteen and to Tesser probably the most handsome guy she’d ever laid eyes on…. When he was, as he said, himself. Standing six feet, one inch tall, with brown hair that always seemed in place, Noah was a commanding presence to the three others in the group of Psionics. At the moment, he wore a smock tied around his bare torso and a pair of jeans that appeared to be shredded just below the shin.

Cowed by the presence of her crush, Tesser blushed and pulled the knit cap back over her embarrassing hair. “Sorry, Noah, Didn’t know you were standing there.” She said.

“No harm. Come on inside, lets see what you picked up.” Noah gave her a smile and stood aside as she and Kevin stepped into the apartment.

“Hi, Tillie!” Rain said happily from the pile of blankets that served as her bed. “Did you get something we can watch TV on?” Rain didn’t seem to understand the gravity of the little group’s situation. The fact was that she was the catalyst for everything that had happened combined with the fact that she was the one most affected by it served to both hearten and distress the older kids.

Tesser put on her brave smile (something all three of the older members of the group had learned to do) and shook her head. “I found something we can use… but I couldn’t take it by myself.”

“Just say what and where, Tesser.” Noah said quickly. “I’ll go and get it myself – I am the strongest.”

“Well, I took a little jog through the Centre like you asked me to,” Tesser began. “and I found a portable generator. The problem is that the thing’s in a blocked up room and there’s debris everywhere. We need to phase to get inside, but it’ll take all four of use to clear the crap off the generator in any reasonable time.”

Noah nodded. “Okay, then, we’ll grab the generator tomorrow. And pack anything you want to take with you. Once we get the generator and anything else useful we find at the Centre, we should seriously get out of Dodge.”

***

Ian squinted through the rain that collected on the windshield of the SUV, hands tight on the wheel. The rain was light, but coming fast enough to make it seem that the windshield wipers were having no effect whatsoever.

“How is it that it’s been raining in this town for three months, but it hasn’t flooded?” He asked, tapping the brake to avoid the phantom of something that may have been crossing the road.

“Well, it did flood back in January – four inches in two hours.” Alexis said, eyes on the road map she was studying.

“But then it kept raining.” Ian pointed out. “Shouldn’t that mean it should still be flooded?”

“Not really. It isn’t called Quinn Bluffs because of any famous poker tournament, you know. Half the town and the out lying region are elevated up on these granite cliffs, see?” Alexis held one hand above the other as if that could possibly illustrate what she was talking about. “Most of the water just drains away. Or causes a mudslide – which is what happened to the Academy place here.”

“You’d still think there’d be standing water everywhere.” Ian frowned.

“Remember you’re also in Florida. The wetlands are a huge sponge that suck up most floods before they start. Didn’t you learn anything in environmental science? That’s what that whole flap over them was about at the turn of the century.”

“I spent most of my time trying to hit on Claire Adler in environmental science class.” Ian admitted. There was an awkward silence at that. “Erm… are you sure we’re on the right road?”

***

“Gah!” Gina dodged across the street as the SUV sped by, slowing only slightly as if the driver wasn’t sure he’d seen her. “Stupid townies.” She snarled, frowning at the vehicle as it continued down the access road. “It’ll serve them right when they find out that the only thing down there is the Centre and they have to turn around.” She huffed.

Drawing her rain slicker closer around herself and cursing the rain and the little girl she knew was responsible, Gina became aware of the low chirping sound from her pocket. “Hmm?” She blinked, extracting the palm-top device. The light green screen showed a low jagged line similar to those one would see on a heart monitor or EKG machine. The device was designed to monitor Theta waves; the brain wave all people produced, but psionics produced on a slightly different set of wavelengths. And it had just registered two spikes that were not Gina’s.

“I’ll be damned.” The blonde hissed. Without a second thought, she took out her cell phone and dialed Josiah’s number. Before the Los Angelino could even answer, she spoke. “Shut up for a second, Avatar. This is Impact – my scanner just got a pair of hits. And guess where they’re headed.”

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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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One Comment

  1. I’m interested in the fact that two of the members of that group, Noah and Rain, both have names connected not just with water, but also with flooding. Coincidence? Quite possibly.

    Also, Ian’s my favorite character, ’cause he’s so cool. Just saying.

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