Issue #20: The Irrepressible Spark

This entry is part 8 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 2: Magic and Machines

Part 5

“So mom and dad really weren’t mad at you?” Warrick asked. He was in his room, talking via a messenger program and flipping through a digital catalogue that showed what various formal jackets would look on him. Laurel had offered to pay for all their prom attire, which had led Cyn to immediately search for ‘cloth-of-gold’. Warrick was looking for something far more modestly priced.

“Not really.” Tammy said from her room in New York. She was sitting with her head and shoulders on the bed and the rest of her leaned against the wall. “I’m grounded for a month for lying to them and after seeing what I can do, they said I’m not allowed to use my powers indoors.”

“You convert metal into giant lightning bolts, I’m saying this is a good call.” Warrick replied, rotating an image of him in a dark red jacket on the screen.

“Not like I can do much with it.” Tammy pouted, “You know, besides stunning gangsters and stuff. And now I’m not even allowed to do that. This is so unfair.”

“Mom and dad dropped the hammer on Spark, huh?”

“Not like that’d stop me.” She grinned, displaying the emergent teenaged rebellion that was already giving comfort and support to her natural rebellious state. “I am irrepressible after all.” She heard her brother sigh in preparation to give a speech, but she cut him off. “But – but you’re right, I do need to learn more about my powers first.”

“Good to hear you’re taking my advice.” Warrick said, frowning at the red jacket and switching to one labeled as gunmetal grey.

“Well, seeing as you, mom, dad and the Whitecoat all said the same thing, You can’t all be wrong.” Tammy teased. “The problem is finding someone to teach me. All the schools that send us brochures asking if I’m psionic yet are all pretty scummy—one’s in Jersey.”

“I told you we’d look into it.” Warrick assured her. “Laurel’s even talking to the General to see if the military will start up their old training program now that the Enforcers old job have fallen to Superhuman Intervention.”

“Military school? Ew.” Tammy wrinkled her nose. “I don’t wanna be a soldier, I wanna be a prelate!” She held a hand in the air to envision a marquee, “Talia Coulmni Kaine; the Irrepressible Spark. I’ll also be the only prelate with an adjective!”

“And you’re just going to tell the world your name? What about Tome?”

“Well hurry up and kick Tome’s ass. I don’t want to be all secretive and stuff. I want people to send me letters thanking me and telling me how awesome I am.”

“Believe me, I would kick their asses.” Warrick said, opting for silver cufflinks instead of gold. “If we could find them.”

“You know, I don’t get that part,” Tammy said, “Even with all the trouble they were in, how did the Academy and these Tome guys disappear so quickly anyway?”

***

“It’s such a beautiful day today, don’t you think?” Brother Wright breezed into the meeting room, carrying a drink tray holding four tall, paper cups of store bought coffee. Whatever his reasons for being so upbeat, they did nothing to penetrate the atmosphere of brooding and discontent that filled the room.

Fellgaze, his head covered in a biker helmet, sat at the far end of the room, quite possibly asleep behind the opaque visor. Legion sat across from him, arms crossed with a sour look on his face. The scabbard on his back was empty. Beside him was Thunderhead, his make-up and prosthetics gone, leaving him looking like the blonde, harried looking teenager that he was. Shine sat at the head of the table, clearly separated from the others. Her expression told Brother to step lively around her.

“Setbacks are a natural part of any new endeavor.” Brother said, drawing on some of the stock phrases he’d cultivated during his stint on television. “Rome, as they say, was not built in a day after all and we can’t expect to hit a homerun every time we go to bat, now can we?” He sat down next the Shine and placed the coffee cups before him on the conference table.

“Losing once is fair.” Thunderhead said sourly, “If you learn something – gain something from it. But this was just sad, man. They didn’t even use their powers in Mayfield and from what I’ve heard, we had prelates I’ve never even heard of showing up in New York. I say we bug out of Atlanta before something worse happens.”

“Bad things come in threes.” Fellgaze nodded, proving he wasn’t asleep.

“So much negativity.” Wright clucked, shaking his head. He selected one of the coffee cups from the holder and slid it over to Thunderhead. “Would you feel better knowing that even with these ‘sad’ losses, we’ve gained something, Mr. Dodd?”

“What have we gained?” Thunderhead asked, accepting the drink, but not sampling it. “What? The knowledge that the Descendants can beat us at half manpower and powerless? That I was right and an open casting call for our criminal enterprise was a goddamn bad idea?!”

“The auditions were pretty atrocious.” Legion agreed. “Not just in concept, but in turn out. Hughes here,” he gestured to Fellgaze, “was a good acquisition, but now Van Ashe, Stampede is in prison; possibly looking at a trip to Braddock Island for a few years, and we dragnetted a junior prelate.”

Brother nodded as he passed a cup to Legion. “I agree, I was disappointed in that. Ideally, the team would be six.” He sat back and regarded the four. “Currently, we have two light hand to hand combatants, and two mentalists of varying degrees. We need range and strength badly.” He nodded to Legion, “But we at least have transportation.”

Shine shook her head vigorously. “He is not transportation.” Her eyes narrowed and tracked between Brother and Legion, “We’ve been over this, broken bones are not an acceptable price to pay for the quick escape.”

“The Potentia healed you back to perfectly hail and healthy condition.” Brother offered, using his own name for the extract of Facsimile’s blood they were using.

“It still hurts like hell.” Shine snarled, “And an arm is one thing, but what if it was my spine? That blood is good at patching people up, but it’s not going to bring me back from the dead.”

“I explained that it’ll just require some training.” Legion defended, “When I first gained my powers, I had trouble with conserving my own momentum and I’ve never had to compensate for the weight of two other people before.”

“Stow it, Lancaster.” Shine snapped. Irately, she snatched a cup of coffee from the holder. “You almost killed us!”

“I kept you from getting a trip to the Island.” Legion pointed out.

“Is it any wonder why we failed?” Fellgaze asked from within his helmet. “It’s nothing but a grand melee! We fight for ourselves and don’t’ give a damn about how the others come out.”

“That brings up a concern I’ve got.” Thunderhead, said raising a finger in Fellgaze’s general direction. “You don’t have any control at all, right?” Fellgaze nodded, “Now, I’m not going to say that it’s a bad power or weak in any way. It would take me probably an hour to drive someone down like that and it would wear off faster – but what’s keeping use from being friendly fired, Pete?”

Peter Hughes, Fellgaze, shook his head. “Honestly, not a damn thing. The only thing I can do is promise to be careful.”

“Oh that’s extremely reassuring.” Shine rolled her eyes.

Before the inevitable bickering began, Wright held up a hand. “Now, wait just a moment, friends. Mr. Hughes is right on this. Part of why you didn’t succeed is because you didn’t work as a unit – as a team.”

The last cup was slid toward Fellgaze, followed by a straw so he could drink without opening the helmet’s visor. “But that’s just the start of it.” Brother said. “The other part is that you didn’t have a goal in mind besides following orders.”

“Isn’t that your job as boss?” Legion asked.

A whimsical smile crossed Brother’s face. “I don’t consider myself your boss as much as your advisor, or partner.” He put an arm around Shine, but she ignored him. The arm was swiftly withdrawn. He’d learned after several minor lacerations. “But really, if we examine things closely, we all have goals that are being met just by being here, don’t we?”

With a sweeping gesture, he indicated Thunderhead. “Christopher Dodd, you can’t tell me that this is worse than being on the run from Project Tome or stuck eeking out a pathetic on the road existence like the other youngsters that shared the *ahem* facilities with you in Florida. You’ve tasted what you can be now; manipulating Tong underbosses, using your powers for your own gain? Do you want to give that up now? The government will have you ‘correcting’ mental patients for forty thousand dollars a year.”

Another gesture brought his attention to Legion. “Scott Lancaster, you’ve been a mercenary for what? Eight years now? The Tongs were the best job you’ve had in half a decade and they hurled ethnic insults at you all the time. Once they’d mustered more steady help, where would you have gone? Back to Brazil to help the European vultures pick the bones off plague corpses? Back to the Ukraine to help another anthill dictator set up another five day regime? I think it’s time you were your own boss.”

Not giving Legion time to reply, Wright moved on to Fellgaze. “And Peter Hughes… why are you here, I wonder? You’ve got no criminal record, no known history of violence, in fact, except for your psionic gift, you are wholly unremarkable. But yes, the gift… I’ve seen the Academy files on cases like yours. They’re designated NCU – No Civilian Uses. There’s nothing they can exploit you for domestically, so if you wanted to legally get money for using your ability… well you’d have to become a living weapon for the government wouldn’t you? And honestly, what other job could you get that would allow for an opaque eye guard as a standard of dress? None that I know of… well, no legal ones. But there are groups – like ours, that could definitely use your firepower and will provide you with a more wieldy mechanism to employ it with.”

Skipping over Shine, Brother held a hand to his own chest. “As for me, I vowed no so long ago never again to become some faceless tool to short sighted men with no understanding of the eccentricities of the animal human or the value of out society mind. As it turns out, I’m very lucky – there are some very rich people willing to invest in my theories and philosophy of mutual benefit.”

“Mutual benefit.” Legion echoed. He said it as a sentence, but it had all the hallmarks of a question.

“The idea that anything I ask you to do or ask you to do on behalf of another will also advance your own goals. Money is all well and good as networking is essential, but nothing motivates and gets better results than both parties enjoying the consequences of an action.” Brother said with the speed and fluidity of generations of snake oil salesmen.

“Screwing up in Mayfield and getting trashed in NYC didn’t help anyone.” Thunderhead countered.

“Really?” Brother looked shocked. “Perhaps we were watching separate events unfold. Or perhaps you need to look into the macro instead of the micro, Chris.” He ignored the bewildered and affronted look he got for that.

“We learned many things during those two forays. Maybe not what I originally intended when I asked you to carry them out, but this knowledge is still useful. For example, maybe we didn’t lure Liedecker’s new mercenaries out in Mayfield, but we did find an undocumented and completely untapped technopath in Martin Hill – proof positive that there are psionics out there that the government and by extension Tome doesn’t know about. Psionics that no one will be expecting if someone were to… persuade them to our side?” he gave Thunderhead a pointed look.

“You know where there are others?” Thunderhead asked.

“Not yet.” Brother shrugged, but with time and with the Theta based tracking systems some of our independent labs have provided, we will and you’ll be first to know, Mr. Dodd. You thought being Johnny Qin was a joy? Imagine if you had a gang of psionics at you side.”

Brother smiled. He knew he had Dodd hooked and the others would soon follow, if only for the fact that he was the only one currently offering partnership instead of simple employment. It was his dissolution of half Project Tome’s research arm all over again.

“But,” he continued, “We’ll have time to cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now, we need to shore up our numbers. Like I said, six is the ideal number in my mind.”

“So we need one more?” Fellgaze asked.

“Two more, actually.” Brother noted. “In case you all haven’t noticed, I am non-powered. I’m a regular, average man who sole strength is his address book and wealthy sponsors. So unless you have tactical need for Wallet-Man in the field, we need two more members. Fortunately, I’ve got that well in hand.”

“Then who are they? Anyone we would know? More ex-Enforcers?” Legion motioned toward Shine.

“Ms. Wilkins was the only worthwhile member of that entire organization, I’m afraid.” Brother said, tentatively putting a hand on her shoulder. She let it remain there with a hungry sounding purr. “And most psionics are either already under government contract or untrained children. So we go a third route: Science.”

“Potentia.” Thunderhead correctly ascertained. “You’re going to use Facsimile’s blood to manufacture our other two members.”

“Partially correct.” Brother nodded, “Though only a handful of the many, many volunteers from the gangsters we recruited in Georgia are showing any promise. Out of them, I only project one being the kind of person our little cabal needs.”

“Then where’s the other one coming from?” Thunderhead asked, counting out on his fingers, “Not psionic, not homebrewed, what’s left? An interfacer?”

Brother gave an enigmatic smile that the other members of the group (sans Shine) were beginning to dread. “A cyborg? Again, Mr. Dodd, you’re half right.”

End Issue #20

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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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