Issue #23: June 18 (Post Modern Prometheus)

This entry is part 13 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 2: Magic and Machines

Part 2

“I’m not saying I don’t want to go.” Alexis said defensively. It was later that evening at Freeland House and she and Ian were folding clothes in the laundry room. “I’m just saying ‘can we afford to?’.”

“I’m not accusing you of not wanting to go.” Ian said, trying to figure out who the green skirt he was folding belonged to. “I just said I understood your reasons for not going. But Laurel has a valid point about this magic business; if something exceptionally dangerous is going to come from it, it may be weeks or months or years down the road. We can’t wait around for it to happen. And so far all we’ve heard about in Mayfield have been haunted houses, which we can’t do anything about anyway.”

“It isn’t just that, Ian.” Alexis took the skirt from him and putting it in Juniper’s basket. “What about Tome?”

“What about them? They’ve dropped off the face of the Earth now that the Academy’s gone. Good riddance, I say.”

“Laurel,” she said her friend’s name like it was an appeal to a higher authority, “says they’ve only gone to ground. Leading them back to our families is the last thing I want to do.”

“I don’t want to do that either.” Ian insisted, adding a pair of jeans to Juniper’s basket and a shirt to Warrick’s. “In fact, that’s why I stayed here last year. But even then, I…” he stopped and focused on separating a colony of socks that had decided to band together in the machine.

“You feel guilty about it?” Alexis asked, “Even though you know it was the right thing?”

Ian shrugged. “Was it? It’s not even guilt; it’s more like disappointment in myself. I feel like I betrayed Mom’s memory. More so than I did when I became a techie instead of a cop or Enforcer or joining the military. She always wanted us to do something with our lives that helped people.” He finished separating the socks and tossed them into his own basket. “She didn’t say anything when Isaac went to law school, but I could tell it broke her heart.”

Alexis fished a pair of Laurel’s socks out of Ian’s basket and put them in their rightful place. “Is that why you were so gung ho about being a prelate?”

“Both for her and for me, really.” Ian admitted. “I honestly did want to be someone that did good by people. It just wasn’t in the cards, you know? What I wanted to do and what I was good at didn’t mesh.”

“Ian, the power frames and armors you designed did help people. Just off the top of my head, half the armored police corps in the country use your designs, don’t they?”

Pausing in straightening one of his shirts Ian shrugged. “It’s a bit too indirect for my taste. Nothing like stopping the Mauler or putting the Fist of Justice in that loopy Sineater’s gob.”

Alexis smiled. “See, you’re doing what you want now.”

He put a hand on top of hers. “And I’m where I want to be now… except I need to take this trip.”

Nodding, Alexis let the moment hang just a few seconds before going back to clothes sorting. “I know how you feel. Maybe not on the scale you feel it, but I used to call every week and spend every major holiday at home. Now I think my family probably thinks I hate them or something. I even missed Nichole’s graduation.”

“But you’re worried that Tome will try to get to you through them?”

“Pretty much. As long as I stay here, I like to think they’re safe.” She tossed a towel bearing the Deathgate logo into Cyn’s basket. “But intellectually, I know that’s not true. If Tome worked that way, they would have tried with the Kaines already.”

Ian nodded. “I don’t think that’s so crazy, really. You worry for them just like you worry for us. But we’ve got to face facts, Alexis; it may be a long time before Tome is done for. Maybe they’ll always be around in some shape or form. Are we going to let them dictate our lives?”

“Ian…” Alexis began.

“No, hear me out.” He stopped her with a gentle tone. “They came for the kids and we stopped them. Took a few limbs off them in the process. And if they come for our families, God help them. I don’t know about you, but I plan to come down on them like a living hurricane if they try to pull something like that. They know that.” He gave her a searching look. “You know that. Don’t you?”

A weak smile crossed Alexis’s lips. “You know, I love it when you get all passionate and hotheaded.” She put a hand on his face. “But—“

“But?”

She slapped him. Not hard, not even enough to hurt; just a playful tap. “But… you need to learn to let me finish my sentences.” Her arms snaked around him and she pulled herself close. “Before I was so rudely interrupted, I was going to agree with you. And tell you that if you want to do this, you won’t have to do it alone as long as I’m around.

Dumbfounded at the ease with which he’d carried what he had expected would be an extended argument, Ian clumsily returned her embrace. “Have I told you how great you are lately?”

“No, and you don’t tell me I’m pretty often enough either.” She quipped.

With his head resting on her shoulder, something caught Ian’s eye. “I’d hate to break the mood, but I think we’re missing some clothes.”

Alexis disengaged herself from the embrace and turned to look. “Eh?”

“All Cyn’s got in her basket is a towel.” Ian pointed. “This isn’t the first time this has happened either. What, does she do all her laundry on her own?”

Shrugging, Alexis leaned on the dryer. “I have no idea. She spends a fortune and a half on clothes and things; they have to get clean somehow, don’t they?” She sighed. “That girl confuses me to no end. I’ll ask her some other time. No time now though, there’s a lot we have to do if we want to get to Colorado by the eighteenth.”

***

“You realize that technically, we’re terrorists just for contemplating this, right?” Legion asked, surveying the target location though field glasses. The world before his eyes was tinted with the green of night vision. “This isn’t penny ante shit; this particular NIH facility is where they keep the vault that’s got pretty much every horrible disease known to man.”

“We’re not trying to get into the vault, now are we?” Shine asked. “And besides, if you hadn’t been so squicked about training in teleporting groups, we could have gotten this crap while it was still in Los Angeles.”

“Hey, you’re the one that got banged up when I tried to ‘port’ with you in New York.” Legion pointed out.

“I heal quick now.” Shine said flatly.

“Right.” Legion said. “So we play this straight. I keep the guards busy while you get the goop. Doesn’t sound too hard.”

“What happened to your fear of being a terrorist?”

“Just pointing out the obvious.” Legion replied. “To tell the truth, this suits me just fine. My combat skills against a military garrison? Much more interesting than squaring off against one of New York’s gutter-prelates.”

“I seem to recall Whitecoat beating you. Twice.” Shine flashed her jagged toothed grin.

“Try and kill a fly with your bare…” He trailed off, realizing who he was talking to and just how good her reflexes were. “It’s a matter of scale.” He said haughtily.

“Riiiight.” Shine drawled. “Let’s just get to the mission – and remember, Brother doesn’t want casualties. At least none we can help.”

“Sounds like a challenge.” The teleporter smirked. “Bet my kill count will be lower than yours.”

“I wouldn’t take that bet.” Shine said, crouching in preparation to run. “Just get this started.”

***

Four guards manned the checkpoint that let vehicles into the NIH compound. To either side of the checkpoint were sentry towers containing three soldiers apiece. Intelligence provided by Brother Wright’s sources indicated that the on site barracks always contained an additional dozen men to periodically relieve the gate guards and those in the towers that lined the parameter.

All told a force of thirty-six soldiers was on duty at any given time. None of them were adequately prepared.

“Hey where’d he come from?” one of the four soldiers at the checkpoint directed the others’ attention to a figure approaching on foot, dressed in jeans and a leather jacket zipped all the way up. His hands were stuffed in his pockets and a Chicago Bears cap was pulled low over his eyes. “How’d he get so close without us noticing?”

One of his comrades checked his pistol and glanced up at the approaching figure. “Can someone give me a bomb scan? He might be a suicide bomber. I read somewhere that some of these groups have limited cloaking tech working.”

“Could be a psionic.” Another said, giving a meaningful look at the first speaker.

“Yeah, and what do you expect me to do about it?” he shot back. The man who had addressed him shrugged. There wasn’t any more time to discuss things. The bomb scan was clean and the trespasser was within speaking distance.

The soldier that had asked for the bomb scan stood up. “Sir, please present photo ID or we’ll have to ask you to turn back.”

The figure stopped within a few yards. “Don’t have ID.” He said a hint of laughter in his voice.

“Then we’ll ask you to turn back. This facility is open to National Institute of Health personnel only. Trespassing is a violation of United States statute—“

There was a metallic, snapping sound under the jacket. It drew everyone’s attention. Guns were swiftly unholstered. That’s when the intruder became a hazy blur and seemed to surge forward. Gunfire ripped the air, none finding its mark.

Legion reappeared in the midst of the checkpoint guards, brandishing a telescoping steel baton, which connected with one unfortunate man’s temple. His free hand executed a neat palm heel strike to another’s nose, causing it to geyser blood.

Before any of the soldiers could react, he was gone again. By now, the guards in the sentry towers had become alert to the action and had their rifles ready and seeking a target. The target came to them. In a blur of color and motion, Legion appeared in midair between a pair on one tower, grabbing them firmly by their shirts. He teleported with them – directly into the other tower, where he let the resultant momentum slam them into the three men there. All five went over the rail in a heap.

Down below, one of the gate guards who weren’t out cold or nursing a broken nose ran into the gatehouse to hit the alarm. He was leveled by a stiff arm as Legion appeared between him and the console. A sharp follow-up rap with the baton made sure he stayed down.

“Freeze!” Legion looked back to see the last gate guard training his sidearm on him.

“Should have just shot.” Legion chided. He blurred and stretched into infinity as the soldier did just that. A fraction of a second later, he was beside his quarry, swinging the baton. The weapon passed through its intended target, trailing a thin vapor behind it.

“I’m psionic too.” The soldier said, sidestepping away from Legion. PFC Arnold Partlowe, or as they called me at the Academy, Haze.”

A smug grin came over Legion’s countenance. “You’re the only psionic in this outfit?” He didn’t give Partlowe time to answer, he knew already. “This is who they send to guard the place? The guy whose defensive powers only help himself?”

Smugness growing by the moment, Legion collapsed the baton against his thigh. “Let’s make this a fair fight then; you can’t shoot me unless you and your gun go solid. I can’t hit you until I extend the baton. Let’s see if the Academy taught you any skills.”

***

Inside the facility, a chime sounded and a digitized, female voice sounded. “Welcome, Dr. Chow.” Shine glanced down at the pilfered security card to confirm that the man she’d knocked out to acquire it had indeed been Dr. Chow.

“Hey!” she looked up to see a security guard, this one clearly not military issue, sitting behind a desk in the room the security door had opened into. He was going for his sidearm.

Faster than he could react, she bounded across the room and seized him by the tie. Hauling hard, she pulled his head down to violently meet the desk. Before the noise of impact had faded, she grabbed his hair, pulled his head up, and punched him hard enough to knock him from his seat.

“I have to start paying more attention.” She chastised herself, taking the newly vacated seat. From a pouch strapped to her calf, she produced a small handheld and plugged it into the dataport on the guard’s desk. “And today’s top secret NIH codes are…” she said to break the tense silence as the device transmitted the proper access codes for the doors beyond.

Finally, there was a low rumble and the door to the inner chamber lowered into the floor, allowing a wave of freezing air to wash into the guard room.

Shine unplugged the handheld and walked to the door. It wasn’t even fully open before she leapt over it and into the laboratory beyond.

It was a modest sized room considering the layers of security it was behind. Several computers and lab tables crowded the small space, with a row of stasis lockers, the smaller, volatile item storing cousins of Project Tome’s stasis cells, behind. A blue glow permeated everything and was the only lighting present so as not to damage photosensitive experiments.

Noting the lights, Shine pushed her goggles up onto her forehead as she made her way to the lockers. Each had a digital readout with basic notes about their contents; the researcher assigned to them, and experiments already in progress. The one Shine was after bore a string of jargon that she didn’t understand, but had memorized so she could find it. Entering the proper combination shut down the stasis system and opened the door. Inside were racks upon racks of plastic vials containing pasty, white liquid.

“Jackpot.” Shine said, taking a handful and putting them in her pouch. “Legion, how are things outside?” she asked the handheld.

“Just fine.” Legion’s voice came. “It’s so cute when people try fighting with the odds stacked against them. When we get back remind me to look up ‘Haze’ in the database, I want to know if this guy was supposed to be a threat or not.” There was a pause. “So do you have the dermal repli… replu… the objective?”

“Right here.” Shine said, patting her pouch. “And it even came in my shade.”

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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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