Issue #25: Summer Session

This entry is part 1 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 3: A Bright, Bright Summer

Part 3

Half an hour later, a private helicopter owned by Hugo Lansdale made its way over Cornwall and to the Isles of Sicily.

“Coming up on our right.” The amiable pilot, who had introduced himself to Laurel and Alexis as Greg said, pointing to an island. “Sanctum Island.”

“Formerly St. Helen’s.” Laurel noted. “Sort of odd for Dr. Lansdale to build his school on an island known as a place where sailors were left to die.” She noted Alexis’s raised eyebrow and added, “I read a travel guide to the UK once.”

“Dr. Lansdale chose the place because it’s remote and private.” Greg sounded as if he’d prepared the speech beforehand. “In order to both afford the students privacy and to protect the surrounding countryside from any uncontrolled powers.”

The island was dominated by a multi-tiered concrete structure with high walls encircling the northern face, which was a well manicured lawn with a visible soccer field. A small grove grew on the roof of one of the tiers on the west end of the complex.

“Oh my…” Alexis said. She had worked at the Academy, which was a converted college campus and looked very much the same way any other college campus looked. The Brunswick School was something else entirely. At once, it was both uniform and scenic. It was also massive, with the building itself being larger than half the entire Academy campus. “How many students did you say Dr. Lansdale has here?”

“One hundred and eighty-eight as of last month. To tell the truth, we’re almost at capacity.”

The two women exchanged glances. That wasn’t what they wanted to hear.

Minutes later, the helicopter set down on the highest roof of the complex, perfectly on the ‘H’ marking the helipad. A welcoming party of sorts was there awaiting them; three men and what appeared to be an eight foot mound of pink cotton candy. One of the men was wearing a metal halo brace around his head.

“Welcome to the Brunswick Academy.” The oldest of the receiving party said, stepping forward with an extended hand and a guarded expression. “I am Hugo Lansdale, Headmaster.”

Laurel shook his hand. “I’m Celeste Rankin.” She said, recalling the cover identities General Pratt had furnished for them. “And this is my assistant and long time friend, Victoria Lawson.” Alexis stepped forward and also shook his offered hand.

Lansdale nodded. “Good to meet you.” He said, though the sentiment didn’t show on his face. “Allow me to introduce my core staff;” He gestured to the younger of the other two men. “This is Gavin Meadowbrooke, the Staff Coordinator.” Gavin nodded smartly. Next, he indicated the giant pink thing. “Sally Elizabeth Heinz, also known as Dreaming Bliss, known to the students as Ms. Plush. She’s our Dean of Students.”

The pink lump extruded what could only be called a flipper and waggled it at the pair. An indentation that was most certainly a mouth moved and a whispered voice said “Hello.” In a cheerful manner. The air was suddenly scented with honeysuckle.

Ignoring what for him was a routine occurrence, Lansdale continued. “And this is Professor Harman Ross, school physician and powers trainer.” He was indicating the man in the halo. “All three are aware of your purpose here, ladies and are also aware of my feelings about it.”

“I’m sure the General Pratt has already vouched for us.” Alexis said quickly. “And has told you of the importance of our visit to the World Affairs Council.”

That didn’t seem to win her a friend in Hugo Lansdale. “While I respect my former opposite number, Lewis Armstrong Pratt is not counted among my friends, or even people I explicitly trust. As for the WAC; I put their needs and wants behind the United Kingdom’s and you can ask Parliament how I respond to demands.”

“We have no intention to demand anything of you.” Laurel jumped in diplomatically. “We’re simply here to inspect the school and based on that inspection, issue a request. One which you can entertain, negotiate or reject as you see fit.”

A moment of icy contemplation crossed Lansdale’s face and passed slowly as he nodded. “Very well. If you remain understanding that this visit is on my terms; i.e. you will make no attempts to interact with the students without the supervision of my senior staff.”

“Of course.” Laurel said, grudgingly. She had hoped to privately interview some of the students to get a better feel of how things were run and discover any suspicious.

“Good to know that we have an understanding.” Lansdale said. “Ms. Heinz will give you the tour and show you to your rooms.” He inclined his head to the protomorph, “Dreaming, if you would please?”

Ms. Heinz bobbed her head, giving an impression of a cresting wave of antacid. “Of course, doctor.” Two protrusions swept out before her from her sea of pink fuzz and like a seal lions flippers, propelled her forward. “Come with me please.”

Alexis noted in Lansdale’s eyes that there was no real choice in the matter.

***

The third floor of the former Archeneaux manor practically vibrated with power as Vorpal and Stephan gained the top of the stairs. The source was obvious; deep purple light spilled out from beneath the door at the far end of the hall. Where it touched the floor, the boards bowed and groaned. The door and its frame looked to have been replaced many times before with stronger and stronger variations. Nonetheless, they were rattling and straining the wall.

“I thought the latest reinforcement would hold.” Stephan said morosely.

“I think you were wrong.” Vorpal said, watching the door warping in its frame. “I told you to use the strongest materials possible last time I was here. Little Miss Attitude is more than just a telekinetic; when she unfocuses it like that, she’s on par with the strongest energy users I’ve seen.”

Stephan shook his head. “I hoped that these moods would stop. She’s been here over three years and nothing I do seems to help.” He gave Vorpal a sidelong look. “The only time she’s ever stopped was when you were around.”

Vorpal grunted beneath her mask and looked back to the straining door. “Because I’m not afraid of her—or for her. Not that it will do much good right now. Can you make her stop?” She caught her own faux pas before Stephan could respond. “For a short time, I mean. I only need a minute.”

Heaving a reluctant sigh, Stephan nodded. “I can. I hate doing this to her though.”

“Would you like to let her finish then? How many times have you remodeled because of her?” Vorpal said back, more sharply than she meant to. She gave him an apologetic look. “Look, I know you hate this. And I hate making you do it but this is real life.”

“That’s the kind of real life I try to keep away from them.”

“That’s the kind of real life they bring with them.” Vorpal said. “Her parents tried to kill her. Did you think she’d just forget that and adjust?”

Stephan didn’t respond to that. He simply squared his shoulders and stepped forward into the hall, just shy of the flickering purple light. When his mouth opened, his wasn’t his voice that made a sound. It was his Voice.

“ANNETTE MIRABELLE ST. JOHN.” The Voice wasn’t loud. As with every time she’d seen him use it, Vorpal was hardly sure it made a sound at all, only a sort of wave that passed through the skull and rearranged the brain. “STOP USING YOUR POWER FOR THE NEXT TEN MINUTES.”

The light died instantly, as if a switch had been switched. The door gave one last groan as it returned to its original shape.

Stephan’s shoulders drooped dejectedly even as Vorpal put a hand on one. “I’ll take care of things from here.” She said to him, and then lightly nudged an elbow into his ribs. “Don’t worry. I promise I won’t be too harsh with her.”

***

Annette St. John grimaced at the door. She was used to the routine by now; she would use her powers and Archeneaux would either let her destroy whatever room she was set up in, or would use his mind control to stop her and give her a long speech about how he was worried about her and how he only did what he’d done to protect the other students.

“Get it over with, Archeneaux.” She said acidly to the door when he didn’t come through it as expected. Instead of a tide of soft words and empty promises, however, Annette’s ears were assaulted by the screaming of metal. Without warning, a circular section of the door was struck by a hammer blow and launched onto the room. Annette recognized the mask and was appropriately taken aback.

“What do you get out of this?” Vorpal asked as she came through the hole she had made. “Do you just like breaking things? Do you have something against the man that took your ungrateful ass in when everyone else threw you away?”

Instinctively, Annette raised her hands in a threatening gesture. But Voice’s commands still held sway; she was entirely unable to bring her considerable power to bear.

Vorpal stalked toward her, glaring through the eye slits of her mask. The cold gaze scanned the girl’s outfit. Annette had a liking for purple, but didn’t get along well enough with anyone to participate in school shopping trips. As such, her clothes, all ordered online, were all disparate shades of the color instead of uniform. Her turtle neck was dark enough to be mistaken for black, while her tights were royal purple and her skirt was nearly pink. Her lipstick and nails similarly didn’t match.

“Voice says you’ve been calling yourself Ineffable.” Said the older woman, sitting down on the bed across from the dumbstruck girl. “And dressed like this? Are you trying to be some kind of junior miss supervillainess or are you just failing at being goth?”

Annette shrunk back against the headboard. “He called you to deal with me again?”

“I didn’t come here for you.” Vorpal replied. “Neither this time, nor before. Just like last time, I came to spend some time with my friend and you interrupted it with one of your little tantrums.” Her voice grew softer. “Last time I was in a bad mood. I didn’t care. Now, maybe I will. Why are you doing this?”

Annette drew her knees up to her chest and shrugged.

“You don’t know.” Vorpal nodded. “More like you don’t care. After all he’s done for you—“

“All he’s done for me?!’ Annette snapped back in spite of herself. “Shutting off my powers as he sees fit, trying to force me to waste my time with all these orphans and junkies, keeping us here; separate from normal people because either he’s scared of them or they’re scared of us? He’s not doing anyone here any favors, so why should I care what I do to Archeneaux?” She rested her forehead against her knees. “I just don’t want to be here anymore.”

Vorpal pinned her with a gaze. “Don’t give me that.” Vorpal said sternly. “I know everything that’s happened to you. Your parents taking that stupid test, what your father tried to do to you – it’s terrible, but Voice didn’t do that to you. If it wasn’t for him, you’d be a lab monkey for the French army by now, do you know that?”

“Maybe that’d be better than being here.” Annette pouted.

“You’re a really stupid girl.” Vorpal snapped. “Where else are you going to go but here? America? I’ve seen those syrupy magazine articles over here about how in America, everyone loves psionics and welcomes them with open arms.” She leaned close to the girl. “It’s a lie. They love you for what you can do for them, yes. You’re a hero if you work for the government, or do its job as a prelate. But that’s as far as it goes. If you’re not willing to be civil to someone who cares for you like his own child, how are you going to play that role?”

Annette answered with only petulant silence.

“I can understand some of it. I can.” Vorpal said. “I ended up in an orphanage. Not one for psionics though. I didn’t talk much after I lost my parents and they put me in this place for kids with mental problems because of it. Not the same as a place that takes in psionic runaways and former users, but I can relate. I tried using my powers to get out of it too. Of course, the caretakers just drugged me out of my mind when I did.”

“How is that different from using the Voice?” Annette asked.

“Do you have any idea how much it hurts him to do that?” Vorpal asked darkly. “He thinks of every one of you as his students and his children, Annette.”

“Ineffable.” Annette corrected.

“I’m fully in favor of you naming yourself.” Vorpal said, “But that name is terrible. A year from now, five years on the outside, you’ll look back on that and wonder what you were thinking, naming yourself something that—in all honesty—sounds like something a moody teenager with no idea what that word means would come up with. The only thing worse would have been if you had added ‘blood’ or ‘death’ to it.”

Annette glared out over her knees. “Then what would you call me, Vorpal?” She asked snarkily.

“You may think that’s a bad name, but I earned it. It has meaning.” Vorpal said darkly. “But your name is something someone else can’t give to you. That’s for you to decide when you’re smart enough to understand it.” She stretched dramatically. “But that’s neither here nor there. Voice won’t make you stay here if you honestly don’t want to be here. I can talk to him if you want.”

“But you’re right.” Annette said in a small voice. “There’s nowhere else for me to go.”

“You think on that.” Vorpal said, standing. “I’m going back downstairs to try and enjoy my vacation.” Without another word, she left through the hole she’d made in the reinforced titanium door.

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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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