Issue #25: Summer Session

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

Part 4

“Completely useless.” Alexis scowled, looking out the window of the room the friends shared room. The nighttime ocean rolled gently below. They had been guests of the Brunswick School for three days with only reams of paperwork regarding the school’s compliance with UK education and safety standards and several overly fancy meals to speak for it. “He’s done everything in his power to keep us from seeing anything about the school that isn’t on paper—most of which I already have.”

“And he’s been achingly polite in the process.” Laurel noted sourly from her computer. “He thinks we’re just pencil pushers for the WAC, trying to get bureaucratic hooks into the place.” She looked at the figures on her screen, but couldn’t bring herself to focus on any of them. “Maybe if we told him the truth…”

“That’s the one thing we can’t do.” Alexis said, leaving the window and going over to sit on her bed. “For all we know, he’s evading us because he really is a stooge for the British government. They’ve constantly vocal about not wanting the WAC in their business.”

“Well not the whole truth, obviously, but if we told him we were working on the behalf of some parents looking for a safe place for their children to learn to control their powers…”

“Still, he hasn’t given us a reason not to suspect that he’s linked to something secretive by keeping us out of the loop like this.”

“We can’t do anything without proof though. And honestly, what could we do then? The net result would be another two hundred psionic kids without a place to learn when we’re at our wit’s end trying to find a place for a tenth of that number.”

Alexis frowned and hunched over, staring at the floor. “Are we sure we can’t…”

“It’d be impossible.” Laurel said softly and sympathetically. “I know you’re still in love with the idea of teaching, but the house just doesn’t have the room for even half that many kids. We’d have to build massive additions, on top of making special considerations for any kids with special needs due to their powers. Not to mention the government oversight of a project like that.”

Nodding, Alexis sat back up straight. “And some of the kids on that list are protomorphs. That alone would out our little side business in an instant. And then they’d be in danger from a lot worse than Tome.”

They sat there for a few minutes, in silence but for the sound of Laurel clicking through articles.

“Do we have any other options?” Alexis asked at last. “There are plenty of other schools in Europe we could look into. They can’t all be government programs or Tome-puppets, can they?”

‘I’m afraid most of them are.” Laurel admitted. “The UK has twenty-five hundred psionics of school age with powers to warrant power training and ninety percent of them attend state funded schools. The other ten are either home schooled or in this building. Across the Channel, the French run their training programs almost explicitly as a supersoldier program. The rest pretty much follow one or two of those examples. The only places with heavy privatization are Canada or Australia. We could check those out, but by the time we make arrangements, it may be too late.”

With a frustrated grunt, Alexis fell back on her bed. “What are we going to do then? It isn’t as if we can build our own school by the end of summer.”

Laurel perked up and started typing as Alexis continued in her diatribe.

“All that seems to be left is pray that all the second tier private schools back home really don’t have Tome’s claws in them because they thought that the Academy was enough.”

“Don’t be so sure of that.” Laurel said, clicking her way through several context menus before pulling up a window that seemed to contain a second desktop, complete with icons and wallpaper featuring Dracula and Abraham van Helsing fighting with broadswords atop a castle parapet. “You just gave me an idea.”

“I hope it isn’t the part about praying.” Alexis said flatly, sitting up.

“No, but that wouldn’t hurt.” Laurel replied. “But you mentioned schools that are already built and I was reminded that we’ve helped a number of very powerful people in the past. And there’s one person who is directly connected to a school for psionics that was built but never used because of the advent of the Academy. He’s even alluded to it before.”

Alexis came over and looked over her friend’s shoulder. “And… what does that have to do with vampires?”

“Oh, that’s Cyn’s desktop background.” Laurel shrugged.

“You hacked her computer? That’s a pretty big violation of her privacy, don’t you think?”

“I’m not going through any of her personal stuff.” Laurel defended, “It would just take a very long time to dig up the right clip from the local news site when I know Cyn has every news mention of the Descendants archived on her computer.”

“That doesn’t make it less wrong.”

“No, it would be wrong to open the folder she’s marked ‘totally innocent’ over there.” Laurel said, bringing the clip up. Ah, here he is.”

***

“It’s beautiful out here.” Vorpal commented as she and Stephan sat poolside, half watching some of the kids enjoying the pool and half watching the wooded countryside just outside the reach of the patio lights.

“You say that every time you’re here.” Stephan said. “Which isn’t nearly often enough.” Noticing a cloud of obscuring mist enveloping the deep end, he snapped off a bit of French.

The mist quickly snapped back into the shape of the timid blonde Vorpal now knew as Wendy. Her doing so robbed two boy of their cover and they quickly released one of the younger boys who they had been in the process of dunking.

Stephan didn’t even say anything. He simply stared the pair down until they apologized to the boy in French and swam off. Making sure they were on to less troublesome activities, he turned back to Vorpal. “So tell me, will it be another three years before I see you in person again?”

Vorpal sighed softly and settled back in her chair, being careful to avoid eye contact. “Stephan, you know that if it were up to me, I’d move here, help you with this place you’re building—do a lot of things I think I should do and want to do.”

“But it is up to you.” He said it casually, trying not to press too hard. “It isn’t the money, it never has been. And everyone who… they’re all gone, Vorpal. Except for those you felt were repentant.”

“Is it ever really going to be over?” Vorpal asked. “I asked you to connect me to Liedecker to see how the Descendants really shape up. And do they? No. They’re too altruistic to do what needs to be done. Most of them are young kids underneath the costumes and bravado. It has to be a fluke that they exposed the Academy like they did, because they haven’t been able to finish off the pieces, that’s for damn sure.”

“Don’t you trust me, Vorpal?” Stephan asked, slyly.

“I trust you, but you’re an optimist.” She shot back, “I still have to take the requisite grain of salt.”

“I can live with that.” Stephan said. “Just trust me a little bit longer. I don’t have the resources to root out a vast conspiracy, but I’m hoping the Descendants do. At the very least, they have an in with the ROCIC. I know you’ve wanted a piece of Tome ever since we learned of their connection with the Academy fiasco, but you can’t rush into this with claws out. Don’t worry, you won’t be stuck lackeying for Liedecker for long.”

“Actually, I don’t mind working for him.” Vorpal admitted. “He respects me and my abilities and the only strikes he orders are acceptable targets: no families and all that. I’ve only worked with that type once or twice before.”

“I thought you wanted to stop.” Stephan asked, disappointed.

“I do.” Vorpal said, “But as long as I have to, this is better than the alternatives.” They went silent, watching the teens at play. One of the boys was running high speed laps back and forth across the surface of the pool and catching everyone in his wake. “That makes me perhaps the worst possible role model for Annette though.”

“She seems to both fear and respect you.” Stephan observed.

“Definitely.” Vorpal nodded, “but most of all, she hates being here.” She gave him an apologetic look. “I know how much you’ve put into this place, but you can’t expect to win over every single kid that walks in the door.”

“Don’t be sorry.” Stephan said softly. “I know. She makes it more than apparent. I’d buy her a ticket myself to wherever she wants if I knew she’d actually be safe and well looked after there. But you’ve seen her attitude, her temper. She’d flare up her powers and get herself or someone else hurt in a week.”

“Didn’t you say that’s what your father said about you?” Vorpal asked.

“Yeah. And then he nearly lost everything he had trying to keep me my going down that road—for my own ends or anyone else’s.”

Vorpal smiled and picked up her glass from the ground beside her. It was non-alcoholic; she felt bad drinking when Stephan couldn’t for fear of losing control. “To Francois Archeneaux.” She said, “A true inspiration to us all.” They touched glasses and drank.

“So what would he have done about Annette?” Stephan directed the question more to himself than anyone else. “He’d realize that he can’t keep her here. He’d see the danger of her being alone.”

“He’d turn to the only person that manages to keep her in check.” Vorpal concluded. “Only to realize that no one in their right mind would entrust her with a child, let alone an impressionable, dangerous teenager.”

“I wasn’t—“Stephan started.

“But that is what he’d do. I’ve heard you talk about your father forever and a day, Stephan and you know it’s true.” Vorpal said, “And you’re just like him, even if you don’t see it. The only problem is, well, seriously, I’m the last person this girl should be around.”

“Then we’ll have to think of something else.” Stephan said, “And hope the promise that we’re trying will calm her down a little. If worse comes to worse, Vorpal, you do know the only people we know to be definitely altruistic.”

“The Descendants?” Vorpal gave him a bored look, “That would be a complete waste of her potential.”

“Yes, but a complete waste that won’t give her into the wrong hands.”

***

Laurel keyed up the video as Alexis dragged a chair up beside her. “It’s a good thing I have the eidetic memory.” She commented to her friend. “I only heard him mention it in passing, but it’s definitely our best chance at making this work.”

“I hope so.” Alexis agreed. “But realistically, we can’t be so lucky as to have the perfect place right in our back yard.”

The video started with a female reporter. “And following the stunning events surrounding the Reverend Douglas Stiles’s anti-psionic, anti-prelate rally in City Central today in which the Descendants, Mayfield’s native prelates actually protected Stiles from both mundane assassins and his own, apparently psionic assistant, News Provider 3 interviewed several of Mayfield’s top citizens and asked them to weight in on the subject. Last hour, you heard from Lester Mendel, CEO of ConquesTech. This hour, we will hear from the man called Mayfield’s favorite son, philanthropist Vincent Liedecker.”

The scene cut to Liedecker in his sitting room, reclining in a soft chair draped with red fabric. “I really don’t know why you even have to ask.” He said in response to an unheard question. “You can’t outlaw psionics, you can’t… force them to work for you. It doesn’t work like that. These are people. And people have rights, damn it.”

He shifted in his seat. “The only thing this man, Stiles has a point about is that a lot of ‘em, they don’t have proper training. The Academy ended up a pretty damned bad idea though and if you remember, that’s exactly what my father said twenty years ago. I’ve got a property in Mayfield right now that’s still waiting on rezoning that was going to be the school he had built.”

Laurel stopped the video. “If he hasn’t already rezoned it…”

“Maybe we can appeal to his philanthropic side.” Alexis finished. “Huh, the top philanthropist in Mayfield. We couldn’t get any luckier than that.”

End Issue #25

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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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