Issue #29: Little Girl Lost

This entry is part 5 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 3: A Bright, Bright Summer

Mayfield, two days earlier

Vincent Liedecker’s home office, where he received clients and business partners for his various philanthropic pursuits was a far cry from the implied threat and savagery of his corporate/criminal headquarters. Taking up the lion’s share of the third floor of his home in the prestigious Riverside neighborhood in Mayfield, it was constructed of glass on three sides, with an elegant glass dome that served as a roof, affording a panoramic view of the house’s courtyard, the St. Anne River and the Mayfield skyline. Inside, it managed to be comfortable and homey while remaining properly opulent.

The man himself lounged in a leather arm chair, casually flipping through papers while his house lady refilled his current guests’ glasses of sweet tea. He wore a cream colored silk jacket and a pair of reading glasses that took the edge off his icy star and granted him a more fatherly air that belied his forty six years.

His guests, none other than Laurel Brant and Alexis Keyes, in pink and white business suits respectively, thanked the servant for the refreshments before returning to the matter at hand.

“As you can see, sir, we’ve already taken the liberty to make prior arrangements for security and furnishing.” Laurel pointed out, knowing from memory and careful observation what page Liedecker was on in the proposal. “All that you’ll have to worry about is hiring staff and the building itself.”

“Of course,” Alexis couldn’t hold herself back, “We do already have some recommendations for the teaching staff.”

Nodding thoughtfully, Liedecker looked up from the proposal, which he’d gone over three times over the course of the meeting alone. “I’ve got to hand it to you ladies; you do have a lot on the ball with this. I’ve seen ten year veterans in business that couldn’t hand in a proposal half this well done.” He carefully stroked his chin. “And I’m going to be honest; this is what my daddy wanted done with that property. To tell the truth, with the zoning, a school’s just about the only damn thing you can put there. I tried opening an art gallery there, but would you believe that it’s not even zoned for that?”

“Your father did pull a number of strings to ensure the school could be built there, I recall.” Laurel nodded.

“That he did.” Liedecker nodded, “And that was his last project. Shame it’s been going unused for twenty years.” He laid the proposal on the cedar table before him. “But if I’m gonna keep being honest, ladies, I don’t know a damn thing about running any school. Especially not schools for psionics.”

“We can take care of all the operations.” Laurel assured him.

“That’s right.” Alexis added, “All we need is the property. Time is a factor, Mr. Liedecker, as we’ve said before.”

Liedecker gave them a sympathetic look. “Yes… this Project Tome thing I needed to get clearance from a branch of the government I haven’t heard of to even hear about. I can’t say that the threat of some rogue agency attacking one of my properties is much of a selling point.”

“But—“Alexis started to object.

With a gesture, Liedecker silenced her. “However, the old saying is true, ain’t it? The children are our future. From the sound of these Tome fellas, the future would be Hell on earth if they got their hands on them, eh?”

“Too true.” Alexis said, “And that’s why we contacted the ROCIC for help in security matters.” Before Liedecker could respond, she quickly added, “And we’ve been given assurances that the Descendants will offer their help as well.” Almost instantly, she felt Laurel’s outraged glare on her.

“The Descendants?” Liedecker had to work extra hard to keep his face schooled. “That seems like a tall order.”

“Yes, but they’re just as dedicated to protecting future generations as you yourself are.” Alexis soldiered on with her impromptu sales pitch.

Liedecker grinned, “If you put it that way, how can I possibly say no? But there are still some issues I’d like to discuss; staffing for example. Ms. Keyes, I did some checking into your background,”

Alexis and Laurel held their breath. Laurel had done a through job of doctoring their records; including expunging all mention of Alexis’s powers from the Academy’s public records, as well as her old middle school records and a newspaper article from her home town of Baton Rouge, but there was still a possible that something had slipped by.

“And you’re definitely the one who should be in charge of hiring the teaching staff. “ Both women sighed with relief on the inside. “I do, however, intend to supply administration and support services as a cost cutting measure.”

“I can understand that completely.” Alexis smiled.

Liedecker rose, smiling at the two and extending his hand. “Then ladies, I think we have a deal.” As Alexis shook his hand, he added, “When should I expect to hear from prospective students?”

“We have a… short list to extend invitations to.” Laurel embellished smoothly, “We should hear from them any day now.”

***

Sedona, Arizona. Now.

The engines of the ROCIC troop carrier made an audible whine that carried all the way into the passenger cabin as the craft made its way at supersonic speed to its destination. The Descendants minus Zero sat on the benches usually reserved for ROCIC Marines, watching General Pratt on the monitor along the far wall at the front.

“I want to thank you all again for participating in this mission.” Pratt was saying.

“No problem, General.” Chaos said, adjusting his cape. “We’ve come to see those kids on the list as kind of our responsibility. We’re happy to help.”

“It’s just too bad that Zero came down with that summer cold.” Said Alloy. “I know she wouldn’t want to miss helping out.”

“I still don’t get why you didn’t just heal her.” Facsimile gave Hope a sideways glance.

The redhead glared back. “I told you I can’t cure diseases.” She slumped back into her seat with a sniff. “It’s kind of fishy that she just happened to get sick the second we got word of the General asking a favor anyway.”

“Oh please.” Facsimile rolled her eyes. “Like the Sugar Plum Princess would miss doing good? She patrols even when we don’t. And because she can’t fly, that means hoofing it.”

“Guys, can we focus here?” Darkness’s voice cut through the chatter like a scalpel. “This is a very serious matter. There’s a twelve year old girl in danger. We can’t afford petty bickering.” She turned to Pratt’s image. “Is there any chance that this is a Tome job?”

“Very little.” Pratt shook his head. “Rose Abernathy has a history of running away over the past year. Her parents found a note from her that matches the other three she’s left before.”

“She ran away three times before? Kid’s got issues.” Hope said, twirling her finger in the air beside her ear in an unmistakable gesture.

“You’re one to talk.” Facsimile muttered.

General Pratt ignored the exchange. “The real danger from Tome is if they hear about this and find her before we do. The Abernathys alerted the local media before we could stop them. They’re already assembling their own search party.”

“If any civilian groups cross paths with Tome’s henchies, they won’t stand a chance.” Alloy intoned seriously.

“Exactly why we won’t let that happen.” Codex’s eyes were glued to her computer screen.

“What if this kid doesn’t want to be brought home?” Facsimile asked. When everyone looked at her oddly, she clarified. “I mean what powers does she have? Can she knock our blocks off for trying to bring her back to mommy and daddy?”

“That’s a very good question.” Codex praised. Facsimile swelled a little with pride.

“Actually, we know very little about Rose’s—or Arkose as she was called that the Academy—abilities.” Pratt admitted. “She’s a protomorph whose cell structure has converted to be silicon base. Basically, here body’s made of rock; very strong, very durable. The bright side there is that she doesn’t need to eat, drink or sleep, which is good for the rescue effort.

“Searches of her public Academy records show that she declined all power awareness and control classes, so the Academy never discovered any abilities she may have beyond the obvious benefits of density and weight.”

“Her class records say she took bojutsu and kendo, so she may still be able to defend herself with a weapon.” Darkness added.

“Then the big thing is actually tracking her down.” Chaos said. “Any luck? Codex, Ephemeral?”

“Ephemeral is trying to use his abilities through the ROCIC satellite network to scan the area for the girl’s mind.” Codex reported. “But he’s not familiar with her, the network wasn’t built to be used this way, and Sedona is a very big place. It looks like we’re on our own for now when it comes to tracking her.”

“Actually, you won’t be alone in this.” Pratt said. “The Abernathys’ public plea for help didn’t fall on deaf ears. Two prelates from Phoenix have insisted on helping with this and I couldn’t refuse them. They should be at your landing site when you arrive.”

Alloy’s head snapped up. “Wait; there’s only two prelates from Phoenix period…” Without waiting for an answer, he got up and bolted for a window.

The carrier had slowed considerably in its decent toward the landing zone. Still, the ground flew by below, as did the famous Red Rocks that Sedona was known for. Ahead, Alloy could see the landing area, just south of Courthouse Rock. The object of his search as clearly visible.

The machine stood on stout, bird-like legs, ending in wide, flexible feet. Its torso was humanoid, with articulated arms ending in five fingered, mechanical hands. Its wide shoulders bulged with a pair of missile racks and in place of a head; the eleven foot tall titan had a domed hatch, mounted with sensor systems. A stylized image of a Queen chess piece was emblazoned in red on its wide chest.

“I knew it!” Alloy said, excitedly. “The Queen’s Gambit, Majestrix’s powered armor! She and Zero Point are here!”

“Please don’t embarrass us by geeking all over them.” Hope sighed.

“Hey, leave him alone.” Facsimile came to his defense. ”He knows how to work with other prelates. We’ve worked with the Whitecoat twice!”

General Pratt gave Darkness, Chaos and Codex a sympathetic look. “Good luck, Descendants.” He said, “Rose Abernathy is counting on you.” With that, he severed the uplink.

“Don’t worry.” Alloy said, still staring out the window as the carrier angled in for a landing. “I know the score, okay? I’m not going to screw up just because I’m getting to work with some of my heroes.”

“I know you won’t.” Chaos backed him up. “Just keep your mind on what we’re here to do. We find this kid, we drag her back home, kicking and screaming if need be, and we make the pitch for the new school.” No one had time to agree or add anything before the bay doors on the side of the carrier opened, letting the bright sun of an Arizona summer cascade in.

Zero Point and Majestrix stood in the shade provided by the Queen’s Gambit. Both were in their late thirties or early forties, though it was hard to tell due to their costumes.

Zero Point was just under six feet tall, dressed in a form fitting white bodysuit with light blue stripes running up his legs, across his ribs and down his arms. A blue half cape attached to a blue cowl that covered his hair; left his eyes uncovered, and then covered his nose and mouth. A blue zero with a white P in the center was positioned over his heart.

Majestrix was half a head shorter than her husband and her outfit gave nothing away about her prelate status. Her pants were made of heavy, tan canvas and had pockets wherever it was feasible to put a pocket. She also wore a heavy duty handyman’s belt, stuffed with tools. Above the waist, she just wore a sweat stained white tank top with a poorly drawn cog symbol on the chest. On one arm, she had what looked like an over sized watch, with at least four faces, all of which were covered by small hinged plates. A pair of aviator goggles covered her eyes and pushed back a healthy nest of wavy brown hair that was only partially tamed by a long braid running down her back.

The pair waved when they saw the Descendants debarking from the carrier. “Hello!” Majestrix called in a cheerful voice. “You must be the Descendants General Pratt told us about.”

“We are.” Darkness said, feeling compelled to respond warmly as well. “Thank you for helping out with this, I know you were retired…”

“No need to thank us.” Majestrix replied as she and Zero Point came up to meet the newcomers half way. “When we heard about these Tome people and what may happen to the Abernathy girl, there was no way the General could dissuade us. We have reason to believe that Tome may be responsible for our daughter’s disappearance too.” Her sunny demeanor strained at that last part.

“Besides,” Zero Point said quickly, putting a hand on his wife’s shoulder. “We’ve been out of retirement for a while now. There’ve been weird things in the desert this last month.”

“Weird as in…?” Hope asked.

“Oh, a scaly shark… thing swimming in the sand; a group of winged women with sonic screams that knocked out my stabilizers…” Majestrix shrugged, obviously no stranger to the weird. “Things like that. The General said they’re not psionics.”

“Magical World.” Chaos said under his breath.

“Eh?” Zero Point asked.

“We’ll talk later.” Chaos assured, “After we find this girl.”

“You’ll like the story though,” Facsimile quipped, “It involves monkeys.”

Majestrix nodded sagely. “That does sound like something we can all enjoy. But he’s right; we need to find Rose first.”

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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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