Issue #33: The Liedecker Institute: Freshman Class

This entry is part 10 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 3: A Bright, Bright Summer

The campus had been part of Mayfield for the past 20 years, but very few had ever more of it than the eight foot, concrete wall set with reinforced gates. It had been built by Mayfield’s own John T Liedecker, noted businessman and philanthropist as a school for the then emergent psionic population to attend in order to learn about their powers and hopefully use them for the betterment of humanity.

That dream never came in his lifetime. The government put its full support and funding into the Psionics Training and Application Academy in Langley, VA. What Liedecker wanted to call the Mayfield Institute for Psionic Excellence had been left nearly finished on a lot in the Devonhurst neighborhood of Mayfield.

Only years later, when Liedecker’s son Vincent reopened the site and saw its completion, was the dream realized. Beyond the gate, four buildings of white stone stood upon a green lawn, connected by tree-lined paths.

A circular drive ran past the main building, which housed the classrooms and administration offices as well as the glass fronted lobby. There were already a number of cars parked there when a red hired van pulled up.

“Man, I wanted to be first.” Talia Coulmni Kaine, known to friends and family as Tammy frowned at the offending cars. “Then I could act like I owned the place.”

“There’s no need to show off.” Sandra Kaine, her mother, chided from the front passenger seat. “Everyone’s going to like you just for yourself.”

“That only works in grade school, Mom.” Tammy replied. Then again, she had always been well liked in school, unlike her brother.

Tommy, her father, unhooked his seatbelt, ready to get to work unloading the van. “In any case,you can’t tell them anything about Ms. Brant or Ms. Keyes, or especially about your brother.”

Tammy scowled. She couldn’t help but think how unfair it was. She had spent the later half of the previous school year hiding her newly manifested psionic powers. Now that she was at a school where everyone had powers, it seemed unfair that she still had to keep secrets.

It bothered her even more that her brother, Warrick, was hiding his own powers and his identity as the prelate Alloy. In fact, Alloy would be at the welcoming assembly and Tammy was under strict orders from parents and brother to pretend she didn’t know him.

That rankled her even more, made worse by the fact that the cover story among Warrick’s non-prelate friends was that Tammy was the only one in the family with powers, making her the freak of the family. At least everyone was polite enough not to bring that bit up.

“I know.” She sullenly looked out the window at the white stone building with its fountains and gold wrought lettering. For some reason, she couldn’t hold on to that sullen feeling. There was so much potential in actually going to a school for kids with super powers like hers.

The door of the titanic SUV parked in front of them opened and a humanoid mass of vines and leaves climbed out.

Okay, maybe their powers wouldn’t be entirely like hers. The thrill of the whole experience quickly overcame her and she almost flew to greet the plant-kid.

“She’s not going to help us with her luggage, is she?” Mr. Kaine asked.

“At least she’s making friends here.” Mrs. Kaine tried to look for the silver lining, but then sighed, defeated. “Yeah, we’re going to be doing all the work. Good thing we bought a dolly.”

Outside, Tammy sidled up to the plant person as s/he was opening the back of the SUV to get to the obsessively neat stack of boxes stowed there. “Hiya.” She said cheerfully. The face that turned to greet her was nightmarish though it wore a friendly expression.

The mouth was wide like a frog’s and lined with sharp tines that approximated teeth, reminding Tammy of a Venus Flytrap. A kind of shrub with broad, glossy leaves was perched above that, with vague nods to a nose and ears on either side. Two glowing embers of unknown phosphoresce peered at her from where the eyes should have been.

“Hi!” A voice like wind rattling twigs started somewhere deep in the being’s chest and emerged through the thicket of teeth. “You a student here too? My name’s Michaels, Phineas D, but everyone calls me—“

“Finny!” A female voice bellowed from the front of the car as the front passenger door opened. The car sprang upward so quickly that its wheels actually left the ground for a split second. “Who’re you talking to?”

Tammy peered around the car to see a huge woman. She wasn’t just big bodied and she wasn’t just tall: she was a mountain in miniature, draped in a powder blue dress with a peak of gray-blond hair that grew past her shoulders and enough make-up that Tammy wondered if all that yelling might start a powder avalanche.

“Uh… me?” Tammy offered. “Hi.”

“Hello.” The woman said amiably before bellowing again. “Finny! Hurry up. We’re going to be late. Sign in starts in five minutes!”

“They call me Xylem.” Phineas whispered. He extended his vine-like arms, each tipped with three fingers resembling the marriage between green bananas and octopus tentacles to encompass the entire contents of the back of the SUV. With considerable effort, he lifted the whole thing and staggered back a few steps. “Ma, can’t dad help a little with the boxes?”

“You know very well that your father has a bad back, young man.” Came the reply. “Besides, you need to build some muscle; you’re too skinny.”

“I’m not even sure I have muscles.” Phineas grunted, and then whispered to Tammy. “Mind closing the trunk?”

Tammy nodded and did as she was asked.

“Hurry up, Finny, Morton,” Ordered the force of nature that was Louise Michaels, “We don’t want to be late.” The driver’s door opened and a short, balding man with a black mustache that looked like nothing more than a push broom scurried around the front of the SUV to join his wife.

“Maybe I’ll see you after they make me drag all this crap up to the fourth floor.” Phineas staggered to catch up with the deceptively rapid pace his mother had set.

“Yeah, see ya then.” Tammy replied, turning to her own parents, who were busy unloading her things onto a dolly. She had never been so happy to have them as she was after two minutes of Mrs. Michaels.

Unlike the Michaels family, the Kaines took some time reaching the glass doors of the Institute’s lobby. It was opened by a tall, spartan woman with short, brown hair and a blazer with the word ‘security’ on a patch where a name tag would normally be.

“Welcome.” She said with a smile. Obviously, she was trying to sound pleasing and welcoming, but her voice didn’t seem used to that. “If you’d please sign in with our head of security at the desk, he’ll give you your orientation packet and room assignment. After that, we’ve got refreshments over there,“ She indicated a few tables stocked with snacks and drinks along one wall, “and you’ll be free to mingle with the other families until the assembly at ten. You can put your luggage over there.” She pointed to a roped off area where other people’s boxes had already been placed, guarded by a pair of stern looking men in security blazers.

Mr. Kaine thanked her and they did as suggested.

There were already a handful of families there already, though only three besides Phineas were Tammy’s age. Two weren’t obviously psionic, but the third was a girl whose body was made of stone, busy reading from a digi-book while her parents poured over the information provided in the orientation packet.

“Why don’t you go and talk to some of the other kids while we get everything else squared away?” Mrs. Kaine suggested.

That was all the motivation Tammy needed. She made a beeline for the stone girl.

“Worried that the security stuff will upset her?” Tommy asked.

“No, worried that she’ll take it as a personal challenge.” Sandra watched her daughter’s progress across the lobby with a smile on her face.

“I see your point.” Tommy replied.

Together they approached the desk manned by the head of security as he finished speaking with the Michaels family. “Good morning.” He greeted them. He was a young, dark skinned man, too fresh faced for anyone to take for the head of anything. But the patch on his blazer proclaimed it all the same. “I’m T. Alvin Warren, Chief of Security here at the Institute. People call me Sarge.”

“Army?” Tommy asked.

“No sir, Marines.” T. Warren replied. “Can I have your name, sir? And the name of your student?”

“Thomas Kaine. And my daughter is Talia Kaine.”

T. Warren pulled open the drawer of a file cabinet set up next to him and after some looking, pulled out a parcel wrapped in thick, opaque plastic. “Talia C. Kaine. No special accommodations or precautions requested. She’ll be in room 309.”

Mr. Kaine took the offered package.

“The orientation packet includes security IDs for all the family members you’ve authorized for visits in your entry forms as well as maps of the campus for student and parents, a class guide, your student’s computer login and password to our local network, room keys, and a guide to proper precautions designed to help you be at ease with allowing your student to attend a school for psionics in the wake of the PTAA scandal.”

“How exactly do you propose to do that?” She asked, trying to sound as critical and disbelieving as possible. Though her husband was the actor, Sandra also loved playing parts and she felt obligated to act concerned, despite personally knowing two of the three main figures behind the school and having come to trust them implicitly.

“For one, unless you sign to opt out of it, we require our students to complete a voice call once a week to a parent of guardian. We encourage families to come up with private keywords and phrases as well as variable time of call to confirm that the call is genuine.”

Even though both of the Kaines knew about the Academy’s previous efforts in falsifying correspondence between students and parents, it still sent a shiver down their spine to see the lengths needed to make sure it was being avoided.

“What about off campus?” Tommy asked. “I remember something mentioned about a curfew. That implies that the students are allowed to leave campus?”

T. Warren nodded. “That’s true sir, but rest assured even outside these walls, your students are safe. Every student is supplied with a phone number they can add to any cellular phone speed dial that sends out a distress signal. All student IDs also have a silent homing beacon that can be activated as a panic button. At parental or student requests, we can also furnish our students with additional concealed beacons and panic buttons. All panic buttons trigger an alert for two mobile security teams stationed in the city as well as the local prelates—you may have heard of the Descendants?”

“Yes, actually.” Sandra said, “I’ve heard they’re rather good at what they do.”

Across the room, Tammy plopped down in the seat next to the stone girl. “Hi.” She said, marveling at the other girl’s strange physiology. “What’s that you’re reading?”

A face composed of smooth, sandstone pebbles with extrusions of granite glanced at her with eyes like polished opal. “Sherlock Holmes” A bit of uneasiness came through in her tone. She didn’t like being gawked at. “I’m Arkose.” She extended a hand.

Tammy shook it. “Is that another nickname? The plant guy over there called himself Pylon or something.” It occurred to her that she couldn’t go by The Spark at school for the same reason that she couldn’t identify Alloy as her brother. “Think I need one?”

“It helps sometimes.” Arkose’s eyes drifted back toward her reader, not that Tammy could tell given her lack of pupils.

“Maybe something like Power Surge or Ampere…” Tammy considered. “I’ve got electric powers, see? What’s your real name, by the way?”

“Rose. Abernathy.” Arkose said flatly. She had really been enjoying her book.

“Hey!” Both Arkose and Tammy looked up to see another girl grinning at them. She wore her hair in a high pony tail and her T-shirt read ‘Vegetarian – Cows and chickens are dumb enough to count as vegetables, right?’ above a picture of a cow and a chicken growing on a corn stalk, wearing dunce caps. “You guys look like freshmen too. Either of you in room 307?”

“305.” Arkose said.

“No idea.” Tammy said. “I’m Tammy, by the way and this is Ark-rose.”

“Arkose. It’s a kind of rock formation.”

“Arkose. Sorry.” Tammy said sheepishly. “What’s your name?”

The newcomer smiled and her shirt shifted colors and wording to say ‘Your Message Here: $20’ in block letters. “I’m Kura Akagi.”

“That’s Japanese, right?” Tammy had an extremely vague grasp of other cultures, all viewed through the muddled lens of pop culture. “Am I supposed to call you Kura or Akagi?”

Kura snorted. “Good effort, but my family’s been in America for like forever. I’m just Kura. So what do you guys do?”

Arkose gave Kura an ‘are you kidding me?’ look. “I’m made of rock.” She said.

Kura caught the look and shrugged, “Had to ask! You could do other things, or you might be super-strong, or can shift back and forth… There’s a lot of things you could do.”

“I shoot lightning.” Tammy interjected. “Well, I can make lightning shoot off metal stuff.”

Kura grinned her approval and gave a thumbs up. Her shirt turned dark blue with white lettering. ‘Take a guess what I can do’ It read.

Arkose was not impressed, but she kept it to herself. Tammy was riveted. “Nice!” She exclaimed, “Can you do that to things other than the shirt?”

“Pretty much everything.” Kura shrugged. “Actually, I’ve got a lot of powers, but I can’t do a whole lot of at once.”

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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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