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

Part 4

Tammy was the first one into the room she was expected to share with Rose ‘Arkose’ Abernathy for the rest of the school year.

“Wow, look at this place!” She exclaimed, flipping the light switch. It was larger and much nicer than Warrick’s room at the Academy had been, she was quick to note. She was just as quick to remember that she couldn’t mention that with the Abernathys in tow. She contented herself with pointing out just how nice the room was.

The soft illumination fell on the contents of the room; a pair of beds with nightstands beside them, a large, wooden bookcase, two desks with high backed executive chairs and monitors already set atop them. The closets were set into one wall, flanking a door leading to the bathroom shared by the adjoining suite. The opposite wall was dominated by a bay window overlooking the courtyard below.

“They’re certainly going all out to impress.” Mr. Kaine helped his wife ease Tammy’s boxes into the room.

Arkose followed them in, carrying boxes as if they were a load of pillows. Her mother and father followed, looking around in wide eyed amazement.

“I call this one!” Tammy said, swiping her lightest clothes box from the top of the load her parents were bringing in and setting it on top of a bed.

“Looks like you didn’t really have a choice.” Arkose noted that the bed Tammy had passed over, as well as the furnishings of what was now her side of the room, were heavily reinforced despite a high level of craftsmanship meant to hide that fact.

“So,” Mrs. Kaine asked the Abernathys, setting about prying tape from a box, “How did you learn about the Institute?”

Michael Abernathy took one of the boxes from his daughter and struggled to set it down. “Well, Rose got lost in th—“

“I ran away, dad.” Arkose said flatly as she set the boxes down and stood back to give the room a measuring look.

Uncomfortable at the mention, Mr. Abernathy nodded to indicate his daughter was correct, “The Descendants came in and helped Zero Point and the Majestrix bring her back. There was a fight…”

“You fought the Descendants?!” Tammy almost dropped the clothes she was pulling out. Warrick told her about the Arizona mission, but nothing about fighting her new roommate.

“No!” Susan Abernathy was quick to say, “No, it was a… scorpion… thing.”

“A lot of scorpions.” Mr. Abernathy added. “Giant scorpions.”

Tommy Kaine exchanged a glance with his wife beneath the Abernathys’ notice. If any other girl’s family had heard that, they’d have questioned the sanity of that claim. The Kaines, of course, had heard all about it. “Giant scorpions?” He feigned incredulity, “The devil you say.”

“No, it’s very true, Mr. Kaine.” Arkose quickly came to her foundering parents’ defense. “They didn’t start big, but every time one died, the others grew. I think it was one of those monsters you hear about on the news.”

“That must have been a very jarring experience, Rose.” Mrs. Kaine said sympathetically.

“I’m fine.” Arkose opened the box her father had put on her bed and started transferring books from it to the bookcase. “I’m hard to hurt.”

Mrs. Kaine was going to try again when there was a knock at the bathroom door. Tammy quickly abandoned her tiny contribution to the unpacking to open it.

Kura Akagi stood there in a conjoined full bath, now dressed all in purple shades with her parents behind her. “Hey, suitemate!” She chirped, ruffling the other girl’s hair. She waved to Arkose, “Hey, other suitemate!”

“I’m sure they have real names.” Kura’s father said in a tone that showed he was used to and amused by his daughter’s antics. He was in his early thirties, slightly built with his hair grown out long enough to tie into a ponytail. “Sorry to interrupt.” He addressed the adults in the room. “We just thought it would be a good idea to meet the other parents; we never got a chance to at the Academy. I thought it would be nice to exchange email addys, maybe other contacts; you know, in case something comes up, or even if one of you would like someone to talk to about the… heh… joys of raising a psionic.”

Mr. Kaine wanted to reply with ‘try raising two’, but knew he couldn’t. “I think we all feel that need sometimes.” He extended his hand. “Tommy Kaine. This is my wife, Sandra and my little girl, Tammy.”

Mr. Akagi took the offered hand and gave it a shake. “Hinjo Akagi. My wife, Noriko,”

Noriko Akagi shook Mr. Kaine’s hand too. She was tall and slim like her daughter with extremely long, black hair. “Pleased to meet you Mr. Kaine.”

“Call me Tommy.” Mr. Kaine replied. “And these are Rose’s parents, Michael and Sue Abernathy.”

As the six parents fell into their greetings, Tammy took Kura aside to sit on the window seat. “So where’s your roommate? Is she cool?”

“Not in the room.” Kura shrugged, “But she’s all moved in. Everything’s purple.” She made a face.

“If you don’t like purple, why did you change all your stuff purple?” Tammy observed.

Kura looked down, finally noticing the current state of her wardrobe, and made an annoyed sound. Her clothes flashed rapidly through a series of patterns and textures before finally settling on a red tie-dyed shirt and gray khakis. “I hate when it does that.”

Tammy gave her a confused look.

“Sometimes I use my powers without thinking about it.” Kura clarified, embarrassed. “Like, I’ll wake up in the morning and all my stuff is floating around… or I’m floating around. We were working on that when it turned out the Academy was evil.”

“Your roommate is going to love you.” Tammy laughed.

“She better.” Kura said, with conspiratorial gleam in her eye, “Or all her purple is going to be orange.”

Among the parents, the topic had turned to discussing their children’s most amusing abuses of their power, something that seemed to be an entirely alien concept to the Abernathys.

“Rose has never had that sort of problem.” Mrs. Abernathy said, passing clothes to her daughter to stow in the closet. “She’s been well aware of her strength ever since she had her… change. That kind of strength would be very simple to abuse, but she never does.”

Mr. Akagi laughed heartily at that. “At least you thought through how your daughter could abuse her powers. We thought ‘our little girl can change the colors of things, what trouble could she possibly get into with that?’”

“A little hint;” Mrs. Akagi offered, “the labels on most buttons? Barcodes? Writing on a page? It’s all just a difference of coloration as far as the eye or an optical scanner’s concerned. We didn’t even consider it until after she’d erased all the paper textbooks in her geography class. And only then did we learn about everything else she can do.” She gave her daughter a fond look, laughter in her voice undercutting any anger she may have felt at the time those things had occurred.

“Well I bet that you haven’t had to deal with target practice in the house.” Mrs. Kaine ventured.

“On the contrary,” Mrs. Akagi laughed. “How do you think we found out about the telekinesis?”

***

“Well kid,” Charity stood back to admire her sister’s and her own work at making Joy’s room a bit homier. They’d put down a rug, put up some curtains and set a few specimens of the stuffed animal collection Glory insisted Joy was too old for around the room. The other half of the room was dominated by the cello and audio equipment Joy’s roommate, Rita had insisted her parents allow her to keep. “Glory’s in a hurry to get back home, so… you’ve got my cell number, right?”

Joy sat on her bed, surveying the room as well. She nodded silently at Charity’s question.

“And you know you can call me for anything, okay? Any time. You’re feeling homesick, you’re not getting along with your roommate, or the upperclassmen are picking on you… I’ll be there, okay?” Charity sat down on the bed and gave her younger sister a hug.

“I will.” Joy said, forcing herself to smile. She’d never been away from home before. In fact, she’d never been to school before, having always been privately tutored like all her other sisters save Charity. “I wish you could stay longer.”

“So do I, munchkin.” Charity said, “But you know how it is; when Glory bellows… And hey, Faith is going to be here, right? Don’t forget to sign up for her class, okay?”

“I don’t even like computers.” Joy frowned.

“But you like Faith, right? She’s going to be watching out for you. But if you need me, I’ll be on the next plane to Mayfield, you got that?”

Joy nodded again. There was a soft, but insistent knock on the open door. Both looked up to see Glory there.

“The flight’s in two hours.” She said. “Even with our security allowances, we’ll need to hurry to catch it.”

Charity knew better than to glare at Glory, but that didn’t keep her from thinking the hardest, most malevolent glare possible in her direction. “Be good.” She said, patting Joy on the head, careful to avoid the stubby horns that grew there.

“I expect you to do your best, Joy.” Glory addressed the youngest daughter of Duvall for the first time since they’d arrived at the Institute. “No trouble, good grades. You’re our father’s daughter; it’s expected of you.”

“And make a lot of friends.” Charity added.

“As long as it doesn’t interfere with your studies.” Glory said. “You have all of our numbers. If you need anything, we’ll be here for you. We’ll see you at Thanksgiving.” She turned and strode out of the room.

“I’ll come visit sooner.” Charity said, reluctantly following. “Probably Patience too. Take care of yourself.”

The unspoken part of that was ‘because Glory certainly won’t.’ Joy heard it loud and clear, even if Glory didn’t. It had been the underlying motif of her life. Glory helped only Glory or Father. She liked to act like she’d raised all her younger sisters, but the truth was that it had been the hired help, or Serenity and Chastity, whenever they were around.

Now even Charity was gone, even I under protest. Joy took a deep breath and stood up from the bed. While she wasn’t poetic enough to think it in those precise words, she nevertheless knew one important truth; without Glory being In Charge and Charity helping her out, the first thing she needed was friends. Joy Duvall set out to find just that.”

***

“You guys need any help?”

Phineas looked up from his work getting his computer working to see Alloy standing at the door he was currently sharing with Jake Richmond. He gawked. So did Jake, who had been in the process of moving the beds to the facing wall so they’d have space for the card table Phineas intended to buy. The operation had needed to wait until their families had left.

Alloy shrugged at the silence. “Only asking because the powers that be asked me and the boys to help out with any heavy lifting that might need getting done.”

“Jake, is there a superhero at our door?” Phineas asked in a stage whisper.

“Yeah, and he’s about to give up and hit the cafeteria for a late lunch.” Alloy answered for Jake. “Did you guys need help?”

Jake shook his head. “No, it’s okay. I’m pretty strong myself.”

Alloy nodded, “Carry on then.”

“Wait!” Phineas practically leapt out of his chair and sprang across the room in a display of impossibly contorting vine-like arms and legs. He tried to give Jake a ‘what were you thinking’ look, but his physiology prevented it from looking like anything so much as a death threat. “Alloy, hold on!”

“Yeeeeees?” Alloy put a bit of singsong in his reply as he stopped in the hall.

“Can I ask you a question? Two questions?” Phineas stopped and tried to settle himself, “Four questions?”

“Shoot.”

“You’re going to get lunch… with Darkness and Codex?”

“If they haven’t eaten yet, yeah.” Alloy said.

“Can I come with you? I’d really like to meet them!”

“I thought I was the celebrity here.” Laughed Alloy.

“But these are hot celebrities.” Phineas said with iron clad logic. “Back me up here, Jake.”

“Uh…” Jake started.

“I mean neither one of them is Facsimile level…”

“Facsimile?” Alloy and Jake parroted for very different reasons.

“Yeah.” Phineas said, “She’s like the hottest Descendant. I even saw a poll on PrelateWatch that agrees.” He gave Jake a meaningful look. “You don’t think so?”

“She’s… bald.” Jake said slowly.

“And I’m a plant. Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Phineas shot back.

“Wasn’t’ this entire conversation based on—“ Alloy started.

“Please?” Phineas said, trying to look sad and pathetic despite that being impossible for him.

“Oh, why not?” Alloy shrugged. He had a feeling that life would be even more interesting than usual with the Liedecker Institute in town.

End Issue #33

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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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