Issue #49 – George

This entry is part 1 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 5: How the World Changes

Part 6

“Wait.” Said Alloy over the comm. “How is her melting it any different from me melting it?”

“Watch and learn, Grasshopper.” Laurel replied, pulling up a visual database on another monitor while watching through Darkness’s cam. In no time, the database got a hit. “Okay, I’ve got it. We are dealing with… Loxley model H-4 ‘Nimbus’ VTOL luxury jet, slightly modified with a cargo door, so that’s series 3; mostly used by military brass.

“Good news, there’s no fuel on board, just battery packs in the wings; they’ll spark up with a lot of sound and fury when burned, with mildly toxic smoke, but you shouldn’t have anything to worry about as long as you stay away from it.”

Darkness concentrated on building more and more black heat around her. It would be stifling, if not harmful for anyone else, but she could breath her black heat as if it were air. “We’re in luck one way: They left the doors open.”

“Always helpful when you want your plane crispy on the outside and well done on the inside.” said Laurel. She brought up yet another window and started issuing commands into it.

“What’s that?” Tink asked, appearing at her shoulder.

“The City of Baltimore’s Department of Transportation traffic control system. Luckily, they used the same contractor as Mayfield.”

“Traffic control? I’m not sure I understand what that has to do with the bomb.”

Because you haven’t’ been looking at the satellite feed.” Laurel reached out and called that image up on the monitor with the visual database. “Take a look, I bet you’ll see what I see– and what Alexis sees.”

Pushing her glasses back into place from where they had slid down her nose, Tink peered at the satellite image. Sure enough, she saw it in seconds. “The highway overpass comes within six hundred feet of the Quintillion building!”

Laurel grinned at being proven right, putting the last few commands into the traffic control system. “And in thirty seconds, it will be completely empty.” Just to make sure, she checked traffic cams from the official Maryland DOT website.

“Darkness, you are good to go.” She sent over the comm, then to Alloy. “And watch carefully for the difference, Grasshopper.”

On the roof, Darkness extended her arms and let a what looked like a gentle wave of black heat wash against the plane. It rocked on its landing gear, momentarily presenting the underside of its near wing to her.

She did it again and again in controlled bursts, not letting the concentration of heat go high enough to cause any fires just yet. Each time, she pushed it further and further until finally, the wing was pushed far enough to open up an unobstructed view of the fuselage.

At this point, she cut loose with thick bars of darkness from both hands. Still not enough to heat the metal, they still provided enough force to slam the whole plane sideways, scrapping the far wing along the roof.

It hit the lip of the roof and the far wing went over, the whole plane teetering precipitously at the edge.

Darkness stopped her assault momentarily to gather the black heat to herself again. This time it whirled in miniature tornadoes around her hands, concentrating to dangerous temperatures. When she let it loose again, it was like nothing she’d unleashed before.

Instead of straight streams of particles, the black heat poured out in twin, undulating serpents. Where her blasts usually tailed wisps of particulates, these seems to be formed of solid matter despite moving and flowing like a storm surge.

They hit the plane broadside and even as they bore it over the edge in a long arc that would take it to the highway, they ravaged it apart. Sealant and paint ignited on contact, glass shattered from temperature stress, and the aluminum fuselage buckled and twisted before melting and flowing like warm wax.

Within seconds, the plane had become a blazing comet and it was impossible to tell what damage was done by burning cyclonite and what came from the fully utilized black heat. What hit the stretch of highway overpass far below was unrecognizable as a vehicle of any kind and still melted and burned even after the killing heat was taken away.

Darkness cut off the twin surges of power and released the black heat gathered around her all at once. The gathered particles rolled off her like spores from a puffball and she dropped about a foot to the ground. She didn’t remember taking flight.

In fact, she wasn’t thinking about it even then. “I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.” She was breathing hard and sweating.

“I don’t think using your heat made you tired before either.” Laurel replied. “Are you feeling okay?”

“Like I just ran a mile.” Darkness replied. “Otherwise fine. I’ve just never… well gone to full power before. Even with Inexorable. It just feels like it’s going to go out of control past a certain level.”

“At least it’s safe to say that the cyclonite is done for.” Laurel checked her traffic cams again. “MDOT’s going to be pretty upset though; a half mile of road in you range and you managed to peg a hundred foot stretch of solar collecting road tiles perfectly.”

Darkness frowned. “We can… take care of that, right?”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

“Good because I still have some words for our host.”

***

Incensed as she was, Darkness was put off her stride a little when she opened the door to the observation room, flanked by the others, and was met with applause.

“Brava.” George said, still clapping. “That was an amazing display, Miss Keyes. You are truly underestimated by the mainstream media.”

“That was a hell of a shot.” said Alloy carefully. He saw Darkness’s expression and didn’t want to be on the receiving end of it.

“Not the shot.” George corrected him. “The strategy. Latonya Wilkins is almost impossible to target thanks to her reflexes. But if she can’t see you until its too late, she has nothing to react to. And with Mister Utt providing interference against their telepath, she didn’t even know there was someone to hit her.”

His expression was that of a proud grandfather. “And Miss Forester. I see you’d expended your repertoire. Nicely done.”

“Stop.” Darkness said. “Just stop. All of this… you knew it was going to happen. Your machine knew Aces High were going to try and steal it and you manipulated us into being here to protect it for you!”

“Indeed.” George said happily.”And the world is a safer place now that they think I’m protected by the Descendants.”

“Are you somehow unaware of how wrong that is?!” Darkness shouted. “You could have asked us; explained what the situation was. We would have helped.”

George’s expression sobered. “I know exactly how wrong it is, actually. I did it anyway, because the question is never right and wrong in this moment. The question is one of causality, of consequence. Because of what I can do; because of what I know, I don’t just operate under the laws of morality anymore, I live under the laws of Heisenberg.

“I saw the theft and what came from it. And I also saw you stopping it. Neither involved me explaining it beforehand. If I had, something could have changed the outcome. Having seen what happens if the Aces reverse engineered this technology and Thunderhead used it, I could not take that chance.”

Ephemeral scowled and raised his hand. “You say that you are the one who called the Academy that day; that you are the catalyst for us coming together… is this all manipulation as well?”

“I’ve already explained that I’d provided nudges here and there.” George said. “But only to prevent terrible mistakes.” He looked directly at Darkness. “There’s an engagement ring on under that glove, isn’t there? For want of a concert ticket…”

“Don’t you dare…” Darkness growled.

“Can you honestly tell me that you wouldn’t have regretted it?” George asked. “Or that these young folks would regret being just another power to graft onto Tome’s agents? How about the Institute made up of kids Tome hadn’t kidnapped yet?”

That last part silenced Darkness, who looked at him with the shock of someone who begins to fully recognize the interconnectedness of all things.

George nodded, understanding her thoughts completely. “You do good work there, Miss Keyes. You touch their lives. Your alter ego has touched the lives of many others. Just as I have touched yours in trying to do my own good works. Yes, what I’ve done might be immoral, unethical, but as far as I can tell, it was still right. Maybe making that call was manipulating you. Maybe ensuring that you and Mister Smythe reconciled was too. But do not stand here and tell me to my face that you wish that I stood by did nothing.”

Once again, his face settled into the warm, grandfatherly understanding they’d come to expect from him. “And by the way, did you all enjoy that beach vacation?” Everyone in the room goggled.

The old man chuckled. “There wasn’t any future sight involved there, I just had a tech skew the search results coming from any known accounts attached to you. I had a hand in Dawson Bay’s development for some time now and thought you might enjoy it.”

“That was pretty fun.” Facsimile admitted, shutting up when Darkness glanced at her.

“I… we can’t even begin to touch the surface of this right now.” Darkness groaned. “If everything you say is true, and you are on the up and up… you’re right, we do owe you some thanks, as strange and uncomfortable as it is.”

“But you still need time to process and discuss this, especially with the rest of the team. I understand.” George nodded. “If you’d like, you can use the Tau Corridor restrooms to change into civilian clothes, and I can have a car waiting in the underground parking lot to take you home. For what it’s worth, it was wonderful meeting you.”

“Yeah… so…” Facsimile started.

“No, I can’t tell you your future.” George smirked at her. “Heisenberg, remember? But, I can share something—with all of you. I’ve already spoken with young Mister Kaine about it: There is one future I’ve seen that I’m not trying to prevent. In it, there are many, many heroes all doing what you do: make the wolrd better. Sometimes in small ways, sometimes in large, but by working together, they’ve created a Golden Age.

The elements are already here: I’ve heard stories of prelates in New York working together, Majestrix and Zero Point are active again and helping the ROCIC. And it all started with you.”

***

After many more assurances that he wouldn’t reveal their secrets, refusals to divulge more information about future events and at least one threat of assured mutual destruction as far as secrets went from Darkness, the Descendants changed one by one and left him there in the observation room.

Left him there, bu not alone. The door had barely closed when he became aware of a presence in the room with him. He turned to see the man who defeated Fellgaze sitting on the back of one of the chairs, his feet in the seat.

“Been listening long, Anansi?”

“Long enough. Never stops amazing how much of the truth someone can tell without giving away the shape of the whole thing.” Anansi spoke in a thick Caribbean accent.

“I’ve had practice.” George said, getting up and walking with the cane’s help to the seat Alloy had been sitting in. “But I’ve got my reasons.” He picked up the pinhole camera Alloy thought he’d hidden so well and trained it on Anansi briefly “Very good reasons you can’t be a party to, Miss Brant. My regards to William.” He switched it off.

“For example, can you imagine what they’d say if they knew who the dreamstone originally belonged to?”

Anansi grinned. “Ian Smythe learning that his fate ties to the last great Hungan of Africa? That would be a show you’d need popped corn for.” He stopped a moment in thought. “I dropped the little man from the Aces off with the police, by the way. Left a note about his eyes, just to be polite.”

“I wish the others didn’t have to get away. But taking Fellgaze off the table for a while is a good thing.” George sighed. “So are you ready to do your part?”

“I leave in the morning. Sounds like a good time to be had.”

“There’s really no way I can thank you enough for your help.” said George.

“Nothing to thank me for.” Anansi waved him away. “The Spider goes where he wishes. Your cause, your means… clever and interesting. I couldn’t stay away from something like this. I want to live this new life of mine in your Golden Age, George Chea. But they will be the ones that create it.”

He looked toward the door as if they were still standing there. “I don’t think she’s as angry as all that. After all, you saw the future: you’re invited to the wedding.”

George sat down and considered. “Maybe, but we’ll see how angry she is when she realizes I did nothing to warn her about what happens Wednesday.”

End Issue #49

Series NavigationIssue #50 – Operation: All In >>

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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