Issue #50 – Operation: All In

This entry is part 2 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 5: How the World Changes

Part 3

Impact gave Talbot a heavy lidded glare.

“I’m not dreaming, because you’re not you’re not Silvio Bartolini and your shirt’s on. And I’m not going insane, because when I’m on something, I hallucinate way scarier things than you. So how are you doing it, Talbot?”

Talbot let her comments slide right off. “The same way I managed to get an entire team of psionics… and others… onto the Island: One of our subsidiaries built Braddock Island and the mainland facility that services it. It’s out technology that built the force-redirecting material that keeps you from eventually smashing your way out.”

“Are you going to answer my question?”

He laughed. “Right. There’s a hologram projector built into the camera that monitors you.”

“Good.” She wasn’t becoming any less surly from the chat. “Now tell me why I’m seeing your gob now instead of a year ago when I got tossed in.”

Talbot clicked his tongue. “Oh, I see. You’re feeling unappreciated because we didn’t instantly save you. Keep in mind, Gina, that Braddock Island is the most secure, well protected prison ever built with a dozen heads of state, and three times that many heads of industry with a stake in it.

“They are so desperate to make sure you don’t escape that there’s a nifty little feature built into all the high security cells like yours that the UN and the ACLU don’t know about: if a prisoner in them breaks containment without the tower unlocking certain safeties, your cell gets jettisoned; dropped into the depths of the Gulf.”

He noted her bored expression and wrapped up his explanation. “I’m telling you this so that you’ll know for certain that without the back doors and exploitable flaws the Project had built into this prison twenty years ago, no one escapes unless they have the power of a god. And regarding the actual use of those flaws… well to quote one other great cultural icons of the 20th Century: ‘It’s a neat trick, but I can only do it once’. Once we break anyone out, all of those flaws and back doors are going to be found and fixed.”

Impact folded her arms and looked at him, uninterested. “Those sure were a lot of words. But none of them were; ‘Impact, here’s what I want you to do…’.”

“Somewhere along the way, I’ve forgotten all the complaints your handlers used to pass along. Alright: Impact, here’s what I want you to do…”

***

Abscondro and Talbot’s so called Cadmus Twins emerged from the side of the observation tower and onto a walkway along the edge of the main structure, overlooking the landing decks and the two transports sitting on them. According to plan, the walkway was empty, between passes of the patrols.

“You’re up.” He informed the pair. “Get down there, take down anyone that might disable the transports, then do your dragon thing and take out the anti-aircraft guns. Jack can’t shut those down from inside. Got that?”

“I’m not killing anyone.” Maleficent said.

“Clean is fine. Just make sure they can’t take out the transports.” He threw a mocking salute. “I’ve got my own job, so adios.” And then he walked into the wall.

Beowulf and Maleficent exchanged glances.

“It’s not the far to the ocean.” Beowulf reasoned. “And they’ve got ladders or something to climb out, right?” He looked at the five story tall struts, into which the occasional ladder had been built and the maze of catwalks it led to, designed to be difficult to navigate for a naval assault force. “A long climb.”

His sister carefully got down and swung her legs over the side of the walkway. The draconic claws that tipped her feet now set into the concrete like a high quality grapnel. She remained silent, starting to make her way easily down the side of the structure, hidden from the guards below by the adjacent tower.

“Nothing to say about it?” Asked Beowulf.

“Nothing I say is going to help.” She observed. “Maybe we should do what he said: play ball. Maybe we can at least have some kind of life that way.”

A low growl came from her sibling. “No. After what they did to us? I’ll kill that smirking bastard the first chance I get. I don’t care how long I have to stay in a cell to do it.”

“That smirking bastard can probably hear you right now.” Maleficent jumped, turning her body fully around and setting her claws into the tower wall as they came to a band of metal girding their claws wouldn’t find purchase on.

When Beowulf had done the same, she continued. “I don’t think you really get that they have machines inside us. This is a place that grafted alien DNA to ours. Who knows what tech they have? They might be able to just watch our thoughts like TV.”

“I don’t think I know what you’re getting at.” They reached the lower walkway, which cut between the tower and the receiving area as well as connecting the two landing decks. “And do you want right or left?”

“Right.” She went low, the changes to her physiology even at stage one making four-limbed locomotion just as easy as two. “And what I’m saying is: this isn’t something we can ‘win’. They’ve won. This is them having won. All that’s left is for them to decide how to treat the conquered.”

Beowulf stopped and looked at her, but she was off with quickness no human could manage. He heard a guard somewhere around the corner grunt and hit the ground. Considering his sister’s quick acceptance of what had happened to them, he worried for that man’s life.

***

Under normal circumstances, the guards in the prison levels moved in squads of three: two on point with standard issue variable ammunition rifles with an electrical ‘taser’ round chambered, and a third spotter bringing up the rear carrying a heavy, two handed weapon with no barrel. Instead, it had two fold-down tines like a huge tuning fork on the front, between which cracked a tightly controlled orb of ball lightening. The electrostatic net was capable of immobilizing eighty percent of the prison population if it hit, and disrupted shapeshifters and psychics to boot.

One such squad was following their usual patrol route through sector 7-G. Except something was wrong. All three heard the noise at the same time. Machinery working, liquid gurgling. The guard on left point motioned for the group to stop and touched the com on his shoulder, never once lowering his rifle. “Control, is there any scheduled activity in 7-G today?”

The prison was designed to be inescapable, but prisoners did get released when their sentences were up and in some cases, that meant a long process of disengaging the layers of security that kept them from using their powers for escape. Other times, upgrades or maintenance had to be done and that sometimes entailed sedating or disrupting the powers of the prisoner while it was being done. These were usually noted in the guard logs, but mistakes were sometimes made.

No reply came from the tower.

“Control?” He tried again. He was already reaching for the alarm button concealed in his belt. Considering who some of the inmates were, standard operating procedure was to sound the alarm anytime communications went down. When still no answer came, he pressed it.

Klaxons should have gone off. The lighting should have switched to infrared only to give the specially equipped guards an advantage against most potential escapees. Bulkhead should have started sealing and the orders should have been automatically relayed for guard groups to form up into larger squads.

Exactly none of that happened. The button clicked and nothing happened. Behind him, the spotter tried his own alarm with the same result. The second guard on hers was reaching to do the same with hers when the sound in the hall stopped cycling. The green ‘secure’ light on a door up ahead turned red for ‘ready to release’. Thankfully, it took either a command from the tower, or a guard with a functioning psi defense module to open the door from the outside; it couldn’t be opened from the inside.

“Who is that?” He asked his partner at point.

She pointed her rifle at the door and checked the read out built into about a quarter of the standard guard rifles. It read RFID tags to pull prisoner data from a centralized database. “Sheldon, Gina – assault, attempted murder, accessory to kidnapping, criminal conspiracy. Redirects kinetic energy on conscious and unconscious levels. Gas pellets are recommended, kinetic ammunition highly discouraged.”

“Switching to gas.” The first guard on point said. Even as he cycled in a gas clip and unchambered the stunner, they all pulled masks and goggles from their belts and put them on.

The mechanical sounds were suddenly replaced by thumping. It didn’t have any particular rhythm, but each time it sounded, it was louder.

“What’s she doing?” Asked the spotter.

“Kinetic control.” Replied the guard with the information enabled rifle. “She’s trying to build up enough to break the door.”

“Then stay clear of the door.” Said the first guard. “Containment formation. Downy, have the net ready to hit her as soon as the door goes.”

They moved on the door with military efficiency. The two formerly on point now flanked the door, covering both directions Sheldon could turn upon exiting. The guard with the net device stood to one side with his weapon trained and primed.

The thumping became more regular and deafeningly loud. It was even starting to make the floor vibrate out in the corridor. Then something hit the door. It held, but barely, accompanying the thunderous noise of the impact that deformed it with a sucking pop as the vacuum seals between its two layers ruptured. And the thumping started up anew.

None of the guards moved, all three keeping their weapons at the ready. The first tried to call the tower again and got nothing.

As the thumping approached it’s most cacophonous, they braced. The door couldn’t take that kind of hit again and they knew it. Normally, it was protected by being part of a series of fluid filled wafers that dissipated the force brought to bear against it. With the fluid pumped out, it was mere steel.

When it failed, the sound was like an artillery piece firing into a rock quarry. The enormous force bought against it bent it at a forty-five degree angle in the center and sent it flying hard into the opposite wall.

His mind firmly on his mission, the man holding the net device fired. The contained ball lightening cannoned erratically out from between the twin forks, a comet of energy with a crackling blue tail streaming behind it and back to the power source. It struck home and expanded into a scintillating blue aura that crackled around… a bed frame.

The piece of furniture rose and bobbed off the floor thanks to electromagnetic repulsion for a moment before the mattress that went with it slammed into it, driving it forward, into the hall. It and the arcs of electricity it carried with slammed into the man with the net, taking him out of the fight and causing the two flanking guards to fire, the gas pellets striking the mattress.

Impact dropped it then, letting the mattress’s bulk smother the gas while at the same time using it as a simple springboard that sent her flying at the female guard. She put all of her force in a sweeping blow that hit the guard’s arms, turning her around and more importantly, pushing her rifle off target. It was followed by a hard shove that slammed the woman’s helmet into the wall and wrenched the gun from her arms.

Prisoners on the island were issues slippers as their only footwear, specifically because the smooth soles slipped on the floors in the prison corridors if one moved too quickly. The heat in the halls was kept low to make going barefoot in defiance an unattractive option.

So it was a bare foot that struck the first guard in the face before his comrade even finished falling after her collision with the wall. He raised his rifle, but Impact was already going low. She brought her fists together with his torso in the middle. Ribs cracked and his breath left him. Impact finished him with an uppercut that sent him to the floor hard on his back.

In the aftermath of her escape, she frowned down at her bare feet and then the feet of the female guard. “God, but you have big feet for a woman.” She sneered. Then her gaze fell on the first guard’s boots. “Ah. But you’re pretty dainty for a man. I guess the squad balances out.” She set to work taking his boots.

After all, she couldn’t be expected to go around kicking ass barefoot, she reasoned.

***

Jack was transmitting Braddock Island’s various means of monitoring its population to screens all around Talbot’s mission control. They all showed a carefully orchestrated chaos unfolding.

Here, the psi defenses of a number of guards were compromised, allowing a nearby prisoner to lock them into a nightmare world of his design. Elsewhere, a water elemental and an electricity controller had been released, turning the entire corridor they inhabited deadly. In yet another hub, a freed short range teleporter was tormenting the guards.

The guards, of course, were trying to sound alarms or call for backup any chance they got. None of that had any effect, as Jack blocked all of their transmissions.

At the forty-five minute mark of the breakout, the guard forces had lost control of the highest security prison blocks. Manual bulkhead seals were coming down all over the prison, but when the time came, a hidden command lie could override those.

With his effective run of the prison, Talbot was having Jack uplink him, one at a time to the prisoners on his list. To each, he offered Tome’s version of the king’s shilling:

Within the hour, their cell would open and they were to proceed to the landing deck and the transport ship that would be waiting to take them to an undisclosed location on the mainland. Once there, they had a choice: work for Tome, be handsomely paid and receive training with their powers, or try their luck in a nation that would soon be hunting them like animals.

As expected, he had many takers.

Former Enforcers, Wartorn, Launch, Wolf and Manriki, all duped into the failed mission that pushed Tome to the very brink, readily accepted. They wanted to prove themselves and, if possible, get back and Shine and Brother Wright. Revenge was a helpful tool for Talbot, it meant he didn’t have to offer them nearly the amount of pay they were worth.

But they were just four out of a list of thirty and very few refused passage off the Island. Some even volunteered and vouched for others who would be willing to take Talbot’s deal, swelling a list of thirty, minus four who refused, to forty-three.

Not all of them would actually accept the job, he realized. Probably half would get to shore and decide they stood a better chance alone. It all served his purposes either way.

His big regret was that the man known as Groundswell, the perpetrator of the Greenview Ridge disaster, was still on the Texas mainland, under sedation and awaiting trial. Having him on the loose again would have been an absolute tipping point in the way America saw psionics.

The invincible Braddock Island prison being defeated on such a massive scale would send shock-waves through the country on its own. The public wouldn’t care how it had been done, or the fact that it was a feat that could never be duplicated: they would panic, protest, and call their congressman.

And Congress would have to come up with some massive show of force when they did, because two of their own had been compromised and besides that, it wasn’t their job to do what was good for the nation, or think things through; it was their job to stay popular enough to get reelected.

Over night, psionics would be as feared and hunted as they were… as they had been elsewhere in the world before the damned Descendants Rights Movement started up. But all their work would be reversed in the blink of an eye once news got out about what was happening in the Gulf.

After all, it had worked once before. Speaking of which…

“Stand by on opening the cells.” He ordered Jack. “Give Impact a head start. With luck, she’ll be bringing a special guest with her.”

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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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