Issue #50 – Operation: All In

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

Part 5

Abscondro phased through the prison wall and onto the landing deck. There was a two foot differential between the floor inside and the deck’s surface. He dropped down smoothly. His passenger stumbled and ended up sprawling.

“Remind me again why they bothered keeping you in isolation block, Poindexter?” He smirked at the man on the ground.

A groan escaped the other as he forced himself up on his hands and knees. He was Chinese-American in his late twenties or early thirties and thin in a frail sense instead of the whip-like, dangerous sense. Black fuzz was starting to fill in atop his previously shaved bald head, but not enough to hit the angry red of a number of puckered, crescent shaped welts on his scalp.

“They say they can’t be sure I don’t still have my nanites in me.” He said morosely, but with a tinge of contempt for the reasoning.

Abscondro grabbed the back of his prison jumper and pulled him to his feet like a mother cat helping her kitten. They were within sight of the waiting transport and he could see prisoners loading onto it. “And do you?”

The other man scoffed. “Of course not. Programmable nanites don’t work that way. Unless they’re active, the average human immune system will flush them within a week. Besides, the nanites weren’t in me, the control jack was. And if I were so stupid, it isn’t as if an unaided human nervous system could even control—“

“Got it. You’re powerless.” Abscondro dismissed him. He unzipped his hip pack as they started walking for the transport.

“I shouldn’t be in a prison with psionics. I’m normal, damn it.”

“You’re going to make a lot of friends on the ride back, I’m sure.” Abscondro laughed. “Not that it matters; someone higher up likes your moves.” He pulled a familiar looking metal skull cap and a vial of silver liquid from his hip pouch and handed them to the man he was walking with.

His eyes glittered with avarice. “This is…”

“Put it on, Nerdlinger.” said Abscondro.”

If he heard the insult, he didn’t care at that moment. He uncapped the tube and pouted it into a receptacle in the cap. Then he placed the cap on his head and manipulated a few toggles. For a moment, he hissed in pain was the anchors and neural probes opened old wounds and set themselves.

Then a silver tendril as thin as a lock of hair extended, questing for the rail running along the deck. It made contact and spiderwebs of silver shot the rail through, expanding put for more than a dozen feet along the railing and then down into the steel support below it.

Vibrations ran through the deck and suddenly it was torn apart by dozens of silver lances that pierced and tore apart whatever non-metal stood between them and their goal. When they reached the man, Randal Woo, they didn’t pierce him. Instead, they melted and flowed across his skin, becoming liquid metal armor.

He stood there a while and admired his handiwork while listening to that entire side of the deck collapsing into the ocean. Finally, he turned to Abscondro. “You know, I’ve had nothing to do but think these past months. I believe I have new moves your ‘higher ups’ might enjoy.”

***

“… breakout from the supposedly inescapable super-prison, Braddock Island…”

“… unknown number of corrections officers killed and wounded. The United States Marine Corps Superhuman Intervention Units have been mobilized to restore order…”

“…identified Progress and Liberty Party Senator Mitchell Keyser of Oregon among the assailants and additionally allege that Florida Senator Marsha Betton was impersonated by a metamorph…”

“As many as fifty psionic or cybernetic criminals…”

“President Rosenberg has ordered a full accounting of the facility as soon as the situation there is stabilized…”

“Is violent crime involving psionics on the rise?”

“…In light of the Greenview Ridge incident, many experts say…”

“…Governor Yancy Phillips of New Mexico to ask why the federal government is being trusted with the incarceration of psionic criminals. He advocates the formation of state sanctioned ‘bounty…”

“…question we must all ask ourselves at this time is ‘are any of us truly safe?”

His intercom made a sound like a harp trilling. St. John Duvall didn’t see what was so wrong with a normal buzz, but his daughter insisted on it. “Yes, Serenity.” He answered without letting his reaction to the news feeds he was reading filter into his voice.

“Chastity wants to speak with you, father.” She said. Usually she sounded professional, of upbeat, more upbeat than not when talking about her twin, but now, there was worry in her voice. Because of the things she knew, things he had told her, she knew more than anyone what was happening and what could come of it.

St. John decided to lead by example and show her that he wasn’t afraid. “Good, I was hoping she’d be on top of this before it became twenty-four hours old; I know I can count on all of my girls. Put her through to my cell, please.”

“Yes sir.” Serenity said, sounding a bit more heartened.

He closed the connection to the intercom and a few minutes later, his cell rang. “Yes?”

“You were absolutely right in what their desperation move would be, father.” Chastity’s voice was the same as Serenity’s but Chastity was always deadly serious, bordering on monotone. “As you always said, in its last days, a dying animal will do anything to stay standing.”

“I wish I was wrong.” said St. John. “But looking at the news; they all have the exact same angle; the one that helped Tome the most. Have you found out who their media contact is?”

“I have. That’s why I called. He’s the owner of Global Think Media.”

“Charles Kondo. I know him. IS he in New York now?”

“He is.”

“Good.” St. John said. “Kill him. We need to sever the link.”

“Yes, father.”

“Oh, and Chastity? Make it look like he died because he was secretly preparing a press release defending psionics in the wake of Braddock Island and Greenview Ridge.”

After he hung up with Chastity, he made another call. “Faith, sweetheart. It’s our father. Yes, I hope to see you soon too. Unfortunately, I need you to do something for me. Yes, you can wait until classes are over. But once they are, I need you to perform a search for me… mostly in non-extradition countries…”

***

The living room was barely big enough to hold everyone.

Laurel made a note of this as she watched them discuss and argue among themselves. There had been seven of them at the start, but with Kareem bedridden in the physical realm, it seemed like six.

Then Juniper had arrived and Kareem rejoined with his body and their family had become eight. Lisa didn’t live with them, but after the battle with Inexorable, no one questioned that she deserved a place among them. And she insisted that Occult couldn’t exist if not for Kay’s help, that made their eight into ten.

And finally there was Warrick’s girlfriend, Tink. The girl was sharp and creative. Her genius at design surpassed Ian’s and rivaled Laurel’s own. Like Kay, she didn’t have powers, but that didn’t matter; her contribution made them stronger and better. Especially Warrick and she hadn’t built any devices for him at all.

So there were elven of them now where once there were seven.

Neither of those numbers seemed very big after the past twenty four hours in which they learned exactly how big the thing they were up against was. For all her acclaimed super genius, it had even blindsided her how far Tome’s roots went. They had a congressman. More importantly, they thought it was worth it to throw one away.

And they knew it was Tome. The rest of the world didn’t have access to any of the security footage, but the ROCIC did. Most of it had been destroyed or erased, but something had been left to taunt them; a very clear image of Josiah Colt looking on as he made the guards in the control tower gun each other down. The prisoner records didn’t lie either. Every former Enforcer they had ever put away had been taken off Braddock Island, plus Randal Woo.

Warrick had particular right to be troubled, because Woo and the Former Enforcer/Redeemer, Manriki had both come close to killing him. He didn’t show it though, voicing more concern about whether or not the Liedecker Institute was secure enough in case anti-descendant rhetoric boiled over.

She wished that she could fully reassure him beyond talking in terms of how well the Institute could stand up to an attack, but the news had become swiftly useless. Too many rumors, too much political grandstanding, and not enough solid facts.

At least five governors were floating the idea of fielding some sort of state law enforcement agency to deal with descendants and to pass more laws dealing directly with them. None of the details were well defined and most had unfortunately started to backslide into using ‘psionics’ instead of ‘descendants’ because one had a positive connotation that didn’t sell scare stories. Mandatory testing had come up a lot, but not in any official channels.

And then there was the hell-storm the surrounded the alleged discovery of one Olivia Hyde-White, a woman living in Cuba who bore a striking resemblance to Marsha Betton with a tan. If her identity could be proven and she somehow returned to the states, there was a conspiracy to commit treason charge waiting for her.

There was worry too that Reverend Stiles or one of his former cronies would bring back his old rabble-rousing circuit of seminars and rallies.

And no matter what the news said, it was always from the fear angle. Always against descendants. And to Laurel, that meant only one thing: this was by design.

“Laurel?” The sound of her name made her realize the noise in the downstairs commons had died down. It was Alexis that had asked.

A credit to her intelligence, she replied with, “Eh?”

Alexis had practically grown up as her sister, so she saw nothing new in her friend being emotionally overwhelmed when she hadn’t had time to fully process the situation. She just repeated herself. “We’re… all kind of looking to you for a game plan.”

There was no game plan. There simply wasn’t enough information. But while everyone looked to Alexis in the thick of things, once it was time to think about how to do things off the field, it was Laurel’s burden to shoulder. If she didn’t give them something, they might lose hope.

She nodded to Alexis. “Right… Okay, first thing’s first;” Hypercognition. That was her power. It let her process thoughts more swiftly and efficiently than normal people. To a limited extent, it let her foresee the consequences of her actions based on available data. Now kicking into full gear and spooling out solutions like a stock ticker.

“We don’t know who we can trust anymore. Not if Tome had one, possibly two congress persons in their pocket. That includes the ROCIC. They can call us for help and we’ll help. But until they can prove they’re mole free, no more information gets exchanged; especially about Occult or Kay and Tink’s involvement.”

It felt good to put that together on the fly. And from that, more logically fell into place. “This also means we can’t trust the defense grid they installed anymore. Tome got into Braddock Island somehow and I bet part of it was an in with security. Tink, if you wouldn’t mind, I think you and I need to design a defense grid from scratch to augment the existing one.”

The tall redhead nodded. She’d worn a very serious expression since hearing Metal X was free, despite Warrick’s attempts to make her feel better. “You’ve got it. I can probably sketch a few things we can work with by tonight.”

“Great.” Laurel replied. “Now. All of the anti-descendant stuff. I think that was part of the plan here.”

Ian scowled from where he was leaning against the pool table. “That would mean they’ve got ins in the media too.”

Laurel nodded. “And we shouldn’t be surprised. We’ve uncovered puppet corporations of theirs before. It makes sense that they would have a media arm; almost every major business and political party has at least a share in one these days.”

“Yeah, but to spin all the news that way?” Ian pointed out. “They’d need more than one. I mean even most of the independent blogs have lost their minds to fear over this.”

“Not necessarily.” Laurel pointed out. “Most news depends on the major powerhouses to do the main fact-work. Smaller local concerns and independent bloggers don’t have the staff or budget to have a reporter on the ground at every major event. They pull the facts from trusted neutral sources like the Associated Press, Global Think or Media Minded and dress it up to taste.”

“So if Tome controls, say, the AP, they can change the base material for even the most sympathetic news sources.” Kareem concluded.

“Exactly.” Laurel said.

“But why even bother?” Lisa asked. “It seems like a lot of money and work went into this just to make descendants look bad. Plus, all of the old Enforcers are Descendants themselves.”

Just the act of hearing it put to her this way let Laurel analyze the scenario and come up with a probably motive.

“Because right now, descendants are safe in the US. Even when the Academy was around, no one felt pressured to go. You could still enjoy the same opportunities as anyone else. Descendants from other countries flocked here because of it…

“But if things change for the worse, there would be fewer opportunities. They might roll back protections, let insurance companies charge more or even deny coverage for places that hire descendants for example. And then the only place we could work would be in a business controlled by Tome.”

Alexis wrung her hands. “Just like the Academy. They pretend they care, lure people in with honey… and then you’re trapped.”

“And then they can keep trying to graft their powers into their loyal lackeys.” Ian intoned. Then he slammed his fist on the sofa. “And George couldn’t warn us about this bad future? We could have put this down hard. Even putting Braddock Island on alert could have been enough.”

“This does seem like more than a mere oversight. This was a major event that he almost had to foresee.”

“We don’t even know how what he does works.” Alexis cut them off. “Besides, we didn’t depend on seeing the future before and we sure can’t now. L, what can we do to stop this?”

Laurel frowned, lost in thought for a moment. “I’m going to have to think about it. We’re going to need one hell of a PR blitz and unfortunately, our good faith and credit is mostly limited to Virginia.”

Warrick tentatively raised his hand and actually waited for Laurel to acknowledge him. “But… we’re not the only ones that have it, right? The faith thing.” He looked to Juniper, who was sitting on the floor with her back against the couch.

“Jun, your mom and dad are like folk heroes in the southwest. And if you’ve still got it, Ms. Brant, we can contact The Whitecoat. I bet he knows all the cape in the NYC.” His confidence built as he spoke, backed in part by words he’d heard earlier in the week. About how one day, there might be a golden age where all of them worked together. “And maybe we can figure out how to get in touch with The Shade up in Chicago, and Rapscallion and the Miscreants down south… “

Cyn grinned and joined in. “What do you bet half of these guys check PrelateWatch religiously anyway? If we put out the call, how can they say no? If they roll out shit like in France with drafts and mandatory testing, they’ll be screwed over too.”

Even Laurel was surprised by this idea. When Alexis declared to the world that they were The Descendants after the Redeemer incident, the only previous ‘prelate team’ had been Cyn, Warrick and Juniper as Lifesavers, Inc. There had been partnerships, usually implied to be romantic, but never a team.

That was changing. The Rapscallion in Georgia had pulled together a team to fight the gangs. None of the heroes in New York had made anything official, but it wasn’t uncommon to hear about Whitecoat, Barn Owl and Urban Amazon in particular working together.

Maybe it was time they all got to know each other. Time for the eleven that had been seven to get much larger.

End Issue #50

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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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