Issue #56 – Family Matters

This entry is part 8 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 5: How the World Changes

Part 6

It took an hour for them to get done with the MPD and the ROCIC. The stint was recovered, Maleficent was on her way to a military holding facility until they could figure out exactly what she was, and the Chaos had been given promises that when answers came, the Descendants wouldn’t be out of the loop.

As he trusted the promise as far as he could punt it, he told them that ‘Turmoil’ was a fan with similar powers and that the ROCIC shouldn’t worry, because he’d been scared straight.

Upon hearing what happened, Alexis doubled back got the car, plus some changes of clothes for the brothers. The ride back to Freeland House was quiet; neither brother feeling the need to poke at the other for once.

Everyone was waiting for them in the downstairs commons, ready to greet them with their personal praise. Loudest among them was Maxwell.

“My boys.” He said proudly “We saw some of the footage: you both looked good out there. Kinda made me wish I was twenty years younger and had power so I could mix it up right there with you.”

“Trust me, dad,” Issac found an empty spot on the couch, cleared for him by Lydia, and sat down heavily on it. “You do not want to wish that. It’s a thrill, but it’s also hell. Fireproof cape or not, we were one mistake from intensive care the whole time. And… what happened to the blue guy… “

Kylie nodded in sympathy. “Yeah, what was that? It was like he turned into mist.”

“He may have.” said Laurel, “But I’ve got some analysis running on the data transmissions that happened just before that. I think they might be connected. Maybe Tome decided to kill him instead of risking capture, maybe it was some sort of sense disruptor that let him escape… there are a thousand possibilities.”

“At least you got the green one.” Nicole pointed out.

“Though I’m not sure I approve of you striking a lady.” Maxwell added with a humorous twinkle in his eye.

Ian chuckled and leaned on the pool table, not wanting to take anyone’s seat. “That last part was more of a tackle in any event. I don’t think your lessons ever covered tackles, dad.”

“I’m just glad that none of you boys was hurt.” said Grandma Maximoff, “And I have to say, it was very entertaining. Thought not as entertaining as the news video of you fighting those men on top of the train with the man in armor.”

Lydia grinned at seeing her grandmother getting into the conversation. “I don’t know, Gram, my newest favorite is the aftermath of Lexy dropping that plane on the bypass.”

“Or the truck off the bridge.” added Anita. “Lexy, you seem to be involved a lot when vehicles explode.”

Before Alexis opened her mouth to defend herself from the joke, Ian interrupted. “But anyway, I’m really sorry that this had to happen and interrupt the whole ‘family togetherness’ weekend we had planned. Chaos just seems to pop up whenever we try to do anything.”

“And this time, so did Turmoil.” laughed Alejandro. It took a very short time for snippets of sound clips from Chaos’s exchange with the ROCIC field liaison found their way on the internet and Kylie had been quick to let everyone know Issac’s codename the moment it hit PrelateWatch.

“Ugh.” said Issac. “Even if I ever want to do the prelate thing again, I am not using that name again. It makes no sense. Neither does Chaos, by the way.”

Ian shrugged and pointed at Laurel and Alexis. “Don’t blame me for it. That all came from these two.”

Everyone looked at the two he indicated. Laurel was holding in laughter while Alexis became indignant. “It sounded cool in high school, okay?”

“So did Darkness.” Laurel chuckled. “You should have just let them call you Void-storm.”

“Darkness fits my powers.” said Alexis, feigning insult. “And Void-Storm sounds like someone who wears dark make-up and cried over how the world doesn’t understand them.”

“…which is pretty much what Darkness from the comics does.” Kylie offered.

Alexis groaned. “We really have to have a talk with Sanctum.”

Laurel raised any eyebrow. “Yes, it’s invite Sterling Jackson and Lauren Clay-Moore to your wedding. Oh! And you can get married in costume and invite the Whitecoat, and Majestrix, and Zero Point. Maybe we can contact the Kin and get Rain to be flower girl!”

“Sarcasm noted.” Alexis made a face at her.

“Who said I was being sarcastic?”

Alexis stared at her, looking her right in the eye. Finally, she was forced to look away. “Yeah… no.”

“It would be an amazing publicity stunt for Descendants Right Worldwide.” Ian walked up behind her and poked her playfully in the ribs.

“I hope you both know that mom will personally kill you all if you try to make this wedding into a gimmick.” Victoria pointed out. Anita didn’t correct her.

And so began discussions about the wedding, for which there wasn’t even a date set, and that led to Nicole’s wedding, which led to a million other topics, very few of which involved powers or villains. To the rest of the world, they were heroes or oddities. Here, they were family and that was that.

***

“Cellular regeneration approximately twelve percent that of the donor organism… still phenomenally fast, considering…”

“Immunity to the anesthetic…”

“…survived and repaired… unsurvivable…”

“…transcription errors on the cellular level, but not…”

Beowulf wasn’t fading in and out of consciousness, he was just finding it hard to focus. He had no idea what those words were anyway, and they were far less important than the overpowering pins and needles sensation that raced over his body.

It felt like nothing he’d ever felt before, as if someone had invented a knife that could inflict that feeling and then slashed him repeatedly across the chest, arms and especially his gut.

It was in his wings and tail too. He was still in his draconic form. That made it worse; not just because there was more of him to feel it in, but his extra sharp senses also allowed him to be assaulted by the antiseptic stench of wherever he was as well as the cold of the table he lay on.

Either no one thought to strap him down, or they thought he was too badly injured to move. Both seemed equally likely, judging by the reactions of the doctors moving about the infirmary when he sat up.

He didn’t care if they were surprised or afraid or not. He had other worries. His quick look around the small room made them worse.

“My sister.” He rumbled, throat dry and swollen. “Where is she? Was she hurt.”

One the doctors, a middle aged woman, was brave enough to approach him, mostly out of sympathy for his question.

“She missed the beam. Probably lucky she did, as badly as you got hurt by it. The government took her.”

That felt like a win. Mary Anne was out. She might even find a cure while in government hands. But that also meant that he was now alone and at Tome’s mercy.

Beowulf tossed his head and groaned. “Well what happened then? What beam? I saw this flash and then… everything hurt.”

“That was the beam.” offered the doctor. “I don’t know the specifics, but it tears you apart and send the particles along on microwave burst. They’ve been experimenting with it for years but… I’m going to be honest you landed in pieces. You should have died instantly.”

“But I couldn’t.” He said in a low voice.

“Rumor says they spliced you with alien DNA. Whatever it was, it saved your life.”

“Yeah. Hooray for me. I get to be forced into working for this damn place some more.”

The doctor hesitated. “You’re not an agent?”

“Save yourself the trouble: I’m too beat up to try and break for it now.”

“Still, protocol says…”

He glared at her, making her shiver. “Was it protocol to us some kind of beam on me that tore me apart?”

“That wasn’t my department.”

“I don’t care.” He lay back down and tried to get his mind off the tingling feeling all over his body. “And if you’re so afraid, why not just call in and have them snap me back to human mode?” The doctor was silent for too long, and Beowulf turned his head to look at her. “What?”

She looked away. “It’s just that… again, this isn’t my area of expertise… but the transcription errors caused some fundamental changes at the genetic level. You… can’t be transitioned back.”

A cold feeling that had nothing to do with biology or the beaming technology formed in his chest, spreading out to fill him. He forgot about the pins and needles, forgot about his captivity, even forgot about his sister’s uncertain fate.

All he knew was that his one last shred of hope was gone. He would be Beowulf forever, doomed to forget the face and name of Philip Gold. Shuddering, not even knowing if he could cry in this form, he closed his eyes tightly and prayed that this was all a lie.

***

The ROCIC employed so called ‘hard cells’ for superhuman prisoners. Cubes of layered concrete, steel, ceramic and glass wrapped in a Faraday cage and connected to the main base by umbilici rigged with explosive and electromagnetic bolts, they were the ‘quick and dirty’ solution to most superhuman offenders while they awaited transport.

Maleficent had been held in one for five days. She’d been awake for three of those. In cases involving descendants and psionics, special court orders could be obtained to keep them sedated up to a week until containment could be established.

A public defender had spoken to her via the comm system. There was a plea bargain on the table if she informed on TOME. She argued that she couldn’t, that they had her brother and could retaliate at any time. He informed her that her trial wouldn’t be public, and neither would any information she gave.

She told him she’d think about it.

That had been two days ago.

Now the world seemed to be running on clockwork. Every morning, an alcove in the wall would open and she showered. When she got out, a tray of food was waiting for her. She sent it back through a slot and then her public defender would check in. She still hadn’t made up her mind and he wasn’t authorized to give her any more assurances.

The food tray would return for lunch and again for dinner. In between, another alcove opened and she could watch television, read off the screen, or listen to music.

Day in. day out.

She wished they hadn’t found a way to lock her out of her draconic form before she woke up; she could have at least practiced with her powers. But that was probably the point.

With nothing else to do, she laid back on her cot and half-watched some dramatic series she didn’t know the name of. There was a bitter irony to the fact that the episode she happened to be watching was about a brother and sister. The brother was deeply upset that the sister abandoned the family years ago when they were in dire straits.

Part of her wondered if someone was tinkering with the cable feed to mess with her; the day before, she’s stumbled across a movie called Toruc the Dragonslayer.

Before she could put much though into this, the television suddenly cut out and the alcove slid shut. That normally happened right before dinner arrived, but there was an hour at least before then. Maleficent sat up.

A klaxon sounded from speakers in the ceiling, followed by a digitized, male voice. “Prisoner: Stand at the center of your cell. Arms to your sides. Feet together.” As it spoke, a section of the floor lit up, showing her where she needed to stand. The voice returned to the top of the loop and repeating it.

That hadn’t happened before. Maleficent hesitated. What exactly would happen to her if she stood in the that spot. The voice droned on to the third repetition. When it finished, it added an addendum: “Failure to comply will result in chemical immobilization.”

Well that solved the mystery of what would happen if she didn’t stand in that spot. She slid off the cot and stepped onto the glowing square. When she did, the voice subsided and a new alcove slid open directly in front of her.

This one didn’t contain a shower, toilet or television. Instead, it contained marines. A squad of six men and women, all armed with state of the art pulse rifles and protective gear strategically entered and took up positions around the room, weapons trained on her.

When the squad leader signaled the all clear, General Pratt entered, a dour expression in his face.

“Mary Ann Gold.” He said, withdrawing a palmtop from his front pocket and consulting it. “Three stays in juvenile hall for petty theft, shoplifting… five community service sentences for the same. Numerous adult convictions for breaking an entering, unlawful entry, the entire constellation of theft charges… almost all of them involve you being caught with your brother. Nothing in the past five years, but I’m chalking that up to you getting good at what you do.”

Maleficent remained silent.

Pratt nodded and walked around her, pacing a slow circle. “So it surprises me that you resurfaced and were captured in an amateur fashion under orders from an organization that has recently and covertly been recognized as enemies of the state. In case you weren’t aware, that’s treason, Miss Gold.”

“I’ll tell you what I told my lawyer.” She said, “I didn’t have a choice. They did things to us. What you think are our powers…”

“I know.”

She stopped and stared at him. “What happened to attorney-client privilege?”

“Still intact.” said Pratt. We have other methods of divining your story.

Psychics, she realized. Tome was always on the look out for them and made no secret of that even to her. It seemed the ROCIC was one step ahead of them in that department.

Pratt read her expression and nodded. “I don’t like doing it, but sometimes, it becomes necessary. We know everything, including how you started to enjoy what your powers gave you. What’s important to me is that you didn’t enjoy working for Tome and that you do want to help your brother.”

“Is this another plea bargain offer? I told my lawyer I’d think about it.”

“Not my department.” He waved off the idea. “This is a job offer. Recent events had put Congress on edge and has the president scrambling about his reelection. They want the US to have a team to keep the rogues in check and let the politicians take credit for. I want a civilian component of the ROCIC to help fight TOME where their eyes and ears can’t penetrate.”

Maleficent didn’t need to think about it. She needed to do something and she couldn’t do it in a cell. “I’m in.”

Pratt nodded. “Welcome to the ROCIC Civil Ops.”

End Issue #56

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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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