Issue #7: Legacy of One

This entry is part 8 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 1: Welcome to Freeland House

Mystic Spiral Part 3

The bus dropped the four young psionics off at the bottom of the mountainous steps leading up to Freeland House.

“Oh, man, are we going to have to climb these things every day when we get off the bus?” Warrick groaned. “It’s bad enough that Mr. Bevilacqua plans on making us do laps every day before gym.”

“I’d do laps all freaking day if I didn’t have to take the useless classes I got saddled with.” Cyn grimaced. Somehow, the school had managed to switch most of her class requests with Melissa’s resulting in her not only being separated from all of her friends most of the day, but also in her class load being as appealing to her as watching linoleum peal.

“It can’t be that bad.” Juniper said, “I only got two classes I wanted and I think things will go just fine.”

Cyn managed not the glare at her perpetually sunny housemate. More than once, she wondered if her almost irrational optimism was the result of brain damage or a mask for some sort of seeking psychotic rage boiling just beneath the surface.

“Let me put it this way,” the white haired girl finally said, “Humanity’s been around like eighty thousand years. In that time, we’ve had like thousands of religions with gods and other divine honchos. That’s like maybe a million gods, right?”

The others nodded as they began to ascend the stairs.

“Right.” Cyn affirmed. “Well, after today, I can say with certainty that every single one of them hates me.”

“Now you’re just being melodramatic.” Warrick said.

“Nope.” Cyn shook her head. “And it’s not just the class thing. Have you ever heard of ‘conserv’ girls? They’re like the new obnoxious clique around here or something – a cross between the fashion police and poster girls for a vapid lifestyle. And they’re in like every single one of my classes except drama.”

“Those drama lessons are already paying off.” Melissa muttered with a roll of her eyes.

If Cyn heard her, she didn’t acknowledge. “So apparently, white hair is ‘out’ or something, so I had to hear about it like ten times every period!”

“Can’t you just recolor your hair – like at will?” Warrick asked and Juniper nodded her head in agreement.

“That’s not the point!” Cyn exclaimed, “It’s the principle of the thing. I’m hell bent on shoving their faces in it… or hitting them, I’m not sure which yet. In any event, I wouldn’t have gotten a moment’s peace today if it wasn’t for Liz von Stoker.”

“Is that a new friend of yours?” Juniper asked. She decided to keep the fact that the conserv girls all seemed to like her to herself. The tried and true cynic, Cyn already had a hard enough time getting along with her and she didn’t want to push her luck.

“Not really. More like fellow victim” Cyn explained. “They ignored my white hair to attack her bone spurs.”

“Bone spurs?” Melissa blinked, her curiosity forcing her into the conversation. “What?”

Cyn nodded, pausing on a landing. “Little bone nubs coming out of her arm.” She indicated a line from the back of her middle finger down to her elbow to illustrate. “She’s a protomorph.”

All four knew what the term meant. A protomorph was someone who developed the ability to change their shape or biology once and only once and they were stuck with the result. These ranged from changes in skin coloration to truly aberrant physiology like gills or segmented eyes.

Protomorphs were exemplary of the attitude the government and the Academy took with psionics; those with exploitable powers were given essentially a free ride for life; free schooling and guaranteed work under government contract. Those that didn’t – the ones that drain batteries in consumer electronics faster than normal, have a perpetual static charge, or who can change their eye color at will – weren’t given a second thought.

The public acceptance of psionics as ‘citizen assets’ wasn’t extended to people with unusual, but fairly useless physical manifestations like Elizabeth van Stoker. As far as society was concerned, she was just a freak.

Everyone looked at one another uncomfortably for a moment. Elizabeth’s situation was the polar opposite from theirs, but the similarities were there and they were disturbing.

“So…” Juniper began, hoping to get everyone’s minds off the discomfort. “How was your day, Melissa?” The second she asked the question, she saw her mistake, even without the glare from Melissa.

“I have all of Cyn’s classes, except for my computer courses.” It was Melissa’s turn to grimace. “This is going to be my second time taking both American History and Spanish because we can’t very well show them my original records.” Mentally, she considered the fact that ten more years of American history had gone by since the last time she had taken it.

“Whatever.” Cyn sighed, starting up the stairs again. “I’m going to change, then hop a cab into town to meet Kay and Lisa. Anyone coming with?”

“I’ll share a cab with you, but I need to hit downtown to take reference pictures for Ms. Cruz’s class, ”Warrick said, ”We’re jumping right into our first week’s projects and I figure a nice cityscape as seen from one of the high rooftops would be pretty cool.”

“I’ll come.” Juniper said. “Kay’s been talking about drafting me as Snackrifice’s singer all month. Maybe we can talk shop.”

All three looked at Melissa who made a face. “I actually wouldn’t mind stopping by the bookstore today, but I promised to tell Kareem everything about today, so maybe next time.”

***

Vincent Liedecker picked up his office phone before the sound of the first ring had even died in his ears. “Speak.” He ordered as if giving a command to a dog, which is exactly what he thought of it as. Only a handful of people knew the number and they all knew better than to call for minor problems.

“Rick Charlotte, sir.” The voice on the other end said. “I’m ready to patch you in on the street level cameras.”

“Good.” Liedecker said. “You have that face recognition software you mentioned running?”

“If Farnsworth crosses to within a block, we’ll know it, sir.”

“That’s what I want to hear, Charlotte.” The secret strongman of the Mayfield underworld said. In the weeks since the thief had disappeared with Liedecker’s painting, Portrait of Morganna le Fay by Unknown, he had mustered a substantial dragnet to find her and bring her in.

The previous day had yielded the first lead in that time. A camera monitor, formerly affiliated with Brother Wright, had spotted Tatiana Farnsworth entering City Central Library. Some simple analysis by Rick Charlotte had revealed that she had printed off ever single Scribe article about the prelate team, Life Savers, Inc and several more about psionics in general. That had increased the priority of bringing her in ten fold in Liedecker’s eyes.

Charlotte had also discovered that Farnsworth had spent a disproportionate amount of time at the website of the DeFilippis Center, a small, local archeological museum. For all the world, it appeared that Farnsworth, the infamous Lady Nightshade, was casing the museum for a robbery.

But Liedecker hadn’t come into power by taking things at face value. He had taken control of Mayfield by knowing his enemies and exploiting that knowledge. He’d had Charlotte check further into the DeFilippis Center and found that it held very little in the way of monetarily valuable discoveries. Several of its pieces had rich historical significance, but their price tags would be beneath the notice of the thief of Farnsworth’s caliber.

“This is a setup.” Liedecker said as the street camera views appeared on his computer screen.

“Pardon sir?” Rick asked.

“Setup, Charlotte. A trick, a run around. She’s playing with us.”

“What do you mean, sir? She couldn’t have known we’d spot her through public security cameras.” Rick sounded nervous and was right to be.

“Think on that, a second, you snot brained idjiot.” Liedecker rumbled. “Nightshade’s the kind that loves attention. She leaves pieces of belladonna with lipstick on them at crime scenes for God’s sake.”

“I’m not following sir.”

“Open your useless brain, Charlotte.” Liedecker said in his drawl. “She knows how to get attention without getting caught. If she’s smart enough to get past hidden cameras, she can damn well get past the public ones with the big signs saying ‘this is a goddamn government camera’. She’s trying to get someone’s attention, you dumb little worm!”

“With all due respect, sir…” Rick stammered, “If this is a trap, why are we sending our guys into it?”

“Because they, like you, are expendable, Charlotte.” Liedecker stated the honest truth. “If we catch her, perfect, if she catches them, they weren’t worth being part of the organization. It’s all a matter of risk versus reward.”

***

The long winter coat made her stand out even before any of Liedecker’s men inside the DeFilippis Center heard her stream of consciousness muttering. She hadn’t even bothered to put up the fur lined hood to hide her face. Tatiana Farnsworth was certainly not acting like the woman who had insulted and robbed the most powerful man in Mayfield.

She ignored the eyes on her back, striding across the hardwood rotunda of the museum toward an exhibition room containing the museum’s spoils from a dig in the south of France. Once there, she moved more slowly, her eyes closed. She seemed to be sniffing the air.

The first thug made his move. A stun gun slipped out of his suit pocket as he stepped behind her. There were no worries about getting caught – the curator and staff had been paid handsomely. Trying to be silent, he stepped up behind her.

The thief moved with a fluid grace that was almost inhuman. She dropped into a crouch and swept his legs out from under him with a well placed kick. He exclaimed as he fell. “You… aren’t… aren’t who I wanted.” Morganna studied him with an alien expression.

Ignoring the fallen man and the other three toughs that were closing on her, she wandered over to a heavy oak chair. The placard set on the velvet rope that separated patrons from the antique furniture proclaimed that it had been carved from a single contiguous piece and told of the date of it’s discovery and probable age. There was also a notation about it’s unusual lightness.

Morganna chuckled. “They… they never would have found it… They can’t feel it…”

“Hands up, Farnsworth.” One of Liedecker’s men, a stout Asian man with a thick moustache ordered. He held a pistol and kept his distance, wary of the fate of the man who had closed with her.

Morganna leaned over and touched the seat of the chair. It thrummed with the power hidden within. The object’s presence had been revealed to her in a portentous dream and it had taken days of learning from Tatiana Farnsworth’s memories to navigate the information caches of this world to find this place.

“I said hands up!” The man with the gun ordered. The others stood behind him. One of them also held a pistol. The other looked as if he was prepared to fight barehanded.

“I don’t… don’t want… any of you.” Morganna didn’t take her eyes off the chair. The spell concealing the compartment was complex – it was a wonder it had survived this long.

The first gunman brandished his weapon again. “I don’t care what you want. You’re coming with us, bitch! Now turn around right now!”

Morganna’s eyes flashed dangerously. “I said…” She span, drawing on Lady Nightshade’s psionic power as she did. An invisible blade of force bisected the gunman’s weapon before severing his thumb and cutting a thin, but deep gash in his arm. “I DON’T WANT ANY OF YOU!” Before the gunman could scream, Morganna was in motion, hand blurring as she called up magic to lay her enemies low.

***

Morganna emerged from the museum, stowing something unwieldy into the sack at her hip. She looked sullen as she looked around the street as if expecting someone to show up. Someone did.

A nearby vending machine flickered and faded away, its holographic image no longer required. Passerby gawked in confusion as the black lacquered plates of the Sky Tyrant powered armor shown in the orange light of the setting sun.

“I suggest all citizens leave the area immediately.” A deep, digitally altered voice resonated from the armor’s speakers. The armor’s new, articulated hand raised and pointed at Morganna. “I’m here for her.” The declaration was punctuated by a plasma lance emerging from the armor’s right forearm.

As the crowd began to panic and disperse, now certain that this was definitely not a new kind of police powered armor like those employed in New York, Morganna regarded it with sudden interest. “You… aren’t what I wanted. But… but… you are different. I want your machine.”

Inside the armor, Scuff leered. “Maybe after you see the boss, baby. But for now come along quietly so I don’t have to bruise that pretty face too bad, huh?”

Morganna made a gesture and the Sky Tyrant was rocked by an unseen force. Readouts on Scuff’s heads up display indicated that a powerful focused blast had just impacted the shields and armor across his chest. Morganna looked just as shocked as Scuff.

“That… that should have taken your heart out!” She raged. “What manner of… being are you?”

“The name’s Sky Tyrant.” Scuff said, activating flight systems to hover a few feet off the ground. “Now that whatever you just did didn’t work, I think it’s time I grab you by the hair and drag you back to the boss caveman style.”

Morganna was taken aback. Even against the psionics that had defeated her Ape Knight, her stolen psionic power had managed to do at least small wounds. This machine with a man inside hadn’t even been scratched. She needed to see what the beast was capable of. “We… we shall see.” She said, drawing a long, grey feather from her bag.

With a word of power, the feather lofted into the air and began circling her as if caught in the wind. After a single orbit, one feather became two, then two became four, and four became eight. Soon, a storm of feathers roared around Morganna in a flurry.

Thoroughly confused, Scuff backed the Sky Tyrant way from the freak storm of feathers.

There was a flash of light and the feather cloud parted to reveal Morganna—now sporting a quartet of grey feathered wings. Laughing with manic glee, the sorceress took to the sky.

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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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