Issue #7: Legacy of One

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

Part 3

“You’re looking a little spacey.” Alexis observed as she got out of the pool. She had caught Ian watching the ice melt in his soda.

“Eh?” Ian jumped a bit at the sudden noise. “Oh, sorry, I was just thinking.” He shrugged and took a drink.

Alexis made an amused sound as she picked up her towel from the back of a chair and briskly began drying her hair. “About anything interesting?” She asked from within the blue terrycloth depths of the towel.

Ian shrugged again. “Not really. I was just thinking that it’s been nice and peaceful lately. I never thought things would get back to normal so quickly. Especially after the whole Morganna thing.”

“I wouldn’t call this ‘normal’” Alexis sat down in the chair Laurel had previously occupied. “We’re still on the run for all intents and purposes and you and Laurel are three thousand miles from home.”

“Seattle was nice, yeah.” Ian said, “But this is nice too.” He put every ounce of optimism he had behind his voice. “I mean we’re basically living a millionaire lifestyle thanks to Mr. Brant’s very shady bank accounts. No need to fight two hours of traffic to get to work, or even having to work period. We’re free to pretty much do whatever we want.”

Alexis blinked. She had never considered the positive aspects of their current situation. There were definite perks; living in what was essentially a mansion, a brand new car, having her two dearest friends back in her life again… But she never took time to consider it in the midst of all her worries about the kids and being found by the Academy.

“You never thought of it that way.” Ian seemingly read her mind.

“What makes you think that?” she asked slowly.

“Because you haven’t really let yourself think of it. You’ve been wound extremely tight the last four months. I’ve never seen you nearly as freaked as this thing with the Academy has you. I-I’m… worried about you.”

Alexis shook her head. “Who said I was freaked out? Or tightly wound for that matter?” her voice came out more shrill than she intended.

“No one had to, Alexis. Granted, I hadn’t seen you in a couple of years before this all happened, but I refuse to believe you’ve changed that much from the girl I knew back in school.” Ian fidgeted with his drink. He hadn’t intended to push this far. He hadn’t intended to push at all, but he thought that this was something Alexis needed.

“You changed.” Alexis said defensively. “You’re way more confident than you were before. And more assertive too. We’d never have had this conversation back in the day.”

“Yeah, but you haven’t, Alexis.” Ian asserted. “I’ve seen you let your guard down. When you get all amped up and the adrenaline makes you forget all the crap that’s been put on you; like when we were in Florida, or Raleigh – hell just after the fight at the zoo, you were almost totally back to your old self for a while.”

Alexis’s eyes flashed dangerously. “The old me would have gotten us killed, Ian. Back then, I would have fought the Academy tooth and nail until the Enforcers killed me.” She shook her head, “But now I’m not the only one I have to look out for. Those kids…”

“Those kids do a pretty good job handling themselves.” Ian said. “Otherwise, with all the time they spend out of the house, I’m sure we’d have heard about some extraordinary gratuitous uses of power.”

“But someone still has to—“

“I’m not saying we should abandon them, Alexis. Hell, I’m going to be honest and say I’m going to miss them when we finally get them back where they belong. But we have to live our own – wow…” Ian blinked at his own words.

“What?” Alexis inclined her head in confusion.

“Nothing, I just gave this same speech before to Warrick.” Ian suddenly stood up. “Look, I suck at giving advice, so let’s do it this way—how about you and I go out tonight? Catch a movie, have some dinner – maybe find a club that plays music other than the crap that’s been out the last couple of years.”

“Are you serious?” Alexis asked, staring at him as if he’d grown a second head.

“Of course I am.” Ian said. “You need to get out of the house and away from worrying about the kids. They’re not even at home now, so what better time to play hooky?”

Chewing her lip, Alexis thought on it. She really had put her all into being den mother around Freeland House. But Ian didn’t understand how much of this she felt was her fault… her responsibility. “Ian, I don’t understand how you can be so…”

“Impulsive? Exciting?” Ian guessed with the parody of an arrogant smirk on his lips.

“I was going to say reckless, but I think I was being too harsh.”

“You should make it up to me then.” Ian grinned, “By buying the popcorn.”

***

Warrick was sitting at one of Laurel’s work benches, nervously fiddling with some spare parts when she entered the workroom. He was so absorbed in what he was doing, that he didn’t notice her.

“Is that an electromagnet?” She asked, peering over his shoulder.

The young Italian fumbled the length of wire he had been coiling with his powers and sat bolt upright. “Uh… kind of. I used to build these sorts of things all the time when I was little. Sort of a hobby. I was a pretty nervous kid and it helped me relax.” He ran a hand through his hair. “I once made a magnetic grapple strong enough to hold Tammy – my little sister – up. Of course, that was before my powers started… and I didn’t really need that kind of thing anymore.”

Laurel sat down and took a look at what he’d been working on. “You’ve wanted to be a prelate since before the word was even in the media, haven’t you? I mean, I don’t think you just wanted a grapple launcher just to torment your sister.”

“She liked playing the guinea pig, actually.” Warrick smiled at the memory. “Until she got old enough to try the same thing on me.” He stared straight ahead for a moment. “I wonder how she’s been getting along… you know, without me. She was upset about the idea of me going off to school. Me being gone for this long must…” He shut his mouth with an audible clack, but the thought was still in his head.

“You’ll see her again.” Laurel reassured. “It’s only a matter of time before we figure something out.”

“Let’s, uh, not talk about this anymore.” Warrick said, picking up his book bag and letting the tentacles extract the heavy book. “We need to deal with this thing right now. Morganna was pretty confident she could deal with me with it.”

Laurel traced the inward spiraling triangle that was pressed into the leather cover of the book. “Then why did she leave it?”

“The thug in the black powered armor – she called him Sky Tyrant – he shot her and she dropped it. Then she sort of fixated on him and his suit. She’s freaky. Kind of like a kid with no attention span.”

One of Laurel’s many computer screens sprang to life of its own volition and Kareem’s image appeared. The rosy haze of the Astral Plane rippled strangely around him. “I do not mean to interrupt.” Kareem apologized, “but a strange phenomenon is occurring on the Astral Plane.”

“Another astral storm?” Laurel asked, wheeling her chair over to the screen. “We just found out Morganna’s active again and she may be using whatever magic that caused the original ones again.”

“It is not the same.” Kareem shook his head. “Where I compared the original storms to a large object thrown into a pool, what is happening now is similar to a hard rain on the surface of the pool. Many, many small events are happening in rapid succession and it is having an effect on the integrity of the Astral itself.”

“You’re the expert on this subject, Kareem, what does that sort of thing mean? What could be causing it?” Laurel asked.

“I cannot speculate on what could be causing it, Ms. Brant. But I can already sense things on the Material Plane that I would not normally be able to. The interference is destabilizing the boundary between the two planes. I cannot imagine what far reaching effects this might…” he trailed off. “That book…”

Warrick blinked. “What, you’ve seen it before?”

“No, I have not. However, that book exists on the Astral Plane as well. And it looks very different from this side.”

“I don’t get it…” Warrick frowned.

“I don’t expect you to, Warrick.” Laurel explained. “Most people wouldn’t. You see, the Astral Plane is a world of ambient energy – the energy that psionics with mental powers manipulate to affect other minds. Think of it like a dreamscape, except the dreams are made up of emotions. Physical things on this plane don’t normally show up on the Astral.”

She waited for Warrick to nod that he understood. “The only way things show up on the Astral is if they left an emotional impression on someone. The emotional echoes make a sort of shadow copy in the Astral. A lot of couples spent their honeymoons or romantic weekends at Freeland House, for example, so Freeland House shows up on the Astral.” She picked up a stress ball from beside her main keyboard. “Things like this stress ball don’t have Astral shadows because there’s not enough emotion applied to it.”

Kareem nodded. “But this book… it has a strong enough emotional resonance, that it is physically both in your world and this one. In fact, there is writing on the cover on this side… It says ‘The Book of Reason’”

“Reason’s never been Morganna’s strong suit.” Warrick said, “Is this thing to make her less… whack-job? Or maybe it’s like a spell book? I mean she is like some medieval spellcaster, right?”

“I wouldn’t rule anything out when it comes to her.” Laurel said, “But you should leave that to me. For now, I’m more concerned that she’s out on the prowl again. I want you to go back into town and fill Cyn and Juniper in on what’s going on.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier to call them?”

“Safety in numbers, young Kaine.” Laurel said sagely. “call them on the way, but I want Lifesavers, Inc at full strength if Morganna shows up again.” She looked over at Kareem’s image on the computer. “Meanwhile, Kareem, would you be so kind as to help me study this book? Since we know Morganna can manipulate the Astral, there maybe something more to it’s presence on the Astral Plane than simple emotional resonance.”

“Of course, Ms. Brant. Anything I can do to help.” Kareem said.

“Great. Let’s get on it then. There’s not telling what that woman is up to.”

***

“We have signal.” Rick Charlotte’s voice said. “No visuals yet, but diagnostics are coming in now, sir.” There was a pause. “Something’s not right though. Some of these systems are reading at over one hundred percent capacity.”

“I don’t really give a damn about readings, Charlotte; just find out what the hell that little bitch Farnsworth did to my expensive machinery.” Liedecker snapped.

Scuff groaned and rolled over on his stomach. His body hurt all over, like severe sunburn. “I’m…” He groaned, getting up onto his knees. “Up, sir. I think I need a doctor before…” He stopped, opening his eyes.

He was still in the factory. It was still dark, lit only by candles, meaning he had either been unconscious a very short time or a very long time. A few wisps of acrid smoke drifted up from the pentacle burned in the floor around him. Then it hit him – he was in his flight suit and nothing else.

“Visuals are back.” Rick noted. “Singer, stop panning the cameras so fast, I can’t get any clean visuals.”

Ignoring the odd statement, Scuff grit his teeth. “The armor’s gone.” He said bitterly. “The bitch took it.” Breathing hard, he looked around. “Where are you anyway?”

“What in the hell are you talking about, Singer?” Liedecker demanded.

Realization dawned on Scuff. Rick and Liedecker weren’t in the room. But if the armor was gone, so were its communications systems and headset. “How can I hear them?” He asked himself aloud.

“In the… the Old World,” Morganna appeared from the shadows. “They… they used it to bind man and beast. A curse. Today, they call it lycanthropy.” Her eyes shone with glee as she discussed the only subject that mattered to her. “I used it to bind man and machine.”

“What the hell is she on about?” Rick asked. Now Scuff knew that he was hearing the communication in his head. The armor wasn’t gone; it was part of him now.

“You’ve got the address, Charlotte, send someone there right goddamn now, you hear me?” Liedecker ordered.

Scuff froze. Not because he was afraid, or surprised, but because Morganna was in his head again, forcing him to. She sauntered over to him and with her mystically enhanced strength, lifted him to his feet.

Morganna let Scuff stand on his own and ran a finger down his arm. She knew what he was thinking. “Yes, Sky Tyrant. It is inside you now. In pieces… pieces on the Astral Plane. Call it.” She squeezed his arm and there was a blinding flash of sensation. Rosy colored light spilled forth and familiar black armor encased Scuff’s arm. Surprisingly, he could still feel the heat of Morganna’s hand through it.

He shivered. “I’m some kind of were-cyborg now?” His teeth ground and he was suddenly free of Morganna’s mind.

“You are more.” Morganna smiled like a delighted child. “Stronger. Better. All for showing him this place.”

“Mr. Singer?” Liedecker growled in his head. “New plan. Kill the bitch, please.”

“Yes sir.” Scuff affirmed. The whole of the Sky Tyrant armor emerged from the Astral, ensconcing him completely. Without hesitation, he slammed his palm full force into Morganna’s chest, tossing her back into a wall.

Laughing, she retrieved a feather from her bag and reactivated her winged flight spell. She took to the air just ahead of a scorching blast from Sky Tyrant’s plasma lance.

“Once more… again. Follow.” Morganna laughed, flying out the broken skylight.

Roaring with anger, Scuff took to the skies. Fury nearly blinded him. He had been changed, transformed into something inhuman. All that he was demanded vengeance and the ‘gift’ Morganna had given him was the perfect instrument to attain it. He pushed his flight systems to the maximum, barreling after his ‘creator’ into downtown Mayfield.

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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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