Issue #8: Objectivity

This entry is part 9 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 1: Welcome to Freeland House

“Right this way, sir.” A technician clad in a white jumpsuit said, gesturing toward a secure access point; an open, thick walled alcove connecting the outer room to the building proper. The man he was speaking to was in his late forties with close cut, dirty blonde hair, wearing a plain white button up shirt beneath an unassuming brown suit coat with matching slacks.

The older man nodded and stepped into the cubical, careful to avoid passing over the red line painted on the floor. He couldn’t see them, but he could feel the subtle heat of the lasers poised to painfully dispatch any who attempted to pass the security checkpoint without undergoing the proper scans.

A panel slid open to his left, revealing a hollow in the wall. “Please deposit all electronic devices, firearms, or magnetic materials in the provided area.” A digitized female voice said calmly. The man reached into his jacket pocket in produced a cell phone which he placed in the receptacle. Next, he reached into the shoulder holster and added a .22 caliber pistol. “Thank you.” The voice said after a pause. The panel slid closed and the sound of machinery moving could be heard behind the wall. “Beginning security screening.”

Two flat plates slid out of the wall about three feet off the ground. They each had a vague pattern of a hand pressed into them. “Place hands on provided sensors to begin security scan.” The man complied. The plates felt warm and soon a warm sensation washed over his entire body as the invisible scanning beams roamed over him.

“Psionic Training and Application Academy personnel confirmed,” The voice said, “Enforcer agent rank one identified. Welcome to Deep Eleven, Jonathan Edward Tyler, codename: Prometheus.” The lasers flashed blue briefly, indicating that they were temporarily inactive. Edward Tyler stepped forward into a small square room and waited patiently for the door on the other side to slide open.

When it did, he found himself at the T intersection of a wide, white tiled hallway. Several people moved with purpose up and down the corridors. His weapon and cell phone were resting in a depression in the wall beside the door. He scooped both up and started to return his .22 to its shoulder holster.

“I have no idea why you bother carrying that thing.” Edward looked up to see a man in his late twenties, wearing an expensive looking suit sauntering in his direction.

“Not everyone we run into deserves third degree burns, Wolf.” Edward said tersely. “Or to be mauled, might I add.”

“These days I’m not so sure of that.” Trent Kinsey, codename: Wolf, shook his head.

“Recent mission get your back up?” Edward asked little emotion in his voice. He started down the corridor on his left and motioned for the younger man to fall into step.

“All of them, actually.” Trent grimaced. “You’d think rank one would earn me something better than babysitting these penny ante MGS-class criminals. The last bust I had was a girl with freaking acid spit! I mean what the hell? Who has acid spit?”

“Who turns into a lupine nightmare?” Edward shot back. “I’ve told you a thousand times, Wolf; it’s the powers you don’t respect that’ll kill you.” He narrowed his eyes. “I thought you weren’t calling me ‘sir’ enough… did you say you were rank one now?”

“As of two months ago… sir.” Trent added hastily. “A bunch of lowbies got elevated at about the same time.”

“Like who?” Edward asked tersely.

“Shine, War-torn, Launch…” Trent started.

“All people I withheld recommendations on, I notice.” Edward said. They passed by a glass paneled wall, over looking the Enforcers’ gym. He noticed a woman with white skin and overly large eyes sparring with a lumbering brick of a man in one of the boxing rings. “Including you, Wolf.”

“Well, you’ve been suspended—“

“On leave.” Edward corrected gruffly.

“On leave for months, sir. We’ve improved since then.”

“I bet.” Edward said. He stopped in the middle of the hall and grabbed Trent’s arm, raising the sleeve of his suit. There was a steel bracelet encircling the younger man’s wrist with some sort of blue liquid cycling through the clear plastic windows cut into it. Grunting, Edward pulled back Trent’s collar to reveal a similar gorget around his neck. “God damn it. Wolf, you still don’t even have control over it yet, do you?”

“I’m fine as long as the inhibiters are working.” Trent replied, rolling his sleeve back down with a petulant look.

“And what happens if some rogue gets in a fight with you and breaks one of the inhibiters? Do you want to go berserk like you were when we found you?” Edward’s eyes flashed with anger and frustration. “I signed off on you becoming part of the Enforcer program because I thought you’d be able to learn control and use it, not so you could find a high tech crutch.”

“Says the man with the PTAA issued powered armor. How much does it multiply your strength by, sir? A factor of ten?” Trent said angrily. “I manage to tear up the bad guys just fine on my own.”

Edward’s teeth ground. “The purpose of the Enforcers isn’t the ‘tear up’ anyone. You know that. You’re better than that. The Enforcers are here to keep the peace between psionics and normals. We stop rogues and put them in prison where they belong. End of story. I’m surprised Masters hasn’t pounded that into you by now.”

“She’s not my handler anymore, sir.” Trent said, adding a bit of bitter sarcasm to the ‘sir’. “She left around the time you got suspended.” He turned and started down another corridor. “You have an appointment. Don’t let me keep you.” Before he turned the corner, he glanced back at his former mentor. “Maybe they did things your way twenty years ago, but there’s more psionics than ever and that means more rogues. We need to take the kid gloves off before we’re outnumbered.”

Glaring after the younger man, Edward pulled a pack if cigarettes from his jacket. “As usual, someone has to ask; who watches the watchers?”

***

Water ran in sheets down the windows, distorting the view of the street outside the café Ian and Alexis had come to seeking refuge from the weather.

“Thanks for helping me do the grocery shopping.” Alexis said, taking a long pull on her café au lait.

Ian shrugged and smiled nervously. “I wasn’t doing anything else important with my day and I figured it’d be nice to spend—“

“Oh my god…” Alexis said. Her eyes were fixed on the stack of complementary newspapers. In particular, her eye had caught the front page of a three day old Scribe bearing the headline ‘Who Is Void-storm?’ with the subheader ‘Does Mayfield’s Newest Prelate Have Ties To Life Savers, Inc?’

She snatched the paper out of the basket it was resting in and began to read.

“Well, you couldn’t expect that not to make the news.” Ian said.

“You’re right.” Alexis said, “though it would have been nice if they’d chosen a name that wasn’t so outright terrible.”

“Until Void-storm says differently, she’s stuck with it, I guess.” Ian said with a smile. “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself, I suppose. Otherwise, one could wind up with a name like ‘Wind Tunnel’ or something.”

Alexis smirked at that. “So who are these Life Savers, Inc people the article talks about? I never heard of Mayfield having prelates before, but the way this reporter, Northbrooke, talks about them; they’re the saviors of the city or something.”

Ian swallowed. The kids trusted him with their secret and Alexis would definitely quash their attempts at heroics if she found out. On the other hand, it didn’t seem right to lie to Alexis, especially so soon after encouraging her to consider rethinking the idea of everyone at Freeland House being her responsibility. Better to stall the inevitable just a bit longer.

“You know, I wonder how they came to call people like that ‘prelates’ in the first place. Seems a little pretentious for people that get down and dirty fighting the good fight.” He shrugged. “I mean not all of them are psionics, but still…”

“I think the media started using the word because fifteen years ago, the Trademark Reform Act wasn’t around and they were scared to use ‘superhero’” Alexis said, not noticing his blatant dodge. “I wonder… You know, Laurel said that prelates have a lot of pull with the public these days, if we could find a way to talk to them and explain what we know…”

Inwardly, Ian laughed at the irony, but managed to keep a straight face.

“Excuse me.” A young waiter said, approaching with two tall cups with to go lids on them. “I have a hazelnut/caramel steamed milk for you, sir. And a café au lait with a double shot of espresso for you ma’am. To go.”

“Uh, we didn’t order these.” Ian said, ignoring the tantalizing scent of his favorite hot drink in favor of sipping the one he’d already ordered.

“And we weren’t leaving either.” Alexis added.

The young man pursed his lips nervously. “Oh, I know you didn’t. The man at the counter did. He paid for them and said that you’ll be wanting to leave as soon as possible. He said to tell you ‘he knows about your education problem’?” He indicated a grey haired man in his late fifties or early sixties sitting at the counter. When he had their attention, he nodded to them.

Ian and Alexis shared a glance.

“I don’t suppose you got his name.” Alex said rather than asked. The youth shook his head.

“If he wants us to leave, I think that gives me all the more reason to stay here.” Ian frowned. “Do you have any of those swirly cinnamon things with the white frosting? I’ll have one of those.” He said to the waiter who nodded and moved on.

The man at the counter noted this and chuckled quietly into his own cup of black coffee. After a few moments of tense scrutiny from the two psionics, he slid off his chair and retrieved a cane tipped with a bronze eagle’s head from beside it. Hobbling a bit on the cane, he walked toward their table.

Ian tensed. A light, almost indiscernible breeze moved in the café.

The stranger took a seat from an empty table and sat himself between Ian and Alexis facing the window. His face was serious, but nothing in his expression indicated malevolence. “Hear me out before you try to blind side me, Mr. Smythe.” He said with a gruff voice. He kept his voice down to avoid being overheard by the other customers. “I’m not here to cause any trouble.”

“We’ll be the judges of that.” Alexis frowned. “Let’s start with who you are and what you want.”

“My name’s Lewis Pratt. General Lewis Pratt.” The man gave a slight smile of satisfaction as surprise crept into the psionics’ faces. “As for what I want, we should probably discuss that in private. Just understand that I’m here to offer help, not to harm you or hinder what you’re doing in any way.”

“Wouldn’t a phone call be more apropos for a government official instead of this B spy movie cliché?” Ian folded his arms, not convinced.

“There’s plenty of reasons why that and an official visit were out of the question.” Pratt answered. “First of all, we didn’t want to expose your location. You aren’t alone in the ranks of the people that want you and your charges to stay safe and free.” He looked around the shop. “Second, while this charade is more demeaning to me than it is to you; meeting in a public place guaranteed you wouldn’t respond to a perceived threat to your group with violence… if you were disposed to that sort of thing.”

Ian realized he had been gathering tightly compressed air in his palm and slowly released it. “No one said we were disposed to that.” He said coolly.

“Good, because we don’t have accurate enough records of you to make a proper profile thanks to Ms. Brant.” Pratt said. “Luckily, we also enjoy the services of a genius of that caliber or we never would have found you.”

“Which brings us back to that;” Alexis said, “If you aren’t here to fight, why did you go to all the trouble of tracking us down?”

“Like I said, Ms. Keyes, I’m here to offer some help – and to tell you that you aren’t alone. If we’re done with the third degree, I have a car waiting to take you to my office. Once we’re there, we can get down to brass tacks.”

***

Still fuming from his confrontation with his former protégé, Edward took his foul mood out on the familiar door of his handler’s office. With a grunt, he slammed it open and stormed in. While all offices were kept to PTAA standards of cleanliness and organization to the point of uniformity, his well trained sense of observation immediately told him something was wrong.

There was writing on the wall calendar, something the previous occupant never did. The wastepaper basket was nearly full, something the previous occupant would not have tolerated. Most obviously; the soft beanbag cat that sat on top of the pencil sharpener was MIA.

Edward settled his eyes on the small, bespectacled man occupying the seat at the desk. “Where’s Masters?” he inquired after his handler, Patricia Masters before the man could even react to his sudden entrance.

The little man flinched, eyes darting around the room nervously. “She left the organization shortly after you were put on leave.” He said as if he’d been practicing the line for several hours, which he undoubtedly had. “I’m your new handler, Roger Stevens.” He stood and extended his hand.

Edward ignored him and took a seat in the single chair across from the handler’s desk. “She leave any reason why?”

“She disagreed with the new recruitment criterion.” Stevens slowly drew his hand back when it became evident that Edward wouldn’t be shaking it.

“I disagree with it too.” Edward said, taking out a cigarette. He summoned a tiny flame directly into the end of the smokable and it lit instantly. “I also disagree with the new promotion standards if you people are letting Wolf do missions without a senior agent while he still needs his inhibitors.”

“I’m not in charge of the… new rank one agents.” Stevens stumbled over his words.

“Then who is? Masters used to be around to keep them from getting big heads about their promotion. Guess that’s changed too?”

“They’re under a new handler. A man named Wright, I believe.” Stevens said. “Er, if you don’t mind, there are some things we need to go over before you get reactivated…”

“’Go over’ like we need to go over what the hell went on here at Langley that night?” Edward glared at the smaller man as he put the cigarette in his mouth.

“We were actually hoping you could actually help put some more of the pieces together…”

“Everything I did and saw being done is in my report.” Edward said. “I want to know who those kids were – one of them looked in way too bad shape to be a rogue before the fight even started. And what exactly were they doing at the hospital complex?”

“That’s classified, need to know, Jon.” Stevens said with yet more practiced phrasing.

“Edward.” The Enforcer said, “My father’s Jon.” He leaned forward in his seat, causing Stevens to lean backward in his own. “And Edward really does need to know.”

Stevens furrowed his brow, and then sighed. “If you must know, they were here to free the kids.” He said. Edward heard more practice in this speech than in all the rest. “But those kids aren’t your regular kids. They’re red listed threats. The things they’re accused of doing were stricken from all public record. They’re dangerous, Edward. And the longer they’re free, the longer we risk having this thing go totally New Delhi on us.”

Series Navigation<< Issue #7: Legacy of OneIssue #9 Ladies of Ragnarok >>

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore

Bookmark the permalink.
  • Descendants Serial is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.