Issue #8: Objectivity

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

Part 2

The mere mention of New Delhi made Edward’s back straighten. It was one of those stories everyone in the world knew but bore repeating again and again. It had special meaning to the Enforcers because what had happened between the fifth and seventh of June in 2047 directly led to their organization’s existence.

At the time, the global public was only vaguely aware of psionics. The only things they heard were blurbs about strange news relegated to the D section of national newspapers; A girl who could climb vertical inclines without aide in Luxemburg, a man whose nails were hard enough to cut glass in Greece, a college student who knew languages simply by hearing them spoken in Egypt. They were written off as freaks even as dozens of them hid their powers out of confusion or paranoia every day.

But on June 5th, 2047, a young man in India by the name of Arjun Ravi decided that he wouldn’t be ignored. Over the course of seventy two hours, he used the telekinetic gift he had been born with to kill over seven hundred people in broad daylight. He was only stopped when he grew too weary from lack of sleep to deflect the bullets police fired at him.

Ravi died, but the damage had been done. The world had watched the bulk of his monstrous rampage on live television; and they were afraid. Revelation of his psionic powers brought attention to those who had long been written off as freaks of nature. Now, every one of them was a potential living weapon.

Public hysteria threatened to turn violent and every government in the world was forced to deal with the ‘psionic problem’ in their own way. In the United States, psionics were deemed to be too value a resource to allow hatred and violence to destroy. The Enforcer Corps was created to police psionics who threatened the public with their powers and programs were put in place to encourage the citizenry to see psionics as productive and valuable members of society.

To some extent, it worked. Psionics, at least those with useful powers, were more accepted in the United States and nations that followed its lead than any other nation in the world, save Columbia, which attempted to eradicate its own psionics and wound up being conquered and governed by them instead. However, everyone in the Enforcer Corps knew that all it would take to turn the fickle public against them would be for another Arjun Ravi to emerge and inflict another atrocity such as that which happened in New Delhi.

The horrors that conjured were enough to end Edward’s side of the conversation. He’d nodded his way through the rest of the meeting as Stevens explained that Prometheus was being reactivated as an agent. He’d even held his tongue when Stevens related to him that the Director had left strict orders for the Enforcers not to get involved with the Keyes case. Apparently, a government agency was being given the assignment.

But Jonathan Edward Tyler wasn’t a man to take things at face value. By the time the Enforcer Corps was formed, he had been a police detective in the Washington, DC for seven years. Twenty more years in the Corps had only served to make his instincts sharper.

If he couldn’t trust his own agency to tell him the truth, he surmised, he would have to communicate with the one person he had known he could always count on; his former handler, Patricia Masters. As he got into his car out front of the Academy campus in Langley, he wondered what the real reason was for her resignation.

***

Ian looked down as the shipyards of Norfolk, Virginia swept past beneath him. He found himself and Alexis sharing the broad, rear facing seat of the GMC Raptor ground/air vehicle General Pratt had led them too outside the café. Pratt sat across from them, watching out the window as he was.

A hand found his own and squeezed. He looked over to Alexis who smiled at him. “You’re letting this get to you.” She whispered even though it was impossible for Pratt not to notice. “Tensing up isn’t going to help us, no matter what’s really going on.”

She was right and Ian knew it. He gave her a squeeze back and tried to make himself comfortable in the seat. As he did, he marveled at how quickly their roles had been reversed the moment real danger presented itself.

After a few minutes, the flying transport slowed and began a vertical descent toward the rooftop of a nondescript building a few blocks from the waterfront.

Pratt seemed to notice them for the first time since they had boarded the Raptor. “Home sweet home.” He said, pointing at the building. “Rogue Operations Counterintelligence Command; the ROCIC for short.”

“Rogue operations?” Alexis asked, watching out the window as a section of the tar and gravel roof opened, revealing a hidden landing pad a story below the actual roof.

“You didn’t think the government approved of what’s been done to your young people, did you?” Pratt asked. “Granted, all of our involvement with so called psionics has been less than wholly altruistic, but don’t you think holding children in stasis is a bit too clandestine even for the ‘evil government’ the movies portray?”

“I never thought about it.” Alexis admitted. “The Academy gets a lot funding for the government.”

“To train powerful young people to be productive citizens.” Pratt noted. “But the Academy is just a private sector branch—“

“For Project Tome.” Ian interjected.

Pratt smiled as the craft set down. “My, you really do know a lot all ready. You’re probably only one of a few hundred that know about Tome outside the government.”

“We got the name out of a facility that was experimenting on kids.” Ian snapped. “Trepanning them. You want to explain that?”

“I’m afraid I can’t.” Pratt said, opening the side door and stepping out. Ian and Alexis followed. They found themselves in a garage type room with two other Raptors and a pair of armored aerial troop transports akin to those used by SWAT teams in larger cities.

“Why can’t you? Because it’s ‘classified’?” Ian demanded, his voice echoing in the nearly empty space. “Because classified doesn’t cut it when people’s lives are on the line – when children are being tortured.”

“I can’t tell you because we don’t know.” Pratt said firmly. “I didn’t make contact with you two just so I can blow smoke up your asses and give you the business for the hell of it, Smythe. We’re here to exchange intelligence to protect the teenagers you two and Ms. Laurel Brant saved. But I can’t give you data I don’t have. Project Tome isn’t considered a rogue operation for nothing.”

“You keep saying it’s a rogue operation.” Alexis said, giving Ian a look that shut his mouth. “But you haven’t told us what that means. Project Tome has something to do with the government?”

“It did.” Pratt said, quashing down his temper. “In some ways, it still is if you consider that the Academy is still inextricably tied to both. But Tome hasn’t been officially sanctioned by the government in better than half a century.” He led them to an elevator and selected the fifteenth floor.

“Then how is it still operating?” Alexis asked.

“Private sponsors.” Pratt answered. “Someone had faith that Tome’s work would bear fruit even before the first psionics manifested their powers.”

“You make it sound like Tome had something to do with us.” Ian said. The elevator stopped and Pratt led them down a hallway and into an empty conference room. “Maybe you should start from the beginning.”

Pratt took a seat and the two psionics did the same. “I had someone far more knowledgeable on the subject scheduled to tell you, but they seem to be running late.” He frowned at the empty seats. “I’ll tell you what I know, then she’ll fill in the gaps when she arrives.”

“That’ll’ be fine.” Alexis nodded.

The general leaned back in his chair, looking very much like a grandfather about to tell his grandchildren a story. “I’m sure you both know the urban legend of why psionics got their powers.”

“Something about failed super soldiers in World War II.” Ian shrugged. “That’s the popular one. I prefer the alien abduction version, personally.”

“Well, the super soldier theory is the correct one.” Pratt said. “If we did genetic backgrounds on either of you, we’d be able to race your ancestry all the way back to one or more of several dozen experiments conducted here, in Europe, Australia, or Japan in the mid to late forties or in those locations plus China and the Middle East in the fifties. At the time, genetics was the hot new science and everyone thought it could be used to make a super man that would lead to world domination.”

“Glad to know we beat out nukes.” Ian rolled his eyes.

“Well, you didn’t. Officially, every experiment failed. One by one, the projects ended.”

“Wait, ‘officially’, they failed?” Alexis cocked her head inquisitively. “What happened in reality?”

“In reality, there were a few minor, but non-replicable successes. Some people gained minor psychic powers, a few developed overt physical traits. But none of them were the magic bullet to defeat all enemies, so the projects were still deemed failures and abandoned.” Pratt took a deep breath, more from need for breath than for dramatic purposes.

“Except not everyone thought of that as a failure.” He continued. “The United States started Project Tome to consolidate the data from all other projects; figure out what worked and what didn’t and continue animal research in secret.”

“Nothing says ‘universal soldier’ like guinea pigs shooting lasers out of their asses.” Ian said. “So Tome had all the ingredients for psionics – why didn’t they make more?”

“Because they didn’t.” Pratt replied. “most of the experiments were expecting immediate results from what amounted to altering and damaging DNA. But mutations don’t generally cause instant changes in people.”

“They manifest themselves in the offspring.” Alexis said, quoting one of the text books she had used as a teacher.

“Exactly. They provided the means for mutation after generations.” Pratt said. “All of Tome’s experiments were similarly flawed and the test animals destroyed before they could get results. Eventually, they were cut off from government funding.”

“But the shady sponsors kept them going.” Ian said, “Right up until…”

“Until descendants began to appear.”

“You mean ‘psionics’, right?”

“Do you call all artists ‘sculptors’?” Pratt pointed out. “Psionics is a name the media gave you. It only really refers to mental abilities; telepathy, precognition, hyper-cognition—no, the official name we have for those who have inherited powers from the WWII era experiments is descendants. I think it better describes you as a people; the descendants of those original subjects.”

“It does.” Alexis said thoughtfully. “But what about Tome? If they were all about creating… us… then shouldn’t they be defunct now?”

“One would hope.” Pratt said, “But their efforts in capturing and experimenting on descendants points to an expanded agenda we can’t guess at yet.” He leaned forward. “That’s part of why we wanted to talk with you two. It’s possible that you’ve learned more than we’ve been able to since you’ve actually had contact with their victims. You mentioned trepanning – that’s something we never heard about.”

“It was on a recording device we found in Quinn Bluffs, Florida.” Alexis said. “We can send you a copy.”

“We’d be most appreciative if you do.” Pratt said.

“So we’re trusting this guy enough to exchange email now?” Ian asked.

“If he was from the Academy, we’d be in stasis right now – or worse.” Alexis said. “He was able to track us to a random café we went into to get out of the rain – he obviously knows where we live and hasn’t capitalized on it.” She looked thoughtful for a moment. “So yeah, we’ll trust him. Any port in a storm and all that.”

“I appreciate that someone here is being an adult about this whole proceeding.” Pratt said. “And the ROCIC appreciates any information that you can provide to aid us in pinning down the whereabouts and the plans of Project Tome.” He frowned for a moment. “You said you found this evidence in Quinn Bluffs?”

“The Academy Science Center.” Alexis provided. “along with a surgery robot and evidence of a struggle.” She left the Kin out of the discussion. Her trust in Pratt and his organization only went so far.

“We honestly hadn’t guessed Tome’s involvement was so integrated into the Academy.” Pratt frowned. “That by itself changes a great deal of focus in our investigations.”

“If you didn’t know about Quinn Bluffs or the trepanning,” Ian began. “I guess it’s too much to hope that you know what the term ‘bio-mapping’ means?”

Pratt put a hand to his chin and thought for a moment. “I’ve heard the term before… I think it was in our archive of Tome’s animal trials around the turn of the century.”

“Could you send us that archive?” Alexis asked, “Since we’re exchanging information and all…”

“Of course.” Pratt said. “We’ll open our databases up to your Ms. Brant if she asks.”

“I have no doubt she’ll ask.” Alexis confirmed.

The door to the conference room opened and an Asian woman with rather severe features stood in the door frame. “I apologize for my tardiness, General, but I received a visitor whose input I believed to be very relevant to this meeting. He hasn’t been briefed, but he’s willing to share what he knows.”

“This day’s just full of good news.” Pratt said, “Show him in. Alexis Keyes, Ian Smythe, I’d like you to meet Patricia Masters, our…” He trailed off as the tension in the room suddenly increased exponentially.

Jonathan Edward Tyler had stepped into the room beside Masters. The instant he saw Ian and Alexis, he pushed the woman behind him protectively, his entire left arm becoming wreathed in flame.

Ian stood up so fast, he knocked over his chair. Strong wind roared around him as he gathered air up for a strike. “Prometheus.” He glared at the man who had nearly killed him five months prior.

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.