LI: Generations Aflame #14

This entry is part 14 of 15 in the series Lidecker Institute Volume 3: Generations Aflame
Maya trudged far enough away from the others that they wouldn’t be hurt and planted herself between them and the avalanche. Looking up, she could see it: thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of tons of snow careening inexorably down the mountainside.
 
And the only thing between it and the others was Maya, a single candle against the mother of all snuffers.
 
Desperately, she tried to swallow her fear and muster her courage, but it was hard going. After all, she’d spent months protecting them from her powers and suddenly she needed to use those same powers to save them. Not only that, but her science-loving brain was betraying her, screaming that there was no way she could hope to stop the avalanche with her powers; that she couldn’t burn hot enough or last long enough to make a difference.
 
But what choice did she have now? Fly away and abandon them? Maya would never do that, especially not after her friends had come up the mountain and faced off against the men trying to kidnap her just to save her. She had to try.
 
“O-okay.” She muttered to herself as the wall of snow loomed closer. “M-most psionic powers have psychosomatic triggers. M-maybe if I just concentrate really hard on getting really, really hot.” With her eyes closed tightly, she sought out that warm core within her and triggered her transformation.
 
Flesh and bone and sinew became living flame in a single, exhilarating, terrifying instant that was accompanied by a whump sound not unlike a giant pilot light being lit. Maya’s fire-form blazed into being, the surrounding snow reflecting the orange and yellow flames.
 
“Why did you never tell us you could do that?!” Kura complained loudly.
 
“Not the time!” Olivia said. “Everyone get behind me.”
 
“This is so the time, look at her? Did anyone think Maya could be badass?”
 
Maya blushed and for a brief instant, blue flickered in her core. Kura would have a lot to complain about if they lived through this. Thrusting her hands out, she concentrated on forming a fireball like she did in Miss Brant’s training sessions, only this time, she didn’t hold back. The sphere took shape, starting at the size of a medicine ball, then ballooning up to the size of a beach ball. All the while it rotated in her hands, growing hotter by the second.
 
Now the avalanche was upon them. The earth shook such that it was almost impossible to keep standing and the roar of all that snow rolling over itself was omnipresent. One of her friends screams, Maya couldn’t tell who, but they were suddenly muffled.
 
Maya took a deep breath, distantly wondering why she still needed to breathe, and prepared to unleash her fireball.
 
Just as she started to, however, a second roar overtook the noise of the avalanche. The air hummed with power, vibrating as a counterpoint to the shaking ground. Maya felt more than saw the cascade of force coming down from somewhere above her, but evidence of its passing was clear in the avenue it cut into the leading edge of the avalanche.
 
Where the mysterious wave of vibration struck, the snow was shunted violently aside, forming a corridor of tumbling snow that widened as it came on. To either side of Maya, rushing boulders of packed snow slammed into a drug down trees and gouged the earth. Two of the snowmobiles were swept up and dashed to pieces before disappearing into a sea of white.
 
Stunned by what she was seeing and the chaos around her, Maya dropped out of fire-form and stared at her hands. She hadn’t sent any fire at all and she couldn’t sense any in the sustained blast still pouring down into the trailing edge of the avalanche.
 
Finally, she looked up and saw the strangest angel she could have imagined.
 
Silhouetted against the sky was the shape of a man with stumpy projections jutting form his back that ended in sleek nacelles. A complex looking helmet that covered his face and incorporated an oxygen mask turned back and forth on the lookout for new dangers. And all the while, what looked like a fat rifle with two prongs on the end perched on his shoulder; the source of the avalanche-annihilating wave. Aside from those high-tech accoutrements, he was dressed simply; wearing a long coat over a suit and wingtips with leather gloves.
 
Finally, the avalanche was completely past; continuing on down the shoulder of the mountain to spread out and lose strength on the wider, gentler slopes below. Only then did Maya’s mysterious savior shut off his weapon, plunging the slope into relative silence.
 
It took a few moments for Maya to remember herself and then to remember her friends. Fearing the worse, she turned and looked behind her. A thirty-yard wide path directly behind her had been spared from destruction, and sitting in the middle of it was a shapeless, black mass of what Maya assumed to be rubber. Probably synthetic rubber, if she understood Olivia’s powers correctly.
 
Sure enough, after a few seconds of shuddering, the rubber deformed and drew away from a huddle consisting of Tammy, Kura and Steampunk. The rubber itself resumed the shape of Olivia Boles for a moment before she reverted to flesh and blood.
 
The three men who had attacked Maya were also left unscathed, though still out of commission.
 
Kura was the first one to recover, bounding to her feet and rushing over to Maya. A few feet away, she threw herself into the air and glided in the rest of the distance to tackle Maya with a hug. “That was awesome! You were awesome! You totally saved us from a whole mountain!”
 
Maya squeaked at the impact, but hugged Kura back all the same. “A-actually. I didn’t get the chance. He did.” She craned her neck to look at their savior.
 
“Whoa. Hold on.” Tammy grabbed the wrench off the ground from where she’d dropped it. “Is he a good guy or a bad guy? Because we’ve been seeing a whole lot of bad guys today.” Purple sparks danced on the wrench’s head.
 
The flying figure turned in air to acknowledge her and began to descend. As he did, his mechanical components became wreathed in a web of blue, crackling lighting all on its own and began to retract into his body. “Hold on now, Miss Kaine. Let’s not do anything that could get you in more trouble than you five are already in for not calling Institute security the moment there was trouble.”
 
“You better tell me who you are before you’re the one in trouble.” Tammy threatened.
 
By the time he landed, now without any of his gear, Calvin Singer had an ID badge out. “I’m Mr… er… Calvin. Part of LI’s external security detail.”
 
Kura’s eyes were practically sparkling. “Our security dudes are so hardcore!”
 
Tammy lowered her wrench. “Oh crap. Is Mr. Warren going to pop out now and yell at us?”
 
“No.” Someone shouted from further down the slope where the snowcat had weathered the avalanche by virtue of having been parked beneath a rock outcropping. Stepping around the side of the vehicle, a snowmobile helmet under one arm, was a familiar face, “Ms. Carroll is.”
 
***
Even with the three conspirators zip-cuffed in the bed of the vehicle, the cabin of the snowcat was crowed and stifling on the long ride back down to the resort. Ms. Carroll’s lecture wasn’t making things any more comfortable. Olivia was trying to take a nap, having been drained by all the shifting she’d done, and Steampunk had lapsed into her usual silence.
 
“… may still be targets, especially Maya. You all have emergency call buttons exactly for this reason. They aren’t just to make your parents feel safe, they’re specifically to make you more safe. The one flaw in the entire system is that you actually have to stop being stupid teenagers, admit you aren’t invincible, and actually use them.”
 
“Why do you keep looking at me when you say that?” Tammy asked defensively, “Most of this was Kura’s idea. And Maya was the one that ran away—sorry, Mai.”
 
Maya, practically curled into a ball against the door, only shook her head. “N-no, you’re right. I shouldn’t have run off like that and I should have called for help and I probably shouldn’t have even come, because now I’ve ruined your spring break.”
 
“Are you kidding? This was the best spring break ever!” Kura crowed. “We fought a conspiracy, solved a mystery, fought actual hired kidnappers on the side of a mountain, then survived and avalanche! They’re going to make a movie about this spring break some day!”
 
“No they won’t.” Ms. Carroll said sharply, silencing the entire cabin.
 
That silence was short lived, as Kura asked, “Well why not?”
 
“Because no one can know about this.” said Ms. Carroll When the girls looked confused (save Steampunk), she sighed and elaborated. “Think about it: A group of descendant girls go on vacation, use their powers to assault a foreign police officer, steal heavy machinery and cause an avalanche?”
 
“Hey. We didn’t cause that, those goons did.” said Tammy.
 
“Which will mean precisely squat once the story breaks.” said Ms. Carroll “This soon after Greenview Ridge, with the public eating up every ‘descendants gone bad’ story they can find? No one will care about the truth. Not only that, but the Institute isn’t all-powerful: chances are, those three will disappear from custody by the end of business today courtesy of their bosses.”
 
Maya suddenly sat bolt upright, jostling Steampunk in the process. “Captain Gordon! Oh my gosh, I almost forgot him! They took him and—“
 
“We took him. He’s safe.” said Ms. Carroll Maya breath out an audible sigh of relief. “But until we find out more about this Generations Project and what they wanted with him, we’re hiding him somewhere safe. Mr. Liedecker told me to promise you, Maya, that the Captain will get a message to you as soon as he’s able.”
 
“Thank you.” Maya said quietly as she settled back down against the door.
 
Ms. Carroll nodded. “Of course. We’re here for you kids. To keep you all safe. All of you.”
 
“Why are you still looking at me?” Tammy groused. “They’re way more unsafe than me!”
 
***
After a promise that they would be in town if they were needed and an admonishment to use their panic buttons if the need arose, Ms. Carroll and Mr. Calvin went to return the snowcat and turn in the conspirators and their weapons. The girls were left in the resort’s main lounge with a fake story to tell Kura’s parents.
 
As soon as the adults were gone, Maya collapsed into one of the arm chairs, chin tucked into her chest. “I’m so sorry, everyone. M-maybe I should go back to the Institute so you can have your vacation…”
 
“Seriously?” Tammy asked, sitting on one of the chair’s arms. “Didn’t you hear Kura on the way down here? Sure this stuff was kind of scary, but it was also fun.”
 
Maya looked at the other girl through her hair. “Men tried to shoot at you, Tammy. And all that other stuff that happened because you chased me.”
 
“Like I said,” Tammy shrugged, “Scary. Fun. Besides, we knew bad guys were after you since the day we first met and we still invited you to come along, right Kura?”
 
Kura leaned over the top of the chair and gave Maya a hug from behind. “Hell yeah! And look at all the stuff we learned! You dad and the captain worked for that Generations place, and they think you and Steamy got your powers from magic instead of good old fashioned mad science like the rest of us! I don’t care what Ms. Carroll says, this is going to be a kick-ass movie once we get to the bottom of all this.”
 
Olivia folded her arms and chewed her lip thoughtfully. “’Once we get to the bottom of all this’? You want to keep digging after all that?”
 
Her answer came with a snort. “Well duh. You think we’re going to give up? Because some old folks tell us to? This is Maya’s thing. And Steampunk’s.”
 
Tammy nodded. “And as their friends, it’s ours too. You wanna be in?”
 
“I’m… not sure. I wasn’t even supposed to be here: you just Shanghaied me here.” said Olivia, taking a pensive seat on the other armrest. “What would we actually be doing?”
 
Kura let go of Maya and stood up, noticing for the first time that Soot was hiding in Maya’s hair since his globe had been lost in the rigamarole on the mountain. “For tonight?” She asked dramatically, raising a finger to the heavens, “We roast marshmallows and drink hot chocolate. Maybe we’ll put the roasted marshmallows in the hot chocolate. And tomorrow? Tomorrow we ski and probably take pictures of Bigfoot.”
 
“Um…” said Olivia, “I meant about Generations and this SD thing.”
 
“I guess we can’t just ignore it and hope Captain Gordon or Mister Liedecker comes up with something?” Maya asked, half hopeful that this would be the case.
 
“No,” said Tammy. “Adults are useless, we all know that. We need to deal with this. Once we get back to school, we can get Phil and Phinny to help out—oh! And Cryptic! Her sister is the computer teacher; I bet she knows all kinds of hacker tricks we can use to track these guys down.”
 
Kura grinned broadly. “So? Does it sound like a plan?”
 
Olivia sighed. “I guess I can’t jump off this ride before knowing how it ends.”
 
“W-what about you, Alice?” Maya asked Steampunk, who had been silent the whole time.”
 
The blonde nodded stoically. “Yes. I will help you with this, Maya Blumberg.”
 
***
Calvin Singer closed the back of the white panel van containing three now heavily sedated kidnappers and stood back as the vehicle pulled off, starting its long journey to a small, little used airfield in Nebraska.
 
“So we’re really going to hang out here and play wet nurse to the Nancy Drew gang?” He asked, scratching at a bit of circuitry behind his ear.
 
“If you can keep your little problem in check, ‘Mr. Calvin’.” said Ms. Carroll
 
Singer glowered at her. “Man, Charlotte screwed me on my cover. If I ever get in the same room as that bastard, I’ll electrocute him to within an inch of his life.” He grunted and scratched a bit more furiously until the offending patch crackled and faded back into his skin. “And relax: I’m in complete control.”
 
“I’ll believe you better when you stop scratching every five minutes.” She turned and started to walk toward their rental car.
 
“Whatever.” Singer said, following her. “But seriously; isn’t this a major waste of talent having us shadow some teenaged girls?”
 
“Liedecker wants the school to succeed and for the students who he promised to protect to be protected. And as Director of Student Life, it’s my personal responsibility to make sure these girls are safe.”
 
Singer opened the driver’s side door, but spoke to her across the car roof. “You ever hear of ‘Becoming the Mask’, Stephanie?”
 
“You think I’m going soft because I’m supposed to be the den mother over at the institute? Is that it?” Ms. Carroll’s voice lowered and she fixed him with a glare that made him flinch. “Don’t assume anything. If I’ve decided to protect these kids, the next generation of descendants, that makes me more dangerous, not more.”
 
She slid into the passenger seat and buckled up, not speaking again until Singer was in the car too. “And just in case you think this job beneath you: if any of those girls comes to harm because of your shirking, I will show you exactly how dangerous that is.”
 
To Be Continued…
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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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One Comment

  1. “W-what about you, Alice?” Maya asked Steampunk, who had been silent the whole time.”

    Unmatched “.

    “…that makes me more dangerous, not more.”

    They say that less is more, but in this case more should probably be less so there’d be more less and less more. More or less.

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