The Descendants #100 – Paradigm Shift pt.2

This entry is part 25 of 27 in the series Current

Press and fans were camped out on the lawn of the Carlyle home within two hours of the leak.

Tink’s parents, Warren and Allie were holed up inside, trying to ignore the chatter of the crowd being held back by a police cordon while fielding calls from their sons, daughters and other family members who were slowly starting to get the news that little Christina was one of Mayfield’s renowned heroes.

“I know, Carla, I’m shocked too.” Allie was on the phone with her mother. Much like she insisted with her own daughter, she addressed her mother by her given name too. “No, I have no idea when it started; around the time this Renaissance first appeared I guess. We’ve been trying to contact her but her palmtop must be off. I can’t blame her: all this attention… not to mention the danger this must open her up to…”

She was pacing back and forth in the living room. In the armchair in the corner, Warren had his palmtop open texting with a dour look on his face. Right after hearing the news, he’d put on his dress uniform and shaved, expecting his superiors to come calling on the matter, but that shoe appeared to have not fallen yet.

“Carla, we have no idea. No one has any idea if the Descendants have a secret headquarters, much less where it might be. She obviously can’t come here: she wouldn’t even be able to get through all the people camped out on our lawn and the street.”

Not long after she said this, the room was filled with a rose glow as an astral portal irised open in an empty corner of the room. The portal rippled once before a familiar head of short, red hair emerged from it followed shortly thereafter by a hooded figure and a shorter male.

Both of the Carlyle parents turned in time to see their daughter plus her boyfriend and the woman known to the media as Occult standing before them.

Allie goggled for a moment before quickly muttering, “Carla, hold on she…” She didn’t finish, rushing to her daughter and enveloping her in a hug. “Chrissie! You’re home!”

Not more than a few seconds later, Warren had joined her, wrapping his arms around both his wife and daughter. “Thank god. Tina, what’s going on? All of a sudden we hear on the news that you’re a superhero? That you’re… you’re…” He had to look to Allie.

“Renaissance,” she supplied.

“Right. What… I mean how, Tina? How did this happen? I don’t remember us having psi—descendants in the family.” He winced at himself for the slip; he’d only just recently learned that ‘psionic’ was no longer the appropriate word for such people.

Warrick, who had strategically placed himself slightly behind Occult, raised his hand timidly. “I-I can explain that sir. It’s all my fault. I mean I never meant for this to happen I swear, but I’ve seen other timelines and it kind of happened each time—plus what we’ve got is the best res—”

Breaking away from the family hug, Tink clapped a hand on Warrick’s upper arm. “Sweetie, I think it’d be better if I explained everything. And left out all the alternate future talk.”

The odd turn of conversation made Allie time to remember the palmtop in her hand. “Oh. Chrissie. Grandma Carla’s on the phone and she’s very worried. Can you talk to her?”

“Um… sure I guess,” Tink replied, accepting the device. “Grandma?”

Meanwhile, Warren had slipped away from his wife and daughter to loom very effectively over Warrick. Normally he was very friendly with the younger man, but the cryptic admission of guilt had him on edge and not in a friendly mood.

That said, he was a military man and an exceptional example of one as well. That was why he kept his head and asked smaller questions first to try and calm Warrick down enough to get useful answers rather than babble. “You’re a Descendant too, aren’t you?” he asked, trying to keep his voice calm while still being commanding. “Which one?”

“Alloy, sir.” Warrick let his gaze drop to the ground. He’d never been ashamed of who and what he was when it came to his powers and what he did with them, but he was coming close now under Warren’s withering gaze. The move reminded Warren of exactly who he was talking to: a good kid who had never showed any indication that he would ever hurt his daughter. His expression softened a fraction.

Keeping his stature ramrod straight, he spoke slowly and clearly. “Tell me what you’re sorry about.”

Warrick scrubbed the side of his face with the heel of his hand. This was the moment he’d known would come at some point in his life with Tink, but he’d prayed it would be years away after he’d become a great enough hero to absolve him of all the terrible situations he’d dragged Tink into.

“It started a couple of years ago when Tink came to visit me over Christmas break. There was this villain, Metal X. I’d never heard of him before, but he had a grudge against ‘Coat… uh… The Whitecoat. He’s sort of my mentor for this heroing thing and X hoped to use me to flush him out.”

At this, he adopted a more defensive position as he laid the whole thing out: having his identity revealed to Tink, getting her to safety, and finally how she’d come back to help and become infected with Type VII and Type VIII nanites in the process. He tried to explain what this did to her, but nanotechnology wasn’t his scientific specialty and neither was it Warren’s so he left it at that.

By the time he was done, years worth of guilt had bubbled tot he surface and Warrick seemed to have folded in on himself over it.

“Look Mr. Carlyle, I totally understand if you want to take a shot at me and I wouldn’t try and stop you if you did. If not for me, Tink’d be living a way safer and way more comfortable life.” He tensed, fully expecting a blow to land.

When one didn’t land, he looked up to find Warren’s attention on Tink as she spoke with her grandmother.

“…promise everything’s going to be alright. Now there’s some men from the government on their way right now and they’re going to get you somewhere safe. We’re going to be seeing each other real soon, okay? Love you Grandma.”

Warren looked toward Warrick, but it was Occult that spoke. “There’s always been a plan in place in case our identities were compromised… apparently. An agency called the ROCIC is rolling right now to pick up all of our immediate families and take them to secure facilities. Except for the ones who already know and have alternative transportation and, well, you guys because you’re obviously priority one because Tink is the only one whose identity they know for sure.”

“And because we figured Tink might need you right now,” Warrick added.

Allie glanced at him with tear-stained eyes and started to nod before something occurred to her. “Why all this security? Why is this happening?”

It was Warren who replied, having sussed things out by virtue of his own experiences with security clearances. “Because it’s just like if there was a security breech in the upper echelons of the service. Now that people know who they are, their security status just went through a major shift. Their immediate family and close contacts now have to be vetted, granted a clearance level and reviewed for possible protection details.”

He reached out and put an arm around Allie, drawing her close. “Our lives are about to change drastically.”

Tink had just hung up with her grandmother and shyly handed the palmtop back to Allie. “I… I’m so sorry. I never thought about what might happen if people found out. If I had been paying attention when that thing tried to bite me none of this would be happening right now.”

Four people reached out to comfort her at the same time, resulting in an awkward pile-up. Occult, deciding she was least qualified to do so and backed away, allowing Tink’s parents and boyfriend to do their best to ingrain in her how it wasn’t their fault and how the whole situation was inevitable from the start—if not her then someone else on the team.

Eventually, it was Tink who broke things up, her eyes threatening tears at any moment. “T-thanks everyone. Really. But we really do need to get back. The house may not be safe.” As if on cue, Occult opened a new astral teleportation portal, its light washing the room in rose light. “But we can get you to somewhere that is.”

***

“What is the meaning of this?!” roared Morgan Flint. His heavy steps and cane sounded out a cacophonous beat on the thinly carpeted floor of one of Project Tome’s operations rooms. Namely, one of the operations rooms he hadn’t expected to be operational.

“Ah Flint,” Simon Talbot was standing at the central console of the room with his back to the door, watching as technicians combed through hundreds of rapidly-changing blogs and videos from the far corners of the internet. “How nice of you to finally join us mere hours after all hell breaks loose.”

Flint stomped and clomped his way up to Talbot and grabbed him roughly by the shoulder, pulling him around to face him. “Just what do you think you’re doing making use of my resources and moving my personnel?”

A cruel smirk was his reply. “Correction Flint: I’m using Project resources and personnel. Not only that, but I’m doing so with the full backing and direction of the Board.” He feigned shock at the change in the older man’s expression and the loud intake of air in his artificial lungs. “Oh? Did you just get an alert that I was playing with what you think are your toys and not think to check why I was doing so?”

“What are you playing at, Talbot?”

“Oh I did nothing my friend. It’s the Descendants who finally slipped up.” Talbot roughly pulled himself out of Flint’s grasp and turned to gesture with both arms at the large screen in front of him. At the center of the many images and screenshots being shown, there was the newly-famous one of Renaissance without her cowl.

Flint wheezed and moved up beside him, the various older-model synthetic organs inside him humming and hissing. “So what? We knew their identities already.”

“We knew the original members. We’ve only been able to speculate on Occult and Renaissance. More importantly though is the fact that we know that Laurel Brant is one of them and she is certainly the kind of woman to have a contingency for this sort of thing. Likely based on the one the US government has for similar situations?”

“Spare me your dramatics and just explain your operation to me.”

“Not that I have to, but then again how will you learn?” Talbot leaned on the console before him. Ignoring the growl in Flint’s throat, he starting bringing up lists of names and addresses. “I actually formulated this plan years ago, but then the Board felt it would be a nuclear option. Things have now changed.”

Flint ground his teeth. “You’re still pontificating. The operation, Talbot. Now.”

“In a word?” Talbot said, “Hostages. Hostages who the ROCIC will shortly be putting out in the open for us if my suspicions are correct. But that’s not all: they’re going to go to ground now; try and hole up. So I’m sending all our heavy hitters to Freeland House to deal with them.”

Wearing a sour expression, Flint looked around until he found the rosters for the resources Talbot was activating: almost all the super-powered assets Tome had: human canine and faerie. “This is doomed to failure,” he said darkly, “You’ve over-committed before and lost.”

“Not this time,” Talbot said through a savage grin. “This time we’re going at them while they’re already wounded.”

Flint folded his arms, tapping the end of the cane against his elbow. “A wounded animal is the most dangerous kind, Talbot. You should know that.”

***

“It’s not that I don’t have faith in your people, General, it’s more that I feel like given the capabilities of the enemies we’ve made even the minimum exposure ROCIC transport will expose them too is just enough to create a window of opportunity.”

Laurel was where she’d been since the moment they their mission stopped: inside the LSI HQ’s communications center coordinating the most massive operation of her life. Possibly the most important as well. “If we didn’t have so many people to bring in, I would have had Occult teleport them.”

“I assure you we’re doing what we can to protect them including embedding Camp Hero recruits with the transport crews in case of powered attackers.” General Pratt was on the other side of the line, doing the same as her from the governmental side of things. “Believe me Ms. Brant, we’ve scrambled everyone including pulling people off leave. All hands are on deck and we are here for you.”

“Much appreciated, General. Though I’m not certain where we go from here. I’ve seen the ROCIC’s budget and there aren’t enough funds to provide the number of protection details I’m estimating here, not even minimal coverage. As you know, the kind of threats this might entail aren’t in the form of simple gunmen and knife-wielding assassins.”

The General muttered his agreement. “We’re looking at all available options including asking for cooperation from other agencies via Homeland Security.”

“Do any of those agencies have a surplus of agents that have experience dealing with powered threats?”

“If by ‘surplus’ you mean ‘piddling handful’, then yes,” Pratt admitted.

Laurel closed her eyes tightly as she pondered what to do next. “God, why doesn’t the government have an agency dedicated specifically to superpowers and superheroes by now? No offense again General, but your agency wasn’t founded with any of this in mind.”

“No offense taken,” replied the General. “I’ve attended a dozen congressional hearings and a presidential briefing on the subject just this year alone. Myself and Dr. Masters have testified to the need for a dedicated agency, maybe even a cabinet position regarding descendants, faeries, cyborgs and any other supra-normal citizens, refugees, threats and miscellaneous. Every time, they denied it with the same excuse: money. Maybe this situation will finally convince them of the necessity.”

“That isn’t going to help things in the present. I think it might be time to call in—”

She’d missed the sound of the main door opening, only recalling it when she heard Ian’s voice. “LSI? The Calvary?”

Laurel turned her seat around and, for the first time that day, was pleasantly surprised.

Ian was standing at the forefront of a large group of people in costumes. “As it turns out, you didn’t have to.”

From his right side, The White Coat stepped forward. “Yeah, the internet did that for you. Tough luck for Alloy’s girlfriend. Could have been any of us and I think we all think about what might happen if our enemies found out who we were. So you know what? New York is here for you guys: wherever you need us to be.”

He held out his hand behind him to present the New York heroes: Barn Owl, Stunner, Improv, and Urban Ranger. Surprisingly, they were joined by Adamantine.

“Chicago is her as well,” a deep voice announced, drawing attention to a tall, broad-shouldered form standing behind a goth woman in a long leather gown and witch’s hat: Umbrage and Shade’s Apprentice. They were joined by the Outliers: Geiger, Kronos, Kali, and Anura.

“Don’t forget LA!” Teen Machine in his green armor stood almost as tall as Umbrage and was flanked by the Descendants LA team.

It wasn’t an ally but a teammate who reported last. Callie zipped out in front of everyone and gave a smart salute. “I-I didn’t know if you wanted me to let them into the base or not, but the rest of Mayfield is here too: some of my fellow Irregulars and also my cousin and her friends—you might have known them as The Kin?”

Whitecoat folded his arms and nodded his head as each group was announced. “You guys have made a lot of friends over the past couple of years—friends who won’t just let you swing in your time of need. And we’re likely just the ones who know how to come in and say so.”

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

  1. Typos

    tot he
    to the

    security breech
    security breach

    qualified to do so and backed away,
    qualified to do so backed away,

    human canine and faerie.
    human, canine and faerie.

    The Calvary?”
    The cavalry?”

    “Chicago is her
    “Chicago is here

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