The Descendants #96 – Kill Hope Chp. 1

This entry is part 21 of 55 in the series Current

“Special Agent Aaron Dalton.” The agent was a tall, tanned man with dirty blonde hair with a prominent widow’s peek. He had a baby face he tried to counter with a perpetual scowl and dark glasses.

The woman on the other side of the table extended her hand. “Tasha Spraang.” her accent was light, vaguely Eastern European. Dark, almost black hair was allowed to fall around her face in thick waves while her angular face was set in an all-business mask. “Attorney for Mr. Otis.”

Agent Dalton’s eyes turned to the man handcuffed to the chair next to Ms. Spraang; the man who called himself Joykiller. Divested of all the hair and skin dyes, his masks, the digital projections, he was a tall, rangy white kid with a long, beak-like nose, curly straw-blonde hair, and a stare like a bird of prey: soulless and predatory. “Is he still insisting that’s his name?”

“Until your people find an official birth name, that’s what we have, Agent Dalton.” Ms. Spraang pointed out.

Joykiller scoffed, “I did promise to give my real name if they gave me at least some respect and moved me to a prison fitting of who and what I am.” He turned his nose up at the agent, apparently studying the wall off to hi left. “I am a hypercog, after all. Inhuman mental capacity, processing speed and spacial reasoning. This is a place for goons who committed mere state-level crimes. I should be in an IPBA prison, or Federal Super-Max at the very least.”

The agent clenched his jaw. “Right. We were going to move a man known for building his fan base using every manipulation tactic in the book including cult indoctrination techniques to a place full of disenfranchised prisoners with superpowers. That would be a grand idea.”

“A point to you, Agent Dalton. You or your superiors who fought to keep me here in Coffewood obviously did your homework.” Joykiller shifted in his seat and stared directly at the agent. “Dalton… any relation to Timothy Dalton, the Bond actor?”

“Excuse me?”

Joykiller rolled his eyes. “James Bond? The franchise that codified the Tuxedo and Martinis genre of spy fiction? Dalton played the title character in two films: The Living Daylights and License To Kill. The latter is actually my favorite of the entire series: Leiter’s wedding culminating in his bride being murdered and he himself being mauled to within an inch of his life by a shark; Bond rejecting every single aspect of justice and honor he ever showed to get his petty vengeance—he seals a man up in a contained full of larvae to be eaten alive by a million tiny mandibles—did you know that? It’s the perfect film,, really.”

He smirked at the agent, expression. “What? You didn’t think I would be a fan of the big, dumb action hero? That would be because you’re looking at the films incorrectly. These aren’t about a hero saving the day, this is about misguided visionaries developing technology and tactics that could change the world if they fell into more stable hands—and one man who singlehandedly guts their dreams in front of them and destroys their breakthroughs so utterly that they never see the light of day again. Think about it: how many homes could the solar device from The Man With The Golden Gun powered? How many wars would have ended in minutes if every nation had Goldeneye satellites ready to blast enemy installations with an EMP?Bond has annihilated fully functional undersea habitations, space stations, and more sources of cheap, efficient energy than most people can imagine. And let’s not forget all the women he beds and discards over the course of almost sixty movies now.

“In short, James Bond is an agent of entropy and suffering. He’s the Joykiller of the last century and I for one applaud him for that.”

Agent Dalton took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Whatever. We aren’t hear to talk about your taste in movies. I’m here to question you about—“

“–the copycats that are popping up?” Joykiller cut him of, then laughed. “Don’t look surprised. Every video I ever put up averaged two to three million hits. I got more comments and support than most entertainment channels. Not only were copycats inevitable once I was silenced, but they were all part of the plan.”

Agent Dalton pushed the sinking feeling in the back of his mind down and managed to demand, “What plan?”

Seemingly thanks to muscle memory, Joykiller reached up to brush at his hair even though it had been cut short when he entered prison. “Oh please, you know people like myself always have a plan. I can’t just let my work die because I was caught an imprisoned—and despite how much of an ego you think I have, that was always a possibility I acknowledged. I left instructions, equipment and cash all over this country, their locations hidden in code in my videos for any smart enough person to find. Enough for there to be twenty Joykillers sprouting up about now.”

“Which videos are you talking about? You’ve made hundreds?”

“Only one hundred eighty-seven.” Joykiller replied immediately. Then he looked over to his attorney. “Can you believe him? He doesn’t know the right questions to ask and yet he still arranged for this meeting. The taxpayers of Virginia are burning money right now, with me having to be dragged up to this interrogation room. Funny how they don’t respect me enough to put me in a federal prison, but they still have me brought to the most secure room in the prison.”

Agent Dalton ignored the aside. “We know you investigated your followers. We have your files on them.”

“But can’t crack the cipher I used.” Joy killer interrupted again. “I learned a big lesson from the Descendants’ hacker, but luckily, I didn’t use the same encryption on my personal files as I did my passwords. Now I have a bargaining chip.”

The agent struggled mightily not to clench his hands into fists and pound that smug face into he concrete floor. “Indeed you do. In exchange for opening up your files so we can identify the copycats, we’re prepared to take the Federal death penalty off the table.”

Again, Joykiller laughed. “Oh really? When no one’s actually been executed in America in the past two decades? And even then, it was Texas, not the Feds. Let’s face it, G-man, your ‘deterrent’ has no teeth and it’s not that good a bargain. I want full immunity for my many, many crimes.”

“Not gonna happen.” Agent Dalton started to get up and leave.

Joykiller actually seemed to relax further into his seat. “Really? You think you can do this without me? That one Joykiller out on the streets wouldn’t be preferable to dozens of pretenders?” He leaned forward, placing his hands on the table as far as his shackles would allow.

“Think about it, Mr. Dalton: I have far more devoted fans than just those clever enough to get my blessing. There will be hundreds of them out there. Even with the hit I took from that video the Descendants made about how some of my acts resulted in positives, they’re already bought in. The sunk costs fallacy is a harsh mistress. And do you have any idea how many they are and how diverse? They’re not just disillusioned kids, they’re doctors, salesmen, actors, engineers—my god, there’s something about that profession that just makes people so… open; do you have any idea how many terrorists from all the many and varies of terrorist out there have that background?–and let’s not forget the common man. I’ve got a lot of folks who believe in my cause just because they’d rather watch the world burn than let other people succeed. It’s amazing, really.”

He paused and cocked his head as if listening.

Dalton did too, and even through the thick concrete walls, he could hear them: gunshots.

“Don’t worry: those are just blanks.” Joykiller said, a sadistic gleam coming to his eyes. “If you survive the next forty seconds, check the browser history of the man who runs the prison armory. Oh, and the roster of a certain construction company out of Madison.”

With that, he pushed off the table with all his might, sending the heavy metal chair skidding back to the far wall. Ms. Straang was up in an instant, leaning over him in a clear attempt to shield him with her body.

Dalton rose with a shout, alerting the guards outside.

It was too late. The ceiling exploded as a wrecking ball dropped through it, pulverizing the concrete above into a hail of chunks and dust. It stopped just above the table, now littered with debris before rising back out of the hole, revealing a free-lev construction crane hovering over the prison.

Seconds after the wrecking ball was retracted, a flat, metal disc on a cable lowered. Dalton only just managed to leap aside as his chair was lifted by the magnet’s pull to stick fast to the disc, followed shortly thereafter by Straang’s chair and the pen she’d been using to take notes.

There was a long scraping creak an Dalton looked up to see Joykiller push Ms. Straang aside. She was bleeding from a wide gash in the shoulder and holding her head from where a chunk of concrete struck her. Joykiller paid her no other mind as he muscled hi s chair around so the back was to the magnet and started scooting himself backward.

As Dalton was cursing having thought it best to surrender his firearm before entering the room, lest Joykiller get a hold of it, the two guards from outside charged in—and promptly had their pistols ripped from their grasps by the magnet.

“You might want to look into the FAA too!” Joykiller cackled as he finally got the chair close enough that he too was pulled up to the magnet. “Either they got hacked, or someone’s a fan who let this thing just cruise right into the prison’s airspace. Either way, I expect you’re in a for a fun couple of weeks, Agent Dalton!”

He was still cackling as the magnet retracted, drawing him up tot he construction vehicle.

Minutes later, he was gone, abandoning his attorney and accomplice to his fate. As he watched the woman slump over, still trying to get a look at her escaped idol, Dalton couldn’t help but think she should have listened to what Joykiller had said about how Bond treated women. Maybe she did and imagined he wouldn’t treat her like that. Either way, she should have seen this coming.

***

“Why did she run?””

Laurel Brant was in a partially natural cavern deep beneath the Pre-Revolution-era fortress known as Forsworn House. Really, only features in the room were a thirty-foot long fern-like burn pattern on the rocky ground presumably from a lightning bolt, and an second burn, this one an irregular circle covered in the ash and smoldering remains of what appeared to have been drift wood.

Twelve hours earlier, there had been a party going on at Forsworn House, thrown by Wayne Micheals. Eleven and a half hours ago, every single person in the building reportedly hallucinated a wide variety of horrific and/or fantastical imagery, mostly involving wither greenery or ice and passed out.

Among their number were some of her fellow Descendants: Darkness, Facsimile, Vamanos and Ephemeral. It was from them that she’d gotten the most coherent recollections. In the meantime, all of Morganna’s lackeys disappeared, leaving a fortress full of magical paraphernalia and just over a hundred party guests in severe need of counseling.

The ROCIC had cordoned the grounds off and started processing the guests, feeding them lies about gas leaks and the many, many recreational drugs found on site.

That left Laurel, as the only remaining magical expert the ROCIC knew, to examine what Morganna left behind.

“Maybe she saw what I saw.” Alexis Keyes, Laurel’s best friend and fellow superhero, Darkness, shook her head, trying to get the events of the last night out of her head. Her vision had been one of a mountain glacier that moved with exceptional speed, leading with thousands of frozen lances jutting out before it.

“All the visions seem to be related to Faerie,” said Laurel.

On the other side of the chamber, Laurel’s adoptive daughter, Cyn, AKA Facsimile, was pacing. “Right. And we know the Book says this was a teleportation circle. So let’s make a new one and go get Alloy and Renaissance and Occult.”

Laurel shook her head, wishing Cyn could see her sympathetic expression. “If it were that easy, I would have done it already. This gate… first of all, there are no cross-planar spells in the Books we know about so far. Plus, this circle… it’s more like a very long range teleportation spell. We don’t know how to ‘follow’ this, exactly. That’s why we have calls in to the Magi Club and Descendants LA. Hopefully they know more than us.”

Cyn let out an annoyed sound. “But who knows what they could be up to over there? They could be fighting Maeve already for all we know. Alone. Our friends against the thing we know dragons and gods are worried about. What about Rosie the Ritualist back at the jet? Y’know, Copy-Lisa?”

“You mean the Manikin?” She nodded. “I’m honestly contemplating the pros and cons of accepting her help now,” Laurel admitted. “After all, she… or it… knows more about what Morganna did than we do. If anything, t could at least help us recreate this spell.”

“Cool, I’ll go get her.”

“Hold on, Fax.” Alexis held up her hand. “She said she was contemplating, not that she was going to do it. For all we know, the Manikin is trying to act as a mole on our team.”

Cyn rolled her eyes and ruffled her golden feathers. “Have you ever heard Morganna talk? Trust me, that bitch is too cracked to come up with something like that.”

The conversation would have gone on like that if Alexis’s comm didn’t warble. She skipped replying to Cyn to answer it. “Go.”

“It’s Chaos, topside. I just got a call from the Virginia State Police.”

“Have we worked with Staties before?” Cyn asked, only to be shushed by Alexis.

“What do they need?”

“There’s been a breakout North of Mayfield, Coffeewood Correctional Facility. It’s the Joykiller.”

Cyn slapped her forehead. “You’ve gotta be shitting me. That guy? The way he went down, he’s Alloy’s nemesis by rights and he’s not here.” She cracked her knuckles, “Guess that means it’s my job to dropkick him back to jail.”

She started marching toward the exit tunnel when a hand landed on her shoulder. “Hold on there, Facsimile. The Joykiller is a confirmed genius intellect who was only defeated last time by us figuring out his plans ahead of time. He’ll have learned from the last encounter. You’ll need all the help you can get.”

“What about you?”

“I’ve got to stay here to figure out how to get the others back.” Laurel then looked past her to Alexis. “I think the full remaining team needs to be on this. It’s highly likely he’ll come to Mayfield for revenge, so we need full monitoring of the city—but no patrols. I would imagine hi first thoughts would be capturing one of us to lure the others out.”

Cyn squinted at her. “You aren’t making the greatest case to leave you here.”

Laurel patted her shoulder. “I’ll stay in touch as much as I can, okay? I have faith in you guys that you can bring Joykiller in again.”

The younger woman looked down and scowled. “I having to do this without you or Alloy.”

“I know. But he’ll be back soon and you’ll have the satisfaction of telling him how you defeated his nemesis. One of his nemeses—you’re forgetting Metal X.”

Cyn grinned, though it was offset somewhat by uncertainty. “I’m falling behind: I’ve just got Shine.”

“I promise we’ll find you a nice, new nemesis later, okay? Now get going—and be careful.”

“You can count on me!” Cyn said, snapping off a fake salute before heading out, followed soon after by Alexis.

To Be Continued…

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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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2 Comments

  1. Um. Laurel’s argument seems to be that she would be the best to take on Joykiller and that she has no real chance of tracing the teleport to Faerie, then she assigns everyone else to the former and herself to the latter. Cyn seems to figure that out too. Beats me.

    Anyway, typos.

    widow’s peek.
    widow’s peak.

    to hi left.
    to his left.

    contained full of
    container full of

    film,, really.”
    film, really.”

    EMP?Bond
    EMP? Bond

    was caught an
    was caught and

    how many terrorists from all the many and varies of terrorist
    how many terrorists
    (or rewrite the extra part somehow, but I think it’s unnecessary)

    tot he construction
    to the construction

    hi s chair
    his chair

    been drift wood.
    been driftwood.

    wither greenery
    withered greenery (or ‘withering greenery’)

    anything, t could
    anything, it could

    hi first thoughts
    his first thoughts

    • The intention is that she’s not confident she can trace them, but she has to commit all the resources capable of doing so to the task to at least make the attempt. Her not taking point, while being the one who now has 3/4 of th e4 Books and access ot Manikin would be giving up on them.

      Of course at this point she doesn’t know what Joykiller plans to do.

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