October 9, 2316
The Academy, Elementōrum Patriam
Aideen sat in a large room with a floor to ceiling window on the west facing wall. The seamless window overlooked part of the donut shaped City of Garden. The elementalists painted the room in bright colors and filled it with furniture to match: soft plush couches, bean bags, conforming bungee cord chairs, papasan chairs, blankets with pillows, and poufs. The room a smorgasbord of comfortable furniture they could use to… stare out a window.
The hedges grew in a maze filled with beautiful flowers and happy animals which hopped along the edges; they created a spectacular view. Occasionally, she saw elementalists outside tending to the landscaping garden which faded down into the town itself; a city designed to imitate Italian style villas, in their sector, covered in vines and other climbing foliage. Faintly, between the houses, roads passed by in a myriad of colors from excessive planting along the curbside.
The kind woman Aideen met after her arrival at the Academy left all too soon. The little girl felt as though someone lied to her.
Yes, Madame Dyan connected with her regarding their struggle to control their ability as children, but as soon as the council members vanished, Dyan led Aideen to a dorm room with people mostly older than her. She felt cheery over the first couple days, before she realized her abilities had nothing special over the person seated next to her in class. All elementalists. Everyone would be able to have some level of control over something when they graduated.
She had a of questions about Elementōrum Patriam, and Madame Dyan appeared happy to answer them until they reached the dorms. There, she presented Aideen with a map of the country, and several of different floors of the Academy. One area highlighted in red with the warning: DO NOT GO HERE UNLESS SUMMONED BY THE COUNCIL. Madame Dyan left shortly after supplying her with the necessary items and introducing her to her dorm mates. Aideen didn’t find them terribly kind.
An older student collected Aideen from the observatory room and took her to her first class at the Academy. The class, made up of students close to her age, caused her to look forward to making new friends. The teacher went over the expectations of the class and handed out glass phones to each student. The teacher walked over the instructions to bind the phone to them specifically, as it would follow them through their schooling. Aideen stared at her student number and realized it contained a lot of numbers; too high for her to know how to read it. She had a distinct impression she became another blip on the computer.
“These phones are to be used for a variety of purposes.” The teacher held up her own as an example. “The first is: it’s your primary form of contact within our country. The phone is attached to you personally as an elementalist. The council has access to your contact information should they need to take disciplinary action with you directly. In case you drop it, the unit can last up to five hours immersed in water as deep as one-hundred feet. Most pools on campus are this deep as we use them during training.”
The kids gasped in awe at the depth of the pools, used to most going to twelve feet only in the presence of a diving board at public pools on earth’s surface.
“Now, the phone is tied directly to your genetic code. You can put any of your fingers anywhere on the screen and it will scan and recognize you before it unlocks. You can personalize it as needed, but there are several applications installed which host your personal information. These apps cannot be removed. Do not lose the phone, do not misplace it, and do not leave it in your room. It must be on your person at all times.”
The teacher continued to list restrictions, but Aideen’s mind drifted away from the speech to examine her phone. One of the applications, listed as ELE ID, hosted her name, height, weight, registered element, and more information she didn’t process—but she figured it must be important.
With the phone demonstration over, they moved into language acquisition. The teacher focused on the phonics of the English language before the subject moved to the history of the elementalists which included a rundown of the elements available and brief course on a more recent history of the nine elements.
By the time classes ended for the day, Aideen wanted a nap. She prepared to crawl into her bed and take one once she got back to the dorm rooms, but her dorm mates made too much noise. She watched them complete their homework for a long while before she hmphed and pushed her face into her pillow where hot tears stained the fabric. She didn’t like this one bit.
Aideen managed to drift into a soft sleep which left her awake and ready to play when her roommates headed off to bed. She didn’t want to keep them up by working on her homework late into the night, and she decided exploring the Academy campus would be a better use of her time—if they didn’t impose a curfew.
She clutched her phone in one hand and the map in the other as she explored the dark hallways by herself. The soft slide of footsteps down the hall alerted her to a patrol and she darted under the first object she could find; a bench.
Unable to figure out how to deactivate the flashlight, she muffled the light by pressing the phone between her thighs. As the guard moved past, they swept their flashlight in a wide arc across the floor and the ring of light clipped the edge of Aideen’s shoe. She cringed, waiting for the guard to lean down and pull her out from under the bench, but it didn’t happen. Instead, the guard moved further down the hall and once she thought they moved far enough away, she unmasked her phone and looked at the map again.
The gardens out of the north exit looked fun, because it had a large fountain drawn in on the map, and she followed the hallway toward the back exit.
As she rounded the corner, the patrol guard put a hand on her shoulder.
“Time for bed, little one.” He showed her quietly back to her dorm room and waited outside for several minutes before he ascertained Aideen would stay put for the remainder of the night.
Disappointed, she climbed back into bed and wondered how mad her teachers would be when they found she didn’t complete her homework.
October 15, 2316
Why, Arizona, United States of America
Kim browsed through the open tabs on his computer screen. He spent the last several hours studying phenomena in the news regarding children. He assumed at least some of them would end up as elementalist children; the Council kept elementalist record sealed. They refused to share more information outside of the country. Small snippets slipped through, but the information never gave them a clear picture of the elementalists as a people. On exterior record, Kim only found the yearly census numbers for their population.
He turned his attention to newsworthy topics of children who performed miracles. He thought he might be able to trace their journey through life until an empty drop off point which would indicate a death, or transfer to Elementōrum Patriam.
MIRACLE BOY SHOCKS DOCTORS
July 5, 2302
LEWISTOWN, MO (TMP) — After the tragic events in Harlowton, Montana earlier this week, the result of the capture and killing of a Rogue elementalist a month before, search crews found a child still alive after a mysterious massacre.
Investigators found the town desolate after several employees from different establishments failed to show up consistently to work. A concerned family member, who hadn’t heard from their sister in a couple weeks, became the first to reach out to law enforcement outside Harlowton when they couldn’t get ahold of the police station in the city.
When search crews found bodies in the first few houses searched, it warranted larger action from the community. The put together a search team and found an incidental massacre. They expected to find no one alive, but to their surprise, one child lived through the death of the entire city.
Equipped with gas masks, which the child did not have access to, crews found rotten and spoiled food in the house he lived in. He appeared sickly, as though he hadn’t eaten for several days, and emergency personnel transported him immediately to a hospital in Lewiston.
A toxicology report ran on the child and on the dead bodies, revealed the child as clean for the same substance which killed his biological parents. Lewiston calls it a miracle; they found five-year-old Ethan Silverspoon safe. Doctors at the hospital stated any more starvation or dehydration may have killed the child.
Ethan’s primary care doctor in the hospital, Doctor Skastone, stated: “Ethan will be a miracle people talk about in Lewistown for years to come. His survival is a happy surprise and we look forward to reuniting him with his still living family members. I’m sure they’re grateful to still have him in their lives.”
Child Protection Services announced his grandparents, currently residing in Nevada, would be making a trip to Lewistown to collect their grandson and take him home with them. They are ecstatic to have their grandchild in their possession.
Kim frowned at the article and hit the “x” in the corner of the tab. He didn’t gain anything from the article to lead him to finding more about the elementalists themselves. The next one didn’t have a promising title, but he figured it couldn’t hurt to skim the few paragraphs.
YOUNG TEEN VANISHES OVERNIGHT
February 15, 2310
ELKTON, VA (TVT) — Parents of star student, Kristen Delvenah, from Elkton Middle School awoke in the morning to find their daughter missing. The teen did not leave behind a note; there are no claims for ransom currently, and no signs of a visible struggle inside their modest home.
They reported they never had trouble with their daughter before this incident. Her father reported they are a close family and he and his wife cannot fathom why she vanished overnight. Police at this time are categorizing it as a clean runaway, but there are a few strange events surrounding the disappearance which keep the law enforcement interested in the case.
Since Kristen disappeared from home, there have been several reports of people seeing her on the street—but within a few seconds of her sighting she vanishes again, only to turn up several hundred miles away from the other sighting.
If you have any information on Kristen Delvenah, please contact the number below. Law enforcement is tracking her sightings closely.
The comments on the article focused on placing the blame on elementalists and Kim closed the tab with an annoyed scoff. The tab after it closed on accident as well and he pulled up the history window to retrieve it.
ORPHANAGE SPLITS FROM CLIFF AND TUMBLES INTO THE SEA
May 28, 2311
TACOMA, WA (WD) — Residents in Tacoma received the scare of a lifetime after a shift in tectonic plates sent an orphanage built on the cliffside tumbling into the crashing ocean waters 300 ft below.
Those inside the orphanage unaware of the gradually loosening rock after each earthquake to affect the area. A temporary memorial, which will be made permanent in the next couple years, is set up on the edge of the cliff to signify the lives lost.
The elementalist Council arrived immediately on the scene, previously there to retrieve a child they knew to be one of them. The Council members immediately broke off into several rescue teams to help the survivors. After inspection, the elementalists confirmed the collapse a natural occurrence and not the work of a Rogue, or a malicious act performed by any of their people.
The council met directly with the mayor of Tacoma to discuss the cliffside setting and the rescue of the orphans and their caretakers. The elementalists took at least four of the children with them after recognizing them as part of their race. Currently, there are only ten confirmed deaths. All those living are rescued, and there are crews working on recovering bodies from the wreckage and matching them with the records of those in the orphanage.
We are monitoring the situation and will update this article as more information becomes available. At this time, the names released by law enforcement are:
The list continued, but Kim lost his attention on the article. Instead, he stared at the familiar name. Ethan Silverspoon. The miracle child from Harlowton. The article said he would live with his grandparents, but several years later he showed up in an orphanage two states away. Curious, Kim typed the name into a new search window and found several articles detailing how he moved across the United States due to several terrible accidents. In the end, he found a death record from a few months before listed in the public records for the elementalists. His profile tagged with the “ROGUE” label in large letters.
Kim licked his lips and opened another new window. He typed in the girl’s name from the runaway case and found her name listed on the elementalist website as a most wanted Rogue. He typed in a few other names off the list, but none of them yielded the same results as the first two names. A smile graced his lips as he realized he had a chance. He could track who might be an elementalist and get to them before the council. He could find Kristen Delvenah before the council had a chance to kill her. A quick search found a few more names he wanted to investigate more: Michael Horowitz, Akihiko Paku, Kacely Annan, Afiríyie Farkyi Azanwule.
He only needed an army behind him.
December 25, 2310
The first day Scarlet spent as a Council member immersed her headfirst into her future duties. The council members with seniority requested she help oversee the laws and bills portion of the government because they wanted her input. Despite giving her own personal feelings regarding the information presented, she didn’t feel like she did much during the day.
Her first few hours working side by side with Luana made her realize the woman had a superiority complex no one on the council acknowledged. Several arguments led in looping circles which gave no progression; Scarlet gave up and went quiet for the duration of the shift. It allowed her more time to examine her surroundings and become familiar with the council chambers.
At the time she accepted the position, only three of the council members from 2316 served with her. The others close to her age (Hans and Scott) told her Luana served with the council the longest; their words evidenced by her attitude and the way she took control of the work on a particularly cloudy morning.
Hans sat in the room with them and watched Luana instead of inputting his own opinions. Scarlet let a small giggle escape and ended up being scolded by Luana for not listening to the presentation. She rolled her eyes once the brunette looked away and caught Hans’ curious gaze. She did her best to give a non-verbal communication to show she knew he liked Luana romantically, but he didn’t seem to understand the gesture.
Once Luana’s speech ended, the room remained mostly quiet until they released for lunch. Scarlet grew excited since it meant she would be with the other elementalists and could engage in conversation outside of “this is how the council has done it since I was eight and it’s not changing.”
In the communal dining area, she collected her own ordered meal from the dumbwaiter and took a seat at the table across from a boy dressed in dark blue skinny jeans, boots, and a black jacket. He had the hood up over his face and she couldn’t remember whether his age as one of the younger or older council members. Scarlet examined the American cuisine on the council members plate before she glanced around the table to see what the others decided to eat. The council had a lot of diversity around the table, but she would be the only one not eating any meat products.
“I’m Lí Scarlet.” She gave a slight nod to the man across the table.
“Oh, right, first name first.” Scarlet blushed.
“It’s alright to keep your culture here.” Hans interrupted. “Elementōrum Patriam is a country meant to collect the world and merge it in the best way possible.”
“Where is everyone from?”
“South Carolina—it’s a state on the east coast in America.” Scott offered.
“City of Vasha.” Hans grinned. “More specifically from the Russia sector.”
“I’m from Tennessee.” Luana rolled her eyes. “What about you, though?”
“Honghu, Jingzhou, in the Hubei prefecture of China.” She glanced at her plate. “Hans, can I ask why you have a German name?”
“My grandmother was German—she always wanted a son named Hans, but she only had daughters. Since I’m my mother’s second son, she named me Hans in honor of her mother’s wish. It upset a few of the traditionalist Russians when they first found out.” He took a bite of his meal. “What about you? Do you have a different name in Mandarin?”
“It’s not necessarily different. My name is Xīng Hóng, but it translates to Scarlet, so my name isn’t really any different.”
Luana opened her mouth, but Hans put a hand on her arm before she could vocalize any thoughts. He shook his head quickly and the brunette looked away with a scowl.
“When did you join the council, Scott?”
“A few months ago.”
“The older the council members get, the closer they die together.” Grant, the water elementalist, offered. “I doubt we’ll see anyone else die this year, though.”
Several weeks passed before Scarlet felt like a part of the council. She learned how to work in the parameters of the expectations between those around her and the council head. Scarlet also discovered the library where she spent most of her free hours studying. During part of her time, she took the time to learn to speak Russian and after several months practicing on her own, she felt confident to say her first sentence to Hans.
He stared at her for a long while before he gently corrected her pronunciation on a couple words. He became her tutor for the language until they could have fluent conversations in Russian on any topic. Hans tried to learn Mandarin in return, but he struggled too much; Scarlet asked him to stop wasting his time. His gesture made her happy and she preferred conversing in Russian when English wouldn’t be available.
Luana would often make rude comments when they had mini conversations during meals and Hans always rolled his eyes and reassured it as an issue with Luana, not with them.
Older members of the council started to pass away and with each one, they collected a new member. The Life elementalist died in 2311 and Dwayne joined their number. Scarlet didn’t know what to think about the easygoing adult with nicknames for everyone and a joke in every situation. His constant smile made a nice change and the way he clapped back on Luana certainly kept them entertained.
She especially liked the nickname he gave her, Mulan, after hearing about her past. The nickname meant he paid attention to her and genuinely cared about what she told him.
Eilene joined them in 2312, a few short months before Series joined them at only fourteen-years-old. Luana and Eilene didn’t get along from day one. She refused to shy away from fighting for her opinion and often challenged Luana on her policies for the country and international relations. On the other hand, Eilene and Dwayne stuck together thick as thieves and Scarlet wondered if the two would announce an official relationship—but then, one day, Dwayne came out as asexual. As an Ace herself, Scarlet felt her heart break a little for Eilene who had no idea.
The two later found out Series identified as a bi demisexual after she walked in on them talking about being asexual and musing about the other council members sexualities. After a few months, they dropped the topic since it didn’t matter. The decision to join the Council created a lock on a regular life.
They couldn’t have relationships outside of a professional one. If it led anywhere, the council member couldn’t build their own family.
October 18, 2316
London, Greater London, England
Several deep-dive internet searches led him to finding the London Library website which boasted elementalist texts not found anywhere else in the world. He used part of the money received from the elementalists to pay for his trip abroad. He had a few feelers lingering on the web to investigate others who would join his cause—but he didn’t have much success in the first few days. He knew he had to be patient, but his heart didn’t want him to move slowly. Kim wanted his daughter back in his arms.
When he got off the plane in London, he decided to forgo an immediate library trip due to a bit of jet lag; instead, she checked into his hotel. When he woke from a long rest, he checked the library hours of operations and found he still had a few hours to explore the shelves.
Kim made the walk to the library, already prepared with his international VISA card which would allow him to make copies of the material he needed. Inside, he used one of the databases to search for sections where they contained elementalist texts.
The first section he wandered into hosted numerous fictional books written by elementalist authors. He crossed all coinciding numbers off his list and moved onto the next section. It turned out to be science-based experiments which showed a simulation of how elementalist powers functioned. Another section crossed off led him into the research section of the library where they hosted scholarly articles and books published on specific topics with elementalists. Several examined the gene mutation and the weaknesses it offered the body in exchange for power. Kim chose a few of the more useful ones and carried them with him to the next section—history of the elementalist people.
It included more recent histories, history of the struggles and wars with humanity, and factoid books with interviews directly with willing elementalists. Kim traced his hands along the spines of the books as he moved on to another text. His hand fell on blue spine with ornate gold lettering. Kim pulled the book from the shelf, and he recognized a noticeable difference between it and the others. When he opened the cover to look at the table of contents, he realized it would be one he needed copies of.
Kim collected the pieces he wanted to copy and headed to the information desk. “Is there a place where I can copy these?”
The woman pushed her long, red hair over her shoulder. “There’s a copy service on the second floor. Pricing depends on the amount of copying. We don’t have an ATM or a way to do exchange rates.”
“I have valid payment.” Kim gave a short wave before he followed her directions to the second floor.
At the top of the stairs, a large fishbowl-like room, with PRINTING CENTER lettered in a light gray across the doors, waited for him. A few people in the room used computers with a USB flash drive to print off documents to a connected printer.
One the associates showed Kim to the copier and helped him lay out the pages for the best copying experience. As he waited for the machine to do its job, he perused the sources of information for anything new or surprising.
He paused while thumbing through the blue bound book as he realized the text outlined nine elements instead of the common seven always presented to them in school and the media. Kim narrowed his eyes and wondered if he picked up a misplaced fiction text instead. He flipped through the pages until he found an explanation paragraph detailing the rise and decline of the other two elements as they only surfaced during times of war.
Two of the elements extinct.
Kim felt relieved at the notion and continued his copying. He placed the materials to the return bin by the door and on his way out of the library; a sudden thought chilled him to his bones.
He stopped walking, frozen outside the door (in danger of a strong swing), as he remembered he saw eight elementalists on the day the council took his daughter away from him. Where there should be seven, he counted eight.
Kim grit his teeth together.
A resurge of the two extinct elements. The council already found one of them. He had to find the other element and wipe them out before the elementalists had a chance.
Kim desperately needed help.
October 23, 2316
City of the Uns, Elementōrum Patriam
Maxim Aliyev laid low next to a supply warehouse. Inside: the newest shipment from the Ls. The Uns fended for themselves behind the electric fence on Elementōrum Patriam, and they felt determined to make something of themselves. The city a barren wasteland with no grass, but plenty of desert sage brush. Maxim watched a tumbleweed jump its way down the street and he felt the sting of dirt in his eye as he waited for the signal.
His day full of things to do for their underground illegal group. Once he returned from the raid, with the others in his smaller party, he would help categorize their supplies before they tried to take the capital. Exhausted from the abuse, not only from their lower form of government but from the elementalists, they wanted to be free. He’d be one of the main forces leading the riot and uprising against the capitol building in Central. Even if his part started in their home base of operations. They had to find a way out of the city.
Maxim made to move to the next location but stopped when he heard the tell-tale sound of feet marching on the dusty road. He froze and prayed he hid well enough between the sage brush where he wouldn’t be noticed. Through the cracks in the branches, he watched as several law enforcement officials marched past. Maxim held his breath to be on the safe side; he thanked his genetics for his tanned skin. It helped him blend in with the pale color of the dirt.
The tank top, no longer a crisp white color, showed his wear and tear by the rips in several different places; the fabric stained and smudged with dirt. He picked a sliver out of the material near his left pectoral before he scooted across the ground in tan cargo shorts, near the same color as his shirt. Maxim pushed himself into a kneeling position and brushed away what dirt he could before he pulled a small handgun from his waist band.
He shuffled his way over to the corner of the warehouse and peered around it. Another member on his recovery team laid low in his own spot, eyes glued to the sky waiting for the signal. Maxim glanced up and prayed it would come soon. They operated on a time crunch to get in and out before the uprising started.
He heard a pop and recognized the start signal. The flare shot its way across the ground between himself and the other team member. It sizzled across the ground with a similar sound to a rattlesnake before it stopped at Maxim’s feet and nearly set the brush around him on fire. He stomped out the flame and moved. Donna as incorrigible as ever. On his move, the other members of his team joined him, and they moved around to the small service door instead of the main roll-up one.
Maxim stood off to the side as Robert approached and checked the locked door. He ascertained the quickest way to get the door open, dismantle the lock altogether. He pulled out a bastard file, with a flat head screwdriver style tip, and took the screws out until he could pull half of the doorknob unit off. Robert laid the metalwork to the side while he used the file to remove the locking mechanism pieces themselves.
They heard the knob fall free on the other side, and Robert released the lock entirely. With a little pressure, the door swung open and they peered inside cautiously. Maxim held out his hand and one of the others in his group put a can of black spray paint in it. He slid around the door and did his best to move in the blind spots of the camera before it turned back to face the door. He reached up and covered his face with his other arm while he colored the lens out.
The group dispersed immediately among the stacks of food and utilities. They stuffed as much of it as they could into their backpacks, pockets, jackets, and trash bags. Maxim knew they had five minutes tops to collect what they needed and get out before the police arrived on the scene. One good thing about their current government, it kept a sharp eye on the people in case of any wrongdoing.
The holler of sirens in the distance signaled the end of their mission. They tied off bags and zipped zippers before they darted into the desert. The police force, while built with other Uns, received their supplies from the Ls. The hover cars veered off the path of the rode and tore through the brush after the rebels. Travelling by foot, while inferior to a car, allowed them to hide easier. They also knew the lay of the land in ways the government officials didn’t. Maxim split from his group and he saw them branch off on their own paths as well when he glanced over his shoulder.
His feet pounded across the ground and he heard the officers trailing them shout as the rebels burst onto another exterior city street. He followed the familiar paths until he reached the back alley to their underground headquarters. He reached the door at the same time as most of his teammates and they entered the space together.
“You almost led them here, Maxim,” a voice chided.
He passed his bag off to the others and let out a low chuckle. Esebelle sat with her arms crossed as she watched him from the main chair instead of the security camera footage behind her. Her bomber jacket crinkled as she shifted and revealed a small strip of skin above her own earth dyed tank top. She pulled her legs up and the sweats rode up around her ankles.
“And you’re supposed to be watching the cameras at the capital. Or did you forget we’re storming them today?” Maxim walked over to the screens. His accent almost disappeared after years separated from any Russian. “On the other hand, you didn’t see the food in the warehouse. You’ll thank me after seeing the haul.”
“Can’t wait to see it—we’ll be sending out the signal in about two hours from now.” Esebelle had seniority as one of the oldest members of their group. She flicked her dirty, brown hair behind her shoulder and turned her chair with a loud scrape to the computer system.
Maxim grabbed one of the available chairs and swung it around until he could sit next to his pseudo-friend. “Is it enough to gather everything we planned on?”
Esebelle typed a command into the computer and didn’t respond.
Maxim’s eyes roved over the screens until it landed on the section connected to the warehouses. “You could have told us if the security camera was looking.”
“No ear pieces.” She tapped her ear before she flipped through a couple more cameras. One of them mostly blacked out, with small gaps on the lens.
“What do you need me to help with?” Maxim ran his fingers through his short, brown curls and watched as another foraging group black out a camera.
Esebelle directed him to his position in the small office space and they went to work. After an hour of work, Maxim self-assigned himself to categorize supplies and make sure they would be ready to go when the signal went off. He created extensive plans on the computer of how they would ration what they had to hold out once the protests began. Two hours later, he sat back at the computer unconfident they would be able to feed the entire uprising for more than a few days.
Maxim watched as rebellion aligned government officials moved into their places in each of the frames. “Everyone is moving—it’s almost time to start.”
“Start the countdown when everyone is ready.” Esebelle commanded.
He flipped through the screens at lightning speed, each image passed through his mind long enough to verify who stood where.
“Countdown initiating, we have thirty seconds.”
“Launch codes entering database. Signal is aiming.” Esebelle confirmed. “Riots are ready to go, door locks waiting to be engaged.”
“Signal in five.” Maxim stood from his chair and opened the cabinet in the corner. As the firework exploded over the main part of the city, he strapped a smuggled double-barrel shotgun to his back. He tossed the sawed-off shotgun to Esebelle and she caught it deftly with one hand. She checked the safety before nodding.
The uprising began.
The council gathered for lunch in the law room where they worked. Dwayne and Eilene showed Ethan what they did with proposed laws and laws which needed their signature because they already voted into effect by the people.
Their phones simultaneously flashed with blue and Luana picked hers up immediately.
“The Uns are reporting an uprising—riots. They have weapons and they’ve taken city hall building hostage.” She reported.
“They’ve finally risen up against their oppressors.” Eilene leveled their leader with a heavy gaze. “Are you going to send us to repress them—again?”
“I won’t be sending you. Hans, Ethan, Scott, I want you to remind them who they’re up against.”
“Luana—they are our people. We don’t want them to live in fear of us.” Dwayne argued.
“Then what do you propose we do? Reward them for running rampant and stealing from those who follow the law?” She growled. “They’re Uns—they don’t have any of our abilities. They’re a regeneration. They have no power over us.”
Eilene opened her mouth to argue again, but Hans held up his hand.
“We’ll take care of it.” He stood. “Scott and I will show Ethan how we handle these events.”
The other two followed his lead and stood, their mostly finished lunches left behind.
Ethan smiled when he saw the updated hooks for their cloaks. Knowing he had a cloak waiting for him with “DEATH” emblazoned on the wall next to the empty “SUPERNATURAL” hook gave him hope for the future. It meant he had a place among the council—future generations would have a known place among the elementalists.
Ethan slid the robes over his clothes and followed the other two, straight backed out of the chambers.
Because of the early hour of the day, students milled around the main hallways and laughed with their friends or used their abilities to joke around and perform small tricks. It ceased as soon as they spotted the three council members. One of the Air elementalists dropped to the ground. They darted to the edges of the hallway and stood at attention to watch their leaders pass by. The students knew whoever wore the cloaks stood as the strongest elementalists in the world. None of them wanted to challenge the council’s power.
“Where do you think they’re going?” A girl on the younger side leaned into the other female next to her.
“Hard to say.”
Ethan wanted to look around and see if he knew any of the students, but he couldn’t turn his head much under the robe or he’d give up the prim and proper expectations of the council. He focused on following the pattern Hans and Scott made ahead of him as they walked to the front doors. He heard the harried speculations behind them, and one word struck him through the chest. Rogue.
What will it be like when we must go after our first Rogue? What if I must kill them?
They stepped into the sunshine and Ethan realized he forgot the beauty of the Academy lawn. It spread out in triangle patterns, lined with hedges of flowers, between the marble pathways until it led out to the City of Garden. He took a deep breath of clean, crisp air. He sensed the other two ease as well—despite what their task would have them do, far from the capital.
The three of them spread out across the steps and descended in a horizontal line. Each of them took their time to take in the sights as they passed maintenance workers. Their path led them past one of the deep pools of water and the droplets shown like gold when an elementalist burst free and soared into the air. Ethan nearly tripped from the distraction and Scott turned to check on him.
“How are we getting there?” Ethan whispered lowly.
“Bullet train.” Hans supplied with a similar volume.
At the end of the long path, they passed through an archway and over a small bridge, into the City of Garden. The gardens portions above the houses swarmed with insects and blossomed flowers Ethan couldn’t dream to name. A butterfly with blue wings brushed past his face and he wished he could take off the hood and protective mask to enjoy the outdoors. The city far prettier than the sprawling lawns of the Academy.
Hans put a guiding hand on his arm and kept him on the path down into the city to the train station. They waited on the platform and the others also riding the train stood far away from them. The front couple compartments would be near capacity from nervousness rather than excessive crowds or commute rush hour.
The train pulled into the platform and the three stepped into the end compartment. The elementalists already sitting on the train scattered as soon as they saw who boarded. They huddled up together, cramped onto the front end, while the council took three of the four available seats in one of the available sectors.
“Why doesn’t, uh, you-know-who like the Uns very much?”
“L has a lot of opinions we don’t necessarily agree with. It’s easier to take the task she dishes out and complete them our way than it is to fight her on her opinions.” Hans provided as an explanation. “I don’t agree with her views on the Uns, but this is something we need to address immediately. Taking the job without complaint, I get to solve it the way I want.”
“She’s strait laced.” Scott provided.
“What do you mean?”
“She’s stuck in her own head and her own ways. Inflexible.” Hans clarified. “Getting her to branch out and understand how our country is multi-cultural is almost impossible. The weirdest part about it, is she’s been on the council since she was eight.”
“Maybe she was brainwashed by other council members? If they raised her in this system, she’ll stick to what she knows.” Ethan suggested.
“That is a likely explanation.” Hans shifted in the seat. “Either way, there’s certain days and subjects which make her harder to work with. This happens to be one of those times.”
“What will we do in City of the Uns?”
“That’s dependent on what we observe. Stay behind us as much as possible, if it comes down to it, we’ll use scare tactics to make them back off—then we can work on finding a temporary solution.”
“And if we can’t find one?” Ethan turned his head directly to Hans and Scott tapped him on the knee telling him to move back.
Hans shrugged. “We can’t make everyone happy. We have to fall back on written policies and then work to revise them in the council.”
“Which is hard to do with our favorite person around.” Scott admitted.
“How come no one stands up against her?”
“We try—you saw E and D. She only became fiercer and locked down harder on her opinions. We thought, after what happened to you, she might open and realize her opinions hurt more people than it helps—but a person doesn’t change overnight. She needs something more to rattle her and I don’t know that is.” Hans put a finger to his chin in thought. “I do legitimately want to help her see the country from a different perspective.”
“She’s blind.” Ethan concluded. Scott nodded in agreement.
The three of them rode the train up past the City of Uns into the City of Ricci. If they stopped in Vasha, they’d have to walk the entire length of the city to reach Central. The City of Barren also crossed right above Central, but the closest stop put them to far north west and on the edge of the country.
Hans pointed out the Meeting of Fate to Ethan as they passed by on their way through City of Yahav into City of Ricci. The Meeting of Fate. The only point in the country where four cities met at their border. Uns, Vasha, Yahav, and Ricci.
From the station in City of Ricci, they could hear the riots—though they sounded like a muffled roar. People on the platform looked around curiously for the source of the noise, but when they saw the Council members heading for the City of the Uns, their curiosity satisfied.
The southward path brought them to a high fenced border around the city. Ethan inspected it curiously. A measly metal fence can keep the Uns from escaping the city?
“It’s electrocuted—it registers genetic makeup.” Scott whispered in his ear.
The gate into the city opened for them as they approached. Ethan noticed Hans return a small clicker, like a garage door opener, to his pocket. Only certain people would have access to opening the gates. The houses as they first entered the city had not foundation. Most of them consisted of boards leaning into each other like a teepee, while others lashed together with twine and held up by a single log in each corner. They hardly resembled living spaces.
Even far from the center of Central, people fought and shouted. One Un shoved another out into the street in front of the elementalists and the man fell to the ground. He jumped up without noticing the passerby and lifted a fist to hit the person who pushed him; Scott’s hand wrapped around his wrist.
He froze and turned wide eyed to the three.
The street in front of them fell silent as they noticed their visitors. Scott let go of the man’s wrist and they moved toward the main part of Central. With some of the braver Uns, Hans and Scott used their powers to subdue them. The houses closer to the city resembled something more like a house Ethan knew, but most remained rudimentary—they didn’t have multiple floors, let alone a solid foundation to build one.
When the side street met the main street in Central, they found themselves blocked by an amateur barricade. Hans flicked two of his fingers into the air and the earth under the barricade rocketed into the sky, sending the scrap metal and furniture flying. Scott tamed the airborne debris and lowered it to the ground where it would injure anyone. The ground dropped back to its expected elevation with a flick in the opposite direction from Hans. In the square, shocked faces greeted them frozen in the middle of fights.
Rioting signs clattered to the ground and echoed between the buildings while the three council members made their slow approach. On the side of one building, the head of the Uns government (Marcis Berzins) strapped and suspended upside down. The redness in his plump cheeks, and the open-mouthed gape showcased his equal fear of the Council and the rioting Uns as they tore through his city. His round belly followed gravity toward the ground and strained at his shirt buttons.
Hans put out his hand, palm up, and lifted it into the air. In the middle of the square, a makeshift platform appeared. The people on top of the stage scrambled off and the council members ascended it instead. Ethan glanced around the main part of Central and found, to his surprise, a lush oasis with plants, grass, proper houses, and trees where the rest of the city stood as a miserable desert with nothing occupying it except dirty and meager housing.
Is this a result of a corrupt Uns government or are we as a council not giving them enough support to function?
Scott lifted his own hand and used several gusts of wind to free the man from the side of the building and lower him to the ground, where he promptly vomited.
“What is going on here?” Hans called out with as little accent as he could muster. They needed to disconnect themselves from any locational ties or people might discover their true identities.
“It was the rebellion, sir!” A government worker said with a slight shout to be heard around the square. “They attacked us suddenly—a firework was all the warning we had. They’ve been after our storage buildings for weeks, taking what is ours and hoarding it for themselves. Today, they took us on directly.”
“This has been going on for weeks, yet you did not contact the Council sooner?” Scott stated coolly. He turned to the porky leader on the ground, kneeling by a tree.
“We didn’t—we thought—”
“Clearly, you didn’t think at all.” Hans kept the same tone as Scott. “We’re here to settle this dispute. We want to hear from both sides. Will any of you from the rebellion strike us before we can carry out our duty?”
The crowd remained quiet.
“Good—then we can move on to solving this situation.”
“I’ll stand against you,” a woman spoke up suddenly from the crowd. The people parted until it gave the council a clear view of a dirty-haired brunette. She held her sawed-off shotgun in a ready to shoot position.
The man at her side had his own double-barreled shotgun, but it rested at his side. Hans’ breath hitched as he took in the familiar build and facial features. Ethan’s gaze snapped between the two as subtly as he could—the Un looked like an older version of Hans. Scott also noted the change in his companion’s stature and took a step forward.
“We’re the leaders of the rebellion. Your laws are oppressive and don’t understand the world we’re forced to live in. We’re fighting for a normal life.” The woman continued.
Hushed murmurs of agreement traveled through the crowd around her.
“What is your name?” Hans prompted.
“Esebelle.” She swallowed and straightened her neck into a haughtier position. “It is polite to give your enemy your name.”
“We have no name on the Council.” Hans’ practiced answer obvious to the crowd. Not one person in the world knew the members. “What would you consider a normal life, Esebelle?”
“Proper shelter, food and water. We live ration to ration on nothing except scraps most days. We steal from the warehouses so we can have an actual meal.”
“She’s lying!” Marcis shouted.
“It is not yet your turn to share.” Hans’ pinkie twitched and a rope of dirt wrapped itself around the man’s mouth. His screams of panic and anger muffled drastically.
Ethan glanced around the square and took note of the ornate decorations and sprawling lawns. He lifted a hand. “Esebelle, who lives in those houses?”
“The government officials.”
“I see,” He took a step back toward where they came into the city from. “And who lives in these lesser versions?”
“Everyone else—the ones with money have the nicer ones.”
Ethan turned to Scott and Hans. “Do you mind if I even the playing field a little?”
He heard a small laugh escape Scott’s mouth before he received an affirmative nod from both.
Ethan never did anything like this before. He didn’t want to hurt anyone, but he also had the distinct feeling he could do it. He merely had to concentrate. He raised his arm and held out his hand toward the lush houses. The people watched, uncertain of what would happen. For a long moment nothing changed, but then the grass wilted, the leaves fell from the trees, and the flowers dropped to the dirt, dead. Every house looked the same. Brutalized. Dry. Broken. They matched the desert they lived in.
“What have you done?” One of the politicians shouted.
“I’m sure you can bring it back to life, along with the yards of all the other Uns too.” Ethan grinned under his mask.
Hans touched Ethan’s shoulder and pushed him back to Scott. “Are there any neutral parties here today?”
A shaking woman raised her hand.
“Come forward and tell us your name.” He waved her to the stage.
Her skin glittered in the sunlight and Ethan wished he could identify her origin deeper than “Asian”.
“What’s your name?”
“Hwangbo Sang-jin-ssi,” Scott startled her with the polite formal tone. “What was your reason for being here in Central today?”
“I live in the more southern part of Uns and I wanted to visit with the government to see about raising my food allotment. I get two single cans of soup daily and a gallon of milk per week. I’m starving because I have no fruits or vegetables—or anything except canned soup. I wanted to talk with them on what it would cost to be provided with better stock.”
“And what do our politicians say to this?” Hans removed the mouth guard from Marcis, and he spat out mud.
“You don’t send us enough money to supply our people with more.” He argued. “You abuse your post and think yourself superior.”
Hans produced a small pocketbook from his cloak and flipped through the pages. He asked for a piece of paper and wrote down a few numbers on it before he started to do the math alongside the reported population.
“The report I have here shows we send over enough money to your offices on a weekly basis to supply all persons with a livable wage in addition to enough money for groceries based on how many are living in a given house—not to mention the money is meant to go toward construction projects such as building new housing for incoming Uns and utilities for all houses and work buildings.”
“And what are the numbers you’re calculating from?” Marcis sneered as if he had something to hold over the council.
“Each working class Un is to receive a stipend of one-hundred elemental dollars weekly as subservice for the work they do. Two-hundred and fifty dollars is allotted to each single Un in the territory for food. Four-hundred is given to couples, and seven-hundred to families. This totals between three-hundred and fifty to eight-hundred dollars to each registered family on a weekly basis. The population of the Uns is currently at a quarter-million. The stipend for housing and utilities changes from week to week and should be reported on Mondays. The last reported housing and utility costs totaled—that is a low number!” Ethan read out from the page over Hans’ shoulder.
“Does any of this sound familiar to you?” Scott turned toward the portly man.
“I—I can’t say it does.” Marcis adjusted his necktie.
“We’re supposed to get one-hundred a week?” Maxim’s jaw fell open. “We’re lucky to make seven.”
“Marcis, would you care to answer where this money is going?” Hans lifted a hand, ready to attack the man if need me. “Or will we need to pull an audit on all government and government employee spending?”
“It wasn’t the Ls.” Esebelle whispered. “We were going after the wrong people.”
“Uns, it is going to take a while for us to resolve this issue—we will be getting rid of all current government employees and government officials. If you would like the chance to speak for your people, consider campaigning. Remember to submit official forms through to the Council. We appreciate your cooperation.” Hans announced with widespread arms. “You are our people too—we do care about your well-being.”
“You can’t do this!” Marcis grabbed a gun off one of the officers and ran with it. He pointed it shakily at Ethan. “You can’t take this away from me—I won’t let you!”
Before any of the officers could get to Marcis, he pulled the trigger. The bullet sailed through Ethan’s head, tore through the fabric of the robe at the back, but his body didn’t fall to the ground as everyone expected. He took several slow and steady steps to Marcis who dropped the gun and shook himself into a puddle.
“That doesn’t work on me.” Ethan spoke lowly, but the entire square heard him. Whispers passed through the crowd like a wave.
“Marcis, I hope you enjoy isolation.” Hans said smugly.
Two officers collected the gun from Marcis’ side and hauled him to his feet before they handcuffed him and led him away.
“Anyone else like to stand against us?” Scott asked the crowd. Silence answered him. “Clean up this mess—we’ll be in touch.”
As they made to leave Central and head back to the Academy, a hand caught on Hans’ arm and made them all stop. No one previously brave enough to get closer than a few feet. Hans stared into Maxim’s unknowing face and tried to ease the racing of his heart.
“I just wanted to say, thank you, for today. We’ve been struggling for a while and I know we came off as the bad guys, but we wanted a better life here—since we’re stuck here.”
“We understand.” Scott inserted. He gently pushed Maxim back until he let go of Hans’ arm.
“I’m sorry I had the wrong impression of you Ls.”
Ethan snorted at the clever nickname. “Next time we meet, I’m sure it’ll be under better circumstances.”
Maxim left them alone and the group of three continued on their journey home. Neither Ethan nor Scott felt in a position to ask Hans about the rebel Un stranger; as a result, the ride home stayed quiet.
Luana waited for their return in the main entryway, but Hans brushed her off. Shocked by his cold attitude, she received a rundown of events from the other two.
Inside his room, Hans threw himself onto his bed and fought off the tears which threatened to fall. Maxim stood in front of him. He reached out and touched his arm. Twenty-one years passed since he last saw his brother. He didn’t expect their meeting to roil with emotions—ones Maxim wouldn’t feel on his end.
Maxim joined the rebellion, he pushed against the elementalists and blamed them for his problems. Hans wished Ethan did more than destroy their prized lawns—but they couldn’t kill people without court ruling. Death gave them a quick way out of punishment.
Hans pushed his fingers through his hair to get a grip on the situation, but his mind whirred with unconnected thoughts. Maxim led part of the rebellion, he thanked them for their help.
Hans pulled the box of tissues closer to him from the nightstand and blew his nose. He crumpled it up and tossed it onto his bedsheet as the closest trashcan lived in the bathroom. He stared up at the open sky of a Russian countryside and smiled.
A knock at the door interrupted his reminiscing; Luana didn’t surprise him when she opened the door. She watched him from inside the doorway.
“My brother stood there—in front of me. He talked to me. He thanked us for righting the wrong being done to them.”
Luana frowned. “He’s not your brother, he’s an Un. You three also didn’t do as I asked you to.”
“You have no right to say that to me.” Hans snapped.
“We’re Council members—we need to protect the people. Uns are an entity we have to control.”
“We don’t need to control them if we’re showing them common curtesy.” Hans bore down over her. “You have no siblings—you do not get to tell me he is no longer my sibling because of a piece of degenerative DNA.”
“You were supposed to scare the Uns into submission.”
“And leave them on the verge of dying under a corrupt government using the funds for themselves? Luana, you’re treating them like they’re animals. They’re as alive as we are. You can’t tell me to abandon my ties to my family.”
“When you joined the Council, your family became us. You renounced any ties you have outside of us.”
“When I joined the Council, we had to tell my parents I was a Rogue and killed—just like my older sister. My father killed himself in shame. My mother is out there living with no children, no husband. If I told you I didn’t feel upset about them, I would be lying. Maxim’s been living day to day on no food because the money we sent the Uns for years was never going where it was supposed to. The Uns shouldn’t be separate from us Luana. They’re trapped in a cage because of us.” Hans breathed heavy and rapid. The expression on his face thunderous and Luana stumbled back from him. “If I can give even one of my family members a little bit of peace because of my position, then I will be doing something right. Until you’ve faced one of your family members as a member of the Council, you can’t say anything to me. The Council is my family—but Maxim and I are bonded by blood. I’m done playing your little games and continuing to ruin the lives of people who never deserved it in the first place. We are supposed to be helping our people.”
“Hans,” Luana wanted to calm him down, but she didn’t know what to say. If it came to a physical fight, Hans stood stronger than her—not only in bulk but in element.
“Just, get out,” he concluded breathlessly. He turned away from her and clenched his fists.
Luana did as told and, once in the hall, she pressed her back against the wall. She brought her hands up to her face and pressed against her eyes. She didn’t know what to do.