November 6th, 2316
Strawberry Reservoir, Utah, United States of America
“Hey, Ralph! Time me to see how long I can hold my breath underwater!” Matt called to his friend on the shore. Both their families took a late season camping trip and allowed the boys to visit the lake. Matt decided to swim despite the frigidness of the water. He claimed he didn’t feel it.
“I already timed you several times. I’m not doing again—I get it, you’re a freak who can hold your breath for over ten minutes.” Ralph tightened his jacket around him and shivered as a blast of wind crossed through the valley. It rose a choppy wave in the small inlet which washed over Matt and lapped at Ralph’s shoes. When Matt surfaced again, his friend spoke: “It’s unnatural. We should head back.”
“You should race me, just once.” Matt turned over onto his back and floated across the top of the water.
“Not in this weather. I don’t know how you aren’t a popsicle.”
“Come on, one race can’t hurt you.”
“It will if I catch hypothermia.” Ralph stood up. “I’m heading back and telling your parents you’re swimming in the lake.”
“Don’t!” Matt lifted a hand in terror; a wave followed the motion and pulled Ralph into the lake with Matt. He laughed, but when Ralph didn’t come up, he started to worry. He struck out from the shore looking for his friend before he dived under the water and found the other boy tangled among the lakeweed and rocks.
Matt rushed through the water to Ralph’s side and dug at the biome trapping him under water. By the time he managed to cut his friend free, his lifeless body floated to the surface.
Matt screamed when his face broke the water’s surface.
He heard their parents come running, but he didn’t have a proper explanation for what happened. He killed his best friend.
November 9, 2316
Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America
“I told you the child didn’t have the right qualities for a Death elementalist from the beginning.” Ryan lost track of how many times he rolled his eyes in Kim’s presence. He violently brought the knife down to the cutting board; the top of the carrot jumped away where it hit the floor.
“Yes, well, they ended up a good test subject.” Kim argued. “As you saw, the small doses of poison we administered burned up the inside of their body before it could process.”
“And from your research, we know Death elementalists could intake a few gallons of the same poison and not be affected.” Mason sat at the kitchen table with the research laid out in front of him. He wanted to sort based on usefulness. He also needed to find the information Ryan told him about. They planned to remove the sheets and put them somewhere Kim wouldn’t find them. “Ryan was right from the beginning. Poison isn’t the route to take when working with the elementalists. We’re going to need something concrete.”
After the initial kidnapping, they decided to move out of Mason’s house and traveled to Georgia; they rented a high-end apartment under a fake name and ID Kim said he created. Neither of them would be surprised if they found he pick pocketed it off someone while they stopped for gas in Mississippi. They kept the kidnapped child in the adjacent bedroom of the suite, tied to one of the chairs.
“Alright,” Kim growled. “I’ll consider working on something else. I’m going to the gas station—be back in a few minutes.”
Quiet followed for several minutes after Kim left.
“Do you have a plan for hiding this information from you-know-who?” Mason held up a couple pages between his fingers.
Ryan stopped chopping the snacks for the child and took one of the carrot slices for himself. “I don’t. I never wanted to kill the elementalists in the first place. He threatened me. He blackmailed me. The same as you.”
He picked up another carrot and slid the knife through the top.
“I would’ve run, but your message to me made me stay. If I can help you, or help them through this, I’m going to take the opportunity. We need to figure out how to keep the child alive.”
“I’m glad you’re willing to join the fight from the inside.”
“There’s nowhere else to fight it.” Mason folded the pages and tucked them into his pocket. “Where should I get rid of these pages? I’d prefer to run them through a shredder if possible.”
“We can take some scissors to it—maybe drop it in a trashcan at a random store.” Ryan shrugged.
“It would be incredibly hard to distribute alcohol as a poison en masse to the elementalists as it is. It’s better he doesn’t know, so he doesn’t try.” Mason stood up and arranged the vegetables onto a small plate, before he headed into the other room and attempted to feed their small captive. The last thing he ate, he threw up across the floor. Mason felt they damaged his body to an irreparable point. “What are we going to do about the child?”
“I have an idea—but it’ll require getting Kim out of the apartment for at least an hour.” Ryan moved into the bathroom to wash the knife and cutting board.
“If you need a vehicle, we’ll be in a bind.”
“The hospital is only a couple streets away. I can easily walk with the child.” Ryan appeared back in the doorway.
Mason moved to the adjoining door with the plate. “Tell me your plan while I feed the boy.”
Ryan made to follow him, but the door to the room made a faint beeping as Kim returned. He backed away from the door and took a seat at the table Mason no longer occupied.
“How about a sword?” Kim offered.
November 22, 2316
The day Mason managed to get Kim out of the hotel room terrified them. The small boy they kidnapped came close to death. If they waited a few days longer, they would have a body on their hands. Ryan approached the child in an oversized hoodie and taped his mouth shut to muffle the screams as he exited out a back hallway of the hotel and carried him through the streets. His cries of pain muffled as his body jostled along. Ryan made sure to move through the back alleys where people wouldn’t notice them until he reached the hospital. He laid the child on the ground momentarily as he tightened the strings on his hood and pulled the note with the boy’s information out of his pocket. He shoved it into the child’s pocket.
As he approached the hospital entrance, he saw Mason and Kim across the street and prayed the traffic would keep his progress hidden. He only needed to cross fifteen more feet, then the child would be safe.
Nurses rushed to him as he entered the emergency room with the child. He quickly handed the child off and prayed they would find the note; he vanished out the door as soon as the nurses turned away. He hid behind a few bushes and watched emergency personnel run out to find him for more information, but they couldn’t see him.
“Elementalist child, kidnapped from Tennessee.”
He heard a nurse shout in shock.
“Get him into the emergency room stat—inform the police and send a notice to the elementalists.”
Ryan rushed back to the hotel. He used his strength to force the door to the second room off its hinges. He tore at the sheets, cut the rope with a jagged knife, and broke the TV by throwing himself against it and the dresser. Ryan massaged his back after the impact and used the knife to cut jagged stripes down the curtains on the window.
He heard steps coming down the hall and knew he didn’t have much time. He threw the coffee pot to the ground where it shattered. He steeled himself as he gripped the knife in one hand and cut a mark across his arm on an angle. Blood dripped to the floor and he raised his arm to smear it across the walls and bed sheets. He even dragged it across the chair where the boy sat previously. He staggered forward and grabbed a lamp with his good arm. He shattered it in the doorway between the rooms before he laid in the shards and groaned in pain.
“What happened?” Kim demanded as he rushed into the room.
Ryan saw Mason pull a small pack of hundreds from Kim’s briefcase and hide it in the fridge they didn’t use. He collected a courtesy water bottle and cracked it open. Mason used a hotel towel to tend to the open wound.
“Where’s the elementalist?”
Ryan prayed Kim would buy their cliché acting. “Not sure—someone found him. They dressed in black with a mask. It turned into a fight—I heard him say something about the police.”
The wail of legitimate sirens in the background made them jump. Ryan and Mason exchanged uneasy looks before they threw themselves into packing. Mason helped his friend and tried to recall if he had a first-aid kid in his vehicle. He prayed he did. Within a couple minutes they vanished.
November 23, 2316
Jackson, Mississippi, United States of America
Kristen cursed her inability to catch the right bus on every public transport system she encountered. She ran, desperately, arms flailing and feet slapping against the pavement as she ran to work. Her body slammed to a stop as she reached her workplace. Kristen peeled herself off the employee entrance door and belatedly realized she could use her powers instead of exercise. She pursed her lips and took the glass of water and apron her supervisor offered her.
“Right on time, Delvenah.”
“I try my best.” She gasped around a mouthful of water. Kristen tied her apron around her waist and passed her cup over to the dishwasher. If one more dirty, old, man grabbed her butt again while she worked, she would lose it. As far as customers go, the worst ones congregated around this job. She never experienced lurkers as a waitress previously.
She collected her table schedule from the front podium and checked into the computer system to see who they seated where. A table with three occupants waited in her section and she frowned when she noticed their pronouns listed on the seats. Kristen pulled the pad of paper and pen from the pocket on her apron. She did her best to hide her disdain as she asked: “Can I get any drinks started for you gentlemen today?”
“I’ll take a sprite,” one of the older gentlemen with brunette hair told her. She hid her surprise behind a cough. The older patrons typically ordered alcohol, and the request threw her off.
“The strawberry-banana smoothie is calling my name.” The other older gentleman chuckled; his blond hair shimmered under the low lights of the bar area.
“Just a beer will be fine, and a glass of water on the side.” The youngest informed her.
“I’ll bring those out and give you a few more minutes to consider the menu.” Kristen scrawled a couple notes across the ticket and dropped it off with the bartender.
“Wimp,” he muttered under his breath as he reached for the smoothie mixer, “has to have water with his alcohol to stay hydrated.”
She laughed. John, the bartender, always made sure to be incredibly vocalized. He made fast friends with everyone who worked in the restaurant and no one could put the fear of God into crappy customers like John.
“Wouldn’t it be the other way around? Not ordering alcohol?” Kristen took the drink from his hand and situated it on her serving tray.
“A real man knows what he likes.” John shrugged. “Anyone confident enough to choose a drink they like over the one society chooses deserves mad respect.”
Kristen hoisted the tray into the air. Before she returned to the table, she checked the screen next to the bar for occupied tables. They remained her only charge for the night. As she started to unload the tray, it tipped and started to fall. Eyes wide, and without thinking, Kristen slowed down time around the drink and grabbed it before it had a chance to spill. She set it gently on the table in front of the shocked men.
“Fast reaction time you have there,” the younger man forced a laugh to try and pass it off.
“I’ve had lots of practice working with drinks.” She tried to pass it off with a smile, but her shaky voice gave away her nerves. She couldn’t reveal her ability—but her subconscious got the better of her, again. Her control slipped because she had no professional training. She shakily reached for her notepad. “What can I get you to eat for dinner?”
Kristen felt relieved when her shift ended, but as she made to leave, she noticed the three men from the first part of her shift sitting on the main bench outside the building. She swallowed and turned back to the break room.
“What is it, small fry?” He appeared in the doorway with his jacket half on.
“There’s some men outside. My customers earlier today. I don’t want to walk out there alone.”
“Well then, come on little lady.” John offered his elbow. “Where am I escorting you tonight?”
She took the offered arm, his dark skin warm from the heat of the bar lights. “I am off to the bus stop, good sir.”
He smiled, “I think I could be a movie star.”
Kristen broke into a fit of giggles. John, already in his late thirties, approached death’s door every day. As a kind and gentle man—divorced, with two kids around Kristen’s age—she knew he wouldn’t let any harm come to her.
They made light conversation until the bus pulled up to pick up passengers. John stuck around long enough to make sure the three men didn’t follow her onto the bus line.
The next few nights followed the same pattern. The older men seemed reluctant to keep visiting, but Kristen saw the animal like lust in the younger’s eyes. He watched her walk around the tables as she waitressed them. She switched serving areas with the others every night they came into the restaurant. John’s frustration with the wannabe stalkers grew daily as well. Several of the other employees noticed their fascination with Kristen and did their best to keep throwing them off when the leering became too much.
She did her best to keep counting down the days until she had enough money to get into Elementōrum Patriam. The night of her final workday, she promised her coworkers she would come visit or return to work there if her new location didn’t work out.
Kristen entered her apartment for the last night and felt the tingles on her arm of someone watching her. She did her best to shake it off as she opened and locked the door. She dropped to the floor and crawled over to the window. Outside she spotted a large off-roader Jeep. She caught sight of the man sitting in the passenger seat and nearly choked on her own heart. Kristen crawled away from the window and shoved her belongings into her hiking backpack. She wrapped several jackets around herself to help brace herself from the weight and save space in the pack for water.
She wouldn’t be able to leave through her front door. Kristen took the time to check out the fire escape but found they could see the route from their vehicle. She frowned and searched her apartment for a window faced away from the parking lot. One of the bedroom ones provided her the perfect opportunity and she pushed the window open. It took her only a few seconds to remove the screen. She moved the backpack out first and hung it from the drainpipe.
Once Kristen pulled herself out and balanced on the windowsill, she retrieved the pack onto her back and moved herself slowly across the brick exterior of the building until she had a lower point to jump from. Free from the second floor, she headed off into the night. It would be a long trip to the airport on foot, but she had no other options for escaping the stalkers.
December 2, 2316
“Are you sure you won’t get bored escorting us around the mall?” Eilene asked Scott as they collected their shopping disguises from the pod in the parking lot of a mall in Jackson. Scott shook his head and watched Eilene pull her hair into a preppy ponytail and place a pair of sunglasses on her nose. She strung a bright pink purse on her shoulder.
Series smiled softly as she strung her own navy purse across her chest. “We have Ethan’s clothing size this time, so we need to get him some clothes which fit.”
He nodded and pulled the hood of his jacket over his head. The girls talked comfortably about next to nothing as they walked around looking for stores, they wanted to shop in. They made their first stop in Famous Footwear but moved to Amie’s Boots because they wanted fancier winter boots. Scott volunteered to juggle the bags while they window shopped for the next store.
Eilene took pity on Scott part way into their trip when he appeared overwhelmed by the amount of shopping they completed. They found a cart to rest the shopping on and returned to Series’ side as she gazed longingly through a window at a gorgeous ball gown. It had a matching jacket with small bead embroidery around the gems. The bodice of the red gown had the most embroidered gems in straight line patterns down the boning. The red tulle of the skirt flooded the window display and littered throughout, small pearl gems on the edges of the fabric.
“You’d look beautiful,” Eilene complimented. “You should buy it, if they have it in your size.”
“No, I couldn’t. I would never have a use.” Series turned away from the dress immediately.
“You should get it,” Scott threw in. They both stopped and Eilene lowered her sunglasses to look at him clearer. “You should both buy a dress.”
They went into the dress store and Series headed over into the ball gowns. Eilene searched her way through rows of dresses and only pulled options from the pastel colors. They both spent a while in the dressing room, but Series finished first. The color suited her skin tone, and she emulated the presence of a princess.
“I know the color is reminiscent of our robes, but it feels more freeing this way.” She smoothed her hands across the tulle.
“It suits you really well.”
“Thank you,” she gave a little spin in the dress.
The curtain to the other dressing room opened and Scott couldn’t pull his eyes away from the blonde. She wore a pastel turquoise color breathable style dress. It had an old-fashioned disco style to it. The dress itself sleeveless, but the flutter sleeve ruffled around her shoulders. The pleated skirt came to a stop at her knees and at the waist, a sash tied the dress together and helped outline her figure.
“Wow,” Series complimented with a grin on her face. She recognized the stunned look on his face—the same one Hans gave Luana. Scott moved his mouth a few times like a fish, before he stopped trying for words and gave her a nod.
“I kind of want to wear this out of the store.” She gave a small twirl. “It’s incredibly comfortable.”
“I’m sure they’d let you wear it out. Let me change back into my street clothes.” Series hitched up her skirt and stepped back into the dressing room.
Eilene did decide to wear the dress out of the store, and Scott helped her remove the tags after they paid for it. She stayed quiet during the rest of their shopping experience, except when she chose a few clothing options for Scott and spent several minutes convincing him to try them on. He agreed, on the terms he could choose his own jacket as he preferred function over fashion. Eilene complimented him on the choice when he brought it with him to the changing room. Despite his reservations, he started to have a bit of fun.
As they made their way toward the door, Series gasped and swayed on her feet. She threw out her left hand and grabbed Eilene’s arm. She gripped it hard enough to send a shock of pain through the blonde’s arm; Series left behind crescent moon shapes on her skin.
She gasped for air as her vision swirled. The camera of her vision sung away from the second floor and drifted to the first. In front of her, entering through the doors of the mall with purpose, the humans opposing them in the coming war. She could see themselves on the upper balcony. Her body swayed. The three men branched off in different directions and her vision returned to normal.
“They’re here.” She choked out.
“Who?” Eilene grabbed her other hand.
“The humans—the ones who are going to start the war. They just walked in through the front door.”
“What do we do?” The Water elementalist turned to face Scott just as a surprised scream echoed across the open atrium.
“This one is an elementalist!” One of the men shouted as he ran across the upper balcony. A small girl slung over his shoulder screaming bloody murder.
Scott dropped the bags he had in his arms and launched himself into the air after the man. The other two split off down different halls and Series and Eilene took off after them. The crowd of bystanders below them gasped as they realized elementalists shopped in their midst.
“I’m afraid I can’t let you go any further.” A man materialized out of the space between two shops with a golf club clutched in his hands. Series skidded to a stop and took in the handsome older features of the man. His messy dark brown hair reminded her of someone, but she couldn’t put her finger on it.
“Are you one of the kidnappers?” She took a defensive stance.
“I am. You’ll do better to stay out of this. Because I can’t.”
“I think you’re taking me for granted. Your companion yelled he had an elementalist child, and I cannot allow you to get away with one of my own people. The minute you took them, you tangled me into your mess.”
“You are one of them as well.” His eyes widened and he took in her small frame. A gold sphere erupted around her body and fluctuated in size until it fit only around herself; a larger ring, much like the path of an electron around the nucleus, burned itself into the floor around the pair. The man felt a shudder of change go through his body.
“I’m glad to be able to show you our true power face to face.” Series smirked at him.
The man took a breath and moved forward. His movements felt sluggish and he raised the weapon. She engaged in hand to hand combat and disarmed him. The club clanged into the railing before it fell over the edge. A couple people screamed as they dodged the heavy weapon. The man stumbled away from her and his surprise remained evident on his face. They came back together for a second clash, but a good elbow to the man’s gut sent him reeling back again.
“How?” He gasped in pain.
“You’ve never fought a fully trained elementalist, have you?” Series laughed. “You are out of your league to go into a fight without being prepared again us.”
A blast of wind pass through the entire building, and the force swept several people off their feet. Series’ hair swirled around her and she took a steady step forward, not bothered by the gust.
“Run,” she whispered.
The man did as told. Once past the golden barrier, a powerful weight fell off his shoulders. He turned back for only a moment. Powerful for her young age. He frowned and returned to his weak escape plan. He didn’t know what he would do if she came after him again. Does Kim even know what he’s getting himself into?
Eilene ran at full speed down the pathway when and unknown object collided with her side and sent her tumbling across the floor. She stared at the bench once she and the item came to a stop. She pushed it off and returned to her feet as her attacker appeared like a shadow—much like Scott.
“You’re one of the ones he shouted to.” Eilene glanced around to take stock of the people gathering around them. She could tell they had no idea of the events taking place.
“And if I am?” His voice gave away his exhaustion and it nearly took her by surprise.
“I cannot allow someone to kidnap an innocent child. You’re are guilty by association and I will take you down here and now.” Eilene held up her hands and glanced down to the lower floor at the large fountain—plenty of fodder for their fight.
“I guess this shall be our battle stage.” His grin forced and manic.
Eilene frowned uncertain of what to expect.
“Though I have to ask: what can a young person like yourself do against me?”
“You shouldn’t make hasty assumptions about your opponent.” She cocked her head a little higher.
“Shall we make this a more traditional duel and exchange names?” The man made no choice to start the physical altercation.
“We have no other business than righting your wrong. The child does not belong to you—especially if they are an elementalist.” She spat.
“And who is to say the child is not ours?”
“If you’ve taken an elementalist child, they are under the direct protection of the Elementōrum Patriam as demanded by the legal accords of the United States of America.”
“And so, I ask, how are you any different from us?” The man broke into pealed laughter. “You plan to rip the child away from their family the same as we would by kidnapping them. The child will never see their family again. If you take them back, they will be reunited with their parents only long enough to say goodbye. And if they turn out to be a Rogue, they will be killed, and the parent will receive a notice of their child’s death. You can claim you have your legal accords, but your laws make you no better than the criminals on Earth’s surface. Your kingdom may be on high, but you are not an exalted people. You are not any better than us.”
“You have no knowledge of the danger a Rogue, let alone an untrained elementalist, poses against the human race.” Eilene hissed.
“Now who is making the assumptions about their opponents? Your people killed my son.” He charged forward like a bull.
The blonde jumped and braced her foot against the railing of the balcony. As she flipped, she extended her arms and spring boarded off the man’s black with a blast of boiling water. He screamed in pain as his skin blistered under the heat.
“A Water elementalist.” He managed to choke out as he straightened against the stinging of his burnt skin.
“And a trained one—a dangerous threat to only those who oppose me.” Her voice hardened, and her face morphed into a scowl.
The crowd of people backed away and disappeared into the safety of the shops. Security gates engaged and locked the bystanders inside.
“Just so you are aware—” the man limped as he backed away. “The other one, he is looking for a way to end you. I have found myself trapped—I didn’t want to do this.”
Tears flooded his eyes and Eilene took pause at the display of emotion.
“Your people may have killed my son and destroyed my family, but I came to peace with the terms. He has not. You should watch out for yourselves.”
“If he is coming to end us, we will end him first,” she promised.
The man tried his best to flee at a quick pace, but the burns stunted his movement. Eilene didn’t follow. Instead, she held up a hand as a blast of wind shot through the building and several windows around her shattered. People screamed and held their hands over their faces. The blonde jumped up onto the railing and looked around for Scott’s fight. She needed to join his side and assist where she could.
On the main floor, she spotted him in combat with a familiar frame of a man. She jumped off the balcony and summoned the water from the fountain to break her fall and carry her to the next opponent.
Rage Scott didn’t normally feel tore through his body and set every cell in him on fire. The spark of emotion gave him hope he could feel again. Even negative emotion warmed his soul as he did his best to keep from injuring the innocent child.
“You’re an elementalist.” The kidnapper’s face filled with excitement as he faced Scott head on.
Scott skidded to a stop midair and took in the man and child before him. He recognized him as the father from months before—the elementalist child who burned her house to the ground and killed her nanny. He held bitterness in his eyes. Scott gave him a slow nod of affirmation.
“Are you here to take this child back by force?” Kim ginned. “I welcome the challenge.”
The Air elementalist lowered himself.
“We are developing a way to rid the world of people like you. And that goes for your Death elementalists, too.”
Scott’s eyebrows furrowed together. Most humans didn’t keep up with their news—nor did they know much about their race of people.
“I’ll be taking this child today, and you have no say in the matter.” Kim pointed a finger at the twenty-one-year-old.
Scott responded by sending a controlled blast of air toward the man, and he pulled the child to safety in the same move.
“The child is mine!” Kim shouted, but his eyes darted to one of the other exits where Mason left the building with another kid. The elementalist followed his gaze and spoke for the first time in his presence.
“E! They went out the other door with the real target!”
“I’m on it!” The blonde changed the direction of her momentum and charged toward the door on her water steed.
Series landed at his side and he felt the wall of luck hit them like a truck.
“Take the child and return them to their parents,” Scott handed her the child and she left immediately.
“You still plan to take me down when you know it is my accomplice who escaped with the child?” Kim raised an eyebrow.
“I trust my friends.”
“That’s your first mistake.” Kim pulled out a gun and trained it on Scott. The elementalist put his hands in the air and watched as the man backed toward the exit. When he reached fifty paces away, Scott moved.
The gun lifted out of the assailant’s hands and Scott leapt into the air to catch it. As he landed back on the ground, Kim vanished. He made a tsk sound and jumped into action toward the door Eilene exited through. She stood on the sidewalk outside, a puddle of water soaked the ground underneath her. She pointed to the freeway when he stopped at her side.
“They took off on the freeway in a car. I can’t do anything without destroying the area and putting humans in danger of injury.” She looked at him. “Did you get Kim?”
“He got away as I took the gun.” I don’t know where he’s hiding to be honest. I’m assuming those guys will come back for him.”
“Or, they have a second vehicle.” She pointed to the car peeling out of the parking lot. It ignored the stop signs and nearly caused three accidents.
“Wow.” Scott sucked in a harsh breath.
“On the plus side, we saved one child. We just didn’t save the one we needed to.” Eilene folded her arms across her chest. “I’m going to call Dwayne. We need to have someone from the Council come clean up this mess and none of us can disappear or it’ll be suspicious. Did you get a motive out of Kim?”
He raised a single eyebrow at the blonde.
“Right, you don’t hold conversations well.” She laughed despite the grim situation. “At least this strengthens our case against Kim with the federal government.”
When they arrived back at the main plaza of the mall, several police swarmed the area and nearly paid them no attention. As they collected their things, the whole area quieted to watch them.
“Are you the elementalists involved in the altercation?” A detective approached them.
“We are.” Eilene confirmed. “The Council is contacted, and they are on the way to help sort out this situation.”
“We really only need a couple statements about who you are and what happened.”
“I’m afraid we cannot give you our names without the Councils express permission.” Series stepped in. “The main man in the group of three is named Kim Rolfe. The Council has more information on him—but we do not have any information on his companions. We did manage to save one child from the kidnapping incident, it’s unfortunate we could not save both.”
“Did you even try?” The upset mother snapped.
“I could not in good conscious kill countless humans for the sake of one child.” Eilene returned coolly.
“I think it’s best we separate those involved and wait for the Council to arrive.” The detective waved for the cops and they pulled each group away into their own unit.
It took an hour for Dwayne to arrive and all three could see the annoyed tense posture under his robe. Eilene found it slightly entertaining, but quickly quieted when he passed what would’ve been an upset glare her way. She felt glad for the first time she couldn’t see his face.
“Esteemed Council, these three involved in the incident refuse to provide us with their names without your permission.”
“Of course, it is policy for our country—especially when the incident involves humans.” Dwayne nodded. “The man is Kaylan Dartmouth. The blonde is Claudia Jansen, while the brunette is Toski Lacapa.”
“Thank you—we’ll need to retain them only a while longer to get a witness statement. I’ll give you a moment alone.”
“Really? You named me ‘feeble woman’?” Eilene hissed.
“At least I chose a Dutch name for you, Dickens.” Dwayne laughed. “What trouble did you get yourself into?”
“Kim Rolfe showed up and kidnapped an elementalist child.” Series stated. “I saw him arrive in the mall, but we didn’t have time to react.”
“They distracted us from the real kidnapping with a secondary one. By the time I caught up to the real one, they escaped out of the parking lot. I couldn’t go after them without risking casualties.” Eilene continued.
“Scott saved the human child, but Kim got away.” Series offered.
“He pointed a gun at me. By the time I felt it safe to take it away from him, it allowed him time to escape.” Scott shook his head. “It was a shit show from the start.”
“I see.” He nodded. “New dress, Dickens?”
“Isn’t it cute?”
“Yeah, yeah. Our shopping expedition was successful. Kim Rolfe has a child who belongs to us—they are one of us. Do we have an update on the federal manhunt for him?” Series cut in.
“Paperwork is still clearing the government apparently. Everything is approved on our end, but now it relies on the American side.”
“Lovely.” Eilene dropped her head to Scott’s shoulder.
“SL sent me with our account information—we’ll have to pay for the damages obviously.” Dwayne held up his phone.
“I blame Sco—sorry—Kaylan.”
“What did I do?” Scott turned his head to give the teenager a glare, but instead caught a whiff of the citrus scent of Eilene’s shampoo.
“I do believe you are the one who sent a shockwave of wind through the mall.” Eilene failed to suppress her smile.
“Saving child, mall damages—” he pretended to weigh the two items with the former clearly winning.
“Whatever the motive, this is our issue to solve now.” Dwayne pulled up a chair and took a seat. “Most of my job here is done. They’ll put out an APB for Kim Rolfe and the child—I’m sure this would qualify as an Amber Alert too. We need is to finish our statements and settlement, then we can return home.”
“The next time we go shopping,” Series started, “I hope we won’t run into a kidnapper.”
The Academy, Elementōrum Patriam
The group of four shuffled tiredly through the front door of the Council chambers. The shopping bags garnered few looks because their arrival home occurred after curfew for the students. Eilene pulled her phone out of her pocket once she had her robes off. An alert passed through their phones for an emergency meeting.
“How much did your outing cost us?” Luana asked as they sat down in the conference room.
“Only a few million. Repairs will go toward the windows and refilling the fountain Dickens emptied.”
“I offered to refill it for free, but they wouldn’t go for it.” Eilene folded her arms and leaned against them on the table. “The encounter with Kim Rolfe certainly could’ve gone better.”
“But risking human lives is also a consideration. You made the right choice by not retaliating and trying to go after him. The metropolitan has too many people.” Scarlet comforted.
“It’s always a calculated decision working with the humans.” Hans agreed. “At least we have confirmation of Rolfe’s plans. He wants to wipe our people out and he’s kidnapping elementalist children—most likely to run tests on them and see what works on us.”
“Except, he doesn’t know about me, right? The Death elementalist?”
“He knows.” Scott spoke up. “He made a comment directly to me.”
“So, war is on our doorstep.” Luana folded her hand together and squeezed until her knuckled turned white.
“We can’t declare an outright war against three people, can we?” Eilene pursed her lips in frustration.
“We’ve already done what we need to—the most important piece is contacting the human governments. Since it isn’t the country itself declaring war against us, we can’t do it. It’ll look like we are starting a war with them instead of a large-scale manhunt for three people.” Hans rubbed his face tiredly. The stubble across his chin scratched his palms and made him wince uncomfortably when it pulled at his skin.
“We need to update the paperwork we already submitted—they violated the accords with we made with the human governments.” Luana grabbed a tablet and tech pencil to write with.
“Where did we save the copies of the contracts? It’ll be better if we can cite specific violations.” Series triggered the computer at her desk and flipped through screen after screen of files.
“Should be in the legal file—potentially buried under a long file string.” Scarlet reached for her own computer as well. “I’ll help you look.”
“Will the both of you be find handling it on your own?”
“Of course.” Series smiled.
“Dwayne, Ethan, I want the both of you to help me write and edit our formal letter to the world.” Luana waved for them to stand and join her in the closer seats.
“What do you want Eilene, Scott, and me to do?” Hans pushed himself out of his seat and traded places with Dwayne.
“I’m trusting the three of you with delivering our letter and evidence to the humans. Get some rest until we call for you.” She nodded confidently at them.
Several paces down the hallways, Eilene put her hand on Scott’s arm and he stopped. “Are you okay? I’ve never seen you lose it before—in the mall when you went head-to-head with Rolfe.”
He gave an affirmative nod and tried to turn away.
“I know you don’t talk much, and I want you to know I’m okay with sitting in a room with you and keeping quiet if that’s what you need.” Her eyes tried to search his for answers. “You don’t have to shut yourself away, Scott. You have people who care about you—we’re just waiting on you to trust us.”
His jaw clenched, and he swallowed hard before he found a voice to respond. “Trust is a two-way street, isn’t it?”
“I want to tell you my story.” She tilted her head into a forty-five-degree angle.
Scott’s eyes went wide. Previously, Eilene only ever trusted Dwayne with her secrets. The only member of the Council who knew what the blonde went through before her arrival at the academy. Her offer showed him the biggest example of trust.
“You don’t have to.” His hand jumped forward to hold hers, but at the last second, he only hooked their pinkies together.
She smiled, softly at first, before she pulled on his hand. “I wouldn’t offer if I didn’t want you to know. I think it’s about time I start talking about my past and accepting it instead of running away from the horrors. I think I might feel better, if I have others I can talk to about it—people who can listen when the nightmares become too much.”
They walked, linked together, to the empty kitchen. They knew, when they exited the room, they wouldn’t be the same.