The Council Revealed
“I came from a long line of elementalists.” Eilene started. “A proud line. There’s no record of the last time anyone in my family gave birth to an Un or a Rogue.”
Scott made his way over to the fridge and prayed the drinks inside wouldn’t be expired. The milk pleasantly surprised him by having a good date by several days. He retrieved two glasses from the cupboard and poured them their drink.
“Coming from a prestigious line puts a lot of pressure on parents and children—I think. It’s expected we will all turn out to be elementalists. When I showed no signs of it, everything went downhill.” She took the glass. “My parents labeled me as an Un before any tests came out—they don’t do tests. Everyone ends up an elementalist. There’s no question. The problem is, I showed zero signs of it. I didn’t reach any peak of powers until my teenager years. My parents in turn abandoned me. We continued to live in the same house and eat the same meals, but I didn’t know them.”
Scott watched her move to the small counter with shelving and seating at the raised bar area. She took a small book off the shelf.
“I like to read in here, so I hid a copy of my favorite book.” She held it out to him. He took it gently and ran his fingers across the worn cover. “I spent a lot of time in my room as consequence. I turned to books to try and help fill the void my parents left behind.
“One day, I ended up reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and it resonated with me. It’s the story of a country at war with itself and how, despite the war, two people found a glimmer of love and hope. Sydney fascinated me and the book changed my entire outlook on life.” Eilene sipped her drink. “Have you ever heard of the story in Fahrenheit 451? There’s this idea of control over thoughts and ideas; they remove free will and thought from the people by removing books which can give them the wrong idea. There’s this secret group which memorizes the books and passes them on orally to the next generation, so the texts can be preserved. Somehow, my twelve-year-old self took the author’s philosophy to heart, and I memorized this book cover to cover. It became my mantra for how I should live my life.
“Somewhere along the way, I changed from an ignored child to a vulnerable one. I tried to spend more time with my family. Since I still didn’t show signs of being an elementalist, I couldn’t make any connections with my immediate family. Then, came the connections to my extended family. My uncle took advantage of me.”
Scott stepped up beside her and put his hand over hers.
“I tried to tell my parents what happened, but they didn’t believe me. They shrugged me off, and my uncle convinced me I deserved it for failing to be born as an elementalist.” Eilene bit her lower lip and tried to hold in her tears. “He kept coming after me, but one day things started to go too far, and I tried to run. Except, I couldn’t. He caught me and raped me. When I returned home, with my clothes tattered and torn, my mother yelled at me for an hour. I tried to explain what happened, but she called me ungrateful and nearly threw me out of the house altogether.”
She pushed a hand through her hair. Scott moved his arm to around her shoulders and pulled her in tight against his chest.
“I wanted to prove myself as an elementalist. I thought if I could become one, they would believe me about everything else—I hoped I would magically have their support overnight.” Her tears fell hot and thick against her cheeks. “My uncle came after me again. He broke the lock and entered our house when my parents were away. I managed to escape out the window, but he chased me. That day, in my fear, I awoke my powers as a Water elementalist. When he pulled me to the ground, everything welled up, and I blasted him with boiling hot water. He couldn’t move—third degree burns—and I left him there in the street. I don’t know who found him or what my family came to think, but I came to the Academy and ended up here.”
“That book is why Dwayne calls you ‘Dickens’.” Scott murmured against her hair.
“He is the first person I ever told, and I quoted the first line of chapter three in the first book. ’A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.’ Scott, my question is why do these people commit horrible crimes? What kind of parents abandon their child? What kind of family member sexually assaults a relative? Why would someone fear a race of people so much they wish to abolish it entirely? Why are we constantly trapped in this circle of mystery and still have no answers after years and years of fighting the same injustice? Why do we allow ourselves to become our own secrets?
“I know you don’t have the answers I need, and I know you have your own secrets and mysteries—many which I may never know, but it is wonderful to reflect on these questions and wonder how we can make the world better going forward. There has to be a way to end the vicious cycle.” Eilene paused, lost in her thoughts. “There’s this other part of the story I latched onto. I already mentioned Sydney Carton. He is the epitome of unconditional love. When I met him in the story, I realized I wanted my own Sydney Carton—but when I found him, fate knew it wouldn’t be this way. You see, Sydney Carton loves this woman, Lucie Manette, except she is in love with a man named Charles Darnay. It’s the French Revolution, and everything is in turmoil. After Lucie marries Charles, Madame Defarge turns him in for being a part of the Aristocracy. France wants to turn themselves over to the will of the people and to do so, they need to get rid of the Aristocracy. The problem is, they’re killing all the high-class society members, which means Lucie’s husband is going to die.
“Sydney is not okay with seeing Lucie upset over losing her husband and since he knows she will never love him back the way he wants, he finds a way to bring Charles back. He sacrifices himself. He finds a way into the prison and switches places with Charles the evening before his scheduled execution. The book ends with Sydney happy with his choice and walking to the gallows. I decided then I would love Sydney back if he ever came into my life.”
“Dwayne,” Scott provided.
“Yes.” She let out a slow breath. “The problem is, I didn’t realize there are multiple kinds of true love you can show a person. Dickens portrayed Sydney’s love as more romance centered, but self-sacrificing platonic love is also completely valid. I spent so long convincing myself Sydney Caron is the right man to spend your life with, but I completely ignored the love between Lucie and Charles. If I am to play the part of Lucie Manette, then I’m missing my Charles. The revolution is already coming for the Aristocracy—us. It’s only a matter of time before we are caught up in the mess of war.”
Eilene pulled away to look at Scott. He stayed silent for a while as he mulled over the story she told him.
“Are you content with living a story which is already written and finished?”
“The story you told me about. It’s already done. Charles Dickens told his story hundreds of years ago. Are you content with reliving the same story or are you going to write your own?” He dropped his hands and started to pull away.
“I am not.” She gripped his forearms with her nails. “I don’t want to live the same story over again. I want to end the circle.”
“Then that’s what you need to do.” He gave her a slight half-smile and she sat stunned on the chair at the uncharacteristic gesture.
“I think talking to you helped me realize something.” She let go of his arms. “The people who wronged me in the past helped make me who I am today. I’m not condoning any of their actions, but without the fear of feeling trapped, I don’t know if I ever would’ve woken my elementalist powers. I wouldn’t be here right now if not for the moment on an empty street where I nearly killed one of my own family members. I want to keep moving forward. I want to prove we are meant to be here in this world. If it comes to a war against Kim Rolfe, then I’m ready and willing to be out there on the front lines proving my worth.”
Scott took her empty glass from her and walked over to the sink. A familiar set of arms not belonging to him wrapped around his waist, and he nearly dropped the glasses.
“Thank you, Scott.” Eilene took a deep breath as she hugged him; she recognized the tones of the cologne she picked out at the mall for him to wear. Just as she started to pull away, one of his hands wrapped around hers and held her in place. His response as loud and clear as if he yelled it from the highest point of the Academy roof.
Scott let go of her hand and finished washing the dishes while she put the book back in its designated spot. She pat his back softly before she left the room altogether. He dried his hands and retrieved the book from the shelf before he settled into one of the bar stools for a few hours of reading. He wanted to see the story for himself and discover the connections to Eilene.
December 5, 2316
Bacon Level, Alabama, United States of America
“We were lucky to find this one—I wish we got the one in Jackson.” Kim growled as he worked on the model sword. He hoped it would be the last one he made, but every iteration of the weapon didn’t touch the little girl. He convinced himself this one would.
“This one you know for sure is a Death elementalist.” Mason pointed out from the kitchen table. He sat next to Ryan and poured over pages of papers and handwritten notes. “You merely have to find their limitations.”
“You are right, as you often are lately, Mason.” Kim grinned. He held out the sword in front of him again. The research they accessed only mentioned extreme conditions affecting the elementalists, but as humans, they didn’t have a good way of testing an extreme condition without their subject present. So far, the child proved resistant to heat and cold in the locked room of the small house they broke into.
They had no idea when the owners might return, and every little noise made them jump. They couldn’t use any lights at night because they feared it would alert the neighbors.
“I wish I could figure out why there’s a copy of the human limitations, but not one for the elementalists.” He frowned in frustration and bent forward.
The page with the listed limitations for elementalists dug into Mason’s skin and burned a hole through his sweater.
“It is odd—but the elementalists may have banned live testing.” Ryan offered. “This could be why there’s only minute speculations contained in the text.”
“Secretive bastards,” Kim growled. “I’m going to test this one.”
Once he stepped into the other room, Ryan and Mason quickly grabbed the sheet of paper and shredded it into the smallest pieces they could by hand. Ryan threw the pieces into the blender, then poured a few ingredients over them before he turned it into a milkshake. He served the drink in a tall glass and included a plastic straw. He followed Kim into the other room just in time to see him swing the sword futilely through the girl’s stomach.
Kim let out a low and annoyed sigh as he inspected the edges of the weapon. They had limited supply of items they could use based on their surroundings. The child gazed at Ryan sadly as she sat on the bed, completely motionless—devoid of life. She no longer flinched at the weapons swung her way. Ryan held out the glass to her.
She took it wearily and pushed the straw into her mouth. She vomited any solid foods she ate, and Mason and Ryan found her dietary needs to be the perfect opportunity for them to destroy evidence Kim needed.
“We’ll do our best to get you out of here,” he whispered. “Drink up, for now.”
The door clicked as Kim walked into one of the other rooms. They heard the lock click—if only Kim wouldn’t know they took the child out of the house. It would be the perfect opportunity to free her from the human’s chains.
December 6, 2316
Lakeland, Louisiana, United States of America
“Earlier today the United States Government announced a nationwide manhunt for Kim Rolfe the main leader in the kidnapping in Jackson, Mississippi. It’s also believed he is responsible for the kidnapping several months ago in Tennessee. The child found safe in a hospital several states away after a stranger brought the child to them in a dangerous state. The US announced their manhunt as part of a partnership with the Council of Elementōrum Patriam. As both children are believed to be elementalists, they are concerned about the safety of human children and their own people while Rolfe is still at large.” The woman on the TV said. A picture of Kim burned the screen in its square block. “This announcement comes days after three elementalists had a run-in directly with Rolfe during the kidnapping incident. As reported by bystanders and the elementalists, Rolfe has two other men working with him—their identities remain unknown. Search and rescue found the security camera footage sabotaged and irretrievable. The men working with Rolfe and the elementalists involved completely unidentifiable.”
A man appeared on screen. “Several people in online forums have questioned the intentions of the elementalists involved. The Council released a statement about the event where they explained their punishment for human casualties. While the defenders who took on Rolfe and his two henchmen did follow the other two as they escaped with the child, they couldn’t act without taking countless human lives. As part of the accords between their nation and the nations around the world, they cannot destroy large amounts of property or kill humans. If they had tried to follow the kidnappers during the escape, it would’ve resulted in large scale damage which would violate the accords.”
“It must be hard to be stuck between a rock and a hard place in such a tense situation.” The woman commented as the camera panned out to show both anchors.
“I’m not sure how I would react either as the parent in that situation. I can certainly try my best to view it from both sides and it is rough.”
“It is, Dave.” The woman looked directly into the camera. “We’ll be right back with the weather after this commercial break.”
“Who sabotaged the cameras?” Kim leaned back in his chair. Ryan raised his hand and held back a flinch from the proud smile the other gave him. “Brilliant move. I’m surprised something didn’t get uploaded by personal cell-phones, however.”
“People are always in too much shock when elementalists are involved.” Mason shrugged.
“Scared is more like it. Their powers are insane when you face them head-on. I’m surprised we made it out of there alive.” Ryan shook his head.
Kim cleared his throat. “Well, the manhunt is on. I think it’s time we move onto the next part of our plan.”
Mason turned the TV off and, with a puzzled gaze, took in their blackmailer and his sadistic smile.
“This is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the publicity and showcase a weapon to destroy the elementalists once and for all. We can target the weakness of the leaders of various countries and they will join us in the war—far too willing for blood. We can see they are tired of a mutation reigning fear over our heads for too long.”
Ryan swallowed and stood from his seat slowly. He could see the twisted, mutated, and corrupted soul inside Kim which ate away at his sanity. Yet, after meeting the elementalists at the mall, something in him told him he couldn’t back down either. He wanted to see more of them—he wanted to understand them. He, somewhere inside the dark recesses of his own heart, wanted to defeat an elementalist. He wanted to be the first to unveil the Council.
“How are you going to get your message out there?” Mason folded his arms.
“We’ll make a video. I’ll showcase the weapon I made and request a declaration of war against the elementalists. I just need to test out the updated style to make sure it works.” He grabbed the flamethrower style machete from next to his chair. “One of you find set up a camera.”
“So, I guess we’re going to war.” Mason pursed his lips.
Ryan nodded along. “I’ll go find a stabilizer.”
With the working weapon, and a functional filming set, it took several hours to get the exact take Kim wanted to convey his ideas. Once filmed, he broke off from the other two to edit the footage before uploading it online. In the meantime, he had the other two set up a throw away email account, which they would use to contact major news reporting companies.
“I have a first aid kit with stitches in it from the army.” Mason offered when they went to feed the child and saw the wound Kim created for the sake of the video.
“I’m not sure if we’ll be able to sneak this one out like the last one.” Ryan grimaced.
“We’ll keep her alive as long as possible in the meantime.” Mason frowned.
December 7, 2316
The Academy, Elementōrum Patriam
“Luana!” Series ran haggardly through the halls of the Council chambers. “We have trouble!”
The leader met her in the hallway with the others crowded around them. Series held out her phone, the screen open to a news page.
WORLD LEADERS DENOUNCE THE ELEMENTALISTS AND FOLLOW KIM ROLFE IN HIS BID FOR WAR
“What?!” Luana grabbed the phone and pressed it against the wall where the article blew up into a larger format for them all to read.
Released only one day ago, the video produced by an American man, Kim Rolfe, has reached more than one-billion views. The comment section is littered with perspectives from several different sides. In the video, Rolfe explains how he developed a weapon to combat the elementalists after they took his daughter from him. The incident, as previously reported, occurred in Arizona and was the result of the five-year-old setting fire to their house and killing her nanny. The elementalists retrieved her according to their accords with the American government and followed every legal procedure.
Rolfe believes his daughter should still be in his care and plans to take the elementalists head-on in a battle for who is stronger—the elementalists or the humans. In his message, he proposes their complete eradication and practice of eugenics to keep the race from appearing again.
On the other hand, Rolfe also showed off a kidnapping victim from the recent mall incident in Jackson, Mississippi. He confirms he was responsible for the kidnapping as he needed an elementalist to test his weapon on. In the video, he cuts the child, who he claims is a Death elementalist, with a flamethrower style blade, which resembled the lamina which the elementalists developed years ago.
Some of the comments on the online video condemned Rolfe for attempting to wipe out a race of people and human trial testing, while others celebrated his courage to stand up against what might be considered a higher power. Many countries also took to Rolfe’s plans and have since withdrawn existing contracts with Elementōrum Patriam at risk of engaging in direct war.
Rolfe’s full video is linked below.
“Do we dare?” Dwayne reached toward the play button on the video.
“It’s the only way we’ll know.” Luana clenched her jaw. “Either way, we have void contracts and will need to make a decision for the betterment of our country.”
“Then, we ought to have all the facts.” Hans agreed.
Dwayne pressed the play button, and the video took several seconds to load.
“How long must we remain oppressed? How long will we allow the world to remain under the control of a singular small country which chooses to live above us in the sky as if they are gods? I ask as a parent: how can they consider themselves to be more equipped to handle and raise our children? If the elementalists hold these powers, why don’t they seek to assist humanity? Instead, they refuse to help us. Every year more of us continue to die from diseases they eradicated among their own people. Why do they hide these secrets from us? Are we not deserving enough?
“We are burdened with debts to them as if they are great saviors of the world—when all they do is take our children from us. We are enslaved by a people with numbers smaller than ours. This is the beginning of our greater collapse. We have only contributed to our oppression by refusing to speak up—we humiliated ourselves, destroyed our honor, and denied everything which we held dearest to us. We stand as a trampled society under the foot of the elementalists. They look down on us with smirks on their faces.
“They know we live in fear of them—as witnessed in the Jackson mall, the destruction they left in their wake. If not for their laws, I would be dead instead of sitting before you today with a message. The day will come when they claim we are no longer meeting our quota, no longer meeting our share of the work in populating their country. They will push us for more—they will take more from us. How long can we remain silent while they push us to the brink of despair as we hope for a better future?
“We are bound by the voice of our government. Many countries worldwide scream and cry the day long they are governed by the people, but the people do not have a voice! Those who sign the accords with he elementalists are the government. They cosigned away our children and told us it would be better this way. I have a better solution. Had we never had the elementalists, we would not be sitting in our inaction. No, we would be with our families around a table experiencing the trials of life as they come without fear of a mutation ruining our dreams and expectations.
“If we practiced caution and good sense, we would not be where we are today. There are cities around the world which ban elementalists to this day for the fear of the destruction they will reign down upon us. We could have avoided this altogether by refusing to reproduce elementalists. Of course, what I’m suggesting is not easy for those who decide to follow love over common sense. If we had not reproduced with, or allowed the elementalists to reproduce, our lives would be quiet. Most likely, we would still be on Pangea—a happy continent where we are one with our fellow man instead of separated by a grand design of those who oppress us.
“Freedom comes through revolution. We can ask who is responsible for our misfortune and inquire as to who is profiting by our collapse—an eternal evolution into the elementalists. If they continue to be born, we will remain under their rule, terrified of the unnatural power they wield. Throughout time, the elementalists have not grown poorer and weaker as we seem to convince ourselves. Instead, they grow stronger and richer with every child born into the world. The day will come when they outnumber us and wipe us from the earth in their conquest for power.
“Do you think these people would be capable of ending a revolution if the world united against them? Even with the accords broken, we outnumber them. We have the chance to seize the moment when we take back our world. We take back our children. We take back our rights. We take back our choice. This stream of opposition we create as we carve out a new path in the mountains of the world’s struggle, shows our recognition in how the system manipulates us. We can take this system down by bonding together. If the masses come into action, the leaders of the elementalists will recognize the facts and come to their end by bowing down to the superior, more populous race.
“Their lies about separating for the betterment of humans will no longer persist. Let me show you why I can say this with such confidence.” Kim stood and the camera followed him. “I have here a child who is a Death elementalist. I can confirm this through several methods. This is a regular knife. When I try and hurt her with the knife, her body reacts and doesn’t allow her to take any injury.” He showed them how her wrist turned to smoke for only a moment, the same as Ethan’s.
“She’s like me,” he whispered. “There’s more than just me.”
“She isn’t injured, but I developed a weapon which will. It’s a way we can take down all of the types of elementalists, should they be mass manufactured.” Kim held a different type of hollow tubular weapon in front of him. The tube slim and bottom edge sharpened to a point, like a knife. Along the sides, the weapon had punctured holes in the gold-colored metal. “This particular alloy is made mainly from iron, cadmium, and zinc, with traces of gold. The gold is the key here. Before, the weapon wouldn’t injure the Death elementalists, but with the gold, it does. Add in a little flame,” he pressed a button on the hilt and bright blue flames burst from every orifice, “and it transforms into the perfect weapon.”
He brought the weapon back to her arm and cut a line across the skin. Blood dripped across her arm. She bit her lip and tears spilt down her cheeks as she attempted to avoid wailing from the pain.
“I can say, there is no doubt in my mind people will be roused to victory when they see the truth. The elementalists can be injured—they can be killed by the likes of us. Perhaps some remain apathetic, but I know deep inside this seed of hope will ferment in their hearts. Passion for the right is driven through distress, and since they unjustly took my daughter from me, I have lived in the deepest wells of distress. This is the faith you can cling to. This is your opportunity to do something right and change the course of our world as we know it. My movement going forward will create the torrential tsunami waves needed to maintain reform. Do not fail in the hours of confusion as the elementalists hope to win back your loyalty with their false promises.” He held the weapon in front of him in a tight grip and the camera focused on it instead. “This is your future. You know where you can pledge your allegiance to. Put your faith in me and help to build the foundation of the new world where you will only find calmness settled into your heart.
“With these words, I announce my official declaration of war against the elementalists. Countries who wish to find a better future, join me and denounce our oppressors.”
The video ended, and the website brought up automatic recommendations for other videos they could view next. They didn’t move.
“The war Series foresaw. It’s this one. A war threatening to end our race entirely.” Luana took a shaky breath.
“What is our first move?”
The Council barely broke for dinner amid their harried planning session. They couldn’t ignore the growling of their stomachs any longer, and they sent their orders as one set to the kitchens. The plates arrived and they set them in the middle, then allowed everyone to pull their orders closer to them as they worked. Luana had army schematics pulled up on one wall which she moved around to represent the dissociated countries alongside those still allied through their unbroken contracts.
On another wall, Series and Scarlet worked with Hans and Ethan to write an appropriate response letter for the declaration. They had a thesaurus pulled up on their phones and tried to find the right words to convey their ideas professionally.
Eilene worked close to Scott and Dwayne on securing plans to shut down Elementōrum Patriam if needed. The blonde leaned over to whisper in Scott’s ear, and he nearly jumped back in surprise from the sharp breath against his cheek.
“Before I forget, happy birthday.” She smiled and pressed something into his palm.
His fingers wrapped around it and her hand for only a moment before she pulled away and reached for something to write on. Dwayne didn’t appear to notice the exchange, and Scott lifted his hand. Between his fingers rested a small pin with a depiction of the wind element embossed into the metal. He didn’t wear pins, but it came from her. He removed the pin backing and lifted to the collared edge of his leather jacket. He pressed the pin through the fabric before he reattached the back and returned to work.
A smile rested on her lips as she wrote a few notes onto her computer screen. In a brave move, Scott reached forward and stole a few of her fries from the plate. Her gray eyes pierced him with curiosity. He replied by pushing the bowl of ice-cream closer to her.
“Do you think we’ll need to make a nationwide call for volunteers to join the army?” he asked as Eilene helped herself to the sweet dessert.
“That’s not a bad idea.” Dwayne made note of it. “I’ll add it as a section in our plans for combatting the humans and their numbers.”
“On that note, we need to let our troops know to mobilize as soon as we release the command if possible.” Eilene licked her thumb which had come away from the bowl with a little bit of chocolate. “Do you want me to work on the announcement? It’d probably be ideal to release it before morning.”
“If you would, Eilene,” Luana pitched in. “Your decision is for the best.”
“Give me twenty minutes tops to have a draft.” She nodded.
Lakeland, Louisiana, United States of America
“You want to kidnap another child?” Mason nearly dropped the plate he held on the floor.
“The girl in Jackson, I’m sure she is one of the lost elements. We were lucky to find a Death elementalist, but we haven’t tested this weapon against the other. I’m sure it’ll be fine against the other seven elements since the other children are injured by normally devised weapons. I watched this child—she had the same habits as the waitress. If we can’t rid the world of all the elements, it does nothing for our cause.” Kim paced the length of the living room.
Ryan looked over at Mason. They still had the Death elementalist with them, barely clinging to life. Another child would make it harder to get them out of the hostage situation.
“I think it would be best if we develop after seeing the weapon act in war against them.” Ryan tried to placate.
“No, it’ll be too late then. If we go up against them without being fully prepared, we could be killed on the battlefield. Where would the fight for justice be then?”
“You’ve made your point.” Mason crossed his arms. “We’ll agree—but you need to promise to keep both children alive and to return them to their families.”
“What?” Kim snapped like a vicious dog.
“You know what it’s like to have your child ripped away from you. These children are not old enough yet to make their own decisions—they don’t know what their people have done. They deserve to be returned to their home.” Mason’s voice remained calm and quiet.
“Fine—but let it be on your heads if one of them grows up to revive the mutation.”
December 8, 2316
The Academy, Elementōrum Patriam
Ethan pulled the robe over his head. The Council spent a full twenty-four hours without sleep as they formulated their plans to move forward. In their tiredness, Series reached a moment of clarity and experienced another waking vision which told them how to proceed. They would have to go before their people for the first time as a unit, ready for their judgement, and beg for their help.
Luana felt convinced, on the battlefield, Ethan would need to be the one to face Kim Rolfe. She claimed with the Council’s backing he would be able to train to become immune to the weapon he wielded, but Ethan had his own doubts about the plan. He simply felt too exhausted to argue. He wanted to finish their task for the day, then sleep, but he didn’t know when their next chance to rest would be.
In the meantime, they waited in the entrance hall for everyone to assemble and finish their measly breakfasts. Scott already had his robe on, but the hood rested on his shoulders as he watched Eilene. The blonde inhaled a glass bottle of apple juice, but Ethan had a feeling she didn’t register anything past the sugary taste. Dwayne laughed at something Scarlet said, but Ethan’s brain refused to process the words—he couldn’t say if they conversed in English, in the first place.
“I don’t think this is cranberry juice,” Eilene said. She held up the bottle for scrutiny, but her eyes kept drifting shut to where she couldn’t comprehend the label. Dwayne gently took his apple juice back from her and replaced the drink with her correct juice. As he took a sip from the half-empty bottle, he noticed Scott look away forcefully.
“These are kind of itchy.” Ethan scratched at the robe just under his right pectoral and tried to adjust the fabric.
“You’ll get used to it.” Series smiled softly at him.
“After today, he won’t need to,” Luana corrected. She watched a small screen near the door. One of the squares shone bright red, while the other eleven glowed green. They had to wait for an all-clear signal from the twelve feeds before they could leave the safety of the Council chambers. “As a reminder, the speech Scarlet and I prepared will be delivered to the entire world, not just to our people. We are hosting a live video feed, and I’m sure many are already tuned in. There are many speculating we will bow out of the war, but that would mean admitting we shouldn’t be alive either. I will give the signal for when to remove your robes on stage, and we will introduce ourselves accordingly. I’m sure there will be an uproar among all peoples. I want our people to trust us—which means we need to trust them. We need to be a part of them as well.”
“We understand.” Hans placed a hand on her shoulder. “We wouldn’t have joined the Council if we aren’t certain we would put more than one-hundred percent into ruling our people.”
They returned to the screen at the door and found the last light ready and waiting for them. They lifted their hoods as one and the door opened to the brightly lit corridor. Eilene straightened herself, but still drifted several times along the hall. Dwayne put a hand on her shoulder and passed her a sour candy to eat as it would help wake her up. She made a grunt of acknowledgement and quickly slid the candy into her mouth through the mask. With everyone gathered outside for the press conference, they didn’t run the risk of someone seeing them, but they still wanted to take precautions.
At the front doors of the Academy, two security guards waited for them. The Council stopped per protocol, and the personnel used a walkie on their wrist to talk to those outside. It took a few minutes before security cleared them and opened the doors. They bowed in respect as the Council passed by them. Their people outside bowed in a similar manner.
A translator for Elementalist Sign Language waited for them on their podium. They gave a short non-verbal greeting before turning to the waiting crowd. They didn’t move as they waited for one of the Council to speak. The eight members took their place on the stand before Luana broke away and stepped to the main microphone.
“As the Council, we come before you today to address the accusations and war cries sounded against our people. Since the announcement, we found ourselves stuck in a dizzying loop of pressure. With our discovery of lost elementalist history still new, there are many changes coming to our country and to the Council. As you see, we now number eight and hold out hope for us to be nine again. While this is all happy news, the threat to our wellbeing is not.” Her words echoed and rested there to weigh heavy on their hearts.
Muttering passed through the crowd below them. Luana certainly caught their attention.
“A human dared to threaten our existence as a people. They called for the practice of eugenics to eradicate our race permanently. They seek to erase us from the history of the world. They plan to destroy everything we built since being driven out of their lands thousands of years ago with the first Council. Vasha tore apart of the world and gave us our freedom in the sky, we cannot let her sacrifice die in vain.
“We believed naively we are safe from the humans should our contracts stand. We continued to live in fear of the humans and separate ourselves from them, but this is a futile solution. We will no longer bow to the will of the humans. Yes, for years we refused to use our abilities to assist the humans, which may cause some resentment, but let us not forget we helped the humans for centuries before they turned on us. Humans persecuted and killed our people for the abilities they could not change in themselves. Thousands of years may have passed, but we are in the same place, fighting the same war. Nothing changed between our races.
“We no longer wish to remain subjugated to the human population. For years we painfully tore children away from their parents to keep them from injuring or killing their parents while still unable to control their abilities. This is an agreement we made between all the countries of the world. We do not want to kill humans. We want to protect your race because you denied us from helping you. Now, you come to us claiming as if we have not offered. You drove us off your lands. Our hearts and souls are broken from the continuous oppression we experienced at the hands of those who claim to be weaker than us.
“We come before our people with a plea. The world is revolting against us. They doubt our strength. They plan to kill us—they plan to kill our children before they have a chance to live a life which they have a right to. We are not to blame for our abilities or our differences. As the Council, we strived to protect you and make a country where we are accepted for who we are, but instead it provided a target which the world can hit easier than ever.
“As part of the Council, we needed to keep our identities hidden. We did not want the power to influence our decisions when it came to family members we love or friends who we deeply care about. We see it as one of our duties to disappear from the lives of those we care about to better protect them, but in doing so, it hurt them. So today, as part of our plea to ask for your support, we made the decision to trust you. We are prepared to do what is right, even if it costs us our own lives. For you to trust us as well, then there cannot be any secrets between us. We lived in hiding for countless centuries. This will be no more. Our shrouded identities will no longer exist. We hope this will help you trust us and join our fight against those set to destroy us.”
The Council reached up and removed the face plates from their masks and threw the material onto the ground in front of them. They pushed the hoods down and gasps and murmurs passed through the crowd as they recognized the Council members who they believed to be dead. They pulled the robes free from the rest of their body, and the red fabric joined the masks on the ground.
Luana ran her fingers through her messy hair and smiled. “I thought it would be more upsetting to reveal ourselves when we lived hidden for so long, but there is something freeing in this action. It makes me feel closer to all of you. My name is Luana Ford, from Tennessee in America. I am the representative of Fire on the Council.” She snapped her fingers and the robes burst into flames. “I’ve acted as a part of this Council since the age of eight, back in twenty-two-ninety-nine. I would like to take a moment to introduce you to my friends and fellow Council members.”
She stepped away from the microphone and the others lined up to take their turn.
“Hans Alkaev, the representative of Earth. I joined the Council as a sixteen-year-old in twenty-three-oh-six. I am from the City of Vasha.”
“Scott Everton, I am a Wind elementalist from South Carolina in America. I was also sixteen when I joined the Council in twenty-three-ten.”
“Lí Scarlet, a Storm elementalist. I was eighteen when I joined the Council the same year, but a few months after Scott. I am from Jingzhou, China.”
“Dwayne Tebogo. I am from Botswana, and I control Life. I was twenty-two when I joined the Council a year after Scott and Scarlet.”
“Eilene Vos from the City of Barren. I hail from a long line of elementalists, and I am a Water representative. I joined the Council a year after Dwayne when I was twenty.”
“Series Pahona, I am part of the Hopi Tribe in Arizona, United States. There are quite a few Americans among us,” she laughed, “I was fourteen when I joined the Council the same year as Eilene. I am a Fortune elementalist.”
“Ethan Silverspoon—I feel a little guilty for admitting I am also American. We aren’t terribly diverse, apparently. I’ve lived all over, so I can’t say I really come from anywhere specifically. I am nineteen, and I joined the Council a few months ago after it was discovered I am a Death elementalist.”
“As you can see, right now we are only eight in number when there are nine elementalists.” Luana took control of the microphone again. “We are on the lookout for the resurgence of the ninth element among our people. We want to be a Council of nine who can govern you, with your faith in us. While we ourselves may not be terribly diverse, we do see the importance of our people coming from a global sphere. Our own country, the great Elementōrum Patriam, is full of the diverse cultures of the world and none are turned away. If we allow the humans to come against us, we will lose the unity we have with one another. The humans asked for war with us, and it is a war they will receive. We cannot back down when they want to take away everything we hold dear. As the call comes asking for you to serve our country, I hope you can accept. Our sense of nationalism, of globalism, is unparalleled by any other in the world. We understand what it is like to be the oppressed, to be the one staring down the barrel of a gun waiting for others to see us as more than a mutation.
“We are stronger together.” Luana stepped away from the microphone.
They would take questions from the waiting audience, but the most major part came to an end—but really, they knew it would only be the beginning.
Lakeland, Louisiana, United States of America
“Breaking news as we hear more about the declaration made by American, Kim Rolfe who has garnered support from many countries around the world for his war against the elementalists. In rebuke of his speech, the elementalists made their first bold move in Elementōrum Patriam today. World leaders and citizens went online to watch their response and found themselves blown away by the unexpected. For the first time in history since the first separation of humans and elementalists, the leaders of Elementōrum Patriam, known collectively as the Council, decided to reveal their faces. The Council is known to operate under firm secrecy to protect their friends and family, but it came crashing down today as they made their own declaration of war. We have here, a clip of the conference from today.” The newscaster, a busty brunette, announced through their television. Kim perked up at the news, disinterested in everything else the media had to say. Mason and Ryan leaned against one of the counters in the kitchen watching the TV as they ate lunch.
“So today, as part of our plea to ask for your support, we have made the decision to trust you. We are prepared to do what is right, even if it costs us our own lives. For you to trust us as well, then there cannot be any secrets between us. We have lived in hiding for countless centuries. This will be no more. Our shrouded identities will no longer be such. We hope this will help you trust us and join our fight against those set to destroy us.”
The Council removed the face plates from their masks and threw the material onto the ground in front of them. They pushed the hoods down, and the plates slipped from Mason’s and Ryan’s grasps. The plates shattered on impact, and their food splattered across the cupboards. Kim sent them an annoyed glare over the mess but paused at their shocked faces. The eight people on the screen pulled the robes free from the rest of their body, and the red fabric joined the masks on the ground.
Mason watched his daughter run her fingers through her messy hair and smile.
“I thought it would be more upsetting to reveal ourselves when we’ve lived hidden for so long, but there is something freeing in this action. It makes me feel closer to all of you. My name is Luana Ford, from Tennessee in America. I am the representative of Fire on the Council.” She snapped her fingers and the robes burst into flames.
Mason’s breath caught in his throat. Luana lived.
She stepped away from the microphone and the others lined up to take their turn.
“Scott Everton, I am a Wind elementalist from South Carolina in America. I was also sixteen when I joined the Council in twenty-three-ten.”
Ryan took several shaky steps forward, and the ceramic pieces burst into dust under his shoes. Messy footprints followed him across the floor.
They watched the introductions and speech in dead silence.
“We are stronger together.” Luana stepped away from the microphone.
“I assume those are your supposedly dead children?” Kim asked quietly.
Mason nodded, unable to speak.
“When I asked for your loyalty, I didn’t know you would be pitted against your children, but you understand I am still counting on all of you to lead this revolution with me. You cannot back out now.” He clenched his jaw and looked between the two slack-jawed men.
“We understand,” Ryan choked out. He thought he would never see either of his kids again, but Scott lived and lead an entire country. He grew up to do great things, just as he expected. Ryan wouldn’t be alone in the world without his family any longer—except, now he would be fighting against his son. He would be telling him he didn’t belong to exist in the world which he knew as entirely untrue. Tears gathered in his eyes and spilled down his cheeks. His poor decisions would lead him right to potentially killing his own son.
“In light of this speech given by the newly revealed, Luana Ford, many countries are coming together to analyze their participation on either side of the mutually declared war. It is possible we will see our world changing soon in what many believe to be the bloodiest war we will see in our lifetime.” The newscaster returned to the screen to finish out the segment, but Kim turned the TV off before they could finish.
“Of course, this is the reaction I hoped for from our elementalist enemies. We can fight them one on one, to destroy them. We will not forgo the opportunity to stop other parents from having their families ripped apart.” Kim walked away from the room and left the two alone.
“Isn’t that what this war will do?” Mason voiced. “It’ll only rip the world apart more and more.”
“I don’t want to have to kill my son a second time.” Ryan whispered.
January 7, 2317
The Bullet, Elementōrum Patriam
Eilene and Scott sat in a private car on the Bullet train. Luana sent them to the City of Sides to visit and work with the Industry District. The poorest part of their nation. They wanted to help them any way they could and improve their relations with their people. Scott watched her mouth the words to the song as she stared out the window. They moved quickly from December to January. They had no direct battles with the enemies yet, but they knew it would come in a matter of time. Several countries who initially walked away to back Kim Rolfe quickly tried to revert their decision, while others expedited their decision to void the contracts. The changing relationships delayed many of their plans as they didn’t know how to react.
Scott nudged her foot with his, and she focused on him. She courteously removed one of the earbuds from her ear.
“A three-hundred-year-old one.” She laughed. He prompted her again with a raised eyebrow. “’Castle on a Hill’ by Ed Sheeran.”
She leaned forward and offered the available bud to Scott. He took it softly and put it in his ear. After a few times on loop, she changed the song and moved to sit next to him on the seat. He stiffened but eased out slowly when she rested her head against his shoulder. The songs started to become familiar on the ride, and Scott mumbled the lyrics under his breath. They danced across Eilene’s hair, and she fell into a nap with a soft smile on her face.
Industrial District, City of Sides, Elementōrum Patriam
“As you can see, we’re ramping up our manufacturing of weapons, but there are a number of assemblers which require a lot of maintenance. We have some of our best men on them, but just as one gets up and running, another one falls apart.” The foreman escorted Scott and Eilene around the factory. Conveyer belts with tēlōrum moved around them. “There aren’t a lot of people who are willing to come and work out here because of its reputation, but in the last couple years we’ve been granted permission to give bonus checks for various things and raised the minimum wage we’re able to pay the workers. It’s all thanks to the Council as well.”
“I’ll see if we can’t also help you get more workers.” Eilene typed a quick note on her phone. “We may be able to pull workers from careers which need less help to aide in the war effort.”
“We’ll take any help we can get.”
“What other things are the factories struggling with? What is your daily output?”
They continued their tour through the factories and spoke with several workers directly about their jobs. They didn’t feel well-received by the people, nor did they look encouraged. Eilene wondered if their visit had the opposite effect and instead made them feel as if they had to work harder—which went against what they wanted.
January 11, 2317
City of Vasha, Elementōrum Patriam
The days blurred together. The Council had their final list of countries who planned to continue the revolt. They had their first targets of where to mobilize their armies. Until the date of mobilization, they moved through the country and took care of various tasks. Hans made time between nationally important ones to take care of a couple more personal to himself.
He greeted several children along the walk down familiar streets. Held longer than expected, he stood in front of his old home. He could smell the scent of his mother’s home cooking. He could see himself staring out the front windows with a book in his lap. He remembered Maxim’s back as he stood on the porch, forced to leave their home as an Un. He saw his father throw Odessa out onto the street when she returned home after running from a Council summons to be killed for her Rogue status. He felt the pain and relief as if brand new when the Council told him his father committed suicide following the announcement of his “death”.
Hans took the few short steps up the walk to the front door and knocked. The door swung open, and his short mother threw her hands up to her mouth when she saw him on the porch.
“Mama,” he greeted softly.
She stood barefoot, tears pooling at the corners of her eyes and spilling across her cheeks. She pulled him into a tight hug. “Hans, my baby.”
“I am sorry for deceiving you,” he whispered in Russian.
“I understand you didn’t have a choice—I am so happy to see you alive with the Council announced the war,” she returned with a soft kiss pressed to his forehead. He bent low for her.
“I regret how Otets died because of my promotion.”
“It is hard without your father—without any of you.” She brushed her thumb across his cheek. “You have come back to me. That is all I need.”
“I hope to bring Maxim back to you too, one day. You can’t let anyone else on the Council know of this, however. It would put me in a lot of trouble. The Uns are still a hot debate for members.”
“I will be satisfied either way—the both of you are safe and alive. I get to see you. I will earn my rest in the life after.” She smiled and it reminded Hans of her inevitable death growing ever closer. Older now, she looked only a few steps out of the grave.
“I wish I could stay and visit, but I have Council duties I need to take care of.”
“I will come back when I can to see you—a real visit next time.”
“Be strong in the war. Stay safe.”
“I promise.” He gave her a final lingering hug before he parted ways once more.
City of the Uns, Elementōrum Patriam
Hans decided to walk between destinations, but the path led him along the trail which passed directly next to the Uns encampment. People clamored near the fence to get a closer look at him. They didn’t come within more than a foot of the electrified metal.
“Are you really from the Council?” Someone shouted.
“Hans?” A familiar voice called out from the crowd. He turned to face them properly and found Maxim fighting his way to the front. When he pushed through it reminded Hans of the last time, he saw him when handling the uprising.
“Maxim, it’s good to see you again.”
“I was at the uprising. I made the earth stage.”
“I’m an idiot, how did I not put that together. Of course, it was you,” his brother laughed wryly. “I heard you will be going to war.”
“It is true.”
The crowd around them hardly dared to breathe, surprised by the ease of which one of their own spoke to the highly feared Council member.
“I want to wish you luck—if you need any extra support, please remember we exist. I know many forget about us behind our fences, but we’re a part of this country too—though perhaps with a little less nationalism.” Maxim swallowed.
“I will come back for you, brother.” Hans placed his hand on the fence. Maxim followed the movement, but he immediately pulled his hand back when the metal seared his skin. “I will try and fix all of this damage we caused.”
“Tell Mama I love her.” His brother turned away and started to walk back into the crowd.
February 8, 2317
City of James, Elementōrum Patriam
The police found her.
Kristen groaned. Everything went so well—for months. She escaped the return trip to Earth from Elementōrum Patriam with no one noticing vocally. Now, they realized. Kristen liked the job she earned in the elementalist country, plus she had the comfort of knowing how the government took care of their people by providing their housing and food. Even if she had a lower paycheck due to the heavy taxes it took to fund this large-scale operation, it meant the money she did earn directly went toward the things she could enjoy—like video games or books. She loved it. A type of caring she never experienced previously.
Kristen tore through the Forest of Light, and even running from the law, she noted the beautiful landscape. She could hear the officers smashing through the forest behind her, certainly destroying part of the ecosystem. Wind elementalists managed to keep up with her. She didn’t want to use her powers to escape them in case it lit any red flags around the country itself. The last thing she needed would be a nationwide manhunt when she could hopefully keep it contained to a few officers. Maybe.
She broke out of the line of trees and spotted the Bullet station. Before she could get there, a hand landed on her shoulder. Scared, she dodged under his arm and activated her ability. His eyes widened comically slow in shock as she vanished instantly in front of him.
Her feet pounded against the concrete as she took off running again. The police quickly caught up with her again. Her eyes darted around the open space for an escape route and instead caught on an older teen, in the adult range, with brown hair and red tips near a skinny alleyway between housing. She ducked around several more people with the ease of slowing down time, before she grabbed his hand and pulled him into the small space. Her hand slammed over his mouth before she pressed her lips hard against the back of her hand. He made several muffled sounds of surprise which she ignored.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the officers run past. One of them shouted into his communication device they lost sight of her and needed backup to secure the area for a search. She pulled away and wiped her hand on her pants.
“Sorry, I had to get them off my tail.” Kristen looked into his warm brown eyes.
“You appeared literally out of nowhere,” he commented.
“Yeah, it’s my thing,” she laughed nervously.
“You’re an elementalist.” He looked excited.
“Why are the police chasing you?” He gestured back to the main square.
Kristen hesitated. This could be the moment between life and death for her. She could escape now, and he would be none the wiser—he didn’t know her. Although, he could get the information from the police still looking for her. She bit her lip, then steeled her nerve and fixed him with a hardened gaze.
“I’m not supposed to exist.”
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