June 2, 2302
Harlowtown, Montana, United States of America
Five-year-old Ethan peered around the corner at his mother. With music playing in the background, she worked to fix their dinner. She hummed along with the music and flipped the vegetables in the pan as they sautéed. Ethan’s father passed him on his way into the house and ruffled his son’s dark brown hair.
“Hi,” Amber greeted.
Aaron smiled and pressed a light kiss to her lips. The washing machine in the corner made a sound to alert them it finished its task. Aaron took over dinner, so his wife could tend to the laundry. When she spotted Ethan around the corner, Amber gestured for him to join her. Ethan ran over to his mother, and she lifted him up on top of the washing machine. She opened the front load door and moved them to the dryer. Amber looked up at her son and pressed a warm kiss to his cheek.
“How is my baby boy doing?”
“What’s happening to my hair?” Ethan tugged at the brown locks. Amber lifted a hand and separated the strands. Till she could see the bright red roots growing in.
“Your hair color is changing.” She pushed his messy hair back from his forehead.
“I don’t know darling, but it’s okay to have a different hair color.” She turned to the basket of clean towels, and her practiced hands folded them neatly into square piles.
“What if people make fun of me at school?”
“They won’t,” Amber assured him. Ethan hesitated before believing her. They heard the click of a television. Ethan’s favorite children’s Television show played first. He tried to wiggle off the washing machine, but Amber stopped him. “Let daddy watch the news for a bit.”
“Okay.” Ethan placed his hands in his lap and watched his mother fold the big towels. She handed him a small stack of wash cloths and he folded them into messy fourths. “Can I help with the big towels?”
“I’m almost done.” She took the messy pile from him and set the folded pieces in the basket. Amber lifted him off the machine and set him on the floor. “You can put these clothes into the washing machine.”
He did as told, and Amber pulled down the box of detergent; a loud beeping sound from the TV startled them.
“We have breaking news for the occupants of Harlowtown. An elementalist slated for death in Elementōrum Patriam escaped earlier today. According to the GPS in the transportation pod, is on his way here. The Council from the Elementōrum Patriam informed us they are in pursuit of the Rogue. They’ve asked all civilians remain where they are to reduce fodder for the Rogue to use. Please do not go outside.”
Elementalist—Homo elementa as Ethan learned in school earlier in the week. Since he first learned about them, he wanted to see one, but everyone he talked to feared them. Curiosity overtook him and he darted away from his mother and into the living room. He propped himself on the back of the couch and moved the curtains aside to stare out the window. Ethan hoped the elementalists would pass close to his house where he could see them in person. Police officers stood in the street and directed people quickly into their homes for safety.
At the end of the street, a man barreled through the line of officers. Seven people in blood red robes hot on his heels. Amber grabbed her son and pulled him away from the window, but not before he saw the glimpse of fire escaping behind the Rogue. It leapt onto the dry grass lawns and crawled toward the houses. The trees crackled and screamed as the fire broke past their protective bark. One of the seven broke away from the main group and sent jets of water across the burning area. A second dropped back and placed their hand on the destroyed ground. The area restored to life, healthier than before. The other five of the Council continued their way down the street after the Rogue.
The Silverspoons couldn’t tear their eyes away from the window any longer. The elementalists omnipotent. Their cloaks fluttered around them as they moved, and the Rogue tripped. He crawled across the ground on all fours, like a crab, with his stomach pointed at the sky. The heat outside rose, and the front windows of the house shattered. Aaron threw himself over his wife and son to protect them from the glass shards. They could hear the events outside the house with perfect clarity—including the back and forth wailing of emergency vehicles.
“Don’t kill me!” the Rogue wailed. Sirens rose above the din of whispers as the Council converged. “I didn’t do anything wrong!”
The seven cloaked figures rejoined and created a ring around the man. One of them stepped forward from the ring, the smallest in size. The Council member held out their hands, and a thin rope of fire connected their hands together. The Rogue, surrounded, hung their head and knelt. He clenched his fists, and the rope lowered in front of his neck.
Amber pulled her son more firmly into her body, an attempt to shield Ethan from what would happen, but the child refused to let her face him away. The Fire elementalist took a step away from the Rogue, and in one swift movement, pulled the fire directly through their neck. The fire cauterized the wound. When the Rogue’s head rolled across the pavement, the body didn’t bleed. A couple other members of the Council immediately cleaned up the body and transferred it to a body bag.
“We’re extremely sorry for interrupting your daily lives.” The person bowed. “We will try to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
They disappeared as swiftly as they came. Only the policemen and firemen remained to care for the people in Harlowtown.
August 16, 2306
Goldfield, Nevada, United States of America
Nine-year-old Ethan stared out the bright window of his grandmother’s office building. He lived with his mother’s parents since his parents’ death. Harlowtown wiped off the map after the Rogue elementalist incident. A deadly toxin left behind after the Rogue’s death. Ethan the only survivor found in the pool of gaseous toxin. None of the doctors could figure out why he lived with extreme exposure. All the other children died.
Ethan squinted at the streets a few floors below. The sun made the green patches of grass glow. His head rested on his arms. He wanted to play outside with the other boys in his neighborhood, but both his grandparents had to work. They held him hostage in a boring office. Rather than screams and shouts to run after the baseball flying out of the park, he sat with adults gossiping, ringing telephones, and the annoying back and forth printing. An equally annoyed huff came from behind him as his grandmother worked the computer; it appeared the system she worked on crashed. She muttered a few unintelligible words under her breath and hissed in frustration as one of her co-worker’s asked her if she knew why the heavily used program crashed in every office. Ethan snorted in derision; only an idiot would keep the program past 2304 because it needed significant upgrades.
“Alright Ethan, you’ve got your wish. We’re heading home. The tech advisors have to come in again to work on the system.”
Ethan perked up at this and followed his grandma to the elevators where he enjoyed the classical music and dinging floors.
When they pulled into the driveway of his grandparent’s home, he could see some of the boys still throwing a baseball back and forth at the empty lot down the street. His greed for the outside world got the better of him when he eagerly rocketed out of the car before it fully stopped. Ethan slammed the door behind him and waved as dust kicked up underneath his sneakers. The boys shouted a greeting and immediately threw him the ball, which he caught and tossed under his leg to one of the others. The day neared dinnertime when Ethan and his friends finally settled down and rolled the ball between them. They shared things they heard about fellow children around the town.
“Sally Mae apparently has cancer, and her parents are considering letting her die.” One of the boys made his eyes bigger as though the expression would make him more believable.
“They wouldn’t do that,” Ethan scoffed and rolled his eyes.
“They would if the cancer is going to kill her liver.”
“Cancer doesn’t do that, you dolt.”
“I thought only deer had liver?”
“I don’t know.”
It went silent, and Ethan laid back.
A cloud of dirt exploded around his head and coated his thick red hair in a layer of dust. In the distance, he could see several tiny black spots.
“How hot do you think it is today?” he asked and squinted to see the dots better.
“Not very, why?”
“Does anyone else see the black things?”
The boys followed his line of sight and gasped in horror.
“It’s the Black Riders!” one of them shouted.
They leapt up and ran for their homes. They screamed loud as day about the dots racing toward them. Ethan walked home casually and watched as doors locked and curtains drew shut. His grandfather yelled for him to return, and he sped up his pace.
“What are the Black Riders?” Ethan asked as his grandpa shoved him into the garage.
“They’re a group of murderers. The Black Riders enter towns and wipe them out to cleanse an area they believe cursed by elementalists. Stay in here.”
His family left Ethan alone. A clatter of hooves echoed around the garage as the Black Riders arrived in the streets on their horses.
“They’re hiding, break down the doors!” someone commanded.
The next few minutes reminded Ethan of the Rogue elementalist. He could hear the screams of people in both situations. He held his hands over his ears and tried to shut it out. He didn’t want to remember how the flames cleanly removed the man’s head. The beating of a battle ram against the front door captured Ethan’s attention. The metal whined as it wrenched apart. The door fell with a solid thud onto the tile and shattered the entryway design. He didn’t hear his grandparents’ scream, but he knew they died behind the garage door. He held his breath and focused on the knob—waited for it to turn. Ethan could hear the click of boots inside. It reminded him of old western movies he never enjoyed, but his grandfather watched obsessively. The footsteps stopped and the door creaked open. Ethan whimpered in fear as the stranger’s blue eyes met his.
“Please, please don’t shoot.” Ethan held up his hands in defense, silent tears left salty trails down his cheeks.
The man replied by raising his pistol and he took careful aim.
“Please.” Ethan thrust a hand forward and felt a rush of power surge through his body.
The resounding crash of a heavy body hitting a wall made him lift his head. He lowered his hands to see the threat buried in sheetrock and not breathing. Ethan didn’t bother to stay around. He quickly ran through the house and threw open the sliding glass door. Within seconds, he vaulted over the backyard fence and raced toward the woods where he could hide. Once out of the town and thoroughly lost in the trees, he crumpled to the ground and cried. The roots dug into his hands and knees, and left behind their imprint, but he didn’t notice.
May 27, 2311
Cape Meares, Washington, United States of America
“The stars sure are pretty tonight,” Lulu Everard said from the doorway of Ethan’s room with the boys.
“Lulu, Lulu, wants to roll in the dirt!” a few of the younger boys taunted.
“Don’t pick on her.” Ethan scowled at his fellows, as the oldest he had a little control over them. “You know you can’t be found in the boys room Lulu. The Madame’s will be upset, and you won’t get dessert.”
“I know Ethan. I wanted to show you how pretty the stars are tonight.”
“I’ll come with you to the door then, but afterward you have to promise to go to bed.”
“Of course!” Lulu stretched out her hand. He took it and gently smiled at her. Once they stood at the front door, she lifted a hand to point. “See that one, it’s Capricorn. The one over there is Leo, and there’s the dragon Draco. I wish I could see a real dragon.”
“I wish you could one day too, Lulu.”
She giggled in response. “Dragons aren’t real silly.”
“Maybe they are, up there with them.”
“Shhh, we’re not supposed to talk about them.” Lulu looked around for the Madame’s in case they heard them whisper about the elementalists.
“They’re not around Lulu.” Ethan slid his fingers through her soft brown locks. “Time for bed.”
“I’ll see you in the morning Ethan.” Lulu headed to the girls’ quarters.
Ethan slid out of the open door and closed it behind him. He shivered in the chill air and stared up at the stars to locate the dipper pair. The earth trembled beneath him, and he nearly fell over as he rotated to see the whole orphanage shake. The ground cracked and Ethan reached out for the door, only to have it open away from him. People screamed inside as the cliff crumbled toward the ocean.
He recognized the voice and saw a little brunette fighting gravity to get to him.
“LULU!” He dropped to the ground and reached out a hand; their fingertips brushed. With a final crack everything landed in the cold ocean below.
Ethan jumped up and ran into the small fishing town to search for someone to help. Seven figures walked calmly up the street. Ethan paid them no attention; he needed to help those swept away in the waves. He brushed past them and ruffled their clothes. A pale hand jumped out and grabbed his wrist. When Ethan faced them, he knew them. The Council.
“Where are you going young man?” the deep voice asked.
“The orphanage, it fell into the ocean. I need to find someone who can help rescue the people,” Ethan huffed out.
“Tell me, is there an Ethan Silverspoon among the wreckage?”
“I’m Ethan,” he explained hurriedly.
“Our only charge is to collect you, but it would be a waste for the human world to lose so many children.”
They cut him off. “We will help them Ethan, but you must come with us.”
“Please, find my friend Lulu, she’s nine.” Ethan tightened his jaw.
“We will do our best to save everyone. Now please, leave with these two.”
He let them pull him away and watched from the transportation pod as the strong swimmers reached the shoreline long before the elementalists arrived.
July 1, 2316
The Academy, Elementōrum Patriam
The impact never came. Ethan waited for the bullets to hit. He heard the guns fire—but he had no open wounds. If he died, he didn’t expect the afterlife to be quiet or dark—with a slight tint of orange, the same color as when he closed his eyes. Ethan pried one of his eyes open and found himself standing in the same room from moments ago. The bloodstained walls stared at him, and he turned his head slowly to see if the wall behind him had a fresh stain. It didn’t. I’m not a ghost. He looked down for good measure to make sure he still had a body. Ethan opened his other eye and glanced around the room. The same spectator box sat above him. For a moment he thought he saw a figure move behind the dark glass.
“What did you do?” The female voice returned, irate this time.
Ethan lifted his hands and pressed them firmly against his chest. Solid. No wounds. Behind him, he found six bullet holes in the wall and a few fired shells on the ground across the room. The bullets passed through him. Not possible.
“I didn’t do anything,” Ethan finally responded. No elementalist had the power to avoid a bullet—yet there he stood.
“Stay there,” the woman told him.
Ethan didn’t know where he could go. No signs of an exit. The Council thought he caused this—he didn’t remember doing anything intentional. His eyes drifted back to the bullets on the ground. Ethan decided he had nothing better to do and bent down to examine the bullets closer.
“I don’t understand—you saw it didn’t you?” Luana Ford leaned against one of the tinted windows which overlooked the Council’s death chamber. She swung a large chunk of her brown hair over her shoulder. The locks messy and full of static from the excessive number of times Luana ran her fingers through her hair.
Her forehead pressed against the glass. When she pulled away, her skin left a smudge of oil behind. Luana consulted to the other four in the room with wide, brown eyes. The expression reflected on the other’s faces; all their eyes still trained on the Rogue below them. Luana tugged at her faded green shirt with holes in the hem. Her blue jeans designed with stylish rips, but the rips widened from the times she accidentally put her foot through them. When she took a step forward, her black combat boot made a click against the ground and shocked the other Council members out of their stupor.
“We all saw it Luana,” Eilene Vos rolled her eyes and kicked her shoe away from its raised position on the wall. She shook her head and her blue tinged blonde locks flipped against her back. Eilene played the opposite side of Luana as often as she could. Eilene loved being the opposite of Luana. She wore workout clothes in highlighter colors to compliment her pixie-like features, sharp smile and pointed nose. The Water elementalist’s cool, grey eyes settled on the older woman.
“Maybe the calibration was off?” Dwayne Tebogo rubbed at the light stubble on his jaw. An unfamiliar frown marred his dark skin.
“No, he did something.” A low and calm voice permeated the air around them. Eilene whirled at the speaker in surprise. Scott Everton only talked when he felt he had something valuable to add to the conversation. Scott leaned back on two legs of his chair, the backrest against the table and booted feet against the wall to keep his position steady. He wore mostly black and the espresso fringe over his right eye gave him the classical goth presence. The girl in the corner behind him napped softly.
“Even Scott has something to say about this one.” Dwayne’s face spread into a smile and the warm dimples at the corners of his mouth appeared. “Are you planning on talking to us today?”
Everyone ignored him, except Eilene who couldn’t help the small snort which slipped past her lips.
“I could’ve told you this would happen,” the cryptic voice from the corner told them the girl didn’t sleep. A smirk settled on the woman’s light brown skin, and she shifted in her chair. The motion set off the bangles on her wrist, and her converse squeaked against the smooth floor. She pulled her ash brown hair forward to cover her face, but since she wore tie-died clothes, it didn’t do much to hide her.
“Yeah, we appreciate the warning,” Eilene snapped. She closed her eyes and sighed. “Sorry, Series.”
Series coughed, gave a soft hum for an official reply, and found a more comfortable spot to help her drift to sleep. Luana shifted to Scott since he would be the only one with helpful advice.
“Should we initiate Plan X?”
Scott didn’t vocalize an answer, but he nodded slowly. He raised a hand to push the fringe out of his eyes; when he let go, it fell into place. Scott crossed his legs at the ankle against the wall and let his neck drop back so his head rested on the table. Luana pursed her lips. The rustles of his black, leather jacket couldn’t give her what she wanted—she wanted Hans there, but he resided currently in Russia with Scarlet on important Council business. She pivoted back to the window and avoided the oil stain with her eyes. She stared at Ethan. The teenager returned her gaze, and for a moment she swore he saw her through the glass.
“Executing Plan X.” Luana reached for the control panel in front of her and pressed a few buttons. Hidden doors around the room opened smoothly. She had to face the Rogue.
Ethan turned away from the window for a second time and touched one of the holes in the wall. The holes startled him. More so than being a Rogue, something else made him wrong in elementalist society. He closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against the wall. The tip of his pinkie slipped inside one of the bullet holes and felt the back end of a bullet harbored in the wood stud. A click behind him startled Ethan away from the wall. The exit panel slid open, and, in the doorway, stood a Council member dressed in the familiar blood red robes. The two stared at each other for a long while. Maybe, they have a sense of humor.
“Death finally came for me? I’d say you’re too late, but I’d be lying.” He gestured to the bullet holes. He couldn’t see the face of the Council member, but he could feel their unsatisfied glare. No sense of humor.
“Come with me,” they commanded. Their staring contest ended.
Ethan recognized their voice from the loudspeaker. As he neared the Council member, he realized she had an average height, and he had several inches on her. If given an opportunity, if human instead, he might be able to overpower her and run—but the Council held the strongest elementalists in the country.
He followed the elementalist up a set of stairs; their shoes echoed against the concrete. Ethan yawned and stuffed his hands into his pockets. A little way ahead of them, an open door waited. She led him into the room, and the small collection of people without blood red robes to hide their identities surprised him. He pulled a hand free and slowly pointed around the room at the Council.
“You’re going to die. We don’t care if you know what we look like.” One of the men grinned like a bobcat.
Ethan cleared his throat.
The woman who collected him yanked the robes over her head, and he took note of her lithe figure. She tossed the robe onto a hook, and it swung from side to side until it settled. For a moment he thought it would fall off the hanger, but it clung on by the hem. Ethan took a moment to inspect the inside of the spectator box. It reminded him of the pictures he saw of VIP boxes at sporting events. The room well lit, and the pale blue walls matched the cream tiled floor. He felt the urge to explore the room, and use the windows to survey the murder room, but one glance at the Council kept him rooted to his spot.
The elementalist who brought him to the room pressed herself close to the wall as she felt around for something specific. Ethan couldn’t help the subtle widening of his eyes. Does she have a wall fetish? The blonde across the room from him didn’t seem perturbed by the brunette’s actions, so he tried to ignore them—until a panel opened. Ah. The dark-skinned man gestured for the blonde to lean forward, and she obeyed. He whispered something into her ear, and the woman’s shoulders shook with laughter. Ethan wondered how the citizens of Elementōrum Patriam would react if they knew the feared Council members existed behind the scenes as adults with the same behaviors as everyone else.
When his eyes met the other male’s, he noticed the wide smile on his face made the man appear younger than Ethan, but when the smile dropped, the Council member’s face showed his true age.
“Ethan Silverspoon. I’m Dwayne. It’s not often we get to meet people. Luana was irate,” he nodded in the brunette’s direction, “she doesn’t like people from the Academy.”
Ethan stayed quiet. His brown eyes drifted back to Luana who had her elbow pressed into the side of the cubby. She twisted her arm up to her shoulder and attempted to push farther forward than her collar bone would allow.
“Who put the stupid bottles back that far?” she demanded and rounded on the rest of the room. The last male in the room let his chair fall forward onto the ground with a bang. He stood without saying anything and easily reached into the cubby space. He pulled forward several objects before he returned to his chair. “Thanks Scott.”
She smiled, and Ethan prayed she meant it as a friendly gesture. Luana pulled the cork out of the bottle and held the drink out to him.
“Here you go.”
“What is this?” Ethan sniffed it. It smelled delicious.
“Poison.” She didn’t sugarcoat her response. He looked back down at the bottle and swallowed hard. The cold gaze the blonde woman gave him from across the room made him feel like jumping off a building instead.
“Got to have plenty of ways to kill people.” Ethan nodded, licked his lips, and lifted the bottle. The poison ran over his tongue and down his throat—it tasted like Raspberry Lemonade. When he finished taking a long drink, Luana took the bottle back and replaced the cork.
“You weren’t supposed to survive,” Luana muttered quietly. She set the bottle on the table and watched him for signs of death.
It’s not as though I tried to not die. Ethan bit his tongue, so he wouldn’t bite back at the brunette. He felt, if given the chance, she’d kill him with her bare hands. A couple minutes passed before the Council broke the silence.
“You’re not dead yet?” Luana stepped forward and examined him closely. She gestured for Dwayne to join her, and he did so obediently. He held out a hand and a familiar green light surrounded the limb. He’s the Life elementalist.
“There’s no poison in his system.” Dwayne’s brows furrowed together as he peered at Ethan closer.
“Did you pretend to drink it?” Luana grabbed the front of his shirt.
“I drank it, it tasted like Raspberry Lemonade.” He held up his hands as a symbol of surrender.
“You can tell he drank it, the level in the bottle is lower.” Eilene stepped to the table and held up the bottle. She shook it, and the contents rattled around. Scott took the bottle from the blonde and removed the cork. He sniffed it and glanced at their leader.
Luana rounded on Ethan. A whip of fire formed in her hand on the turn and without hesitation she lashed it at his neck. In his mind, his head rolled like in 2302—but the fire passed through his body. For a moment, his neck lost all material form, and he couldn’t breathe; in the next second it returned to normal. The Council stared at him in shock. Ethan lifted a hand slowly to his neck and felt the skin. Solid.
“Go wait in the hall.” Luana pointed at the door.
“Can I take the poison?” He pointed at the bottle. Scott threw it to him, and Ethan quickly retreated from the room. The door slid shut behind him and plunged him into darkness. He picked at the label with his fingers before lifting it to his lips to drink once more.
It still tasted like lemonade. Ethan took a steadying breath and leaned back against the wall. He let go of the tension in his neck, and his head tilted back and slammed into the hard surface. He groaned in pain and took another drink. It would be easier if the bullets didn’t pass through his body. Instead, he drank morosely over a bottle of poison. He let the pressure in his legs release, and his back slid down the wall until he sat on the floor.
Every event in Ethan’s life brought him closer and closer to death, but when it finally came knocking, the door wouldn’t unlock. He couldn’t help feeling his survival meant he could be more than a Rogue.
“He seems fun,” Series Pahona provided from her corner of the room.
“What are we going to do with him?” Luana displayed her helplessness. A rare occasion.
The other Council members could tell she quickly approached losing her sanity. She ran her fingers through her hair at a harried pace and made the short strands stand up on end. Luana only acted like this when her support system left. Eilene felt like texting Hans and telling him to return immediately—but she had no authority over him. Luana acted as the leader of the Council.
“We’re going to have to do some research.” Series gave up on her nap and draped herself languidly over her chair. She resembled an experienced model instead of a sleepy seventeen-year-old.
“Can you not see anything about him?” Eilene prompted the younger teen. She used a hair tie on her wrist to pull the blonde strands away from her neck. The colored ends swung around and trailed softly against her shoulders.
“No, not anything important. I saw him survive the bullets, and I can see him lying in a cell. I’ve seen the library and a few books we should look in, but that’s it right now.” Series bit her lip and prayed the others wouldn’t realize she lied. She saw a lot regarding Ethan and the Council, but she didn’t know what any of it meant. She needed to consult her dreams further before she brought the information to the Council.
“What are we supposed to do with him then?”
“Well, Molelo,” Dwayne started, “Junior over here said she saw him in a cell, so I’m thinking Plan AZ.”
“AZ?” Eilene recoiled and crinkled her eyebrows.
“It’s the last plan for killing an elementalist in the book. Probably the least humane.” Luana pursed her lips. “We’ll do it. Starve him to death in a cell, it makes sense. Bring Ethan in.”