Elementalists: Nine United

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"We Had Everything Before Us"

April 6, 2292

White Springs, Florida

Ryan knew he made a bad decision when they walked into the bar. He did not like people who drove motorcycles. They always weaved in and out of traffic—ruffians; big brutes who only knew how to speak with their fists. He made no conscious choice to end up in an out of the way town drinking water at a bar. His coworkers knew he didn’t drink, but they pushed him into the car and took off. He contemplated quitting. Ryan needed to wait for his colleagues to finish their game of pool before he could drive them back to the office building and collect his car.

He groaned and hit his head on the bar.

One of the female bikers stepped up to the bar and slid onto one of the stools. Her leather jacket crinkled and the noise drew his attention. She knew he didn’t want to be there.

“Hey Artie, twenty waters, one milk, and a ginger ale for the bikers in the corner, would you? Save one of the waters for me though.”

The bartender returned her grin. “You managed to make it in this week did you Adelyn?”

“You know we can’t stay away Artie,” she swung her long black hair over her shoulder with a wide smile. Ryan pushed himself up from the counter and swirled his cup. He still wore the brown tweed suit with mustard yellow elbow patches his work required as uniform. He hated the suit. He planned to burn it when he changed jobs.

“Well, tell your friends to not take over the dart board, will you? I like your enthusiasm, but I do have other customers who’ve come to get a little inebriated.” He set a glass in front of her and she took a sip.

Adelyn gave Artie a smile and a nod. One of the bar maids served the bikers and laughed at their eagerness to play the bar games.

Ryan tried to act like he didn’t look at her, but he didn’t succeed. Ryan’s hand flew to his hair and pushed through his short blond locks.

“I’m Adelyn,” the woman said. She thrust her hand out in front of her. “I volunteer as a part of BACA, Bikers Against Child Abuse—Florida North Division. I don’t know if you’ve heard of us.”

“Ryan. I’ve heard of you guys.” He took her hand and stared at her curiously.

“I have a day job as a waitress downtown.” She lifted the cup to her mouth again. “So, what do you do?”

“I’m an agricultural biologist. I spend most days in a lab experimenting to improve the current vegetables we grow as well as developing new combinations which are healthier for the average American to eat.”

“Do you recombine the genes? A vegetable elementalist, if you will.” Adelyn laughed at her own joke and Ryan covered his mouth to hide his own smile.

“You could say that,” he adjusted his tie. “You have an interest in that kind of thing?”

“I remember finding parts of it fascinating back in high school and college.” She shrugged and looked over at the group she came in with. “I can tell you something, I never expected to end up with these guys, but here I am. When I see the smiles on those kids faces, it makes everything worth it.”

“What’s it like riding a motorcycle?”

“Do you want to find out?” She set the cup down with a click.

“You’re not expecting me to drive one, are you?”

“Not unless you want to try. Come on,” Adelyn grabbed his hand and pulled him out the door of the pub and to her black and white bike. She passed him a helmet. “Hold on tight.”


Dwayne knew he should look for information on their people, but the letters in his pockets burned his soul. He didn’t know why he grabbed them off his desk before they left for London. He didn’t have an address to send them. Rather, he didn’t know if the recipients still lived. Dwayne sunk into a chair at one of the study tables and removed the folded envelopes from his left pocket.

The envelopes uncurled when he tossed them on the desk. Dwayne grabbed the first one and pulled the sheets of paper loose from the unsealed envelope. The papers folded into messy thirds and some of the previously wet ink stuck to the clean sides of the paper. When he opened the pages, several words became unintelligible. Dwayne bit his lip and wondered if he should’ve written them in Setswana instead of English.

He stood and asked the front desk for some paper and a pen. Back at the desk, he turned the table lamp to the clean printer paper and started a scrawl across the page in his heritage language.

Thisipuni, Abeje:

You should get used to me calling you by that name—it’s been years after all. I can hear you shouting at me about how your name isn’t “Thisipuni”. I give everyone a nickname. Junior doesn’t like hers too well, but Molelo likes hers now she knows what it means. I was surprised you never liked yours.

I miss our teaspoon.

It’s been a while since Tsaya Ya Mogale Orphanage. Sometimes I wonder what happened to you and Drummer. Were you informed I died? The Council is good at hunting people down and letting them know when that happens—but I don’t know if they could find you. I heard in passing, before we separated, they adopted you for factory work. I hope you remained safe with all those machines. I’m scared to go near them as an adult. You were always braver than me.

Sometimes I think about how you’d be in your thirties now. In my dreams I see you with a loving husband and several children. All of them are cared for and loved. Your children get along with each other, unlike us three. I’d be a doting uncle and buy them too many toys and sweets. You’d be mad at me; I’d never call any of them by their real names.

Do you still live in Botswana? I still don’t like celebrating my birthday. I’m twenty-seven now. I hope you remember my age without the reminder.

I’m sorry we couldn’t stay together as a family. I don’t know if things would’ve been any different. I’m the oldest member on the Council here, I’m not the main kgosi though. That’s Molelo. She’s been on the Council the longest of any of us.

I miss you Thisipuni. I plan on seeing you again, before I die. Maybe in your early forties. Wait for me, wherever you are.

Dwayne Tebogo

This draft much better. It would never leave his hands. He’d burn it when he returned home. Dwayne tucked the new papers into the envelope and folded the old into a tight square before returning the set to his pocket. One more letter to go.

Drummer:

Have you ever thought about how strange our names are when our parents ended up dropping us off at an orphanage? Of course, I’m thinking more along the lines of yours and Thisipuni’s names. I think they gave up with me.

Abeje means our parents asked to have her and you—Chimelu—were what God created. Why did we end up where we are?

I heard the nice man in the suit was a slave trader. It’s hard to think this stuff still goes on today. I don’t know where you ended up. I hope you’re making music wherever you are. I loved listening to the songs you wrote. The beats still pound into my head at night when I can’t fall asleep. It sounds like home.

A few years ago, I might’ve told you I didn’t know where home is. Perhaps I still don’t know. I like to think I have two homes… no one has two homes, Drummer. I’m not rich enough to claim I do, yet here I am. I have a home at the orphanage with you. The other is in Elementōrum Patriam. It’s on the third floor behind the locked door. I don’t think you know the one I speak of. Everyone here does, they’re terrified of it. I’m a little scared of it too.

There’s seven of us here. Dickens is my best friend. She’s great. I think you’d like her if you ever met her.

If we both make it out alive of whatever comes next, I’d love to see you one last time. I hope you escaped and have a family now. I want you to be safe. Perhaps I worry over you and Thisipuni more than I should as the youngest sibling.

I’ll give myself a deadline. I’ll see you in the next five years and you’ll be happy. I know it. You can’t deny it.

Dwayne Tebogo

He didn’t like his letter to Chimelu. He always found his brother harder to talk to. He shoved the pages and envelope back into his pocket without neatly folding them. The letter needed serious work—even if Luana wouldn’t let him send it. Dwayne leaned back in his chair and grabbed the first book he found off the shelf. A chill ran up his spine and he realized Luana watched him closely from across the study area. He shuddered and immediately went to work.


Excerpts from Elementalists Across the Ages: London Library Collection, Published 1946

Elementalists (Homo elementa) are feared by a majority of the human population. They are a group of people who emerged from a genetic mutation on the thirteenth chromosome pair. The mutation allows them control one of the natural elements of the world. Scientists currently have no understanding of where the mutation comes from, but it is beneficial. There are certain limitations to the mutation. While elementalists run at a higher core temperature and thin air doesn’t affect them the same as it does those from the Homo sapiens race, their body is quick to break down when it receives damage from external sources.

External sources include tobacco products, which damage the lungs, and alcohol, which is known to destroy the liver. While these cause irreversible problems in human bodies, for the elementalists, it kills them. One cigarette breaks down the lungs capacity and erodes the mutation in their lungs which adjusts to the elevation. A single sip of beer (or any stronger forms of liquor) performs the same action in their liver and their organs shut down accordingly. Researchers are still looking into the effects of secondhand smoke or smoke inhalation from fires—many studies suggest smoke isn’t damaging because of Fire elementalists.

One orientation of the mutation doesn’t allow for this and causes what the elementalists label as a glitch. The glitch occurs when the nucleotide Thymine (T) lines up with a Cytosine (C). The combination is rare and causes a malfunction in the elementalist’s body which doesn’t allow them to fully control one element—they can use pieces of all the elements with no limiting barriers.

The first Council formed after strenuous warfare across Pangea. There are few records which indicate what happened at that time. A lot of the history for the forming of the eight main continents, with only seven on the Earth’s water level surface, comes from speculation. What historians do know, is the elementalists sought to escape persecution. The original Council created Elementōrum Patriam. The oldest cities in the country named after the original nine Council members (currently, humans and elementalists alike are more familiar with a Council representing seven elements).

The nine Council members originally created nine cities on Pangea. All nine cities—Moscow, Jerusalem, Ekurhuleni, Venice, Hong Kong, Chicago, London, Pompeii, and Cochabamba—destroyed. The remnants remained. New cities built on the foundations and those nine cities remain safe havens for elementalists today. Vasha, an Earth elementalist, is credited with the early beginnings of Moscow in Russia. It’s also noted she is responsible for tearing Pangea into the seven lower continents.

Vasha died during the process—but they never ruled the event as accidental or out of spite; a city in Elementōrum Patriam is named after her to memorialize her actions to bring the elements together. She travelled around the world to gather the other eight members of the original Council to face the humans in war.

During the last two world wars, elementalist researchers discovered two unknown types of genetic mutations on the thirteenth chromosome. The mutation is tied to the already existing code for elementalists on that chromosome, except the scientists found the two new mutations rely on outside factors.

In times of great stress on the world, an eighth and ninth element appear inside the elementalist world. The two elements disappear in times of peace and their sporadic appearance accounts for the push there are only seven elements—seven Council members. An increase in this mutation occurred briefly in the United States of America during the years preceding the Civil War, as discontent continued to rise in the South. Toward the end of the war, elementalists with this particular mutation vanished and the cycle returned to seven elements.

The last recorded spike occurred in the early 1900s. During the first World War, young elementalists with the eighth and ninth mutations recorded as great warriors on the field. Their elements formidable enemies. Many accounts report one of the mutations allowed an elementalist to cross no-man’s land in seconds. They could avoid bullets and act as sting operations behind the opposition’s backs.

What I speak of here, in regard to the eighth and ninth types of elementalist, is the Supernatural and Death elements. During World War I and II, the allies requested help from the elementalists to assassinate Hitler. Those who failed to uncover the secret documents of communication between the countries still don’t understand how Hitler and his wife died within moments of each other with only one gunshot.

A Breakdown of the Nine Elements

*Based on years of research, some facts may vary.

Fire

They can control flames created by friction, spark, or their body. The hands and feet are common areas for concentrating flames. By focusing on an object, they can catch something at a distance on fire. Fire is best combated by those who control the element of Earth. Fire elementalists are known to envy those who can control Storms because of the destructive power.

The first Council member: Messina of Pompeii.

Water

Water elementalists pull water from the air and dehydrate it. They can also use the reserves in their bodies, but if they take too much, they could injure or kill themselves. Some Water elementalists choose to carry a water canister with them in various forms. More inexperienced Water elementalists are encouraged to carry the extra water around; it builds strength and control. Water elementalists are best combated by those who control the Air element; they envy those who can control the Fortune of others.

The first Council Member: Ricci of Venice.

Earth

Earth elementalists cause a lot of destruction. They have a surplus of material if the item is made of earth in some form. They are most likely to envy those who control Life because of their ability to heal in the wake of destruction; meanwhile, they fear those who control Water as it tears apart the earth.

The first Council member: Vasha of Moscow.

Air

Air elementalists have a plentiful store of air. They can make it thinner and harder to breathe for quick torture of their
opponents or remove oxygen in a small zone. Air elementalists have a technique similar to flying by controlling the airflow around them. They love high places. Those who control Air fear Death as

it spreads quickly through their domain, but they envy those who can control the Supernatural.

The first Council member: Victor of Cochabamba.

Storms

Storm elementalists create a storm out of the atmospheric conditions. They are not limited by the type of storm and they differ from Water elementalists because they generate tornados, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters. Their name doesn’t fully suit their abilities. Storm elementalists fear Life and they envy those who can control Air because the element would allow them to move around easier.

The firs Council member: Brooks of London.

Fortune

It is often best practice to avoid close relationships with Fortune elementalists. Fortune elementalists see the future and affect the good and bad luck of those around them. Be careful not to hurt their feelings or betray them. Those of the Fortune element are good at manipulating others into doing what they want. Fortune elementalists fear the Supernatural since it often controls them. They envy those who can control Fire because of its beautiful changing patterns.

The first Council member: Xia of Hong Kong.

Supernatural

Supernatural elementalists control space and time; they can speedily expand the universe or stop time on earth while they move at full speed. As a drawback, many aged themselves too quickly they died young. The Supernatural elementalists fear those who control Fire because it is a dangerous force, they can’t find a way to stop or slow down. They envy those who control Earth, as it is solid and can easily combat their fear.

The first Council member: James of Chicago.

Life

Life elementalists like to choose the practical route for their future career by becoming a doctor or nurse. While they are gentle and thoughtful before making any decision—which is always based on logic—if something goes wrong, they will try to pass it off and blame others. Life fears those who control the Fortune element since they can directly affect a patient. They envy the ability of Death.

The first Council member: Yahav of Jerusalem.

Death

Death elementalists appear immune to death as they are difficult to injure or kill. Few things are known to hurt them: gold and heat. Researchers also found they can be weakened (starvation, exhaustion) and injured by any item. Death elementalists are often seen as lonely because their pasts are often full of death and horror. They have a fear of those who control Storms because the death toll makes them feel like they are cut out of the picture. They envy Water elementalists because it is a silent and useful killer.

The first Council member: Ubuntu of Ekurhuleni.


London Library, United Kingdom

Eilene snatched her phone from her pocket and lifted the slim piece of glass close to her face. Her thumbs tapped hurriedly on the screen in an effort to type out her message to the other Council members. She hoped the garble of letters on her screen came over coherent. Eilene pressed send and heard six text tones in rapid succession—like gunfire. Patrons grumbled around her about the excessive noise in the study area, but Eilene paid them no mind. She worked to open another app on her phone which would allow her to scan the entire text of the book. She moved to a better lit study table and set her phone on top of the cover.

“Found something good?” Dwayne came up behind her and rested his chin on her shoulder. She prayed he couldn’t see the flushed color spread across her face from his angle. “Your message is barely coherent. Something about Ethan being an elementalist.

“There’s nine elements, not seven. It’s why there are nine Council members originally.” Eilene whispered. “According to this book, the Supernatural and Death elements die out in times of peace. Based on the descriptions on page two-seventy-three, I would guess Ethan is of the Death element. If he is, it means we’re approaching a time of catastrophic war and the Supernatural element will return too.”

“Even if Ethan is a Death elementalist, we have another problem to solve.” Scott walked up on the other side of the table. Eilene’s phone halfway through scanning the book into their electronic database.

“He hasn’t eaten anything in days, he might be dead.” Series finished his thought.

Luana drew attention to herself as she marched across the library toward them. Her feet hi the floor hard with every step. Hans obediently on her heels. She shoved her phone into the blonde’s face. “Ethan is not one of the seven.”

“He’s one of the nine, Luana.”

“There’s not nine—”

“There is.” Series’ eyes went wide. “Whenever there is a trial for a new Council member, there are eight doorways. Only six of them are active because we only had a Council of seven. We ignored the last two doorways because the crystal colors never matched up with our own element. We even have two rooms we’ve never used because they housed all seven elements we knew.”

“They built the rooms for Death and Supernatural.” Dwayne nodded. He snatched the book away from Eilene’s phone when it notified them it finished scanning. He opened to the page Eilene specified earlier and read through the section on the Death element. “If we don’t get to Ethan now, we might have another problem on our hands.”

“What is it?” Scarlet tried to read over his shoulder. He set the book on the table and pointed at the specific line.

“In a weakened state, he can be injured and killed by anything.”

“If you have it in you, Series,” Luana started, their eyes met, “we’re going to need a lot of good luck.”


Eilene forwarded the book document to them once inside the transportation pods. Each of them silent as they read through some of the information on the two unknown elements.

“How many of them have I killed?”

“’We’, Luana. You weren’t the only one involved.”

“You can rule out the Death elementalists. After seeing Ethan, it’s clear we’ve never come across them before.”

“But the Supernatural—”

“We have no way of knowing. The fault is on the Council’s heads because we did not know.” Hans placed a warm hand over hers. “It’s been over three-hundred years since the last Supernatural and Death elements appeared. Our history is lacking, it was a mistake.”

“Over three-hundred and fifty.”

“No need to be pedantic, Series.” Scarlet rolled her eyes.

“It’s been too long for us to say we killed them knowingly. It’s not a big deal, if Ethan is here then it means other Death elementalists will arrive too. So, will Supernatural. We’ll have to figure out a test for them to take based on the information in this book.” Series waved her phone in the air. “No problems going forward.”


August 30, 2307

City of Barren

Eilene’s favorite author: Charles Dickens. She loved his rich description of moments in history; she adored his use of the English language and the focus of his works. He talked politics by staying with the poor, the people who suffered at the hands of the less poor and the rich. Eilene appreciated the novelty of his ideas and the pace at which he produced works. She absolutely despised what Charles John Huffam Dickens did to his wife. He had a loving home with his wife and several children. A brilliant father, but when they got older, Charles left his wife for a younger woman. Eilene did not approve of his actions. When she first found out, it caused her almost enough grief to keep her from reading his works again—but the lines of A Tale of Two Cities floated back to her and she couldn’t release herself from the French Revolution. She didn’t want to let go of the ideal Sydney Carton who pined, yet supported, Lucie Manette who married another man, Charles Darnay. Eilene didn’t care much for Mr. Darnay. Too weak for her standards and part of the aristocracy—the reason Sydney died. Eilene wanted Sydney.

Late in the day, Eilene sat on her bed with a copy of Oliver Twist between her hands. Last week she told her parents her Uncle Lucas raped her at a family reunion in the City of Joy. They didn’t believe her. They labeled her as an Un before the government made an official test. Her parents put up barriers to avoid the hurt when she vanished. Eilene hoped Charles Dickens would give her some semblance of advice on the situation—it hadn’t helped thus far. Eilene knew the reason why Lucas did it. He told her when it happened. She would be the first in over two-hundred years who had no chance of being an elementalist. Her family members proud elementalists. If she wouldn’t become an elementalist, they could treat her how they desired until the Council came for her.

Eilene knew she had to bide her time.

Her mother used to tell her: “passion is the most important thing in life.” Eilene didn’t think it would ever be enough. She stared through the open blinds hanging in front of her window and tried to think of something else. Her memory wouldn’t let her. When she first saw the familiar face walking down the street, Eilene thought she imagined it. They looked up at her in her bedroom and she knew.

Lucas waved at her from the street. He knew her parents wouldn’t be home. Eilene’s eyes widened and she set the book on her pillow. Lucas walked up to the house and looked for a way in. She didn’t have a place to hide. The space under her bed not big enough and Lucas would look for her there. Her parents’ room had a lock, but she didn’t think that would stop him. He would tear down the door.

Eilene located her dingy school backpack on the floor and grabbed it. She pulled the homework and books out of it before grabbing the first clothes she could find. She stuffed them into the gaping hole and yanked the zipper up. The strap fell over her shoulder. A window shattered on the lower level and she spun around. Eilene yanked the cords on the blinds so they shot to the top of the rail. She heard her uncle walk through the kitchen; his tennis shoes squeaked on the tile floor. She grabbed the lava lamp on her nightstand and hurled it at the window. Lucas’s paces picked up speed downstairs. The bottom step of the stairs creaked.

Eilene yanked the twin mattress from her box bed and shoved it through the shattered window. It landed a story below her, not quite in a safe position for her to jump. Using the simple carabiner clip on her backpack, she clipped her half-filled water bottle to her items. She reached for the book on her pillow.

Lucas appeared in the door.

Eilene left the book.

She jumped through the window.

In the air, she managed to turn onto her side. Her right arm took the impact into the mattress. Shards of glass danced around her and dug into her arm. Eilene jumped to her feet and ran before she recognized the sting of blood on her forearm. One of the glass pieces sliced her arm open, and she left a trail of blood on the sidewalk. Eilene paused for a moment, her breath came out in large puffs, but the pounding footsteps behind her made her continue.

A hand grabbed her shoulder and made her turn around. Lucas bore down on her and she fell onto her back. His hands jumped to her shirt, but Eilene’s leg flew up and hit him where it counted. She managed to scramble back several feet before her uncle got his barring and lunged at her again.

“Stop!” Eilene closed her eyes and threw her hands out in front of her. A startled scream joined her terrified one. She pried her eyes open and Lucas clutched at his face. Blisters tugged at his skin and the ground around them coated in water.

“You!” He screeched.

Eilene jumped to her feet before he could put his hands on her again. She held up her hands a second time. “Don’t come any closer.”

Lucas remained on the ground. Eilene took several steps back before she turned and ran. The Bullet station only a little way away.


July 22, 2316

As the resident Life elementalists, Dwayne became their only healer for the group. He held no fondness for the doctoring profession and often complained in private about the duties he had to fill. In moments like these, he prepared in the only way he could. He slept. The only one in their pod to sleep. He needed his strength for the battle waiting for him at the Academy. His knowledge and skill unrivaled by any other elementalist in the world. Ethan would be in bad shape and they’d leave it up to him to make sure he remained okay. Eilene picked up her phone and typed a quick message to Series in the other car.

Hey, you should probably sleep too. Dwayne’s passed out. I’m sure he’ll need your help with maintaining a good atmosphere.

She didn’t receive a reply and Eilene prayed it meant Series already fell asleep. Scott bumped her with his elbow. He offered his shoulder for her to rest on.

Eilene shook her head. “I’ll be fine. I don’t need to sleep.”

“Sleep anyway.” He replied.

“Alright.” Her head dropped to the left side of her body and rested against Scott’s bony shoulder. Her eyes settled on Dwayne.

When she first met him after joining the Council, she attacked him when he touched her. It took months before she realized they could be friends and he wanted to get to know her as a genuine person.

“What do you like doing for fun?” Dwayne nudged her with his knee as they sat in the video game room. Late August of 2312 and twenty-year-old Eilene felt like napping over playing Mario Kart. She ran off the road for the fourth time on the second lap of one of the Bowser Castle maps.

“Reading, lets me avoid people.”

“What do you read?”

“Classics, online comics people write.” She shrugged. Her blonde hair spilled across the back of the couch. She scooted down the cushion until her butt hung off the edge and all her weight rested on the small of her back. “What do you do in this pit of politics?”

“Whenever I can escape kgosi, I hide out here or in my room. I like video games and music. Before the Council pulled me into their group last year, I hung out at vintage CD shops a lot.”

“Vintage CD shops?” Eilene couldn’t hold back a laugh.

“Those discs of music are a classic. All music is electronic now. It’s nice to pop a CD in a player and hear the speakers crackle and boom with old tech.”

“Lame.” She covered her mouth. “I’ve wanted to ask for a while—why do you call Aneydan, kgosi?”

“It means king in Setswana.”

“You speak Setswana?”

“I’m from Botswana.” Dwayne chuckled. “The elementalists pulled me from an orphanage in Maun. Where’re you come from?”

“City of Barren, long line of elementalists.”

“Impressive.”

“My death ruined their line though.” She snorted.

“Better you than anyone else. Aneydan likes having you here so far.”

“She’s like a mom to the rest of the Council.” Eilene noted. After her trial to join the Council Aneydan helped her transition the most.

“She’s forty-nine, though.”

“Disappointing.” Eilene chucked the controller for the game onto the coffee table in front of them. “See you later, Dwayne.”

“Thanks for hanging out with me.” He waved her off.

Eilene walked out of the room and down the hall. A door down the hallway cracked open and she pressed the glass further open. The room had a desk light on in the corner, but it didn’t give enough light to see who occupied the room. Eilene pressed the button for the lights and stared at the body on the floor. Aneydan stared back at her with eyes glossed over. Eilene wanted to puke.

“Hey, Dickens, time to wake up.” The voice familiar; she groaned. “You too, Mosupologo.”

“You’re supposed to be the one sleeping.” Eilene pushed herself off Scott’s shoulder.

“I woke up to eat food. We’re approaching the north east coast of America. We’ll be home soon.” He pressed a sandwich and a bag of chips into her hands.

“Thanks Dwayne. You should sleep more.”

Dwayne shook his head. “If I sleep anymore, I’ll be of no use. I need to be awake to think about medical things properly. I hate to admit it, but I’m a bit rusty.”

“I’m sure you’ll do fine.” Scott reassured him. He took a bite of his sandwich and the pair watched him closely. “What?”

“If Scott’s telling you you’re fine, then you’re fine.” Eilene pulled at the seam of the chip bag and it popped open. She leaned into the smell. “Nacho cheese.”

They ate in silence for a while and a frown marred Dwayne’s face. Eilene pressed her foot against his on the floor until he looked at her.

“You look like something’s been bugging you.”

“Did either of you have siblings before coming to Elementōrum Patriam?”

“Little sister,” Scott reached for one of the water bottles.

“Two older sisters and an older brother.”

“I had an older brother and sister. I’ve been thinking about them lately. I don’t know much about them outside of where they were taken after the orphanage.”

“My sister died from pneumonia. She got sick trying to take care of my father and he didn’t notice.”

Eilene looked at the man next to her. She placed a warm hand on top of Scott’s. He looked at her under heavy eyelids. She lifted her free right hand and swept some of the hair out of his eye. His breath quickened, and Dwayne narrowed his eyes from across the pod.

“You looked tired. Go back to sleep for an hour or so. We’ll wake you at the ascent.”

Scott managed a nod before he leaned back against the seat cushion again.

“I wrote letters for my siblings.” Dwayne confessed.

“It helps, doesn’t it?”

“I didn’t realize it had, until now.”

“I wrote a letter to my parents once. Asked Luana to burn it. She can be helpful sometimes.” A laugh crept past her chapped lips. “Do you think you’ll be able to save Ethan?”

“I don’t know.” He admitted. “I’m going to try my hardest. I haven’t had a patient die on me yet, but I don’t know his case.”

“The book says he can be weakened by starvation and exhaustion. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had both.”

“I wouldn’t either.” His brows crinkled together. “Will I be able to use medical instruments on him?”

“If he’s in that state. If he’s not then he can be injured by—hold on, I’ll look it up.” She opened the application on her phone and scrolled at a rapid pace down the screen. “Gold.”

“I’ll put in an order for a gold set of medical equipment, I don’t know if it’ll get there in time.”

“We can at least try.”


“Scott.”

A hand shook his shoulder and he pulled away. He tried to roll over, but his legs collided with someone else’s. His eyes shot open. Scott didn’t remember sharing a bed with anyone. Eilene crouched over him in the transportation pod.

“We’re about a half-hour away from home. We thought you’d want to be fully coherent. Luana sent out a text, she plans to run since it’s an emergency.”

“We’re gonna scare the entire population of our country running through the Academy for our base of operations.” Dwayne laughed. “I don’t know what Molelo’s thinking.”

“After this ordeal we might need to call in a Code Birthday.” Eilene winked at her best friend.

“I could go for a Code Birthday.” He agreed. “I’ll put on one of my Vintage CDs.”

“No. It’s gonna be Snow Patrol again.” She hit her head against the glass of the door.

“They happen to be a wonderful band from three-hundred years ago.”

“They’re so old.” She fell into a fit of laughter and her head landed on Scott’s shoulder unsolicited. He stiffened. “Sorry Scott.”

“I’m afraid to ask.” He pointed between the pair.

“Code Birthday?” Dwayne cocked his head to the side. “Yeah, it’s a top-secret thing for us.”

“It’s not that big of a deal.” Eilene rolled her eyes.

“I beg to differ. It’s a very important time where I am allowed to wallow in my ancient music and not do my job. Alongside a pretty lady, I might add.”

“If I called the Code Birthday, then I get to pick the music.”

“You’re ruining the mood, Dickens.”


June 23, 2313

The Academy

Dwayne spread himself across his bed and held up the remote to the old boom box in the corner of his room. He skipped to the second to last song on the disc and leaned back where his head dropped off the edge of the queen-sized bed. Blood rushed to his head and he liked the lightweight feeling it gave him. He hated this day the most—he always thought of his siblings too much. Snow Patrol’s slower songs about losing people and seeking to stay together wouldn’t be the best music to listen to but easy to connect with.

“What happens if my eyes are already open?” Eilene asked from the doorway. Dwayne shot up from the bed and he felt dizzy as all the blood rushed away from his brain. He held a hand to the side of his head and waited for his vision to clear.

“Huh?”

“The song, Open Your Eyes. I’m questioning the lyrics.”

“Do metaphors escape you, my dear Dickens?”

“Your metaphors are old.”

“Metaphors don’t age.” He dropped back onto the bed again.

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.”

“Don’t quote A Tale of Two Cities at me, especially when it’s not a metaphor.”

“It is a good line though.” Eilene batted at his legs until he pulled them in where he no longer starfished across the bed. She laid opposite of him, her feet at his head. He raised his head above the edge of the large mattress to glare at her. “I get your feet, deal with it.”

“You’re ruining a perfectly good song.”

“It’s the same sixteen beats which go up and down single notes after three measures.”

“With a harmony and beautiful lyrics that make you think.”

“I’d prefer not to think when I’m lying on my bed.”

“I like thinking in my room. Allows me to get work done. Don’t worry, I won’t tell Molelo you’re skimping out on work.”

“You know, I think I’m falling into those lyrics a little bit. How about we sit in silence.”

“Are my jokes too good for you, Dickens?”

“Shut up.”

They sat in silence during the middle minute of the song. Their breathing matched to the same pace and Eilene let her eyes trail the sky of the Botswana desert. She loved how well their rooms adapted to their personal tastes.

“The sky looks different in the southern hemisphere.”

“I think it’s better.” Dwayne wiggled his hips across the bed, so his head didn’t hang off the edge. “What’d you come in here for anyway?”

“You looked sad the last few days. I set up the game room with all types of games for us to mess around with. Even brought up Guild Wars on the computers so we can dick around and kill spider spawns. Or Minecraft—we have that server.”

“I kind of want to stay here and wallow in my own pity party.”

“I’m okay with that too.”

Dwayne stopped the CD on the last song and restarted the disc in the player. He held up the remote above them and restarted the disc before skipping several songs into the album.

“A true classic, Chasing Cars.” Eilene teased.

“You know you love it.”

“If we’re going to wallow in self-pity we should listen to some better music.”

“Shhh, you wallow with the sad tones of my music if you’re going to be in here.”

“Are we allowed to talk about our problems amidst the depressing music?” Eilene tilted her head up to see Dwayne’s face. He nodded. “I wish my parents would’ve believed me when I told them what happened.”

“I wish that too.”

“I found out through Council avenues he was injured badly during my escape.”

“He deserved it.”

“No doubt.” Eilene paused. “It pissed me off though. I found out because of his injuries he was found to be unfit for work and he lives off money we send him every month.”

Dwayne winced.

“He gets to stay at home all day and do nothing because I got revenge. Charges were never pressed against him and I can’t do anything about it now. I’m stuck here on the Council and every month one of us signs the check he spends to keep living another day.” Tears stained her cheeks. “I wanted to prove he no longer had any power over my life, but here I am crying over the fact I occasionally sign his check. I wanted to be happy, Dwayne.”

“Hey,” Dwayne sat up and held his arms out for her. She darted into the warm embrace and pressed her face into his chest.

“If only one of my parents would’ve believed me when it first happened—but they thought I was an Un. The older Council members said they didn’t even react when they informed them of my Rogue status, or that I was killed.”

His grip tightened around her shoulders. “I’m going to keep you safe. No one is going to hurt you again, you hear?”

Eilene nodded into his shoulder. He ran a hand up and down her back to help calm her down.

“Now we’ve got a problem,” Dwayne pulled away. She copied the motion, her eyes red and puffy. “I planned on spending the day alone celebrating my birthday and now you’re here.”

Eilene snorted. “Oh please, it’s not your birthday. You don’t tell anyone when your birthday is.”

“Then humor me a little.” He turned away so she couldn’t see the expression on his face.

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