August 13, 2316
Ethan was in Wonderland. He fell down hole after hole chasing the mysterious white rabbit—or rather a young girl with brunette hair pulled into pigtails. Each time he dropped in and out of consciousness he saw her methodically tapping a large, gold pocket watch. Time running down but no closer to finding her than the night she died. In the momentary relapses into black he hoped to meet some of the floating stationary objects from Alice’s fall, but he had yet to see any of them. After a while he hoped to at least meet the Cheshire Cat—but nothing would appear in the never-ending darkness no matter his will.
“Not even a piano?” He asked irritably after several more minutes. He hit the ground hard and stared up at a completely white room. His body wrapped in a tight blanket.
“What’s this about a piano?” Dwayne stood at the shiny metal counter in the room and dried his hands with a paper towel. A large smile rested across his face.
There’s the Cheshire Cat.
Ethan would’ve rather met the tiny door with the growing cake and shrinking drink. Absolem and the Red Queen far preferable to the Cheshire Cat once he had the pleasure of meeting him. Unless Luana played the Red Queen—then he’d choose to be stuck in perpetual teatime with the Mad Hatter. He needed to get the duology out of his head.
“Where am I?” Ethan couldn’t figure out whether his brain conjured a hospital scene as a new kind of dream.
“Council medical room—fully stocked for our use in case of emergencies. All materials and data remain hidden to anyone but us,” he paused. The smile pulled at the skin of his lips and Ethan thought it might crack. Dwayne laughed and held out a hand. “I’m your doctor, Dwayne Tebogo, you can call me Dwayne. Are there any places where it hurts?”
“What happened to the holding cell?”
“We have a lot to explain.” The smile dropped from Dwayne’s face. “Molelo is really worried about you. I haven’t seen her that scared before.”
“Who’s Molelo? And weren’t you trying to kill me?”
“’Were’ being the operative.” Dwayne nodded and pursed his lips. “We were trying to kill you until we did some research in London and discovered a discrepancy in our own records. I’ve spent the last couple weeks stabilizing your vitals and waiting for you to wake up. You’re on the fast track healing process and should be good to go in the next while. As for Molelo—she is our kgosi, the leader of the Council.”
“What does this mean?”
“I’d much rather have Molelo and the others explain it to you. I haven’t had a chance to explore the research myself. Dickens would be a good choice since she found the information.” The door opened. “Ah, Ethan, let me introduce you to Junior and Mulan.”
“How come you get the good nickname?”
“Hey Ethan,” Scarlet ignored her companion. “In case you don’t remember my name, I’m Scarlet Lí. Dwayne calls me Mulan.”
“I remember you. We met through the door of my cell.”
“We did. Your ability is quite interesting, especially since Eilene and I have looked over the missing data.” She held the clipboard from her hands toward Dwayne and he took it. Ethan watched him input the information into the Council specific database. He couldn’t make sense of all the numbers.
“How are you feeling?”
“Is Ethan awake?” Luana poked her solemn face inside the room. Bags slept under her eyes and she didn’t look like she had any sleep for the last several days. Hans shuffled into the room ahead of her.
“Hey Solo. Protecting our princess?” Dwayne jabbed softly. Hans shook his head and glanced curiously at Luana to see how she reacted to the teasing. Her reaction didn’t indicate she heard.
“Hi Luana.” Ethan lifted his IV riddled hand and waved. “Dwayne said you could explain what’s going on with me?”
Her brown eyes wavered as they looked at him. “There was some important information regarding elementalist history, which somehow managed to disappear from our personal and extensive library. We’re unsure if it was removed on purpose or unrecorded because it was believed these two elements had more of a permanent place in our society. Due to this error, our current Council was not aware of the existence of two elements move between extinction and revival. The Council is meant to be made of nine elements and the appearance of the two missing elements from our number is usually attributed to the need for a great war. While we are able to identify you as the first Death elementalist to come to our country following the element extinction shortly after the Second World War, we’re uncertain about the appearance of the ninth element. It’s possible in the last few years we may have identified them as Rogue’s and removed them from our number ourselves.”
“Always the politician.” Series muttered under her breath as she checked the IV lines on Ethan’s left arm.
“Yes, the element which is commonly paired with Dwayne’s in the human world. They have little connection in our understanding of the cycles in elementalists.” Luana paused. “Do you like reading much?”
“Yeah. Crazy story for you. I once survived a raging fire in an orphanage while distracted reading.”
“Do I want to be friends with him? He attracts death.” Dwayne took the heart monitor piece off Ethan’s finger and readjusted part of the configuration.
The red-haired man cleared his throat. “Death element makes sense. What do you have for me to read?”
“Eilene is working on binding an official reprint copy now. We found the book in the London library.” Luana pondered her next words. “It goes into detail about the nine elements and how two of them went into extinction. It details a short period of extinction between the First and Second World Wars. We assume the short life spans of human and elementalists may have attributed to the cut off and loss of information. As I said before, it’s possible the elements tried to resurface before, but those before us and even us now might’ve killed them without awareness.”
“Only if they are of the Supernatural element,” Eilene corrected as she stepped into the room. In her arms rested two copies of newly bound paperback books with blue velvet covers. She took a stance with her left hand on her hip. She tried to use her head to flip back her blonde hair, but it didn’t react as she wanted. Eilene let out a huff. Dwayne stepped over and pulled it behind her back. “Thanks Dwayne. Those of the Death element, like Ethan, can’t be killed unless certain requirements are met. The book outlines a little more than a handful, but I would assume there are more viable options as well. I would assume lack of a list results from a loss of test subjects, which is an appropriate way to end a list. One of the ways the book outlines is our Plan AZ which we used on Ethan a month ago.”
The beeping of Ethan’s heart monitor filled the space.
“I really lost track of time. I thought I was only in there for a few days.”
“It’s August thirteenth.” Scarlet whispered.
“I have to reset my brain.”
“Your vitals are back to normal, so nothing to worry about.” Dwayne lifted Ethan’s left arm to unwrap the bandages.
“Why am I this heavily bandaged?”
“You peeled like week old road kill.” Eilene said as Scott joined them in the room. His steps paused long enough for him to give her a puzzled look before he settled into the corner.
“Road kill, Dickens?” A grin settled back onto the lips of the Motswana and a warm chuckle bubbled in the back of his throat.
“Rotten and dry road kill—the kind you find in Texas.”
Luana crinkled her nose. “You’ve never been to Texas.”
“I think I’m going to be sick.” Ethan tried to roll over on his side, but a strap around his waist kept him back down on the bed.
“Need a trash can?” Scarlet waved at the overflowing bin by the door filled with old IV needles, empty blood and medical bags, bandages, and medicine bottles.
“It looks worse than me.”
“That’s what life looks like.” Eilene walked over to his bed and placed one of the books next to him where it wouldn’t disturb any of his medical lines.
“Dickens is insulting me again.”
“I’m not insulting you. Life is messy and having a mess like the one in the trash proves people fought a battle for a singular life. It’s proof we need to keep the precious people in our life living as long as we can. Death will only ever be a dead body—proof of failure.”
“I was the one being insulted.” Ethan winked at her.
“Wow, Eilene managed to say something profound for once.”
“Want to go fire breath?” Eilene growled at their leader.
“If you want to argue, take it to the hall. I won’t have any of it in front of my patient.” Dwayne used his height to his advantage to threaten them. Everyone shuffled out of the room and the man mumbled several words in Setswana. He pushed the blanket away from Ethan’s legs and the patient settled back into the pillows for more sleep.
After they visited Ethan, Hans decided to work on unfinished paperwork during their empty hours before dinner. He still had a few letters to address from the Russian government and then Luana wanted him to move onto some minor issues they experienced with Kyrgyzstan. When he arrived at his room, with the brunette trailing his heels, he found the problem with Russia increased and the letters overflowed his workable space. Hans took a seat immediately at the desk and began to semi-organize the space so he had a place to work. Luana took a seat on the bed behind him and didn’t say anything. She had the other copy of the book they found in London in her hands and a notebook clipboard combination. She borrowed one of the pens from his desk while he opened the first letter.
He worked in silence until all the Russia issues no longer existed and sent to the department which would provide the official replies through electronic communications. Hans spun around in his chair to find Luana face down on his bed in a starfish position. The book rested against his double pillows and papers scattered around her on the duvet and floor. He settled further back into his desk chair and scooted till his posture slackened.
“Are you living in my room now?”
“Maybe,” Luana took a long time to reply—her voice muffled from her position.
“Where do you expect me to sleep tonight?”
“Don’t know, don’t care.”
The sat in the comfort of their breathing for several minutes. Content with his break, Hans adjusted his posture and turned back to the desk. The chair creaked as he moved into another letter, this time from Kyrgyzstan. He picked up the small letter opener and yanked it under the lip of the envelope. Another ten minutes of settling minor issues and finding contract renewal applications, Hans gave up on completing any more work for the day. He stood from the desk and stretched his arms above his head.
Hans walked to the bed and sat on the bed in one of the empty spaces between Luana’s limbs. She jumped at the sudden shift in the mattress and pulled away from the source. Hans squeezed into the smallest space on the bed he could find.
“What are you doing?”
“Laying, on my bed.”
Luana huffed at his sarcastic tone, although, she ended her impression of a starfish. Hans took the opportunity to stretch out properly next to her.
“What’s bothering you?”
“You already know.”
“You’ve never regretted killing people before, not your nature.” He pointed out. The ceiling depicted a lazy cloud drifting through a clear blue sky.
“It’s different this time. We almost didn’t save the rebirth of one of the two missing elements. I’m worried that in the last few years I might’ve been the one to order a Supernatural elementalist to be killed. I can’t ever bring that person back.” She wiggled on the bed so her head hung over the edge so he could hear her easier. The blood rushed to her brain and cleared her thoughts.
“Lu, it wasn’t you who made the law to kill Rogue’s. You also weren’t the one who chose not to record the Death and Supernatural elements three-hundred and fifty years ago. None of this is your fault. It’s true our records are lacking, but we can’t move forward and change our people for the better if we dwell on the ‘what ifs’ of the past. We saved Ethan and that is repayment for all of our mistakes.”
He interrupted her. “No, it is time you look to the future. We need to take an initiative and give a directive to our people. We need to educate them with our new knowledge because then the world will know.”
“When did you get so wise?”
“I’ve always been this smart. I just wasn’t the best at saying it in English.” Hans winked.
“How are we going to tell the elementalists about this?”
“Delegate it to Eilene and Scarlet. They know what they’re doing when it comes to these things.” He rolled over on his right side to look at her. “You can put your trust in the rest of the Council. You are one of the people who helped choose us for this position—you know what we’re capable of.”
“Okay.” She moved her head back to the bed and tilted it to meet his soft green eyes.
August 22, 2316
“Would you stop trying to get up every five seconds?” Dwayne found himself annoyed with how Ethan changed his position in the white cotton sheets ever few minutes. His red hair grew out by several inches over the last month and the strands spread wildly over the pillow.
Ethan glared at the back of Dwayne’s head. “It’s boring laying on my back constantly. I want to roll over.”
The doctor’s pen snapped under the pressure of his hand and he groaned. The pen went into the trash with the recent antiseptic wipes from Ethan’s last checkup. Dwayne spent several minutes scrubbing the ink from his hand in the sink. Once he finished cleaning up his hands, he grabbed a new pen and turn to the paperwork to find a large blue ink stain across the leaflets. Dwayne tossed them in the trash with the other things and started to fill out new papers.
“Well, you’re stuck there. Read your book and deal with it.”
“Do you enjoy reading straight history like this? It’s dull.”
“I’ve found this history quite intriguing, especially considering it covers the history of who we are as people. I trust this book. It isn’t written with a clear bias—instead it wants to inform the reader of important principles.”
“Up until a couple weeks ago you thought all of this was false.”
“After extensive review, the information makes sense and lines up with the history we do have.”
“The nine elements are mentioned in previously recorded texts and no one thought to explore it?”
“You took elementalist history as part of your required courses at the Academy. How do you not know this?” Dwayne leaned against the counter and furrowed his eyebrows.
“I didn’t get the best grades in history. I had trouble with all the dates and numbers.”
“Then you’d better remember this. I don’t want to explain it a second time. Our history mentions the rise of nine victors. It doesn’t specifically line up an elemental coding to each of those victors, all we have is their names. Of course, everyone knows their names to this day because we named cities in our country after them. After the Council went into hiding and after the Second World War, we became a Council of seven. The reason for the change was never recorded. With the history Dickens found in that book we know all the elements and which elements the original Council controlled. After reading the book, I want to visit Jerusalem and see the city the first Council member over Life founded, but I don’t think anyone will approve a sudden trip.”
“Are we the only ones who will be aware there is nine?”
“I would assume not, but Molelo has yet to release any directive information.” Dwayne rummaged through the drawers and pulled out a few syringes and medicines. He filled one of them with a clear, gel like fluid. Ethan cringed and looked away from the doctoring process.
“Helpful,” he flicked through a few more pages. “There are portraits of them in here?”
“Hand drawn with ink and quill. They are expertly preserved, scanned, and reprinted. They are modern portraits from an era which isn’t famous for that kind of art. They’re incredible for their historical value. No one knows where the originals are either.”
“In the new National Treasure movie, still starring Nicholas Cage.” Ethan used his best cheesy movie commercial voice.
“Just a dead body and a film. I swear he never stops making them, even three-hundred years after his prime.” Dwayne smiled.
“How many more shots until I’m deemed healthy, doc?”
“I picked a number. There’s no way to predict anything, even at this stage.” He reached for another syringe and filled it with a diluted blue liquid.
“I get the feeling that with you it’ll be closer to one hundred.”
“Finally, a goal I can reach.” Dwayne laughed. “I get the feeling you haven’t dealt with doctors much?”
“Just the ones here at the Academy and a handful of paramedics every time something drastic happened at an orphanage I lived in. I never needed a doctor before then. All the doctors here had it almost set in stone I would manage to kill myself one day—especially after the ammonia-bleach incident.”
Dwayne spun slowly on his right heel, mouth half open. “That was you who nearly murdered the entire room?”
“I see my horrible legend precedes me,” Ethan flipped another few pages in the book and turned it upside down in his hands.
“Stay away from my medicines and we’ll get along fine. No experimenting.”
“Roger,” Ethan saluted him and placed the book over his face. “This is more interesting than the ceiling.”
Dwayne resisted punching him. Barely.
August 24, 2316
Their adventure through the gaming verse started two hours previous when Eilene threw herself onto the worn brown couch next to Dwayne. The television originally trained on a human television show, but she stole the remote to change the input to one of their many gaming systems. They played a few rounds of both table tennis and actual tennis before they moved onto the newest version of Mario Kart. They raced expertly across Rainbow Road to vie for the cup at the end of the set of four. After they both won an equal number of cups, they moved onto a version of Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
“No! Don’t you run away.” Eilene yelled at the TV screen. She jammed her thumb into the remote harder than before as though it would help her attack. “You can do it Pikachu—electrocute Link!”
“But if you electrocute Link, he can’t save Zelda.” Dwayne pressed A and Link jumped away from the shock attack onto a higher platform.
“Isn’t it weird Link is always going off to save Princess Zelda, who is his sister?” Eilene retreated her Pikachu while Dwayne swung Link’s Master Sword at the small, yellow rat. They didn’t hear the door open to their left.
“I don’t think anyone playing the games really questions it too much.”
“So, basically, the Prince goes around smashing pots all day while Zelda runs the country?”
“Well, she’s obviously doing a terrible job of running the country considering Link has to keep rescuing her from random situations.”
“No one is running the country then.”
“Zelda and Link aren’t siblings.” The new person in the room spoke from behind them. Their interruption startled Eilene and allowed Dwayne to get several good hits on her character. Pikachu launched off the platform and the game timer ended.
They both pivoted in their seats to see their resident goth lounging on a recliner.
“Yes, they are.” Eilene argued. She set the controller down on the coffee table and pushed herself to sit on the armrest.
“The games have never said either way,” Scott argued. His reclined lanky figure made his body look smaller. Eilene bit her lip and considered her options—she wanted to win the debate.
“It’s the logical solution. Both Link’s and Zelda’s mothers are dead, they’re Hylian, and they’re in the rapidly dying triforce bloodline. Look how similar they are too.”
Dwayne flipped through the character screen with their remotes, so they highlighted on Link and Zelda. Scott glanced at the TV and shrugged. The topic had a small following in the Zelda fandom and Scott didn’t truly have an interest in it past the large adventure.
“What brings you in here?” Dwayne shuffled through the selection screen for a new character.
“Ethan,” Scott placed his hands behind his head and leaned back father on the seat. He nearly blended in with the dark fabric on the chair.
“Does he need help?” The Life elementalist stood halfway out of his chair. He sat back down at the shake of Scott’s head—he should’ve known if something pressing happened the other would’ve said it before debating Hylian lineage. As Ethan grew healthier and more demanding, his actions grew increasingly more frustrating and tiresome for everyone involved. “He annoyed you too much as well?”
Scott nodded and Dwayne laughed brightly.
“This is why he gets left alone,” Eilene pushed her angled bangs off her forehead. The blue frosted tips flipped over the back of the couch. She picked up her remote again and chose a small pink character on the screen. “Jigglypuff!”
“Kirby,” the Motswana corrected.
“Jigglypuff.” She insisted. Eilene knew he was right, but she loved to tease and get a rise out of her friend.
“Well, I see your Kirby and raise you one Samus Aran!” He laughed maniacally and she dug her foot into his side.
As they dueled on the screen, they also fought on the couch with jabs and grapples at the other’s remote. Scott tried to relax while he watched them, but he couldn’t help but recall the conversation he had with Eilene a couple weeks before. He wanted to be on the couch with her, but, once again, Dwayne remained at her side like a loyal guard dog. After the end of the next round he stood up to leave and find another activity, but Eilene’s soft voice stopped him.
“Join us?” Her hopeful grey eyes met his and he swallowed hard. She held out a third controller in her left hand. Scott’s lips parted and against his better judgement, his right hand raised from his side and closed around the remote. His pointer finger brushed hers and a wave of happiness rushed through his chest as she let go; it made him feel like he breathed for the first time in years.
“I’ve brought more books for you to read, I thought you might enjoy them as a change from singular history.” Series announced as she pushed open the door to Ethan’s medical room. He stared at the pile with hungry eyes, Scarlet close behind her with a set of thin books to offset the tomes Series clutched close to her small frame.
“Thank the nine,” he grinned at them. “This history is so dull. I can’t take any more.”
“I might have brought you the wrong books.”
“Series, how could you fail me like this?”
“If you plan on being a member of the Council you need to know our history and politics. No amount of complaints will stop it.” Scarlet organized the books within his reach on the bedside table.
“Woah. Wait. Join the Council?”
“You have a while to give your official answer.”
Ethan had the feeling nobody denied being a Council member before—which meant they all expected him to join once fully healthy and operative.
“Won’t be until after you’re released. Dwayne is the only one who can clear you.” Series reached for a new pillow to help Ethan sit up higher.
“I’m curious about the set.”
“Agreed.” Scarlet nodded thoughtfully.
“Set?” Ethan tried to push himself away from the pillows.
“Do you need a haircut?’ Scarlet touched his long locks of hair and pushed them away from his face.
“That’d be great, but it won’t work well when I’m bedridden. There’d be chunks of hair stuck everywhere.”
“I’ll call Dwayne and see if we can move you to a chair temporarily,” Scarlet pulled her phone from her pocket and initiated a video call. The phone rang loudly through the room, interrupted by Series’ rummaging through the cupboards.
“Mulan, I’m busy.” Dwayne told her in Chinese when he picked up.
“Playing video games?” She slipped back into her native language without issue.
Ethan glanced to Series for an explanation, but she didn’t act like anything out of the ordinary. Some of the Council chose to learn the native languages of others in the group in order to increase communication output. Dwayne spoke the most languages fluently. He used both native languages of his home country, Setswana and English. He learned Chinese and Russian soon after joining the Council. Scarlet also spoke Russian and she only knew conversational Setswana—Dwayne’s protective measures to make sure nobody figured out his birthday. Eilene grew up in the Netherlands sector of the City of Barren and spoke the language fairly fluently. Luana experienced severe language prejudice and refused to speak anything but English.
The camera on the phone spun around as somebody from the other side took control. The camera settled on Eilene with her tongue out and Scott with a startled expression.
“He’s here with us.” She grinned, tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, and leaned into the taller male behind her. “Aren’t we cute hanging out together?”
Scarlet rubbed her nose and took quiet note of the red color creeping up Scott’s neck. She switched to English for the other companions. “As cute as you two surely are, I need to ask Dwayne a question.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Series and I wondered if we could move Ethan out of his bed just long enough to give him a haircut. We thought it might make him less irritable.”
“I’m right here.” Ethan tried to shift into the view of the camera.
“If you don’t let his bandages slide around too much there shouldn’t be any issues. His skin is the last thing we’re waiting to fully heal. I’d rather not prolong the process.”
“Have fun with Ginger, Mulan.”
“You got a nickname. Congrats, you are one of us now.” Series smiled at him.
“Do you know if Ethan’s file shows him with brown hair?” Scarlet asked Hans in Russian. They sat together in the large reading room with various materials to continue their newest research into the Death and Supernatural.
“I don’t recall. Dwayne is currently the only one allowed to access the file. For the time being he’s considered a Council member.” Hans once tried to return the favor Scarlet did for him by learning Russian, but he failed multiple times to learn Mandarin. “Why do you ask?”
“When I cut his hair, his roots look they are coming in dark brown. I highly doubt he dyes his hair consistently.”
“It’s possible the strands lighten once it grows past the roots.” Hans shrugged. “I don’t think his hair is a particularly pertinent topic. Both you and Eilene dye your hair all the time.”
Scarlet hummed and flipped a page in one of the newspapers. They read in silence for a few minutes before she had an idea for a new conversation segment.
“So, about Luana—”
“We’re not discussing this again.” Hans denied.
“Hans, honestly. Luana is the only one allowed in your room—”
He interrupted her. “She is the leader of the Council.”
“You are the only one who can get away with calling her Lu,” she held up a hand to stop him from talking over her again. “You’re always the first to jump to help her. It’s not normal behavior for anyone but you. If I had the chance, I’d never interact with her again.”
“Why wouldn’t you interact with her?”
“She’s not very open-minded. I find it hard to deal with that particular personality trait.”
“Fair enough. I would like to point out Dwayne and Eilene have a similar relationship with each other as the one I have with Luana, but they are both friends.”
“Oh, believe me, you know nothing about their relationship.” Scarlet laughed. “Besides, you can’t use their relationship as an example. You’re the only one who hangs around Luana past Council duties—we’re usually found around the other two after hours. Why do you think you chased after her when she fled to Yahav? We all knew she went there. Well, most of us.”
Hans flipped a few pages in the magazine he held. Scarlet pulled out the day’s newspaper and stared at the bottom of the front page.
“I’ve got something to give you an excuse to talk to Luana.”
“I don’t need an excuse.”
Scarlet smirked and raised an eyebrow. “Of course, you don’t—but we’re going to need to address this.”
Hans looked at the title: CITY OF BARREN FIGHTS BACK— “STOP GIVING US YOUR DEAD!”
August 26, 2316
“I’d like to make a request.” Luana announced during dinner. She set a stack of papers on the table between Eilene and Scarlet.
“I’m not doing your paperwork,” Eilene lifted the fork to her mouth and pushed the sheets a little closer to Scarlet with her free hand. Luana growled and looked at Hans who made a gesture for her to stay calm.
“I’m requesting you and Scarlet both write the directive in educating the elementalists about our lost history. It’s up to you how the teachers will be given information to present it to current students, as well as how it will be delivered to those who have already graduated from the Academy.”
“You’re trusting us with this?” Scarlet picked up the first few pages and flipped through the basics in awe.
“Hans suggested the both of you are the best choices for this task and I had to agree. On the premise miss water wheel found the information in London.”
“Who are you calling water wheel?” Eilene’s right hand balled into a fist, but before she had a chance to stand, Scott’s hand shot out and held her in place. The entire room turned to look at him—he never reacted like that before. Scott cleared his throat and removed his hand from her arm. Eilene remained in her seat and avoided looking at the man next to her.
“Dickens knows what she’s doing.” Dwayne confirmed with a full mouth. Scarlet made a small face at the disrespect—the Life elementalist glanced at her. Their cultures clashed in the same space again.
“Eilene and I will be more than happy to take care of it. Do you have a deadline in mind?” Scarlet smiled at their leader who had a hand in her already messy hair.
“It’s a bit rushed, but if possible, I’d like to have the first few lessons distributed by September third. I’ve arranged for our public press conference with the seven of us on September second.” She took a deep breath. “And I have some important things I’d like to do at the press conference. After dinner I want us to have a discussion about some changes we can make at the conference.”
“Sure.” Series agreed. “As long as you’re promising we’ll have an open floor for all ideas and vote by majority.”
“I can agree to that.”
September 2, 2316
The Council handled the press conference in the morning and then prepared themselves for the start of the annual Culture Festival in the afternoon. Their day packed with social events, and they postponed formal political activities. It disappointed them Ethan would miss the festival, but he wasn’t an official member of the Council and everyone he knew from before thought he died. He couldn’t participate no matter how much he begged. Dwayne hooked up the room with a television to have something mildly entertaining while they attended.
At lunch Series pulled her phone from her pocket and groaned. “There’s no way I want to wear dark red in this weather.”
She turned the screen into their view so they could all look at the weather app. The temperature over one hundred on the Fahrenheit scale. Several of the others groaned, but those used to Celsius took longer to respond.
“We’re only required to be there for the first fifteen minutes. We need to start the ceremony and then we’re free to come back here. You know that.” Luana snapped. Her stress grew to ultra-high levels during the days preceding their packed day of political appearances. Luana’s element reacted accordingly and Hans kept a closer eye on her to ensure she wouldn’t spontaneously combust into flames and reveal her face.
The Culture Festival, among the most popular celebrations in Elementōrum Patriam, made of a moving caravan which spent seventeen days travelling between cities. The fair had a myriad of foods carts and hand-made goods. The festival always started in the City of Garden where the Council officially put it into motion. The day filled with eating and at night it turned into large spectacles of dance and music. All of the elementalist people came together to share their world heritage without separation. Every country in the world represented, with only the Elementalist Olympics as its rival. Since most of the elements listed as banned from the regular Olympics, they hosted their own to celebrate their people’s talents in sports and other skills.
The Council only had to appear long enough to open the Festival; common tradition dictated for them to disperse among the crowds and partake in the merrymaking. They never stayed for the night events as it became too personal and they couldn’t participate in any dances or musical performances since it would reveal information about their identity. Series longed to participate in the historical and religious dances of her Hopi people—which was why the Council introduced their own tradition to continue the celebration in their home after they retired.
Luana stood and placed her empty dishes back into the dumbwaiter which took them to the kitchens for cleaning. She recognized the excited expressions on her fellows faces. They craved authentic dishes passed on from generation to generation of elementalists from foreign countries. A few carts boasted elementalist authentic cuisine from the settling of the country. The recipes passed on through the many pure lines of the elementalists existed since the first nine, a few came from more historical lines.
Hans’ skin crawled as he thought about the carts that would host kolbasa and pirozhkis. Eilene went on the hunt for tomato-based stroganoff. Scarlet whispered under her breath about finding jiaozi since the Academy kitchens could never make it quite right. The previous year the Chinese food carts failed to make any and she wanted them to redeem themselves.
Before they left, the Council filled their pockets with money. The food carts charged no money for the goods, a part of the law since paychecks were heavily taxed, but tipping came as a cultural expectation.
They walked the empty halls in a formation similar to migrating birds. Outside of the Academy on the marble steps leading to the City of Garden, a crowd of their people stood. They cheered when the seven stepped onto the small platform. One microphone waited behind a large blue ribbon. An Elementalist Sign Language Translator stood off to the side in front of their own camera to broadcast the speech to their d/Deaf people. The waiting crowd filled with Academy staff and students and they quieted when Luana took her place in front of the microphone.
“It’s my pleasure to speak to you a second time today. Today we celebrate an auspicious occasion. Not only are we bringing together the world on our continent as one body, but we brought great news to you this morning regarding our history. We will now open the three-thousand and seven-hundred and thirty-first Culture Festival. All of us on the Council are excited to walk amongst you and partake in the wonderful food and celebrations.” Luana stepped down from the platform to cheers. She walked to the large ribbon and one of the people held a microphone close to her face. “As this is the year of Life, we will have our Council Life element representative open the ceremony.”
Another elementalist handed her the large scissors. Dwayne walked forward from his position and bowed at the waist in front of the leader. He stretched out his arms with his palms up and waited for Luana to pass him the scissors. When he straightened, she waited in a similar position. Once they both stood upright, Dwayne cut the ribbon to a raucous of cheers and applause. Music started from several venues and the people immediately milled to their chosen carts.
Eilene grabbed Scott to her left and pulled him along behind her into the crowd. Dwayne joined them for extra protection. She stopped at one of the food carts from Spain and dropped several coins into the tip box before she asked for a serving of Patatas Bravas. The two men didn’t order anything, but Dwayne stole several potatoes from her plate as they wandered to the other sections. Eilene offered some to their other companion and Scott did his best to deny, but she persisted and he relented after a few jabs at his character. Dwayne couldn’t see either of their faces under the hoods, but he had a feeling Scott felt embarrassed.
“Now this is where we want to be.” Dwayne spread his arms and gestured to the carts of food and merchandise filled with Botswana originality. Eilene laughed at the happiness creeping into his voice. The Motswana ordered several different dishes and gestured for them to commandeer one of the empty temporary tables. He explained each dish as he set them down on the table for them to share. “Seswaa, stewed beef that’s heavily salted. Don’t eat if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure. Serobe, probably better if you don’t know what it’s made out of. Matemekwane, they’re dumplings—and Magwinya, otherwise known as fat cakes.”
“The way to convince me to eat Serobe is not by telling me I don’t want to know what’s in it. That dish is entirely yours.”
“Come on, Dickens. It’s amazing.” He lowered his voice when he used her nickname so the people around him wouldn’t hear.
“No thanks.” Eilene felt determined to not try any Serobe until she had a chance to look up the ingredients. She heard Scott’s breathing quicken and she momentarily registered it as laughter. She nudged him with her arm and leaned into him. “What food do you want us to try?”
“Nothing in particular. American cuisine isn’t in short supply.” He shrugged and the action drew a sigh out of the woman.
“I forget you’re from America. Anyone else have any ideas for what we want next?”
“French crepes sound good right now.”
“French food next.”