II. Geothermal Ostrich Farm
“He was super,” I said to Mag. I’d come back to the Underground after John walked out on me and I didn’t know what else to do. “Gus Burnham. He was dating my roommate.”
“He was gay?” Mag said. “Why didn’t I know him?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Wait, you’re gay?”
Mag shrugged. “People call me Maggie. You seriously didn’t know?” I shook my head. “Anyways, I’m bi, so not technically gay, but whatever. Point is, I’m not straight.”
“Anyways,” I said, “John told me he could start fires.”
“And his name’s Burnham? Does no one see the irony in that?
I shrugged. “Irony or not, he was one of us.”
Mag looked up and I saw his eyes move back and forth. “Actually, Elliot, I don’t know if he was one of us. I don’t know any Gus who comes here, and I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who could start fires.” Mag ran a hand back through his blond hair and then crossed his arms. “It’s really strange,” he said finally. “An unknown super takes out another super–and the only one who knows he’s super isn’t even super himself.”
I spun my head in circles as I pieced together everything he’d just said, and then I nodded. ‘”Yeah, that sounds about it.” I looked around the room at some of the other supers hanging about. It was late afternoon now. Most of them had already left since soon we’d need to leave or pay the cover to stay until closing.
“Do you think anyone else knew him? I mean, I don’t know everybody.” I wished Ylissa was there. Maybe she could help us figure out who this Gus Burnham was. Or at least vouch for us so we could see the council. Then maybe they could help us figure it out.
“We’re a smaller core actually,” Mag said. “We might be one of the largest in the city, but we’re on good terms with the rest. Most of us crosslist our membership to help keep track of things. I’m sure someone would have heard of him if he’s native to the area.” Mag tilted his head. “Where’d your roommate meet him again?”
“He’s a new pledge,” I said. “So maybe he’s a first-year still, perhaps second semester at most.” I shrugged. “Maybe he’s out-of-state? Anyways, I got the impression he’s kinda shy? Maybe?”
“So why was he in the race?” Mag scratched an itch on the side of his forehead.
“Most of the new pledges are pushed into it.” I cracked a smile. Most of the new kids didn’t ever win, and most of them didn’t ever do it again. “And I guess if he and John were keeping things secret between them, maybe they thought it’d help keep his cover.”
“Yeah,” Mag said, nodding, “no self-respecting homo would ever step a single toe into that race.” He laughed a bit. “So what are you doing next?”
“I need to meet with the council.” I spread my hands out on the bar and straightened my back. “I don’t know how I can do anything on my own. And maybe they’ve heard something from another core that hasn’t been spread out to the rest of us yet.” I shrugged and rolled to look straight at Mag. “Think she’s a new villain they just don’t want any of us going after? I mean, the power to just kill someone like that? That’s intense.”
“I don’t know,” Mag said, crossing his arms and leaning back against the bar. He nodded to one of the other supers who walked past us on their way out. “Councils in general are careful to put out warnings about villains of any sort. They tend to rile the crowds, you know? And no super needs that kind of recognition.”
“You’re right,” I said, sighing. “We were in the news a lot a few year ago, and now people just sorta accept we’re here and don’t want any trouble.”
“Yeah,” Mag said. “We’re the new civil rights case: First was race and sex, then sexuality and gender, and now being super.” He shook his head. “Keep an eye on the news. I’m sure something will come up and then you’ll definitely see the council as soon as they hear it.”
I shrugged. “And if I hear nothing, maybe I’ll just drop in for a visit. They meet tomorrow, don’t they?”
“I wouldn’t advise that, Elliot. You know how the council can get sometimes. They’re not especially forgiving.” He shuddered. “Especially not Mikaela. She can rip a guy apart in a single glance.”
“SM’s not that awesome, either.”
“Stop Motion,” Mag said absently. “I chased down a villain with him once. Shit got scary. He stopped a car that’d been thrown toward us with a single glance.” Mag shook his head, eyes still wide. “It just floated there until we were out of the way, and then he released it and it kept moving like it’d never stopped.”
I took a breath and rested my forehead on the bar.
This might not be as easy as I wanted it to be.
NEXT PART: Altocumulus