Sirium 2.6

II. Geothermal Ostrich Farm

6. Altocumulus

When John got back, he didn’t look at me at all. He dropped his bag beside his bed and walked over to his closet and took off his jacket. He turned around and caught my eye for a moment, but he ignored me and kicked off his shoes. A few moments later he fell on his bed with a book and started reading.

“I’m sorry, John,” I said, but he didn’t even look at me. “I didn’t know what was going on until it was too late.”

John rolled over and turned his back to me. I heard him turn the page and started shaking my head. Without thinking I stood up and pushed my hand through the air; the book jumped from his bed and landed on the floor still open with a thud. John sat up and whirled at me, his eyes burning with fury. He just shook his head, though, and reached for the book. He flipped through its pages, scowling that some of them were now bent.

“You’re an ass, Elliot,” he told me before he turned back to his book.

“I’m sorry, John–I didn’t know what to do.”

“You’re super!” he yelled, turning to me. “Aren’t you supposed to take out the bad guys?”

I went to yell, but just sat back down on my bed. John had tears around his eyes.

“Gus was a good guy, Elliot. What did he ever do to deserve this?”

“I don’t know,” I said quietly. “I’ve been trying to figure that out since I saw it happen. But trust me, John, as soon as I know who did this, she’s as good as dead.”

He tried to smile, but it didn’t hold. “Do you think he knew her?” He shrugged, wrapping his arms around himself. “Don’t superheroes all have arch-nemeses?”

I couldn’t help chuckling, but stopped as soon as I realized I was laughing. “It’s not like the comics,” I said. “Sure, some of the more developed supers take up crime-fighting, but it’s still technically vigilante work and not always legal. Most supers don’t turn into villains–and the few who do are rare exceptions who end up burning out before they’re taken down.”

I sighed and leaned forward. “Tell me about Gus. Where was he from? How long had he known he was super?”

John looked up at me with a flat, pained stare. “Can you stop talking about him like he’s dead?”

I opened my mouth, but shut it. I didn’t know for certain he was dead, though surely it looked it to me. Maybe he was still alive. He was super, after all.

“Okay,” I said. “Tell me about him.”

“He transferred from a school up near Baltimore,” John said. “He told me the cold weather made it harder for him to control his powers.” John shrugged. “He didn’t tell me how long he’s been super, just that he is. He, um, he can’t have sex without setting things on fire.”

“TMI, John,” I said, but inside I was grinning: If Gus still had that problem, either he hadn’t had enough sex yet or he was still pretty inexperienced with his powers. I could remember the first girl I got with: the contents of all her bookshelves flung themselves onto the floor as I came. I never saw her for a second date.

John just sorta blushed and lay back on his bed, still hugging himself. “How are you gonna find him?”

“I need to speak with the council–they’re kind of the leaders of our group here, they keep things ordered, help people find trainers if they’re new to their powers, help liaise with the police if it’s needed.” I sighed. “They’re also the ones who go after villains, generally, if any make an appearance.”

“So when does that happen?” John looked up at me and wiped aside the wetness around his eyes. I’d never seen him so broken up in the two years I’d known him.

“I’m crashing the council meeting tomorrow.” I stretched my back a moment and then crossed my arms. “It’ll be helpful if I know more about Gus. Did he ever mention knowing any other supers around here?”

John shook his head. “He didn’t know there were any. He didn’t know anyone up north, either.”

So he was a complete loner in the super community. That probably explained why he couldn’t control his powers all that much. And it suggested he didn’t know the woman who attacked him either.

“What was he studying?”

“English, I think, maybe film studies.” John shrugged and shook his head. “Why?”

“A lot of supers study something related to their powers. Understanding the physics behind something helps a lot of people control their powers.” I raised my shoulders just slightly and stood up to walk over to the window. “One of the council members can read a person’s body for weaknesses and whatever. She’s a grad student in biology. Another super, Burst, ended up studying physics–he can deflect forces.”

“So what are you studying?”

I moved the curtains and looked through the glass into the empty night beyond. “It doesn’t matter. Not much helps telekinesis.” I looked over my shoulder at John. “Anything else you know about him?”

“Nothing that seems helpful,” he said, lying back again. “None of this makes any sense, Elliot.”

“I know,” I said and ran a hand through my hair. “That’s why I’m asking all these questions–there must be something. She was super, and he was super. It couldn’t have been coincidence.” I closed the curtains and turned back to John with my arms crossed. “What classes is he in?”

John squinted as he thought. “English II, communication, something else, and biology.”

For a second I thought of Mikaela and shuddered. No, it definitely had not been Mikaela I’d seen that night, not at all–though she was the most highly developed female super I knew. The sudden thought that there were others out there with unknown powers this strong suddenly scared me. I felt like looking out the window once more to see if she was there, but I forced myself back to my bed.

“How’d you two meet?” I asked.

“Spectrum,” John said. “The GLBT group on campus. But don’t worry, there are no other supers there.”

I looked up. Didn’t Whirligig go there? Maybe Mag did, too. Whatever. I fell back on my bed, staring up at the ceiling. For a long moment the popcorn patterning seemed to fuse together and then I was falling through a cluster of new stars. And that woman was standing at the end of the nebula, her hands held out to me, fingers curled like talons, lightning running under her palms as her laughing filled my ears.

NEXT PART: Cumulonimbus

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