II. Geothermal Ostrich Farm
I stood outside the side door of the Underground, pacing back and forth. The council was meeting today and they’d be inside shortly. They’d maybe hear the first few concerns if there were more than a couple. Most people didn’t bother with the council except when they sent out announcements, warnings about new laws or reminders about old ones, or the very rare but very serious announcement of a villain on the loose.
Finally I took one last deep breath and walked inside. I ended up in a long hallway with the restrooms coming off on either side. As I passed through the black double doors at its end, I saw Ylissa coming toward me.
“The council meeting’s about to begin,” she said. “I take it you’re here to talk about what you think you saw?”
I nodded. “What brings you here?”
“Pace asked me to observe today.” Ylissa glanced behind her. “Mikaela graduates next year. I think he might be interested in seeing if I’m fit to take her place.”
I looked Ylissa up and down and saw a quarter pressed between her forefinger and thumb. “You could put that down,” I said and nodded to her hand, “and find out right now just who’s place they want you to take.”
Ylissa rolled her eyes and batted her dark hair from her eyes. “It’s not worth it, Elliot.” She pushed past me, but continued talking. “You don’t know how it feels to have powers like mine.”
I swallowed. Maybe she was right. Compared to a number of the other supers here, my powers weren’t that special, and I knew of two or three others from different cores who could do the same thing. I pushed the thoughts out of my mind and directed my thoughts back at the council. I walked forward and angled myself toward the lounge room in the back. As I got closer, I realized I was holding my breath.
When I got inside, the room was barely different than when I’d been here last: The biggest change was a row of folding chairs now lined up behind a collapsible table where the three council members sat: Pace Vaughn, also known as Whirligig; Stop Motion, who a few others knew as Linford Kerry; and finally the one and only Mikaela. Her big blond hair was pushed back by a bedazzled headband (that was probably made of real diamonds, if I had to guess) and flowed outwards like a golden cape behind her. She adjusted her white satin bodice and straightened the pearl-and-crystal necklace she wore before I realized I’d stopped walking and quickly moved to the other side of the room and took a seat.
As usual, there were a few supers there observing, some just because they liked to keep apprised of affairs, others like Ylissa–who just walked back–who’d probably been invited, and then some like me who had a piece of our minds to share. Right before the time changed and the meeting began, the door opened and Mag walked through. I felt slightly relieved as he took a seat next to me.
The meeting started when Stop Motion called the council to session. They read the minutes from their last meeting, approved them, and then spoke about a few issues I didn’t care much about and probably only meant anything to those who did. Finally Pace leaned forward and asked if anyone had concerns to bring before the council. Mag nudged my arm and I raised my hand. Pace looked at me and smiled.
“Elliot, right?” I nodded. “Would you come before the council to present your concerns?”
I nodded quickly and got to my feet, almost tripping over myself as I rushed to stand in front of them. Mikaela yawned and fanned herself with a perfectly manicured hand, her long nails sparkling and sharp. Stop Motion crossed his arms, his dark features intimidating. I swallowed, closing my eyes only long enough to conjure an image of John in my head, and then I began.
“Two nights ago I saw an unknown super attack Gus Burnham, a new pledge in my fraternity who I learned is also super. He’s from Baltimore. I don’t think he’d made any connections to the supers here.”
Mikaela twisted in her seat. I could’ve imagined her perfectly popping a large bubble of chewing gum, but she wasn’t chewing anything. Pace looked at the others and then looked back at me.
“What powers does Gus Burham have?” Pace asked.
“I didn’t know he was super at time,” I told him. “A mutual friend informed me he could start fires.”
Pace looked at the others and they whispered something back and forth that I couldn’t hear. Then Pace looked at me again. “Describe the super you believe attacked Mr. Burnham.”
I swallowed. “She put her hands around his head and he collapsed, twitching and foaming at the mouth. When she saw me, she started running after me and I ran. I was afraid she’d do the same to me.”
Mikaela rolled her eyes. “Is it possible,” she said and yawned as she puffed up her hair, “that this Gus kid was merely having a seizure and this woman wasn’t a super at all, but trying to help him?” She sighed and lowered her eyes at me. “Perhaps, when she ran at you, she was simply seeking additional help for a harmed young man. Isn’t that possible?”
“So you don’t know if she was super or not?” Mikaela said. She crossed her arms and puckered her lips.
“No, I mean–” I shook my head. “I know she was super. He wasn’t having a seizure. He didn’t begin twitching until after her hands were on him–I swear.”
“I know you do,” Mikaela said, nodding. “But that’s not my concern. The kinds of powers you describe–”
“I know,” I yelled, stomping my foot, and Mikaela’s eyes widened. “I know they’re not typical–I know there aren’t many women who have powers like that, but is it so hard to believe that maybe there’s someone out there who could do this–who did do this?”
“Mikaela,” Stop Motion said, laying one of his hands down on the table. “Is he at least speaking honestly?”
Mikaela locked her jaw and looked me up and down. I knew what she was doing, and part of me felt suddenly violated even though, physically, I felt nothing. Finally Mikaela crossed her arms and leaned back.
“He certainly thinks he’s being honest–I can’t sense even a trace of deceit. There are doubts, but his conviction seems hardened enough.” She heaved a sigh. “As hard as I think it is to believe what he’s saying, he seems to believe it strongly enough that we should at least entertain the notion for a few moments, but only a few moments.”
“Thank you,” Stop Motion said. He turned his gaze upon Ylissa, and I felt her tense up from across the room. “Ylissa,” he said with a solid tone, “you have the ability to determine fact from fiction, when looking backwards, is that right?” He didn’t stop long enough for anyone to acknowledge or answer his question. “Please either confirm or deny Elliot’s claims.”
Ylissa took a deep breath. I could see her shaking from across the room.
“I can certainly try, Linford.” She sat back, loosening the hold on her coin until it fell into her palm. I could tell she wasn’t present the moment her focus broke–her eyes glazed over and started twitching, moving so rapidly even her pupils began to blur; after a moment, her lips parted absently. Finally she gasped and clutched the coin in her hand for dear life. She kept breathing heavily, panting, and gripped the side of her chair for balance.
“Ylissa,” Stop Motion said, “what did you see?”
She took a few more breaths, shaking her head. “It’s unclear, Linford. Too long ago, and not enough contextual information. I can’t determine his validity or not. I–I can’t make any claims either way.”
“I see,” Stop Motion said. He looked to Pace and then to Mikaela and then back at me. “Despite your personal conviction, there lacks substantial evidence to pursue this any further. You may return to your seat.”
I stood there, gawking, shaking my head.
“You may,” Stop Motion repeated, “return to your seat.”
“No,” I shouted. “No! You can’t do this! I saw a super kill a kid–and you tell me there’s not enough evidence to do anything?” I started shaking my head and I could feel the power bubbling up in me even as I tried to suppress it.
“Someone was killed, and your best argument is a woman couldn’t do it? You’re a joke–you’re all a joke!” I clenched my fist, trying not to explode at them. “Well, listen up, council members, I think y’all need to get your heads out of the dirt.”
As I turned around and walked toward the exit, I felt a tug in the air as the table lurched toward me and crashed to the floor. I didn’t look back as I moved to the doors. And they didn’t say anything before I passed through them and left.
CHAPTER THREE: Check back on Wednesday!