Ethan glared at Lina and Jackson. “I mean it. Stop beating yourself up. We slept, yeah, and now – this time.” He took a deep breath. “This time, we know what we’re going into, and we can call a taxi, rent a limo if we have to, and we won’t need as much sleep, because we won’t have just stopped that riot and then the end of the world. Just the end of the world,” he added, trailing off on that happy note.
“Well.” Mrs. Thompson chuckled. “I like him. How did you meet him? I mean, I suppose it must have been the organization. I know that none of these young men go to our school.”
Dylan cleared his throat and looked away. He muttered “she choked us.” and trailed off without looking back at them, his cheeks flushing.
“We were giving pizza guy a hard time,” Ethan admitted. “It was dumb, but – that was, uh. It was dumb. Lina took offense. She was pretty intense. Walked up and wrapped her force fields around our necks. It was terrifying,” he added more quietly. “Most people around here, their magic isn’t that, uh, visible.”
“I was angry,” Lina muttered, not looking at Mrs. Thompson.
“You never have had much tolerance for bullies,” the teacher agreed. “I remember that time-”
“Oh, ugh, please not now?” She ducked her head. “Yeah, I get, uh, violent about bullies.”
“I’ve always thought it was admirable.” Mrs. Thompson patted her shoulder. “Though, of course, still against school rules. Here… Here I suppose you likely came close to doing something illegal, and yet you certainly wouldn’t be the only one. As for you two-” she looked at Dylan and Ethan, who still looked a bit worse the wear for their beating the other – had that been yesterday?
“If you’re learning not to give someone else ‘a hard time’, I suppose that’s a good start.”
They both looked a little surprised, like they weren’t expecting an adult to talk like that. Lina snorted softly. “What, your teachers all too scared of your dads?” she murmured at them.
“Moms,” Dylan corrected. “My dad, Ethan’s, they might be rich, stupid rich, sure, but uh. Our moms are the ones that show up to Talk to the Teachers if something happens.” He rolled his shoulders and looked away. “Dad wouldn’t bother, dunno about Ethan’s. I’m a disappointment, remember?”
Mrs. Thompson tapped Dylan’s shoulder gently. “As I understand what Jackson here has been explaining to me, you don’t have to worry about that anymore. It doesn’t matter what your father thinks about you, because you are now Catalina’s concern. Which, I admit, doesn’t work as well within in the confines of a normal world, but I don’t think any of us do more than move around the edges of a ‘normal world’, do we?”
Move around the edges of the normal world.
Dylan was shifting a little, like he wasn’t sure what to do with that. Lina didn’t blame him. “I used to think I was sort of normal.”
“You said Oak Boulder.” Ethan looked over at her. “And your dad, we know him. You’re not normal, you’re rich.”
“Rich and with superpowers,” Dylan corrected. “And badass.”
“Badass could be normal,” Ethan argued. “Or at least, I mean, not really abnormal.”
“Gentleman.” Mrs. Thompson cut off the argument. “I believe we have an audience, or, that is, you will, in just a moment.”
Lina looked up where she was pointing. The parking lot was crowded. There were people craning for a look towards them.
Lina moved without really thinking; Jackson and then Mrs. Thompson to one side, Dylan and Ethan to the other. She strode forward, chin up, like she really believed she could save the world.
There was her father, directing people onto a bus – where had he gotten a bus? He was calling out something, ah, if you’re getting on this bus, you’re agreeing that you’re willing to help Catalina. If you’re not willing to dedicate your power to her for this endeavor, you need a different bus.
Lina watched a couple people hesitate and chose not to get on the bus, then a couple more, but for the most part, people seemed to have already been decided on this. A woman her dad’s age hurried up to her. “You’re Catalina, right? I was wondering if you’d given thought to who would be your lieutenants?”
“Of course I have.” She was getting far too good at pretending to be confident. It was going to trip her up eventually. “Thank you for asking.”
And that was sort of a funny answer, but it was funnier for the way the woman looked at her, like she’d grown a second head. “It’s just that I have experience with using magic, of course-”
“What sort of magic do you have?” She’d just cut off a grown-up and normally, her father would have been upset with her for that, but right now, well, one, he was busy, and two, she had a feeling he wouldn’t mind.
“Oh, well.” The woman cleared her throat. “I’m rather good with light. I can make a decent light show, and my electric bill is pretty low, ha, heh, heh.””Can you blind someone with it?” Lina was growing impatient already. She wanted to be moving. She needed to be moving.
“What? I mean, it’s not usually that bright, but I’ve never tried….”
Dylan stepped forward, Ethan next to him. “I’m sorry,” Dylan said, smoothly and utterly insincerely, “but Miss Bosch is busy right now and she needs to conserve her energy for the power plant. You know, stopping another explosion from destroying part of the city?”
“She -” she leaned passed Dylan, or tried to, to look straight at Lina. “You need a good lieutenant! You need someone who knows what they’re doing! You’re just a kid.”
Lina frowned, putting her whole body into it because argh. “Thank you for your input. If you’re willing to accept my mark and my bond, I believe that my father is collecting volunteers over there.” She gestured.
The woman’s expression shifted, but only a little. Lina gave her credit. “I just want to be sure that you don’t end up getting spun badly. I mean, if things go the wrong way – and they could – then you want someone on your side, someone right there, to make sure that you’re protected. Politics in this city are nasty enough before you get into apocalyptic power plant explosions.”
“Thank you.” Lina hoped her voice sounded as chilly as she wanted it to. “Please don’t get on the bus. I don’t want anyone down there who isn’t behind me on this.” She turned to Jackson, raised an eyebrow.
He gestured to Dylan and Ethan, and they seemed to get their cue. They spread out to either side and cleared a path just by walking forward.Want more?