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Ch. 5.2 – Alex

Wind flowed around the cabin. It danced through the trees, circled overhead, rippled through the grass. When he concentrated, Alex could feel every whisper of it. Inside, static charges too small to touch hinted at lightning storms, and a single candle flame dreamed of the inferno’s roar. Shadows were the film negative of the morning sun’s rays. Fields of silence amid branches echoed as clearly as the rustle the leaves made. That brought Alex’s mind back to the wind.

Every moment is a million snowflakes of light and sound, he thought, watching awestruck as the energies of the universe whirled around him. Every instant, a million drops returning to the sea. He held out his hand, and a tiny whirlwind formed in the palm. A moment’s concentration, and it danced with St. Elmo’s Fire. A moment more, and it became a storm of surging motes, power incarnate as a study in blues. He closed his hand, and the force vanished.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Alice asked. Alex turned, and found Wonder Rose leaning on a porch support in “civilian” clothes – a white T-shirt with a rose on it, blue jeans, and short boots. She looks so…normal, like this, Alex thought, almost smiling as he added internally, well, right now so do I, I guess. She pointed at his hand. “Doing anything in particular, or just playing?”

“Art,” he said, and she nodded in understanding. “I’m grateful for the power I have. It gives me a chance to make a difference, in ways I couldn’t before.” He looked up, watching eddies of energy swirl above like Van Gogh painting the world. “If all I got was this sight, though…this insight…it would be enough.”

“I know the feeling,” Alice replied, watching him, smiling as he did. “I love seeing the Blaze flow through the world, but for me, it’s Vision.” The Oracle closed her eyes. “Just knowing there’s something after flesh, more than iron and money and entropy, that’s a gift I wish I could share with everyone. Even that’s not the best part, though.”

Alex cocked his head curiously. “It’s not?”

Her smile broadened. “Nope. It’s people.”

“Really?” Alex shook his head. “That’s…not…I saw what you deal with. All the time. I mean, I just get the hairy eye near the border, and occasionally some idiot who thinks I should be picking fruit instead of making coffee. You have to be on all the time.”

“That’s assumption and ignorance,” Alice replied, still smiling. “Sure, a few people let fear or greed shrivel their souls all the way in, but most folks? All the bad stuff is surface. Like a skin rash, or a scraped knee.” She opened her eyes, and Alex was almost rocked by the joy emanating from them. “We get irritated, and we react, because we’re stuck in cans made of meat. Then we get over it. Most of us, in our hearts and souls, are just so good -“ She gestured vaguely at the energies around them – “it puts even the dance of the universe to shame.”

Alex looked down, and the grass waved merrily around him. “Huh.” He grimaced. “You’d think the numbers wouldn’t be so bad, then.” Alice looked at him in confusion, her smile vanishing. “With the Majestics,” he explained. “The Global Complex, Havoc Absolute and Vortex cultists, with the good guys marginalized into a barely-organized self-defense alliance?”

“It’s not as bad as you think,” Alice said. She waved him over, then walked to the table on the porch and sat in one of its chairs. Alex followed, sitting while she traced curves in the air. “Sara’s a wonderful person, much better than she gives herself credit for, but she’s hard on everyone. The Alliance is a force to be reckoned with. We actually have a plurality of the Majestic. It’s just that most of us don’t want to start a fight with Gray Company.” She glanced at the cabin, fingers drumming on the table. “Honestly, this thing with Sara doesn’t make any sense. We used to resist the Sovereign Mandate all the time, but that was before any of us were born. Except Molly,” she added suddenly. “She’s older than she looks.”

“So when the Grayboys took over, they made peace with you?” Alex asked, leaning forward.

“Yeah.” Alice sighed heavily. “Most of the Alliance is okay with keeping powers a secret. Our opposition to the Mandate is pretty normal political stuff now, usually.” She shook her head, grimacing. “Sara isn’t completely wrong. We help against Havoc Absolute when they cross the line, fight the Vortex, and deal with all kinds of weirdness. If we weren’t hiding the truth from the world, though, we could do so much more.”

“I thought normal people – the ‘Broken’ – can’t see us do what we do,” Alex said.

“I hate that word,” Alice muttered. “Too many Empowered forget that every single one of us was ‘Broken’ once.” She looked at Alex, intense eyes locking with his. “It’s still new to you. Remember what you were.”

After a brief, stunned moment, Alex nodded. “We still can’t show most people what we can do, though. How do you fight that?”

“That’s not entirely true either,” Alice said quickly. “The psycho-memetic wound is deep, but not absolute. If it were, we couldn’t Empower at all. Sometimes, people remember us – young children, extreme personalities, the deeply devout, passionate artists.” She gestured at Alex, smiling again for a few seconds. “The Four Allies do a lot of good, but too many of us have gotten complacent. We can change the world if we just get our act together.”

“Okay, so how do we go about changing the Alliance?” Alex asked.

Alice stared at him for a moment, wide-eyed. Then she grinned. “Oh, I like you.” She glanced at the cabin door. “Look, I think I sense Sara on her way. Give me some time to think, I’ll get back to you.”

“Um, okay,” Alex said slowly, “but why not bring Sara into-”

Sara walked out of the cabin, and Alex’s train of thought derailed, crashed and exploded. She was again wearing the tank top and miniskirt, accompanied by short boots. Her long hair had taken on a slight wave, cascading down her shoulders. What make-up she wore was more traditional than the black and white goth fare he’d seen her use before. This time, though, Sara was very consciously poised to grab his attention, and Alex had the distant sensation of being the fish in the barrel. When she smiled at him, it made the Weaver seem like a whole new woman. “Hey,” she said, putting one hand on her waist. “I’m not interrupting, right?”

“I was just heading in,” Alice replied, standing. “Have fun.” She went into the cabin, leaving Alex alone with Sara.

Written by Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan was born in the Bronx, New York, giving him the right to root for the Yankees while making less than six figures. After a long, largely pleasant interregnum in suburban Connecticut, he moved to the Inland Empire, California to be with his wonderful wife and muse, a stepson, and a crazed feline. An occasionally too-avid player of and writer for tabletop roleplaying games, his other passion is metaphysics, which informs most of his fiction.

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