Author: Jacki Thompson PM
All it took was a few minutes. All it took was a few minutes for my life to change forever. I guess it could be worse. I could be half bat, or be sprouting spikes, or something. But my best friend, Gabby Montoya, she calls herself Raven sometimes. Other times Crow. It doesn't matter. But anyway, welcome to our newly founded city, Firehouse City, home of the freaks and monsters.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Drama - Chapters: 2 - Words: 7,457 - Updated: 02-12-13 - Published: 02-08-13 - id: 3099356
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
When I got back to the hospital, it was chaos. The few of the kids who weren't hooked up to heart-rate monitors or strapped to a bed were going crazy, calling out for friends, neighbors, family members, and so on.
I was exhausted and emotionally about to go off the edge of a cliff, but then I remembered how scared Riley had been, how she didn't know what was going on and how much her appearance had changed.
That gave enough courage to go into the secretary's office and find the mike that was connected to all the speakers in the hospital. I picked it up and tapped it a couple times.
"Um, attention, everyone. I know you must be scared and confused. But I must ask to be calm and patient. Anyone who's available and able to get there, can you please come downstairs to the lobby? We need all the hands we can get."
I put the mike down and waited. Sure enough, people began to trickle in. Some of them I recognized, but others were complete strangers. When I thought that I had waited long enough for everyone to get there, I cleared my throat, ending the small talk that had been circling around the room.
"Hi. Um, I'm Mari, and, well, I'm sure you're all wondering why you're here."
"Darn right!" A small boy spoke up. He had braces on, a short blonde crew cut, and round glasses that just made him look like more of a nerd. "What the cuss is going on here?" I have never heard anyone substitute 'cuss' for a curse word before, and probably never will again. But the boy raised a good point. I needed to tell them what was going on.
"Well – what's your name?"
"Well, Oliver, I really don't know much about what's going on, but-"
"Then what gives you the idea that you can be in charge?"
A lot of people were looking at one another, nodding and muttering. I was losing what authority I once had, and I needed it back, fast.
"Look, even though I don't know much, I still know more than you. Now sit down and listen!" Surprisingly, everyone sat down right where they were and looking at me attentively. Wow. Maybe the crowd is easier to sway than I first thought.
"We're all infected. Every one of us. That's why we're here, and nobody else is. Whatever that explosion was the other day, it only affected us. The government's keeping us quarantined in here until they can find a cure. We're responsible for our own survival, so you all need to shut up, and help me get every single person out of their beds and down here!"
Then, something strange happened. A slight girl in the audience, maybe a freshman, stood up. She walked towards me and touched my cheek. Normally I would have slapped her hand away, feeling both creeped and grossed out. But I stood still, and after a few seconds she nodded and took her hand away. She whispered to me, "Tell them to come forward one at a time."
Feeling confused, I did as she asked. The girl touched each one of them, on the hand, forehead, cheek, wherever there was bare skin, and then turned to me.
"You have a gift."
"Yes. You can make anyone do anything just by telling them to."
Now, normally, I'd be excited to have a gift. But I hate public speaking, and I hate ordering people around even more. This was a huge disappointment of a gift. I probably should have been like, 'yeah, right', but this strange girl had me convinced. The others, Gabby and Riley, they must have gifts too. Maybe this girl could sense and identify other's abilities.
"Don't be sad. Your gift will help now."
She was right. Being able to organize people will help now more than ever. I didn't have to like my ability to use it.
I cleared my throat and whispered, "Can you tell me what the other's gifts are?"
Not many of them were really impressive, mostly stuff like being able to tell if you're being lied to, or being able to change the color of your hair. But Oliver, and a senior from my school named Christian had pretty cool powers.
Oliver could actually generate toxins from his skin, even acid, and Christian could create force fields, or really anything, out of a certain energy that was now running through his body.
I was starting to notice some patterns. There were a lot of the really subtle, unimportant gifts, and only a few who had the awesome abilities, the ones that were really noticeable.
That made it pretty easy to divide up people to search for anyone else in the hospital.
There were about twenty kids, and four wings of the hospital. I sent four kids to the west wing, four to the east wing, four to the north wing, and four to the south wing. That left Christian, Oliver, me, and the girl to search for anyone in Intensive Care. I left that for us one: because it would probably have the most grossly mutated in there, and two: with our friend the gift-finder, we could find out right away what they could do.
As we walked, following the signs to Intensive Care, I asked Gift-Finder what her name was.
"My name?" She frowned and looked at the ground for several seconds. "I don't remember. But what do you think my name should be?"
I thought about it. Gift-Finder seemed like it fit her, but it wasn't exactly right. Maybe something else to do with gifts.
"What about Elizabeth?" Christian spoke up. I was surprised that he'd spoken this much; he struck me as one of the African-Americans who is strong and silent, hardly ever speaking.
He looked at us, then shrugged. "Elizabeth means 'gift from God'. We could call her Lizzie."
Nobody had a better name, so we all agreed.
I looked at her closely. Besides being as slight as a bird, she had chocolate-y colored hair, with one feather attached to it. She also had a bandage on her forehead, which made me think that maybe her amnesia wasn't a part of her gift.
And the fact that she was rather nonchalant about not remembering anything made me wonder if she had lost more than just her memory, but maybe it was just her personality that was kind of just 'go with the flow'.
We reached the first door, only to find it locked. Lizzie turned to Oliver and started whispering to him. After a couple seconds, he nodded, with a determined look on his face.
Oliver stepped towards the handle and took a deep breath, as Gift-Finder motioned for us to stand back.
As I stepped into what Lizzie had deemed a safe zone, I saw a bright green glow emanating from what must have been Oliver's hands. After a few seconds, Oliver turned around and motioned for us to move forward.
I took the lead and pushed open the door, noticing that the door handle had been melted right off.
Whatever I had been expecting, it was definitely not this. Sitting in the bed, looking at us was a boy, looking to be about senior age, and glittering.
No, I'm not talking about like Twilight vampire glittering; I'm talking about like gold glitters. I am not kidding when I say that he was completely made of gold. What was really wacked out was the fact that, all around his bed were statues of nurses and a couple other people, maybe paramedics, all made out of gold.
His sheets and hospital gown were gold, too, which made me think that this wasn't a weird interior designer's idea of what a hospital room should look like.
"Mari?" I gasped, because I recognized that voice. Carter.
"What's going on? Why did somebody put all these creepy statues in my room? And why am I in a hospital?"
Lizzie walked right up to him and a hand on his head, which I realized with a start was bald. He used to have dark brown, curly hair that I had loved to play with.
Lizzie took her hand away and looked at us. "His is one of the strongest ones I've ever felt. He can literally turn stuff to gold. These aren't statues. They're people."
I gasped, and Oliver looked away, muttering something about thinking he was going to be sick.
Carter, looking confused, stared at Lizzie. "If that's true, I can control it, right?"
Lizzie shook her head. "It's involuntary. Anything you touch turns into gold. It's a good thing you can eat metal now."
Looking eve more bewildered, Carter asked the question we all were thinking. "If anything I touch does that, why didn't you turn to gold, and what's this thing about eating metal?"
"I don't know about the thing about not turning into gold, maybe that's part of my gift, being able to resist types of gifts. I probably won't be able to stop a flame-thrower arm, though. And I'm just the messenger, I just know you can eat metal, but I don't know how I know it."
Carter threw off his sheets and stood on the cold floor, which, when it contacted his bare feet, was slowly turning into gold. Like when a wave crashes on the shore, only continuing to spread outward until the tile he was standing on was completely gilded.
"Uh, dude?" Christian spoke up from the corner. "You might want to put these on."
He tossed a pair of hospital non-slip socks to Carter, who caught them, and they instantly went from a dime-a-dozen to priceless.
"The hospital needs to stay mostly intact."
Carter slipped them on and we started walking. He and Christian started talking about their basketball team, which I didn't even know Christian was on. At the same time, Oliver had on ahead, leaving us all behind.
There weren't many occupied beds in this ward, but we picked up a girl from the cheerleading squad who, on command, could take on the physical qualities on anything she touched. The moment we came in, she grabbed my arm and sighed gratefully as she slowly started regaining her skin, which before that had been asphalt. She must have collapsed on her driveway.
We were almost at the end when we were assaulted by a frantic hammering. Apparently the staff liked to lock in all the patients who were in Intensive Care.
This time, we let our little materiel girl, Madison, absorb a metal cleaning cart nearby and ram the door in. Thankfully, our friend on the other side of the door had enough sense to stand back.
I was shocked when we found out who it was. Matthew Wong.
I must say, I thought I was prepared for anything, but this was something else. I never thought Matthew was very strong, but now he was totally ripped, judging by his arms, which were thick enough to be a linebacker's. It was mostly lean muscle, though, and he didn't look stocky at all.
But his skin… his skin was green, with little chips all over it. Totally freaky. I softly touched it, but there was something that was keeping his skin as smooth as glass.
"Fiberglass!" Matthew chortled, rapping his knuckles on his forearm. Oh. Maybe it was glass.
"This is so cool! I can't wait to see what all the others have going on!"
Matthew didn't seem to notice how many of us were ticked off at his comment.
"It's like a giant motherboard! I'm a living computer! I wonder if I can talk to other computers…"
He trailed off, muttering quietly to himself as we walked along. The other mutilations weren't anything special. But I suppose I was getting used to it by now, so it was hard to throw me. A boy on fire there. A girl with webbed fingers and toes, plus gills a couple doors on, no big deal.
But when we got to Riley's door, I let Carter go in alone. I felt if I felt shocked and horrified by Gabby's…wings… and even more so by sweet Riley's transformation, then I couldn't even begin to figure out what he might feel like. When he and Riley came out after about ten minutes, I could see that Matthew, Christian, and Oliver were trying to choke or cough, or give any indication that her appearance shocked them. Lizzie, however, strode right up to her and said with a smile in her voice, "Hi, sweetheart. How are you?"
It was laughable that Lizzie just called Riley 'sweetheart', as they couldn't be more than three years apart, but Riley responded to it. "I feel fine. Why can't I see?"
Lizzie put her hand on Riley's bare shoulder for a couple seconds, then responded. "Riley, I want you to sing. You'll be able to find your way around just fine then."
"Oh. Um, okay." Riley began to sing a tune that I didn't recognize, but Carter's face seemed to crumble. He came over to stand next to me and whispered, "That's her happy song. It's the song she hums whenever she wants to feel happy."
It was tear jerking, but we had to move on. Finally, we made it to Gabby's room. This time, I was the only one to go in.
When I opened the door, I was shocked to find Gabby sitting on her bed, fingering the edges of her wings.
"They're beautiful, aren't they?" She whispered. "Like death." Gabby stood up and twirled around. She wacked her wings on her bed, the nurse's station, and the IV stand. She must have taken the IV plug out of her arm and taken off the cuff for the heart-rate monitor, which I had just noticed was giving off the fateful continuous beep.
I smiled as happily as I could and reached for a bag that had no doubt been left by her parents. "Get dressed, Mrs. Death. We've got a whole band of freaks for you to meet."
I knew her parents didn't normally approve of tank tops and camisoles as a top by itself, which left me surprised when Gabby came out of the bathroom wearing a white ribbed tank top, blue skinny jeans, and her favorite gladiator sandals.
"Sorry it took me so long." She tossed me a brush and rubber band, wanting me to do her hair in a French braid. "These wings are basically another limb to have to maneuver around."
"Well, it's good you have only two, right?" We laughed for a bit, and then it quieted.
"You know, you're not the only one with a gift." I said in the silence.
"What, you have one too?" She twisted around so that I could see her skeptical face.
"Maybe, maybe not." I replied in a superior tone. "But don't freak out at the number of mutants out there." I hadn't meant to push my ability on her, but perhaps it was for the best.
When we came out, I think all the boys stared at her for the entire walk back. I couldn't really tell you, since I was in the lead. But the silence was a bit uncomfortable, underneath Lizzie's and Riley's intensely animated discussion about a new video game.
The entire hall was in chaos when we got back. Everyone was talking, and quite a few of the younger kids looked about ready to cry. They all stared at us when I slammed the door closed, then made an aisle for us to walk through.
I let Gabby take the lead, and followed behind her, next to Lizzie. A couple of the people closest reached out to touch Gabby's wings. I could tell she was uncomfortable, but she didn't try to brush off their hands or anything like that. She just squared her shoulders and kept on marching.
Behind us, I could hear whispering.
"Is that an angel?"
"Of course not. Angels have white wings."
"What about an angel of death?"
"Nah, I know her. She's Gabrielle Montoya, the class president."
"Guess that's why she's going to speak up."
As uncomfortable as I'm sure all of us were, the quiet remained almost undisturbed as Gabby went to the reception table and climbed on top of it. I hauled myself up too, then helped Lizzie up.
The others I gestured for them to stand behind the reception's desk.
Gabby cleared her throat, getting everyone's attention. "Uh, hi, everyone. I suppose you all know what's happened today."
I didn't even realize that she knew. Maybe Madison or that girl with fish gills filled her in.
Everyone was nodding, confirming that they knew what had happened.
"Well, that's good, since I'm a terrible story teller." This earned a few nervous laughs that were almost immediately silenced. "But since we're going to be in here a while, it's best for us to know what you can do. Lizzie's going to evaluate your unique abilities and then let me know. In the meantime, we need to know who would like to be part of the community service. You know, firefighters, police officers, and other public departments. You don't even have to be one full time, but we will need your help if we're going to make a government that will work."
"That's right." Everyone turned to Ethan Rivera. "And I nominate Gabrielle as our first mayor. Any objections? She was already class president, and that's about as much authority as any of us have."
"I object!" Of course, Santiago Martinez just couldn't leave well enough alone. "She doesn't have any right to tell us what we can and can't do! The Martinez is a much better option for mayor!"
His whole gang around the room started whooping and hollering. I couldn't stand it any longer. "Shut your mouth, Martinez!" I snapped. "Gabby is our only candidate for mayor, and that's that!"
His mouth instantly stuck together. I think he was still trying to talk, but I turned to Gabby and stopped paying him any attention. "Gabby, continue."
I think she just figured out what my gift was and was trying to process it, but since I had told her to keep going, she did.
"Alright. First we'll need some bank employees." I think she then noticed the expression on my face. "We'll need to be able to pay the people, and I think that our own currency is the best place to start."
Just then, Lizzie jumped down and started weaving her way through the crowd. She got to a sophomore boy and touched him. Then she whispered something in his ear and kept on going.
The boy – whom I had suddenly noticed had gray hair, like stone – started making his way towards the front of the audience.
"I'd like to apply for the part of currency mint. Watch!"
He walked right up to the granite tabletop and, with his face screwed up in concentration, slammed his fist against the granite. A piece the size of my fist broke off and he picked it up. He placed it on top of the table and pressed his hand over it. For several seconds, I don't think anyone even breathed. Then he took his hand off of it and handed it to Gabby. I looked over her shoulder and saw a round bit of granite, about the same size and thickness as a nickel, with a pair of wings stamped into it.
Gabby and I looked at one another. His power would make sure that every coin he could identify, and we wouldn't have to find a mint in town to make them. They would be made and kept in the vault!
Gabby nodded at him, and motioned for him to stand next to her on top of the table. "Any other volunteers?"
Slowly, about five kids of different ages came forward. None of their powers really played into the position, but they must have liked the idea of banking.
"The bank will be put into motion immediately!" Gabby announced. "The design will be drawn up and approved by me and my committee! If you are going to be a shop owner, then be sure to start remarking the price tags!"
I had no idea who her committee was, but I didn't ask, and a girl in the audience, Ava Wilson, I realized, spoke up. "What about shop and restaurant owners? Do we get a starting fund?"
"Everyone gets a starting fund, to use to either rent a room or to buy food or anything that you might need before you can find a job."
"And why would we need to rent a room? Don't we already have them?" Ben White asked from the back of the audience.
"Because there are so few of us and so many amazing abilities, I think that the best thing to do is to have our town shrunk. You'll be able to practice your abilities, with the help of Lizzie – Lizzie, can you raise your hand?"
From the middle of the crowd, a hand went up.
"Thanks, Lizzie. Now, as I was saying, Lizzie can help you learn how to use your abilities. However, some of these gifts can be rather destructive, and they shouldn't be used in a populated area."
I was surprised at how much thought Gabby had put into this. And many of the kids obviously agreed, as they were nodding their heads in agreement.
"Anyone who has a house closer than Walnut Court, please put your name down in this notebook," She pulled a tie-dyed blue notebook out of her duffel. Gabby loves to write or draw at any time – her parents must have left two or three in her bag. "Along with how many people can fit comfortably in your house, but how many in a pinch will be able to have a place to sleep. After that, please put your name and ability in this eagle notebook," She waved said notebook around. "And please put in what your business will be (if you choose to start one) and slash or what branch of the community service you'd like to be a part of in this bright green notebook. Those who volunteer full-time in the service branch will be paid for their generosity."
Everyone got in line, some quickly, some slowly, and began filling out the notebooks as Gabby had asked. Some put down their names and addresses in the blue notebook, some put down their names and businesses or community branch in the green notebook, but all wrote in the eagle notebook. By the time everyone had left, assumingly going back to their houses, after being asked to come back the following day, Gabby, Lizzie and I started going through all the notebooks. Me the eagle, Gabby the blue, and Lizzie the eagle.
It was late by the time I finished, and I was pretty much amazed by the number of different abilities that were in the book. Remember the girl who could change her hair color just by thinking about it? Her name was Lily Johnson, and she had written that she could change anybody's hair color now, just by touching them!
When I asked Lizzie why her ability was so much stronger than she had said, Lizzie shrugged. "I suppose it's like playing an instrument. The more you practice, the better you get. But I do know one thing. If these people aren't trained how to use their abilities, even the Level Epsilon ones, they could suddenly explode with disastrous consequences."
We both looked at her for second, then Gabby raised her hand like a student in class. "Um, question? What's a Level Epsilon?"
Lizzie looked surprised. "I thought it was obvious. The more potential and the more destructive the power, the closer to Level Alpha that person is. Lily Johnson is a Level Epsilon, the lowest and least destructive level, but Oliver Lopez is a Level Beta, pretty close to being almost unstoppable by anyone than another Level Beta or a Level Alpha."
I swallowed hard. "And… the Lovelace's?"
"Both Level Alpha's." Lizzie confirmed. "You're a Level Beta, also, and Gabby's a Level Alpha, though her mutation is already fully developed, as far as I could tell."
"I've been thinking." Gabby cut in. "We need to rename Kingston. We need to forget the past. Our parents abandoned us here, and we need to distance ourselves from what we used to be."
"Okay, um…" Lizzie thought. "Freak City?"
"That's just demeaning." I threw in. "We need a name that has to do with something that's known for rescuing folks. Something that will fill the people with hope."
"LEGO City?" We both looked at Lizzie. "Well, they have a whole miniseries about the cops in that town."
"But the cops give me an idea." Gabby flipped to the back of the blue notebook and began sketching. Lizzie and I looked at each other. I shrugged. I really had no idea what Gabby was doing.
"Done!" She flipped the notebook towards us and held it up. The round seal had a flame, really a blaze, in the middle of it, with the words underneath it stenciled: "FIREHOUSE CITY".
Lizzie smiled approvingly and I gave Gabby a hug. "It's great! Just what we need!"
Gabby looked worried, though. "I just hope I'm doing the right thing."