- LI: Generations Aflame #1
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Maya had expected to hate the snow.
Sure, she liked snow before she got her powers, but it wasn’t the delightful, magical thing to her that it always seemed like it was to kids on TV when she was growing up. Unlike those kids (invariably from California, or California pretending to be somewhere else, or Vancouver pretending to be California), snow was just a fact of her life. Winter came and it was there, usually until mid-spring. It was a pleasant, but mundane thing, like milk or cars.
Because of that, she thought gaining a biological affinity for fire would give an equal and opposite antipathy for the snow and the cold.
And it was true that she had to bundle up so much that with all her layers of hoodies, coats and scarves, she was as wide as she was tall, but she found herself delighted. The secret was a simple fact she’d overlooked: snow was water, water didn’t burn, and so the blanket of snow covering Walking Bear Mountain made it so that for the first time in months, she sensed next to nothing that would readily burn in her extra senses.
She’d never be able to adequately explain it, but this was a glorious, freeing experience that made her want to start a blog just so she could write down all the good feelings she got that just stemmed from the fact that for once, she didn’t feel like she was on the brink of disaster.
Not everyone agreed. Soot was terrified and didn’t hesitate to let her know it. The moment they left the cabin, he wriggled and fussed until Olivia handed him back to Maya, at which point, he zipped right back into his globe, and to Maya’s shock, managed to close it up behind him.
The terrified fireling was now, thanks to the magic of Kura, Tammy and craft wire, dangling from Maya’s cap, his globe replacing the pompom. He was alternating between joyous excitement as the globe whipped around in the wind, and mortal terror whenever he remembered that The Enemy (in this case, dihydrogen monoxide in its solid, crystalline form) was literally everywhere.
The only thing that calmed him down, even for a little bit, was reassurance from Maya, and after a full day of it, she was starting to feel silly for having been afraid of him.
“Remember, pizza slices and fries!” Kura called out. She was dressed in an outlandish ensemble in red and green and purple topped off by a jester’s cap with little silver bells. As the only one of the group with much experience skiing, she’d decided that she was their ski instructor, the insane food based mantra being her way to remind them how to position their skis to slow down or speed up.
It mostly made Maya wish she had a pizza and some fries. For her, the only bad thing about the bunny slope was a lack of concession stands. She forced down a squeak of panic as a bump in the snow briefly sent her airborne, but managed to keep her balance and correct, sliding to a stop not far from where Tammy was taking a break to flick through a digital brochure of the resort.
“Hi Maya.” She waved, “That was pretty good.”
Maya smiled at her, then back up the slope where Kura was pestering Steampunk and Olivia with conflicting advice on how to properly turn. “Thanks. This is actually a lot of fun.”
“Tell me about it.” said Tammy. “Last time my family was at a place like this, it was my Grandma’s wedding and I was too little even for the bunny slope.”
“Wanna head back over to the rope tow and go again then?”
Still focused on what she was looking for, Tammy nodded absently. “In a minute. I’m looking for Bigfoot.”
Maya’s eyebrow shot up. “Bigfoot?”
“Bigfoot.” Tammy confirmed.
“You don’t…” Maya started carefully. Bigfoot didn’t exist, obviously, but some people believed he did and Maya wasn’t willing to accidentally insult her friend over something as stupid as the existence of skunk apes.
“It’s a promotion they’re running for the Spring break crowd.” said Tammy. “There’s a marker somewhere on the mountain that links to a program on your computer that makes Bigfoot appear in your camera view when you point it in the right direction. If you find him and get to within ten feet of him first, you get a free week, all expenses paid.”
She flashed Maya a confident grin. “I’m going to win it and bring my mom, dad and Brother here for Christmas.”
As weird as Tammy and Kura could be, Maya had to admit that sometimes, they could be really sweet in their own ways. She’d heard about the Tree party for Christmas and Steampunk’s personalized glasses, and it was things like that that explained why she liked being friends with them.
“That sounds great. Is there something I can do to help?”
“Download the app and help me keep my Sasquatch watch?” Tammy asked.
“Deal.” Maya agreed. “Can we go back up now? They wouldn’t set it up in places everyone goes anyway, would they?”
From her expression, it was clear that Tammy had been so intent on her goal that such a simple fact had gone right by her. She let out a nervous chuckle at her obliviousness. “Yeah… good idea. Let’s go.” They half slid, half waddled toward the line for the tow rope.
They weren’t the only vacationers at walking bear, and the line proved it. There were families with kids and college students, beginners all, waiting ahead of them. All day, it had been at least a five minute wait to get back up the hill, and it was even worse on some of the chair lifts.
“So did you know that you can order a s’more kit right out of the room service catalog?” Tammy asked while they waited.
Maya pondered this a moment and asked, “Wait… but the fireplace is just a program built into the TV. How do you cook them?” She’d been extremely happy to learn that. Fireplaces, for obvious reasons, weren’t her favorite room feature.
Tammy grinned excitedly. “It’s a full kit: marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate, roasting sticks—and a portable fire pit. For fifteen dollars more, you get hotdogs too.”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea with me there.” Maya said with disappointment in her voice. She hated being a limiting factor on her friends. Also, why was everything coming back to food? She was so very hungry and her usual store of horded toaster pastries and jerky were lost in the thick cocoon or warm clothes she was nestled in.
“Maya?” a voice cut in, interrupting her angst.
The girls froze. That wasn’t the voice of one of their friends. It was an older voice. A male voice.
Tammy swallowed and stuffed her hands in her pockets, fumbling for something there. “Mai? Don’t turn around, but we’ve got some stranger danger coming toward us. Old guy, wearing one of those big, pillowy coats. He’s got some kind of briefcase thing with him. Probably one of those bogus FBI guys again.”
Despite her best efforts, Maya whimpered. “But… how did they find me?”
“How did they find you the first time?” Tammy asked. Her hands came out of her pockets wrapped with paper clips chained together. A childish use of office supplies—unless you were Tammy Kaine.
Maya frowned. It’d been in the back of her mind for months and she still had no idea.
“Maya!” The man called, increasing his stride now that his goal was in sight.
Behind him, two of the resort’s security guards rounded the corner. “Hey!” one bellowed, “You! Get back here!”
That was all the extra confirmation Tammy needed. “Run, Maya, run! Ski for your life!” She gave the smaller girl a mighty shove that sent her sliding back a few yards and forced her to pinwheel her arms furiously to keep her balance.
That exchange made the man pause mentally, but not in his rush toward the pair. How stupid could he have been? The girl have been on the run, from Ambrose, from Generations, and if what he knew about America’s own descendant problem, from Project Tome. She was probably still jumping at shadows and wouldn’t think to try telling friend from foe before running.
It was up to him to prove himself. He gripped the case in his hand and had a flash of inspiration. Drawing in a deep breath, he called out one more time. “I got a present for Beacon’s little Fly Monkey!”
On a certain level, it worked. Maya stopped what she was doing upon hearing the nickname, if not the phrase. She knew both well, had heard it all her life.
Before she took of gymnastics in school, her original jungle gym had been that plane her father owned with his service buddies. Even when she was very little, whenever they were out at the airstrip, she’d make a beeline for that plane and climb all over it—like a monkey, according to her father’s friends. And so among those five, she’d become known as the ‘little Fly Monkey’, well past the age where it became embarrassing. It wasn’t any less so in front of a crowd of strangers and Tammy.
It was enough to give her pause, which was unfortunate, because what she paused in doing was trying to keep from tipping over, which she promptly did.
For a moment, she had a wonderful view of a clear blue sky, and her mind screamed with Soot’s panic. His globe had landed in, and partially sank into the snow, which for a fireling was something like going down in a shark cage.
She sat up and took off her hat in order to cuddle Soot through the glass, offering him promises that she wouldn’t let the snow get him and that everything was okay now. As she did, she finally looked up, finding the man closing the last few feet between them. He looked familiar now that she got a good look at him.
At that moment, Tammy came skidding into his path. Having abandoned her ski poles, the redhead weaved crazily on her feet, but still managed to brandish the paper clip chains wrapped around her hands, which she caused to spit sparks.
“Far enough, old man.” She said in a confident voice. “Nobody’s taking my friend.”
The old man drew up short, almost falling himself. “I’m not trying to take her. I’m here to…” he blustered a bit, trying to decide which of his goals took priority. “I came to give her this. And to talk.” he leaned around Tammy to look at Maya. “I have some very important things to tell you, Maya.”
“Hey!” Tammy threatened, presenting a sparking fist. “Don’t try anything.”
By then, Maya had scrambled to her feet and put her hands on Tammy’s shoulders. “I-it’s okay. I know him.”
Caught up in her tough act, Tammy forgot who she was supposed to be giving a hard time to. “Yeah? Then what’s his name?”
“Captain Gordon.” Maya said quickly. “He worked with my…” She couldn’t bring herself to finish that. A tear started to form in her eye and a wisp of smoke escaped her.
Looking stricken at seeing Maya upset, he nodded. “Captain Marshall Gordon,” He said carefully, “Royal Canadian Air Force.”
By then, the security guards caught up to him. “Alright sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” Said the first to arrive, a young man with a shaved head under his security cap. He had the look of someone who wanted really liked the authority.
When he grabbed Captain Gordon’s arm to lead him away, the older man shook him off with ease. “I’ll go on my own in just a minute.”
The guard didn’t like that one bit, especially since his partner had caught up too. “Sir, we can do this the easy way, or the police can be involved.” He was unsnapping the holster holding his pepper spray.
Captain Gordon ignored him and proffered the case, it was larger and thicker than a briefcase and was made of aluminum. “Maya, I brought you this. It was your father’s and I’ve been holding on to it for you ever since his personal effects were declassified.”
“Declassified…?” Maya asked.
Annoyed at the lack of what he felt was the respect due to him, the guard grabbed the captain’s arm again, more forcefully. “That’s it sir. We could have been friendly about this but now you’re officially trespassing.”
“Wait!” Maya slipped past Tammy to try and stop them, but Captain Gordon stopped her by thrusting the case into her arms.
“It’s okay, Maya. I did break the law after all. I just want to make sure that you know the truth.” He let the pushy guard pull him away, but it was clear he was controlling the pace. “I don’t know what they’ve told you, but the fire wasn’t you fault—You need to know it wasn’t your fault.”
So everyone told her. Maya hung her head. But even if she was totally sure, that didn’t change how the fire had felt to her that night. It made her stomach churn.
“It was the Project’s!” Captain Gordon said. He was about to elaborate when he suddenly remembered something much more urgent. “Wait. One more thing!” He had to shout now, they were so far apart. “When I got here, I saw Ambrose in town!”
And then he was gone. Pulled around the corner by the two guards.
Maya was rooted to the ground staring after him, arms wrapped around the aluminum case.
Before she could do it herself, Tammy gave voice to her thoughts for her. “What just happened here?”
A chill ran blew down off Walking Bear Mountain and Maya shivered. “Uncle Gordy.” She said softly, having meant to call him that earlier. “One of my dad’s friends. They were pilots together. He…” The words caught in her throat. “he always bought me astronaut food whenever he came to visit, and… and…”
It was really too much. She’d pushed the crushing weight of reality away for so long. Her parents were gone, but that wasn’t all she’d lost. With them she’d lost her home and every connection she’d made in her young life, including her gang of honorary Uncle Flyboys.
“Tammy?” she hadn’t noticed the girl had come closer, looking concerned at her expression until just then. “I need you to call Kura. We need to bail him out.”
Thirty minutes later, before the girls could even fully rally, Captain Gordon left the Constance Police Department following a man in a chauffeur’s uniform and a flat cap down the side ramp to a waiting limousine.
“Not that I’m not grateful, but I’ve never even heard of this man you say is your boss.” He said, eying the limo with caution. “Why would he bail me out? How would he even know I’d been arrested?”
The chauffeur shrugged, an unprofessional, but honest gesture. “Sorry, sir, but I just got the directions from the service and a script to read to the police.” he opened the back door for Captain Gordon to get in, which he did after leaning in and making a quick inspection for men with guns.
“Afternoon, Cap’n.” A smooth, southern drawl said as soon as Captain Gordon was seated and the door was closed. It took a moment for him to realize that the voice was simply coming from the speakers.
“Who am I talking to?” Captain Gordon wasn’t feeling beholden to the voice for anything until he knew what it wanted.
There was a soft, genial laugh. “Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m Vincent Liedecker. That’s Liedecker as in the John T Liedecker Institute for Descendants—as in I own it. And ever sense this little girl, Blumberg showed up things have gotten complicated with fake FBI, called from detectives and legal threats from companies that don’t exist. And every time I turn around, there’s a Canadian crawlin’ out of the woodwork—including you.”
Liedecker paused, letting the discontent melt away from his voice to take on friendly terms. “And like the fella my people found bribed his way into the same holding cell as you. Cap’n, I do believe we was tryin’ to kill you… And I want to know why.”
To Be Continued…