LI: Generations Aflame #8

This entry is part 8 of 15 in the series Lidecker Institute Volume 3: Generations Aflame
Privately, Maya had dreaded the flight to Colorado over the long weeks leading up to the break. Mostly because she used to love flying.
 
Her father, in addition to being in the Canadian Air Force, had a small plane he’d bought part of along with some of his other service buddies. At least once a month, he and her mother and her would go up in it. Usually, they had no destination; it was just family time for them, like other families went on Sunday drives or picnics.
 
The last time had been only three days before the fire that put all those happy times to an end.
 
She’d once told that to Tammy and Kura, but it was hard to tell if they’d picked up on the problem or if they were just being themselves when they provided the best possible distraction to Maya: food.
 
The jet might not have been the most expensive or top of the line model, but no expense had been spared on the chef hired to cater their flight or the sheer mass of ingredients he had to work with. Kura gave him one task beyond the scheduled menu: make sure Maya’s plate was never empty.
 
And thanks to his own body weight in groceries and the work ethic bestowed on a person when a hyperactive little girl is sending hefty tips directly to your bank account when they follow their strange edicts, he proved to be equal to the task. So well in fact, that for the first time since her powers developed, Maya… was full.
 
Even at the institute, where she was allowed to eat as much as she wanted, a combination of modesty, embarrassment, and guilt at how much was eating compared to her fellow students kept her from truly sating her fusion reactor of a metabolism. Here, indulging meant helping a very nice man, so she didn’t hold back, and the feeling of finally having enough, combined with the lively plans of the others kept her from dwelling too much on what she’d lost.
 
It was the first time that she’d ever really paid attention to just how wealthy Kura actually was. Unlike Betty, who never shut up about her money, or her uncle in Congress, and who wore all the latest, most expensive fashions and tried to eat out somewhere fancy whenever she could get off campus, Kura never made a fuss about it.
 
When asked, Kura said that her ‘daddy sold fishsticks’, glossing over the fact that fishsticks were just her favorite product in a global frozen foods empire. She only bought plain clothes, the better to decorate on the fly with her eclectic powers. And when it came to food, Kura could and would eat anything technically edible, again thanks to her powers.
 
The only way her wealth manifested was in expedience and convenience: if Kura needed something, out came her palmtop and delivery would be made, usually within hours. That, and she gave presents constantly; often to people she didn’t know, who just happened to please her weird moods. Maya’s new palmtop was one such gift: a ConquesTech Ariel with more bundled features than even science loving Maya fully understood, plus a feature that would connect her, Kura, Tammy and Steampunk’s palmtops to each other at the touch of an icon. If Olivia stuck around, Maya had little doubt her set would be added to that too.
 
The trip though, was showing that wealth, and Kura’s parents’ permissiveness in broad daylight, so to speak. Kura randomly decided on Walking Bear, so that was where they were going. In a private jet. To a resort that normally booked a year in advance, on short notice.
 
Money, Maya realized, worked a lot like matter: when you didn’t have much, it worked one way, but add mass and increase he density and it could warp physics.
 
***
Following that analogy, if the plane had been an anomaly, the suite at the ski lodge was something an episode of Imago could be written around. As Kura and Tammy bounded in with excitement, Olivia wandered in with an expression of admiration, and Steampunk made a beeline for the nearest sink to drink her requisite regimen of water, Maya was frozen at the door, gawking.
 
She’d actually seen nicer on television, but then again, that was television. The average apartment on TV was nicer than the house she grew up in and it had been a pretty nice house. This, however, was real. She was standing there and she was going to be sleeping there for the next four days. It was a lot to take in.
 
“Go on.” Mrs. Akagi urged, gently prodding Maya forward with a hand on the small of her back. “You should claim a bed before the others beat you to it—we didn’t know about Olivia, so one of you is going to have to sleep on the folding couch.”
 
Maya looked at the couch. Even in its folded state, it was big enough to sleep her comfortably. Then again, she was small for her age; the arm chairs by the windows could sleep her comfortably.
 
“T-thank you.” She mumbled, scooting further into the room on automatic, simply because an adult told her to.
 
The door opened into the sitting area, defined by the big, soft looking, L-shaped couch, a television that dominated half the wall, several other chairs that looked so comfortable they might lull her to sleep just by looking at them, and a huge picture window looking out over the mountain.
 
There was a free-standing log wall in the middle of the room, with a cutout in the middle to let people in the sitting room see the dining area with its large table and sideboard and two huge, leather armchairs with a small table between them, both facing a hearth. It was the dining area that acted as the node for the rest of the suite: a raised platform at the back of it led to the two bedrooms, each with a pair of queen sized beds, and a sliding door to one side led into a fully furnished office with desk, executive chair and enough computer equipment to make up for it if a person left their palmtop, tablet, laptop, desktop, and ninety percent of Western civilization behind accidentally. The only door leading off from the sitting room was left open to reveal a bathroom larger than some Maya had seen made to service a half dozen people. This one was only for one—and there was a second, smaller television in there.
 
Soot, once again confined to his lantern globe since Olivia was forced to abandon her titanium form at the airport, was looking around too, from where he was firmly secured to her wrist with one of Tammy’s spare hair ties. If Maya concentrated on him, she could tell he had no idea what all the colorful blobs before him meant, but he was enthusiastic about them nonetheless.
 
“This is a really nice place, Mr. And Mrs Akagi.” Olivia said. She’d found the sleek, silver and black remote that controlled pretty much everything in the room and was examining it carefully, flipping through the different screens on the touch display.
 
“We’re very glad you like it. But you should see our suite.” Mr. Akagi said laughed heartily along with his wife. “Please, make yourselves comfortable and enjoy all of the amenities the lodge has to offer. Kura only has Spring Break once a year and we always try to make it memorable.”
 
The pair started to leave, but Mrs. Akagi stepped forward one more time to add, “We’ll be having dinner at six in the W. Smith dining room. We’d love for you to join us.”
 
“That would…” Maya said before trialing off.
 
“That’s be great, see you then!” Olivia said cheerfully, adding a wave with the hand not holding the remote.
 
With that, the Akagi’s left, and Maya looked around again. The sounds of Kura and Tammy arguing over who got which identical bed drifted in from one of the bed rooms, and the sound of the tap running in the bathroom told her where Steampunk was.
 
This left her alone in the room with Olivia, a girl she hadn’t known very long. It wasn’t Maya’s favorite kind of situation. Talking with friends was one thing, but trying to make smalltalk with someone she barely knew was out of her comfort zone.
 
“Fancy place, huh?” It was not, however, out of Olivia’s. Maya nodded and half muttered something. Olivia picked up the slack for her immediately. “You parents had money, but not ‘private jet, take a vacation at the drop of a hat’ money. Never spent the night in a place like this.”
 
She tapped an icon on the remote and the picture window went black, causing both girls to yelp and one girl to smoke lightly.
 
“I think I did that.” Olivia said guiltily and tapped the screen again. Walking Bear Mountain appeared before them again and she walked over for a closer look. “It doesn’t look like a screen—but I’m pretty sure you can’t turn windows off.”
 
Beneath her meek exterior, Maya was the kid that always raised her hand when she knew the answer. She hadn’t always been so cripplingly introverted, but she had always been that kid, the one that actually liked learning, and didn’t whine about homework. And it was that Maya that took over now.
 
“I read about it in Home: Twenty Minutes into the Future. There’s a film on the inside of the window that polarizes and depolarizes based on the kind of current run through it. Jessie Kagney of MIT says in the future, curtains and blinds will be purely decorative, especially since there’s some new ones that let you see out but no one can see in while they’re polarized.”
 
“Cool.” Olivia smiled at her and flicked the windows between states a few times. Then she looked a little bashful herself. “So, um… can I hold Soot again?”
 
Maya looked down at the fireling. He understood what Olivia just asked and was hopping up and down in his globe with excitement. She didn’t need to concentrate to hear ‘yaaaaay!’ in her head. But at the same time, she looked at the room.
 
The carpet was plush, but whatever it was made of would smolder slowly. The couch, however, would go up like dry straw and the table had seen so much wax and polish over the years that it might explode. Maya shivered at the thought.
 
Olivia saw her hesitate. “Oh, I can go metal again if you want.” She tapped her glasses as if to prove that they were still there.
 
“It’s not that…” Maya squeaked. She was still taking in just what kind of a death trap the room would be if it caught fire. She shouldn’t have been allowed there, much less Soot. “It’s just that I don’t want there to be a fire.”
 
Soot whined at this and Maya absentmindedly lifted the globe to her face. “Oh, I didn’t mean you, Soot. I just don’t want anything her to burn down. I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
 
As nervous as Maya was, Olivia was nothing but confidence. “Oh, I’m sure Soot doesn’t want anyone to get hurt either, do you?” She leaned over to be level with the fireling too and he responded by gesticulating wildly—possibly because he couldn’t nod.
 
“See?” Olivia straightened up with a grin. “He promises to be good and listen to what his Auntie Olivia says.”
 
Maya mouths the words ‘Auntie Olivia?’ but didn’t give them voice. Soot did seem to listen to the other girl fairly well, and if he did ignite anything, she could stop any damage with her powers. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. “I guess… but you should go to metal form first.”
 
“Right.” Olivia took a deep breath and as she let it out, the whitish tint of titanium began to crawl across her skin and through her hair until her body was fully transmuted.
 
Maya watched in rapt fascination. “D-do you mind if I ask how it feels when you do that?”
 
“It kind of depends on what I turn into.” Olivia rattled the charms on her bracelet. “Mostly it doesn’t really feel good though– like you’re starting to go numb, but not quite. And when I’m changing, it’s that pins and needles feeling you get when your leg falls asleep.”
 
She lowered her head, her hair falling around her face with a sound like iron filings falling down the side of a mirror. “I don’t really like it. I’m not scared or ashamed of it, really. I just don’t see the point. I turn into something else and it feels bad and it’s not really useful.”
 
Of course, Maya could relate and with the ghost of a friendly smile on her lips, she proffered Soot’s globe. “Now it’s useful for playing with Soot.” She declared, feeling very Kura-ish in doing so, “So that should make you feel better.
 
Titanium fingers lightly took the glass globe and Olivia’s face brightened. “I guess so. Thanks, Maya.”
 
***
The express train out of Denver squealed into the station in Constance, CO, and Detective Ambrose pushed his way out, not content to be carried along by the tide of vacationers looking to use Spring Break as an excuse to get one more ski trip in for the season.
 
He skipped baggage claim, having shipped what little he needed on the trip. Everything else he wore on him or carried in the leather carryall over his shoulder.
 
Outside that station, the only word for it was ‘quaint’. The town hall was right across the way, separated by a traffic circle that sported sparse traffic. There were small shops lining the rest, mostly cafes, pubs and the like. Main Street cut right down the middle and included the traffic circle. The place was like the set of a period film.
 
Ambrose didn’t begrudge the people of Constance that, but it made him feel out of his element. He was used to the suburban sprawl outside Toronto where blocks of stores were oases, not the main attraction. If people wanted cafes and bookstores and such, they went into the city like they were supposed to.
 
He checked his palmtop and found that his motel was just four blocks east; short enough to walk for him; he took pride in being fit even into his late sixties. But before he could stow the device and head off, the phone rang and from the name that appeared, he knew he’d better check in.
 
“Afternoon, Detective Mochrie.” Nikki Mochrie was his immediate superior. “Everything alright back at home?”
 
“You’re in Colorado.” she said flatly. Ambrose surmised that she was tracking his badge, but they were both detectives for good reason, so he didn’t put it past her to use other means.
 
“Yes I am. It is my vacation after all. There’s a ski resort I’ve always wanted to visit.”
 
But Mochrie didn’t buy it for a minute. “You were in Virginia before. Where the Blumberg girl is. Or, I’m willing to guess, was.”
 
Ambrose started walking, dodging people along the sidewalk. “So you did know where she ended up.”
 
“Yes, John and the Chief and I decided to withhold it from you.”
 
“Damn it, Nikki, that girl killed her parents, I know it!” Ambrose exploded. This immediately garnered him some strange looks from passers-by. He lowered his voice to a hiss. “And you’re just letting her run free. The Americans just let her hop the border with no repercussions.”
 
“John.” said Mochrie. “The fire marshal reported arson. There was gasoline all over the hall in front of the parents’ door. The little girl has fire powers—she wouldn’t need that.”
 
Ambrose was stomping down the street now, heedless of the people who had to hurl themselves out of his way. “She ran. Innocent people don’t run. We should have at least held her for questioning. We should at least push for extradition.”
 
“You have no idea what kind of weight is behind keeping her right where she is.” said Mochrie. “Any chance of extradition is tied up for at least a year, even if we wanted to.”
 
“Unless we get proof.” said Ambrose.
 
“You’re not going to get proof, John, she didn’t do it.” Mochrie warned. “Stop right now. You’re on vacation; just make it into a real vacation.”
 
A dark glower came to the man’s face. “You weren’t in that house, Detective. You didn’t smell that smell, or see what was left. And you didn’t see that ‘innocent little girl’ burst into flames and run out of the house. Or all the other fires that seem to follow her around. She’s a menace to every person she comes near.”
 
“I tried to tell you as a friend.” said Mochrie. “But now I’m instructing you as your superior. If you touch Maya Blumberg, you’re going to face consequences, John. Serious ones.”
 
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Nikki.” Ambrose snarled angrily. “I’m on vacation.”
 
And he turned his palmtop completely off before continuing his power stride toward his motel.
 
***
Ambrose didn’t see anyone hat caught his interest, but he was seen.
 
Sitting in a burger bar, staring out the window, the man who had spoken to St John Duvall from the airport put his sandwich down. His appetite was suddenly gone, crushed with grim efficiency by worry.
 
He knew the man and his mindset, starting with the nasty interview he’d conducted with him two days after the fire.
 
Things were worse than he’d thought if Ambrose was here.
 
To Be Continued…
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Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

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