“Look, um, Anarchist? Right? You seem nice enough, but I’m pretty sure you have me confused with another guy, so, if you don’t mind—” I said, pushing past the crazy girl and trying to make an escape to the safety of my group before they got too far away.
She didn’t touch me, but my legs suddenly locked up and I stopped dead in my tracks. “Yeah, I have you confused with someone else, but I know your name? Nathaniel Thomas Peterson?”
I tried to turn back and look at her with a glare, but my legs still wouldn’t move, resulting in me turned as far as I could manage like a bad fashion pose. This girl was crazy.
“I’m not crazy,” She said like she could read my mind.
“Because I can read your mind, idiot.”
“You’re a telepath?”
“So that’s how you knew my name.” I said, still not convinced, especially when presented with this fact.
“Y—n-no, just, God!” She said, pushing her glasses up to rub the bridge of her nose in frustration. Then she perked up like she had an epiphany, “Your hand!”
“My hand?” I asked as she grabbed my right arm to inspect my hand. I tried to pull away, but another order to stop from The Anarchist and my right side went limp. She uncurled my fingers and looked my hand over, apparently not finding what she was searching for.
“Where is it?”
“The scar you moron! From where Butcher bit your fingers off.”
“What? I’ve never had a scar on my hand, and I’ve never had my fingers bitten off by anything.”
“Nevermind,” She grumbled. Groaning, I saw the glow in her eyes brighten. “I hope you’ll forgive me later, but I need your memories back,” She said, reaching for my face.
“I’m not missing any memories!” She ignored me and put her palm on my forehead.
We both looked, startled, at Ian who suddenly appeared in the alley. “Let him go.”
“You know her?” I asked.
“Sort-of,” Ian said, staring at the girl intently.
“So, they let you keep your memories?” She asked, pulling her hand away.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Ian said, his voice steady.
The Anarchist looked back at me and smiled. “We’ll talk later,” she said with a wink before walking away. I suddenly felt control return to my body, but when I whirled around, The Anarchist and already rounded the corner at the other end of the alley.
“Just a crazy nutjob, don’t worry about it. Let’s get back to the group…”
“Ian, I’m not an idiot. What the hell was she talking about?”
“She was just getting into your head; she’s a telepath, it’s what they do. Now come on.”
“—Is good at what she does,” Ian said, walking back out into the main thoroughfare.
“—Nate, not everyone is going to be your friend. Some people are out to get you. She saw you as a target and tried to take advantage of you.”
The venom in Ian’s words caught me completely off guard. He looked at me like I insulted him in the worst way humanly possible.
“Dude, what’s your problem?”
“My problem? I’m trying to keep us all alive; including your stupid ass, but then you—you…never mind. Just shut up and come on.”
I didn’t know what to say, all that aggression out of what felt like nowhere. I mean, Ian wasn’t my favorite in the group, but…
A few people were giving me sideways looks, and I could feel heat rising in my face. Damnit Ian. Before I lost him in the crowd, I reluctantly started walking.
“Right behind me,” Ian mumbled as we caught up to the others at one of the last wooden buildings before the tents took over.
Erin looked confused but nodded.
“Well, alright, now that the stragglers have caught up, we can get y’all situated,” Quill said, turning to a desk with an older woman with white hair standing behind it. “Alright, Pam, we have six new arrivals that need tents and supplies.”
“Oh, well that’s just lovely. But I’m afraid we’re a bit limited. I’m afraid you’ll have to double up until we can get some more,” Pam said as several small bundles came floating out of a back room.
“That’s okay,” Erin said as one of the tents was gently placed in her arms. “We’ll make do.”
“We’re working on building some more permanent housing, but it’s not going as fast as we would like,” Quill explained.
“So, I guess we’re going to be tent-mates.”
I looked over to see Corey holding one of the folded-up tents. “Yeah, I guess so,” I said, glancing at Adam and Ian standing off in a little group. There must have been some tension in my voice because I saw Corey’s face fall slightly out of the corner of my eye.
“Oh, well, I mean, we don’t have to, I just figured—”
“What, no. That sounds great!” I said quickly. “Ian just kind of pissed me of earlier, but we can talk about it later,” I added seeing an inquisitive look on Corey’s face.
“Okay,” Corey said as more items placed themselves in our arms.
“And that should be everything!” Pam said with a little lilt in her voice. “You should all have some flashlights and extra batteries, a sleeping bag each, a pillow, some blankets—It gets cold at night—and some toiletries. And if you find yourselves needing anything, just come by and let me know and we’ll see what we can do.”
“Thank you, we’ll keep that in mind,” Erin said, looking for Quill for what we should do next.
“I’ll show you all the last few landmarks, and then you can go get yourselves settled,” Quill said, holding the door open so we could file through.
“That long building over there is the mess hall; we have food at 7:00 am, noon, and 7:00 pm, and it goes fast, so you don’t want to be late. We have men and women’s showers and a laundromat just over there, but there’s always a long wait, so try not to hold things up.
“As for your tents, you can pitch them up anywhere you can find room, but there’s not really any until you go to the outskirts. Just stay inside the stump ring and you’ll be fine.”
“Stump ring?” Whitney asked.
“There’s a ring of tree stumps that goes around the whole place. Jeremy—the guy that was with me in the woods when we found you guys, and someone you’ll meet eventually: Seth set it up to make sure it’s damn impossible to sneak in here without the alarm going up.”
“So, it’s not just a bunch of stumps?”
“I really don’t know how it works,” Quill admitted, shrugging a bit. “But anyway, go get yourselves set up and explore the place a little like Savant said. I’ll find y’all tomorrow and let you know where y’all be workin’.”
“What will we be doing, exactly?” Ian asked. His tone was bordering on demanding, but Quill didn’t seem to notice.
“Well, it’ll be construction for most of you. We need all hands on deck to get more buildings finished, but we might find other things for you to do if there’s things that fit your skillset a little better.”
“We’ll look forward to it,” Erin said.
“Alright, then I’ll see y’all tomorrow.”
Quill gave one last smile and walked off, leaving us in the sea of tents. Some of the other residents of Idyllium—Idyllians? —were going about their business. Some of them gave us friendly waves and curious looks, but they didn’t bother us.
“Okay, I guess we should find somewhere to pitch these,” Erin said, looking around.
Like Quill said, besides the walkways, there was barely a square inch free. “Hey, are you guys lost?” We looked over to see a girl, maybe in her mid-teens floating over to us. Violet energy spiraled down her arms apparently generating the lift that let her hover at least a foot off the ground.
“Uh, kind of…?”
The glow disappeared and the girl dropped to her feet. “Hi, I’m Dani!” She announced, offering her hand to shake.
“Nice to meet you?” I said, shaking her hand.
“So, you guys are new in town, right?”
“Yeah, we just got here this morning.”
“That’s awesome!” Dani said, floating a few feet into the air. Her hair seemed to defy gravity, like she was weightless. “There’s almost no young people here, but it’s so much better than being back home. Anyway, I know where a great spot nobody’s taken yet. And it’s not that far from where my family’s tent is…”
Dani kept talking as she floated off towards the edge of the tents. We glanced around at each other and collectively shrugged. Our impromptu guide hadn’t stopped talking yet. It was just a constant stream of conscious. But it seemed like she was genuinely excited. Maybe this place wasn’t so bad. On top of that, I couldn’t get over her just floating; using her powers like it was the most common thing in the world.
Except for heroes, nobody used their powers in public. It would be like a person carrying around a loaded gun and waving it in the air. But here? I glanced around and saw other people flying, levitating things, teleporting, carrying hundreds of pounds like it was nothing. So many metas in one place.
Lots of strange people. Maybe it wasn’t surprising to run into someone calling themselves ‘The Anarchist’ here, but I couldn’t shake the suspicion that she had been telling the truth.
“…and this is it!” Dani said, gesturing to an unassuming patch of empty field.
“Oh yeah, I see what you mean. This place is a regular Motel 7,” Whitney said, dropping her and Erin’s tent.
“Well, I mean, it is a field, but it’s pretty nice all things considered,” Dani said.
“It will be fine, thanks,” Erin said, giving Dani a slightly strained smile.
“No problem. So, what brought you guys here? Kind of odd a bunch of people like you showing up at once.”
“That’s none of your business,” Ian said sharply, unpacking the tent equipment all the while.
“Sorry, didn’t know it was a touchy subject,” Dani said, seemingly shrugging off Ian’s tone.
“Don’t mind him,” Erin said, shooting Ian a stern look. “We ran into some trouble with Argus for using our powers when we weren’t supposed to.”
“Oh. Did you kill anyone?”
“What? No!” Erin said, the question catching her off guard. We all stared at Dani for a minute. Erin wasn’t lying; nobody died.
“Hey, take it easy, just making sure. There were a few people Savant turned away because of that. They were meta-mad, but still. I mean, I don’t know what that would be like, but still, you know, I can’t imagine what that would be like—”
“—Dani, I think we want a little bit of time to set up in peace,” Whitney said, cutting her off.
“Oh, alright. Well, if you guys want to hang out just let me know!” Dani said. If she was slighted, she didn’t show it. Violet energy curled around her arms and pushed her off the ground as she floated away.
“She seems talkative,” Adam grumbled.
“Definitely. But she welcomed us in. I guess,” Erin said, trying to read the instructions for the tent before giving it to Whitney.
“We didn’t come here to make friends,” Ian mumbled.
“Yeah, but it won’t hurt either,” I said, helping Corey set up our tent.
Ian looked at me like I was hopeless but didn’t say anything. We were quiet for a while, just trying to get the tents set up. No one else really bothered us, and after what felt like forever, we finally got the tent set up. They weren’t roomy. After putting the rest of our stuff inside…it was cramped. Luckily, Corey didn’t take up much space, and I wasn’t exactly tall or buff either so it would work.
I guess it had to work.