Myriad sat cross legged outside Żywie’s office, the bruises on her back aching even at the touch of her shirt. She was not alone in her pain: most of the student body were also waiting in the hallway, some overflowing onto the stairs. All were twisting and twitching, searching for a posture that didn’t hurt, with little success.
The door opened, Żywie ushering Maelstrom out. “…And come to me if you feel those pains you were telling me about again, little one,” she called after him.
He nodded, not that he thought it would be necessary. He didn’t like bothering Żywie if it could be avoided; easier to abandon his body if it fell into disrepair. He made his way to the stairs, awkwardly stepping over and around the other children, a few glowering at him as he passed. “Sorry-excuse me-pardon me!”
Once he was gone, Żywie scanned the hall for her next patient. “You can come in now, Metonymy.”
When the door was shut again, Windshear muttered from the staircase, “Bloody show-off Mealy.”
Some of the other kids voiced their assent, quietly, for fear of Żywie overhearing.
Myriad bent forward to glare over at the other girl, then winced as the motion upset her bruises. “What are you moaning about now, Windshear?”
“He didn’t need Żywie to fix him, he could’ve done it himself! I bet he did…”
“Talos could’ve, too,” Elsewhere pointed out, idly teleporting a tennis ball from one end of the hall to another, producing a muffled thunderclap with every transfer. He could’ve just bounced it against the wall, but that entailed physical movement. And didn’t entail bright flashes of lightning.
Everyone turned towards the russet haired boy who’d claimed the sunny spot under the end window, begging an objection. “…Well, yeah, I could, but I’d get it if I did! Mealy’s the favourite, if he turned icy early, Z would just tell Lawrence he didn’t.”
Keep telling yourselves that, thought Myriad.
She was one of the last to be treated. Having directly used her powers—or someone’s, at least—on the three interlopers that weekend, it was deemed that her penalty should be among the longest. Haunt, Snapdragon and Britomart weren’t even due to have theirs lifted till well after dinner that night.
Żywie’s office was well and truly an English teacher’s, strewn with books and whatever minutia of her life she couldn’t fit in her bedroom. The only real concessions to her role as school nurse were an examination table, and the disorganised mess of papers stuffed in her desk, filled with insights into biology both human and superhuman. They’d been written as aide-mémoire rather than for anyone’s else’s benefit, and it would be decades before earthly science caught up enough to make much sense of it. She’d had to devise a lexicon all of her own to describe many of her discoveries.
On a mat in the corner, Ophelia was smashing wooden blocks together with intense focus. Upon Myriad’s entrance, she looked up from her project and giggled. “Miri!”
Myriad tried to ignore the toddler, in case it deflated while she was looking at it. The presence of babies at the NHI had surprised her initially, but then, who else was more likely to out themselves? Ophelia, especially.
Żywie beamed proudly. “Yes, it is Myriad!” She gestured at Myriad like a gameshow host presenting a new stove. “Say hello to Myriad, Ophelia.”
Still smiling, Ophelia shook her head. “No!”
The healer quirked her shoulders. “She knows what I am saying, at least.” She turned to Myriad and asked, “Do you prefer the chair or the bench?”
“The bench, I think.” She looked at Ophelia. “…You don’t think she’s gonna clap, do you?” Myriad wasn’t strictly a telepath, but she was enough of an esper for Ophelia’s ovation to hit her hard, as Elsewhere had taken great pains to inform her between laughing jags1.
Żywie studied the child carefully. “She seems calm, but babies operate on no timetable but God’s. I don’t think she really needs to clap, either. Might just be a physical association that makes it easier for her to trigger it. You know, I wouldn’t mind taking a look at a clapped esper’s brain chemistry. I’ve asked Tiresias, but he would never—that’s probably not something you want to hear right now, is it?”
Myriad shook her head.
“Well then, let’s get you fighting fit.”
“Do I have to take off my shirt or anything?”
“No, just your hand will do.”
Most children got used to Żywie’s wires sooner or later. Strange and perilous as her powers felt, they mended skinned knees and dried runny noses. Sick-days at the New Human Institute were like Armageddon, anticipated with dread and hope in equal measure, but so far always delayed.
Myriad, however, had little need of a medic. She had Maelstrom’s song for that—or Talos’, sometimes. Talos’ song was a much different beast, though, like a euphonium designed for worlds where light had gravity and texture. It would put her back together just fine, but where Maelstrom’s powers offered an escape from physicality, Talos’ powers did all they could to remind her she had a body. One with hydraulic fluid for blood, stirred and forced through copper veins by a turbine where her heart used to be, her every thought etched unerringly onto crystalline substrate. When she changed back, though, she found that she couldn’t visualise anything she’d experienced in that state: only recall abstract data, like lines in a book.
She still preferred it to the wires.
Żywie was not one to just a do a job and get out. She was the medical equivalent of the house-sitter who helpfully rearranged your furniture before you got home. She muttered what to any other child would sound like nothing more than some sort of strange wizard biologist’s spell:
“…Someday I won’t have to re-up your flu immunities every year…”
“…Basil just needs some rest. He always rebounds, eventually…”
“…I know it feels awful, but he means well…”
“…And all done. Everything feel in order?”
Myriad bent and stretched. The only evidence she’d been in any pain was memory. She wasn’t sure why, but that felt like a mixed blessing. She was relieved to have her body to herself again, though. “Yeah. Thank you.”
Her teacher put a hand on her shoulder, very deliberately making sure she couldn’t accidentally brush the skin of her arm or neck. “You were very brave.”
“I was being bad.”
“Yes. But brave, all the same.”
When Myriad left, Żywie found herself needing a moment to collect herself before seeing the next students. Cracking open a window and leaning out for the baby’s sake, she lit herself a dunhill, and tried to watch some of her earlier patients amuse themselves.
Her thoughts kept coming back to Maelstrom and Myriad. Dear God. They both kept the bruises.
The punishment was not administered immediately after the intruders were escorted off the Institute. Days passed as normally as they ever did. Classes were held, meals were eaten, games played, albeit with a kind of rehearsed self consciousness, like public theatre. Lawrence seemed to dote on the children as always.
When the time came, there was little warning.
The children came up to the big house for dinner, only to be greeted by the staff and the oldest students assembled on the veranda, bar Basilisk. Most had sympathy in their eyes; Lawrence, especially.
He also held a long cane, with a smooth stone set into the head.
Myriad and Elsewhere both seized up at the sight of it. The former heard the note of dread that had been playing through her peers’ songs the last few days peak. She did not catch anything that sounded like surprise.
“This hurts,” Lawrence began, his tone low and grave. “Because it must. The young men you brutalised found it in themselves not to press charges, and I’m told the unfortunate Edward Taylor has made a full recovery. However, for me to let this crime go unpunished would be like Żywie not excising a cancer from your bodies.”
Many of the children made noises of resigned agreement. Żywie herself remained stone-faced.
“And the cancer would not only claim you children. Imagine if those boys had told their families and friends about what you did to them. Imagine if kindness and what good sense is left in the hearts of human beings failed the people of Northam, and a mob arose. Imagine this hysteria spreading to Baker’s Hill, or maybe even Perth.” His voice was rising, threatening to become as solid and substantial as the man himself. “Now imagine being dragged screaming from your beds, your home burning. Maybe the babies being dashed against the walls, or the butt of a soldier’s rifle…”
A few of the teachers looked apprehensively at their employer. Therese Fletcher made to step forward, but a warning glance from Mrs Gillespie convinced her otherwise.
Some of the children were already in tears. Lawrence nodded; it meant they were listening. “It would not end with you. Think of your fellow new children, still left rotting in this country’s ‘asylums’. Imagine when they hear the doors of their cells open, think they might taste the sun again… only to be disposed off. Maybe a few will be retained—lobotomised, neutered things—to be aimed at whatever else the Crown wishes to be rid of.”
The sobbing was spreading like an infection among the children. Maybe to Myriad, as well, but it was difficult for her to tell. She was aware of Elsewhere’s hand grasping for hers, though. Somehow, she had a better idea how he felt than how she felt.
Lawrence wasn’t shouting, but he was still louder than most men when they screamed. “You have to be better than us! The world out there is looking for any excuse to snuff you all out. What you did wasn’t only a barbarity, it was calling down genocide on yourselves!”
He gave the children a moment to calm down before continuing. “I know all of you, one way or another, have been wronged by your forebears. I can’t begin to comprehend what it must be like for you, confined when you should be soaring, remaking the world as is every generation’s right and privilege; yours none the least. And I can understand the desire to lash out, especially when confronted by—let’s be honest—voyeurs. But, whether by birth or transformation, you are no longer Homo sapiens, and I would hate for us to infect you with our pettiness as we pass.
“Phantasmagoria, you can come up now.”
The crowd parted for Mabel. She walked up to Lawrence with the steady, determined pace of someone eager to put whatever lay ahead behind her, before turning to face the other children. Though she was looking at the ground, her expression was unmistakably resolute.
“I must stress that Phantasmagoria is to be commended for her attempts to protect the young men.”
Mabel did not contradict him.
“…But she turned her gift on her fellow new humans, and that is not acceptable. Do you accept this, Phantasmagoria?”
“Yes,” Mabel replied, eyes still fixed on the grass at her feet.
“Good. Remove your shirt.”
She complied, dropping her shirt and sweater next to her, along with her glasses. She then tensed completely, her eyes screwed shut and her fists balled at her sides.
Lawrence drew back the cane, high over his head. “Neque hic lupis mos nec fuit leonibus umquam nisi in dispar feris.”
“Is that Latin?” Elsewhere asked, his hot breath tickling Myriad’s ear. “What’s it mean?”
“This isn’t the way of even wolves or lions, who only fight against other beasts,” Myriad whispered back.
Quickly, but clearly, Mabel repeated the mantra back. “Neque hic lupis mos nec fuit leonibus umquam nisi in dispar feris.”
Lawrence struck her mightily across the back. Even knowing it was coming, the pain was so stunning she didn’t even shout, only gasping as she stumbled forward, barely standing. A choked, poorly-suppressed sob, and she was weeping.
Her headmaster stepped aside as she made her way up the front steps, Żywie brushing a finger across her neck once she was on the veranda. From there, Mrs Gillespie took her hand and led her inside.
To Elsewhere and Myriad’s silent bafflement, Maelstrom was called up next. There had been much debate amongst the faculty whether he deserved any kind of punishment. Almost everyone argued against it—but it was hard to make a case when even the boy himself was pushing for it.
He approached Lawrence with a child’s impression of stoicness, turning and removing his shirt without prompting. He stared out at his fellows, who quickly averted their eyes.
“Maelstrom, through inaction, you allowed members of your family to inflict harm on defenceless human beings. Through foolishness, you caused further, grievous harm, before attempting to escape the consequences. Do you accept this?”
Melusine buried her face in Żywie’s shoulder, who drew an arm around her. Whether to her credit or condemnation, the healer did not look away.
“Dum inter homines sumus, colamus humanitatem.”
“As long as we are among humans, let us be humane,” Myriad said under her breath, to no one’s interest. Next to her, Elsewhere’s leitmotif rose in volume, but everything remained where it was supposed to be.
Maelstrom repeated the phrase back quite perfectly. Shortly afterwards, he screamed and fell forward. Gently, Lawrence lifted him back onto his feet, shaking and sobbing. Unused to any great pain persisting for more than a few seconds, he wore it gracelessly even by the standards of children.
Lawrence’s voice was kind as he said, “Just one more time, Maelstrom.”
He nodded, and got back into place. The second time, it was Melusine who picked him up, rushing him inside while whispering in Occitan.
It took a great deal of time to get to Myriad. Most of the children were only made to repeat Maelstrom’s phrase, though Windshear had to utter both. Thanks to a mispronunciation, she ended up receiving three blows of the cane.
Some children reflexively mitigated or deflected Lawrence’s strikes with their powers. This did them little good, as it only reset the count. Abalone suffered the worst from this, his force field earning him five whacks in all. Elsewhere was amazed he could walk afterwards.
For Myriad, fear and sympathy soon gave way to a simple longing for the noises to stop. She wondered if that was how Aleister and Bazza had felt, watching their friend bleed out in the water. In an attempt to distract herself, she tried looking past Lawrence and whichever of her classmates was undergoing penance to the teenagers standing by the teachers.
Linus, Stratogale, Ex Nihilo, and Reverb had been the New Human Institute’s first students, dating all the way back to the 50s, before even Circle’s End. For years they’d pretty much had the run of the place. Well, them and Maelstrom, but he was in a category all his own. Sometimes, Myriad and Elsewhere envied them. Aside from them, there was also Gwydion, a slightly younger boy who’d graduated from preadolescent circles some time ago. As Myriad had learned through experience, he crafted geometric constructs out of nothing in particular.
Stratogale, a heavy-lashed young woman with burgundy hair, was leaning against Linus for comfort. Myriad had no clue why she wasn’t down there with them. Aside from being one of the world’s precious few true flyers, Stratogale had the ear of any and all birds; Myriad doubted that lorikeets had a natural hatred of hippies.
The sun had set fully by the time Myriad’s turn came up. She was after Artume, who’d shrouded the lads in some kind of inviolate darkness into which the children hurled pebbles, while Automata’s thralls grabbed at their ankles.
It had seemed like good fun, at the time.
She moved forward without much input from her conscious mind. It took a moment for Elsewhere to let go of her hand.
She tried not to look at Lawrence as she assumed the position.
“Myriad, I can tell when Britomart is using her powers, and I can certainly tell when you’re using hers.”
She tuned out the warbling, echoing twang of metal strings. Suddenly, she felt very cold, standing there exposed. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s good of you to admit it. That’ll only be one extra strike, I think. Do you understand why this is happening?”
“Dum inter homines sumus, colamus humanitatem.”
She repeated it back to him, shakily, but with no obvious mistakes.
Though the cane came down on her four times, Myriad would only ever remember the first explosion of pain. After that, it was a blur of Latin, the dampness of grass against her cheek, matronly hands guiding her towards the house, and the briefest sting of Żywie’s wires.
When some measure of clarity returned to her, Mrs Gillespie was setting her down in the parlour with the other punished children. Most of them held bowls of ice-cream, trying to decide whether to eat them or press them against their fast developing bruises. Melusine, Maelstrom, and Mabel were huddled together in a corner of the room. Icewater snaked its way up and down the latter two’s backs.
“What’s your flavour, Myriad?”
She blinked, still slightly disoriented from the thrashing. “My what?”
“Ice cream, chook,” Mrs Gillespie said. “You’ve earned it.”
That did not help. “But we’re being punished.”
Mrs Gillespie would have hugged her student, if she hadn’t known that it would only hurt her more. “You were being punished. And you took it like a champion. So, what do you like?”
And so Myriad was left to stew in her confused guilt. Slowly, she moved over to Melusine. Without a word, a watery tendril slithered up her body. She shuddered at its touch, as much from the source of the relief as the sharp cold.
“You alright?” Mabel asked, her voice low.
Drawing in breath to speak hurt, so Myriad kept it short. “Yeah.”
She was being truthful. Sore and beaten as she was, there was something preferable about it to the state of apprehension she’d lived in for nearly a week. Pain was tangible. With time, pain might pass.
Lawrence never spoke again of the three young men from Northam after that night.
The idea of a Watercolours production of The Tempest caught on well with the NHI staff. Some saw it as evidence of a maturation in Phantasmagoria’s creative process—like when a child first realises that a knock-knock joke should only be told to the same person once, if even that. Others just hoped it would serve as a distraction from the recent unpleasantness.
Whatever their reasons, the production now had the school’s official backing. Official backing in this case mostly amounted to a spare bedsheet for them to turn into a banner. So they painted “THE TEMPEST: OPEN AUDITIONS” onto it with strategically reversed letters, and hung it over the barn door. Then they set up a table and chairs, and waited.
Much to Mabel’s well concealed surprise, there were takers:
“Abhorred slave…” Ex Nihilo’s eyes darted down to the battered script she was holding. “Which any print of goodness wilt not take!” A long pause. “—Being capable of all ill! I pitied thee…” Another glance down. “Took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour…”
Mabel peered sideways at Elsewhere through her lensless spectacles. Meeting her gaze, he shook his head. They had not found their Miranda.
“…Who hadst deserved more than a—”
“Um, Ex, you can stop now,” said Elsewhere, hand raised.
Ex Nihilo frowned. She was a blonde, slight-featured girl with green eyes and a song Myriad thought sounded like it was played on a pipe organ built somewhere sound and velocity were the same phenomenon. Perhaps it was the same place the amorphous clay she summoned resided, before it was forced into a state of harsh certainty. Haunt and Windshear claimed that she helped garnish the school’s budget by synthesising expensive industrial chemicals, but she refused to either confirm or deny this, which was all the proof those two needed. Like many youngsters throughout the Commonwealth, her conception of acting was mostly limited to adopting a bad American accent.
“I wasn’t finished.”
“True,” said Mabel, “but you did give us a good idea of your range.”
Elsewhere pointed at Ex Nihilo. “Don’t call us, we won’t call you.”
There was a blinding flash, and the Tempest script fell to the dirt floor.
Elsewhere smirked and blew on his finger like it was a birthday candle. He’d insisted on having a say in the casting process for the play. Partly because doing Shakespeare had been his suggestion in the first place, but mostly so he could do what he’d just done to Ex Nihilo.
In the seat next to him, Myriad looked impressed. “You’re aim’s getting good,” she commented. “It was kinda embarrassing going and getting the book back the first couple of times.”
Mabel tried to keep her eyes from rolling back into her head. She couldn’t remember exactly when Arnold and Allison started using their new human names with her, but it had come as a surprise. Still, they weren’t making a big deal out of her using her given name in private, so she figured she should return the favour. She slumped onto the table, an ellipsis floating above her. “Five auditions, and we’ve only got ourselves a Caliban.”
“Weird Linus went for that one,” Elsewhere said.
“Baddies have more fun,” replied Myriad.
Mabel moaned. “He’s gonna need makeup for sure.”
Elsewhere tapped his chin in thought. “Maybe you could take a monster face and put it over his? Or Ex could make us something to stick on him.”
“I don’t think Ex is going to be doing anything for us, but the first thing might work.” She turned to Maelstrom. “What do you think?”
Maelstrom sat up in his chair, remembering to smile. “Oh, sure. Sounds good.”
Mabel frowned. Her friend had been distant and removed since the night of the caning, like he’d figured out how to become icy while remaining flesh. Before she could say anything, one of Reverb’s favourite voices2 resounded through the barn:
“So, you’re really doing this?”
Reverb was standing in the barn doorway, her lips not moving even as she asked the question. For reasons not even Żywie could figure out, Reverb was completely mute. Given her power over sound, this wasn’t really an impediment. Lawrence liked to say she had more voice than any human. Still, it always made her stand out, even before the superhuman scare.
“No,” said Mabel. “We just put that banner up so we could lure in kids to eat.”
Reverb smiled rakishly. At least, she hoped it was rakish. “Oh, Phantasma, don’t start making those jokes, too.”
Maelstrom looked offended, but Mabel just snorted. “I really hope you aren’t here to audition.”
“I am, actually.”
Normally, working with the Watercolours wouldn’t have had much appeal for Reverb. She’d known Maelstrom since the day he was born, and viewed him as somewhere between a teacher’s pet and a painfully sincere little brother. Phantasmagoria was a bit more fun, but her performances had stopped being cute for Reverb by the time she turned six. Still, the idea of an actual play—with lines and everything—had a novelty to it.
“Who’re you going for?” asked Elsewhere.
“Who’d ya think? There’s only one girl in The Tempest, isn’t there?”
“Not true,” said Mabel. “There’s Sycorax.”
“She doesn’t have any lines,” Myriad clarified.
“Which would actually work out really well for you,” Elsewhere pointed out.
“But we promised the part to Mrs Gillespie already,” added Myriad.
Reverb’s lip curled in frustration. “If you’re done telling me about parts who don’t speak that are already taken, is there anyone I can audition for?”
“Anyone, really,” Mabel said. “Used to be that blokes played everyone in Shakespeare, why not us?”
“Girls,” insisted Reverb.
“Okay, okay, there’s Miranda. She’s the heroine. Bit boring, really, but if you need to be a lady, deal with it. Find some of her lines in the book on the floor and get on with it.”
Reverb picked up the script and flipped through it, looking for a choice monologue. She found very little; this Miranda truly was one of the dullest ladies in all of theatre. She eventually gave up and went with the first long stretch of dialogue she found. The sonorous voice of an English rose permeated the barn:
“O, I have suffered with those that I saw suffer: a brave vessel, who had, no doubt, some noble creature in her, dash’d all to pieces. O, the cry did knock against my very heart. Poor souls, they perished. Had I been any god of power, I would have sunk the sea within the earth or ere it should the good ship so have swallow’d and the fraughting souls within her.”
She tried her best to lip-synch, but she ended up giving the impression that she was struggling to keep up with her own words. Mabel half-expected her to try and warn them about the giant lizard attacking Tokyo3.
“…You sound pretty, but the voice thing is distracting.”
“You should be Ariel! The ghost thing that helps out the wizard, I mean,” Elsewhere suggested enthusiastically.
Mabel lit up at the idea, as did the lightbulb that appeared over her head. “Yeah! Ariel’s supposed to be a boy, but Mrs Gillespie says loads of girls have played him. Think about it. You could just stand there, dead still, but everyone watching hears this creepy voice.” She trilled with delight. “It’d be so weird.”
Reverb sighed and walked over to the table, dropping the script in front of Mabel. An ordinary, teenaged voice said, “I don’t want to be weird.”
Elsewhere watched as she trudged towards the barn door… before banishing her with a flicker of lightning.
Myriad chastised him: “Cheap shot!”
“The best kind!”
Mabel gave him a dirty look. “Great, now she won’t help us with the special effects.”
Elsewhere waved a hand dismissively. “Oh, like we need Reverb to make wave sounds.” He smiled. “Isn’t that right, Maelstrom?”
Maelstrom didn’t answer, his attention devoted to the gaps in the barn ceiling, and the dance of dust the sunlight revealed.
“Um, hello? Earth to Maelstrom? I’m trying to be nice here!”
Maelstrom jerked in his seat. “Oh, yeah, sure Elsewhere, we should do that.”
Elsewhere grimaced and slouched deeper into his chair. “This distraction is going to hurt the production.”
The other boy looked at him contritely. “Sorry. Was thinking about something…”
“You’re still beating yourself up about the thrashing, aren’t you?” said Mabel.
Maelstrom decided lying to both his best friend and a girl who sometimes hummed along with his emotions would be pointless. “…Yes.”
Mabel clucked her tongue. “You always do this. Lawrence says the punishment’s the end of it, but you keep hating yourself for weeks and weeks! Wish he’d just leave you to it.”
“Stop it,” Mabel commanded.
“Being sorry. Stop doing it.” She bent over and fished a poster out of her power-fodder bag. “Here, this might cheer you up. I found it floating around our dorm a couple of days ago.”
It was a flyer for THE LIEROINEN FAMILY CIRCUS in bold, bombastic letters, against the backdrop of a white stag. Beneath that message, a goateed man in a red velvet tuxedo and top-hat stood delighting in the antics of the clowns4, lions, and seals that cavorted around him under the big top, promising MAGIC, BEASTS, STUPENDOUS FEATS, and GLIMPSES INTO TOMORROW.
“Why would that—oh, oh, no.”
Mabel nodded slowly, grinning. “Oh, oh yes.”
Alone in his room, Tiresias sighed and set down his copy of Till We Have Faces5, waiting for the expected knock on his door. It came about a minute later. “Come in if you must, Windshear.”
She bounded into the room, a hessian bag over her shoulder. “Helloooooo, Tiresias.”
Tiresias made a show of looking about his room. “I see no grass, or playground equipment, or even other children. What possible reason could you have for being here?”
Windshear giggled. She doubted it would move Tiresias either way, but it was traditional at this point. “Can’t I just say hi to my favourite teacher?”
“No. I’m pretty sure it’s in the school charter.”
“Okay, what if I was asking you a favour?”
“Depends, why would you do such a terrible thing?”
“Because if Phantasma can paint the barn next month instead of Abalone, then Abalone can clean the nursery on Tuesday, which means I have a way of paying Brit—”
Tiresias threw a hand up. “Enough, enough. Stuff that makes Bertie cry, I get it. What do you need me to do?”
“Well…” She spun on her foot. “The Watercolours and the new kids6 are going swimming on Saturday, and they need someone to watch them.”
“I guess I could do that, if there’s nothing better going on.”
“Cool! And if they aren’t at the river on Saturday… would you still say they were? Just if Lawrence asks.”
Tiresias tilted his head. “Now, I’m not sure how I could make that mistake.”
Windshear smiled and pulled a bottle of Penfolds Grange from her bag. “Because you’ll have had too much of this, you big lush.”
Tiresias leapt from his chair and snatched the bottle from her hand. “You!”
He didn’t answer, being too awed by the bottle’s label. It was the 1955 vintage: a real voice-quieter. “Phantasma didn’t pull this outta one of my catalogs, did she?” he asked, his tone almost reverent.
“Does it look like a drawing?”
That it didn’t. Unless Phantasmagoria had finally cracked photographs, it was the real deal.
“I can get you another bottle on Sunday, if you play along.”
Tiresias wanted to rush up to Lawrence’s office to tell him his search had been over for years—they’d found Homo superior, and she was glorious. He went to shake the girl’s hand. “I think we have a deal, Windy.”
“Windy” let the nickname slide. “Thanks, really helpful.”
“I’m surprised you’re being so nice to Mealy.”
Windshear was heading out the door. “Eh, Phantasma’s alright. And business is business.”
“Business is business,” Tiresias repeated as he returned to his chair. He tried to find the spot in his book where the ugly princess sees the God of the Mountain.
Kids, he thought.
Windshear quickly made her way back outside, hoping she wouldn’t run into Melusine. Business was business, but there was also what Phantasmagoria had said to her under the barter tree:
“…And that was just for shoving him.”
The Watercolours and Their Orchestra rose early that Saturday morning. The only kid who beat them was Artume, but she only slept an hour a week at most, and she asked no questions anyway.
They chatted happily as they showered, luxuriating in the limitless hot water, except for its provider. He fretted with the steam, tying it into strange, ephemeral knots.
“What if someone gets a look at my eyes?”
“Nobody really goes around looking at people’s eyes, Maelstrom,” Elsewhere called from his stall. “Just don’t get into any conversations and you’ll be fine. Even if ya do, what are the odds they’ll recognise you?”
“They’ll recognise Melusine’s eyes,” the other boy retorted, a little bitterly.
“Do you still have those contacts?” Mabel asked. “The ones Z made for you?”
When the Flying Man first made himself known, there were worries at the New Human Institute that he might drive the wolves to their door. Żywie and Tiresias even worried they might be forced to flee. To aid in this eventuality, the healer had coloured contacts made for Maelstrom, that dulled his eyes to an ethnically incongruous but otherwise unremarkable shade of blue.
“I think so, but Lawrence hates them. Says we shouldn’t have to hide what we are.”
Elsewhere laughed. “I bet he also says we shouldn’t run away to the circus!”
“Don’t remind him!” Myriad called back, before laughing herself.
“We’re not even going to be shaped like kids if we get caught so soon after last time.”
The rest of the shower passed more quietly. The contacts were surprisingly easy to find since Maelstrom didn’t actually own that many things. They did the job exceptionally well, even when his eyes were burning bright with power.
“The Physician knows his stuff. They don’t even itch.”
They crossed the river using the same stepping stones as the lads from Northam. They hadn’t noticed the impossibly regular shape of the rectangular stones, or how they were all spaced the precise stride length of an average ten year old.
Once she deemed them a safe distance from the Institute—not far from where Maelstrom and Allison had sported with the clouds, in fact—Mabel set down her backpack. Inside was nearly ten pounds fifty, scrimped and saved from odd jobs in the nearby towns, all done without the aid of their powers, for fear of upsetting the locals. That would more than fund their adventure, but if need came, they always had Elsewhere. After his power’s manifestation, he’d acquired a reputation in Harvey as a thief. An utterly baseless accusation, that merely had the good luck to be true.
“So, how are we getting there?” asked Elsewhere excitedly. “Dragons?”
“I told you, dragons are too obvious,” said Mabel. “We need something stealthy.” She gestured grandly at the bag. “We need a Thoat.”
A slate-coloured horse appeared before them, or at least what a horse might look like to a hippophobe on a three-day barbiturate binge. Long and sleek, it stood on eight great legs like an offspring of Sleipnir. Ten feet tall at the shoulder, its head was almost split in half by its mouth, filled with teeth designed more for intimidation than breaking down food. Its broad, flat tail swished angrily behind it.
“…That’s stealthy?” said Myriad.
Mabel shrugged. “It just looks like a horse from far away. And it’d blend in fine if we were on Barsoom.” She watched the Thoat as it sized the children up, like it was trying to decide whether there was enough meat on them to be worth the effort. I hope the lady who was riding you didn’t fall too hard.
After some persuasion7, they all clambered onto the beast’s back, Mabel in front, clinging to its neck for dear life. Her arms wrapped around his waist, Myriad started playing Maelstrom’s song, hoping she had the reflexes to go icy if she were thrown off.
Mabel thumped the Thoat’s flank. “Hi oh, Silver, away!”
They shot forward, faster than any earthly horse. The children screamed in terror, then exhilaration, then both.
They passed through rain flooded paddocks, magnified by their imaginations into lakes and oceans, sending up great waves and traumatising cattle, as well as one unfortunate farmhand. They chased down wallabies and kangaroos, their mount neighing at them like the Devil’s own steed.
When the carnival’s big top came into sight, Mabel compelled the Thoat to come to a stop. The sun shone down on them past thick grey clouds over the horizon. Overlooking the circus from the hilltop, she felt like Hannibal come again. “We should walk the rest of the way. Unless we want to sell Silver to the freak show.”
The other children dismounted the creature, happy but shaken from the journey. Fun as it was, they would definitely be asking for a more placid mode of transport on the return trip. Mabel dispelled the Thoat back to Mars: not the barren disappointment two Vikings would find, but a world made of dashed dreams and naivety8.
As they walked through the grass towards the carnival, something began to tug at Myriad’s stomach. It got worse as they neared the outermost stalls. Her breathing became quick and frantic. She dug her fingernails into her palms, stopping in her tracks and falling behind her friends, expecting to be hit.
Mabel was busy trying to talk Maelstrom down from his own anxiety attack, but Elsewhere noticed the state Myriad was in. He went to see what was the matter.
“Myriad? Are you okay?”
She shook her head, not looking at him.
She didn’t answer.
“I’m scared, alright?” she blurted.
“Oh.” For whatever reason, he leant in and lowered to his voice to a whisper. “You worried about getting caught?”
She shook her head again. “The air’s empty.”
“…The air’s what now?”
Myriad didn’t expect him to understand. Nobody who didn’t hear the songs could. For over a month, she’d been surrounded by the songs of children like her. At a moment’s notice, she’d been able to turn into mist, or toughen her skin to bronze, or envelop herself in light stronger than steel. Now it was quiet, like in her dreams.
“I’m-I’m… me. And there’s hardly anyone I can be. Anyone that would help, anyway.”
Elsewhere’s brow furrowed. “Oh. So it’s a power thing?”
She sighed. “Yes, it’s a ‘power thing’. At school I can do… most things! Here… even back home, I’m barely a new human. Just some kid who knows stuff.”
Much to Myriad’s surprise, Elsewhere hugged her. They were never really the sort of friends who hugged much. Maybe when they were younger and less self-conscious about such things. Still, he was doing it now, and she reciprocated.
“Allison, you’re the smartest girl I know. You’re so smart you don’t even learn things. And you’ve got us! If any of those naturals over there try something, you can zap them into the sun, or tidal wave them to death, or make the clowns climb out of their posters and… do whatever clowns do to people9.” He pulled away from her, frowning playfully. “Also, this is a circus. Just a few more steps, and you’ll become a trapeze artist, or a magician, or a lion tamer, forever. So stop blubbing.”
Myriad smiled. “Too late!” she shouted as she somersaulted past Elsewhere.
The Lieronien Family Circus was doing very good business that day. Hundreds wandered the fairgrounds, consuming carnival food prepared in dubious conditions, gawking at firebreathers and strongmen, trying to not let their wonder be spoiled by the sideshow performers’ frequent reminders that their amazing feats were all within the bounds of natural human capacity, lest anyone in the audience decide to give the DDHA a ring. Men and boys alike tried to impress their significant others on the high striker, the bell painted with a red and blue diamond10.
It was an odd experience for the children. With three regrettable exceptions, it had been sometime since they’d seen anyone they didn’t know by name. Myriad and Elsewhere had of course been to more than a few fairs and agricultural shows in their time, but neither Maelstrom nor Mabel had much experience with crowds. It suddenly struck Myriad how inane a crowd of human songs sounded after sampling those at the Institute. It was like going from a full orchestra to a tinny, worn out music-box.
They watched children their age running around the petting zoo, chasing alpacas and manhandling rabbits, and felt somehow older than all of them. They then proceeded to join them in harassing the piglets until they were escorted out.
“Me and Maelstrom are going to go get our faces painted, you two in?”
Elsewhere scoffed. “Wait half an hour to sit around another half an hour? I don’t think so. What about you, Miri? We could go see how the talking horse people are faking it.”
Myriad had her head tilted, as if straining to hear something. “Oh, sure… in a bit. Gonna go look at something.”
She wandered off.
Mabel grinned. “We’ll be in line if you change your mind.”
Just like that, Elsewhere was alone. That was okay; he had half the money.
He set off in search of something to do. He considered trying to cheat at some of the games with his powers, but he had no idea how he could do that without being totally conspicuous. He’d had the same problem back in Harvey, and while he’d been thrilled when his flames refined themselves into lightning, it’d only made the issue worse.
He was pondering the possible applications of teleportation in regards to shoot em’ up games when he saw him.
The burly young man was dressed in blue electrician coveralls, and his hair was cut quite severely. A girl in a yellow sheath dress and a passable Jackie Kennedy do was almost hanging off his shoulder as he hurled ball after ball at the target of a dunking booth, above which was suspended a spotty, afroed, tie-dye clad teenager.
“Come on!” he shouted as another ball missed. “You can do better than that! Well, I say that…”
It was something of an irregularity that Bazza was serving as the incentive to dunk. The actual carnival employee who’d been in the position had been struck in the head and nearly drowned. Bazza kindly offered to take over for him, to which the carnie had responded, “I don’t give a shit11.”
Eddie had to admit, he did the job well.
“Belinda, surely you deserve a bloke who can hit a big honking target? Do I have to take your woman from you, Eddie?”
Belinda smirked and purred into Eddie’s ear, “You’re not going to let him get away with that, are you?”
Eddie grunted. “Bazza, if you don’t stop talking bollocks, I’m gonna come over there and hold ya under till the bubbles stop!”
“I still like my chances.”
Eddie unleashed a torrent of threats and borderline obscenities at his friend, mostly centering around him rendering down and smoking him in vengeance for all the plants he’d visited the same fate on.
Belinda laughed. It was good to see her boyfriend enjoying himself. He’d seemed haunted by something ever since that day hike he’d gone on with his mates, but he’d refused to speak of it, and Bazza and Al hadn’t coughed up, either. Not surprising, really. Eddie was the kind of fella who’d only tell you that he was dying after the wake.
Eddie and Belinda both looked down to find a small, nervous looking face staring up at them with grey eyes. “It was Eddie, wasn’t it?”
Belinda thought she saw a look of complete terror pass over Eddie’s face, but it was replaced by perplexment as soon as it registered. “Uh, yes… how did you know my name?”
The little boy looked taken aback by the question. “Bazza told us, remember?”
Eddie looked over at Bazza, who shrugged and mouthed, “I have no clue.”
Belinda tried to figure out where any of them might have seen the child. Is he someone’s little brother? That boy we’re all pretending is Martha Corey’s little brother?
“I guess you never saw me when I wasn’t being… shiny.” Ashamed, he admitted, “I was the lightning-making go away kid. I didn’t get to say on the day, but I’m sorry for what we did to you.”
For a moment, Eddie just stood there, silently mulling the child’s words over in his head. Then, his confusion turned to rage. “Wait, you’re from the freak-farm? What the hell are you doing out here? They letting you out without minders, now?”
The boy cringed. “We snuck out! Please don’t tell, please don’t tell!”
“And what if I do?” A bitter smirk twisted Eddie’s mouth. “Yeah, call the freak-finders and tell em’ Mad Laurie’s not keeping an eye on his monsters!”
The child’s eyes started to water. Belinda stared at Eddie, aghast. “Edward!”
“Jesus, Ed,” said Bazza. “Lay off the kid. He’s probably just playing pretend. Tell a kid there’s a school for supers down the river, what do you think he’s gonna do?”
Elsewhere looked pleadingly at the teenager. “Come on, Bazz, you remember, right?” He forced a smile. “Homo superior and Homo novus?”
Bazza almost thought he did. At least, he remembered remembering, when he’d lit up or when sleep escaped him. He didn’t think, though, that him remembering would do the boy much good. “I’m sorry, mate, I don’t.”
Eddie snarled, “So piss off!”
Confused and hurt, Elsewhere ran off into the crowd. Some of the other fairgoers gave Eddie dirty looks, judging him for either snapping at a clearly ill child, or for risking provoking a demi. Belinda scowled at him. “Well, I hope you’re happy.”
She walked off, not after Elsewhere, but away from Eddie nonetheless. He stood there holding his last ball.
Still perched on the dunk tank’s seat, Bazza decided he needed to comfort his friend. “Eddie—”
It sailed true.
As the song grew louder, so did Myriad’s excitement. A grown up new-human, she thought, grinning at the idea. Lawrence would love to talk to him—I think it’s a him, at least—not sure where we’ll say we found him, but maybe we can get him to say he was out for a walk in the bush. Hope Mabel’s bribe stretches that far…
The song was a fanfare played on a few hundred cornets somewhere with dust instead of air, but Myriad thought she heard structural similarities to Melusine and Maelstrom’s. Some kind of telekinetic, I bet. That she could now make educated guesses about such things pleased her to no end.
The new human was arguing loudly with a cheap trinket vendor. Dressed like an old swagman, including an akubra hat with corks dangling from it, Myriad could only see the back of him. She decided not to beat around the bush.
“You call this gold? It’s a wonder everyone thinks your mob curse people—” The man felt a small hand tugging at his sleeve. He turned around.
“Excuse me—” Myriad went pale.
AU beamed. “Stephanie! You lost your mum?” he said with a Melbournian twang. His smile strongly suggested that Myriad play along.
She nodded slowly, trying not to scream. She remembered what Basilisk had said about the omnipresence of gold. She could probably take him. She had no gold on or in her that she knew of, and the other three were still well within earshot.
She was, however, also eight.
“Yeah. I lost her near the big tent. Will you help me look for her, Uncle Bertie?” She tried to catch the stall-owner’s eye, hoping that an Oriental being her uncle would at least raise some questions, but he seemed quite indifferent.
“Of course! Maybe we’ll get you some fairy floss, too.” He patted her shoulder; she tried not to flinch. “Gotta keep your strength up!”
He took her roughly by the hand. As unpleasant as that development was, Myriad could see an upside. If she needed to, it would be even easier for her to send him away. She even kind of hoped he was taking her somewhere secluded—then he could become the Gatekeeper’s problem. Or the Great Red Spot’s12.
It thus came as something of a disappointment when they actually got in line for fairy floss. “You from the Institute?” AU asked, false cheeriness gone.
Myriad didn’t say anything.
“Look, I’ve been away since you were a baby, at least. Just telling me you’re a student won’t help me murder you or whatever.”
“…How’d you know?”
He sighed. “Because despite clearly knowing who you’re talking to, you’re still scared of someone overhearing us. Also, my mask covers my face because I don’t want to die, you’re too little to remember when I lived in this town, while the DDHA released those photos of me they were all in black and white, and we Chinamen all look the same to most of you white folk. You Institute kids, though, you’d have seen that stupid, bloody portrait a hundred times, and I know who draws the eye. Congratulations on not letting the beard throw you off. It was a lost cause, anyway.”
“So, you’re AU?”
A street flooded by a burst water main. A copper pinned under broken asphalt, shouting into his walkie-talkie about ‘AU’ making his escape. Laughter…
“My mum and dad liked to call me Chen. I suggest you do so. So who’s with you? Fran? Eliza? Bertie himself?”
Myriad tensed up. Inwardly, she told herself off for worrying that the nationally reviled supervillain might dob on her.
Chen grinned knowingly. “Oh, so you ran away. Smart girl.”
“I didn’t run away!”
“Pity. Only way you’re getting out.”
Taking offence seemed redundant given her company, but Myriad did anyway. “Lawrence got me out of McClare!”
“But would he let you leave if you asked?”
“Well, no. But I’m eight. My parents wouldn’t have let me just leave if I said I wanted—” As it often did, the thought of her parents cut her words off.
Chen adjusted the strap of his bag, thinking. “Tell me, are Eliza and Françoise still there?”
“Eliza is Żywie, right? Yeah, they’re both still there.”
“Alberto?” he asked with some distaste.
“Him, too. Basil said you two were mates.”
Chen hesitated, as though unsure how to put what he said next. “…We fell out over a girl,” he said finally.
“Didn’t seem that way at the time. Bugger me, this line’s long. What about Sadie, or Mavis?”
“Jesus, has Bertie gotten that strict about the names? Stratogale and Reverb, girl!”
“Both of them.”
“…They must both be eighteen by now. Tell me, does it seem regular to you for so many grown people to never move out? I’ll tell you one thing, Eliza is a lot older than eighteen.”
“Lawrence says it isn’t safe for us. We have to show the world what we can do for it, first.”
“And how is keeping you all cooped up on his farm playing orphanage going to help with that? Do you think people would be half as frightened of demis if Eliza made their kiddies walk? Or let them see a sunset again? Do you know how many places just in Australia need more rain? But no, Bertie would rather pretend to be Mr. Chips for the rest of his life!”
“Movie. You don’t watch anything good these days, do you?”
They found themselves at the front of the line. “Blue or pink, deary?” asked the fat old man operating the fairy floss machine.
“Well,” said Chen, “are you going to tell the nice man what you want?”
And so “Stephanie” and the supervillain went in search of a bench, each with a stick of spun sugar. For some reason, Myriad had stopped looking so hard for an escape opportunity, or even her friends.
When they finally found somewhere to sit, Chen asked, “Did they tell you why I left?”
“Basil said you just got tired of being at the school.”
He took a bite of his fairy floss and nodded. “That’s pretty accurate,” he said with his mouth full. “Did he also tell why that was such a terrible thing? Because I’ve been wondering about that for nearly nine years.”
Myriad had no answer.
“I guess that’s a no.” He shrugged. “How’d you like to see my power in all its glory?”
Her soul ached for it, truth be told, but Myriad still shook her head. “Someone will see us!”
“Look, we’re in the middle of a crowd. I could start asking you what furniture you’d prefer in my dungeon, and nobody would care,” he said as he pulled a bulky, gold plated, cigarette lighter from his traveler’s satchel. He handed it to Myriad. “Hold it close if it makes you feel safer.”
It was a heavy thing, almost too big for her hand. As she watched, lines started forming in the gold. The lines formed pictures, like an Etch A Sketch for only the richest of children. The illustration they created was of a small Oriental boy next to what was unmistakably Lawrence. “I knew Lawrence for over twenty years. The man was practically my dad since I was seven.”
Lawrence was suddenly gone, replaced by a Chinese man and woman standing to either side of the boy. “My parents were good people. Both born here, you know. Funny, isn’t it? A bunch of whitefellas can come over, kick around the actual Australians, and now suddenly they’re Australian enough to tell the first lot what they can and can’t do. A bunch of Chinese wander over to pan for gold and lay down railways, though, and they’re still Chinese even when their grandkids can’t speak the language. My folks tried to keep me safe, but the things I can do attract the worst kind of crooks—” Some very Fagin looking figures appeared in the gold. “— and they had five other kids to think about. And Lawrence seemed like an okay sort. Rich as sin, too, which helped. I hope he’s still sending them money. Anyway, the two of us spent a while going up and down the country, looking for people like me. Found a couple, too, but Lawrence let them be. A girl who can read any language can only get into so much trouble. I hear she works at Oxford, now.”
Now the Fagins were replaced by a bespectacled young woman pouring over Egyptian hieroglyphs.
“Eventually, he decided we needed to broaden our search, and we headed for Europe… in 1938.”
Ward Bond on top of Adolph Hitler, in the act of shaving his moustache13.
“Oh indeed. After the war broke out, Laurie kind of took it on himself to make sure the Krauts didn’t get their hands on any of us high-supers. They found Eliza, you know. Were calling her Freyja or some rubbish.”
A young Żywie, atop a mighty winged steed, clad in Valkyrie armour. In spite of everything, Myriad giggled. Chen’s expression remained sobre, though.
“I’ll give Lawrence one thing, if he didn’t steal her out from under them, I doubt either of us would be sitting here.” Mighty Żywie was succeeded by a muscular man in an all covering, skin tight suit with one wing, holding a small girl. “Then the Crimson Comet—”
“You knew Comet?”
“… Yes. This was before he marched on Berlin with all the others. He gave us Fran to keep safe after he rescued her from the old bastard who made her. That man did things that don’t bear repeating with company under a hundred and eight.” The Crimson Comet and the young Melusine-to-be were swept away in favour of a sullen little boy. “Then there was Alberto. The local repubblichinos were using him to round up even private dissidents. Damn near depopulated his village by the time we got there.”
A rapid succession of images passed over the lighter’s surface, none lingering for long. A black teenager huddling under a slapdash shelter. Hitler swinging from a noose to the cheers of Red Army soldiers. What might have been a younger Mrs Gillespie searching through rubble. A girl AU used to fancy in town. The Institute. The lighter went smooth again.
“There’s a lot more to tell, but I doubt you have days to listen. In the end, I just wanted my own space. And Lawrence had some odd ideas about demis I couldn’t abide by. He has a lot of those, really, but he likes having us all close by too much for them to come to anything. This one, well… it kept everyone close to home.”
“If you wanted to be left alone, why’d you start stealing gold?”
He was quiet for a while. “… I thought I could make better use of it. Had a hell of a pressie in mind for Bertie.” Another image appeared on the lighter: Lawrence drowning in a vat of molten gold. “Did you bring any friends with you?”
Myriad hesitated, which gave Chen all the answer he needed. “How many?”
Why not tell him, she thought. Then he’ll know we’ve got strength in numbers. “Three. Elsewhere, Phantasmagoria, and Maelstrom.” She hoped the names sounded fearsome.
“Teleportation, illusions, and… storms?”
“Water stuff,” corrected Myriad. “Maelstrom’s Melusine’s son.” She reckoned if he knew Melusine as well as he claimed, that would give him pause if he decided to try something.
And indeed, he suddenly looked much less at ease. “Melusine has a kid? With who?”
He stared out into space for a while. Finally, he turned to to look Myriad right in the eyes. His own were a rich brown, flecked with gold around the iris. Just fatty tissue, came an unbidden bit of secondhand knowledge. Probably.
“What’s your name, girl?”
“Myriad,” she replied, almost automatically.
He leant in closer. “What’s your real name?”
He pulled a pouch out of his satchel. “Look inside,” he said, with some urgency.
She did. Inside was gold, lots of it, in the form of pence coins and even some stiff, glinting pound notes. “What’s this?”
“Money made into better money. I want you to take it. And then I want you and your friends to never go back to that place, for your own good. You can probably trade the coins and notes at any gold dealer or pawn shop you find. They don’t ask many questions. Some places might even take it as is. Rampage across the countryside for all I care. Stuff yourselves with sweets until you explode, whatever suits. Just don’t go back to the Institute. It might not be there for long.” He stood up. “I would like to say I hope we see each other again, but that’s not true.” He picked up his bag and started to walk away. “Goodbye, Allison. Don’t tell anyone I was here.”
“What are you going to do, Chen?” she called after him. “What’re you going to do?”
He gave no response but a joyless smile as he disappeared into the throngs of baselines.
Myriad found a secluded spot behind the portable toilets to zap the bag of gold beneath some hay in the barn. It might have been wiser to simply throw it in a bin, but even if gold were worthless, it was hard to part with anything so strange.
Trying to ignore Chen’s song as it fell away from her perception, she soon found the others again. All of them—even Elsewhere, who looked anxious about something—had gotten their faces painted, and insisted she did, too. She didn’t mind; it gave her time to think.
The tiger, the fish-monster, the elephant, and the eagle were making their way towards the edge of the circus, ready to head home, when a loud, strident voice caught their attention:
“Come one, come all, step right up! Bask in the presence of the one, the only, the Singular Elsa! She who can unravel the Fates’ thread, she who sees all the River’s myriad branches!” The barker, unmistakably the man on the poster, stood in front of a silk tent, too fine for such a frankly rinkadink carnival, effortlessly tossing and catching a jewel topped staff into the air as he spoke. His song was odd. Quieter than most, and somewhat discordant, like it was pieced together from many others, but nothing exactly superhuman to Myriad’s ear. He pointed at the four children. “You four young ones look like the focus of a great destiny! Why not come inside and let the Singular Elsa unveil it for you?”
The kids looked at one another. Mabel and Maelstrom seemed eager to try it, and Elsewhere and Myriad both needed a distraction. Harvey had been home to an ex-medium, so the latter was quite familiar with the art of cold reading. Still, she could appreciate the facade.
“Sure, we’ll bite,” said Elsewhere, as they made their way towards the tent’s mouth.
“As foretold by my mistress this very morning,” the barker intoned. The children paid him no mind.
Perhaps they should have.
1. “Don’t you see? Colour is just music for our eyes. The universe is a guitar and we’re all just its strings… no, wait, we’re piano keys. That’s why everything’s so sad sometimes…”↩
2. A combination of French and Slavic accents too perfect to ever occur in nature.↩
3. Japan is of course one of the world’s biggest hotspots for kaiju attacks, alongside Nevada and Kazakhstan. However, Queensland—due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean—does experience some incursions. In the 1980s, the Queensland state government, with the assistance of Japanese advisors, would set up an anti-kaiju taskforce. ↩
4. Thus proving he feared neither man nor God.↩
5. He’d actually borrowed it off Melusine. ↩
6. The status of “new kid” was one that could stick to a child for years at the New Human Institute.↩
7. Employing such well honed arguments as “Come oooooooon!” and “It’s friendly, I swear!”.↩
8. Mars would one day host life, but that’s another story.↩
9. Unspeakable things.↩
10. The idea had caught on in circuses and fairs the world over. Although some carnies complained of a man in a baseball cap sending the puck flying into the upper atmosphere, before grinning and walking away. ↩
11. And neither did Health and Safety.↩
12. Who they say throws the best parties.↩
13. AU would always maintain that no shot in cinema could ever surpass that one. ↩