The following entry contains discussions that include kidnapping, human trafficking, torture, slavery, death… And capitalism.
READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
A brief, uncomfortable hush fell over the cul de sac as Lizzie’s words sank in. “When you say sold,” began Matteo, cutting through the tension to get straight to the point. “Do you mean they’re traded for goods?”
Lizzie shook her head, but it was Lori who answered: “What’s with you angels? If we meant somethin’ else, we’d say somethin’ else. Bandits don’t trade, that’d give different goods the same value. We buy and sell with money.”
The angels and demons still in attendance all swapped appalled looks and began muttering amongst themselves when a bolt of lightning touched down between Tony and Alexa.
“What’d I miss?” asked Chris.
“Bandits use money to buy and sell things, and they have markets where they sell kidnapped colonists,” Tony relayed in a disturbed tone.
The porter’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head. “Dude, seriously? They use actual money? I knew they were evil–”
Alexa smacked Chris’ shoulder and gestured to the small group of humans. He cleared his throat and rubbed the spot she had hit. “Oh, uh, no offense.”
Hank frowned. “No what?”
Lizzie bit her bottom lip. Reminds me of my first night here. “He means he hopes you aren’t upset by what he said.”
Her little brother shrugged off the teleporter’s outburst. “Oh, nah. You good, man.”
“Wait–why are you more upset over them using money than the fact that they kidnap people and sell them for Jove-knows-what?” Frankie probed the younger man.
“Capitalism is evil,” Chris shuddered and stared dead ahead, prompting the advisor and psychic to shake their heads in disappointment.
Chris Sr. shrugged at Aldo’s side. “Shit, I mean, kid’s got a point.”
“Not the time,” Desideria said in a sing-song voice.
“Yeah, moving on from all that weirdness…” Monty grumbled as he turned back to Lizzie. “Why is it important that Charlotte and Nashville are markets?”
“Think about it,” she urged him. “That’s where we’ll find the most weapons, stolen goods, and kidnapped colonists. We take the markets, we take away a considerable chunk of their firearms, blades, and recruits.”
Monty tensed up. “Recruits?”
Lizzie nodded. “Not everyone they kidnap is sold to be a sex slave or laborer. They torture the stronger ones until they’re broken, and then they offer them a way out of the hole they’re in. They convert them into killing machines that are so far gone, they don’t care if they themselves die.”
“And here I thought this conversation couldn’t get darker,” the prince sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. When he finally peeked over at his partner, she offered him an apologetic half-smile.
“Sorry, babe. It’s just how the world is.”
“Wait, so you’re suggesting we attack the markets before we go after any other bandit camps?” Benji clarified. When Lizzie nodded, the demon scratched their chin absentmindedly. “While that could work, we’ll need to consider that each market will have more bandits than any stronghold–and they’re only about four hundred miles apart, so we’d need to find a way to close off all routes between the two so that bandits from one can’t run off and warn the other before we swoop in–”
“Oh! That reminds me,” Tawni interrupted, leaning forward so as to gaze over at the Peter siblings. “How do bandits communicate with each other? Have they caught onto the whole smartphone trend my mom and I brought back?”
Lizzie turned her head in time to see her brother and sisters shake their heads. “Nope, no phones or computers or any of the tech y’all use. If you gotta say somethin’ to someone, you gotta drive or run,” said Maggie.
Tawni pouted. “Well, shit. I can’t track ‘em if they’re off the grid…” Then she, Benji, and Gabby all smirked at Koji. “Guess it’s all on you.”
He grinned back mischievously. “Leave it to me.”
“That reminds me,” Monty cleared his throat, regaining control over the meeting. “Can you four tell me about your abilities?”
Benji nodded and stepped forward, their expression as calm as always. “For those of you who don’t know, I’m Benji Hall. My power is hypercognition; I have enhanced tactical instincts, adaptive learning, and I can remember everything I see and hear.”
“Whoa! Wish I had that,” Chris whispered far-too-loudly. “I’m always losing shit.”
“Dude, I will lose my shit if you don’t shut the hell up,” Connor threatened in a low growl, eliciting a series of giggles from the court.
Tawni stepped up to stand level with her sibling, who returned to their original spot and reclaimed their soul mate’s hand. “Hi! Tawni Hall. I’m a technopath and a cyberlinguist, which means I can speak to and control all forms of technology. The later the tech was built, the easier for me to communicate with.”
She stepped back as Koji stepped forward, his hands in the pockets of his hoodie.
“Koji Dimaculangan. I can possess any animal, but only one at a time, and my current time limit is eight minutes. When the timer goes up, I’m booted out of the animal I was possessing, and I’ll need a few minutes before I can possess another. My current record is three animals back to back before I have to rest.”
Koji was about to step back when Monty held out his arm. “Hold on, I want to try something.”
The prince then focused his attention on his right arm, and one of his tattoos peeled off his skin, jumped to the ground and grew until she was of the appropriate size. Her black, brown, and reddish coat made Lizzie smile to herself.
“See if you can possess my animals,” he proposed to the demon.
Koji nodded and knelt beside the fox, his hand poised to pet her. She did not move; Leah sat on her haunches as if she were frozen stiff, allowing the teenager to place his hand on her head.
It only took a second for him to retract his hand. “Nah, there’s no consciousness to possess. Plus, when I’m possessing an animal, I’m living as them–or, I guess I should describe it as I’m using their body to live. Your animals aren’t alive, so I think possessing them would kill me.”
Monty sighed. “Fair enough. I’m sure we’ll find a way to use your ability with real animals–there’s not exactly a shortage of them between here and Charlotte.”
Koji returned to his spot beside Tawni, and Gabby was stepping forward when Leah did something that surprised the spirits in attendance; she walked away from Monty and hopped into Lizzie’s arms.
“Oof–!” Lizzie nearly had the wind knocked out of her as she caught the canine creature, but she recovered quickly and scratched the fox behind her ears. “Hi, Leah! Missed me?”
Leah yipped and licked the human’s face before nuzzling her neck. Lori grimaced with disgust. “Ugh! How can you let that thing lick you?”
“Aw, she’s just giving me kisses,” mused Lizzie, hugging the fox tighter. She buried her face in Leah’s shoulder and breathed in the familiar scent wafting off her coarse fur. She smells just like Monty.
Alexa barked out a laugh, only to cover it up with a cough. Desideria snickered from between her soul mates, prompting the men by her sides to gaze down at her questioningly. Most surprising of all was how Gabby giggled as she resumed stepping forward, her eyes scanning the Iuppiter Court.
“I’m Gabby Moore, the psychic for the Semes Tribe. My powers are telepathy and pyrokinesis, though I’m better at hearing others’ thoughts than I am at starting fires with my mind. My current telepathic range is two hundred miles. I look forward to working with you all!”