The White Rose of Fiorazzurro
Chapter 14 (or, "The Energy Binders")
Adam Gutschmidt had always had blue hair. It had nothing to do with him as a person. It was just the way he had been born.
He stretched out on the rooftop of his villa and watched the sun as it began to dip below the horizon. Today had been a particularly busy Threeday spent in town, taking care of a few business transactions and then meeting a potential new client for lunch. dressed in his suit and tie, all up to the nines, he had swiftly dispatched any worries the client had had about his services and had booked them clean through until the next year. to reward himself, he had stopped by the deli restaurant on the street and had picked up a sandwich to eat.
This was particularly special because, unlike other people, Adam Gutschmidt hardly ever ate anything. Sure, he ordered food so that he could give the illusion that he ate food like everybody else, but he either ate it in small quantities or he would say it was for later. In those instances, he often saved it for his wife and three kids, even going so far as to buy huge quantities for them to eat so he wouldn't have to worry about it.
With every breath he took, Adam felt more at home up here. The life he had built was nothing like the life he had once been accustomed to living, but ever since he had signed the contract, he had been successful in his work life. The new life the government and Queen Cendrillon had given him. He had no intention of going back to thew ay things had used to be. Even though he still needed magic on a day to day basis to survive, that didn't mean he had to continuously shove it in others' faces. It was his secret, much like his reasoning behind his blue hair.
He could hear his wife downstairs taking care of the children, all young. They were too young to remember the old days, when he had walked the streets of Fiorazzurro City and had sold his talents to anybody on the street. Magic giveaway, they called him, among other words worse than that, words he would never dare repeat around his children. Let them think what they wanted. He would continue to stay here, his secrets locked away for all eternity.
You could either be who you truly were and suffer the consequences, or stay low and continue to live. Losing Heather had taught him that. He still remembered the look on her face when the Queen's guard had executed her, the pit in the middle of his stomach that told him to do something but had stayed completely straight as an arrow.
He had always been able to call forward the energy that gives all things on this world life and direct it to where it needed to go. Long ago, he was called an energy bender, healing people with a touch of his hand and diverting energy from plants and other sources of life to assist them, and doing the opposite to help flowers and new plants grow. These days, he used these skills as a salesman to help with electrical energy flow, installing new conductors in businesses so they could continue running. The technology was new, but Adam was not a rookie to using energy in magic ways. Electricity was just a way that energy could be harnessed to the working public without it being called magic. That as how he had found his new life's calling, and how he had amassed his millions of bits. It was as simple as that.
He had been keeping an eye on his kids to see if they exhibited the signs of an energy bender. Those signs usually manifested themselves early, as a child with the power would conduct energy on their own without even realizing that they were doing it. His new wife had no clue of his past, only that his hair was blue because of some sort of fluke. His two oldest children were fine, but he had his questions about his son, who had the same blue hair he did. He would put it off as long as he could, but eventually he would need to have the boy tested for magic. And then? He would probably have him sent to boarding school on the mainland. He didn't want to see his son die for something he had been born inherently into but two year olds couldn't hide that, and if he was off the island he stood a better chance of surviving. He would also need to find time to do it when his wife wasn't watching.
He would come up here for his meals, taking energy from the sun, from peoples' worries, from the horses that trotted down the street taxi-ing people to and from their jobs, from the kids playing in the street in their development. These houses hadn't been on Fiorazzurro five years ago, but Cendrillon had cleared out the old, dirty buildings once inhabited by other magic users such as himself and had built these sprawling lots in their place. He still remembered how, as part of his bargain deal, he had used his magic to grow grass and trees here as if they had been here for years. Using magic for the Queen in order to keep from being locked up, or worse. What could he do? He couldn't forgive himself for what he had done to Heather; now he just had to stay quiet so his new family could survive.
Satisfied, he exited the roof and went down two levels to the exquisite parlor. The twins Mariann and Roberta were playing dolls underneath the lamp, which was about to turn on. He could hear his wife sitting next door, working on her needlepoint. The maid was making dinner. But where was Jonathan?
"Cornelia," he asked, his voice ringing through the hall, "have you seen Jonathan?"
His wife answered back from the next room. "I haven't, dear. I thought he was with you."
Panic swept through him. He elected not to stay in the parlor, and also decided the other servants could wait. He took off for the bedrooms, wondering if Jonathan could be there. How many times had he told his wife that their children could not be left alone like this? He opened the doors, but the bedrooms were empty. So was the bathroom and the reading parlor.
He was about to give up when he heard a noise coming from the radio room. He paused, then opened the door. Jonathan was sitting by the radio, which was powered on, listening to a strange song coming out of it. The song sounded like an old national anthem, but with static behind it.
Adam had just enough time to register that it was before the electric hour before the volume increased.
He rushed forward and grabbed Jonathan, feeling the static that came with grabbing an energy bender while they were working their magic. No. He couldn't let Jonathan stay here. His wife would find out, and then it would be all over. Any thoughts of sending his son to a boarding school were out of the question. What would he do?
The radio crackled to life again, spitting out a message that came in loud and clear. "The survival strategies have started. Please transfer to Strada Pianure Bianche. Again, the survival strategies have started. Please transfer to Strada Pianure Bianche."
What? That was clear on the west side of town. The radio shouldn't even be broadcasting at this time of night yet!
"Papa," Jonathan said, clinging to his father's waistcoat, "Papa, owie."
He held Jonathan close. "I know there's an owie. What hurts. Your fingers?"
Jonathan nodded, his eyes beginning to tear up.
Adam knew that an energy bender's fingers tingled with electricity whenever they called on the powers that be. "Okay. I promise I'm going to fix it. I'll make it so that there is no more owie, okay?" What kind of message was this? Go to Strada Pianure Bianche? Survival strategies?
Then, it got personal, speaking in Adam's original German. "Mr. Gutschmidt, if you want to find forgiveness for what happened with Heather, please transfer to Strada Pianure Bianche and take your son with you." Then, the radio died, sputtering out o life.
Adam was shaking. Who was talking to him? How had they found out? It had to be Queen Cendrillon putting out a broadcast for his arrest. This happened sometimes -- an evening broadcast was interrupted by a call to look for somebody who was wanted by the police. And this time, it was happening not only to him, but to his son.
He scooped Jonathan up into his arms, running back to his room. He grabbed his briefcase and his top hat, then picked up the telephone and told the operator to dial for the cab company. Within fifteen minutes, a horse and buggy was waiting outside his front door. He told his wife that he was headed downtown for a last-minute meeting, then smuggled a thankfully quiet Jonathan out of the house and into the buggy.
"To Strada Pianure Bianche," he said, not knowing what he would find there.
The buggy took off at a nice clip, and Adam watched his house fade into the distance, replaced by other mansions and peaceful farms. The city came up quickly, tall buildings shadowing the people who lived in them. Adam closed his eyes, arm around a now sleeping Jonathan, and remembered a day when these same style of buildings used to be in his neighborhood. Heather and he had lived in one of those buildings once upon a time, sharing a small studio while he worked on his energy bending and she built her magic wands.
That was before the plague, before Cendrillon had found them, before he had signed his life away. And he could sign his life away. But he couldn't sign for Jonathan, and he wouldn't let the government get him.
They went through the heart of Fiorazzurro's busy hub, passing several businessmen, women who sold themselves as their trade, hooligans out for a night of fun before Tenday and a break. Adam stayed rock still inside the buggy, hoping that nobody would notice that it was him and Jonathan in the buggy. There was no other way to get to Strada Pianure Bianche except to go through the heart of the city. Curse whomever had built Fioazzurro this way.
They followed the streets until they got to the west side, then to the outskirts, and the cab driver pulled the horse over right at the subway stop near the Strada. Adam paid the man the fare, hoping that he could not be recognized with a top hat on his blue hair, then stepped out, carrying Jonathan with him. Now where to go? The message on the radio had said to go to Strada Pianure Bianche, but where? Were the police waiting for him here? No, he had come here to escape. Perhaps it had been too much of a hope. Maybe he was here to give up his son in exchange for forgiveness for what happened to Heather.
Heather. Nobody had mentioned her name for years, and now, she was being spoken of on the radio. If only she could see how she was being remembered by their sham of a government.
He turned. This was no police officer, but a hooligan, a boy of few years with jet black hair and a pageboy cap on. He wore a dark shirt with pants that had not been ironed in several days. "Have you brought your son?"
"I have brought your son. What of him?"
The boy reached out his hand, and Adam found he could not turn away. When the boy touched his son on the shoulder, Adam felt Jonathan become lighter as all of the excess energy he had been keeping inside of him released out into the other boy. Adam gaped at the stranger. "Are you an energy bender, as well? I thought all of them had been chased out by the Queen."
"We had been. And I'm not exclusively an energy bender." Daisy moved her cap so that her ears were visible to the man. "My name is Daisy. Are you tired of Queen Cendrillon and her manic ways?"
Adam searched for the right words to say. Not only a girl, but a faerie? He thought they had died out years ago. "I signed the contract to keep myself safe...but my son...he...he's exhibiting all of the signs, and I don't know what to do."
"They'll start looking for you as the revolution builds. You and your son are best off staying with us for the time being. Soon enough, we'll need all the help we can get. Do you know anybody else who can use magic?"
"A few of my old contacts work with me, but they all signed contracts like I did."
"We'll need all of them to meet with us. If they refuse to help us, I should be able to wipe their memories so they have no memory of us even meeting." Daisy smiled. "You and your son are safe here, Adam. I promise. Welcome to the Survival Strategists."