It goes without saying that life as we know it changed that day, February 17th, roughly ten years ago. There are children alive now who have known nothing but the existence of people with the ability to wholly change who they are, what they are, and are yet still human in a core sense. There are those among us, both with and without the incredible powers of the Children of Loki, who question that fact, that they are still human. In this revised edition I hope to clarify why they are in fact, still human.
Excerpt from the introduction to "The Book of CoL: Second Edition" by Doctor Rose Hailu.
"I can't believe you still haven't moved yet," Melanie says while leaning against a full pallet of water.
We're supposed to be working as a team to unload the truck, but the forklift has been down thanks to a bad battery for a couple weeks now. We have two pallet jacks to get the job done but are taking our time, anyway.
It would be suspicious if we finished the job too quickly.
Mel knows I can deadlift each two thousand two hundred pound pallet no problem and is just killing time with small talk.
"I don't know where I'd move to," I say with a shrug before looking at my watch. It's only been ten minutes since we were sent to unload the truck. I've already put one pallet on the jack and decide to wait a bit longer so the manager doesn't ask questions about the extent of my abilities...or assign us extra work.
The last thing I want is to be stuck with nothing but the heavy lifting at work. I'm doing a lot of it already with the forklift broken. It's just so boring.
"Page," Melanie begins softly. "You've had all your shit packed since before Young-Mi and I got married. That was over a month ago."
I can't exactly tell her she's wrong. Most of my belongings are still in cardboard boxes in the living room waiting for me to decide what to do with myself. I've been wearing the same five outfits the last month, two of which are my work uniforms. I had three uniforms but one of them...broke.
"The lease isn't up for another couple weeks," I say. "So, I was just going to wait a little longer to find a place."
Melanie rolls her eyes then sighs. "Come on, Page. You're one of the most indecisive people I've ever met."
"I can't help it," I reply while glancing at my watch. I refocus on the task at hand. "I should push this in so we can get back to work. You're probably getting hot sitting in the back of this truck with me."
Melanie takes a couple steps away from the water pallet and gives me a quick hug. "Young-Mi and I are worried about you, Page. I know you think you're invincible but no one really is."
I return the hug gently. "Thanks, but I'll be alright."
We part and I head to the pallet jack. Mel jogs up the ramp onto the loading dock. It would be great if the concrete dock and the truck's metal ramp lined up but they don't making it an uphill battle for whomever's unloading.
Someone who's not me, at least.
She gives me a thumbs up and I strengthen my body enough to easily slide the full load of water up the ramp and onto the loading dock.
Melanie goes ahead of me again to make sure no one's in the warehouse area. On her signal I push the water into the building and straight to the older pallets. We have several more to unload so I quickly offload the water and revert my added strength back to my Basic form. It can be all too easy to cause an accident if one isn't careful, especially if someone doesn't know I've done anything to alter myself. If anyone had been watching us they would have only seen us talking, then me push over a ton of weight using a jack a lot more easily than should be normal with no visible changes to my appearance.
"This could go a lot faster if you just picked them up by hand, you know," Melanie teases as we head back to the truck.
"It's too much of a hassle for so many reasons," I reply. "These things are kind of bulky."
"Can I ride the next one?" Melanie asks.
"No." I laugh a little as she opens the doors while pouting.
Everything in the truck is as we left it. Just tons and tons of water waiting for us heavily. Loading the pallets onto the jack isn't that hard. You just have to make sure you know which direction you're going so you don't crack the pallet itself. Damaging the product is another reason I'm not just picking these things up and carrying them by hand to the warehouse.
The main reason I don't do it, however, is that Melanie's the only person at work who really knows I'm a CoL.
It's not exactly a secret but also not something I advertise. People can get weird when they find out.
"You could move to Austin," Melanie says. "Your sister and mom live near there, right?"
"I have thought about it," I reply while leaning against the water. "She wanted to take care of Mom on her own. We both thought it best I keep my distance and all. I mean, I still send them money and stop by whenever she asks but..."
"I get it...strokes are hard," Mel replies.
"What are you two doing?"
We both turn slowly. Our manager is standing on the loading dock with his hands on his hips. He's a balding middle aged man who's friendly with the staff and kind to customers. As far as bosses go he's not bad. He doesn't look pleased to have found us idly chatting.
"Mr. Brim!" I say with a smile. "We were taking a short break."
He doesn't look convinced. He didn't know I'm a CoL until the fork lift broke and Melanie made a joke about it not being a problem for the day shift. Which lead to some explaining on my part. He crosses his arms and narrows his eyes.
"You're needed up front," Mr Brim says.
Melanie and I exchange a confused glance.
Is there a problem? I wonder.
"There's someone asking about you. He's a detective. Is this something I should be concerned about?" Mr. Brim asks.
"Not that I'm aware of," I say.
I can't think of any detectives I really know. I've met a few over the years but that isn't the same as knowing someone. A couple years ago I took some courses and tests to get my private investigator license, clearing me to use my powers for investigations. I haven't used the license but it's up to date so technically I am a detective, myself. I am technically a lot of things.
"Good. Please, take care of it and then you can get back to unloading the truck," he says. He turns to Mel. "Melanie may be able to do some of it while you're busy. Or you can just make up the time when you get back from the front of the store."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Brim," I say. "I'll unload this pallet then head to the front."
"I get that you want to be normal," Mr. Brim says. "But it would really help everyone if you applied yourself more."
"Sorry," I say.
"No, don't apologize," he replies. "I also understand why you haven't used your powers here. It makes sense to do the job you were hired to and not more. You'd probably put everyone else here out of work, right?"
I wince at his words. He doesn't even know what class of CoL I am. I don't want to tell him. Since he found out he's been waffling between being extra supportive and visibly uncomfortable.
"Well, maybe not exactly," I say. "But you know how people get around CoLs."
"Sorry about the lift being broken," Mr. Brim says. "We really are trying to get someone to come down and fix it. The batteries are backordered. Just, unload this pallet, then get to the front. The detective who was asking for you is waiting near the customer service desk. If it looks like this is going to be a problem would you please take whatever conversation you're about to have with him outside?"
He asks it as if I'm going to blow up at him. He's been uncomfortable before but this is the first time I've seen him show any fear of me. It hurts to see.
"I'm sure it wont be bad, but I can talk to him outside just in case," I reply.
"Good, good," he says, relaxing a bit. "I am gonna ask you to hurry, though. I think he was trying to hit on Karen."
"Oh shit, I need to save him then," I reply with a laugh.
I strengthen my body and roll the pallet up the ramp onto the loading dock. Melanie follows me a bit but hangs back to talk to Mr. Brim while I push the water into the warehouse, unload the pallet jack, then return to my Basic state. There's a detective at the front of the store who's in for a bad time if I don't get him away from Karen. That woman is relentless.
I keep trying to work out what a detective would want with me. Sure, I have a P.I. license but it's just one of many things I got cleared to use my powers for and never followed up on. I helped a few different federal and state entities determine out how to license a Child of Loki for a bunch of different things. I still had to take the test to get a license myself, of course.
My collection of licenses is pretty extensive, come to think of it. I can work heavy construction if I want. Or deep sea salvage among other things.
On my way to the front of the store I nod and smile to a few regular customers and wave to coworkers, carefully noting which ones know of my powers and which don't. Most do not and I'd like to keep it that way. As I said, Mr. Brim has only been a bit awkward since he found out but I've seen people react far worse.
I spot a tall Asian American man with short brown hair that's been slicked and styled like an old-timey greaser standing by the customer service desk.
He's in his thirties, about my age, and is wearing a long trench coat over a rumpled dark brown suit with a popped shirt collar. He's giving Karen a grin as she speaks. He's very handsome so I don't even need to read Karen's lips to know what she's saying: the same line she uses on any hot guy who walks into the store.
The man notices me as I approach, completely ignoring Karen after that. She's irritated, sees me, then shrugs it off before going back to work at her desk. I really do not want Karen to learn I'm a CoL. I don't think I could handle that, at all.
"Page Simmons," the man says loudly.
"That would be me," I reply.
"Sweet! Look, listen—" he begins.
I cut him off, "Can we go outside to talk?"
If this guy does wind up being some sort of problem I can always pick him up and hold him in the air outside while I wait for the police to arrive.
Sure, everyone in town would learn I'm a CoL but at least he wouldn't cause any problems for the customers. Then I'd just have to worry about Karen hitting on me at work from then on out. I shudder a bit at the thought. It's not that she's a bad person it's just that she is a lot sometimes and I am far too asexual for her.
He glances around for a moment, pauses, tilts his head, and then nods. "Okay, okay, cool. Outside it is."
I lead the detective to the picnic tables under a tree in the parking lot. It's an old oak that's been there much longer than the store has.
If I have to do anything drastic I will do my best not to damage the tree. A friend of mine would kick my ass if I hurt it.
"What's going on?" I ask. "Why is a detective asking for me?"
"I need an expert," he replies quickly. Then he makes a face like he's chewing on a dictionary to find his words. "Okay, look, so, my name's Detective Windgate and I took a case about a missing dog, right?"
I nod. "Okay?"
"Except when I get there, it's not just a missing dog, that was just a pretense to get a detective to show up," he continues. "This rich family's dog was stolen but at the same time their son became a CoL."
"So what?" I reply with a shrug. "And why are you asking me about this anyway?"
"Because Doctor Hailu wasn't available."
"She referred you to me, then?" I ask.
"She did," Windgate replies flatly.
"I don't get why," I say. "People gain CoL powers all over the world every day. It's not a lot but anyone who hits nineteen or so can become a CoL. They don't even have to have just hit nineteen either. Someone my age could become a CoL tomorrow. It's just more common for nineteen-year-olds now."
"The kid's ten years old," Detective Windgate says.
must see me raise my eyebrows because his expression changes to one
of excitement. He smiles. Now he knows he's gotten my attention.
"That's not possible," I say. I shake my head. "I mean, there's still a lot we don't know about Children of Loki but there's never been a case of an Ember younger than nineteen."
I realize I'm cupping my cheek with my palm as I mull this information over and drop my hand. It doesn't add up. I've helped Doctor Hailu study Children of Loki since shortly after the first of us gained our powers. A lot of the technology on the market catering toward CoLs is thanks to her lab's research. She has literally written the book on us. Several, in fact.
"Can I get your help as a consultant?" Detective Windgate asks with an eager grin.
"What do you mean 'as a consultant?' Like, right here answer questions? I need more information than some hypothetical ten year old CoL."
"I mean, will you come to Austin and help me figure this out?"
Austin? Not the biggest city in the state but still, the city. Not far from my sister and mom, so that's also a plus. Much larger CoL population than here in the country.
How the fuck could a ten year old gain CoL powers?
"When would you need me to be in Austin?" I ask.
"The sooner the better," he says. "And I can pay you."
It's Friday. I could be moved by Monday if I found the right place. The hardest bit would be hiring a mover and I don't actually have that many belongings. I could make the trip without a mover but I'd rather not carry that many boxes myself.
"Okay," I say. "I'll bite. How's Monday sound?"
"Thank you so much, Page. You will not regret this," Windgate says with a smile. "You're saving my ass here."
We exchange numbers and he gives me an old fashioned paper business card that reads "Detective Eugene Windgate: Investigations." There's a phone number, email address, and office address printed on it below his name.
When he turns to leave I head back inside to break the news to Mr. Brim that something very important has come up. I'm about to quit and pull up stakes. I offer to stay and help the night shift with stocking which softens the blow. I can even come in tomorrow if he needs me to.
Surprisingly he's not upset, but then again maybe he's been terrified of me the entire time he's known I'm a CoL?
Melanie, on the other hand, is ecstatic and congratulates me on the big move.
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