34. Time for a Change

2038, June 8th
Collapse – 11 years

Alexander pressed a button on his armrest. His seat moved forward. Another button, and it reversed direction. Like all seats on the airplane, it had a staggering number of buttons available. Sakhr had also enjoyed experimenting. One set of buttons had puzzled him, until he figured out it moved a lump in the lower back of his seat. Lumbar support, he supposed. How amusing. But unlike Alex, Sakhr and the others eventually settled down and behaved like adults. Alexander was still goofing around four hours into the flight.

Alexander pressed another button and watched as his chair stretched into a fully-reclined bed. “It’s the sedan of private airplanes,” he said.

No one answered.

A flight attendant entered from behind a small curtain separating the cabin from the cockpit. “We’ll be landing in a few minutes. If everyone would please fasten their seat belts.” She stepped through the cabin, checking on Sibyl, Christof, Sakhr, and finally Alexander. “Sir, You need to return your seat to its upright position.”

He looked into her eyes and grinned. “Can we can make an exception? I think I prefer the bed to the chair.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but it’s for safety.”

“Are you sure?”

“It’s regulation.”

“Very well. I wouldn’t want to get you in trouble.” He corrected his chair. The attendant smiled and moved on.

Alexander eyed her backside as she retreated to the curtain. His aura was saturated with a disgusting shade of lust. No, thought Sakhr. It was different than that. Lust was desire. This aura was of someone who couldn’t wait to claim a prize they’d already won. It was revolting.

Sakhr was beginning to understand how Sibyl always felt. He’d only had the power of Empathy for a week, and it had given him more insight into Alexander’s psyche than he ever wanted to know. At least he could turn the power off by removing a small card from his wallet and setting it aside. It had the look and feel of a credit card, except with no numbers or microchips, just designs on it’s surface. It reminded Sakhr of a celtic knot or a middle eastern tapestry, a meaningless cluster of lines and curves that represented nothing.

“You don’t suppose she’s included in the accommodations, do you?” Alexander said. His aura stood poised, waiting for any of them to react. “I might need her on my other flights to make sure I’m in an upright position when I need to be.”

“Will you settle down?” Sakhr said.

Alexander’s aura swelled with satisfaction. “What? She wants me.”

Sakhr ignored him, until Alex reclined his seat back into a bed. “Put your seat back and behave yourself.”

“She just said those things because its her job. This is a private flight. If we want to have a dance while the plane lands, there’s nothing she can do about it.”

“Put it back up.”

“What? For safety? What are the odds this plane is going to crash?”

Sakhr didn’t answer.

Alex leaned and peered at him. “No, honestly. What are the odds?”

The question brought numbers to Sakhr’s mind. 0.06 accidents per 100,000 traveler hours. Casualty rate was about a tenth that. With full engine failure, this jet could still coast to a rough but safe landing. Once they were over Brazil, the LakiraLabs repulse grid would pick up the plane. Apart from a few unfortunate incidences in its cutting edge days, the grid had a phenomenal safety record.

Alexander’s grin widened, and Sakhr realized he’d mistakenly made eye contact. Alexander had his answer, but thanks to the second symbol on the reverse side of that little card, Sakhr glimpsed inside Alexander’s mind too—his own power used against him.

Alex glanced away, still grinning, but his aura betrayed his annoyance. Finally, the immature mood faded.

“You’re having fun now,” he said. “but you realize this whole thing is a mistake, right?”

“It’s not a mistake. You’ll understand that soon enough.”

Alex nearly laughed. “Why can’t you, of all people, see this? You’ve spent millennia playing it safe, and now you’re throwing in with this woman? She found us before we knew about her. She’s been watching us. She copied our powers. She copied yours. You know she must have. Now you want to dine with her? She’s a threat, Sakhr.”

“Of course she’s a threat. You think I’m an imbecile?”

“Then why are we entertaining her invitation.”

“Do you think we should ignore her instead? This woman could be a dangerous enemy. And who knows, Alex, maybe she is our answer.”

“Right,” Alex said. “Our answer. To all of our nonexistent problems.”

“Are you so foolish that you can’t see the world changing around you, Alex? Our ways aren’t going to work much longer. We need to change.”

“But we don’t need some fat-assed, white woman to do that.”

“No. We don’t, but we will hear her out. It is not wise to ignore her.”

Sibyl chimed in. “I, for one, think this is a grand idea.”

“Of course you would,” Alex said. “It would mean spending the rest of our time sitting on our asses, eating, and riding horses, and all those other rich people things.”

“It’s not about that,” she replied. “It’s about how I’m sick and tired of constantly moving around. I think this woman is right. We should embrace who we are, not run and hide. The world is ready for us.”

“To be clear,” Christof said. “Victoria never said we would reveal ourselves.”

“No,” agreed Sakhr. “We’ll still be hidden… for a while. This is just about pooling our resources, building a foundation.”

“Of course she would say that,” Alex said. “She’s the one who gains the most from this. She’s the one who’ll get all our powers.”

“She already has our powers,” Christof answered.

“Oh, so then no one else wonders why she wants us then?”

“Not everyone is as selfish as you,” Sibyl said. “Maybe she wants all us witches together because she agrees that we should be in charge, not running around like rabbits.”

“She’s bringing us together,” Sakhr said, “because we can no longer afford to live the way we have, as nomads. And I agree with her. You will all stop bickering about this. We’ve already agreed we’re going to hear her out.”

The group quieted down. The plane jolted as the repulse grid picked it up. Alexander slid and bumped his head against his bed frame. Sakhr savored the comeuppance.

The rest of the flight was eerily silent with the plane’s engines off. They landed at a private pad at Boa Vista International. A swarm of security and airport staff were waiting. A red carpet led from the plane to a shuttle.

“Are you sure we’re not already famous?” Alex asked.

“Our flairs are unknown as of yet,” Sakhr clarified.

“That’s another thing,” Alex said. “Why flairs? A flair is something a child has if they’re talented at the cello. What we have are goddamn powers.”

“I agree with Victoria on this,” said Christof. “Magic powers. Super powers. If we describe ourselves in those terms, it’ll draw unflattering comparisons.”

“But flairs?”

“It’s a matter of appearances,” Sakhr replied, “something she knows about.”

” You’re going to agree with her on everything, aren’t you?”

“On many things.” When Victoria had contacted Sakhr, she had shared with him many concerns that he’d been mulling over for decades. She was suggesting changes he knew would not come easy, but were no less necessary. The others would go along with it, even if they weren’t thrilled. The woman certainly was a change of pace from how they had been living. They were nomads, living from place to place, and body to body, while this woman was on the cover of Time magazine. She was the heiress to her father’s company, and with the world-changing invention of the repulse node, she’d changed it into a multinational corporation with tendrils in governments around the world. Victoria had hinted that flairs were the cause of her success. Sakhr was curious to find out how.

Like Sakhr, she had the marvelous power of foresight. The world was changing. Countries were more connected than ever, and people kept records like never before. The coven could not run away from their problems like they used to. They couldn’t wait for time to erase their past. Mankind had grown more efficient at killing one another, meaning Sakhr could no longer trust in his power to keep him alive. Guns, bombs, even those wretched automobiles—any could kill him before he’d have a chance to swap bodies. And then he watched as the world threatened to destroy itself over utter political nonsense. He and the coven had spent the nineteen sixties sequestered in obscure corners of the world. And now, nearly a century later, the world was threatening to do it again. Watching from the sidelines was not an option anymore. Victoria understood that, and she already had a start in building a solution.

Sakhr didn’t trust this woman. She was a threat he knew too little about, but whether Sakhr liked it or not, she may be the future.

After customs and immigration, their shuttle floated them to the LakiraLabs headquarters. It stood isolated from all the other skyscrapers, half finished but glimmering proudly. This was to be their new home, from where “flairs” would rule.

It might not be that bad.

They landed inside a shuttle bay. Sakhr stepped out to a full staff of security and assistants awaiting him. Auras bubbled with curiosity. They all knew Sakhr was important, even if they didn’t know why. For the first time in his long life, Sakhr was about to live as himself, not masqueraded as a person who’s life he’d stolen.

Alexander stepped up beside him and gave a mighty sigh.

“Time to be kings,” Alexander said.

Time indeed.

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