The blast of cold was a welcome surprise; coming out of the tropical heat into the building’s air conditioning was like stepping through to another world. The sunshine was gone; in its place were white walls around metal fixtures. Simplistic and functional, this was a building designed for longevity over aesthetics. It was merely meant to contain important things; the structure itself had no inherent meaning.
Directly in front of the entrance, several feet away from a single door leading deeper in, was a woman with short-cut hair, hunched over a large desk as she pounded away on a keyboard. For a few moments, she didn’t greet, or if fact even seem to notice, the group. It was only after Justin let out a sharp cough that she finally looked up from her work.
“Can I help you?”
“We’re here to see the memorial. This is the right place, isn’t it?” DV didn’t seem to harbor any actual doubt as he lifted up the map from the hotel, pointing to their current location.
The woman’s eyes widened and she hurried to stand from her chair. “Yes, yes it is. Forgive me; it’s been a long while since anyone new came here on my shift. Most of our residents show themselves in, and the few Blessed who have been coming to United Avalon aren’t always curious about history. Right then, since this is your first time at the memorial, so does that make it your first journey to our fair nation?”
“It is,” DV confirmed. “We’re here on a company vacation, but it seemed a shame not to learn more about the country as a whole, especially being Supers ourselves.”
For a second, it seemed as though the woman was going to correct DV, her mouth opening quickly. It closed moments later, though, taking a pause before actually speaking. “I understand that your term is more commonly used in the world at large, however we don’t call ourselves Supers here. It’s a small matter to me, although others take it more seriously. Anyway, let me see your temporary citizenships and we can get this underway. Oh, and my name is Eleni, I’ll be your guide this afternoon. If you have any questions as we go, please feel free to ask.”
The examination of documentation went quickly, just as it had with the guard at the gate. Once again, the only hiccup was when Eleni got to DV, looking over his papers longer than any of the others before finally handing them back over. Interestingly, as soon as the last temporary citizenship was verified, Eleni grew visibly less nervous, her entire body taking on a more casual posture.
“Thank you for your patience. Now that I know you’re all properly allowed to be here, let’s see how much context you need before we get things going. Tell me, what do you know about the history of United Avalon?”
It was DV who answered, not missing a moment as he launched into a quick overview of United Avalon’s rebellion from the Republic of Krezic, their founding of a new country, and eventual overtures of diplomacy with other nations. The explanation was thorough, but detached, the sort of information that lacked a human touch and betrayed that it came from research rather than experience.
When DV was done, Eleni gave a single, solemn nod. “That’s about where most new Blessed start off. The founding of a nation run by those with abilities was bound to garner attention on an international scale. Especially since we had to topple an existing country to create it. None of what you’ve heard is wrong, either. The overall story is correct. But what we haven’t permitted to fully escape the borders of our country are the details. All the reasons we felt the need to rebel, and the cost of what fighting back took from us.”
“How do you keep that information controlled?” Justin asked, his curiosity momentarily getting the better of him.
“We only give it to other Blessed,” Eleni replied.
“And nothing.” She shrugged, as if that should say it all. “Our kind choose not to share it with the humans. Each and every one makes that decision on their own. There are no laws against sharing, no secret agency of the government holding it under wraps. But there is one thing that keeps most lips sealed, the fundamental aspect that impacts Blessed, Cursed, and mundane alike: self-preservation. To see what has been done to us is to know that someone could do it again, and no Blessed I’ve ever met feels safe enough to start putting such ideas in the humans’ heads.”
The only sound in the room as Eleni finished was the dull hum of the air conditioner struggling to keep this place cool in spite of the external temperature. Eventually, Angela stepped forward, eyes on the simple door to the left of Eleni’s desk. “Standing around doesn’t get us anywhere, so you may as well start the tour. I can’t imagine any of us are going to turn away just because we might see something unpleasant.”
“I’m surprised, even among our own people there are several who usually walk out when they get that speech.”
Brett raised his hand, then quickly began to speak as soon as he realized no one would be calling on him. “Wouldn’t your own citizens already know what had happened?”
“Do you know every action your government takes against every person, and the details of every covert operation they try to keep off the public radar?” Eleni shook her head. “No, for most of the Blessed here, our former republic was merely a bad place to live, one where their powers were seen to exist only to serve the government. The ones with weaker abilities were allowed to take on semi-normal lives, using those powers in whatever way the rulers saw fit. It was the ones who had real potential that saw the worst of our former country. They were taken from their families as soon as those gifts were detected, never allowed to contact them again. In many cases, the records of those relations were outright destroyed. The only family they were permitted were their handlers. No support structure means no one to turn to, no hope that they might break free. The humans were wily, they knew they couldn’t hold this many Blessed down with pure force, so they used emotional and mental manipulation to make their prisoners pliable. It didn’t always work, of course, but dealing with one rogue Blessed isn’t such an issue when you have so many of them brainwashed to serve.”
Eleni picked up a silver remote from her desk and clicked it once. The nearby doors swung open, revealing a dark hallway with a piercing light shining from just around a corner. “That’s where we start: with the world as it was just before the rebellion. Pictures, testimonies, and a few scraps of video. Not much, such recordings were obviously forbidden, but enough to give you an idea of what we were living through. After that, we will move on to the project that The Republic of Krezic kept the most tightly guarded. I would advise anyone with a weak stomach to not look at the videos in that room. Don’t worry; I’ll make sure to give ample warning before we get there.”
One-by-one, the group made their way into the dark hallway, with Eleni bringing up the rear. With a quick look down the road to make sure no more guests were on the way, she clicked the remote again, closing the doors behind them.