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I remember the night I turned eight years old.

I could hear the cicadas chirping as the hot summer air wafted over me and my brother. I could feel his body heat when I leaned over to rest my head on his chest, his heartbeat shaking like a delicate leaf.

We always celebrated my birthday like this. After Leader and the rest of the family went back inside for the night, he’d take me by the hand and lift me off of my bunk bed. This time, I insisted on a piggyback ride, but he took off running and screamed at me to catch him.

Our bare feet would get wet with dew as we ran in the moonlight, always heading for our special spot on the hills.

Leader says we should stay in the valley- it’s not safe where they can detect you, she said to me- but we’d go there anyway, collapsing after too much frolicking under the Moon.

A soft murmur came from my brother.

“Yeah?” I said, barely lifting my head from his chest in acknowledgment.

“Sorry, I was just wondering something,” he said, waving it aside.

I reached my hand from the forest ground and flicked him in the face.

“H-hey! Now I’m definitely not telling you, you jerk!”

“But it’s my birthdayyyyy, ” I whined, lifting my head to stare at him with my puppy dog eyes.

He went silent, judging me with a glare.

The hills, however, were as lively as ever; the cicadas continued chirping, a miserly old toad began to croak, and the grass resumed its waltz with the wind.

My brother’s head made a thump as he laid back down in defeat. “Fineee,” he said, much to my joy. I wrapped my arm around him and listened intently.

“Way, way, way deep into space, there’s actually a ton of stars much like our Sun, you know,” he started, lifting an arm to point to the various constellations.

“But if you wait long enough, stars will eventually die out. Our star, the Sun, is really lame. When it dies, it will become a red dwarf star, which is a suuuper weak and dim star.”

He looked at me briefly to make sure I hadn’t fallen asleep yet, but my eyes were wide as they followed his hands sweep across the sky.

“Alright, get to the point! If I wanted to hear someone monologue, I would’ve woken up Leader.” I complained, earning an eye roll from my brother.

“Alright, alright, alright, no need to whine, you big baby.” I stuck my tongue out at his words.

He continued, taking a long breath as he thought of how to continue.

“But sometimes, when a star is really, really powerful, right, they don’t die normally. They’re too powerful, and have too much energy that has to be released. They collapse in on themselves, and let out a giant explosion, to become something new like a black hole, or a neutron star! They don’t die, but they transform.”

I pulled some grass out from under my hand.

“That’s boring. You’re boring.” I said, throwing the grass at him.

He sputtered in disbelief. “How do you not find space interesting?! Who thinks a cosmic recycling bin is boring?”

I stuck my tongue out at him. “I do.”

“I give up. Wait ‘til you start having to learn this stuff during school, then you’ll be begging your older brother to help you.” He smiled, lying back down to rest on the forest floor.

I leaned close to him, once again wrapping my arms around his waist, whispering a faint “will not” into his armpit.

I don’t remember falling asleep that night on the hill, breathing in sync with my brother, but I do remember waking up in my bunk bed, as if the whole thing was a dream.


I knew something was different the moment I woke up, the sunlight hitting my eyes. Brother would always wake me as soon as he got back from scouting, eager to see me after his three- week absence.

I sat on my bed and concentrated on my breath, trying to feel around for his presence. Ny search turned up nothing, except for Leader and the rest of the patrol party meeting in her office.

Quietly, I crept out of the children’s camp, making sure to step on rocks instead of dirt to avoid making noise.

There was no path to the Leader’s office, to obscure it from prying eyes or an eventual attack. Instead, I closed my eyes and followed the party’s aura, feeling out the way forward.

One step. I hopped from one stone to the other, making a slight grunt as I landed.

Two step. I felt a crunch and momentarily opened my eyes. A caterpillar was smushed against the bottom of my foot, writhing around.

Three step. The soft dirt of the hills turned into the dangerous tree-root covered surface of the forest.

As I finally approached the camouflaged tent, I opened my eyes, the blueish-purple auras leading me here disappearing from view. I held my breath, slowly inching toward the tent.

“- he was just seventeen. He wasn’t even able to control his powers- how they were able to sense his abilities when he was barely a fledgling is impossible.”

A voice spoke up, which I recognized as Leader.

“And you’re sure the Foundation did it?”

“They shot him in front of us, when we were heading back around four PM. Declared him a threat and shot to kill. A seventeen year old!”

A different voice, this one almost delicate in the way it wavered, was barely audible from where I was perched.

“They declare us as Code Greens because we realize our abilities, call us dangerous and threatening, and kill anyone they can sniff out with their fucking dogs! I’m sick of them killing us for the crime of existing, and then locking up our fallen in their ce-“

The voices went silent.

I paused in my tracks, holding my bated breath. Moving would be too loud. I prayed to become a part of the forest’s presence and blend into the background.

“You can come inside, Amelia. You’ve always been good at seeing other people’s auras, but never at concealing your own. ” A voice called out, its sharp tone piercing nature’s song.

“C-coming!” I called back instinctively. I mentally hit myself in the head for my lame response.

I entered the tent, face to face with Leader and her commanders.

Leader opened her mouth, her fingers gripping the bridge of her nose, but something inside me broke.

“So, my brother passed over.”

Leader looked surprise at my abruptness, momentarily widening her eyes, before going back to her usual stoic expression.

“He got shot by a kill squad, but-“

I didn’t give her any time to speak.

“Let me come with you guys to get him back!” My voice rang out, louder than I had anticipated.

Leader’s second in command glared at me. “Do you know what that means? It means having the Foundation know you’re a reality bender. It means being branded as a member of the Chaos Insurgency. It means having the world hunting you down.” His face was red with lack of oxygen as his voice steadily increased in volume.

“Just because I’m twelve doesn’t mean I can’t find hi-“

My voice died in my throat as Leader put her hand on my shoulder. Her eyes were empty of the stoicism they usually contained, replaced by the love and warmth only sunlight could produce.

She crouched down to my level and lowered her volume.

“We have spies in their ranks who will tell us when an anomaly is found which’s appearance dates to the time when he passed. We’ll go fetch him after we know where he is, just hang tight.”

The corners of my mouth crinkled up in a smile. She was Leader not just because she was the strongest of us, but because she’s the only one who was able to help, regardless of the situation.

“Now,” she continued, getting up from her crouch and dusting her knees off. “Let me walk you back to the children’s camp. I’m impressed you were able to find us- I’ll talk to your teacher about giving you more rigorous coursework to keep up with your natural talent.”

I groaned, and she let out a small laugh at my pained face.

She gripped her hand in mine as we walked along the tree roots, the sun setting on our skin.


It was a week before I heard commotion ringing out from the town square; whispers and gossip being lifted from the lips of the speaker and riding the wind.

Before I could stand up to join the crowd, Leader burst into my tent. She was injured, sweaty, and dirty, but there was a light in her eyes.

“On April 22, 4:05 PM, a Foundation observatory reported an anomaly regarding SCT-16370, a supermassive blue star.”

She paused, placing her hands on her knees- which were dotted with scrapes and bruises- to catch her breath.

“Guess those Foundation fuckers can’t get their grubby little hands on him, huh?” She smiled down at me, a large, toothy grin, made even more bright despite the dirt adorning her face.

I couldn’t remember the last time I saw her smile that way.

I remember the night I turned thirteen years old.

I sat on the same hill my brother and I once frolicked years prior. The midnight winds seemed to remember me- instead of the biting and strong winds from my younger years, they were akin to pouty breaths rolling across my skin.

Or maybe they were the strong winds from my past, and I learned to stand stronger than them.

I rest my head against the dirt and poised my head to gaze at the stars dotting the skyline. But instead of watch them, I closed my eyes and concentrated.

For a brief moment, I could feel it- a light blue wave of energy, like his always was, radiating from a singular bright pinpoint prick and enveloping the vast sky in his light.

My eyes gradually drooped, and the ever- present embrace of the hot summer wind lulled me into a deep sleep.

I didn’t wake up in my bed that morning. But as my eyes flickered to the (now dimmer) point in the sky known as my brother, I didn’t think it mattered.