“Do they know about the languages?” she asked, again surprising me.
“No one knows about that one either,” I admitted. She had already picked up on my ability to speak any language that was spoken to me. “How did you figure that out?”
“I was trying to talk to the guy making my burrito at Chipotle,” she said. “He didn’t speak English, and I was getting frustrated, and then all of a sudden I said everything I’d been trying to say, but in Spanish. I was amused, so I found people at the mall who were thinking in another language and came up with a reason to talk to them. Turns out it worked in three different languages in twenty minutes, so I knew it had to be one of your powers.”
“Do you not have any powers if you aren’t around others who do?” I asked.
“I have no specific talents, no. Just the basics. I’m sure I could go without food, too, but why bother?” she asked. I shook my head. I didn’t see eye-to-eye with them on this. “Have I missed any of yours?”
“That’s it,” I said. She had nailed every one.
“I thought you said you each only had one power,” she prompted. “What was that about?”
“Everybody else does have one,” I said.
“So you always knew you were special, different than the other Survivors?” she asked.
Um, was I? “Not exactly. My powers aren’t active powers like starting fires or throwing people, so they think I’m pretty weak. And most of them have only developed recently, though typically our powers are set by the time we stop aging. I feel like something’s wrong with me,” I admitted.
Ginny laughed. “Nothing’s wrong with you. You’re increasing in strength because of the time you’re spending with humans.”
“Spending time with humans helps powers?” I gasped.
“I wonder if your elders know this. Your powers become more potent when you spend time among humans, like it refines them. Didn’t you know that? Like for you, all your powers have to do with tapping into the world around you—what people think and feel, what you see, and so on—so the more time you spend in new environments with new minds to read and new things to see, the stronger your powers get,” she explained.
“This is insane,” I said, still shocked. “Does it work that way for all powers?”
“It should,” Ginny said. “One way or the other, your powers change around humans. Think of it like a chemical reaction.”
“Do each of you have different powers?” I asked.
She shook her head. “There is some overlap.”
“What can everyone do?” I asked. She hesitated, as images and explanations filtered through her head. “You don’t have to tell me,” I said. “I understand.” I didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable, but the truth was that before I offered to drop it, I had already gotten a glimpse into Ginny’s mind. I could see that Anthony could see the future, and that Mark had more powers than I had already seen. I also sensed there was a connection between those two things, but I couldn’t see what it was.
“It’s weird, isn’t it? Just being able to talk about all this stuff?” Ginny said.
I nodded. “I was thinking the same thing earlier,” I said.
“Where do you get your powers from if no one in your family has them?” she asked.
“The jury is out on that one,” I said. Ginny was focusing hard. She thought I was hiding something.
“Others in your family get their powers from their parents, though?” she asked.
“We think they’re hereditary, yes,” I confirmed.
“Think? What can your parents do?” she asked.
Here we go. “I don’t know,” I said.
“How is that possible?” she asked.
I was scared to talk about this. “I don’t know who my parents are,” I said.
“Sadie,” she said, choosing her words carefully, “you said that your whole family has remained together for over three hundred years, that no one has ever been destroyed, and that they’re all still in the same place. How is it even possible that in a community that small, that connected, you don’t know who your parents are?”
“We do it differently,” I said. She raised an eyebrow, so I went on. “The elders decided a very long time ago that our family would never survive unless all generations were loyal to the clan as a whole. They worried that individual family lines would emerge and become more loyal to each other than they would be to the family as a whole. So before any of them even had children, they decided that they would raise each child as if that child belonged to all of them. We are literally raised by the village,” I explained.
“No one knows whose parents are whose?” she asked. Her thoughts and the tone of her voice told me she thought this was very bizarre, even troubling.
“Right,” I said.
“So you believe powers are hereditary why, then?” she asked.
“Aren’t yours?” I asked.
“We’re born with some version of powers our parents already had, yes.” I noticed that was a very careful way to phrase it. I also wondered how true that was since at least one of the children could do a lot more things than Anthony and Adelaide could. Ginny tried to re-route my thinking.
“Everyone in my family has a power that closely approximates one of the powers of the elders,” I told her. “One of our elders, Andrew, can control the elements, for example, and there are several in my generation who can manipulate maybe only one element, but with greater control. There’s this guy I hung around growing up, Ben, who can manipulate water. If there’s moisture in the air, he can freeze it. If we’re near a body of water, or if it’s raining, he can do almost anything—pull the water together and up into the air to make a wall of water. Or vaporize it to make steam. And he can move it around, too. Like send a wall of water toward you or shoot steam in a certain direction. Anything. Presumably, Ben is in Andrew’s line somewhere. Or Noah can control the temperature of things, heating them up. He can touch something and turn it to ashes though he can’t actually manipulate fire. He’s probably Andrew’s line, too.”
“But your powers don’t resemble any of the powers of your elders?” she asked.
“No,” I said.
“And that doesn’t concern them?” she asked.
“I think everyone in my family thought I was useless, that something was wrong with my powers. So no one’s ever thought twice about it.”
“But even if you don’t know about who your parents are, couldn’t you trace the line back to the two elders who started it? I mean, how hard could that be?” she asked.
“You wouldn’t know which two elders to start with,” I said.
“Wait. What do you mean you wouldn’t know which two elders to begin with? I mean, your elder with the control of elements, who is his mate?” she asked. I had hoped this part wouldn’t come up.
“They never married,” I said, slightly embarrassed. “They just sort of did whatever they needed to ensure the family grew.”
“You mean to tell me that you are a family founded by fourteen Puritans, and they’ve all had children without being married?” she asked enthusiastically. She made it sound like celebrity gossip.
“So it seems,” I relented.
“That’s the weirdest part,” she said. Then she laughed. “That means every one of you, in Puritan-speak, is an illegitimate child.”
“Not everyone. Some in the later generations married, and stayed committed. Once two of us do decide to commit, it’s a mate-for-life thing. But until that decision is made, they’re no better than humans,” I said. I so disapproved of this part of my family’s culture. I couldn’t understand any more than Ginny how we held so many Puritan values, but ignored that part. I much prefer a life alone than a life of uncertain and uncommitted love or—worse—lust.
“So ironic,” she said.
“Can we move on from this topic, by any chance?” I asked.
“Yeah, sorry,” she said.