Off to market we go to sell Ethan
omewhere at a rest stop in Northern Alberta
The only thing good about being stuck in a stuffy and smelly trunk was Ethan had time to think. The events of the last twelve hours had upended his life in the worst ways. "Everything changed because of these stupid powers." He didn't ask for them, let alone discover them in a church full of gossip hounds, misinterpreting the bible. He wasn't a valued member of his family. His mother had him to keep a tenuous hold on his lecherous father. Everyone in Whitford thought he was some kind avenging angel, and feared him. Going home was pointless.
It was then Ethan thought about his reactions to current events or the lack thereof. Most people would be an emotional wreck in his place. Why wasn't he? He did feel a little sad, but not the full-blown melancholy of losing everything. The emotional void became a blessing.
Whatever the case, the young man had more pressing concerns. Ethan felt the car slow down and turn. It stopped thirty seconds later. He could hear his captors arguing about something nebulous. In those moments, Ethan remembered he had powers.
In a comic, the young hero would escape the trunk beat up the villains and ride off into the sunset. In the real world, death was a real possibility. Ethan suspected he wasn't bulletproof, or durable enough to jump out of a moving car. An electrical charge might set the engine ablaze, or shock the driver. Both options were unviable.
"Even if I did escape, we are out in the middle of nowhere. I'd die from the elements."
He heard a click and a pop. Cold air whooshed into an otherwise warm trunk and caused Ethan to shiver. "Are y'all still alive in there?" a deep southern drawl asked.
Ethan rolled to face his captors, "Nope, I died. You are now speaking to my earthbound spirit."
A tall man wearing a black leather jacket and the furriest unibrow he had ever seen peered in. Ethan expected a deep baritone voice. Instead, the voice sounded like a child on the telephone.
"What did I tell you? The kid is still alive." Ethan stifled his laughter.
The smaller man wore a black Stetson and stood on his tiptoes to peer at Ethan. "Hey, Collins, let me get a look at him."
A loud smack almost split Ethan's eardrum. The small cowboy fell into a large slush puddle. He clutched his face, where a large red handprint had appeared. "How many times do I have to tell you, Quenton, no names."
Quenton rose from the puddle and glared at Collins like it was high noon. He pushed his coat back to reveal the handstitched holster and the pearl-handled revolver. "I ought to kill you, Collins."
"Amazing," Collins said. "The kid isn't afraid." He tapped Ethan with a thick boney finger. "Hey, why aren't you scared of us?"
Ethan opened his mouth to speak, but Quenton cut him off. "What's the kid's problem? Doesn't he fear for his life?" Quenton asked dejectedly. Ethan figured he got off on the fear of others.
Collins rolled his eyes, and the unibrow looked like it was crawling across his forehead. It was all too much for Ethan. "Riding with you two is like riding with cartoon villains."
Fenton glared at him and caressed the handle of his precious revolver. "Watch your tongue, boy. I will put one between your eyes before you can blink." He patted Collins on the back. "The boy could be trouble. I say we shoot him and leave him in a ditch."
A meaty fist gained a stranglehold on Quentons throat. "Are you stupid? Remember the job in Albania? We got burned there because you were eager to get your gun off. He's a teen. They all have bad attitudes if you ask me. Some people pay top dollar for that." He released Quenton.
Ethan clutched his stomach. "Are you guys criminals or Circus clowns," He howled with mirth. "Please tell me someone didn't hire you guys. I got to tell you, they overpaid."
A short growl escaped Quentons throat, and he pressed the cold steel barrel against Ethan's temple. "Any last words?"
"Are you sure you want to kill me?" Ethan asked. His tone was fearless while his bowels turned to water.
Another sharp crack of skin on skin and Quenton fell to the ground once again. "We are not drawing heat. I can handle myself in prison. You will end up someone's girlfriend. Let's drop him off at the next town, no harm, no foul."
Ethan guffawed, "And miss out on a substantial payday? I want to believe you two are smarter than that. I may be giving you guys too much credit already."
Collins restrained Quenton, "He is just a mouthy kid. Let it go." He glared at Ethan, "Its going to take at least a half-hour to calm him down. For the record, your sorry behind isn't worth all that much," He said through gritted teeth.
Quenton calmed himself and slid the revolver back into the holster. "I think it's time to dispose of the deadweight along a backroad."
Collins pushed him aside, "What are you not telling us?"
"Don't let him mess with your head. The kid has nothing, and he knows it," Quenton said. A lightning-fast hand hovered above the revolver.
Messing with the semi-competent criminals was fun. Dangerous, but fun all the same. I am like a luxury car. I came into this world fully loaded with all sorts of neat features."
The pearl-handled revolver slapped leather as it found the holster. "I think you are lying to avoid an early grave."
"If I am wrong, you can shoot me. I have nothing to lose or hide. If I impress you, then I get to ride in the backseat and get take out."
"Alright, get to it," Quenton said. Collins stood beside him, arms crossed, and a dour look on his face.
The pair watched Ethan press the front end of the car over his head. The smell of oil and gas was a comfort. It was better than the odd smell in the trunk. To prove it was not a trick, Ethan set the car on the ground, softer than a whisper.
Collins seemed happy, Fenton was not. "Its not that impressive."
Ethan's plan wasn't working. The gunfighter was determined to dislike him. He had to get in front of Fenton's hate, but how? It was time to open peace negotiations, "Fenton, how do I get you on board with the plan?"
Quenton crossed his arms like a four-year-old and turned his back to Ethan, "It's too late for that now."
"Is he always like this?" Ethan asked Collins.
"His feelings get hurt easily," Collins said.
"I want sixty percent of the profits," Fenton said. His voice implied he was not going to accept anything less.
Collins didn't argue, "Its yours." He turned back to Ethan, "Continue the demonstration."
It was an excellent way for Ethan to figure out what he could do. He was strong and had some weird electrical power, but what else? It was time for an experiment, "Do you have jumper cables?"
Quenton gave him a sideways glance, his face full of suspicion and mistrust, "Why?"
"I have a theory," Ethan said. He felt the familiar tingle on him as the electrical energy traveled to his hand, where the tiny sparks danced over his knuckles. "If I can conduct electrical energy, I may be immune to it?"
Collin licked his lips, "Do you want the honors?"
Quenton was already halfway to the trunk. He grabbed the mass of jumbled clamps and attached them to the battery posts. He tapped the clamps together, a small shower of sparks fell from the jagged teeth.
Ethan stood in range, "Ready when you are," he said. He took a deep breath and put his arms behind his back.
With a malicious grin, Quenton held the cable to Ethan's chest. Ethan closed his eyes and braced for the pain. Five seconds passed nothing. Ten seconds, still nothing. "Looks like you might be a cut above the rest," Fenton said.
Collins clapped, "I knew you would come around. This boy is our ticket to easy street. How about we get warmed up in the car, and get some food."
They pulled into a fast-food restaurant parking lot. "I will get the food," Quenton said, leaving the passenger seat.
Ethan kept staring at the thick patch of fur between the eyes of Collins. "Is there a problem, child?" Collins demanded.
Ethan started to giggle. "No, sir. No problem at all."
Collins turned to Ethan, "It's my eyebrow, isn't it?" He asked.
"I am waiting for it to turn into a butterfly. What possessed you to be a lepidopterist? That's the fancy word for someone who studies butterflies and moths."
Collins shook his head, "Are you done?"
"Do you think it will be a monarch or a glass winged?"
"I thought you would know the names of all the butterflies," He snickered. "Do you consider yourself to be its mother?"
Collins laughed a little, "Okay, that's enough."
"I will stop picking on you and the wooly bear crawling across your forehead."
Quenton returned with a bag, dripping grease. Ethan felt ravenous the moment the aroma hit his nostrils. Saliva oozed down the side of his mouth. Fenton paused between bites, "How are we going to do this?"
"Do they have someone who determines the worth of your merchandise?" Ethan asked.
"No. but if we can get you into a display, it could help," Collins said.
The gunfighter fell asleep, and Ethan stayed awake to keep Collins company. Sure they were criminals, but it passed the time, while the gods rolled the dice for his fate.
"I'm sorry we are doing this to you, kid. What brought you out here anyway?"
"My powers ruined my life, such as it was. At least you were honest, Collins. I owe you for letting me show off a little."
"No problem. If it helps, the pervs won't touch you. They are not interested in victims that fight back."
"Small Favors," Ethan said.
They passed a sign that said, Nemiscam 2km. Ethan never thought he would be in a place more obscure and unheard of as Whitford.
They drove through the abandoned streets of what was once a community filled with promise and hope. The boards, broken glass, and the ghosts of the past were the only remaining inhabitants. They passed a faded sign that said, "Future home of K-mart."
The car stopped in front of a red brick building, "Are you ready?" Collins asked
Ethan shook his head, "Nobody should be ready to be sold to the highest bidder. I am a little nervous."
Quenton awoke and clapped his hands, "Time to get paid."
As they entered, a man with a thick Russian accent greeted them, "Quenton and Collins, welcome back." It was odd to see such finery, in decrepit surroundings.
The pair shook hands with the newcomer. "We found a big-ticket item for your auction on the way back from our delivery," Quenton said excitedly.
"He isn't lying, Mr. Yashin. I would like you to meet Ethan Argent." He said, gesturing to Ethan.
Ethan found Mr. Yashin fascinating. On the surface, he was a polite and gracious host. Yet Ethan felt uneasy in his presence, probably from the dead man's stare raking over him.
"Are you joking? He looks like a teenage boy with a bad hair dye job," Mr. Yashin said.
Ethan felt a sharp pain in his shin, from where Quenton kicked him with his pointed cowboy boot. "Well, show him." He pointed to a defunct air conditioning unit, "Lift it."
Mr. Yashin laughed, "He is a child. My toughest men can't lift one together."
Tired of being underestimated and undervalued, Ethan followed the instructions. He walked over to the rusted metal and stared Mr. Yashin in the eyes, and ripped the sides off the air conditioner like paper.
Mr. Yashin went pale for a moment and then grinned back to his molars, "You boys have outdone yourselves. How much?"
Collins was grinning at Fenton and nudging him with his elbow, "He can do more."
Mr. Yashin looked at Ethan in wonder, "What else can he do?"
"Is there anyone on your bad side?" Ethan asked.
"Dmitri, get in here." Mr. Yashin shouted.
Dmitri and his thick Gandalf beard walked into the room. This man could crush stone columns in his palms, but he was walking on eggshells around Mr. Yashin and his murderous glare. "Yes, Mr. Yashin."
Ethan handed the large man a metal rod. "Hang onto this for a second."
Dmitri looked confused, "Is there a point to this, gah."
The giant of a man stiffened as the Electricity coursed through his body. He fell to the ground amid the smell of burnt flesh and fabric. Dmitri's body was still shaking like a leaf in the wind, but he was alive.
"Let that be a lesson, Dmitri. I give the order to kill, not you. When you recover, go clean up your mess." Mr. Yashin turned to Ethan. "I am not a good man, Ethan. Yet, I still have religion. God created you for a purpose. I hesitate to sell you because the world may need you later."
"God let my powers go active in his house. I don't think he will be too offended."
Mr. Yashin shook his head, "How about I find you a home with decent people."
Ethan raised an eyebrow, "Can you call anyone who would buy another human being decent?"
"You would be surprised how many couples come in looking for a baby." He turned to Collins and Quenton. "See Pietro on your way out. Tell him to be generous."
Mr. Yashin walked him around and introduced him to his wealthiest clients. None of them wanted to see Ethan as a person. Most had reservations about buying a child who was deadlier than their bodyguard.
A woman with a wide-brimmed hat with matching dress and parasol approached them. She had a mischievous look about her, and her face reminded Ethan of a fox.
"Greetings, Mr. Yashin. I am Ms. Reynard, and I heard the young man in your company was unique. Could I get a demonstration?"
"For a lovely flower such as yourself, nothing would make me happier, let's go find Dmitri."