December 30, 1967. Malibu Beach, California.
Worn out from all the tiny mental adjustments being permanently moved to a new dimension two days ago required, Peter Tork sank onto the couch, trembling all over. He snapped on the TV and smiled at his curly-haired bandmate, who was unusually silent while poring over a book. “What’s so interesting, Mick?”
“Huh? Oh… something purportedly written by Nostradamus.” At Peter’s eye roll, Micky Dolenz laughed. “I know, I know – you have about as much faith in him as in a snail – but this one sounds like it’s about us!”
“Do tell?” Curious despite himself, Peter wandered over and read it out loud.
“In a pair of tens and a pair of ones after cold fire has twice kissed the Rising Sun,
Four from the Picts and Celts shall arise to power.
Brothers bound together, hating as well as loving,
From blood and pain the elements shall rise from the Great Stone Circle.”
Peter snorted. “Hardly about us.”
“No? Four rising to power…. Bound together, hating as well as loving…”
“The only thing that says about us is they’ll get their powers in 1967. We did that. But we’re not four Brits – from the Picts and Celts. It’s not us.”
Micky looked up, his eyes shining. “Maybe the Beatles?”
Peter laughed. “You’re grasping, Micky. If any get powers, it’ll have to be quick – 1967’s almost over. POOF!” He spread his hands, laughing again. “It’s just a bunch of nonsensical doggerel, man. Leave it alone.”
Sighing, Micky closed the book. “Yeah….I guess you’re right. Might have been nice – another quartet like us out there somewhere…”
“Speaking of out there, what say we go round up Mike and Davy before our stomachs devour our spines? I’d like to check out that Jacques’ Café – see if it’s as good in reality as it looked on the show.”
“You said the magic word, man.” Micky stood up. “Food!” Laughing, the pair left the Pad by the back door.
Neither of them realised Peter had left the TV on. Neither of them heard the story that lead off the news that evening.
“Good evening. I’m Bob Young for ABC Nightly News, December 30, 1967. Our top story tonight – the IRA has claimed responsibility tonight for an explosion set off during a guided tour of Stonehenge. At least four people are dead and thirty-five missing or injured. Reportedly among the missing are four young men collectively known as the Who, a popular R&B band with quite a following in Britain who had just begun filming a comedy sketch show….”
FIVE HOURS EARLIER – SALISBURY PLAIN, ENGLAND
“Remind me again why we’re here,” Pete Townshend grumbled, leaning his forehead on John Entwistle’s broad shoulder and sighing deeply.
“To promote ‘Sound and Picture City’,” John replied, naming their brand-new show. He rolled his shoulder. “Get off me, will ya? Your forehead’s as bony as the rest of you!” He grinned as Pete stood up – shoving him in the process.
Roger Daltrey chuckled at their antics, making the unusually silent fourth member of their group groan and rub his aching forehead.
Their manager piped up, “I told you not to stay up till all hours hittin’ the sauce. Maybe next time you’ll listen to me and realise I do know what I’m doin’.”
“Oh, shut it,” Keith Moon snarled, glaring at him from behind his large dark glasses. “Hey, Pete? Is it too late to fire this jackass?”
Pete grinned over at the manager. “Oy, Kit! You’re fired!”
“Oh, that’s lovely, that is,” Kit Lambert drawled. “This lot’s fired me. For the first time today. Shape up, you louts! We’re next for the tour – and for heaven’s sake, smile!” He was rewarded with four grotesque grimaces, making him roll his eyes. “Should have had my head examined, gettin’ involved with this circus…”
When he turned his back, Pete and Keith both fired twin-fingered salutes at his back. They met each other’s eyes and smiled genuinely, making Roger and John chuckle together. Kit paused, then just shook his head and kept walking.
Roger’s spirits were greatly lifted when he saw the beautiful leader of the tour. She introduced herself, introduced Stonehenge – as if it needed an introduction – and the tour began.
Soon, the group was all inside the massive stone circle. The guide explained about ‘lay lines’ – how they were lines of magnetic force that enveloped the earth and how they intersected at different points on the globe. Suddenly she turned and pointed at the Who. “You four – come here!”
Kit growled, “What did you idiots do now?”
“Nothing!” Keith protested as they moved forward. “We’ve been good!”
The guide smiled prettily as she moved them to line up precisely with each of the four points of the compass. “Now….each of you is standing precisely in the ‘V’ made when two lay lines intersect. Each of you, hold out your right hands.” They complied and she took them in turn and turned them around till they were each facing the centre of a makeshift circle. Their fingertips were barely touching.
“Now!” the guide chirped in her overly cheerful way. “Stack your hands.” They obeyed, and four pairs of eyes widened as energy spread through them. “If you feel the surge – that is the lay line intersection, spreading through your bodies from the point of your joined han---“
Her words were suddenly drowned out by the ‘whoomph’ of something detonating, then the rolling growl of an explosion. The Who’s bodies jerked in a weird kind of spastic unison as shrapnel tore through their extremities, opening their flesh. Blood splattered from each of them onto the ground – falling to form a perfect ‘X’ between them.
The lay lines hummed, feeling their ancient power surge into life as their most ancient of food was poured onto them at last. They rewarded the ‘sacrifice’ with a blast of their own power. It poured into the four through the open wounds.
All around the intersection, four bodies glowed as four throats opened in primal howls of pain and shock. The whites around four overly-wide eyes suddenly flared to colourful life.
Red. Dark blue. Light blue. Yellowish-brown.
Then it was over. Anchored by their joined hands, the Who swayed in place. Chaos reigned all around them, as bodies were moved and wounds tended to.
But thanks to the thick fog the lay lines generated to hide what was happening, nobody noticed them. Nobody saw as they crashed to the ground in unison, spread out with their feet pointing to the four compass points -- their four hands still securely joined.
One final jolt of power, and the lay lines went silent and still once more. The fog that had covered the Who while the ancient power filled their bodies and healed their wounds dissolved, revealing the four sprawled on the ground with their hands practically welded to one another.
”Here!” a rescue worker shouted. “Mister Lambert, they’re over here!”
Kit rushed over. “Finally…..” He reached over and helped the worker to separate the four. As the worker bent over Pete to rouse him, Kit gently slapped John’s cheek. “John….hey, John! C’mon…”
John flinched and rolled away from the hand. He took three deep breaths, then rolled back over onto his back. “…Kit…” He opened his eyes. The whites of them flared brilliant red for a moment, and Kit thought he saw a pair of matching streaks along John’s temples. Then the images faded, leaving a very stunned bassist trying to sit up and demanding to know what the hell had just happened here.
There was a groan from Keith, and Kit saw him turn his head. The worker bent over him suddenly let out an expletive and scuttled back crab-like, his eyes huge and frightened. From where Kit was crouched, he couldn’t see Keith’s eyes, but he had seen the flash of dark blue in the drummer’s dark hair. “What in …. What’s going on here?” Kit breathed, frowning deeply.
John flexed his fingers, starting a little as flames burst from them. "What the bloody--!"
Now it was Kit’s turn to scuttle backward. Those streaks had appeared in John’s hair again and the flame…that was a little much at the moment. “How…did you do that?” Kit raised wide eyes to meet John’s. “What did you just do??”
John looked up, his eyes a red that both reflected and was amplified by the flames that burned--burned but didn't injure--along his palm and fingers.
“Cold fire,” Kit reached his own conclusion. He reached for the flickering flames – and shot his hand back, hissing and sucking on the two burned fingers he got for his pains.
John closed his fist, instantly dousing the flames.
"Some trick," Keith breathed from where he was suddenly looking over John's shoulder.
"I...I..." John looked at Keith, his eyes helpless and bewildered--and still red.
Keith’s eyes as he looked back at John were the deep blue of the Mediterranean, surrounding the rich brown his eyes had always been. “You’ve not the foggiest how you pulled that off, have you?”
John shook his head, staring at Keith's eyes.
A roar of fury ripped through the tense moment. The wind that always flowed through Stonehenge suddenly grew stronger, whipping longish hair into eyes as Pete sat up, curling into a ball and grinding his palms into his eyes, cursing out the bomb-makers at the top of his lungs.
"Pete! Pete, stop it!" John said, pausing for a moment. He didn't know how he knew or why, but somehow he sensed that Pete was the cause of the sudden surge in wind.
“Stop what?” Pete turned to face him, and the light blue cast to the whites of his eyes had the eerie effect of making his eyes seem ice blue from corner to corner. “I’m not---“ He paused, blinking and looking up at the suddenly darkening clouds. “….oh.” He closed his eyes and took a breath to calm himself.
The wind eased almost immediately.
Kit was speechless, his mouth moving with no sounds emerging.
“Tell me it’s over,” Roger groaned from the ground.
"I think...I think whatever happened, it's just starting," John said.
”Aw, f….” Roger moaned and rolled over onto his stomach, burying his face in his arms for a moment. As he did, the springy turf shifted and folded, creating a form-fitting cradle around him.
Keith reached over and jerked one of the blond curls. “Nice bed. Wake up.”
Roger raised his head. "Wha...?" He stared at the ridge of earth right in front of him. "How'd...?"
“You did it,” Keith said, his voice almost a breathy whisper from shock. “You did it.”
"I did what? Don't be ridiculous, Keith."
Keith shook his head. "I'm not. I'm..." He ran his hands through his hair in frustration, leaving it wet. Droplets of water fell as he pulled his hands free.
John started laughing. "We should start calling ourselves Earth, Wind, and Fire...with Water sittin' in on drums."
Pete was frowning, looking at his hands. “Earth…Wind…Fire…Water….bloody hell!” His head snapped up, his jaw hanging open as his eyes widened. “Bloody hell!” he repeated incredulously. “We’re Elementals!”
"Like in..." Keith raised an imaginary pipe to his lips, "Elemental my dear Watson?"
“That’s elementary, you putz,” Kit growled.
”Ah, he finds his voice at last!” Keith laughed.
By now the crowd was beginning to creep back over. Kit raised nervous eyes to them. "Listen, boys--perhaps we'd better cut things short here, eh?"
Keith nodded, raising his sunglasses to his nose – then pausing and handing them to John. “Major case of red-eye, there.”
"Yeah, well--yours are blue, Keith."
Keith recoiled a bit from that, and Roger laughed, handing another pair of sunglasses to Pete. “This one looks like he’s just got a pupil in a sea of blue!” he laughed.
"Got a bit o’golden brown there, mate," Pete said, raising a long finger toward Roger's eyes.
“Boys….let’s go….” Kit was all but whining now.
"All right, heads down, nothin' to see here," Keith said.
The ride back to the hotel was tense. About half way there, Kit had to pull over. “One of you lot….get us there huh?” He held up his hands. “Shakin’ too bad to drive.”
Roger got out and took the wheel, his hands surprisingly steady considering the shock they'd all had.
Inside the hotel, they congregated in Kit’s room. “What are we gonna do now?” the manager paced, smoking cigarette after cigarette. “We can’t hide this…not with those eyes and those streaky hairdos…”
“Too bad we can’t just turn them off,” Roger sighed. His eyes flared gold-brown at that, and his hair was suddenly normal.
"Hey, how'd you do that?" Pete said, pushing himself off from the wall he'd been leaning on.
“I just…wanted to turn it off. And…” He reached out and gestured at a potted plant. The dirt in it didn’t stir in the slightest, and he grinned up at Pete. “And it turned off!”
"Can you turn it back on?”
Roger just looked at him. Then he turned to the plant again. His eyes flared and his hair changed – and when he reached out, the soil curved into two graceful arches.
John concentrated. The red faded from his eyes. "Did it work?" At Keith's nod he smiled, then they flared again as he used his finger to light a cigarette.
“We’ll save money on matches with you around!” Kit stuttered, then blinked as the absurdity of it hit him all at once and he sat down.
John grinned, focusing and creating a small fireball, bouncing it in his palm as if it were a toy.
Keith suddenly grinned his devilish grin. He pointed and a small jet of water smothered the fireball. He lowered his hand and looked at it, the smile growing. "This is gonna be fun."
The five of them stayed up long into the night, talking and trying to figure out where to go next, what to do next. When they finally splintered and headed to their separate rooms, all they had decided on was that they wanted to keep doing their show and they felt they had to keep their abilities under wraps.
Soon, there was only Keith and Kit left talking. Kit was chain-smoking, but Keith didn’t ask for a cigarette. Kit was too rattled to comment on this unusual behaviour, and Keith was so excited about how he’d been changed – how they’d all been changed – that he flat-out didn’t notice.
They were Elementals, he mused as he watched Kit slowly blacken his lungs. According to Pete, that meant they harnessed the four basic forces that made up the world itself.
A smirk crossed his face. We’re powerful now. We can do anything we want to. What can go wrong for us now?
He was about to find out. Every powerful being has a limitation to their power. Every powerful being has a weakness.
The three that had drifted to their rooms and their beds all left their powers activated, playing with their skills as they drifted off to sleep. For two of them, this would present no problem at all. For one of them, it would be quite a different story.
Air and Earth had no problems behaving. They were quite content to be calm and still and let their new masters sleep peacefully. Fire, however, was another story.
The problem with Fire is: it’s hungry. It will instinctively seek food. And once it finds it – it’s insatiable, greedy. So when its master drifted away….Fire began to slake its hunger. It licked its way down the bed and onto the floor. Creeping across the carpeted surface, it left part of itself behind to devour the bedclothes.
Completely oblivious, John rolled over and curled up in the thick of it, not noticing or caring when first his clothing, then his hair, then his skin caught fire. But unlike the rest of the room, fire could not devour him. It danced along his skin like a caress, turning it as yellow and red as fire itself.
Hunger was also what finally drove Kit and Keith from Kit’s room. They walked down the hall side by side, heading for the hotel’s kitchens. Keith had already declared he could break in, so they weren’t concerned about the tiny matter of the kitchen being closed.
But as they neared John’s room, they saw a small crowd of people gathered in the hallway, murmuring and gesturing. As they drew closer, Kit breathed a curse.
Tendrils of smoke were creeping from under John’s door.
Keith pushed through the small crowd and lay his hand on the door. Abruptly, he whirled to face Kit. "Kit, clear the hallway! NOW!"
"What? Why the--"
"The door's hot!"
That was all he needed to hear. Kit spun on his heel and cleared the hall as fast as he could. Just before he left himself, he told Keith, "Do what you have to do."
“Right,” Keith muttered. He turned back to the door and sighed deeply. “Why me?”
“Because he’s fire and I’m water,” he answered his own question. “Right, then.” He took a deep breath, then another. “Here we go.”
His eyes flared and his hair changed. He raised his hands and water poured onto him, soaking him to the skin. Then he took a step backward and braced himself.
A moment later, Keith kicked in John’s door. Fire exploded outward, the sudden rush of oxygen into the room acting like a trigger. Keith closed his eyes as he was completely engulfed by the tongue of flame.
When the greedy flame retreated back into the room, Keith opened his eyes and ran both hands down his face. He was hot and dry, but unharmed. He soaked himself again and stepped inside the room.
The fire was everywhere. No matter where he looked, something was burning. Keith refused to look at the bed just yet. Though he knew John would be all right, part of him was still afraid he’d see a burned hulk if he looked too close.
Taking a deep breath, Keith raised his hands again. Jet after jet after jet of water poured from them.
The fire hissed its fury. This was not its master – this was the one thing it could not stand against. This was the enemy – but the one it had to obey. It bowed its head before the onslaught of wet and surrendered, hissing its displeasure all the while.
Once Keith had extinguished the rest of the room, he turned his attention to the bed. John was still curled up, burning but not being consumed, sound asleep.
“I’d say I was sorry, Whiskey-Man,” Keith chuckled. “Except I’m not.” He raised both hands again and nodded.
Twin jets of high-pressure water shot out, knocking John off the bed. John came up, dripping wet and roaring, eyes red and hair streaked with it, wrists pulsing with fire. “What the bloody hell—“
For answer, Keith merely spread his hands.
John followed those hands and looked around. Reddened eyes widened as he stepped around the smoldering bed. He looked aghast at the blackened walls and carpet, the melted lights and the bits of charcoal that had been a dresser and TV stand not hours before. “What…..what happened?”
“You fell asleep with your power running,” Keith informed him. “You can’t do that, not with fire.”
John looked around, nodding dumbly. A flash of red, and his eyes, wrists and hair were suddenly normal. He looked sheepishly at Keith, jamming his hands into the pockets of his half-burned-off jeans. “Good thing I fell asleep in my clothes, huh?” he quipped.
Keith followed suit, turning off his powers and grinning broadly. “Well, something else good out of all this!”
“What would that be?”
Again, Keith spread his hands. “This time,” he laughed, his eyes twinkling with mirth. “This time, it wasn’t me what destroyed his hotel room!”
He then took off running, with John in hot pursuit.
Just before dawn, Roger woke and could not sleep. He walked up to the hotel’s roof to watch the dawn break.
To his surprise, he wasn’t alone up there. Pete stood there in a corner, his back to Roger. He spread his arms and threw his head back.
The wind began to whistle around him, lifting his hair and gently tugging at his clothing. Before Roger’s shocked eyes, the wind lifted Pete right off of the roof, where he hovered – seemingly oblivious to the fact he was hovering at all.
"Show off," Roger groused.
With a gasp, Pete crashed back to the roof. He spun onto his rear and glared up at him. “How long have you been out here?”
Pete nodded and climbed to his feet. "Sorry you saw that."
"Why?" Roger leaned on the edge of the roof. "We've all got these things, and at least you're not burning down hotel rooms."
Pete blinked at him. “Burning down….John didn’t. Tell me he didn’t go and do that.”
"No, no, not voluntarily. Keith said he 'left his power on' like it was some kinda night light or something." Roger chuckled. "Quite a reversal of character, eh?"
Making a noise that might have been a sigh and might equally have been a muffled curse, Pete ran a hand across his forehead. “He’s gettin’ as bad as Keith, he is. Wait – I left my power on too…and I didn’t blow my room away.”
Roger thought for a minute. "Yeah, that's true."
“Looks like his power might be the dangerous one.” Pete shook his head. “Let’s go talk to the arsonist.”
He stopped and turned to face Roger, his blue-from-corner-to-corner eyes narrowed slightly in an unasked question.
"Let's not...you know, let's not start callin' names."
Peter’s shoulders slumped slightly and he sighed again. “Why not?” he asked gently.
"Because we're all in a position to do a lot more damage to each other now. Best not go pickin' fights." He held up his hands. "I know, I know...strange comin' from me, but it's true."
Pete studied Roger for a long few seconds. Then his closed-mouth smirk/smile spread as he turned off his power. “And you were talking about them reversing character?” He jerked his head toward the stairs. “Let’s go down.”
Roger followed him.
They found the others in Keith’s room. John was pulling on make-do clothing until he could see if his had been destroyed in the fire. Pete took one look at him and burst out laughing. “I’ll get some of my trousers for you,” he laughed. “You look like you’re wearing little brother’s!”
John growled. "Like I could get your trousers around my waist."
“Mine may be short,” Keith put in, “but at least they fit him up top!”
That set Pete to laughing harder.
"Listen, if you guys think it's such a laugh, I can arrange to have yours burned as well!"
“Where’s Kit?” Roger asked hurriedly, trying to defuse the situation before John could make do on his threat.
Keith jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “Kipped off to the store to get some trousers for Firebrand, here.” He smiled disarmingly at John’s glare.
Once John's trousers situation had been taken care of, Keith and Pete took quiet refuge in a little patch of woods with a stream running through it. Keith put a finger in the stream and smiled as the water played all around it. "What a pair of days. I keep thinking I'm gonna wake up and find myself hung over in a hotel room, completely normal, wondering what the hell I took to cause this dream."
"If you do that, invite me along."
Keith chuckled and looked up, watching Pete’s blue-on-blue eyes scanning the sky. “What’s so fascinating up there?”
Pete didn't answer right away, his eyes still looking at the clouds. "Still..."
“Hm?” Keith followed his gaze. “Still what?”
"Might not be all bad, you know."
“No….I guess not.” Keith couldn’t resist quipping, “Makes it easier to salvage when John tries to burn down the house….”
"You know, somehow we're gonna have to figure these things out before somebody gets hurt."
Keith walked over to him. “What do you mean? John knows better than to go to bed with his power activated now…”
“I mean what if that happens when someone’s around? John especially could kill somebody!” Pete shuddered, jamming his hands into his jeans pockets. “Though tornadoes don’t do anybody any favours…”
“You’ve actually conjured up a tornado?” Keith blinked, the corners of his mouth pulling upward again despite the serious talk. “Cool!”
“No, it’s not. We’ve got to get hold of these…..whatever. We’ve got to control them tightly. We especially can’t use them onscreen or wherever cameras are.”
Keith groaned. “And if ‘Sound and Picture City’ really takes off…”
Pete nodded. “See the dilemma? Our lives just got a million times more complicated.”
“You said a bit ago that it might not be all bad. What did you have in mind?”
“Oh…” Pete smirked. “Just that there’s certain – compensations – to bein’ an air elemental.”
Pete closed his eyes and held out his arms. The wind increased, and he rose into the air. He opened them and smirked down at Keith, whose jaw was hanging open. “Let’s see you do this.”
“I…” Keith’s eyes widened and he began to laugh. “Water’s in the air, mate. And I control water.” He nodded, and a thin sheen of water encased his body – lifting it. A small trail of water marked the path he’d taken. “You’re not the only flier!”
“Good.” And suddenly Pete was all serious again. “I think I’d be lonely if I were.”
Keith smiled warmly at him and circled him, leaving a corkscrew of water surrounding his body. “No wonder you’ve been almost as hyper as me the last few hours – you need to fly! So come on!” And he took off like a shot.
“Hey!” Laughing, Pete followed.
And he had to admit – Keith was right. He had needed to fly. He felt his mood lifting almost immediately.
Maybe they could get through this after all.
December 31, 1967
In her extra-dimensional sanctum, Roma watched and waited. The time had come for the Choice to be made.
When she had realised this dimension had needed permanent protectors, she had brought her favourite powerful quartet from another dimension to this one. She had intended for them to become this world’s protectors.
She had not realised Nature itself would choose its own protectors – infused with the powers of the Four Elements that made up Nature. But here they were.
And now, she waited for them to make their Choice. Their manager had called them in for another “strategy meeting” as he called them – to figure out what they would do with their amazing gifts, now that they had had a little bit of experience in using them.
Roma waited for that answer as well. Would they step up and take their place as Hero-Protectors? Or would they become dark and cruel – throwing the world into chaos and becoming the most powerful enemies of her California Four?
The danger was very real. Each of these four had a darkness within – demons to battle. So she waited.
And she prayed.
“So –“ Kit sighed as he leaned back in his chair. “We’ve had a night to sleep on it and a day to think – where do we go from here?”
Surprisingly, it was Keith who spoke up, leaving a startled Pete with his mouth still hanging open. “What kind of a question is that? ‘Where do we go from here’?” He leaned forward. “Kit, we’ve been given these abilities for a reason. And I highly doubt that reason is to use them for ourselves.”
Smiling broadly at Keith, Pete nodded his approval and agreement. A second later, John did the same.
Roger crossed his arms and glared at Kit. “We can’t even think of using these for our selves, Kit. That’s not right.”
“We’ve been handed a responsibility,” Pete put in at last. “We feel we’ve been given these abilities to help.”
“Somehow,” John rumbled from the sofa.
The other three nodded as Kit looked – stunned – from one young man to the other. He couldn’t believe what he’d just heard.
When did these four kids grow up?
Roma couldn’t believe her ears for a second, either. Then she sank to her knees and sobbed tears of gratitude.
The Choice had been made.
And it was the right one.
Return to The Elemental Who
Return to The Realm