Two O’Clock banged his gavel against the long table, calling his siblings attention to order. Why someone would have a gavel in their personal study was something some of them wondered, but never dared to question. Two liked order, and was determined to make sure it presided over the O’Clock’s meeting.
Two sat down at the head of the table, with One O’Clock sitting to his right. Though technically the oldest, he usually let his younger brother take charge of formal matters, especially under these circumstances. This was a gathering they had decided behind their father’s back, so he didn’t say anything when Two O’Clock stepped up to this burden.
“We shall now commence this meeting of the O’Clocks. There will be no note taking so everyone better stay sharp and remember all you can.”
Four O’Clock piped up, his lime green eyes shining with amusement, “There’s twelve of us, Two, I think we can manage to remember everything between all of us.”
“Twelve is only six terra-years old, Four.”
Four shrugged. “Don’t underestimate a kid’s mind.”
“Anyway,” interrupted Three, her hand gently held up to stop her brothers from pointless banter. “We’re all here because father and his staff are withholding information about mother’s disappearance. They clearly know more than they’re letting on, and we want to determine what to do about it.”
Two gave a slight nod to his sister, who sat to his left. “That is correct. None of us like feeling left in the dark, but how we’re going to get the whole picture here is up for debate.”
“Has no one tried asking father directly?” asked Eleven, timidly.
Two rolled his eyes so hard that Eleven could feel it in his own eye sockets.
“We wouldn’t be here if no one did, Eleven.”
One O’Clock rested his head in his hand, giving his youngest brother at the other end of the table a smile. “Two and I both went to talk with father, but with no luck. The man won’t budge.”
Eleven looked at his lap, dirty blond stands covering his face as he shrank back in his seat. One felt for him, and wanted to swoop his brother into a big hug.
Nine O’Clock, who was leaning back in his chair with his hands behind his head, suddenly spoke. It startled Ten, who couldn’t tell whether his brother had been asleep or not. No one could tell behind those dark glasses.
“So how do we past the old man? Get him drunk? Feed him truth serum so that he spills everything?”
“Oh I like that last one.” said Eight O’Clock.
“How childish.” muttered Six, straightening her thick glasses.
Two banged the gavel. “We are not resorting to drugging our beloved father, Nine, so get that out of your head. We need to pool together our information and try to fill in the blanks, or at least recognize them.”
“What we know so far,” said Five O’Clock, “Is that mother went out to check a disturbance five months ago. We don’t know where or why, but she has been missing since.”
“Yeah, but I bet father knows the wheres and whys.” added Four O’Clock.
“Obviously, or else we wouldn’t be here.” retorted Six.
“I’m sure Four was just stating the obvious like he usually does, Six.” said One, and Four jokingly stuck out his tongue at his younger sister. She huffed but ignored him.
“But I also know that two months after mother’s disappearance, father was visited by each of the Head Elementals.”
Two O’Clock immediately shot his brother a harsh glare, followed by the wide eyes of the other siblings. “You’ve been sitting on that information for three months and are just now telling all of us? What were you thinking!?”
One O’Clock took his brother’s glare with stride, not giving an edge to Two’s hostility. “I didn’t want to make something out of nothing. They could have been here for a number or reasons, no one thought mother was missing at that time.”
It’s true that it wasn’t unusual for their mother to be gone for two months; her job required constant trips away from home. It also wasn’t unheard of to be paid visits by Head Elementals, though rarely they traveled outside the bounds of their land.
“But you gotta admit One, having all four of them here, at the Tower? At the same time? That’s a little fishy.” said Eight O’Clock.
“I agree.” said Five as she folded her arms across the table with curiosity.
“Looking back on it, it was a little suspicious. But,” added One, “I didn’t want to worry you guys if it turned out to be nothing. You know that they act as mother’s eyes and ears. I also figured father would have told us in his own time, but I guess I was wrong.”
“Father is trying to protect us in his own way.” said Three O’Clock gently.
No one argued against her. They knew she was right, and they loved their father deeply. But they also loved their mother just as much, and it was hard on them to simply wait and do nothing.
“Is daddy doing something bad?” chimed Twelve, her voice childishly loud.
Three O’Clock looked down at her sister, who was seated next to her, with a smile. “No, sweetie, he’s doing what every father would do.”
“And we’re doing what every child would do,” Nine also replied, “Being nosy troublemakers who can’t do as their told.”
“Ni-ni, I’m over here!” giggled Twelve.
Nine O’Clock dramatically grasped his head, turning his face from Eight O’Clock to Twelve, who was across the table. “Silly me! I was so sure you were right next to me, Twelve, I could hear you so loud and clear!”
“I think your blind jokes are getting a little stale, Nine.” said Five, a slight smirk on her dark lips. “You’ve done that one at least seven times.”
“Hey, if I have to be blind I might as well have fun with it.”
“Speaking of Seven,” said Four, nearly jumping out of his seat, “What do you have to say about all this, Seven?”
Seven O’Clock had seated himself at the very edge of the table on the opposite end of Two, next to Ten O’Clock. He was a tall, quiet individual, with wispy dull brown hair the covered his eyes. He turned his head towards his siblings, and shrugged.
“That’s okay, Seven, you say something when you want.” said One O’Clock.
“It’s fine,” added Two, “I trust you to be paying attention, probably more diligently than others.” He sent a look towards Four.
Four O’Clock was about to say something to retort, but Two banged his gavel once to silence him.
“We’re getting off track here, brothers and sisters. Let’s recount our information. First, mother has been missing for five months and father has presumably know it for three. Second, the Head Elementals visit suggest that they’re working with father and hold the same information we’re trying to obtain.”
“I thought they just came to visit once?” asked Ten O’Clock, with a look of confusion on his freckled face.
“It’s logical to assume that they’re all in contact with each other, either through letter or other means. Also, mother and father trust them completely. They would be some of the first beings I would turn to if I was father.”
“Mother’s disappearance affects them as well,” said Five, “I’m sure they’re just as eager to find her so she can continue to keep them in balance.”
“That’s all fine and dandy,” said Four O’Clock, “But that still doesn’t answer the question of how we’re gonna get the rest of the information, and what we want to do after we get it.”
Eight clapped his hands lightly. “Look who’s paying attention!”
“Ha ha, very funny.”
Two O’Clock ran his hand through his blackberry hair and sighed dramatically, apparently giving up all hope that gavel gave him for order. One O’Clock patted him on the shoulder.
“What idea does everyone have?” One could almost hear regret at asking the open ended question in his brother’s voice.
“Well you already know my ideas.”
“Once again we are not drugging our father.”
“We could sneak into his office and steal the documents!” cried Four, who was just excited to attempt breaking into his father’s office.
“You would get caught by Delum within five seconds of entering his office.” replied Six, who was adjusting her glasses like she was at her wits end.
The O’Clocks began sounding off different ideas, sometimes over each other, sometimes after seconds of silence when they racked their brains for plans that would not end with them getting caught. Their father was clever enough, they knew, that any predictable approach would be futile. He had already gone to great lengths to keep them out of the situation, so it would take greater lengths to get into it.
Then a voice spoke, quiet but strong.
“We could go to the Head Elementals.”
The O’Clocks turned their heads towards Seven, who remained still, looking straight ahead.
“What do you mean, Seven?” asked Eleven, who had recovered from his brother’s remark at the beginning of the meeting.
This time Seven did look at his siblings. “If we can’t get what we want from father, we should aim for the next best thing. Simple.”
“I get what you’re saying,” said Five O’Clock, “Two already established that he believes they’re just as informed as father, perhaps even more so.”
Finally, some semblance of a plan was forming in the O’Clock’s heads.
“There are problems with this though.” said Two O’Clock, despite feeling hope lodge the smallest corner of his heart. “The Head Elementals live far away, and far apart. And even if we were to get to all four, who says that they’ll indulge us and our questions?”
“True,” said One, “But we’ve pretty much determined that father won’t budge and it looks like we’re not capable of outsmarting him into giving us our info. That leaves the Head Elementals as our last resort.”
There was a pause. “Do you think they’ll help us?” asked Ten.
One O’Clock shrugged his shoulders. “Who knows, but it’s worth a shot.”
Two had been listening silently, gripping his chin in thought. His siblings knew that look, one he often had when there was a puzzle that needed solving. Or when he just wanted to figure out how something worked.
He eventually looked around the table, eyes set and determined.
“I think we finally have a plan.”