Chapter 11: All good things
Jessie and Josh let themselves in and found us a few hours later, still on the couch, still naked, and apparently dead to the world since we didn’t even hear them come in. Unfortunately, Shane was a panic waker-upper. Yes, I know that’s not a real thing, but he was one of those people who freak out when woken up unexpectedly, and Josh found out the hard way, so luckily a half-asleep Shane had shitty aim. So of course that leaves me dumped on the floor naked and more than a little dazed.
“La la…wake up! I can’t fade! I think it worked, I can’t fade!” Jessie was pretty much humming with excitement. It was like she was vibrating in her own skin. I reached out and took her hand and a shock went through us both, jolting us apart. “Shit! Wait – let me get some clothes on and then we’ll figure this all out.” Bolting out of the room I noticed that Shane didn’t follow. Apparently much more comfortable just hanging out in the all-together. “Shane, get your ass in here and put some clothes on, or better yet, shower! You probably smell like fuck. Literally!”
It took me a few minutes to shower and grab some of Shane’s sweats and a tank. I looked ridiculous, but that was really the least of anyone’s worries at this point. The water was still running as I walked back to the living room to see Jessie and Josh standing in the kitchen making sandwiches. I stood back for just a moment to look at them. It was entirely possible that I was staring at the mother and father of the beginning of a new race.
OK, I seem to be waxing a little more reminiscent than I planned to. Unfortunately I can’t look you in the eye and ask if I’m sharing a little too much. I guess as I am writing I’m finding the memories so much clearer than I thought they’d be. Kind of running like movies through my head. That doesn’t bode well for the really bad stuff later, but for now, it’s kind of nice. It’s like feeling loved again, something I haven’t had for a while…not since…again, later. So I do hope that you will be patient, and read through the good stuff before you get to the blood and guts, which is what I’m sure you’re all waiting for. Trust me, it’s coming soon enough.
They looked really sweet together, but there wasn’t any real heat. I knew they’d be great parents, if we ever got to that point, and at that stage I sincerely wondered if it would happen. The WSGA wasn’t going to go away without a fight, and Shane had made it pretty clear he planned to give them one. We had heard helicopters over the island a number of times in the last couple of days, reiterating the requirement that I couldn’t go outside, and we all knew they’d be back in some much bigger way very soon, so Jessie and I had to beat feet to someplace safer.
Shane and I spent the next few days together talking, sleeping and making love the old fashioned way. I won’t say it got better every time, since that would evolve into my head exploding, but we connected to each other a little more each day, and I knew that there was going to be something Epic.
The next afternoon the whole group, which in my head I was jokingly (sort of) referring to as “the resistance” met in Shane’s living room. Oddly enough, only 6 days in I was already sporting a baby bump, though Jessie wasn’t just yet. I was thinking then that since I was a bit stronger in all the other skills, maybe this would work out that way too and they would progress at different speeds. This turned out to be the case, but of course we wouldn’t know it for a while.
Shane was a born leader. I sat back and watched how the group looked up to him. There were few than 20 people in the room, but he looked like he was holding a war council. He was so charismatic when he spoke that you couldn’t help but listen.
“OK, so this is our core group. I can’t stress enough how important secrecy and security is in all this. I know it’s a little cliché, but think of it like ‘Fight Club’. First rule of ‘Fight Club’ is you don’t talk about ‘Fight Club’. We know there are only a very few of us that would turn traitor, but there are a great deal more who are just fine with the status quo, and though they wouldn’t turn on us, they won’t help us either. I know none of us wants this to get militant if it doesn’t have to, but we have to accept the possibility that we have allowed ourselves to become the bogeyman, and that’s a pretty hard image to rehabilitate. I’ve been thinking about our options, and honestly, I’m not loving any of them. Do we really want to reintegrate back into Normals society – we’d be ostracized and discriminated as badly or worse than we are now, and as far as I know there aren’t any hate crime laws for the Enchanted. Here’s what I’m thinking. I think we should push for an end to the government oversight, for the right to govern ourselves, kind of like statehood, or maybe a Reservation like the Native American’s have – and we keep the Island. It’s home, we’re comfortable with it, and it’s comfortable with us, but at the same time we are free to travel the world without getting shit from anybody. We’d have to take on our own livelihood, but I think we could manage that pretty well with the crops we grow here – at least we could hide behind the legit ones. And we have some other options we can explore, like working off the island in regular jobs, or even opening up parts of the island to tourists, stuff like that. Self-governance seems like the best option to me, but I’d love to hear other opinions.” I couldn’t help but stare at Shane. That was the most words I’d ever heard from him at any one time. And honestly, it was a good idea, probably the best option and the least likely to lead to or require any bloodshed.
After a few seconds of no response, I couldn’t leave him hanging there, so I added my 2 cents. “Shane, honestly, I think it’s a good option. I have no interest in living in LA or Detroit or wherever with people who don’t want us, and it would be a bit silly to ask for any land other than what we really already have. I think the idea of the kind of self-governance you’re talking about is going to be the only real option. We aren’t a big enough group to really go to war, even with who we are we wouldn’t stand a chance. They could napalm the island and I don’t think even we would survive that. This is something we have a good chance of achieving by peaceful means and I think it’s worth a shot.”
For the most part I could see heads nodding, but there was dissension as well. Elliott, who had been the oldest person to survive the Event at just days shy of his 22nd birthday (I remember at the time wondering how it knew?), had been in maintenance at the Facility. He’d been fairly near the epicenter, fixing a hand-dryer in the bathroom of all things. Despite his age, he had been significantly affected by the Event, his fade was one of the strongest, he was one of our few poppers, and his mechanical abilities seemed to have been enhanced as well and he loved working with the island’s few automobiles, scooters, etc. He was a hard-working blue-collar guy who had really just gotten screwed out of a life when all this happened. He had been engaged to a lovely woman who turned out to be not so nice when informed her future husband was a freak. She had bailed faster than rats off a sinking ship. I could tell by the expression on his face he wanted more. He wanted retribution for what had been done to him, both by the Event and in the aftermath. He was bitter, and angrier than the rest of us, that much was clear, but what wasn’t clear was if he would fall in line or if he was going to be a problem.
One other who clearly was not in 100% agreement surprised me. Eric. He’d been a member of our close group since the beginning but the look on his face told me that he wasn’t fully satisfied with the minimalist approach we were taking. He had a bit of a power-hungry streak, and I had a feeling that he was about to stage a coup. He was one of the weaker members of the Enchanted when it came to abilities, but he was smart, very well-spoke, driven, a touch narcissistic, but most of all he was charismatic. If anyone could challenge Shane’s leadership it would be Eric, because people were inclined to follow him. I couldn’t let that happen. I tried the push on Eric, and interestingly, it didn’t really seem to do more than make him cock his head a bit before re-focusing on his agenda. So I had to spread it a bit and try the push on everyone else in the room. I let it take the form of a great admiration for Shane and his intelligence, his leadership and his overall care and concern for us as a people. I buffered it with a little of a hint of Eric’s power-hungry side and his greater concern for self than the group. While I knew Eric cared about what happened to us, he cared more about what happened to him, and people needed to know that about him, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to tell them. The mood in the room solidified around Shane before Eric could really voice his dissension, but he tried anyway.
“Why should we settle? We’re practically superheroes for Christ’s sake, why are we going begging for crumbs? Why aren’t we demanding a say in the bigger picture?” It wasn’t exactly venom in his voice, but it was close. He reminded me of a politician who believed a little too much in his platform.
“Eric,” I touch his arm lightly, “Our talents are primarily defensive. We don’t have laser vision, or adamantium fingernails. None of us have ever been soldiers, and we weren’t exposed to that environment. We’re mostly a bunch of geeks and scientists with a few enhancements. Do you really think we could take on the WSGF or even the US Military? Do you really think we’d survive a single major artillery strike? Yes, we’re hard as hell to kill, but certainly not impossible, and we’re…no offense to anyone in the room…kinda wimpy. I’m not sure I could ever kill another human being, maybe you could, but I’m betting most of us would have a really hard time with the concept. The solution that’s being proposed is definitely not perfect, but it’s a shitload better than what we have now, and I, for one, think we should give it a chance. If we can’t come to an agreement then we may have to do it your way, but why invite bloodshed when we don’t have to?”
“Lala, I get what you’re saying. I do. But I don’t like feeling like I am something that Andie wiped off her shoe. Do you?” He knew how much the situation with Andie rankled this group, so he was hitting the soft spots. “I don’t like the idea of people getting hurt either, but you know as well as I do that the WSGF is never going to remove their claws from us, from this Island. For God’s sake we’re the primary reason they exist and if you’ve looked at their budget appropriations over the last few years you would see that the idea of them giving that up is ludicrous. If we just ask their permission to be our own bosses like some namby pamby little group of wusses then they will just step on our throats and make sure we don’t get any funny ideas about standing up for ourselves. If we make a pre-emptive strike, then maybe we stand a snowball’s chance in hell of catching them by surprise and taking some kind of control!’
“Control of what, Eric? Even if we win the first battle, the chances that we’d win the war are pretty much slim, fat and none, and you know it as well as I do. Yes, I hate what Andie did to us…no, fuck that…to me! But I’m a realist. I’m not willing to sacrifice any of you. I couldn’t live with myself if even a single one of the Enchanted were hurt because I brought them here, because I was stupid enough to think she was my friend. We can’t beat them, hell, we probably can’t even dent them, so how would trying diplomacy first hurt?”
The color in Eric’s face rose as I spoke, and I realized it was because Shane had quietly moved to stand behind me, and that all but 2 of the rest of the group had seemingly unawares, followed suit. He knew he wasn’t going to win this battle, but the look on his face told me he wasn’t done fighting, but that he was going to save the battle for another day and another venue.
Shane stepped forward and took my hand. It was a possessive gesture that no one was about to mistake for anything else. “I think we’re going to treat this kind of democratically. I’d like a show of hands for those that agree to start the process diplomatically, by going through the proper channels, but being more forceful than we have been in the past, making ourselves heard a little more adamantly.” All but 3 hands went up. With that we figured we had our answer for now. As a group we talked out the options, and agreed that since I appeared to be the target right now, I would take off and disappear for a while, taking Jessie with me. We handled it under the guise that I didn’t want to be alone, but those of us involved knew the truth. We let everyone know that we were working on a “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy with regard to where we were going. The assumption was that it would be safer if noone knew where we were, that way they could deal honestly when they said they had no clue.
Shane agreed to send a message to Andie of the folks we wanted to meet with and arrange it here on the island where we could protect ourselves and hold a more offensive position if it became necessary. Since Eric was convinced we should be more prepared than we are, it was agreed that he’d take on the tactical viewpoint. His job would be to get us and the island ready in the event this all went wrong on us and we needed a strategic exit plan. Everyone else would start the process of sanitizing all the houses – making sure there was no evidence of anything untoward, no alcohol, no herbals, no altered electronics – nothing to make them suspicious that we are more than we say we are.
As things began to wrap up, Shane spoke again to the group as a whole. “The goal is to aim for the meeting 1 week from today. Remember, they are watching us, so let’s not give them any ideas by our movements. Use fading and popping whenever it’s safe to confuse the satellite, use the island when you need to. There’s no such thing as over-prepared! We’ll meet at the twins place tomorrow night. Thanks everybody. See you tomorrow.”
The crowd took the hint and started to disburse. The decision had been made, and now we all had to work together to make sure we pulled it off. I’ll admit I was nervous. It was my fault this was all coming down like this. If not for me and my little stunt with Andie and Adam nothing would have changed and we could have gone on as we were, and basically be ignored. Maybe. Part of me knew, even then, that the WSGF had shit in the works. They wanted us contained for study, the wanted lab rats, not citizens. They were kinda pissed that we had thwarted all their previous attempts and it wouldn’t surprise me if there were plans in the works to stop playing nice in the very near future, but I couldn’t help but feel responsible for bringing all of it to the fore. For setting us in their sights before any of us were really ready. Ah well, what’s done is done.
Shane wrapped his arms around me and the guilt melted away. If not for what had happened we would probably never have come together. He placed his hand on my stomach, like he had read my mind. Hell maybe he did, I don’t know. Without what had happened, there would be no Hope. We wouldn’t know that the Enchanted could have children and who knows how long it would have taken us to figure it out, if ever. So no matter what happened, I had to look at this as a good thing. It was hard, but I knew that it would have come to this one day anyway, and at least we gained something in the process. He loved me. I know people say love conquers all, but it doesn’t. I knew at that moment that I needed to make the most of what time we had because he would be taken away from me. From us.
I don’t know if he sensed my feelings, or simply couldn’t tolerate the idea that I would pull away from him because he held on. He knew I couldn’t fade at this point, and he wasn’t letting go. Fear was literally vibrating off him. He was afraid, not of what was coming, but of losing us. He was deathly afraid we would go away and not come back. I couldn’t find it in myself to tell him we’d be back, but that if my hunch was correct he would not be here to see us. And there wasn’t shit I could do about it. I don’t know how I knew that, I just did. And I didn’t tell him. I couldn’t tell him, it would drive him crazy trying to solve it, and it would take away any chance at peace he might have in the intervening hours and days. I knew for a fact that he would trade his life for mine, and selfish bitch that I was, I was going to let him do it because of a gut feeling that it had to be that way. I wasn’t even going to fight, or give him the chance to, because of an unshakeable certainty that no matter what we tried, no matter how far away we tried to run, we couldn’t escape this fate, and that the best outcome for both humanity and the Enchanted would be if we let the chips fall, so to speak.
What was I supposed to do with that information? What the fuck was I supposed to do? Could I really just walk away knowing that the love I had just found, the father of my child, was walking into oblivion? Was I so desensitized to destruction that I could say nothing? Do nothing? What the fuck kind of person does that? I called myself every foul name in the book, and invented a few more, and simply let him hold me. I fell asleep in his arms, filled with a complete and utter hatred for myself and everything I was.