Chapter 15: Oz – I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more
I’d only been gone a little over an hour, but as soon as I walked out the hotel room door it looked like I’d been gone a week. Two huge tents had been erected in the empty field across from the hotel. You know, the kind they have wedding receptions and shit like that in. White, with clear plastic windows, and tie-up “doors”. It only took about 60 seconds for Max to find me.
“Are you going to be out of your room for a while? We’re already using Jessie’s for the bathroom and shower, but it would be handy to have yours available too.” Wow, he really was an organizational genius.
“Of course, but please make sure we compensate the hotel owner properly for the massive increase in their water bill. And how the Fuck did you get all this arranged so quickly? And where did you get the money?” I was concerned that we were blowing through what little cash we had.
“The hotel had them in storage for use in weddings and such. They’ve agreed to loan them to us, and since they also own the field, let us set up there for a week or two until our ‘filming’ is done. Apparently it seemed a more realistic thing to say we’re a film crew and our equipment got lost in shipping.” Max lifted his chin and smirked. “I am the director of an as-yet untitled science fiction film about…get this…The Enchanted.” The smirk turned into what my mother would have called a ‘shit-eating-grin’.
I had to admit, it was pretty close to genius. Most everyone in the world had heard of us, but virtually none had ever seen more than a few of us, and we could even play those off as look-alikes for the film. I was pretty impressed. And we could even play it off for a few days until our ‘equipment’ arrived and we had to start actually looking like we were filming something. And it was unlikely that anyone out here would ask to see permits, and pretty easy to nudge them into thinking they’d already seen them if the issue came up. Yup, pretty close to genius.
“And honestly, we have way more cash than I think any of us knew about. It had been stashed here and there in various locations, and the twins knew them all, so we have a little over four and half million at this point. Apparently the mainland pot business was booming!”
His grin just got bigger. I have to admit I was surprised by the number, but not by the way we’d gotten it. I have to say, if they had just legalized pot back then it would have been a very different story.
It was good to know we weren’t going to go broke any time soon, but I was worried about my small family. “How is everyone holding up? How are the twins, and Ellie? And any of the others that were at the meeting? Are they doing OK?“ Unfortunately, in addition to worrying about those I cared about, I was worried that we might have some defectors who saw what happened to Shane and didn’t want that to happen to them. There was a real risk of being ratted out by some of those who were always WSGF friendly in the first place.
“If you’re worried we’ll get outed, I wouldn’t. Do you remember the gathering in the bunker that day – well we sort of had a repeat performance, on a lesser scale. But we all felt it. There was almost a voice, but the meaning was clear and compelling – no one here is going to tell, and no one here is going to question your leadership.”
“My what?” OK, what leadership? My goal was not some grand plan to lead the Enchanted to the new Promised Land. My plan was destruction and misery, nothing short of the complete and thorough end of anyone who had to do with what happened on that island. If they so much as read a memo about it, they were going down. Hard and painful. I wasn’t a leader, didn’t want to be one. Max, or at this point even Eric. Or better yet, the two of them as co-leaders to balance each other out. One brash, passionate and insistent, the other calm, methodical and thoughtful. If you could combine the two of them you would have an excellent Jefe. Not as good as Shane…fuck.
“Lala, whatever all this is, it’s about you, or more to the point, right now, it’s about Hope. There is not one single individual out there that wants to jeopardize that. I don’t know why, but they are pretty united about it.” Max had the calmest smile. He could probably make Attilla the Hun into a pussycat. It was unnerving, and frankly, in my state of mind I didn’t want to be calmed down. I wanted to be pissed off, so I needed to not be having this conversation.
“I don’t know what that’s about, but if that’s what you say, I believe you. But I can’t lead this group, I’m not equipped and right now I don’t fucking want to. You and Eric, together. You balance each other, so I guess I’m deputizing the two of you and I’m going to take care of some personal business.” I don’t think he liked my answer, but I think he knew better than to argue right now. Oddly enough I felt a level of calm come over me as I walked away. I wasn’t storming off like I wanted to, I was just quietly walking toward the room.
I pulled out my laptop, which luckily we’d had checked for bugs and tracking software before this all went down, as I watched the room full of people waiting patiently to get into the shower. It was getting close to night, but luckily the weather here was not likely to be a problem. Apparently according to the conversations I was hearing from the bathroom line, the poppers had been busy and there were now tarps on the floors and cots, rows and rows of cots, sleeping bags, etc. And the funny part is they had all come from WalMart in California. Our people knew where to locate them, and the goods we needed were cheap there. It wasn’t any different to pop 5 feet for 500 miles, and it was safer to go somewhere you knew so you could use out of the way spots, and US currency wouldn’t pose a problem. It would also keep any red flags from going up locally. Again, I had to hand it to Max.
The laptop flared to life and I typed in my search Criteria. WSGF world headquarters. The colors were subdued, serious. The mission Statement absurd on it’s face “To ensure the legal, ethical, and safe functioning of the scientific community worldwide. Creating solutions, while maintaining standards.” Load of Crapola! And wouldn’t you know it, no actual physical address. I guess they didn’t want the crazies showing up on their doorsteps. I was guessing they hadn’t cleared the metadata from the picture of their lovely modern headquarters building though, and if it had been taken with the right kind of camera, my prayers would be answered.
A few keystrokes later the GPS coordinates of the pretty building were typed into my GoogleMaps. Streetview was a glorious thing for those of us who needed to familiarize ourselves with locations we had never been to. It showed a 360 degree view, including neighboring businesses or buildings. Very handy for those that wanted to be a little inconspicuous. Or a lot. I was in luck with this one. The building was in a highly populated metropolitan area. I’d never been to London before, but hey, at least the language wouldn’t be a problem, and they sure as shit would not be looking at a pregnant woman as a threat. It always seemed to turn everyone mushy, which I found amusing because that made them even more dangerous. Me included.
As I was closing down the laptop I noticed that the line had disappeared, and that only one person remained in the room with me. And interestingly enough I wasn’t surprised. Eric Wills. Our resident dissident, but a trustworthy one.
“Lala I can see what you’re researching. You can’t possibly be thinking about going after them…alone,” The look on his face was purely wicked, and it was clear he had an agenda.
“Yeah, Eric I am. It’s me they want, it’s my fault what they did to Shane, and I’m going to fuck them up for it. He didn’t deserve that, and it’s my life’s mission to avenge him. And I don’t want any help. I don’t want to put anyone else in harms’ way, so the answer is No, you can’t come with me.” Oddly, the smirk never left his face.
“Like to see you stop me sweetheart. Although I may not have agreed with him on everything, Shane was my friend, and what they did to him, and planned for the rest of us was about as unacceptable as I’ve ever encountered, so with you, or in spite of you, I’m taking them down. We should just work together, it makes a shitload more sense.” God I hated it when he was right! Which he had been just a tad too much lately.
“Do you have something specific in mind?” I might as well hear his plan, since I didn’t really have one yet.
“I’m thinking a little hit and run terrorism could be fun. The higher the body count the better.” My insides twinged a little at that. I wasn’t really sure how I felt about collateral damage. I was good with removing anyone actually involved from the gene pool, but I wasn’t taking out innocents
“Eric, we can’t stoop to their level. We can’t victimize innocents or we will be the monsters they’re claiming we are. How do we identify the guilty parties?” I only hoped he’d be in agreement on being more selective with the really nasty stuff.
“Lala, I’ve been monitoring their e-mails since the minute we landed here. I’ve got a pretty good trail and a long list of names, including one Prime Minister, the US President, and even the fucking Queen was briefed. As far as I’m concerned, if I’ve seen their name in the “to” list, they go down. No questions asked.” The smirk was gone, replaced by a look of hate that I know I would have hated to be on the receiving end of.
“OK. I’m good with that. I think we need to keep this between us. And none of it can be traced back to us. As far as I know they still don’t know about the popping. I’m sure they are confused as fuck as to how we got off the island, but I don’t think they really know for sure. That gives us some level of advantage until they figure it out and start watching for it. I say we start at the bottom. Let the big guys stew for a while. Throw out a few bits and pieces of what they can expect. I want them scared for their fucking lives. A little game of cat and mouse could be fun.” I felt a twinge in my gut and I knew Hope wasn’t thrilled with my plan, but it wasn’t outright disapproval, so I took what I could get.
“That works. I have the names of the US General who planned the raid, and the “analysts” at the WSGF who gave the go-ahead to the program Andie and Adam were part of. There are a few others who were also part of the same program, but according to the paperwork hadn’t made any progress.” Fuck, he did have to remind me of my patently stupid liaison with Andie and Adam. That my fuckup was the reason Shane was dead. The reason we were all stuck in the Australian desert in tents, that we were being hunted like animals. Yeah, thanks for that reminder, asshole.
“OK WSGF first – they are the ones who had the power to stop it all and didn’t. I want everyone who had any culpability to be wiped off the planet. I want the organization taken down, discredited and destroyed so they can’t do this ever again. Where do we start?” Until that moment it hadn’t occurred to me to utterly eliminate the WSGF as an entity, but since we were the reason they they existed, it only seemed fair that we were the reason they went down.
“Well, first I say discredit, humiliate and allow them to eat each other from the inside out. I can share a few of the e-mails that I found that were pretty incriminating in themselves, talking about the harmless nature of the Enchanted, but detailing how to demonize us in order to keep public sentiment behind them. I can also share a few secrets about what they found out was going on in the Zone, and a few things of a more personal nature that will ruin a few lives. I don’t even have to make shit up – they provided me with everything I need. Wikileaks will look like schoolgirl gossip when I’m done.” I was going to get used to that wicket smile.
“Do it! I want to watch the implosion. We’ll give that a couple days to marinate, then we go in and start taking out medium level targets.”
I watched as he logged onto my computer, linked through about 50 different servers and a ton of cell sites, and got a morbid sense of satisfaction when he hit the send button. Every news agency on the planet had just received a packet of information naming names, sharing conspiracies and outing a lot of nefarious activities within the WSGF and just about every government that was involved with them. And with Eric’s skills, none of the would ever be able to trace it. Yes!
Eric smiled and hugged me. Kissed me on the forehead and left the room, now empty except for me. I looked at the glow coming off the screen as “Urgent Breaking News” began to pop up on every window. And for the first time I allowed myself to feel. I curled up as small as I could get under the circumstances and cried. It felt like hours, and truthfully, it may have been since by the time the well was dry the sun was completely down, and there was no movement outside. No lights other than the usual signs for the hotel, and some small strings of lights surrounding the tents for security.
The computer screen was black. Sleep mode. I was not ready to read any of it yet, so I walked outside. There was a peace, a calm that I hadn’t really expected. There was so much turmoil in my heart and soul I didn’t understand how the rest of the world could be at peace. How could this particular group of people who had watched a man brutally murdered, been uprooted from everything they knew to be plopped down in tents, on cots, with no privacy and no idea what their future held sleep quietly, waiting for whatever the daylight handed them.
As I wandered what could only be called our “camp” I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. Max and Jeremy. Somehow I knew that would end up happening. Their encounter had been too steamy not to amount to something more. I was happy for them. Well, as happy as I could be at that point. Max was going to have to take on a lot of responsibility, and I was glad he had Jeremy to support and love him. Hope sighed. It was a nice feeling.
I continued my circuitous route and didn’t see much else. A couple of pairs that I knew to be couples before we had left the Island were laying on the ground, holding hands, and staring at the stars. The little pieces of my heart broke a little more.
I decided to pop in and see Jessie. I was fairly certain she was unhappy about being left alone in the middle of nowhere, and frankly we needed to talk. I wanted to bring her back with me, show the rest of the group the situation, offer them the same opportunity. I had a feeling we were going to need the numbers, though I wasn’t sure we’d survive long enough for it to matter. In any event, every Enchanted had a right to try. Right now they all thought I was an anomaly, and I thought it was time to clear up that misconception. If they wanted a family, we had found a way for them to have one, and it wasn’t right or fair that we kept that information from them.
I was right about her being unhappy. I didn’t count on downright pissed off. I got an earful of how it wasn’t OK to just abandon her in a strange place, not even being able to leave the room, in a place where there was no way for her to communicate with anyone…you get the picture. I don’t know if hormones were an issue or not, since they clearly hadn’t been for me, but her situation was different. I wondered if every Enchanted would be different or if there would be a standard.
“Jessie, you’re right. About all of it. No excuses, just nervous about the reaction.” No reason not to be honest at this point. “I think it’s time to come clean to everyone and see if there are any others who wish to join the ranks of parenthood. What do you think?” I never expected the squeak and bounce up and down as a response, but as answers go I guess it was a pretty clear one. We talked for a few minutes about how it was going to go and then popped back to my room in Oz. We’d wait til morning – no point waking everyone up.