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Brothers & Sisters – Chapter Five: Meeting All The Players

This is basically an un-edited version of this book. There will be typos. There will be your/you’re errors, because I’m dyslexic as hell. Why am I posting it? I’ve more or less come to the conclusion that some major things needed to change, so I’m changing them. However, I like the old version and I already gave you Twins In Death in the old form, so have this one too. It doesn’t matter, the books are being re-written, so enjoy.

Brothers & Sisters
A Tale of The Weirdo
By Brett N. Lashuay

Chapter Five

Meeting All The Players

 

March 29th, 2003

8:10 a.m.

 

            The Weirdo looked at the headlines, it was hard not to really. They were in large bold black type and he didn’t want to see that.  He folded the paper and threw it away being careful to make sure no one would see it. He picked up the newspaper from Saturday and opened it. He skipped immediately to the comic section, folding any news away. He was quite interested to see what that crazy beagle was up to today. Was that nutty beagle driving the round-headed kid crazy? Would he be steeling the blanket from that blanket kid? There had been what was it, a year since the creator died? They were still running the comics though. They were still running them and that was a good thing. It was a good thing because other wise, how would he be able to tell what that zany beagle was up to? He looked at the television set that had been turned off, and then at the comic section.

 

            He opened the can of cola he had brought with him from the refrigerator. He pulled on the tab and a release of gas poured out. He poured a portion of the can into a coffee mug that sat in front of him and drank from it while he looked for a comic about a beagle.

 

            Max walked into the kitchen and opened a cupboard. He looked at the cereal choices through his bleary eyes and pulled out a box. He shuffled to the cupboards and pulled out a bowl, he then shuffled to the fridge and got the bottle of milk. He sat down at the table and looked at the three of them. He poured out a measure of cereal, and then a measure of milk. He was fitting the cap back on the milk when he looked around at the bowl.

 

            “Crap.” He said and got up, walking to a drawer and extracting a spoon.

 

            “Morning.” Kestrel said as she came into the kitchen.

 


            Kestrel had already taken a shower, dried her hair, and gotten dressed. She looked at the box of cereal Max was beginning to eat and walked past them. She looked in the cupboard and pulled out a cereal that had considerably more sugar and artificial colors. It was the sort that might just have something made of plastic and sealed in a plastic bag inside. She got a bowl and spoon and sat down at the table.

 

            The Weirdo folded up the paper and walked towards the garbage can. Kestrel watched as he carefully folded the paper. It seemed as though he were preventing the front of the paper from being seen.

 

            “Is that today’s?” She asked.

 

            “Saturday’s.” He said, holding the paper up.

 

            “Oh.” She said.

 

            “Do you… want it?” He asked, trying to be polite.

 

            He couldn’t quite read her yet, that wouldn’t come for a bit yet. She had expressed an interest in the newspaper but he couldn’t tell if it was from genuine interest or just vague idea to read something. She might have just wanted to see what the weather was going to be like and thus Saturday’s paper might be no good to her.

 

            “No.” She said after a moments thought.

 

            “Sure?” He asked holding the paper a little higher.

 

            “Yeah, I’m sure.” She said nodding

           

            “Okay.” He said dropping the paper into the garbage can and let the lid flip back down.

 

            The Weirdo turned on a small kitchen stereo that was connected to the computer in the hole. He pressed a few buttons and a series of songs were up loaded to the music box and it began to play a light frothy jazz number. He then walked to the fridge and pulled out a series of items.

 

            “Eggs, bacon, sausage, that’s what we need.”

 

            He took up a package of bacon and set it to one side to begin. He took a baking sheet and a raised cake cooling rack from the cupboard, he laid the bacon out onto the raised wire rack, fitting as many pieces as he could manage. He then put the backing tray into the over and turned the oven on to four hundred and fifty. He took a cast iron frying pan from an overhead rack and set it down on the stove, setting it to medium heat. He put three of the round sausage patties into the pan and waited for them to begin to cook. He looked in the fridge and extracted some English muffins and cheddar. He set them down on the counter and checked the sausage. He spilt some of the muffins and put them into the toaster. He flipped the sausage over, and looked at the thermometer for the oven. The bacon would take a little while yet, and so would the sausage.

 

            He went back to the fridge and pulled out a green pepper, and a red pepper. He went to the pantry and grabbed a small onion as well. He chopped these up and put a few eggs into a bowl to begin a few omelets. Marla had walked into the room while he was mixing the eggs and adding spices.

 

            “Morning.” She said.

 

            “Morning.” Max said.

 

            “Sleep well?” Kestrel asked.

 

            “Pretty well,” she said, “Is that breakfast?”

 

            “It’s becoming breakfast.” The Weirdo confirmed.

 

            It took a few more minuets, but the first round of bacon; sausages and eggs were soon on the table. There were sandwiches made, plates arranged, and soon the rattle of cutlery joined the music in the air. The Weirdo took a bag of frozen pre cut potatoes from the freezer and began to fry them with half the vegetables he had cut with them. A bit of sausage and cheese went into it quickly, forming a lovely breakfast potato thing.

 

            Sheila came down next, followed in turn by Amanda, Rutherford and Jack. There were calls for orange juice and one spirited request for chocolate cake that was struck down because Marla though that if Jack had cake the children would want cake as well. Mrs. Pendleton came into the kitchen soon after, still in her nightgown and dressing gown. She looked at the mess and shrugged. It was far too early to start a complaint about clean up. Tommy and Judy came down together and Azela was the last to come to the kitchen. She was surprised to find that she was welcomed to the already crowded table. The Weirdo looked at the family unit, all present and accounted for. Bagheera was walking around, scrounging what scraps he could muster. Minga simply lay down in the kitchen, just in The Weirdo’s way if he wanted to walk around.

 

            The Weirdo and Tommy had been forced to sit at the island set in the kitchen, since they had run out of room at the table. They looked across the island from each other as morning conversation about movies and music drifted from the crowded table.

 

            “You remember the first time we ate in this house?” Tommy asked.

 

            “The very first time?”

 

            “You and I ate here at the island because there only was the two of us and we can reach the stove from here.”

 

            “Yeah?”

 

            “Now look at us.” He looked over at the table. “We never used to sit at that table.”

 

            “We still aren’t sitting at the table Tommy.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “But not because it’s just three or four guys on their own.” Tommy said. “I had a wife, two children, grandchildren. One day Amanda died, and the kids went away, only Shannon ever came to see me.”

 

            “Yeah.”

 

            “And now look at us. We are practically patriarchs.”

 

            “And we’re eating breakfast.” He said. “And it occurs to me why we have a rather large dinning room just in the next room.”

 

            “You’d loose something if they were eating in the dinning room.” Tommy said.

 

            “Noise.” The Weirdo said. “And I’d be sitting at a table too.”

 

            Tommy laughed and speared a sausage link.

           

            There was a knock at the back door, and Kestrel looked out the window at the man who was waving through the window. He was pale; his black hair was long and silken. Max looked up and stood, swiftly walking to the door. He opened the door and reveled that there was a tall thin vampire was knocking the door.

 

            “Michael.” Max said as he shook the cold hand.

 

            “Hello Maximilian.” Michael Darrian said.

 

            “Mike,” Marla said, perking up slightly. “Hi.”

 

            “Hello Marla.” He said, looking towards The Weirdo. “I said I’d be here this morning, and thus I am.”

 

            “Well take your coat off and sit down a moment then.” The Weirdo said. “Everyone, this is Michael Darrian, he’s a vampire. That being said he can go out in the sun, he eats real food and he is nothing like the vampire Lestat. I’d ask everybody to introduce themselves, but they’ve got food in their mouths. You know Max, Judy, Sheila, Marla, and Jack. Those are Jack and Marla’s kids Rutherford and Amanda. Mrs. Pendleton our housekeeper and Kestrel sitting next to her. Max’s newest friend, Azela was sitting next to him. Minga on the floor and Bagheera rubbing up against you’re leg. I forget any one? No? Good. We’re just having breakfast, which we never do. Since we never do it, the novelty hasn’t worn off yet so please don’t spoil it by not eating.”

 

            “Why not.” Darrian said, walking to the stove and looking at the food and whispered to The Weirdo and Tommy. “They don’t know do they?”

 

            “I don’t think so.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “What?” Tommy asked.

 

            “Let’s finish breakfast.” The Weirdo said smiling brightly.

 

            Tommy gave him a puzzled look, and then nodded. He would be told in due time, he was told everything in due time. Darrian took a plate full of food and looked around for someplace to sit. As there wasn’t anywhere he walked to the arched out window and sat on the shelf created by the window that stuck a foot out of the house. He sat against the frame of the window, his boots up on the shelf with him, placing the plate across his knees.

 

            “Cydrill will be here soon as well.” The Weirdo said. “Going to bring some people with him.”

 

            “Peidmont and Cassimano?”

 

            “I don’t think he travels without Peidmont. He said he’d get at least D’var to come along, but he was also going to try to contact a few others.”

 

            “What did Mike mean?”

 

            “After breakfast.”

 

            “That bad, huh?”

 

            “Worse.” The Weirdo said.

 

 

March 29th, 2003

9:39 a.m.

 

            The last of the breakfast diners had wandered away to take showers or change clothes or do whatever it was they had planned to do. The Weirdo and Mrs. Pendleton were left in the kitchen together. He was helping her put dishes into the sink, and began to run the water.

 

            “I’ll take care of this.” She said. “You go get dressed and ready for the day.”

 

            “You sure?” He asked.

 

            “Go ahead.” She said.

 

            As he left, she switched on the television. He could hear the squeal of the older TV’s electron gun just out of sync. It was a high-pitched noise that cut into his ears like daggers. He walked away more quickly knowing that the news would soon reach her.

           

 

March 29th, 2003

9:40 a.m.

 

            “Weirdo!” Mrs. Pendleton came running down through the house to catch him at the stairs.

 

            “Yes?” He asked, trying to look casual.

 

            “They killed them all.” She said.

 

            “Weirdo!” Kestrel’s voice called out.

 

            “I know dear.” The Weirdo said patting her arm. “That’s why I threw the paper out before anyone knew I had it.”

 

            “They’ve killed the government.” Kestrel said, half running down the stairs.

 

            She saw the relatively unconcerned look on her face and stopped. Her mouth gradually slackened as she realized that it wasn’t Saturday’s paper he had thrown out. She couldn’t tell if she was angry with him for not saying or amazed at his restraint. He leaned against the banister and looked at her.

           

“If you’d known, it would have spoiled breakfast.” He said. “And nothing would have changed. They killed all of them, what difference would it have made besides to ruin a meal?”

 

            “You knew, that’s why you made the big breakfast.” She said.

 

            “I knew.” He said. “I just choose not to say.”

 

            “You lied about the paper.” She said.

 

            “Go check, its Saturday’s paper in the can. I stole this mornings paper away and disposed of it earlier.” He said, slightly annoyed. “I read things on-line though. I get my news off the internet.”

 

            “What do we do?” she asked.

 

            “We investigate, we search around, and time permitting we shoot people.”

 

            “That’s your plan?”

 

            “Neat huh?”

 

            “It’s idiotic.”

 

            “I’ll wait till Jorgaes calls and then we’ll see what we see.”

 

            “Weirdo!” Tommy and Jack’s voices called up in unison.

 

            They came to the top of the stairs and stopped as he calmly mounted the stairs. He didn’t have to tell them, they knew. They knew and they were resolved to the fact that once again he was ahead of the game by at least one step.

 

            “I’m gonna shower, and then I’ll turn my phone on and wait for Jorgaes to call.”

           

 

March 29th, 2003

9:55 a.m.

 

            Showers had been taken in record time and by the time The Weirdo came down the stairs, hair still wet, they were assembled at the bottom of the stairs, in the chairs arranged around the foyer. He had been fairly quick about his own shower, but they had blown him away. Tommy and Jack had both taken the steps of putting on suits, which was never a good sign. Kestrel had slung her holsters on and Max was already standing in his leather jacket.

 

            Amanda and Rutherford where to where to be seen, nor was Azela. Everyone else was in attendance though. They all looked at him expectantly as he came down the stairs, wearing his own black suit. He brushed the blue tie down, looking at the group that was assembled. Jorgaes was sitting in a chair across from them, holding one unlit cigarette in his hand. He was tapping the paper tube on the arm or the chair in front of him, turning it over and tapping it down again. It was an absent nervous movement that The Weirdo rarely saw from Jorgaes.

 

            “I suppose you’re all wondering why I called you here this morning.”

 

            “No.” Jack said. “I think we’re wondering what we’re going to do about it.”

 

            “Fair enough.” The Weirdo said pointing. “I have no idea.”

 

            “Maybe we should review the damage.” Jorgaes said.

 

            “Now you’re not supposed to be here, I haven’t even turned my phone on so you can call me.”

 

            “I called him.” Kestrel said.

 

            “You did?” He asked.

 

            “Yes.”

 

            “Oh, okay. Well then let us review, so we all know where we are.”

 

            “It happened at about four this morning.” Jorgaes began, “In fact it started at four ten and was all over by four fifteen. Each one was a personal hit each one had been shot. It seems there was some discretion as to how each one wanted to do their deed. Some used a simple silenced pistol, shot between the eyes. Some used machine guns and tore them to pieces. They got ever one, the senate, the house, cabinet, president, heads of most the major departments. I believe the Post Master General will be sworn in as soon as they can get him out of the bath room he’s locked himself in.”

 

            “Are you being sarcastic?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            “Don’t I just wish?” Jorgaes said.

 

            “Who can blame him?” Judy asked, raising a coffee mug to her lips.

 

            “There’s more.” Jorgaes said. “It really doesn’t seem to matter that there’s no one to govern the people, there are no more people.”

 

            “Beg pardon?” Max asked.

 

            “This is an estimation, the entire infrastructure is going to crumble soon so I’ve got sketchy data to work with. The World population last week was seven billion and change. On Friday, it was six billion, we think most the disappearances happened in Asia and other high density areas where it wouldn’t be noticed at first.”

 

            “High density?” Kestrel asked.

 

            “Population wise.” The Weirdo said.

 

She nodded.

 

“On Saturday the world population was about five billion, yesterday it was three billion. I’m given to understand that there will be no one left on the planet by tomorrow.”

 

            “Where is everyone going then?” Kestrel asked. “A billion people don’t just vanish.”

 

            “They did.” Jorgaes said. “And we don’t know where they went, because no one noticed them vanishing. It was like they didn’t even notice that the places they were in were a little roomier, just went on with their lives.”

 

            “Hey.” Max said. “May be it’s the ecstasy, and we’ve been left behind.”

 

            “Rapture.” Darrian said. “You mean the rapture.”

 

            “Right.” Max said. “Rapture, really terrible book series anyway.”

 

            They didn’t say anything, just looked from one to another. Max looked around; he had expected to be told to shut up. He was a little worried that he hadn’t been told to shut up. He had expected to have this comment shut down, since he’d offered it for that reason.

 

            “There is something else.” Jorgaes said. “I received phone calls from two groups, one called The Power and the other called The System.”

 

            “The System and the Power.” The Weirdo said. “We’d have to meet them soon anyway.”

 

            “Who do we meet first?” Tommy

 

            “I made two appointments.” Jorgaes said. “Ten thirty, you meet The System. Eleven o’clock, you meet the Power.”

 

            “Not a lot of time to get there.” Jack said. “Half an hour on Monday?”

 

            “I think you’ll discover there isn’t a lot of traffic.” Jorgaes said.

 

            “No,” Tommy said, “There wouldn’t be.”

 

            “Shall we go then?” The Weirdo asked.

 

 

March 29th, 2003

10:28 p.m.

 

            There were people about, and they didn’t seem to notice that they were as alone as a driver in a car commercial. They simply walked around as if there was nothing particularly odd about there being just over a million people in a city who boasted more than nine million. They were simply going about their business as usual.

 

            They drove to the Empire State building, which the System had apparently taken over in recent days. The Weirdo looked at the foyer, where two women in there. Before you even got to the security checkpoint in the lobby, there were two women in black jumpsuits, carrying automatic weapons. One of them said something into her lapel and waved them towards the doors.

 

            “Weirdo?” The woman who had waved them in asked.

 

            “And company.” He said.

 

            “I’ll need to search you for arms.” She said.

 

            “Got two here.” He said holding up his arms.

 

            “You know what I mean.” She said.

 

            He looked at her, his eyes flicking to the other girl and then staring back. She was maybe twenty, her strait black hair tied in a ponytail high at the back of her head. She wore silver eye shadow and a brush, not a large stick, had probably applied her lipstick. He smiled at her, and she could feel her hands clutch the automatic weapon at her side by the duparoh strap.

 

            “Don’t do that.” He said softly. “You’d both be dead and this would turn really bloody really fast. You’ve got a nice kit, and you’d intimidate the average person, but you haven’t even taken the safety off.”

 

            “They can go.” The other girl, a blonde said. “Eve said.”

 

            “Alright.” The black haired woman said.

 

            “Thank you.” The Weirdo said and they moved into the building.

 

            There were more women in jumpsuits, young women. The jumpsuits were tight, and looked custom made to accentuate the youth of each guard. They had side arms, and they each looked very serious, but in a very planned and calculated way. Their hair and make up had been Hollywood perfect, their suits could have been playmate approved.

 

            There was a slightly embarrassing moment where the metal detector kept going off, but it was roundly ignored. It was ignored until Michael Darrian went through anyway, when it didn’t go off. He looked at the young women who looked at the machine and then at him as he walked through.

 

            “Sorry.” He said. “I don’t have a gun.”

 

            Kestrel touched the small hammerless Smith and Wesson nine millimeter on her hip. She was about to pull it out when she remembered the other gun in her back pocket. He pulled it out and tossed it across to him. He looked at the gun and smiled, walking back through and letting the machine beep at him. He then handed the pistol back to Kestrel, thanking her kindly.

 

            “You can hold onto it.” She said. “I’ve got another spare.”

 

            “You’re sure?” He asked.

 

            “Yeah, go ahead.”

 

            “My own Walther PPK. I feel like a misogynistic womanizing Brit already.”

 

            “Hey.” Jack said over his shoulder. “Misogynistic womanizing Brits carry Heckler & Koch these days.”

 

            “Besides, aren’t you gay?” Kestrel asked.

 

            “Look.” Darrian said grabbing his hair. “Black hair, black. I’m from Boston, not France. I am not gay; I’m all about the ladies all right. I am not the creation of some goddamn fag hag from New Orleans. I am not a homoerotic French child molesting, incestual faggot. Black hair, black hair; do you see? I am not blonde I have black hair, and I am not a homosexual. Strait, all about the pussy, okay? We can drop the gay comments all right?”

 

            “He’s sensitive isn’t he?” Kestrel said laughing.

 

            “Shut up.” Darrian said.

 

            The Weirdo laughed and looked at Tommy, who was suppressing a giggle into his hand. They watched as a young woman with a clipboard walked from a hallway towards them. She was a little older than the others; she might have been able to buy her own drinks at a bar. She was dressed in a cream linen suit, the skirt of which was actually below her knees. She was attractive, but painfully thin. Her legs were sticks instead of the powerful sheaths of muscle they should have been.

 

            The Weirdo noted her legs, as did most of the company. There were varying mental responses from the group, but none of them actually expressed them out, loud.

 

            “Weirdo and company?” She said. “My name is Rachel.”

 

            “Weirdo.” The Weirdo said, “This is Mister Gunner, Mister Uniton, Mister Zane, Miss McLeary and some effete vampire that followed us in.”

 

            The Weirdo wasn’t surprised that the bullet struck him in the back of the head, what had surprised him was that it hadn’t been fired. Darrian had worked the unspent bullet from the gun and thrown the whole thing at the back of his head. The bullet bounced off and The Weirdo suppressed a loud laugh.

 

            “We know Mister Darrian.” She said.

 

            “How do you know him?” Jack asked.

 

            “We’ve been watching.” She said with a shrug. “Would you like to follow me?”

 

            She led them to an elevator that could only be accessed with a key card. The doors opened and she led them into the elevator, sliding the card into a slot inside the elevator and pressing the top button. The button lit up and there was a gently hum that emitted from the shaft as the elevator began to move towards the doors.

 

            “Been here long?” Max asked.

 

            “We’ve been in Europe mostly until just this last year.” She said. “We took this building over in January. I’ve been part of the administrative group in America since October. We’re going to have to step up our operations, after what just happened.”

 

            “Step up?” Tommy asked.

 

            “Eve will tell you all about that.” She said.

 

 

March 29th, 2003

10:34 a.m.

 

            The door opened at the top level of the building, which had been changed around quite a bit. For starters it looked more like a harem of Victorian imaginings than it did a place of business. There were large groups of women lying on silken pillows, wearing little more than scraps of cloth that some one had stapled some lace onto and sold at a two thousand percent profit. There were few lights; some women were awake, but most still slept. They slept in small groups mostly, like puppies from a litter.

 

            “They’ve had a long night.” Rachel said as she lead them the boardroom. “We should let them sleep.”

 

            “Oh I agree.” The Weirdo whispered.

 

            The boardroom was still a marvel of art deco interior design. They looked around the empty room, and then at Rachel. She smiled and gestured towards the table.

 

            “If you’d like to have a seat, I’ll get Eve.”

 

            They sat and Rachel left, the door clicked closed and they all leaned forward at once. Their voices were hushed and quick as they spoke.

 

            “Some of those girls just got here.” Darrian said. “I could smell cordite as we passed through there.”

 

            “And sweat.” The Weirdo said. “They rushed some of them to get into that room.”

 

            “Where are all the men?” Tommy asked.

 

            “We just arrived.” Max said. The others looked at him and he raised his voice a little in defense. “What? Didn’t it occur to you that we were just shown an advertisement? All these valuable prizes could be yours.”

 

            “He’s right.” Kestrel said. “No woman sleeps in those sort of outfits unless she’s specifically after sex.”

 

            “Marla wears those sort of things a lot.” Jack said.

 

            “And?” Kestrel asked.

 

            “Oh yes, I see you’re point.”

 

            “She does own cotton panties?”

 

            “Yes.”

 

            “And she wears them to bed?”

 

            “Regularly.” Jack said, thinking about it.

 

“And how often does she end up sleeping in them?”

 

“No, you’re right, it’s a set up.”

 

            “Exactly.” Max said. “We went by a living breathing, bill board. We should only be glad there wasn’t an actual orgy going on.”

 

            “Not very Christian thing to do.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Maybe they have special dispensation.” Darrian said.

            “Or they think they do.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “There was nothing for me there though.” Kestrel said.

 

            “Maybe there aren’t any men in their group.” Jack said. “At least not in the high enough positions.”

 

            “They were tired,” The Weirdo said, “and they smelled of gun powder.”

 

            “Yes?” Tommy asked.

 

            “You know where your gun is?”

 

            “Yes?”

 

            “Let’s just all try to remember where our guns are is all I’m saying.”

 

            The doors opened and a woman came through. She was dressed in what could only be called an evening gown. It was made of white silk, and was made like a certain dress from the forties. It was somewhat simplistic, but showed her lines and made things happen to the men as she moved.

 

            Her hair was a sort of golden blonde; her eyes were an artificial shade of green. It was obvious that she was wearing contacts, but no one thought to mention it. She closed the doors behind her and walked the length of the room, to the window across from the doors. She might have been a youthful fifty, or an old looking thirty-five. The Weirdo pegged her age at an attractive forty-two. He had no particular reason for that he just liked the number. She was defiantly attractive, and had taken good and genuine care of herself. There were only a few small wrinkles around the mouth and eyes. They didn’t make her look old so much as experienced.

 

            She set a manila folder down on the table before her and pulled a seat out and sat down. She smiled as she looked at the six expectant faces. Three of them were in suits, one was dressed for school, and one looked like he’d just stepped off the set of a movie about dark corners and erotic neck biting. Kestrel was dressed in a suit of her own, but there was no tie for her suit.

 

            “Good morning.” She said, “I suppose that Rachel has already told you my name is Eve.”

 

            “No last name?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            “We don’t use last names here.” Eve said. “We’re not our fathers, we’re ourselves.”

 

            “Where’s your tattoo?” The Weirdo then asked with a sort of self-satisfied smile.

 

            She looked at him, her face impassive, then she smiled. She sat back and put her feet up on the table, exposing a lot of leg and a small tattoo just above her right ankle. It was a small squared cross, with a dove sleeping on the arm. She looked at him and smiled as he nodded. They both knew what he was looking at, as her eyes flicked at her leg.

 

            “Where’s yours?” She asked, smiling.

 

            “I don’t have any.” He said.

 

            “So I have you to show you mine, but you don’t show yours?” She slid the muscular legs back under the desk and smoothed the skirt of her dress.

 

            “If I had a tattoo, I’m sure I’d show you.” He said.

 

            “If you showed one, I would have to show another of them.” She smiled.

 

            The Weirdo’s eyes flicked to Jack and then Tommy. Tommy’s eyes flicked and they then both looked back at her. He was trying to figure out if this was serious or not, and how should he react. He then decided that it wasn’t worth the effort and went for a joke.

 

            “And if we played that game long enough you’d end up on top of me having a massively great orgasm.” He said.

 

            “Nice to know.” She smiled widely at him.

 

            “But I’ve got no tattoos, and you’ve got other things to discuss. So, to business.”

 

            “To business.” Tommy said raising the water glass he had poured for himself.

 

            “What?” She asked.

 

            “I thought you were purposing a toast.” Tommy said in a blatant violation of international copyright law.

 

            “Yes, well.” She said after a long moment, clearly she hadn’t gotten it. “We are fighting a small group of terrorist. Last night, they performed an act, well we hadn’t thought them capable.”

 

            “You’re referring to what?” Tommy asked.

 

            “Haven’t you been watching the news?” She asked.

 

            “No, not really.” Tommy said, looking at the Weirdo. “We had breakfast this morning instead.”

 

            “Your president is dead, most of your governing bodies were killed last night.”

 

            “Oh that.” The Weirdo said. “Well I didn’t vote for him anyway.”

 

            “It’s terrorism.” She said. “They’ve toppled your government.”

 

            “Local government still standing?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            “What? Well yes I suppose.”

 

            “Well, that’s alright then. The local governments can pretty much take care of themselves really.”

 

            “My lady has asked me to extend to you an official request for help.” Eve said, completely thrown off balance.

 

            It was clear that this was not what she had been expecting. She had been expecting a lot of chest beating, the sort of post 9/11 fervor that she had seen else ware. Here there was only the languid, the resting of beasts who had seen enough not to get spooked to easily. They would wait until there was actually something immediate.

 

            “Who is your lady?” Jack asked.

 

            “The leader or our group.” She said. “We call her our lady.”

 

            “And she’s officially asking for help?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            “Yes.” She said, still flustered. “She had authorized me to offer you full memberships, which would mean of course access to all members.”

 

            “Access to all members sounds a bit funny.” Kestrel said.

 

            “Yes.” Tommy said. “Sounds a bit like come take liberties with the young, comely and curious girls you see all around you.”

 

            “That’s not what I meant.” She said

 

            “Yes it is.” The Weirdo said. “You paraded us past two dozen barely dressed girls. If we accepted, how long would it take to get laid?”

 

            “Probably not long.” She said. “Our family is a very open one, we share everything and several of the girls might want to show gratitude. You’d be helping us and many of them would want to welcome you into the family.”

 

            The Weirdo looked down at his pocket watch and showed it to Tommy. Tommy nodded and looked at Jack. He pointed to his own watch and Jack nodded. Kestrel had seen them do this and so had Max. They looked at her, but watched the subtle movements of the other three.

 

            “I’m not going to sign on for a flesh market.” The Weirdo said. “I don’t think it would be right. We have another meeting to get to though, so you’ll excuse us.”

 

            He stood and the others stood as well. He looked at them as they stood up with him, and wondered if he was the chairman of this board. He continued standing up and looked at Eve as he did.

 

            “I’m sorry you think I’m offering you something I’m not.” She said, standing. “We need help, this is a fight against a total and complete evil.”

 

            “If we find that to be true, we’ll give you a call.” He said.

 

 

March 29th, 2003

11:00 a.m.

 

            The Weirdo was leaning against the midnight blue sedan, looking at the entryway of the Chrysler building. He could have told you the exact day and time the building was begun and the day and time it ended. If needed he could tell the name of the foreman off the top of his head and could name the glassier who made the glass and the steel company who provided the steel. Well of course it wasn’t hard to remember the name U.S. Steel, but he also knew that the man who brought sandwiches in the afternoon was named Charlie McPherson. He was an Irish immigrant who had gone on to open the well-known sandwich shop Mac fee’s that was well known to sell the best sandwiches in Manhattan. In the late seventies the sandwiches had earned enough money to go national. The Weirdo had eaten at Mac fee’s just last week, and had a pretty good grilled cheese and ham sandwich. It occurred to him that he might never have another Mac fee sandwich. He knew nearly everything about nearly every building in the city, and knew most the history of the known world.

 

            He knew all these things, knew so much about so many things, yet he didn’t know what he was up against. He had driven fast, because his mind worked faster as his body moved faster. Now that he was still, his mind was digesting thoughts while coming up with new ones. He couldn’t come up with the facts of what he was up against. There was a lot going on, and everyone was lying to him. Everyone who wasn’t part of his crew was lying to him, that much was obvious. Since he knew that so quickly, they must have known it as well. So if they knew he knew they were lying, then they would lace it with truth. So how much lying were they doing was the question. It wasn’t a question he was comfortable with, because he hated duplicity. Usually when people lied to him, they just lied, and he could make them tell truth. With these half-truths he was on unusual ground, which he didn’t know where to go on it.

 

He watched the building’s doors, waiting for the others to arrive. He looked at Tommy as they leaned against the car, watching the foyer of the building. There were no women in jumpsuits, no automatic weapons, no one. They were either more lax about security or more discrete about it. If it was discretion, The Weirdo preferred this approach. He’d never been one for the brandishing of weapons; it showed a lack of imagination. He preferred concealing the weapon in such a way that it was obvious that a weapon was being concealed.

 

            “I might never get my suit clean.” Tommy said. “We’ve walked through bullshit before, but that was knee deep.”

 

            “A bunch of horse shit.” The Weirdo said, and then looked at Tommy. “You ever notice it’s always a large animal? Horseshit, bullshit, rhinoceros shit, elephant shit. Never dog shit, goat ship, sheep shit, lamb shit, never. Never little animals, always big animals.”

 

            “And we waded through it.”

 

            “You think it they killed them all?”

 

            “I do.” Tommy said. “Not that it matters really. Some kind of war had spilled out into the real world, and I’m thinking Max might have been right about rapture. There are less people around than there were this morning.”

 

            “I don’t believe in rapture.” The Weirdo said. “I don’t accept it.”

 

            “What do you accept?”

 

            “They’ve been moved.” The Weirdo said, “Rather, they’ve been removed for their own safety. A limbo was prepared for them, and they’re being removed in batches to get them out of the way of the impending disaster.”

 

            “That’s an interesting way to put things.” Tommy said.

 

            “I know.” The Weirdo said. “It’s what came to my mind though.”

 

            “I know.” He said. “The problem is that I think there is more than a war between two ideological groups going on.”

 

            “What makes you think that?”

 

            “We’re still here.” Tommy said. “We’re somebody’s playing piece.”

 

            “How do you mean?”

 

            “Did you ever play with toy soldiers as a kid?”

 

            “I can’t remember.” The Weirdo said and then laughed. “Can you believe that? I can’t actually remember if I played with toy soldiers.”

 

            This seemed to bother The Weirdo and he held his hand to his head and looked at Tommy and laughed again. There was something deep within him that this clearly bothered. He looked around and then looked back at Tommy. His dark eyes seemed to waver ever so slightly as he looked at his friends face.

 

            “I can tell you all the people who invented the steam engine before James Watt got near it. I can explain in laborious detail the development of the telescope and how it involves the cloth trade. Yet I cannot tell you a simple detail like did I play with toy soldiers.”

 

“Well I did.” He said. “I had about ten thousand little tin soldiers. I’d line them up, and play war campaigns, took days to play sometimes. I’d play with some of my friends too; we’d have war games, roll dice for damages to the units. Some one is taking the trouble of setting up their toy soldiers, and somebody has brought us to the game. Someone is removing the Barbie dolls and Raggedy Anns from the table.”

 

            “There’s not that many of us.” The Weirdo said.

 

“I suppose there’s got to be more worth to the pieces than just sheer numbers.” Tommy said.

 

“Or we’re being played by the poor kid with only one small set of soldiers.”

 

            “Thank you Weirdo.” Tommy said, “I was actually about to find a bright side to our predicament.”

 

            “Where the fuck are they?”

 

            “Sodbuster, where the blistering fuck are you?” Tommy asked into the small pen shaped device in his pocket.

 

            “There’s nobody left in this city Pig Pen.” Jack said. “We’ve counted ten, we’ve gone three miles out of our way, and no body’s here.”

 

            “How many people are in the car with you?” Tommy asked.

 

            “Four.” Jack said. “How many should there be?”

 

            “Four.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “The Rubber Duck says you’ve got everyone.”

 

            “Thank the small yet perky breasts of Athena for small comforts.” Jack said and signed off.

 

            “What was that about tattoos?” Tommy asked.

 

            “You remember I told you about Lilith’s?”

            “Yeah.” Tommy said.

 

            “Azela has a cross on her right shoulder. A little gothic cross.” The Weirdo said. “I think the System brands their girls.”

 

            “You think Azela really is on the run from them?”

 

            “No.” he said. “I think she’s a ringer.”

 

            “But you let Max keep her?”

 

            “Why should I stand in the way of his sex life?”

 

            “At the risk of having a spy in the house?”

 

            “Ah, but we have Mrs. Pendleton. So there you have counter espionage that no one under the age of forty could combat.”

 

            “I hope you’re right.”

 

            “So do I.” He said.

 

            They watched as a young woman in a breezy looking dress came out of the doors. The dress was meant for warmer days, and probably country lanes. It was the sort of print dress that women wore in commercials for lifestyle cable channels. She looked young and healthy, and kind of like a peach. She smiled as she walked across the street towards them, her bright red heels clicking against the black top. She wore a small silver chain on which a small silver pentacle hung.

 

            “Hi,” She said, in a sweet Georgian accent. “I’m Penelope Winters, but everyone calls me Peach.”

 

            “Do they?” Tommy asked taking her hand, he glanced down at the white dress that had cherries printed on it.

 

            “They do indeed.” She said with a smile. “Now are you guys The Weirdo and Tommy Gunner?”

 

            “I’m Tommy.” Tommy said.

 

            “Well, would you guys like to come in to the building? It’s a bit more comfortable.”

 

            “We’ll wait for the rest of our group.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Well you boys shouldn’t wait for ever.” She had a friendly easy manner that it was difficult to dislike.

 

“We’ve got nothing better to do today.” Tommy said, somehow adopting her breezy manner.

 

“Well I’m going back in,” She said tilting on one shoe and making a sort of curtsies. “It’s a tad cold out here for me.”

 

            She turned and walked back to the building, showing her back as she walked. In the dress, her shoulders and back were exposed and they could clearly see the pentagram tattooed at the base of her spine. The Weirdo and Tommy exchanged a glance in which a conversations worth of thoughts flowed.

 

            “Tattoos were quite fashionable a few years ago.” Tommy said.

 

“Still are to a certain extent.” The Weirdo said. “A way for young people to express a belief that they think will be with them for the rest of their lives.”

 

            “Doesn’t mean anything.” Tommy said.

 

            “Not a damn thing.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “You gonna ask the leader of this group if you can see her tattoo?”

 

            “Yes, yes I am.”

 

 

March 29th, 2003

11:05 a.m.

 

“Are they going to come up?” She asked.

 

“Yes Diana.” Peach said, walking into the office where a sort of de facto council had set up. “They’re just waiting for the rest of their group.”

 

            “You sure about this?” A pale skinned raved haired beauty sitting in the corner asked.

 

            “Yes Angel.” The one called Diana asked.

 

            Angel was dressed in black, black jeans, black t-shirt, black long sleeve shirt under that. The t-shirt had the name of yet another gloomy gothic rock band on it. She was sitting on one of the desks and smoking one clove cigarette after another. No one liked her smoking as much as she did, but no one really liked to tell her to stop either.

 

            “He could see you from there you know.” Angel said.

 

            “Yes I know.” Diana said. “But then what of it? A brown haired woman in her mid thirties, looking out a window. I’m sure that’s not the flesh he was offered with them.”

 

            “Probably not.” Angel said as she sucked in the air from her clove cigarette. “You sure we should even be doing this?”

 

            “They lied about us.” Diana said. “And they would have offered the a flesh market to help their agenda. We’ve got to meet them and I would hope that our more stable family unit will impress them a little more. We’ll do more than offer flesh.”

 

            “And yet you’re going to send Kaala.” Angel said, with a slight hint of scorn.

 

            “Well she wants to help so much.” Peach said, nervously wanting to avoid another of Angel’s talks. “She’s so pretty too, and she’s picked out a nice outfit today.”

 

            “She looks fuckable in a burlap sack, if you like the bouncy, fun fuck me now type.” Angel said.

 

            “That’s enough Angel.”

 

            “Yes Diana.” Angel said, sucking on the brown tube of paper.

 

            “Why don’t you get her?” Diana asked.

 

            “Okay.” Peach said and left the room.

 

            “You’re being a bit harsh aren’t you?”

 

            “It’s begun.” Angel said. “They’ve made the first volley into open war fare. They killed a man who would have been helpful to their agenda under other circumstances. If they killed a bible thumping president, you know that there isn’t any use left of him.”

 

            “You scared?” Diana asked.

 

            “I’d be a fool not to be.” Angel said.

 

            “Me too.”

 

Angel looked at the doors and waited as one opened. Peach came through the door and a tiny ball of pure excitement came after her. Kaala was physically eighteen; spiritually she might have been about three and a half. Youthful exuberance didn’t so much leak as glowed from every clean and perfect pore. Her smile could have severed as an emergency beacon if the power went out. It could have been supplemented in bad weather by the permanently sparkling eyes. Angel wondered how anyone could be so relentlessly perky and cheerful all the time. She wondered many times if the young girl was on drugs, but discounted this because Kaala just never came down. Angel also felt a strong wish to hold Kaala and kiss and stroke her gently. She felt this way every time Kaala entered a room and as far as she could tell she always would.

 

Her long flowing fiery locks were tied behind her head in a loose tail, and one long stray curl had fallen into her face. She pushed it back and it fell again, into the exact same spot, right between her eyes. Angel always thought she should have hated her, but after ten minuets when you realized it wasn’t an act, she couldn’t help but fall in love with her.

 

Everyone liked being around Kaala, she was what people talk about when they describe likeable. She was a little frustrating from time to time, but she was so likeable that it couldn’t keep. Angel liked being around her more than she did any one else though. It hadn’t been commented on so much because everyone liked to be around her. Only Peach had noticed that Angel was the one person Kaala liked to be around all the time though. Angel and Kaala had tried to keep that under wraps, and had done a pretty good job, but not a perfect one.

 

Kaala had chosen to dress up for this occasion, which in her mind had meant a catholic schoolgirl uniform. The blue and black plaid skirt had silver accents, as did the blue and black tie. She had a blue and black vest in the same color scheme as the skirt. She looked like she should soon be taking it all off and then getting violated by two or three guys for a porn web site. Yet there was something so undeniably pure and innocent about the outfit that it was somehow unfathomable that she might be involved with anything like that.

 

It was at times like this when Peach was glad she was strait. If she had desires like Angel, watching Kaala would have been difficult. She found it a little hard to let her leave the room as it was. She wanted to keep her away from the men, just to protect her from them. Not only that but she felt that Angel’s thought aside she might have to protect the men from Kaala.

 

“I’m ready to serve priestess.” Kaala’s voice was like the ringing of tiny bells.

 

“You don’t call me that outside the circle.” Diana admonished.

 

“Sorry Diana.” Kaala said.

 

“Just be nice to them.” Angel said, still not moving from her corner. “You don’t need to actually drop your panties right there in the street.”

 

“Angel.” Kaala’s voice was admonishing but not surprised. “I’m not wearing any.”

 

Peach observed that Angel’s eyes squeezed tightly shut and she bit her lip at this news. She then stuck the cigarette in her mouth and sucked hard on the end. Angel had brought Kaala into the group, and Peach had thought that there was something more to their relationship that she let on. Angel would keep the location of her cigarettes as much a secret as her past lovers. There was often no talking to her if she had decided to keep something from the group. There were these tiny reveals though, where she noticed that Angel had real feelings.

 

“Don’t you like this outfit? You said it was you’re favorite.”

 

“Could we have a minuet please?” Angel said getting off the desk and taking three steps.

 

This motion was on a scale of epic proportions, Angel didn’t move about much if it wasn’t necessary. The other two, watched her make this movement and left quickly. When the door closed, Kaala trotted towards Angel and kissed her. Angel accepted the kiss, but had to push the younger girl away.

 

“I can kiss you here right?” She asked. “No one can see us here.”

 

“Kaala.” Angel said. “Darling, put some underwear on. This is my favorite outfit, but you shouldn’t wear it like you do for me for everyone.”

 

“Are you mad at me?”

 

Angel’s face softened and her tone became far more loving. She didn’t want Kaala to think she was angry, but she was trying to make a point. She smiled as she held the lovely creature who had somehow become so infatuated with her.

 

“No darling.” Angel stroked the side of her head and played with the stray coils of red hair. “I just don’t want any of those men to take you away from me.”

 

“I wouldn’t leave you.” Kaala said. “I’d just bring him along.”

 

“That’s great Kaala.” Angel said slowly, trying not to be amused. “You just go greet our guests when they get here and be polite. Don’t try to seduce any of them, no matter what the oracle says. We don’t want to appear to be trying to ply them with sex do we?”

 

“No.” Kaala said. “Would you love me if I were a man?”

 

“I think I might.” Angel said, knowing it was probably a lie. “But you’re not a man, you’re a beautiful woman.”

 

“You love me because of me though, right?”

 

“Yes dear.” She said. “Why?”

 

“The oracle said you brought me along to be a sacrifice so that the council could get at least one of them to join.”

 

“The oracle is going to have more trouble than it can deal with soon.” Angel said

 

“I’m supposed to be pledged to Max.” She said, her eyes casting toward the floor. “I don’t even know what he looks like.”

 

            “Darling, you’re not pledged to anyone.” Angel said, thinking what she was going to do to that damn oracle machine later. “You make your own choices.”

 

            “Can’t I be pledged to you? Can we be together forever?”

 

            There was a knock at the door.

 

            “The others are here now.” Peaches voice came through the door.

 

            “You can do what ever you want.” Angel said. “But now I’d like you to greet our guests.”

 

            “Okay.” And Kaala was suddenly cheerful again.

 

            Kaala pranced, she actually pranced out of the room, and Angel watched her go. She worried about Kaala, about the sudden attacks of panic she had. Kaala would be fine, and without warning, would think that the world hatred her. If they didn’t hate her, then they were only using her. It had taken forever for her to believe that Angel actually wanted to be around her because she liked her. The oracle wasn’t helping the situation any either, the people running it were going to have to be dealt soon. They had an agenda all their own, but only she and Diana seemed to know it. Whatever reason the oracle had for wanting Kaala to think she was destined to be with a man, she was going to deal with them very soon.

 

 

March 29th, 2003

11:06 a.m.

 

            “Are we ready for round two?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            “I supposed we’d better be.” Jack said.

 

            “Is that a little catholic school girl?” Darrian asked.

 

            “She’s not that little Mike.” Max said.

 

            She came across the street and The Weirdo noticed that the outfit was planned as anything he’d seen before. The Mary Jane shoes, the white socks pulled up to the knees. The white shirt had been tucked into the skirt and the vest had been buttoned closed. She wore a little blue beret on her head, as she came across the street.

 

            “Hi.” She said, waving.

 

            “Hello.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “I’m Kaala, I’ve been asked to take you to one of the meeting rooms.”

 

            “Is that your real name, or is Kaala a nick name?”

 

            “No.” She said laughing. “I’m Kaala Gwendolyn Jones, I was born on May first, nineteen eighty five.”

 

            “Well, okay then.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “C’mon, Diana wants to tell you a bunch of things.”

 

            There were no metal detectors in the lobby of the Chrysler building. There also were no uniforms of weapons. There were young, strong looking women standing behind a large circular desk, but they weren’t the overt show they’d seen at the Empire State building.

 

            Kaala waved at the two women at the security counter, and they smiled and waved back. One was dressed in the look of college students everywhere, the other looked like she had just come from a job upstairs to fill this position. The Weirdo noted their polite smiles and nods in his direction. They walked across the lobby and into an elevator. There was no key, and the pent house was not the destination.

 

            “Not going to the top?” Tommy asked.

 

            “Well not right now.” She said, “We can after the meeting if you want to.”

 

            “I have actually been to the top before.” Tommy said.

 

            “Oh, okay.” She still smiled.

 

            The relentlessly cheery nature was beginning to wear on The Weirdo, but he could see it had only interested Max all the more. She had a twinkle in her eye so bright she probably didn’t need either flashlights or disco balls. She had a bright genuine smile, but years of dealing with the wrong kind of people made The Weirdo mistrust anyone who smiled all the time. People who smiled all the time had usually shoved a child into a freezer.

 

            “When did you take this building over?” Jack asked.

 

            “We haven’t.” Kaala said. “We’ve got the sixth through eighth floors.”

 

            “I see.” Jack said, trying to think of what to say next.

 

            “I suppose we could probably take the whole building though, no one else seems to be around. It just wouldn’t be right though, would it? Taking over office space.”

 

            The doors of the elevator opened and they walked into an office. There were desks and cubicles, and people were working at them. They looked like a tactical work force, but it was a work force and they were working. There was no sign of any one sleeping on silken pillows or of uniform. The women all seemed to have independently of each other decided what to wear that day. This of course meant that they were all wearing the same basic uniform. Jeans and t-shirts where the order of this group, though there were linen skirts and other such things about as well. The Weirdo fell back into the group and touched Tommy’s arm as he slowed. Tommy and he fell to the rears of the six of them.

 

            “You think the school uniform was a deliberate ploy?”

 

            “I think she knew she was going to be the one to greet us and decided to wear something cute.” Tommy said.

 

            “So there’s calculation, but not on a grand scale?”

 

“You asked what I think right now.” Tommy said.

 

“Granted.”

 

“So yeah, they knew we were coming but each person dressed in what they thought they’d look best in. I do not think that some one came along with a rolling wardrobe full of Victoria’s secrets and handed them out based on size.”

 

            “Well let’s keep that in mind then.” The Weirdo said.

           

            They were led to a conference room, the furniture of which seemed to be left over from the first occupants of the building. It wasn’t that the furniture was scuffed or broken or even particularly rickety. It was however, the exact styles and comfort levels of the mid thirties. A woman of about thirty five sat at the table when they came in, she stood up and smiled at them.

 

            “Hello.” She said extending a hand to the first person she came to, who happened to be Kestrel. “I’m Diana, you must be Kestrel.”

 

            “Hi.” Kestrel said, smiling.

 

            “And this is Maximilian?” She said extending her hand to Darrian.

 

            “Michael Darrian actually.” He said, showing his teeth when he smiled. “I just got here today, he’s Max.”

 

            “Hello.” She said taking Max’s hand and then Jack’s. “Then these two at the back are Tommy and The Weirdo.”

 

            “Hello.” Tommy said, shaking her hand.

 

            “Hi.” The Weirdo said, “Would you happen to have a tattoo of a pentagram on your body somewhere?”

 

“I do.” She said. “But it is located in a place where I can’t show you with out improprieties.”

 

            “Ah.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Sorry,” She said. “Do you like tattoos?”

 

            “I’m currently conducting an unscientific study.” He said.

 

            “You’re going to see a lot of them in the near future I think.” She said. “A lot of crosses and stars if I’m not mistaken. That’s your study?”

 

“That’s right.”

 

            “Well, let me introduce the rest of the council. Or at least the members that are here now.”

 

            She waved her hand towards Peach and Angel, who had put out her cigarette for the moment. They looked at the six of them and Angel raised her hand to wave.

 

            “You’ve already met Peach, this is Angel. They’re both from our council of leaders. I’m the head of the council and all decisions must be made with at least three members. So they had to be here for this.”

 

            “Hi.” The Weirdo said, extending his hand toward Angel.

 

            “Hey.” She shook his hand and he saw that in the space just below her thumb on the back of her right hand, a small pentagram had been placed in simple black lines. “A friend of mine did it on her kitchen table.”

 

“Any more?”

“Dozens.” She said.

 

As their hands started to part, she tilted his palm up and looked down at it.

 

“May I?”

 

“Why not.” He said.

 

She looked at the palm, studying, and then traced a few of the lines with her fingers.  She then held the hand more firmly and looked more closely. She made fingernail-by-fingernail measurements and looked up at his face. She was lost in a moment of awe and astonishment.

 

            “Shit.” She said. “I mean, just shit.”

           

“I’ve got the another one over here.” He said.

 

            “I think I’ve seen enough.” She said letting his hand go. “I’ll be right back I just need a smoke.”

 

She walked away, looking at him as though she had seen a man with rabbit ears sprouting from his head. She walked out of the room and after a moment there was a wif of clove smoke, which meant she must have lit up just outside the room. She was smoking rapidly and pacing up and down the room.

 

            “She’ll be fine in a moment.” Diana said, “Shall we sit?”

 

            They sat in two groups, across the long table from each other. Angel, who smelled strongly of the clove cigarette she had recently smoked, soon joined the two women. The black haired girl sat down next to Diana and looked at the six of them across the table, and then looked down at the table.

 

            “So.” The Weirdo said. “You asked to see us.”

 

            “You’ve probably been told some things about us.” Diana began. “You’ve probably been told we’re an amoral group of lesbians or possibly a radical Muslim sect pretending to be pagan because it garners more sympathy. You may have just been told we’re a terrorist organization or perhaps a criminal organization. We are not any of these; we are a group decided from one of the first secret societies formed to combat the evils of Christianity in Five hundred A.D. The group was first founded in present day England after the defeat of Queen Budica. I’m not going to go round and round explaining every aspect of our history, but suffice to say that most of the time we’ve been a small resistance group. Our members were hunted in every village of Europe, branded as the devils hand maidens and burned at the stake. The inquisition was just another tool the System used to hunt us down and eradicate us.”

 

            “So how does this relate to us in the here and now.” Jack asked.

 

            “We asked you here for a number of reasons.” Diana asked, “One of them being to explain that we did not kidnap your son, we also had nothing to do with what happened last night. Another was to make an open appeal for your help. You’ve already fought and won against one of the minions that The System manages to raise up for its purposes.”

 

            “We need help.” Peach said, a hint of pleading in her voice. “We’ve only a few hundred members around the world, they have more than a hundred thousand. We’ve always tried to lever our way through this fight, but their shooting people in the street now.”

 

            “We’d be wiped out if they decided to attack.” Angel said, with resignation rather than pleading.

 

            “A war is coming.” Diana said. “We have nothing to offer you besides fellowship. I can’t advertise our sisters the way the System can. I can’t draw you in with the promise of orgies and the idea that your sins will be washed away by the tide of righteous victory. We simply don’t work like that. All I can offer is a chance to set things right.”

 

            “Set things back to the way they were before?” Darrian asked.

 

            “Before evil, before corruption.” Peach said.

 

            “Before the Roman Catholic church?” Darrian said.

 

            “There’s nothing wrong with believing in one God over another.” Peach said very carefully. “But not when those beliefs lead people to deliberately try to kill those with alternate views.”

 

            “This is a war of good and evil.” Diana said.

 

            “Which side are you?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            She simply blinked for a moment, too shocked by the question to answer right away.

 

            “I suppose in our own view we’re all the good aren’t we?”

 

            “What do you mean when you say fight against evil?” Max asked.

 

            “You may have noticed that there are less people about than their used to be.” Diana said. “That’s the first step to the last battle as far as our oracle has managed to work the signals out. There will be a series of events, as described in various religious texts that will herald the end of the world. There will be battles, and after all the fighting, someone will come to end the war.”

 

            “Who?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            “We don’t know exactly.” She said. “He’s supposed to be a great knight, or warrior or hero. Something like that, the translators are stuck on exactly what this person is meant to be. We’re fairly sure it’s meant to be a man, and he will be of great strength according to our translators.”

 

            “So a messiah is supposed to be coming?” Tommy asked.

 

            “No, a destroyer. He will lay waste to the combatants, and then begin to process of wiping the world clean. Unless all those who fight can combine their wills to combat him, the world will be destroyed. He’s supposed to hold the greatest evil a mortal can contain. Unless we all stand together, he’ll destroy us all.”

 

            “That’s what we mean by good versus evil.” Angel said. “All of us that are good on one side, and him on the other.”

 

            “We’ll let you know, once our council has convened.” The Weirdo said standing. “You’ve given us much to talk about.”

 

            “I understand.” Diana said.

 

            “I hope you do.” He said turning to the rest of them. “Shall we?”

 

            They all got up and the group filed out of the room. When the doors closed, the three left looked at each other. Angel looked like she had guessed the whole thing, while Peach looked dishearten.

 

            “Did we just loose?” Peach asked.

 

            “They weren’t going to say yet to anything today.” Angel said. “We should just be glad that they didn’t say defiantly no.”

 

            “You said they wouldn’t say either way though.” Peach said.

 

            “Which they didn’t,” Angel said, “But if we had something they didn’t like, they could have just said no thank you and that would have been it. I knew they wouldn’t say yes, but I knew there was a possibility they might say no.”

 

           

March 29th, 2003

12:25 p.m.

 

            Tommy’s sinuses were bothering him greatly, squeezing his brains out his ears. He was fairly sure that it was the spring pollen. He rubbed the bridge of his nose, squeezing it to relive some of the pain. He looked at the others around the table with him. They were sitting in the dinning room, the ten of them. Marla, Judy, Sheila and Mrs. Pendleton had all been called to one large meeting in the dinning room. The dark oak paneled dinning room was really the only place where the entire house could meet to sit around one table. Tommy noted though, while he told the entire group about the meeting earlier today, he made no mention of the breeding project that Eoster had told him about. He did mention the large tattoo on Lilith’s back but not how he had seen it. 

 

            “So that’s it.” The Weirdo said. “Comments?”

 

            “What exactly is the destroyer meant to do, exactly?” Marla asked. “Maybe I missed it.”

 

            “Lay waste.” The Weirdo said. “You didn’t miss it. They weren’t any more precise than that.

 

            “And then the world ends?”

 

            “Apparently.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Any idea how?”

 

            “I assume, some one turns off the lights and locks the door behind them.”

 

            “I’m still disturbed by the System offering full membership.” Kestrel said. “With access to other members. We didn’t see anything like that with the Power.”

 

            “We can make assumptions.” Max said. “But what does access mean?”

 

            “We could find out.” Judy said.

 

            “How?” Tommy asked.

 

            “Join.” She said.

 

            “I’d be worried about the responsibilities they would want us to perform.”

 

            “Not you.” She said.

 

            “Pardon?” Tommy asked.

 

            “I’ll go join, find out.” Judy said lifting her chin a little. “Then I can tell you.”

 

            “That’s spying.” Jack said.

 

            “You did it for years.” Judy argued. “Besides, they probably already know who I am. They’ll know why I’m there, and even if they don’t believe me, what are they gonna do? They can’t exactly shoot me can they?”

 

            “Could be trying to kill you isn’t the worst they have to offer.” Tommy said.

 

            “I lived through worse.” Judy said. “I can join the System, Sheila could go infiltrate The Power. We look around for a little while and then we come home and report back to you.”

 

            “I’m not too comfortable with this.” Tommy said.

 

            “She’s right.” Sheila said. “We can do this.”

 

            “We can be a help for a change.” Judy said.

 

            “Weirdo?” Tommy asked.

 

            “They’ve sent us a ringer, we might as well return the favor.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “You’re going along with this?”

 

            “If we’re up against what I think we are Tommy, then we need every available hand. Besides, I can’t give them permission or deny it.”

 

            “Can we talk about this in private then?” Tommy asked.

 

            “Now?” Judy asked.

 

            “Later.”

 

            “Then lets talk about what the hell that thing was the other night.” The Weirdo said, suddenly feeling like he was in a board meeting. “Kestrel, you and Max looked into it?”

 

            “We looked through a lot of books, and se still didn’t come up with much. We figure it’s something Egyptian. Except that what was left of it’s clothes had Celtic origins, knots and such. There was the heat, the dry feeling, and there was just something about it that said it came from the desert, it was something that had been mummified. But, it carried a European scythe, not an Egyptian sickle.”

 

            “So we don’t know what it was or where it came from?”

 

            “I think it came from Egypt, was stored in Ireland, and then brought here.” Max said. “It was old, whatever it was.”

 

            “And we left nothing to examine later.” Jack said admonishing himself. “Threw it in the river.”

 

            “Don’t worry about it.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Doesn’t matter too much.” Max said. “We know how to get away from them, and how to defeat them.”

 

            “Point.” Tommy said. “So what about this idea of a war though.”

 

            “Do we believe the Power about the size of their organizations?”

 

            “They only had three floors they said.” Kestrel said.

 

            “Three floors is a lot.” Tommy said.

 

            “The System had the whole Empire State Building.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “So they might have more people?”

 

            “Maybe.”

 

            “Where?”

 

            “There are still a lot of people in the world.” The Weirdo said. “Could be all that are left are as you suggested before.”

 

            “You’re listening to something I said?” Tommy said.

 

            “Playing pieces.” The Weirdo said. “Clearing away non-players.”

 

            “You’re actually going to listen to me?”

 

            “Why not?”

 

            “Because I was just talking.”

 

            “Doesn’t mean your wrong.”

 

            “What are you two talking about?” Kestrel asked.

 

            “Toy soldiers.” Tommy said.

 

            “What about them?” Kestrel asked.

 

            “You ever seen a tin civilian? Or were they all tin soldiers?” Tommy asked.

 

            “Are you suggesting that we’re just part of someone’s game?”

 

            “I am simply placing a theory on the table.” Tommy said. “He helped me form it.”

 

            The Weirdo looked around at them, and then at Tommy.

 

            “So I helped.” He said.

 

            “How does that work?” Judy asked.

 

            “You’re going to play a big game, one where humans are the prize. You don’t want your chips damaged, so you remove them from the game board. Then you begin to move your pieces into place.”

 

            “How many sides are there?” Kestrel asked.

 

            “And which side are we on?” Darrian said.

 

            “We assume there are three sides.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Three?” Darrian asked.

 

            “We are a side of our own.”

 

            “A side of our own.” Darrian said. “You have noticed that there are only the ten of us here right?”

 

            “We’re going to get some back up.” The Weirdo said. “Cydrill and Peidmont are coming, they’re bringing Cassimano with them.”

 

            “Oh, thirteen of us.” Darrian said. “Well, I am impressed. Do we get a hobbit to be the lucky number?”

 

            “You want to join one side or the other?”

 

            “Not really.”

 

            “Alright then.”

 

            “What if there really are two armies?” Kestrel asked.

 

            “What if one army is really infinitesimally small and we don’t discover it until we’re on the battle field?” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Shit.” Darrian said.

 

            “We’re in the game though.” The Weirdo said. “We’ve been put down on the field as players.”

 

            “But whose pieces are we?” Kestrel asked.

 

            “We must be Grandma’s.” Max said.

 

            They looked at him and then at The Weirdo, who simply nodded.

 

            “I thought Grandma was just a universal force that gave occasional advice and guidance.” Kestrel said.

 

            “And puts a small amount of pieces on the game table.” Max said.

 

            “So we should wait for Cydrill and company?” Jack asked.

 

            “It would seem prudent.” Tommy said. “If the girls are going to infiltrate, it would give them some time if we didn’t do anything for a while.”

 

            “We’ll have to consider our options as well.” The Weirdo said. “As a force we’re a lever. We’re going to have to be careful and place ourselves where we can affect the maximum change with minimum force. We don’t have an army so we can’t depend on an army. Just us.”

 

            “Just us.” Marla said. “That’s kind of scary isn’t it? I mean we could be talking odds of one to a thousand.”

 

            “Yeah.” The Weirdo said. “We probably are, but we just adjust our expectations. We will get through this one way or another.”

 

            “And if the end of the world comes?” Marla asked. “I mean, not to drive this point too far home, but what do we do if the Arch Angel Gabriel were to suddenly arrive trumpet in hand?”

 

            “We take his trumpet and shove it up his ass.” The Weirdo said. “And see if he can still play a merry tune.”

 

            “Can you actually do that?” Mrs. Pendleton asked.

 

            “I certainly hope so.” The Weirdo said. “Other wise the world might end.”

 

            A shadow seemed to pass over the room, a cloud descended as it where. The mood began to darken, and everyone became just slightly tenser than they had been before. It wasn’t anything that they’d mention later; they each thought it was just them.

 

            “This brings up something important though.”  Max said. “Do we believe that some sort of apocalyptic war of evil and good might actually be fought here? I mean we’re in New York City, evil’s got home court advantage.”

 

            “I would say that it’s silly to even contemplate.” Jack said. “But then there was that thing, and these people. I don’t know. There’s something, that’s for sure.”

 

            “Grandma’s moving her pieces around.” Tommy said. “Suggesting that maybe it’s not that silly after all.”

 

            “I won’t believe that an apocalypse is coming until I’ve seen a few more signs.” The Weirdo said.

           

            “Like?” Kestrel asked. “I mean we’ve got something that looks a lot like the rapture. You know if I remember right, Islam says that the earth will just swallow up people. Maybe that’s what happened. Demons are walking the earth, or flying around it anyway.”

 

            “Proving only that there is more in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in all your horror novels Horace.”

 

            “Mangled that line.” Jack said.

 

            “I know.”

 

            “If I can ask, what might constitute a sign for you?”

 

            “Some one I can recognize as an angel or god or something coming and telling me the world is about to end.”

 

            “Is that all?”

 

            “I have walked with Death, a version of death anyway. I’ve had tea with Chronos and I owe the archangel Lucifer a favor. I think, with that pedigree we can find someone I can trust.”

 

            “Oh I died once.” Tommy said in a whining and mocking tone. “Never mind your rapture, I rose from the dead.”

 

            “Shut up.” The Weirdo said,

 

            “Shut up, I know everything.” Tommy then winked and stuck his tongue out.

 

            The room suddenly defused, and they all began to laugh. The shadow faded and the cloud passed on. The tense feeling had vanished, and it had been laughter that had done the trick.

 

“If they show up and tell you?” Kestrel said. “If the fallen angel comes and tells you that the end is in fact, neigh?”

           

“I’ll have to plan accordingly.”

 

“How does one plan accordingly?”

 

“Well.” The Weirdo said. “We stop stocking up on toilet paper for a start. No use having the stuff pile up if it’s just going to vanish when the world ends.”

 

“I do believe you’re serious.” She said.

 

“I’m always serious.” He said. “It’s just sometimes I’m less serious than other times.”

 

“And sometimes you talk total shit.” Tommy said.

 

“Which is why he needs all the toilet paper.” Max said,

 

“Either way, we need to plan.” The Weirdo said, “I need to think for a while, outside the city. I don’t care if the entire city is empty, need to get away.”

 

© 2014 Autumn Knight Productions

April 29, 2014 - Posted by | Fiction | ,

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