Saving the Cult (if not the World), Chapter Five

Warning: Discussion of racism

Saving the Cult (If not the World) "It's time." Manfield Lee knew he was good at sounding authoritative even when he didn't know what he was talking about - he'd turned a fortune into a megafortune doing just that, after all, not to mention running the Organization - but right now, he DID know what he was talking about. After all, it was just a date, wasn't it? And if the date turned out to be wrong, well, then he knew exactly what to blame it on, and that blame would fall on the scholars and the psychics, not on him. The other thing Manfield Lee knew how to do was to place the blame in very specific ways that were not him.

“We could all—” Lina flailed her hands, “– be sitting here & die while some other Hill Top is safe?”

“Well, if so, we’ll be in the majority?” His smile was crooked.  “Most people agree that this is the place. That’s why Dylan and Ethan’s fathers are here.  And my mother — my parents — and probably your parents. “

“Dylan said I didn’t belong here,” she muttered. “So did his buddy.”

“Yeah, well, they’re assholes.  You literally held them in the air with the power of your mind.  You belong here. And if they’re stupid about your mother — because that’s probably the problem, between you and me,” he sighed.  He caught himself and huffed. “Sorry, that’s—” He stared at his pizza, attacked it, and was quiet for a moment, mouth full. 

Lina took the chance to take a couple bites of pizza herself, thought about what he was saying and not, and grabbed the soda to wash down the pizza.

“So you’re saying they’re racists.”

“Classists, definitely. Racists, probably.”  He shifted a bit. “I mean. When you come down to it, there’ve definitely been people with powers that aren’t white.  And sometimes they, uh, they married them into the lines to get those powers, but nobody talks about it.  People wrote about it,” he added with a smirk.  “People have written about just about everything about the Organization.”

“Did they mention why they had such a stupid name?”  She took her time with the soda, watching his face. He seemed relieved to be off of the hard topics.  Of course, so would anybody.

“Sort of.”  He made a so/so gesture with his pizza. “It’s not the actual name, but I don’t think many people remember that.  Then again, depending on who you ask, it’s had at least three different names, so – maybe people just stick with the thing they can say in front of other people without sounding like, you know, freaky cultists.”

“…But we are freaky cultists.  Right?”

He snorted.  “Depends on who turns out to be right.  If the Organization is right and the end of the world is going to be here any minute, then we’re the wise few who saw the disaster coming and did all we could to avert it — we won’t mention that we were only averting it for a few select people, that’s silly.  If we’re wrong, well, depends if the word gets out that a bunch of rich people were camped out at the top of a hill for a month or two.”

“… Are we all rich?”  It felt weird saying we.  If would’ve felt weirder saying you though.  It wasn’t like their family didn’t have money.  It wasn’t like her mother hadn’t pulled a house out of a briefcase.  It wasn’t like they weren’t here.  That meant, more or less, that she had to be part of this we.  

“Mostly – mmm – maybe seventy-five percent.  Eighty tops. My family is now, but we weren’t when we joined.”  He shrugged. “We knew things. Knowing things, or having specific skills – the Organization actually wants to survive this thing, whatever it is.”

“This is —”  Lina shook her head.  “I don’t want to believe it.  I mean — I mean — I mean.”  She gulped soda and tried to put into words what it was that she meant.  “The world is going to end? Everyone else? Poof?”

“Sources are unclear on everybody else,” Jackson admitted.  “It might be some other people, it might be jut the U.S., it might be that there are other safe places.  We know this spot is safe. We know a lot of people are going to die. And we know it can’t be stopped. We don’t even really know what it is.”

“How – how is something like this a secret?  I mean, seriously. How can you keep something like this a secret – how can you justify  keeping something like this a secret?”

“Justify?  Justify’s easy.”  Jackson sounded a little bitter, if she had to guess.  His smile definitely looked bitter. “These are rich people and academics we’re talking about.  The urgent thing is to keep them and their family safe, right?”

She grumbled. “And the rest of the world?”

“Can be rebuilt, I guess.  I mean, I’ve read books about how they plan to rebuild the world, but frankly, it’s a little creepy.”

“So that’s — that’s what they tell themselves.  What about the logistics?”

“I think the part where they don’t tell their kids until their kids are invested is part of it.  I think a lot of it is just peer pressure and, well, if it did get out here and there — who’s going to listen to an apocalypse cult?  They’re a dime a dozen here in California anyway.”

“Which brings us back to — are we sure our parents aren’t nuts?”

“No.”  Jackson sipped his soda.  “No, I’m not sure.  I don’t even know your parents, for one.  But I think they have some terrifyingly solid things – some research, a lot of seers, and a lot of weird phenomena – behind them.  So I’m totally fine with being up here, I can tell you. I mean, maybe not stuck up here, but up here.  In a week, if it turns out that the world isn’t blowing up, maybe I’ll do some more digging into their math.  But otherwise…” He shrugged. “If you knew magic existed and knew multiple seers had said the same thing — and you know the first one, at least — wouldn’t you give it a chance?  Rather than being down there when the world ended, I mean.”

“When you put it that way…”  Lina chewed on it and drank some soda.  Multitasking! “When you put it that way, if force shields and… packing up houses into briefcases exist — hey, doesn’t Dylan have magic, being all the son-of-the-Leader?”

“That’s the deep dark secret,” Jackson laughed.  “There’s been a little magic in that family, that one and Ethan’s, but not much, and Dylan has none.  His father has a little, obviously, but it’s always been super hush-hush what it was. So here you are-” He chuckled.  “And they want to hate you already and then you just pow, force field. That was amazing. I wish I could do anything like that.”

“It’s — the hard part, back at school, was not letting it slip out  when I was doing something. Because out there, people don’t think it’s cool, they think they’re going nuts.”  Lina huffed. “At least while we’re stuck up here waiting for the world to end, I can practice – wait.”

She frowned. 

“Waiting…?”  Jackson tilted his head at her. 

“If the world is supposed to end, why is my dad on the phone doing business?”

“Habit?  To be honest, I think at least a third of the adults here are just going along for the same reason we just talked about – it might not be wrong.  The world might not be destroyed.  And if it’s not, your dad probably wants to make sure his life is still there.”

“While he sits here on ‘vacation’… I guess that makes sense,” she huffed.  “I mean, he spends most of his time on real vacations doing the same thing.  Making phone calls. Working. Bringing home the dollars.”  She rubbed her arms. “Guess I shouldn’t complain. I mean, the dollars got us here.”

“The dollars got you where you were last week,” Jackson corrected, “same as my family.  Your mom and the magic, that got you here now.”

“Don’t know what Mom’s magic is going to do against the end of the world, I mean, unless she has a bunker packed away in the trunk of the car.  Could she do that?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted.  He looked at the soda sourly. “Wish this was stronger.  Disadvantage of being here – no liquor cabinet to raid.”

“We could go down to town.  I’ve got a decent fake ID if we go a place where they don’t look too close.  And we passed a place that looks just sketchy enough on the way up here.” She gestured loosely.  “Can’t be more than maybe a half-hour walk.”

“You know.”  He looked at her considerately.  “Let’s do that. Let’s take a walk.  World’s not going to end in the next couple hours, anyway.”

“And if it does — well, we’re going to want to be drunk for it.”  Nila made a face. “Or at least tipsy. Sit up on the highest point here and just stare out at the apocalypse.  Seems … suitably morbid.”

“I knew I liked you for a reason.”  He stood up and closed the pizza box.  “Let us go. You lead the way.”

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