Lina steered them away from the exiting crowd, off to the left where there weren’t many campsites, being instead things like the utility shack and the groundskeeper’s hut and other such unsightly things that kept the place going. “So,” she murmured a little while later, “who-?”
“My aunts. My dad’s sisters.” Ethan made a face. “They’re uh, the Handmaidens of the Organization and they’re the reason my dad and mom got into it. They’re pretty —”
“Creepy,” Dylan put in. “And the stuff with your parents,” he gestured at Lina, “that’s the sort of stuff the higher-ups in the Organization – my dad, his aunts, you know – they don’t want people to talk about. Or even really think about.”
“What did my parents do? I mean, okay, folding space. But that’s not-“
“Your parents were trying to start a splinter group,” Ethan cut in. “Not quite the same thing, and I’m sort of surprised they’re here, because they had a different interpretation of the prophecy. And what the Organization was supposed to do. And who should be in charge-“
“What, Dad?” Lina asked bitterly.
“Surprisingly, no. No, not your mom, either, though that might’ve been because they didn’t think people accept her – hold on. Not because she’s, uh.”
“Mexican,” Lina filled in sharply.
“Mexican. No, because she’s not from one of the old families here. She came from a whole different, uh. Group. With their own prophecies. So they might have, uh. Anyway, I’m surprised that they’re here, that you’re here.”
“But well, you saved our lives, so maybe that’s why. I mean.” Dylan cleared his throat. “Okay, that sounded really self-centered.”
“Even for you,” Jackson agreed cheerfully.
“He’s got a point.” Lina looked around and started walking, a casual amble that wouldn’t look like they were going anywhere until they were there. “So uh. Prophecies.”
“My dad, he uh. He thinks one of the prophecies is supposed to secure his lineage, his legacy. Which is uh, me. Which might mean that you were prophesied to be here.”
“Which doesn’t explain why her parents decided to come here,” Ethan complained.
“Maybe they have a different prophecy. There’s been a lot of them, you know. And they all-“
“They all point here. Well, they all point now.” Jackson hrrmed. “There’s a few other places it could be-“
“Does that mean we’re all screwed if this isn’t the place?” Ethan shifted a little, like he was thinking of running away. Lina twitched her fingers, feeling the way his energy was still linked to her, just a bit. He jumped and looked at her sideways.
“Let me put it this way,” Jackson offered slowly. “I have read everything I can get my hands on, every prophecy and every interpretation, and I’m pretty sure something awful is going to happen, either in this month or about this time in 2113, and I am here and not any of those other places.”
“Hunh. Okay, when in a horror movie, go where the guy who knows how to beat the zombies is. Good call.”
“I have to admit, I never really pictured that being my role in a horror movie.” He snorted. “Then again, I never really pictured myself ending up in a horror movie, so I suppose it works out.”
“I figured I’d be the one who hit the monster over the head with something big,” Lina put in. “I don’t know what. A frying pan. A toaster. Maybe like, an anvil.”
“We are totally sticking with her,” Dylan stage-whispered.
“Not like we have a choice,” Ethan fake-whispered right back.
“Problem is,” Lina cut in, “there’s not a monster, as far as we know. There’s a great end-of-world thing, but we don’t know what that’s going to be, or why it’s not going to hit here – I mean, unless Jackson knows?”
“I don’t think anyone knows what the danger actually is. It’s kind of weird. You can get some really specific signposts, like, things that tell you you want to be here or tell you when it’s probably going to happen, but nobody seems to be all that clear on what, except that it’s going to be really dangerous and a lot of people are going to die. And that we – we is usually the Organization, sometimes it’s specific people; sometimes it’s the people reading the prophecy – don’t have to die.”
“Wait, the prophecies don’t even agree on who might or might not die?” Lina stared at him. “So all the people here-“
“Some people,” Dylan cut in, “think it’s supposed to be the higher-ups in the Organization that survive. You know, like… my dad,” he muttered. “People like that. Some people think it’s anyone who’s bought in, but then you end up with this mad pay-to-play thing and the Organization itself is richer than almost any of its members at this point. Like, seriously, and we’re talking some of the richest people in California.”
“Yeah.” Lina had gotten a glimpse at just a couple of her parents’ bank account balances once. Now she was wondering if her mother had opened some sort of extended door into a bank vault. “So they just – they pay into the Organization? And from there, the money…?”
“I have no idea.” Dylan shook his head. “I mean, this campsite, sure, but on a day to day basis, I honestly don’t know. The money goes somewhere. But I’m not allowed near that stuff.”
“Maybe once you hit your majority-” Jackson began; Dylan and Ethan were already shaking their heads.
“No powers. That means I won’t inherit, neither of us will. I mean, money, sure, at least enough to be happy for the rest of our lives, but we’re not let in on anything important.”
“That’s stupid,” Lina complained. “I mean – well, I mean it’s stupid. Jackson doesn’t have a power either, but he knows -“
“-more than almost anyone else in the Organization, except a couple very old people who’ve been researching their whole lives,” Jackson offered with no false modesty.
“I mean, power isn’t everything, not by a long shot-“
“That,” Ethan cut in, looking a little bit dazed. “Oh, shit.”
“What?” Lina lifted up a force-shield with one hand and looked around her in a full circle. “What?”
“Just, think about what your parents tried. And you, I mean, your mother has power, but look what you and Jackson have done in like, an hour. And then-” He blanched. “My aunts are going to kill me.”
“No they’re not.” Lina wrapped the force-shield around all of them like a very tingly hug. “Because I’m not going to let them.”
“Dude.” Dylan stared at her. “You’re talking about the might of the Organization. And you’re, I mean, you’re pretty cool but you’re one teenager. Err, two teenagers, I guess.”
“Look, I just came here because my parents made me come with them. I didn’t come to start a rebellion or anything, but I’m not going to let people go around dying or killing other people just because of some intra-cult politics.”
“You can’t call it a cult,” Ethan whispered.
“But – it kind of is a cult, isn’t it?” She looked around. “I mean. There’s a bunch of people following a prophecy, giving their money to the group, following the dictates of its leaders – I mean, all we need is a creed, oh, yeah, the world is ending. There we go. It’s a cult.”
“You can’t,” Ethan repeated, even quieter. “They get really really pissed if you do.”
He looked terrified. She hadn’t been sure these guys even had a concept of being afraid, or at leas,t she hadn’t before people started kicking them. “Okay.” She held up her hands. “I won’t. But what would you call it?”
“The Organization,” Dylan offered. “Just The Organization. If I have to talk about it with someone outside it, or where people might hear me, I call it ‘this club my parents belong to with other wealthy people.’ I mean, only like, just over a third of the people in the Organization are actually wealthy.”
“The rest are just upper-upper middle class?” Lina joked. She knew how rich people thought; she went to a rich people school, after all. The fact that her parents were rich always seemed like something that had happened to other people, though.
“No, I mean, some, yeah, but no. I mean.” He huffed. “There are people here whose great-great grandparents joined and they just didn’t do well financially, some of them the Organization floats loans or just supports. And there’s people that join for one reason or another, including like, someone in the Organization hierarchy finds them and they happen to be a seer or have a power. If you have power like that, doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are. The Organization will take care of you.”
“You know a lot for not knowing anything.” Lina smirked at Dylan, but he didn’t seem to be taking any of this as a joke.
Had his sense of humor been damaged somewhere in the mess back in the grotto, or had he always been missing one?
“I hear stuff, okay? I mean, my dad does run the Organization right now. So I might not know all the books like Jackson here – where are we going?”
d to go out.” Ethan looked at her in horror. Dylan and Jackson seemed closer to curious. “Remember, that whole meeting they just had? The thing that made everyone riot?”
“You know,” Lina smiled, “Jackson and I got there late. Everyone was freaking out, yeah. Shouting and kicking people. But there wasn’t a whole lot of explanation about why and what we got was mostly from people who were hysterical and, ah, kicking people. Not generally the more reliably witnesses, you know, rioting people. So nope. And Ibet Jackson could use some pizza and me, I want to go grocery shopping.”
“But — but they said—”
“Don’t tell me.” She kept smiling. This was kind of fun. It was probably a lot more fun than it would have been if Ethan and Dylan hadn’t started out so awful, but they had.
But he did look awfully worried. “And you can stay or go,” she added, as Ethan’s mouth snapped shut, “but where I am, Dylan’s dad and your aunts probably aren’t.”
“At least until they decide to read you the riot act — uh. Poor phrasing” Dylan muttered. “You know what? Sure. Let’s go.”Want more?