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

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.

There was one of the white-robed security people watching the exit into the parking lot, but he looked distracted and it wasn’t even hard to sneak around him.

Once they were in the lot, it was easy enough to put a couple SUVs in the line of sight between them and the security-cultist, and then it was a straight walk out of the park.

It was later than Lina had realized; most of the houses outside the park had their lights off. They were small houses, well-up-kept — sort of like cottages, but with the feeling that they were lived in year-round.

“The prophecy,” Lina asked Jackson. “It’s just the top of the hill, right? Because if it was all of this, our parents would have bought this all up and built houses here.”

“They keep trying to buy the park,” Dylan offered. “My dad, Ethan’s mom, I think your dad. But the city won’t sell it.”

“The impression given has been a little fuzzy,” Jackson added in. his lips were d he looked like he was reading off an invisible book somewhere in front of him. Lina took his arm so he didn’t wander off the side of the road. “Most of the prophecies seem to suggest a small area — the park, that sort of thing — but a few could mean the whole hill. It’s not a great school district here—”

“Like any of us go to public school,” Ethan scoffed. The further they got away from the campground, the less worried he seemed to be. Lina wondered if they should just run away.

Of course, if the top of the hill was really the only place safe from the end of the world, running away wouldn’t be a good idea.

And since when was she so concerned with the emotional well-being of a bully?

That one, she could answer easily. Since she’d put her mark on his neck. She’d saved his life, she’d taken his power; he was hers to worry about now.

Well shit. She was going to have to think twice or thrice before she did that to anyone else, if she was going to end up feeling responsible for all of them. Five back at the campsite, these two — three, in a manner of speaking — she looked sideways at Jackson.

“I don’t know.”

Know? Oh, yes, the school thing.

“I figure that there must have been a reason.  Maybe it was just the fact that they’d be bringing attention to the area — though if what Dylan said is right—”

“I was there—”

“Then they didn’t care all that much about bringing attention. They wanted what they wanted and damn the torpedoes. So — why not buy a house here?”

“Probably too far of a commute,” Lina muttered. “It’s like an hour from the business district here. I don’t know about your family, my my dad gets cranky if his commute takes longer than 20 minutes. It’s why he invested in self-driving cars. Well, why he says he did. For all I know, those are supposed to save the world, too.”

There was something worse about being actively lied to by her parents than just being ignored. At least ignoring she could chalk up to benign neglect. This — this was purposeful and malicious and it left a bad taste in her mouth.

“I mean—” Dylan shifted a little. “The thing is, if they’re doing everything based off of a set of prophecies — and they are, as far as I can tell — then expecting them to make sense might be a road too far. From what Jackson says, the prophecies themselves don’t make sense.”

“You’re saying —” as if she didn’t already have a bad taste in her mouth “-that our parents are effectively insane.”

“Effectively, yes—” Jackson began, at the same time Dylan started,

“Well, I wasn’t—”

They looked at each other. Jackson gestured, overblown and dramatic, at Dylan. Dylan cleared his throat.

“Not insane. Just uh. You have to think about people whose primary goal is survive the apocalypse and everything they do regarding the whole, uh, the whole being even richer is just, well, not a cover, but just a means to the end of surviving.”

“We can’t ascribe normal motives to them,” Jackson added.

“On the plus side—” Ethan smirked nastily. “-we have Jackson here to interpret them — ow!” Dylan had punched him in the arm. “We do. He knows this stuff. We’ve always known he knew this stuff. He cares.”

“Thing is, I think we all have to care now.” Lina looked down at the small shopping mall laid out below them. Nothing but the Chinese place and the 24-hour grocery were still open. “Even if they’re wrong, it’s going to change our lives. Come on, boys. Let’s go shopping.”

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