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

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.

“You never said anything at all about the Organization,” Lina pointed out to her father, glad she was too tired to sound anything but calm.  “Or about Mom being able to fold a house out of a suitcase, or about — about anything,” she trailed off.  There really were a lot of people here.  “Or about the way you can just — link your power to someone else’s.”  She paused.  She knew the woman kneeling in front of her.  She loathed her.  She was a business partner of her father’s, and she had always spoken down to Lina like she was younger than her brothers were now.  “Camilla Stane.”

“Miz Stane,” her father normally would correct her. 

Not today.

“You stopped the wave.”

“I stopped the first wave. There will be more.”  She looked at the woman and pressed her thumb to that foundation-caked forehead.  Would even take through that much makeup?  “I saved your life.  You’re welcome.”

For the first time, she felt a snake of power reach out through her thumb and into her hand.  She looked down at the woman and snorted.  “Of course.”  She pushed the power back, out, down to her fingers and back out, rejecting the bond.  “You would.”

“You made the offer in bad faith?”  Jackson stared down at Camilla Stane; so did Lina’s father. “You knelt and offered —”

“I offered nothing.”  The woman sounded far too smug.  She always did.  “I simply knelt.  You assumed.”

“That’s specious and you are more than aware of that.  Ms Stane, we’ll talk later.”  Her father’s voice was sharp and furious.  “My daughter is not yours to puppet.”

“And I am hers, then?  You can’t fight all her battles for her, Edward.”

“I don’t see why not.  After all.”  Something in her father’s voice had changed.  He didn’t sound like the amiable, friendly businessman anymore.  He sounded sharp and dangerous.  “She is my daughter, my heir, and you are my employee, Ms. Stane.  She is a minor, under my protection and that of my wife, and as such, I can fight her battles if I please.”

He turned to Lina just as she was about to decide if she wanted to complain about him taking over.  “However, I don’t think I need to, do I, Catalina?  You saved our lives?”

His voice carried again. 

“I stopped the wave.  We stopped the wave,” she added, gesturing at Jackson.  “My shield grounded the first wave.  Dad-“

“Of course.”  He gestured at her.  “Do you mind if I handle Ms. Stane for you?”

“I would appreciate it, thank you.  I’m, we’re, we’re going to have a lot to do in the next day, maybe the next few days.  So if you could…?”

She smiled at him, understanding in a flash what he was doing. And here, in public, too.

She had now idea how this was supposed to feel, but it felt weird and shiny and strange and terrifying. 

Then again, almost everything in the last 24 hours had felt more or less like that. 

“Of course.  I’ll see you at home, then.”  He gestured her into the campground. 

She walked along, feeling like her head was a balloon that was only barely attached to her. 

~*~

She didn’t know how they did it, but they got back to her parents’ campsite.  Her mother met them at the door.  “I heard – something – from your father.”  She looked them over.  “Ah, Lina, you never said anything to us-“

“You never said anything to me, either.”  She made a face.  “Mom…”

“I know, sweetie, you’re tired, yeah?  Come on, your father thought we’d need this.”  She picked up a folded-up tent; she had it waiting in the entryway like she’d been waiting for them.  “And I suppose we do, now.  Here we go.”  She wandered out to the side of the little house and shook out the tent.  “You four, you get a good solid rest in.”

The tent opened up in a way that no tent ought to and all tents advertised they did – two shakes and it was popped-up, looking like it would hold, at best, two people.  Her mother unzipped the opening.  “I’ll hold down the fort.  Is there anything you need…?”

“Jackson?”  Lina was so fuzzy-headed she thought she might float away.  Her parents were acting weird.  Behind her, Dylan and Ethan were so quiet she wasn’t entirely sure they were still there. 

“Ah, yes.”  He pulled his phone out.  “Ma’am, Mrs. Bosch, I’ve got a list of people who acknowledged a life debt to Catalina, either because of the riot earlier or because of the power plant explosion – could you contact them and tell them to be at the grocery store at noon tomorrow?  If it’s not too much…?” He seemed suddenly shy. 

Lina’s mom looked over the list and smiled slowly. “Oh, no, I’ll have fun with this.  That’s quite a list.  And then this second list—  oh, my.  That was the wave of — energy?  Where were you?  Trixie?”

Lina chuckled tiredly.  “Grocery store.  Oh… Mom.”  She stepped aside.  “Dylan and Ethan.  Their families…”

As if on cue, both boys dropped to their knees and bent their heads.  Lina’s mark was a line of blue around their necks, shining faintly in the moonlight. 

“Ah.  I see.  You do what you need to, Catalina, assuming you understand what that means…?”

“Fealty.”  She remembered the word from Lit last semester.  “Fealty, complete and unwavering.  Also, it means I get between them and their enemies.  Or families.  Might be the same thing.”

“And Jackson—”

“He’s my, uh, my right-hand man and walking library.  I haven’t saved his life.”

“Well, technically, you saved everyone’s life—” Jackson demurred.  “But it was…”

“Understood.”  

Lina was glad her mother did, because she didn’t.  But her mother was gesturing at the tent.  

“Oh, Catalina? Would you mind if I told Senator Whistler that you needed her to take your turn babysitting?”

Lina lifted the tent flap as she looked back at her mother.  “You… no, that’s beautiful. Go right ahead.”

Want more?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.