Archives

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

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.

“Places, everyone,” Dylan commanded. 

Lina hadn’t been into theatre, hadn’t really been into anything dramatic or performance based, and had ended up joining business club just to have an extracurricular on her college applications. She wasn’t sure what a conquering hero was supposed to walk in like.

“Shoulders back,” Jackson murmured.  “That’s it.  Smile a little, if you can.  You’re tired and that’s fine, but you’re happy you saved lives, right?  There you go.  It’s like going into a charity ball, except right  now you’re doing what our moms and dads do, they just don’t know it yet.  The cameras are on you; don’t give ‘em anything.”

“Way to give me a panic attack,” she murmured back at him, but she did what he told her.  The cameras are on you.  She could do that.  Continue reading

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

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.

Dylan helped Lina back down from the hood of the car they’d been standing on.  People were still quiet, still processing what he’d said. 

So was she.  She looked at Dylan, trying to figure out what it was that she wanted to say. 

Woah didn’t seem to encompass it.  When the hell did you become a public speaker?  didn’t seem to really do it either.

“I uh.  I have to take classes in this sort of thing,” he muttered. “Even if I’m not going to be the next, uh, you know.  The next leader of the Organization, well, I have to be able to run something.  So I – I know how to do it, and you needed it.”  He coughed. “I think the city needs it – oh, hello.”

Nina didn’t recognize the skinny guy standing in front of them, but she knew him.  She was sure, if she looked, her mark would be on his neck. 

“I uh. You said, if I needed a place to stay…?”

“Yeah, here. Look, I hate to be an ass, but first, I need your promise you’ll be right here at twelve fifteen and help us with the next wave. Can you give me your word on that?”

Lina wanted to tell him not to be the ass he was saying he didn’t want to be, but — but he had a point.

The kid shifted a couple times. “Yeah. Yeah I. I promise, I can do that. I — I give me your word. But you’re really serious? About a place to stay?”

Dylan seemed to soften, which was good, because Lina might have punched him otherwise.  “Yeah, I was.  Come on – hi, I’m Dylan.  This is the woman who saved your life and is going to do so again tomorrow.  Come on, we’ll get you a room.  Anyone else?”  He raised his voice up just a bit; three other people wandered over.  One of them looked pretty well-off, another looked a bit like a hobo, and the third was the prostitute. 

“All right, this way.  Come on.  Now, look, please don’t run up damage charges, or I’ll never be able to do this again, but if all you do is, you know, watch some weird shit on tv and order  – I don’t think the Motel 8 has room service, to be honest, but go ahead and order if if you can.  Then we’re fine.”

“You’re for real.”  The prostitute looked at Dylan.  “You’re just going to get us four rooms?”

“Well, technically, I guess, my dad is, but don’t tell him that.  The agreement is, though, you have to give me your word you’ll be here tomorrow at 12:15 so we can save the world again.  That okay?  We all good with that?”

“My house is gone,” said the woman who looked pretty well off.  “I – It was smashed.”

“Shit.”  Lina winced.  “Shit, that sucks, I’m sorry.  You – I don’t need your -“

I’m not smashed. Because you stopped it.  Yeah, I’ll be here tomorrow at 12:15.”  She hugged herself.  “I don’t have anywhere else to be anyway.”

Lina was swaying again.  Dylan looked at her and then back at Jackson.  “How about you get settled and we’ll go back up the hill once I get these people their rooms, okay?”  He patted her shoulder.  “Maybe get some more food, too?”

Lina sat down on the back of a truck.  She closed her eyes, just for a moment. 

It seemed that a moment was all it took. 

~~**~~

“Easy, you’re going to knock something over!”

“I’m being easy, you’re the one shouting – shit. you woke her up.”

Lina was sitting – on a pile of lumpy things? And moving up a steep hill at a ragged pace.  She opened her eyes.  

She was definitely in the shopping cart, and she was definitely being pushed uphill.  Nearly to the campground, from the looks of things.  “Guys…”

“Almost there,” Ethan grunted from behind her.  She shifted carefully; he was pushing the cart with her and their slightly-depleted groceries in it.  “Do we have a story or are we just going to bull through and pretend we meant to do it?”

“I think we’re going to have to bull through.”  She turned to look at Jackson, who handed her a protein bar.

“You three should be doing the eating,” she complained.   “You pushed this whole thing – and me! – all the way up that hill, after – after! -“

“We’ve been eating the whole way up.  Please, eat.  You’re going to need it.”

She couldn’t argue with the look on his face, so she ate the bar.  Only when she was done – and Dylan had swapped off for Ethan pushing the cart – did she think about the fact that they were still pushing her up the hill. 

“I can get down.  Guys.  I can walk.”

“When we get to the park entrance,” Jackson offered, although somehow it almost sounded like an order. “Really, Lina, you can use other people’s energy, but you’re going to end up spending the most of your own no matter what.  No matter how many people we add,” he tacked on, but the way he said it made it sound like he was referencing a discussion she hadn’t been part of, maybe with Dylan or Ethan or both.   “And I know we can call in a bunch, but the more we call in, the more people are going to be linked to you – I’m going to spend some time today looking to see if there’s something more like a temporary link or the sort of thing that would let you release a connection.  So you could take power but then, well, not have them bound to you in aeternum.”

“I know basic Latin,” she muttered.  “Dressing it up doesn’t make it less ‘forever.'”

“Still.  That’s the goal, to have a way to get you more power without it being forever.”

They’d come to the gate of the park.  Dylan stopped the cart and Ethan and Jackson helped Lina down.  She wanted to protest that she didn’t need the help, but the way her legs were wobbling suggested otherwise. 

“All right.”  Dylan hrrmed.  “Me and Ethan behind, Lina in the front with Jackson directly to her right hand, just a fraction behind her.  If we’re bulling through, Lina, walk in like you’re a conquering hero.  Or in this case, their savior, who happens to be very aware that you are.”

“You’re good at this,” she muttered. 

“Yeah.  Like I said.  Places, everyone.”

Want more?

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

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.

Sorry about the pause in posting this – I have very little excuse (Except pandemic) because I have like 7+ chapters ahead already written.

🏕️

Lina tried not to put too much weight on Jackson, but she felt like she had no energy at all left.  She tried to force her mind to work, to come up with something to say.  What had she been thinking about?

Physics.  Physics.

“When we – I need a book on Physics.  A good one.  And maybe I need to call our physics teacher.  Mine, I mean.  Or yours.  If they —”  She looked out.  To either side of the plaza, the wave had left broken buildings and scorched-looking places.  “If they survived?  Is this-“

BzzZzt.  Dean.  Dean, they say That was the first wave.  The second one shouldn’t hit for more than 12 hours, and then another 12 after that.  They don’t know how long before it wears itself out.”

“Direction?” Lina snapped. 

“Dispatch.  Which way will it go?” Continue reading

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

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’s no way.”  All of Ethan’s stings seemed to have been cut.  “We can’t make it, we won’t.”

“We’re not.” Jackson looked at Lina, jaw set, expression serious.. “Okay, you’ve gotten some food in you, that’s a good start. Dylan, you gotta go way over to that side of the parking lot. Ethan, over there. And we need someone else, we’re gonna need more power. Are you ready?”

Lina blinked.  She blinked again.  “Ready?” She swallowed hard.  The power plant… “Ready to stop – what a nuclear explosion?”

“The power plant’s not nuclear. It’s – ah, I promise I’ll explain later. But here. Get the forcefield started with those two, and once it’s visible, I’ll see if I can get some more people in. If I can’t, I’ll be right back here. I promise.” Continue reading

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

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.

Grocery shopping was not, in theory, a novel sort of thing.  Lina did it every second week for the family back home. 

But when she was doing so with three rich boys who had never had to do that sort of thing – “Why not just have a grocery service?” – it turned into an adventure. 

It helped, or possibly made things worse, that it being late at night, they were nearly the only people in the store.  It helped that they were actually buying things, although Lina’s mental list appeared to confuse everyone but Jackson, who actually knew how to cook. 

“So why are we shopping again?” Dylan asked, when the cart was half-full.  “I mean – there’s already food up there.”

“But is it good food?  Also, I want to make pizza.”

“Make?  Make pizza?”  Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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

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.

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.  Continue reading

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

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.

Lina wiggled her fingers.  “Can you feel that?”

“Feel what?”  Ethan stared at her fingers as if they were made of magic.  Well, they kind of were. 

“I can feel — little tingles of power. In — in eight of my fingers.”

“That’s going to be interesting when you add more people.”  Jackson hrrmed. 

“When?”  Lina wrinkled her nose at him. “Are you planning on me saving more lives?”

They were walking — casually, slowly, like they weren’t in any hurry at all — through the sort of befuddled crowd, currently past what remained of the catering tables. Jackson was handing Lina mini-quiches while Dylan and Ethan grabbed sushi rolls for themselves.   Continue reading

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

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.

“-Might have noticed how you didn’t fall to your doom.”

Ethan was the best at being menacing; Jackson was the best at being logically charming, and somewhere in between the two of them, Dylan smiled at people and they seemed to agree with him. 

There were five of them Jackson had noticed, and they were starting with the three that might need the most convincing, as far as he was convinced – one of those had been almost all the way to Lina when the shield caught him, so he might have thought that he’d have been fine, discounting the huge crowd of people that were also clawing towards him. 

They’d let Dylan have him, Jackson convince the one who seemed to know nearly as much about the Organization as he did, and then aimed Ethan at a creepy woman who declared that she owed nothing to anyone, ever. 

Lina – watched.  Truth be told, she took mental notes, too.  She had some idea how to handle people, from school, from bullies, from watching her parents, but watching the three of them work was a completely different matter. If all three of them weren’t so sure that they didn’t have magical powers, she’d have – given what she knew now – suspected some sort of magical charm going on with all of them.  They just headed in to what they were doing and came out the other end with a smile and the response they wanted.  Continue reading

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

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.

“Lina.  Lina.” A hand waved in front of her face. “Catalina?”

She blinked.  Jackson had a hand on her back and a hand in front of her face.  Her hands — her hands were on Dylan and Ethan’s necks.  And down in the gorge, the whole place was glowing blue. 

“What—”  She stared.  “Did—”

“You got everyone safe.  Separated. And down on the ground.  Might have gotten a couple broken arms while you figured it out, but a broken bone is a lot better than — well, than what was happening.”

“I don’t have that sort of power!” Continue reading