New – 20 August 2005
A Glancing Blow
Smith was first off the airplane. In fact he usually was. Whatever it was, impatience, aggression, or just four years of standing in line in the military, there was instilled in Fred the necessity to get up and go. Once in the terminal's concourse he was free to move at his own rapid pace. Then he saw the headlines.
He almost knocked two people down in his haste to change direction and get to the news rack. Within five minutes he had found the change, pulled the paper from the rack, and scanned the headlined story. Only then did he show the slightest evidence of calm. Only his outward unconcern was now laced with cynicism. He exhaled in a long, slow, heavy breath; it was his first indication of breathing within the last six or seven minutes.
The announcement, a public one by the government on Ketuohok, had been primarily a sensationalized science interest story. They noted that numerous sources had indicated that a comet would approach much closer to the Earth than any previous comet but nowhere was there any indication of a collision. Oh, there was a small note where two scientists had engaged in a friendly, academic debate on whether the Earth would feel any effects or not. The consensus had been that any effects would be negligible, at most a few isolated tremors. Furthermore, any wild rumors on the inter net should be treated as exactly that: wild rumors.
In fact, the internet had been rampant for weeks on doomsday scenarios – scenarios which in a few isolated cases were uncannily accurate considering the rarity of truth and reality on many of those blogs and websites extolling the general dismal state of affairs of the world. But as always the difficulty with the internet had been in separating the wheat from the chaff.
Now, however, the mainstream news organizations had begun a process – either force fed from government sources, or by virtue of being more fully in the know – whereby the idea of an approaching comet could be made public. Reality could not be allowed to immediately intrude upon the affairs of the world, but instead had to be inserted very slowly and unobtrusively. Meanwhile, let those with the ears to hear and the eyes to see…well... hear and see.
Thinking for a moment, Smith began to grimace. Perhaps Ryker had been right, the government was unable to act because other nations would not believe the comet story. And, with Ketuohok on the other side of the sun, there was no way that the observations could be checked soon enough. Any government without prior access to observations -- ones they could trust -- would likely have a very hard time believing it. Worse yet, many governments with strong religious fundamentalism inherents were incredulous in the extreme about any such, non-prophesied threats. Consequently, individual governments which might actually believe the news could not warn their people for fear of retaliation from governments who were not yet convinced.
Or possibly, Fred grimaced, they feared a massive panic, with a shut down in normal services and products. Both would be disastrous for those attempting to lead themselves into the path of safety for themselves, their loved ones and their associates.
Glancing at other news on the front page, Smith found something else. The government was announcing a new and broadened educational thrust on the civil defense system. Fred was amazed that the government had been able to get a relatively minor story on page one and in close proximity to the story on Ketuohok. That was a clever trick.
Nevertheless Smith realized the important fact that someone was perhaps starting to make preparations. With a rejuvenated civil defense program, the probability of survival for a substantial segment of the population was increased. The only question was whether or not preparations were going to account for the comet's potential effects. Running everyone into underground shelters would ensure more deaths than if no one was forewarned.
It was a dilemma. Something would have to be done. They couldn't simply bury all those people! Perhaps Senator Tolman could help him, he thought. Only it must be soon. He could also offer the Senator the carrot of Fred's slowly evolving network of believers -- individuals and groups with which he could reconnect after the fact. It would be essential to have friends in safe and secure places.
Fred dropped the paper on the top of the news rack and walked on. He did not notice the man behind him, nor that the stranger picked up Smith's discarded paper. But when Bill Roberts saw the paper he choked. ‘Who the hell had let out this fantastic story?' He forgot Smith (he assumed that he already knew where Smith was heading) and reached for his cell phone. Something made him hesitate, however, and pocketing the wireless connector, he made for a telephone booth. Amazingly, it was still a public phone in good working order. But it still took fifteen minutes to get through to his assistant.
"Wright, what the hell is this story in the paper?"
"The one on the comet, you idiot!"
"Oh, that!" Then, after a brief pause, "We had nothing to do with it. Apparently it came from NSF but the rumor mill has it originating with the President. Frankly, I don't see that it's such a big deal unless you buy that crap from Masters."
"You're not concerned at all that maybe the rumors could spread and cause a national panic?"
"Oh no! The scientists that we've checked with have been totally unconcerned. We figured that this Masters fellow was a crackpot. Incidentally, where is Masters, we can't seem to locate him."
Roberts hesitated. "The last I knew, he was at the Woodlawn Station. But I wouldn't bother with him. Just another Chicken Little."
"Well, if this story on the comet is right, then we had better keep Masters tucked away. His predictions of worldwide doom could sure as hell start a panic.”
When Roberts did not answer, Wright continued, "By the way, the PIC is hot for you to get back here. He said that you didn't need to be out in the field at all. What should I tell him?"
Bill thought a moment. In the last week he had begun to believe that the group he had stumbled across wasn't just a clique of nuts, but some very serious scientists and that they might have something after all. It was also clear to him that they were making careful preparations for something. Then the thought hit him: Perhaps they were right! Maybe Masters was right and his friends were rapidly getting ready. If the world were heading for trouble, it might be worthwhile to make friends with the man that Roberts was tailing.
"Sir, when can we expect you back?"
Bill Roberts thought quickly. "When is that meeting with Tolman and Laise set up for?"
Wright hesitated at the abrupt change of subject. Then, still unsure of himself, "This afternoon, at 3: 30, I think. But there are several other big wigs planning on showing up." When Roberts did not respond immediately, "Were you supposed to be at that meeting?"
Roberts immediately, unhesitatingly, lied, "Yes! I'm on my way there now." He did not wait for Wright's response as he slammed the receiver back down.
When Roberts walked in the meeting room he saw Senator Tolman, his aide and General Laise sitting at the conference table. They had been talking intently and quickly stopped when Bill came into the room. They seemed surprised to see him, but made no comment other than to greet him as an old friend.
Bill immediately tried to gauge their attitude. Tolman belied the fact that he considered the meeting of any importance by the casual way he sat in the large leather chair. General Laise, on the other hand, maintained his typically correct military bearing, thereby keeping his secrets behind his own form of a poker face. Mel looked typically eager and bewildered. Roberts suspected that the young aide was not keeping up with the pace of events.
Within a few moments the others had arrived: Three Senators (all of whom were chairmen of important committees), a Presidential assistant named Frank Sperry (who Roberts classified as being in the second level of hierarchy at the White House), and his boss, the PIC, Charles Grogane. Grogane was clearly surprised to see Roberts, but his deputy took his seat at the conference table, clearly intent upon not leaving. Roberts knew his boss well enough that Grogane would not risk an incident, however trivial.
One of the Senators, a Lloyd Murphy, opened the discussion, "Well, let's get on with it, shall we? I don't know why this meeting is supposed to be so all-fired important and l've got lots of other things to do."
"We're all busy, Lloyd," Senator Tolman answered. Murphy merely grunted. Tolman glanced away, already bored with his colleague.
As Roberts' boss began to describe the situation, Tolman felt even more contempt. These clowns knew less than he did. They were darting about, playing spy, when all they had to do was ask the right people the right questions. But count on them not doing that. Not that Tolman would have told them anything of substance, but clearly they were too clandestinely involved to bother to ask simple questions. He was sure they would always knock the door down before ever first trying the doorknob.
Then he did get a surprise: They did not know about Masters being shot. Admittedly, Tolman had only just learned about it from General Laise, but surely they had better channels of communication than that.
Then it clicked: They were withholding something. The incredibly stupid newspaper article, maybe it was just a mistake. Probably these DOD clowns were making their own secret preparations. Only they needed some power and money to do it right. And that's why they were having this meeting.
Tolman smiled. None of the other Senators were buying the story and, of course, Tolman wasn't going to give them the time of day. The DOD boys were going to strike out on this one. Strange though that they were not using the supporting data from California and separately from Europe . This had been the clincher that had convinced even Mel. Then Tolman realized that perhaps they were unaware of it as well.
Tolman looked over at General Laise, who returned his knowing stare. Laise gave a yes with a subtle head nod and Tolman acknowledged. They had already agreed that if too many people became aware too soon, those with advance knowledge would not have any significant advantage. Preparations had to be made in secret, and quickly, to have a good chance for success. Competing with a large segment of the population for scant resources was not to either the General's or the Senator's liking. Perhaps when their underground Atlas missile site in west Texas was fully provisioned and manned, they could be more conscientious in their civic duty to warn the people. But not now. They needed more time.
Tolman smiled inwardly as he thought of the day he had voted to discontinue the Atlas missile program. An ironic twist. But then his smile vanished as the Presidential assistant spoke for the first time.
“Our office has been contacted indirectly by a Professor Smith, apparently from the same university as this Masters fellow. We only have the barest details and I suspect that we had originally judged the thing to be a hoax. However, I gather from your analysts at DOD that we should perhaps follow up on this.”
Roberts was as shocked as Tolman. How the hell had they found Smith? Or, worse yet, how had Smith made a White House contact without Roberts knowing about it?
"Of course,” Roberts' boss answered. “We were not aware of this Smith you mentioned. But we can certainly check it out.”
'Like hell we will', Roberts thought.
"Surely you're not serious,” Senator Murphy interjected. "Obviously the whole thing is a hoax. It's incredible that you gentlemen are willing to risk public embarrassment over what constitutes nothing more than another' End of the World' scam."
“And if it's not a scam, Senator?” The assistant smiled, knowing he had the critical edge on the senior Senator. Then he gave it away. “The White House, only today, received some information which tends to correlate with what we've been discussing here. If the information is correct, and if this Professor Smith can provide some confirming evidence, then I am quite sure that the President will want to begin immediate preparations on a large scale.”
Senator Murphy guffawed, while his colleague, Tolman, silently cringed. Tolman was thinking quickly. He and the general needed time, at least a month. He had to delay major actions by the government if his Atlas missile site was to remain his own. He might have offered a place to the President had he not known that the Chief Executive was generally dumber than a fence post, and on top of everything would have had his religious sensibilities offended and shocked. Then Tolman realized his necessary actions: Professor Fred Smith would have to be prevented or delayed from providing any confirming data.
As Murphy once again indicated his dismay at everything, Tolman began his own diversion, "I believe I would be willing to support the President in this, provided that we can get independent confirmation.” Before the Presidential aide could answer, Tolman added, “However, I would insist that the information that the White House holds be supported by the people who have brought it to you and that either this Masters or Smith be required to personally confirm the findings with their own data. I would think that it is imperative that the scientists involved be available for some definitive questioning. Otherwise the evidence will be nothing more than a few random numbers on a piece of paper.”
Roberts hardly heard the Presidential assistant's instant and complete agreement. He was trying to guess Tolman's motives. Roberts knew that Smith had already visited Tolman so clearly the Senator was personally aware of that evidence. There was also a good chance that Tolman knew about Masters being dead -- General Laise was clearly in Tolman's hire. So why was Tolman denying the evidence?
Tolman, having gotten the agreement he wanted, turned to Roberts and his boss. "I trust you will be able to provide this Masters?”
‘Checkmate,' Roberts thought, while his boss answered, “Of course. We'll also make it a point to bring Professor Smith along as well."
Roberts watched Tolman's reaction, which was anything but positive. Clearly Tolman was aware of Smith but equally clearly did not want to make anything of it. Slowly Roberts began to see the truth: Tolman was making his own secret plans and he was now buying time.
Bill Roberts had spent too long in the military portion of the Washington establishment not to realize the complexity of it and the extreme difficulty in getting some action. He also realized the futility of his trying to be selected as one of those who would receive the benefits of such preparations. On the other hand, the group which had sent Masters and Smith to Washington was already convinced and, more importantly, was already making preparations – and in fact had a substantial head start on some of the other efforts. It might be fairly simple to join the group -- if one could play his cards right. There certainly seemed little advantage for Bill Roberts to continue in his present government position. Tolman had already, in effect, told Roberts that he was not a member of the Washington elite. For Roberts there would be no room at the inn. Not unless he arranged for his own accomodations.
Clearly, the first item on the agenda was for Roberts to find out the location of Smith's group. Roberts, of course, knew where his university was located, and that a significantly large group of the professors had just recently taken emergency leave. Smith' s group would have to be located through Smith. Unfortunately, Roberts could hardly go directly to Smith and ask without possibly compromising his connection with Masters. And, with Masters dead, there was a fair chance that he would not be welcomed with open arms.
Ready now to leave, he glanced over at Tolman. A question abruptly crystallized: What about Tolman's remarks about Smith? Then it hit him! Tolman had no intention of letting Smith bring his evidence to the White House. And, with Masters dead, Smith was Roberts' only link. It was the only link to Presidential action and Roberts' only lifeline. Roberts suddenly realized that he would have to relocate Smith before Tolman did.
Roberts entered the hotel moving quickly. Avoiding the elevators (Roberts never liked the limitation on his freedom of movement - he preferred to go at his own pace in all things), he took the escalators to the third floor conference rooms. Taking the escalator two steps at a time he was quickly whisked up to the carpeted convention area. From there he went directly to the stairwell and took those stairs two at a time until he reached the fifth floor, the first floor set aside for rooms. He was breathing heavier as he entered the hallway but hardly noticed. When he got to room 517, he knocked with two quick raps then immediately used his key to open the door. Stepping inside he saw Willie looking around the corner. Willie's posture visibly relaxed as he recognized Roberts.
But Roberts immediately challenged him. “Why didn't you have the bolt and latch on the door? Expecting someone?”
Willie was immediately on guard. Then he tried to answer. "Yes sir. You."
"And there's no chance someone else might have dropped by in the meantime? Perhaps a maid?"
Willie looked wounded. “I suppose so. I didn't figure on that.”
Roberts watched the underling for a moment, disgusted at the carelessness. Roberts had spent some time working with Army intelligence where they had professionals. It always griped Roberts that whenever he had to undertake any kind of personal clandestine operation nowadays, he had to depend on rank amateurs. Of course the DOD did not consider that his present job required such activities, but Roberts knew the power inherent in information. And Roberts was not about to forego that power base, even if he had to recruit and use amateurs and pay for them out of his own pocket. He had already had a return on his investment many times that of his initial outlay.
Switching his mind to the more immediate, "Where's the tape?"
Willie brightened slightly. This time he was ready. "It's on the second machine, all ready to go."
As Roberts sat down and picked up the headphones he asked, "Is the suspect still in the hotel?”
“Yes sir. Still in his room. But no other phone calls."
Then Roberts settled down to listen to the tape. When he heard Fred Smith's voice asking for long distance he recalled how easy it had been to find Smith again. The simpleton had registered in a major hotel under his correct name. Roberts grimaced as he thought of it. It seemed as if everyone was a rank amateur. All but Tolman, of course. The Senator was a worthy adversary but Roberts knew that he could outwit him in the end.
Then he heard the conversation.
"George, this is Fred." Must be George Voulers, Roberts thought, at the university.
"I can't really tell. I've talked to several key people, but I keep getting the run around.”
"What about that newspaper article?"
"Can't find where it came from. Every time I think I've got someone to open a door, someone else closes it.”
“I can't say I'm surprised." Then, after a pause, “Did you know that your favorite student is dead?”
"They called his wife a few days ago -- some sort of accident.”
“Listen, buddy. Give it up and head for home. All the essentials are in place for a nice homecoming, along with ample... goodies. We're ready to start the party. And I want you there, not entangled in Washington politics.”
“Not yet, George. I'm too close. There are too many others I need to see. Influential types for now and later on.”
"You're too close all right. So was our young friend. Just remember there's a chance we can make things do with our resources. Don't throw it away."
Another pause. "Okay George. Perhaps you're right. Give me another week. Then I'll call it quits."
"I don't like any delay but I'll tell the others. Meanwhile, as for me… ‘Elvis has left the building'. If you want to call again it will have to be direct to you know who. ”
"Okay George. But I don't think I will be making any more phone calls. We'll talk when I see you."
Roberts silently cursed as the receivers clicked off. They had told him everything but where. Where was the damn site? And what were the 'party' preparations?
Abruptly he took off the headphones and made a quick telephone call. In a few moments he felt somewhat better. He had been able to contact his man at the university without a hitch and passed the instructions to tail Voulers wherever he went. Then report back. Voulers would lead them to the site provided, of course, that his man could make contact before the scientist left the area. If was a big if. In the meantime, Smith was the only other connection to the site.
Then Willie interrupted his thoughts. “Incoming call,” he announced.
Roberts donned the headphones that Willie offered. The caller was Ed Larson, Smith's friend at NSF and, Roberts realized, a lackey of Senator Tolman. It was a quick call. Ed was only relaying the message that Senator Tolman and some others wanted to meet Fred. It was to be held in room B-13 of the HUD annex building. The latter particularly puzzled Roberts in that the annex was primarily a records storage Warehouse. Then he realized that it might be a logical place to put someone away.
Roberts jerked off the headphones and demanded of Willie, “Where's the iron?”
Willie, not having heard the conversation, was shocked. But he answered, pointing, “In the bag.”
Roberts grabbed the bag, pulled out the revolver, checked for ammunition, attached the silencer, and shoved it in his belt. “You stay here,” he ordered and ran out of the room. Instinctively he made for the stairs. His hands following the iron banisters, he fairly leaped down the stairs. At the third floor he exited the stairway and made for the escalators. He had just made it to the lobby and taken a moment to calm himself when he saw Fred Smith step out of the elevator. Roberts smiled and picked up the tail.
When Smith took a cab, Roberts took the second one in line. Avoiding the urge to say 'Follow that taxi', Roberts simply asked for the HUD annex. Nevertheless he kept his eyes on the taxi ahead as it meandered its way through the heavy city traffic. As they neared their destination, Smith's taxi took a right turn out of the slow moving traffic and headed up a little used access road to the building. Roberts ordered his own driver to turn right.
The driver's answer was simple. "Can't. Wrong lane." And the heavy traffic made it clear that he could not now switch lanes. "But I can let you out at the front door.”
Roberts didn't bother to answer. He dropped a fifty dollar bill on the front seat (for a $15.20 ride), opened the door of the almost stopped car, and got out. He ignored the driver's yell of "Hey!” and the sudden lurching of the taxi to a stop. Dodging through the traffic, Roberts took off at a dead run for the entrance that Smith had already entered.
His heart now pounding, he reached the door and jerked it open. His hand went momentarily to his revolver, to steady it and to assure himself that he hadn't dropped it. Then he looked down the long hallway of the ground level floor just in time to see Smith entering a door nearly halfway down the long building. Roberts steadied himself and started walking briskly down the hall. When he was less than onefourth of the way he saw another man enter the hall from another door and then walk purposely to the door that Smith had entered. He seemed not to notice Roberts at all. Either that or he assumed that Roberts' presence was inconsequential.
Roberts sensed immediate alarm. The man was dressed in a tie and dark business suit, which seemed out of place in the shirt sleeve atmosphere of the government building. Once the man was out of sight, Roberts took off in a dead run for the door, his hand on the revolver which was still lodged in his belt.
When he reached the door he quickly glanced up and down the deserted hallway and then quickly but silently opened the door marked B-13. Inside he was initially surprised to see a very large room with stack upon stack of records, all neatly catalogued in shelves. Neither the man nor Smith could be seen immediately.
Then he heard a muffled footstep to his right. He let the door slam harder than necessary; perhaps the noise might make a potential assassin hesitate, and then moved quickly to his right. He saw the man about halfway down one of the long passageways between stacks and nonchalantly turned to walk toward the man. As he moved he pretended to look at the shelves, as if looking for a particular file number. He kept his hands on his coat to insure that it did not fly open to reveal his weapon and at the same time to display a casual air.
The man saw him and began walking toward him. Roberts noted that the man had nothing in his hand, belying the fact that he had come to pick up any files. Roberts was now sure that this man about to pass him in the narrow passageway had been sent to kill Smith. Roberts was also sure of what he had to do.
As they passed each other, both Roberts and the man gave a cursory greeting to one another. Then Roberts turned and watched the man's back for just a moment. When the man's back displayed no suspicions, Roberts pulled his weapon and fired two rapid shots in succession. The man's back arched at the impacts, his arm flying up to cross his chest. Then he stumbled slightly and fell, one elbow crashing into one set of files. As he hit the floor one shelf of files fell on top of him, partly covering the body.
Roberts moved quickly to where the body laid, took a quick glance at either end of the passageway, and then fired one quick shot into the man's head. Then he moved quickly away, deeper into the stacks. But close enough to be able to see the man's body through a space in the files.
Then he heard Smith walking with some purpose, perhaps to investigate the noises. He still could not see Smith but then he heard the steps cease and abruptly break into a run. He glimpsed Smith's face as he reached the man's body but then lost it as Smith bent down. Roberts could see hands reaching out for the body, but nothing else. For a moment Roberts could only wait in suspense.
Then Smith straightened and Roberts could just see his face. Smith was clearly shocked but, nevertheless, thinking. Roberts could almost see Smith's logical progression as he realized the fact of murder, that Smith had been asked to come to this strange meeting place, that his contact had not arrived, that a man had just been shot, that this room was a convenient place to stage a murder, and perhaps the only reason that Smith was alive was that an assassin had made a mistake and shot the wrong man. Then the more relevant thought occurred that someone, apparently, wanted Smith dead.
Fred looked down at the body, the thought of reporting it coming to the fore of his mind. Then the consideration of a multitude of complications overrode his civic instinct. With another, more natural instinct, he started walking very fast toward the exit, his eyes suddenly straining to see anything out of the ordinary. Roberts moved from his previous spy hole just in time to see Smith reach the door to the room. Roberts jerked his head back to avoid being seen as Smith glanced around the room himself. Then, as he heard the door open and close, Roberts looked back at the door and saw no sign of Smith. Purposely but carefully he traced Smith's footsteps to the door and gingerly opened it. After giving Smith time to reach the exit, he listened for a moment. He heard some faint footsteps and the outer door opening. Then, as it clanged shut, he stuck his head into the hallway. It was deserted.
Quietly he carefully wiped the knob on both sides of the door, plus the edge of the door itself. Then, turning the lock on the door, he stepped into the hall and shut the door behind him. His handkerchief still on the knob, he made sure it was locked. Roberts smiled at his success and began walking away.
As he walked down the hall, Roberts knew that he would never tell Smith that he had just saved his life. Smith would, in fact, never know who Roberts really was. But, on the other hand, it would be Smith that insured his finding the group behind Smith and the site with its enclaves. Smith would repay the debt and never know that he had a debt, nor that he had even repaid it. Roberts smiled even more at the ironic twists of his existence.
Roberts walked over to the phone booth. He was very tired and his gait showed it. He had spent the entire rest of the day tailing Smith. He had watched him buy luggage, check into another hotel, immediately leave again, and then buy clothes, toilet articles, etc. Later Smith had tried to make several phone calls from different phone booths, always apparently unsuccessful. In between he had eaten dinner at a small cafe and spent hours wandering aimlessly about Washington. Roberts knew that he was doing a lot of thinking but apparently had not been able to come to any clear conclusions.
Roberts was no longer smiling -- he was tired of watching over Smith. If it were not for the fact that Smith might have the only clue to finding the site, Roberts might have shot him himself. But the Deputy PIC was not ready to take any chances yet.
Using his cell phone, he dialed his home office, thinking to pick up any essential messages. His assistant, Jeffrey Wright, answered and passed on a pile of important, urgent, and (Roberts realized) totally irrelevant messages before he got to the one that Roberts wanted.
"Alan Richards called. Said something about meeting a George Voulers in a small town in western Nebraska, but then this Voulers fellow left with someone else. What's that all about, Bill?"
Roberts felt the excitement but kept it subdued. "Just some personal business." Then casually, "Did he say what town in Nebraska?" When Wright told him in that grating monotone of his, Roberts felt complete relief. He now knew the site! He could leave Smith to his own fate so that, whatever happened, Bill Roberts had found his long shot. Then, in a carefully controlled manner, he said, "If Richards calls again, tell him to forget the whole thing. I've decided not to deal with Voulers at all."
Roberts then listened patiently as Wright went over several other details. He listened patiently to his assistant, gave him numerous instructions, and then made his excuses. With Wright out of the way, he dialed another number.
A bored voice answered, “Hello?”
“Yes. Who is this?”
“Bill. Get packed. You're moving!”
"Oh, hello, sweetie." Then, abruptly, "Packed?”
"Remember that hotel we stayed at in Chicago ?"
The answer was a cocky laugh. “How could I forget?”
“I'll meet you there Thursday night. Be there! Bring everything you might need for a long trip.”
"But why? And, come to think of it, where have you been?” With a voice clearly put out, “Has the little lady been keeping you at home at night? You know what you can do with that shit, I hope.”
"No. And shut up. Just get your pretty ass to Chicago . Then it's out to the boondocks. We're going on a hunting trip! Dress appropriately. ”
Before she could answer he hung up. It was now a matter of adopting the appearance of a nice, happily married couple. He had no doubt that Diana could convince most anyone she was his devoted wife if she felt like it. She had always been good at faking it, he thought.
The only problem was her damn independence. But she'd toe the mark now. She'd have to. Her life would depend on it.
Chapter Five -- Politics 101
Chapter Seven -- Enclaves
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