A Most Sacred Right

By

Robert Lukens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2008 by Robert Lukens


 

Table of Contents

 

Prolog

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five


 


 

Prolog

October 12, 1978

 

At a quarter to seven in the evening of Columbus Day, in what might arguably have been the worst neighborhood of Philadelphia, a slight, black woman stepped off a bus. An unseasonably cold north wind whistled around Tashika Hastings, prompting her to pull her coat collar up around her neck. She was a pretty young woman, wearing an elegant coat for that neighborhood. Men loitering in front of a corner bar leered at her and called lewd comments. She hurried on her way, chilled by the wind and chilled even more by fear of the men. Tashika worked as a maid in a huge colonial house across town in a neighborhood where one felt relatively safe walking down the street alone. Her employer was Al Farmer, a top officer of the teacher’s union, who somehow managed to live far beyond his publicly traceable means. The expensive designer coat that looked as good as it felt had been handed down to Tashika by Mrs. Farmer, who had a soft spot in her heart for this poor young girl. Two years ago, as Tashika walked along the same path she was walking now, five men assaulted her, dragged her into an alley, and gang-raped her. When she found that she was pregnant from the rape, Mrs. Farmer had persuaded her husband to arrange an abortion.

After the abortion, the doctor told Tashika that she would never be able to have a baby. While bearing the child of one of the monsters that had raped her was unthinkable, there were times when Tashika felt waves of emotion arising from her doomed maternal instinct. This evening was one of those times. As she hurried toward the tiny apartment, where her father would have a simple, but warm meal waiting, she wondered if God, in spite of his reputed concern for the smallest sparrow, ever gave her a thought. Before her rape and the abortion, she had dreamed of falling in love, having two beautiful babies, and living happily ever after. Now, she had no dreams at all. The days slipped by, one indistinguishable from the other. Get up. Go to work. Go home. Go to bed. Get up. Go to work.

She shook her head to clear it of these negative thoughts and walked faster as she passed the Kennedy Project, a huge, dilapidated, subsidized apartment complex, which had fallen apart in less time than it had taken to build it. A haven for drug dealers and prostitutes, the Kennedy Project was an affront to the eyes, the nose, and the ears. It was ugly, foul smelling, and noisy. Countless televisions, radios, and music systems blared full blast as if competing against each other. People yelled, screamed, and cursed.

Just as she passed the last Kennedy building, Tashika heard what sounded like a baby crying. She stopped and listened. There was nothing. As she started to move, she heard it again. It came from a mountain of trash piled against an overflowing dumpster. Cautiously, she approached the dumpster, recoiling from the stench. There was a rustling in a bundle of newspapers at the base of the pile of trash. Gingerly, she pulled the top papers aside. Wrapped in bloody newspapers was an obviously newborn baby. Gently, Tashika picked up the newspapers and the baby.

“Poor little fellow,” she said, looking at the tiny, brown body. “Your mama threw you in the trash. How could she do that when you are so beautiful?”

The baby kicked and cried for a moment, then seemed to look at her and listen to her.

“Yes, little fella,” whispered Tashika. “It’s gonna be all right.” As she looked into the tiny face, she burst into tears. God had thought of her after all. Clutching the baby to her, she hurried home. God had sent her this baby. She loved it already.

 

***

 

June 3, 1981

 

“Watch this, Will,” said Tashika’s father, Luther Hastings. Folding a sheet of newspaper several times, he deftly cut part of it away with a pair of scissors. Unfolding the remains, he proudly displayed a string of paper dolls holding hands.

Little Will was duly impressed by his grandfather’s magic. He ran into the kitchen where Tashika was putting away the last of the dinner dishes. “Look, Mama. Look what Grandpa did.”

“That’s wonderful,” said Tashika. She knelt, hugged Will, and kissed him. “You’re lucky to have such a smart grandpa. He used to make paper dolls for me, when I was little like you.”

“Lucky me,” said Will. “I have the best mama and the best grandpa.” He held up the paper dolls. “Can you do this, Mama?”

“I think so,” said Tashika. “Let me try.” She walked into the living room and sat down on the sofa, beside her father. She carefully folded a sheet of newspaper and picked up the scissors.

The idyllic moment of peaceful, happy, family life was shattered by a thunderous, explosive sound. The front door flew inward across the room. Men wearing bulletproof vests and waving enormous guns suddenly filled the room. The bulletproof vests bore the large, white letters, “DEA” across the front and the back.

“Get your hands up,” screamed one of the men.

Tashika started to raise her hands. Her scissors flashed in the dim light. A rifle fired. Tashika fell over the end of the sofa. The scissors clattered to the linoleum floor.

“Noooooooo,” screamed Luther Hastings, jumping to his feet. A rifle butt smashed into the side of his head, and he crumpled onto the floor.

Will clung to the lifeless Tashika. “Mama. Mama. Mama,” he wailed, over and over.

One of the men picked up the scissors. “I thought she had a gun,” he said.

“She did,” said another, pulling up his pant leg and taking a small gun from a holster. He wrapped Tashika’s fingers around it and pressed them hard.

Two men in suits appeared in the doorway. “You stupid bastards,” said one of the men. “You’re on the wrong goddamn floor.” Seeing Tashika draped over the end of the sofa and her father lying on the floor, he grabbed one of the men by the arm. “What the hell happened here?”

“She pulled a gun on us,” said the man.

“I bet she did,” said the man in the suit. “Get up to the next floor. They're probably long gone by now. I’ll take care of your mess.”

Luther Hastings was coming around. He struggled to his hands and knees. His head throbbed with a piercing pain. It was all he could do to keep from falling back onto the floor. He looked up at the sofa. He couldn’t see clearly. He rubbed his face, and it was wet and sticky. With horror, he realized it was blood. There was a pool of blood on the floor. Tashika’s blood. His baby’s blood.

Little Will was raising Tashika’s eyelid with his fingers. “Mama. Please, Mama. Wake up.”

The man in the suit held two fingers on Tashika’s wrist. There was a very faint pulse. He looked down at the growing pool of blood on the floor. She would be dead soon enough. Alive, she would be an even bigger problem. He dropped the lifeless arm. “Forget it, Kid. Your mama’s dead. She's never going to wake up again.”

Luther pulled Will away from Tashika and held him close. He wanted to say something to him, but no words came out, just little whimpering sounds punctuated by massive sobs that shook his body, while tears streamed down his cheeks. The big man and the little boy clung to each other.

Luther looked through his tears at his dead daughter. “I’ll take good care of him for you, Baby,” he muttered. “I swear to God I will.”


 

Chapter One

The Catalyst

 

 

 

Will and Luther Hastings

Santa Fe, New Mexico

 

Will Hastings rushed into the trailer, dropped a stack of textbooks on the table, turned on the television, and, quickly assembled two slices each of bread, salami, and tomato, plus a bit of mayonnaise into a sandwich. Getting up had been hard this morning, so hard that there had been no time for breakfast other than a banana on the way to class. Now, too many hours later, the banana was ancient history, and he was ravenous. He bit into the sandwich with all the relish of a gourmet eating the meal of his dreams. There is no sauce like hunger, he thought. When he opened his eyes allowing a competing sensation, he noticed the President on the television, and he frowned. Whatever George F. Upton had to say, he knew it would be bad. Even so, he turned up the volume. You need to know what they are doing to you, he thought.

The President looked straight into the camera and said, “To coordinate our efforts, we have created the new Department of Fatherland Security. I've put Josh Friedman, former Director of the CIA, in charge of it. Josh will report directly to me. Fatherland Security will coordinate all our federal agencies, state and local governments and the private sector in a unified national strategy to strengthen our Fatherland protection. We cannot permit another disaster like the Empire State Building. I want to send a message to any and all terrorists out there, wherever they may be, and we think we know where to look for some of them. I am going after them, and I won’t stop until the world is rid of them. There will be no place of refuge for terrorists. The United States will see to that.” He paused for effect.

“Fatherland Security,” scoffed Will. “I can imagine its true purpose. With today's technology, his FS can make Hitler’s SS look like the Boy Scouts.” He wolfed down his sandwich in record time. After quickly putting things away, cleaning up the kitchen and washing his few dishes, he paused for a moment, for another dose of the President.

“I’ve just signed into law a tough anti-terrorism bill called the Patriot Pact,” said the President. “The Patriot Pact gives our law enforcement officers the necessary tools to track terrorists and get them before they can harm Americans. I’ve formed a terrorism task force to help me make sure that there is no place for terrorists to hide anywhere on the face of the earth. We will tighten immigration controls to make sure that no one who would harm us is allowed to enter our country.”

 “Knowing you, your Patriot Pact would be better named as ‘the Persecution Pact,’” muttered Will, as he walked toward the back of the trailer. He was still muttering as he changed into some old clothes. He was pulling a T-shirt over his lean, brown body, when Luther Hastings walked into the trailer and plopped into a chair.

“What a day,” called Luther. “I'm worn to a frazzle. Let me get my breath a minute or two, and we’ll get to work.”

“Now, you just stay there and take it easy, Grandpa,” said Will, as he came to the front room. “It's pretty hot out there. You can come and help me later, when it cools down a little. Stay here and listen to President Upton's speech.”

“That a-hole,” said Luther. “He makes me want to puke.”

“I can't blame you,” said Will. “He is using the Empire State Building disaster as an excuse to turn the USA into a police state. It didn’t take them long to have a tremendous amount of legislation ready for 'fighting terrorism.' There is such a thing as speed-reading, but I've never heard of speed-writing. They had this legislation to Congress before they finished looking for bodies in the rubble. They had to have had it ready and were just waiting for something like the Empire State Building to create enough panic to ram it through Congress.”

“Do you mean they wanted something like the Empire State Building to happen, so they could get this new law?” asked Luther. He really enjoyed it when Will talked with him about important things. Just about no one else ever did.

“That and God knows what else,” said Will. “Almost instantly, they were using the Empire State Building as a pretext to clamp down on every country whose government doesn’t tax its people into poverty. They call those countries ‘tax havens.’ It was important to them to shut these easy-going countries down, because if that tiny percentage of the taxpayers that pay the lion's share of the taxes ever figures out that they don’t have to keep doing that, that they can move to a ‘tax haven’ and avoid the organized crime in Washington, the richest countries could become the poorest countries overnight. Not much of anything is manufactured in America anymore. The corporate headquarters of most big companies could be anywhere. Their factories are already out of the country. All they need is space for a lot of desks and computers. In fact, most desks and computers could be any place that has Internet service. The technology is here, now. The G-8 nations were panicking. They have been having meetings every month for the last year, trying to fabricate some excuse to shut down these ‘tax havens.’ Maybe they came up with a plan, and the US drew the short straw and got stuck for the Empire State Building. Who knows? While the Empire State building was still burning, they were on the air, screaming that all the terrorist's funding comes through ‘tax havens.’ The Empire State Building event made history, but much bigger history was made today, Grandpa-major history. Most of the people aren’t even aware of it.”

“Are you sayin’ this Patriot Pact is a bigger deal than the Empire State Building?”

“It’s much bigger and far, far worse. People came to America because they wanted to be free. Millions fought and died in a revolution and two world wars because of the value they placed on their liberty. Yet, today’s Americans are letting that liberty go without a peep. We just look the other way, while someone takes away that hard-won liberty simply by passing a law. If that isn’t historical, nothing ever was. And don't say 'sayin.' It's 'saying' with a 'g.'”

“Can it really be as bad as all that?” asked Luther Hastings, glumly.

“Well, the government just illegally gave itself permission to do whatever it wants,’ said Will. “Of course, things could work out okay. They could only do things that are benevolent, just, moral, and so on. We only have to worry if they start acting like politicians have always acted in the past.”

“It sounds like we are in deep stuff,” moaned his grandfather.

“No doubt about it, and five will get you ten that worse is on the way,” said Will. “The Empire State Building disaster was so convenient and their power grab so well-orchestrated that I wouldn’t be surprised if they wanted something like the Empire State Building disaster so bad that they made sure they got it.

“Whoooeeeeee,” cried Luther Hastings. “Sounds like you’re saying," he emphasized the "g" so strongly that he had to take a breath to go on, "that the government caused it to happen so they’d have an excuse to do whatever they wanted.”

“No. I’m only saying it looks that way. I’m not saying it’s so. How could I be sure?”

“Oh, by the way,” said Luther, “before I forget, I asked the manager. You can work this weekend, for that Freedom Rally thing. You still want to, don’t you?”

 "Do I? You know I do. In the worst way, I want to.”

“Well, you got it. Pay ain’t too hot, but you get to hear all those speeches. I know that’s what you want.”

“Thanks, Grandpa. Don't say 'ain't.' I’d work for nothing to get to hear those people.” He looked at his watch. “I’d better get busy. You tell me if the President says anything interesting.”

Hearing that he could attend the upcoming Rally for Freedom at the Convention Center, where his grandfather worked, lifted Will's spirits from the low the news of the Patriot Pact had put them in. Sure, he would be working and not able to hang on every word during the two days of speeches, but he would hear a lot, maybe most of it. He opened the door with a flourish and stepped out into the bright sun. Life was that way: a splash of evil and a splash of good; the Patriot Pact and the Rally for Freedom. Unfortunately, one was now the law of the land, while the other was just a bunch of people engaged in wishful thinking. Too bad it wasn’t the other way around.

In the last few years, Will had done a lot of growing up. His philosophy was seasoned for his twenty-seven years. His interest in politics had essentially skipped infancy, raced through adolescence, and was now vibrantly mature. An idealist, though hardly of the starry-eyed variety, he knew the score and held no hope of ever seeing any progress toward his ideals.

Will looked at the trailer. It was covered with dirt and dust. He picked up a hose, turned on the water, and began to wash down the trailer. Until they had grass growing on the lot, this was something that he would have to do fairly often.

Will and his grandfather had purchased a lot on the outskirts of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It wasn’t the best of neighborhoods. In fact, it wasn’t a neighborhood at all, as there were no neighbors, the closest home being half a mile toward town. Several years ago, a developer had laid down a network of streets in the middle of nowhere, with the plan of developing a community there. The developer and his plans had been long forgotten, and except for the streets and this one clear lot with a trailer, the developer’s dream looked pretty much like the rest of the semi-arid countryside stretching off into the distance. What mattered most to Will and his grandfather was that it was theirs, and, of course, the bank’s as well.

For years, their plot of land had been a popular place for dumping trash. Someone had started it, and countless others had followed suit. Will had taken five truckloads of tires to the dump in their old pickup truck. The rusty remains of half a dozen old cars had to be towed away. Hauling away another half a dozen truckloads of miscellaneous trash left them with a barren lot. Getting rid of the trash had been a lot of work, but had it not been there, driving the price down, they couldn’t have afforded even this remote patch of land. As soon as they had been able to get electricity and water connected, they brought their trailer from the mobile home park to what Luther Hastings proudly called ‘our very own property.’ Someday, Will had told his grandfather, he would build them a real house there. Looking at their property, Will could picture their adobe hacienda with a patio where he and his grandfather would have breakfast and maybe an ice-cold beer on a hot afternoon. In the meantime, which Will planned to make as short as possible, the trailer was a comfortable home for the two of them.

The unseasonably warm sun bore down on Will’s dark skin. There were no trees on the lot, not even a bush―just a few weeds. He looked around, and in his mind’s eye, to his future home he added several shade trees, bushes, flowers, and maybe a hammock over there between two trees. He blinked, and saw it as it really was. “Get with it, Will,” he said aloud. “Your dreams can’t become effective unless you do.” He leaned over, sprayed his head with the cool water, and went back to washing down the trailer.

The trailer was looking acceptably clean when Will heard the telephone ringing. He dropped the hose and ran inside. His grandfather was sound asleep on the sofa. Grabbing the phone, hoping he was in time, he gasped, “Hello.”

A classmate had a question about a homework assignment. Will worked nights and went to college by day, majoring in business. Determined to make something of himself, he was almost there. In just a few more weeks, he would be graduating after six and a half years of hard work, little social life, and not nearly enough sleep.

After answering the question, Will chatted a while. He had two classes with the caller, a short, stocky, young white man, whose father was an undertaker. In the college cafeteria, one tends to sit with those he at least recognizes, and they had been at the same table numerous times. Nearly all of the few friends Will had were white. There weren’t many blacks in Santa Fe, where his grandfather had brought him when he was eight years old. For some reason, there weren’t many blacks in the whole state of New Mexico. He found the handful of blacks that he did know to be too much like he, himself, used to be, spending a major portion of their time concerned with all the reasons why they were limited to living as second-class citizens. Directly or indirectly, those reasons were invariably related to their being black. Their attitudes constantly reinforced Will’s self-satisfaction for having abandoned his pathological preoccupation with his color. He reasoned that if he surrounded himself with losers, he greatly increased his chances of being a loser.

When Will went back outside, he found a huge puddle of water from the hose he had left running. He realized that there was a large, low spot at the end of the trailer that would have to be filled in before he planted the grass. Looking up, he saw a man in a blue suit, with an expensive-looking camera hanging around his neck, standing at the edge of the road. When Will looked at him, the man smiled and put a cover on the end of the huge lens of the camera. This was the first person he had seen way out there, other than the workers that had hooked up their water and electricity. As the man drove away, Will shook his head. He wondered what on earth there was around there that anyone would want a picture of?

 

Carla Benson

A Greenspeak Demonstration

 

The sprawling, twenty-story Global Oil Building occupied an entire city block in downtown San Francisco where earthquakes make true skyscrapers risky, to say the least. Its mirrored exterior gleamed with the afternoon sun. In the middle of the south side of the block, the sidewalk merged seamlessly into a large courtyard that was bordered on two sides with lush shrubbery and across the rear with a wall of glass doors that led to the building's foyer. Dominating the courtyard was a shining, silver globe, some eight feet in diameter, held four feet above the ground by a massive, triangular base. Each of the three sides of the triangle was a red, white, and blue sign, reading "Global Oil."

Today, the courtyard around the globe was filled with people demonstrating against the Global Oil Corporation. In stark contrast to the clean, almost antiseptic appearance of the glass and stainless steel of the building, the demonstrators were unkempt, unruly, and uniformly unconventional. The male demonstrators either had a beard or looked as if they were working on having one. The females were either dressed like the males or wore ill-fitting garments; their feminine charms, if any, were totally obfuscated. Inside the building, behind the mirrors, a very different type of people looked out at the demonstrators. The observers were neat, orderly, and consistently conventional. A casual observer from another planet might have found it hard to believe that the two groups belonged to the same species.

The demonstrators milled aimlessly about the courtyard, waving placards bearing derogatory comments about the Global Oil Corporation. One sign read: Global Oil kills. Another read: Global Oil. Global Poison. Now and then, a slender, young woman led the demonstrators in chanting, "Global Oil is Global Death." Several television crews alternated between filming the demonstrators and filming well-dressed, immaculately coiffed news-people. The news-people's remarks indicated that they were apparently supportive of the bedraggled demonstrators, with whom they appeared to share few characteristics, and hostile to the Global Oil people, whom they far more closely resembled.

The slender, young woman was obviously the leader of the demonstrators. Whenever anyone exited or entered the building, she would send one of the demonstrators to walk alongside them and shout remarks or questions about Global Oil.

A police bus pulled up in front of the building, and a score of policemen in riot gear streamed into the courtyard. A policeman with a bullhorn called out to the demonstrators; "This is private property. You people are trespassing. You will have to stay out on the public sidewalk."

"There isn't room for us on the sidewalk," shouted a bearded demonstrator.

"There's plenty of room, if you spread out around the block," said the policeman with the bullhorn. "Come on, people. Get moving."

Instead of moving, the demonstrators sat down on the pavement and chanted, "Global Oil is Global Death." When the policemen tried to lift them, they lay down on the courtyard.

After a while wasted trying to persuade the demonstrators to leave, the policemen began hitting them with batons. When this didn't make them leave, a van pulled up, and the police began forcibly loading demonstrators into the van. Once the van was full, they sprayed the others with something that burned their eyes and made them cry. The police might have done well to use their last resort as their first resort, for the courtyard quickly emptied.

As the crying, coughing ex-demonstrators filed along the sidewalk, moving away from the Global Oil Building, the slender, young woman thanked them and assured them that the demonstration had been a great success. "We’ll be on every major TV channel tonight," she said.

"We should have gas masks, Carla," whined a scruffy, young man.

"That would look really bad on the news," said Carla Benson. "When the world sees our tears, they’ll be filled with sympathy for our cause. They’ll know that we care enough to suffer the obvious police brutality.” She gave each of them a small envelope. Several opened their envelope, took out the money, and put it in their wallet or purse.

"Is there another job coming soon?" asked a twenty-year old girl, dressed like an eighty-year-old grandmother.

"Possibly, in a couple of weeks," said Carla. "You'll hear from me, as soon as I know for sure."

Except for Carla Benson, the demonstrators boarded two buses that were waiting in a parking lot five blocks from the Global Oil Building. Carla Benson got into a battered Chevrolet Cavalier and drove away. She felt good about this demonstration. She could hardly wait to see the evening news. Before a demonstration, she always felt anxious. Afterward, she usually felt exhilarated.

She turned on the radio. Already, a newscaster was talking about the demonstration. "Today, over a hundred Greenspeak demonstrators gathered at the Global Oil Corporate Headquarters in San Francisco to protest the recent oil spill. San Francisco police, in full riot gear, broke up the demonstration, arresting about twenty of the peaceful Greenspeak demonstrators and battering numerous others."

Carla smiled to herself. There had been only sixty-two demonstrators. The media was so good to Greenspeak, she thought, always exaggerating in their favor. The buses held eighty people, and she had arranged for seventy-one. There were always some who didn't show up, usually because they were strung out on drugs or their brain was so deteriorated from using drugs that they couldn’t remember where or when they were supposed to do what.

When the newscaster said, "We now take you to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., for an address by the President of the United States," Carla frowned. "Fascist pig," she muttered, under her breath. "Republican pig.”

"In a moment," said a new voice, "the President will begin his message to the nation. He is expected to announce the signing of the new Patriot Pact. He will probably give a summary of the Pact and explain why it is necessary."

As predicted, the President did announce that he had signed the Patriot Pact, and he gave a seemingly endless explanation of why he had done so and how everyone everywhere would be so much safer because of it.

Carla punctuated his speech with numerous invectives, including negative references to the marital status and the morals of the President’s mother.

 

 

Derek Palmer

Near Volcan, Panama

 

Far away, in an idyllic valley in the mountains of northwestern Panama, not far from the Costa Rican border, Derek Palmer, an American expatriate, was watching the President's speech on satellite television, when there was a knock on his door.

"Come on in, Fred," said Palmer, holding the door open. "Our glorious leader is speaking on television. That is to say, of course, that he is lying on television. Anything this guy says is bad news, but I want to hear a little of it anyway. Have a seat, and we'll watch a bit before we go.”

"This is certainly one president that everything he says or does is bad news," said Fred Tilson. Tilson, a fellow American and Palmer's nearest neighbor, had agreed to drive Palmer to the airport in nearby David.

The two men sat on the brown leather sofa in front of the television. The longer the President spoke, the more dejected they appeared.

"God, am I glad I live here in Panama and not back there," said Tilson. "This 'Patriot' Pact sounds like something right out of Nazi Germany."

"That makes two of us glad to be here. I think it may be even worse than anything Hitler had to work with," said Palmer. “It's hard to imagine anything like that happening in America.”

"I hope you’re not one of those expatriates that are here because they have something to hide," said Tilson. "Are you sure you want me to take you to the airport? Is it safe for you to go back to the States with Herr Upton in control?"

"I'm only going for a visit," said Palmer. "I should be safe. Besides, I don’t have anything to hide." If Fred only knew what I do have to hide, thought Palmer.

Several years ago, Palmer, under a different name, had been a deep-cover agent for the CIA. His position had been so secret that only one person in the agency knew about him. That person had been none other than the Director of the CIA, William Colby. When Colby was assassinated, Palmer knew why he had been killed. He had given Colby secret information, the possession of which had surely brought about his death. Palmer had decided that the wisest thing for him to do was disappear, and disappear he did.

During the American invasion of Panama, massive amounts of money floated around with no accountability whatsoever. Palmer, like many undercover agents, had “stashed” a large amount of CIA money there for 'contingencies.' His need to disappear seemed as good a contingency as any. As false identities are a CIA agent's stock in trade, he had no trouble becoming Palmer, the identity he had chosen when he "retired" to the eternal springtime of the highlands of Panama.

"Actually," continued Palmer, "I'm going to a libertarian rally. Hopefully, that won't be of interest to the current administration. We'd better get going. I'd hate to miss that plane.”

“A libertarian rally? You’re traveling all the way back to the states, for a libertarian rally? That doesn’t sound like you. Derek,” said Tilson, rising and heading for the door. “I know you qualify as a libertarian, but I thought you were resigned to the continuous decline of the US until it was somewhere to the left of Brave New World.”

“That’s me, all right,” said Palmer, as he locked his front door. “I always expect the worst from the government, and it’s always much worse than I expected. There’s a writer whose column I read religiously on the Internet. She and a few others that I like will be speaking at this rally. I thought I'd kill a few birds with one stone: go to the rally and visit a couple of old friends.” He opened the door of Tilson's mud-spattered four-by-four and got in. As he fastened his seatbelt, he added, “Maybe, deep down, I'm still hoping for some miracle that will turn the tide and swing America back toward freedom."

"Fat chance," Tilson scoffed. He started the engine and let it run for a second. “That's the trouble with democracy or majority rule. If the majority of the people are idiots, you can end up with something as awful as America today or worse. Worse is surely on the horizon.”

"I'm afraid you're right," said Palmer, with an air of resignation. “The government is so deeply entrenched that I suspect that resurrecting freedom might be a strain for God. If there is a Devil, he isn’t a being or a person, Fred. He’s an organization, and his name is Government. Once when he wasn’t looking, they formed a relatively free country called the United States of America. It took a while, but he straightened them out.”

“I've heard that there are a lot of devil-worshipers in politics,” said Tilson, with a laugh. ”You may have something there.”

 

 

Claire Fox

Near Greenville, South Carolina

 

At a posh, country estate, in the northwest corner of South Carolina, Claire Fox, essentially an expatriate in her own country, watched the President's speech. Fox was a freedom fighter of sorts. Her pen was her weapon, and she wielded it with deadly expertise. Claire Fox was a true libertarian, meaning she walked the walk as well as talked the talk. The elegant estate, where she had lived for the past year and a half, didn’t belong to her. A wealthy admirer had put it at her disposal. Her benefactor was Clyde Masterson, one of the less than a handful of people in the film industry that admitted to being libertarians. Masterson had followed Fox's column on the Internet for years. When she wrote that she was considering dropping out of the rat race and becoming a penniless hermit, thereby ceasing to be a source of what she described as tribute for the junta in Washington, Masterson contacted her. He offered her a “job” as "house sitter" for his rarely used hideaway in South Carolina. She accepted readily. For this “job,” she received a modest sum, considerably less than he originally offered to pay her. Divulging that she had stopped paying income taxes two years ago, Fox had insisted on the lesser amount. By remaining impoverished, she thought that the Internal Revenue Service would consider it a waste of time and money to go after her. Were she to have accepted his original offer, the IRS would surely prosecute her. Since she would refuse to pay them, she would end up in jail.

She was extremely happy, living in the beautiful Up Country, as this region of South Carolina is called. She was immersed in both natural beauty and luxury, with all the seclusion that she could hope for. In addition to communing with nature and keeping in good physical and mental condition, she wrote freelance articles, maintained her website, and occasionally appeared as a speaker at libertarian functions. With hundreds of thousands of admirers, who knew her via the Internet, she enjoyed a well-deserved reputation as a spectacularly independent person, a brilliant writer, a fervent patriot, and a courageous champion of personal liberty.

Claire Fox sat on the front porch of the main building, in an old-fashioned, high-back, rocking chair, taking notes on the President's speech, which she was listening to on a small, portable radio. In a few days, she would speak at a Rally for Freedom in New Mexico. Her speech for the Rally had been written for weeks. However, she knew some commentary on this despicable Patriot Pact would have to be added to it. As she listened to the President recite the long list of features for his new Patriot Pact, Claire Fox grew pale. She could see that what he was saying was: we are going to do away with this right, and this right, and this right, and on and on. The Patriot Pact was acting as a shredder for the Constitution, she realized. Her hands gripped the arms of her chair until her knuckles turned white. Tears welled up in her eyes. Aloud, she spoke to the image on the screen, “You are decimating the constitution that you swore an oath to uphold, you treasonous son-of-a-bitch. May you rot in Hell and the sooner the better.”

 

Josh Friedman

Georgetown

 

In the elegant living room of a luxurious, colonial-style home in the Georgetown neighborhood of northwest Washington, DC, Josh Friedman, the new director of Fatherland Security, watched the President's speech on television. He had taken the afternoon off, just to savor this occasion. A broad Cheshire grin showed his satisfaction that what he considered his own contribution to the world, the Patriot Pact, had become the law of the land.

Hilda Friedman placed a mirrored coaster on the coffee table in front of her husband and set a large dry martini on the coaster. She took her own martini to an adjacent easy chair and sipped it as she watched him gloating over his triumph. "You look positively orgasmic, Josh," she cooed.

"It's even better than that," he said. "It's truly a once in a lifetime event. This is the most sweeping legislation ever to pass, and it happened without a whimper from the people. What a bunch of clods people are--not that I'm complaining, mind you. I wouldn't want them any other way. Nevertheless, you have to despise them for being what they are."

He sipped his martini. Picking up the mirrored coaster, he looked at his reflection in it. People said he looked like a devil. He really did. Could he possibly be a devil? Back in college, during his initiation into the Skull and Bones, he had been transfigured. He had known then and there that he had changed from a carefree boy to a man with a destiny. The Patriot Pact was not his destiny. The Patriot Pact was a tool, designed by him and a few outstanding men, that was to help him realize his destiny. Never in history had such awesome power existed as the combined economic and military might of the United States. The Patriot Pact had unleashed that power, leaving the administration virtually free to use it as it saw fit, without the constraints of the Constitution. He truly felt diabolic, and the feeling was divine.

The effort had been Herculean, with far too many people involved. Fortunately, essentially none of those involved had any idea of what they were doing, much less what they were helping to accomplish. The Empire State Building had been the master stroke. Hysteria had swept the entire nation. Things had gone even better than he had hoped for. They had put much more in the Patriot Pact than they thought that they could possibly get through Congress. Yet, it had coasted through, in its entirety, without a hiccup. This meant that they should have asked for even more.

Nevertheless, with this single piece of legislation, Friedman became one of the most powerful men that had ever lived. How he would love exercising his power. Tremble, ye dissidents, he said to himself. All those anti-war people, libertarians, militias, secessionists, and anyone else that posed a threat would be at his mercy. In particular, those so-called conspiracy theorists, questioning the official story of the Empire State Building would get special attention. Everyone painted with the government's new terrorist brush would be doomed. He was the new Grand Inquisitor, reborn with far more terrifying power. Arching his eyebrows, he peered into the mirrored coaster. If there is a Devil, he thought, how petty and envious he must feel at this moment. He laughed, long and loud.

His wife stared at him. She had never heard him laugh like that. He sounded absolutely diabolical.

 

Carol and Roger Benson

Altamonte Springs, Florida

 

"Alta monte" is Spanish for "high mountain." As Roger and Carol Benson occasionally commented, the Central Florida town that they lived in, Altamonte Springs, had no springs that they knew of, and it certainly had no mountain, high or low. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant enough suburb of Orlando, which, itself, was sometimes referred to as a suburb of Disney World. They were content living there. Roger was a computer consultant and Central Florida was a fairly good place to be in that business. The money was good, and he and Carol enjoyed the breaks he sometimes had between contracts. He was currently in one of those breaks, and he and Carol were in an old-fashioned glider on their backyard patio, listening to the President's speech on a portable radio.

"This Patriot Pact is like something you would expect from some corrupt banana republic," said Roger Benson. "I hope our Carla, wherever she is, doesn't get caught in this new net. That's exactly what it is: a net to catch enemies of the government, not enemies of the American people."

"That doesn't sound like my Roger talking," said Carol Benson. "Why are you suddenly so political?"

"I don't think political is the right word," he said. "Lately, I feel a sense of foreboding. Every day, I hear about things that give me a chill, as though there were some threatening evil presence hovering out there."

"Do you think our President is evil?"

"No,” he said, and after some reflection, went on. “Wait. That's not true. It's easy to see that he is using the people's fears to take away their rights. There is no doubt. He is an evil man. The senators and congressmen that voted for that terrible law are just as evil. Our leaders are evil. So, too, must be a good percentage of the people be evil, if they support the actions of evil people. We have a president saying he needs to attack Iraq and kill millions of their civilians merely because someday they just might have some weapons that they might possibly want to use on us, maybe, even though there is no evidence of such weapons or such intentions. Unbelievably, that sounds just fine to a lot of people, and they say, 'Great. Go kill them.' A lot of parents will lose their children there, and they will actually feel proud of them for dying in the process of killing innocent people. Yet, they can't understand suicide bombers that want to kill the people invading their nation and slaughtering their families and friends. Now, he claims that to protect us, he is going to turn the United States into a dictatorship. We might as well let the bad guys take us over. Could they be any worse to us than our own government? It would save a lot of fighting and a lot of lives. Not that any patriot would want that, but neither would any patriot want this godforsaken Patriot Pact. Seeing what America has come to, I fear for Carla. I fear for us. I fear for everyone, but more for her. She and her friends are so anti-establishment, and I believe that this president is so evil that he will stop at nothing to eliminate everyone that disagrees with him. Because of him and his twisted supporters, America, as we knew it and want it to be is fast disappearing, perhaps forever."

"Good Lord, Roger. You scare me."

"Sorry, Honey. I don't mean to scare you. It's just that so many frightening things are happening lately. I ask myself, how can people let it go on like this? But am I any better? What am I doing to stop it? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

“What could you possibly do, Roger? Don't they say that you can't fight city hall? How could you fight the federal government? There must be ten million people in it. I read somewhere that one out of every six or seven people in America work for the government. I don't know how many of them were federal employees.”

“I don't know what I could do either,” he answered. “But even if we don't know what to do, we should actively look for a way to do something about it. Otherwise, we are no better than the people we criticize for doing nothing. We're talking about our country, Carol. It's where we live. Remember that movie, '1984?' We can end up like that-or worse. We are almost like that already. What is wrong with people that, with disaster coming right at them, just stand there waiting for it? What kind of people are we? What's wrong with us?”

“I don't know,” she said, softly. “It's not just you and I. It's everyone. If all the people are acting irrationally, there must be a reason. Maybe they're putting something in the water or in the air.”

“I suppose that's possible,” he said. “I doubt that it is really all the people, only most of them. All I know is that if we sit and wait until we can't stand it any longer, it will probably be too late. Then we'll wring our hands and curse ourselves for not having done something when we could have. Can it possibly be human nature to act like that? I find that hard to believe. Self-preservation should be as instinctive in men as it is in dumb animals.”

“Maybe people won't think about those things because it's too depressing,” she said. “Doesn't it make you depressed to think about such things?”

“Of course it does. But it's the thought of how horrible things could get if we don't do something that makes it depressing. So you shouldn't want them to get that horrible. You shouldn't just sit and watch things getting worse. The longer you wait to face the problem, the more difficult it becomes. Up until recently, such things never entered my mind. I guess I was a typical nerd, wrapped up in my computers; my business, which is nothing but more computers; and the trivia of day-to-day living. I think that book, 'The Place to Stand,' that I read a couple of months ago got to me. I haven't been able to get it out of my mind. Almost every day, something reminds me of it. Every time I listen to the news, there is something that makes me think of that book.”

"I've almost finished it," she said. “You're right. It really does make you think.”

“What it said about the tragedy of wasted potential really got to me. All the things we could do and don't. With just a little more effort, I could have done so much more, so much better. I just didn’t, and I can't tell you why I didn't. I keep thinking that it's really not too late to change. I'm not that old.”

“Everyone could do more than they do-even Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. God knows I could have,” she said with a heavy sigh. “All those good grades I got in school. It’s a good thing we stop getting report cards when we leave school. No. Maybe it's not a good thing. If we were graded on what we do as adults, we might do a whole lot better. I don't think I would get a very high grade.”

“Oh, Honey. I love you the way you are, doing what you do,” he said.

“I love you too,” she said. “But, you're right, we waste so much of our potential. We spend too much time watching dumb programs on TV, ignoring the world. I know more about some notorious movie star in a custody battle, than I know about the people that hold our lives in their hands. I guess we've been doing exactly what was expected of us: earning money, paying taxes, and not thinking. It probably is that book that's making me aware of things like government and liberty--for the first time in my life, I'm truly ashamed to say.”

“But,” he said, “when you do start thinking about those things, it feels so good, so right. You can't help wondering what kept you from thinking of them for so long. You feel like running out and telling everyone you know that all these supremely important things are happening, and no one is paying any attention to them. As I read that book, I felt like such a fool for ignoring the important things in this world. What amazed me was how wonderful it felt to realize what a fool I'd been. I guess it was the thought that I could now stop being a fool. So far, I haven't really done anything much different.”

“You're doing something different, right now, Roger,” she said. “I guess I am too. Maybe we were fools to settle for so much less than we could have had. We have been victims too, because I think, somehow, we were deliberately lulled into our complacency. We've been such willing victims, though. I know I was. I never paid much attention at all to large scale events at home or around the world. I've been much more aware of what is going on in the world, lately.”

“That book does that to you,” he said.

“Because the hero, Randolph, is such a libertarian--with a small 'L,' as he says,--I did some digging on the Internet about libertarians.”

"What did you come up with?" he asked.

"There’s a Libertarian Party," she said. "Apparently, it’s more or less a joke, as far as ever accomplishing anything is concerned."

"Well, that doesn't sound very heartening."

"There are quite a few that seem to have their feet on the ground," she said. "There’s a big libertarian get-together coming up in New Mexico. Some of the leading libertarians, with a small 'L,' are going to speak there. There’s a woman named Claire Fox who has a website I know you would like, Roger. She says things like you've been saying. I've got quite a few good links in My Favorites, if you’re interested."

"Oh, I’m interested. You can bring me up to speed when this speech is over," he said. "After all these years as Republicans, we may find that we should have been libertarians, all along."

“But not in the Libertarian Party,” she said.

“I would think not,” he said.

“Want to watch some TV later?” she asked, coyly.

“Hell no.”

“Good. Neither do I.”

“Maybe we can dig into some of what we’ve been missing,” he said.

“Like what is happening in the world around us, maybe.”

“That sounds good to me. Do you suppose we have missed much in the last twenty years?”

She burst out laughing.

 

 

George Kingston and Joseph Jansen

Anytown, USA

 

George Kingston and Joseph Jansen were agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They had many similarities. Both were of medium height and medium weight and both were in their mid-thirties. However, their attitudes concerning their jobs were extremely different.

They were just leaving a house in a quiet, older, established neighborhood, where they were winding up a visit with Alice Carpenter, a frail, timid old lady, in her eighties. Now, they had nothing more to say to her, and as she was in no condition to accompany them to the door, they saw themselves out.

Once outside, Kingston took a deep breath and let it out. “Stupid old bitch,” he said. “I thought we’d never get out of there. I need to get home early today. I’ve got a dinner date for tonight.”

They got in their car. Kingston drove.

“You know she's no more a terrorist or anti-American than you are,” said Jansen. "She could have had a stroke, the way you leaned on her."

“Yeah. So what? She’s on borrowed time anyway."

“Why should we bother with an old biddy like her? She's about as harmless as they get." There were times when he hated having to associate with Kingston. He shuddered, feeling contaminated.

“Screw her,” said Kingston. “Nobody would miss her if she took the gas pipe. Let a few off lightly, and you get soft. Your career will go down the toilet. So I raked her over the coals for half an hour. If she gives another dime to any anti-war group, I'll eat my hat, or I would if I had a hat. The computer will kick out the repeats, and if it's one you were assigned, you lose points with the powers that be. I don't intend to have any repeats. This terrorist stuff is tailor made for me. I treat every suspect as a proven traitor. That way, I will stand head and shoulders over the pussies like you. Being firm and inflexible is what they want these days. If they didn't, they wouldn't be pushing stuff like this Patriot Pact so hard. You know it will pass. Besides, you look good, and you make your boss look good. You make him look good; he gets promoted; and somebody has to take his place. The one that gets the best results is the one that will get the nod. Me, I’m lean and hungry. I wouldn’t have gone easy on the old bitch, even if she were my own mother.”

Jansen knew that Kingston meant what he said. He knew too, that Kingston was right in his assessment of the importance of being firm and inflexible. He had been passed over for promotion twice, and he knew it was because he didn’t have what it took to roust old women or to ruin people’s lives when he knew that they had done nothing wrong. Things were already bad enough. The Patriot Pact would make them much worse. How he wished he hadn't gotten into the FBI. People like Kingston would go far and fast in the new Fatherland Security atmosphere. He, on the other hand, was not likely to ever get another promotion. He didn't much give a damn either.

Occasionally, Jansen wished he could be like Kingston. Fortunately, like a wave of nausea, it would pass, and he was once more exceedingly grateful that he wasn’t like Kingston. He turned on the car’s radio. The president was speaking. The Patriot Pact had passed.

"Hallelujah," cried Kingston. "Let the fun begin."

 

 

Phil Collins

Santa Fe, New Mexico

 

“Say, Phil,” said Cyril Lancer, the vice-president of Academic Affairs at the College of Santa Fe, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, leaning through the door into Phil Collin’s office.

Phil Collins, Doctor Collins to the students and most of the staff, looked up from the paper he had been reading. He turned down the radio on his desk, reducing the volume of the president’s speech.

“Hello, Doctor Lancer,” said Collins. “Come in. Sit down.”

“Only got a minute, Phil, I just wanted to mention that I heard you were going to a libertarian rally. I didn’t believe it, of course. You aren’t. Are you?”

“As a matter of fact, I am,” said Collins. “Where on earth did you hear about it?”

“Spaulding mentioned it. He said that your grant from DARPA is up for renewal, and they had brought it up. Maybe they are afraid you want to dismantle the government and them along with it.” He chuckled. Doctor Spaulding was the President of the College.

“Actually, I was thinking it’s about time I wrote another book, and I’m toying with the idea of a book pointing out the fallacies in the thinking of the right, especially the extreme right. That rally should be a good place to start my research. What do you think about that idea?” Actually, he didn’t think the right included libertarians, but Lancer probably wouldn’t know the difference. Libertarians weren’t on the left either, and they weren’t quite in the center. Where were they? He’d have to ask his libertarian sister-in-law about that.

“Fantastic idea,” said Lancer. “Doctor Spaulding will be relieved to hear that. As you can imagine, he was a bit concerned that the university could lose that grant. We are a small college and seldom get government grants. The DARPA contract has been literally a godsend to us.”

“I haven’t completely made up my mind about the book,” said Collins. “Attending this rally may make it up for me. Everyone should know where I stand politically. Libertarianism is about as appealing to me as Fascism, which ranks somewhere below self-flagellation.” He had never thought about writing such a book. Apparently though, he had sounded convincing, for Lancer mumbled something to the effect that he should have known better and left. Actually, thought Collins, it would be a good idea for a loyal, liberal professor to write such a book. Collins had long been just such a professor. Nevertheless, the fact that the government and the university were, in effect, spying on him and taking an interest in his personal politics shocked him. He did not like it at all. Good liberal that he was, he sincerely believed in personal freedom. He should be free to say and think as he pleased, especially think.

Collins turned the radio’s volume back up to hear the president’s speech. He didn’t like this president. He could think of nothing about him that a sentient human being could like, no matter what their politics, unless they favored a malevolent dictatorship. Disliking the president was one thing he and his sister-in-law agreed on. It was almost the only thing that they agreed on.

Five weeks ago, Collins’ wife, Cheryl, had died in an automobile accident. Her sister, Suzanne, had come for the funeral and was staying on for a while to give him a hand with the two children. Collins and his sister-in-law had never gotten along very well. He was a stereotypically liberal college-professor and she was a libertarian and librarian. He accused her of being a librarian simply because by adding an “e” and a “t to the word “librarian,” you could make it into ‘libertarian.’ ‘Just add an E.T.,’ he would say, ‘and there you are, Suzanne.’ Since Cheryl’s death, they had set aside their differences and abstained from arguing. Apart from her politics, he found Suzanne very likable. She was even better looking than Cheryl had been. Her presence the last few weeks had been a godsend, as far as he was concerned.

He dreaded the day that she would leave him alone with the children. It wasn't that he would feel burdened by the children. As far as he could be objective about them, he considered them model children. He was concerned about the impact that their mother's death could have on them. Both had been extremely close to Cheryl. Probably Christy was the closest, being both female and just ten years old, two years younger than her brother, Gary. Cheryl had commented on being both glad and sad that Gary had started to prefer being with his friends over activities with the family. She was sad to see less of him, but glad that he was growing up as a normal boy. With Suzanne in the house, Collins felt that things were more like they had been with Cheryl there. The longer she stayed, the more the children would heal before being left alone with him, and the less likely any permanent damage.

When Suzanne had said that she had to attend the Rally for Freedom, he feared that once she got away from the house and the kids for a couple of days, she might get used to being on her own again. He thought that if he went to the rally with her, it might help keep her with the family a little longer. Given his true reason for going, he thought it wise to say nothing to counter her belief that some of her arguments had sunk in and he really wanted to learn something about libertarianism.

“I can’t believe my ears,” he muttered, as the President spelled out the features of the Patriot Pact.  The President's message would have been more fitting, he thought, for a Nazi pep rally than it was for an American president speaking to supposedly free individuals. Maybe going to that Rally for Freedom might not be a bad idea. Freedom certainly seemed under assault.

Collins had felt a little frustrated lately, politically. He still held his liberal ideals, but he suspected that those in power had abandoned such ideals long ago. More and more, the Democrats, which he had always supported, and the Republicans, which he had been always detested, seemed almost indistinguishable in what they did. Nothing either group promised to do seemed remotely related to what they did when they were in power, and they definitely were both taking the nation down the same path. In a situation like that, whom was one to vote for?

 

President George F. Upton

Washington, D.C.

 

President George F. Upton assumed the beatific pose that he had practiced until he could easily drop into it at will, looked languidly into the television cameras, and ended his speech with the words, “God bless America.”

 He held his pose until he was assured that he was off camera. “One hell of a speech,” he said. Clapping Slim Eberhardt, his press secretary, on the back, he added, “Damned near believed it myself.”

“It had to be good,” said Eberhardt. “A tremendous amount of work went into that speech. Nine psychiatrists pored over it for weeks. After countless revisions, nearly a hundred people read and reread it, trying to find something wrong with it. We even brought in experts in hypnotism and mind control. Besides that, it went through more than twice the usual cycles of focus groups. Their facial expressions, body language, blink rate, breathing rate, you name it, were observed for every focus group member, for every word. We never stopped working and reworking that speech up until a couple of hours before you gave it. There was absolutely no way you could have explained that subject matter more convincingly. The credibility was honed to a fine peak. When you said you wanted the best job humanly possible, you got it.”

“I appreciate that,” said the President. “I really do.” He meant it. The Patriot Pact wasn’t just a milestone in his political career, it was a milestone in the incredibly grandiose, overall plan to bring the world as close to perfection as was possible, given the disappointing caliber of most of the people that lived in it. That morning, with the stroke of his pen, he had freed his administration from the suffocating constraints of the Constitution. He was elated. He could feel the blood pumping through his veins. When you reach his position, it takes something huge to make you feel this good, he thought. Would he, could he ever surpass this moment? He certainly hoped so. There was a goal for him to set. He had to attend a concert that evening. He could think about that then. It might help him look as if he were engrossed in the classical music He was good at looking engrossed. Hell, he was good at just about everything―everything that mattered. That was why he was where he was. He closed his eyes for a moment. There were three hundred million people out there, now, more than ever before, subject to his slightest whim. He would take care of them. They would get what was best for them, whether they wanted it or not He knew, far better than ninety-nine-point-nine percent of them ever could, what was good for them. Were he one of them-thank God he wasn’t-he would be ever so glad to have someone so qualified looking out for him. He often wondered why he bothered to worry about them. They certainly didn’t appreciate it. How could they? If they were intellectually capable of understanding all that he was doing for them, he wouldn’t have to be tricking them into accepting it. They would be clamoring for it. He snickered. “Sure they would,” he said, under his breath.


 

Chapter Two

 

Carla Benson locked her car and walked across the underground garage, toward the elevator. In the cavernous space, her boots striking the concrete floor sounded like a Clydesdale on a cobblestone street. She took the elevator to the eleventh floor and the West Coast office of Greenspeak. It was ten after six, and the office looked empty. Noticing a light in her boss’s office, she took the long route around, so she would pass by his office, which was just around the corner from her little cubicle. Carla wasn’t an officer with Greenspeak, but she liked to think that she was as important as most officers. The officers planned strategy and decided where, when, and how to demonstrate. Carla implemented their decisions. She ran the demonstrations. She was good at it. They told her that she was the best they had ever had. She had organized demonstrations all over the country and occasionally outside the US. Naturally, the bosses took charge if it were a desirable foreign locale, where a little business could be combined with a lot of pleasure, all on the expense account.

Getting closer, she heard laughing and talking. She recognized one voice as that of Victor Lansky, her boss, and the head of Greenspeak for everything west of the Mississippi. The second voice, she didn’t recognize.

As she reached her boss’s door, she stuck her head in. “Hi, Vic,” she said. Now, she recognized the other man as Irving Strickland, the top man in Greenspeak. She had met him once and had seen him in the office a few times.

Lansky told her that he had seen the demonstration on television and thought it had gone very well. Strickland added his compliments for a job well done.

“How come you didn’t go straight home?” asked Lansky. “Why come all the way back here?”

“I wanted to get my laptop,” she said. “I always like to write my report while things are fresh in my mind. I didn't take it with me because I was afraid to leave it in the car.”

“You don’t have a computer at home?” asked Lansky.

“I wish,” said Carla. As there was no response, she waved and left. She went to her cubicle and got her laptop. As she passed by Lansky’s office again, she called out, “Good night.”

“Have a good night,” called Lansky.

Just as the elevator door opened, Carla remembered that she hadn’t gotten a blank CD. She always kept a copy of everything, in case the hard drive crashed. She went back to her office, the short way, not passing her boss’s door. She picked up a CD and put it in her purse.

Just as she stepped out her door, she heard her name spoken and paused to listen.

“She’s not bad-looking,” said Strickland. “Are you tapping her?”

“Hardly,” said Lansky. “First of all, I would never mess around with anyone that works for me. Even if I would, I don’t think I'd be interested in her. She’s a true whacko. Maybe it makes her good at her job, but she’s a real nut case. She swallows the whole spiel, hook, line, and sinker. I don’t think she’s capable of independent thought. Maybe she’d make a good lay, but so would a lot of hookers, I suppose. Me, I prefer a woman with something interesting between her ears, as well as between her other appendages. That lets Carla out."

Carla frowned.

“Good policy,” said Strickland. “That vacancy between her ears is undoubtedly what makes her good at her job. Whoever dreamed up the environmental movement knew what they were doing. There is practically an endless supply of numskulls ready to go out and even get beaten up, for a trumped up cause. Well, not entirely trumped up. Clean air and water are important. After all, everyone breathes and drinks. It’s only the impending danger that’s-shall we say, exaggerated?”

“I sometimes feel sorry for the poor bastards,” said Lansky. “I’m a pretty soft hearted guy.”

“You don’t feel that sorry for this Carla, do you?”

“Not really. She isn’t actually stupid. In some ways, she’s quite sharp. She’s just easily brainwashed. I suppose it's to be expected. Greenspeak and other organizations like us do a good job on people. Just about everyone believes the stuff we put out.”

Around the corner, Carla stood frozen, scarcely breathing, her mind momentarily numbed by what she was hearing.

“I’m so glad to hear you talking like this, Victor,” said Strickland. “That brings me to the reason for my being here. I’m stepping down as head of Greenspeak. Actually, I’m not stepping down but up, up to bigger and better things that I can’t talk about, and I'm recommending you as my replacement.”

“Fantastic,” said Lansky. “I appreciate your confidence, Irving.” He had dreamed of something like this happening, but had never really expected it.

“Unfortunately, the decision isn’t mine to make,” said Strickland. “The people that make that decision are the ones that put up most of the funding for Greenspeak. Nevertheless, I believe my recommendation will carry enough weight with them that you will get the job. It would almost have to be you, unless they brought in someone from outside. However, you'll have to meet with them and convince them that you are up to it.”

“Are they here in San Francisco?”

“Yes, they are. At least, their representatives are. Just for tonight. They insist on keeping quiet any connection to Greenspeak other than as a donor. Even I don’t know precisely who the people are that make the policy and funding decisions. Assuming that you can make it, we’re supposed to meet with them at eight o’clock.”

“Of course I can make it,” said Lansky. “Where’s the meeting?”

“I figured you could. Since all this has to be kept secret, it has to be a secluded, out of the way spot. Why don’t you and I grab something to eat? I can brief you on what I think they are looking for, and we can go from there to the meeting. It’s a warehouse in the Mission area. Is there a decent restaurant anywhere near there?”

“Lots of them,” said Lansky. “There are a lot of Mexican restaurants there. The Esperpento is very good. It’s Spanish, not Mexican. Do you have the address of the warehouse?”

Strickland wrote something in a little notebook, tore the page out, and held it out to Lansky. Lansky looked at it.

"I know about where it is. Not too close. We’ll take a cab from the restaurant,” said Lansky.

“How close?” asked Strickland.

“I’d say maybe half a mile, maybe three-quarters.”

“Better to walk. We don’t want anyone to know where we went, if we can help it.”

"Okay. We’d better get going. We’ll need to eat a quick meal and leave by about twenty to eight.”

Carla dashed to the stairs, ran down to the tenth floor, and took the elevator to the parking garage. She raced out of the garage and went straight home. She was extremely upset. The personal remarks had been unpleasant enough. Hearing that Greenspeak’s reason for being was trumped up had stunned her.

She parked near her apartment and hurried home. She burst into the apartment to find her roommate, Tim Cross, sitting on the sofa, watching television.

"You will never believe what I just overheard at the office," she cried.

"What?" he asked, switching the television off with the remote control.

She told him about the conversation that she had overheard, omitting the remarks about her. "I don't know what to think. Is the whole environmental movement phony? Are we a bunch of idiots or suckers being used for some unknown purpose by some people with a lot of money?"

Her relationship with Tim was strictly financial, not at all a romantic one. Given the high price of housing in the San Francisco Bay area, neither could afford a decent apartment alone, and they had gotten along very well for the last two years. Tim was a fervent environmentalist, although not nearly the activist that she was. Tim was a personable and intelligent young man, but for some reason unknown to Carla, he never held a job very long, but seemed to go from one to another, with little idle time in between. Much of the time, Carla didn't know where he was working or what he was doing.

 "If anyone else had told me this, I'd never believe it," said Tim. "But you are the most sincere environmentalist I ever saw. I know you wouldn't make up something like this. Who are these guys they are going to meet? Wouldn't you love to hear them interviewing your boss? You might find out a lot more of what the hell is really going on. It sounds like they are probably the ones that are promoting the whole thing.”

“I have no idea,” said Carla. “Strickland said they keep their relationship secret. I can see why. They are not going to be the top guys in the money source. They are just some representatives sent to check out Vic. The top people wouldn't be meeting anybody in a warehouse in a crummy neighborhood.”

After some discussion, they decided to go to the Esperpento restaurant, follow Strickland and Lansky to get a look at these secretive people, and see if they could find out any more.

 

***

 

“Hello, Mr. President,” said Josh Friedman. He was pleased that the President had called him. Together, they gloated over their victory with the Patriot Pact's passage. It would be difficult for most people to understand how they felt to be in the position they now enjoyed. You had to want something as monumental as they did and want it as badly as they did to know how gratifying it was to have it handed to them on a silver platter. “It’s a great day.”

“They don’t get much better than this,” said the President. “My father has called twice already to congratulate me. He would have given anything to do something like this in his term. He said he didn’t think it was even possible, not for at least another twenty-five or thirty years, if not much longer. Well, I did it. People will just roll over, if they get the bejeezus scared out of them. For the time being, I'd say that we can do anything we want. I’m checking in with everyone on the team. We gotta get with the program. Strike while the iron is hot, you know. I hope you’re ready to make the most of this, Josh. You never know when things might change, although I’m beginning to think there’s nothing to worry about. It seems like the people are out to lunch, maybe for good.”

“I’m ready,” said Friedman. “Naturally, we will be going after potential terrorists, but we both know what the real threat is. I’m setting my sights on those that want to keep us from doing what needs to be done. Little by little, we'll do away with all of the dangerous extremists, all those subversive websites, the libertarians, the secessionists, the militia crowd, and later on, I’ll go after the NRA. I have a list a mile long. When I get through, I will have eliminated every last one of them. Once we get to war, we can brand these people as traitors. Lincoln even arrested a bunch of congressmen and other politicians for criticizing him and his policy during wartime. But for the time being, the terrorist label is going to work fine for us, just like the Jew label worked for the Nazis. We can make anyone look like whatever we want and the public will cheer us on as we wipe them out. You’ll be the most popular president in history, except with the one's we're eliminating, of course.”

“Easy on that Nazi stuff,” said the President. “Even the walls have ears. I know we're on a secure line, but I get nervous anyway. Hell, the damned teenagers get into everything, even the Pentagon’s computers. What can we count on as safe? ”

“They had better not get into my computer,” said Friedman. “I’d call that treason, a capital crime.”

“I like that about Lincoln arresting the congressmen. See what you can find about how that went. Did he get away with it? Did it stick? That might come in handy, if push comes to shove. Arrest one or two congressmen, and the others will keep their mouths shut.”

“I’ll have someone research it,” said Friedman. “Remember, that only worked because we were at war.”

“We’re at war now, Josh. It's just not official yet. Besides, we are at war with terrorism,” said the President. “Listen, I got to run. I’m glad you are going to hit the ground running on this. To borrow a line from the astronauts, we just took a super-giant step for our kind. Let’s keep that momentum. If I get re-elected, and I’m pretty damned sure I will, we may just go all the way. Why not?”

“Why not indeed,” said Friedman. “Today, I feel it can happen. For the first time, I really do.” He smiled as he hung up. The fool actually thought that he had something to do with the Patriot Pact. Well, maybe he did, the same way the bullet has to do with the death of someone shot between the eyes. There certainly wasn't much difference in intelligence between the President and a bullet. The fool was useful though. He was obsessed with power and would do anything to get it. That made him valuable. He had political pull. That, too, made him valuable. That he had the IQ of an earthworm made him easy to manipulate.

Through the President, Friedman felt he could accomplish almost anything. If he could maneuver the President into thinking that doing something would increase his power or his prestige, the President would do it. Others were thinking along those same lines, so Friedman had to be alert for conflicting influences and try to keep his own agenda on track. 

Not surprisingly, the enormous tribute exacted by the U.S, government attracted a great many conspirators, hoping to siphon off a share of it. The more successful ones, those already in possession of enormous wealth, siphoned off the lion's share. They could buy anything that was for sale, and that included just about everything and everyone in Washington. Like the rest of Washington, Friedman deferred to the wishes of this top tier of conspirators. These people were as ruthless as they were powerful. Anyone opposing them or even looking as though they would oppose them  could, at best, find themselves unemployed or, at worst, dead.

Friedman played ball with the power brokers because he had to. However, he secretly hoped to get rid of them. He saw them as a bunch of pseudo aristocrats, weakened by generations of in-breeding, but they had limitless money and the infinite number of connections that money bought. Any one of them could order him assassinated, as easily as most people could order a pizza. They were too dangerous to leave around. He could have gotten so many of them at the Bilderbergers' big anniversary celebration. He could have blown them up and blamed it on terrorists. Unfortunately, when he thought of it, it was too late to prepare for it. He chided himself almost every day for having lost such a golden opportunity. He had plans of his own, and he knew that when he started implementing them, the Big Boys would see him as trespassing on their turf. The only sure way to keep them from getting him was to get them first.

Friedman's plans were more personal than those of the powerful, incestuous networks like the CFR, the Trilaterals, and the Bilderbergers. Friedman was a man with a mission that only he knew about. While heading up the CIA, he built a secret, private network of intelligence agents. The agents involved were told that they had been selected as part of an elite, highly secret, oversight group, as a defense against infiltration and espionage within their departments. They each reported to a control person that they had never seen. All they knew was a code name. The control people reported to supervisory control people, whom they had never seen. Josh Friedman was at the top of the heap. He controlled a score of supervisors, and each of them controlled over a dozen agents. Not one of them knew that they were all controlled by Josh Friedman when he was Director of the CIA and now, as Director of Fatherland Security. Even if he quit or lost that job, he would still have control of this network. As the Director of Fatherland Security, he could branch out, extending his reach into other agencies. He had shifted a considerable fortune in "black project" money into secret accounts in CIA-owned banks around the world. He had back doors into many of the intelligence and other top-secret networks and computers. Soon, he would expand that to all the intelligence computers of the United States. Barring a massive change in software, he would have access to the data on those computers.

What he was going to do with his network was yet to be determined. He only knew that, sooner or later, he would have access to information of almost infinite value, information that could bring him wealth and/or power of fantastic proportions. When Upton and his administration were gone, Friedman's network would still be in place and under his control. He would still have a better grasp of what intelligence the United States had and what it was working on than anyone on earth, save, possibly, the current Director of Fatherland Security. He was playing a game of the highest stakes imaginable. Although it was somewhat premature, he was already watching for a major opportunity that he could take advantage of. If it came while George F. Upton was at the helm, so much the better. He would love to make that cretin the official dictator, lock in the power, eliminate Upton, and take over himself. A massive terrorist attack should provide the perfect opportunity, and creating one was an increasingly popular idea in the circles of power. Unfortunately, quite a few people suspected the establishment's role in the Empire State Building event and were predicting another even greater false flag event. Part of his mission was to silence or neutralize these people, with as little public awareness as possible. The Patriot Pact would make that much easier. It would make everything they wanted to do much easier. Soon, very soon, there would be no way for anyone to hide from Fatherland Security or its many subsidiaries.

 

***

 

At eight thirty-five, Carla and Tim were waiting down the street from the Esperpento Restaurant. When Strickland and Lansky came out, Carla and Tim followed them for fifteen blocks through the back streets.

“I think this is it,” Strickland said.

“Not the kind of place I would choose for a meeting,” said Lansky, “but I guess it is pretty private.”

“This door should be open,” said Strickland, trying the door. It opened. “Let’s go in. They should be waiting for us.”

Carla and Tim approached the door. “We have to go in, if we want to know what’s going on,” said Carla.

“I know you’re right,” said Tim, “but I don’t feel as good about this as I did in the apartment. This looks like a weird place for a business meeting. These guys could be dangerous.”

“I suppose they could be. I hadn’t thought of that. Do you want to go home?”

They vacillated a while. Finally, Tim was elected to crack the door and peek inside. They didn't know him and if they saw him, he could just say that he had made a mistake and gotten the wrong building. He opened the door a little and looked inside. There was no one in sight. He saw a large, very dimly lit area, with cartons stacked everywhere. There was a brighter light toward the back of the area. He motioned to Carla to join him, and cautiously, they slipped inside and eased the door shut behind them. They went slowly toward the light, which turned out to be an office with glass walls. Hiding behind a wall of cartons, through the gaps in the wall, they could see and hear what was happening in the office.

"We weren't questioning your ability," one of three strange men was saying. "We meet with anyone getting up to your new level. Since we are the ones that pay your salary, we like to know we are getting someone we can count on."

"You can count on me," said Lansky. "I know what's good for me."

"That's all it takes," said the man. "As long as you know what's good for you and act accordingly, you'll do fine. You'll get your Greenspeak salary and a healthy bonus in an offshore account. The size of the bonus will depend on you and on how well you follow orders. We seldom give orders. We may make suggestions now and then, but very rarely give orders. Nevertheless, when we do, we expect them to be followed to the letter, with no questions asked. Is that clear?"

"Perfectly," said Lansky. He was already wondering how much bonus he was going to get.

"The new Patriot Pact is a godsend, in more ways than one," said the second stranger. "Now, if someone gets in your way, just anonymously turn him in to Fatherland Security as a terrorist suspect. If he survives that, he will think twice about messing with you again. If anyone tries the same thing with you, just laugh and say that whackos are always trying to get Greenspeak and any other environmental organization. Now, about the casualties we want at a couple of demonstrations, to build sympathy for Greenspeak and its cause. Strickland said he would tell you about it. Do you have any trouble with that? If so, you had better let us know now."

"Obviously, I regret that it's necessary," said Lansky. "However, I understand that the big picture is what's really important, much more important than a few coke-heads. I also understand that someone else will be doing the actual work on this."

"That's right," said the first stranger. "You won't have to shoot anyone. But we may ask you to help us select the victims. We don't know yet."

Five minutes later, Carla and Tim had heard enough. Both were getting more nervous by the minute. They feared the meeting might be winding up, and they didn’t want to get locked in the warehouse. They worked their way to the door, and slipped out. Just as Tim eased the door shut, someone called out, “Hey, you two. What were you doing in there?” They started to run, and the voice became a medium-height man, in dark clothing, running after them.

Terrified, Carla ran much faster than she would have dreamed she was capable of running. The man kept close behind them. They came to a lot of railroad tracks and had to slow down a little to cross the tracks. They didn’t see the flash, but they heard the crack of a pistol, as the man fired a shot at them, and they ran even faster. Carla and Tim were becoming exhausted. Surely, thought Carla, the man had to be as breathless as they were. She sensed that he was older than they were.

They saw what looked like a group of homeless people off in the distance, huddled around an open fire. “Let’s head for those people,” cried Tim.

“I don’t think I can last that long,” she gasped. “You go on.”

“No. Let’s head for those train cars over there. Maybe we can lose him.”

They ran into an area of parked railroad cars. Tim picked up a two-by-four lying on the ground and jumped up on the coupling of a train car.

"Quick," he whispered loudly. "Go around on the other side of this car and make some noise--like you fell and hurt yourself."

 Carla disappeared and shrieked, as if in pain. “I can’t get up,” she cried. “I think my leg is broken.”

Their pursuer came around the end of the train car, toward what he thought was a ready prey. Tim swung the two by four with all his might and caught the man on the side of the head. He went down like a rock.

“I got him,” cried Tim. “He’s out cold.”

Carla peeked around the corner of the car. “You sure got him, all right,” she said. “Is he dead?”

“I don't think so,” said Tim. "I hope not. I think he's just unconscious."

“He doesn’t look like he’s breathing,” said Carla, looking at the man’s chest.

Tim checked his pulse. “I don’t feel a pulse,” he said, looking up with panic on his face. “I think he is dead. Jesus, Carla. Let’s get the hell out of here. We don’t want to be found with a dead man.”

With feigned nonchalance, they walked past the group of homeless people. Tim tossed the two by four into their fire, as they passed.

“We must be near the Caltrain Terminal,” said Tim. “God knows exactly how we got here. But we know we have to go south about eighteen blocks and west, probably the same, and we have to go under two freeways. I say, let’s go to the Powell Street BART station and ride down to twenty-fourth. It’s only about eight or nine blocks. We need the rest. Besides, we’d have to go back through that crappy neighborhood. All we need now is to get mugged. The twenty-fourth street station is less than a block from the car.”

Neither had much to say on the way home, each wondering about what to do about the night's events. Carla breathed a sigh as she entered the apartment and tossed her jacket on the sofa.

“I’m going to take a warm bath and unwind,” she said. “I’ve never been so nervous in my whole life.”

A moment later, she ran out of the bathroom, wearing a robe. “I only have one earring on,” she cried. “What if I lost it at the warehouse?”

“They wouldn’t know whose earring it was, would they? It didn’t say Carla, did it?”

“They were a gift from my boss,” said Carla. “They’re sterling silver whales. If he saw it, he’d know I was there.”

“If they suspect you, they will suspect me,” said Tim. “Everyone seems to think we are lovers. I don’t know about you, but I think I’m getting out of here, far, far away from here.”

“They wouldn’t necessarily connect my earring with you,” said Carla. “God, I think I’m getting out too. Don’t know where I’m going. Just going. Maybe I lost the earring by the train tracks. Who knows? I don’t want to be connected with a dead man. These days, you can end up in the electric chair for that, even if it was self-defense.”

“Your boss’s friends may be more dangerous than the police,” said Tim. “You know that the guy that chased us worked for them.”

“They might not know what happened to him. He was a long way from the warehouse. They might just know that he disappeared. Somehow, I don’t think they are going to call the police and report him missing. If they hold their meetings in a warehouse in a bad neighborhood, they damned sure don’t want to attract any attention.”

“That may be true,” said Tim, “but eventually, they’ll hear about him on the news or read it in the paper and they’ll know. It seems like there’s always someone who sees everything. They might not know us, but could still identify us. Those homeless people saw us up close. They saw me put the board in the fire. I’ll try to get a good night’s sleep, and, in the morning, I’m out of here. What about you?”

”Me too. I don’t think I should just vanish, though. That would surely make them think I was involved. I’ll go into work tomorrow and tell them I’m leaving. I’ll think up a story. Lord knows I’ve heard enough sad stories from the demonstrators. Demonstrators. The demonstrations and all that seem so long ago. What an idiot I was. All that I heard this afternoon and what we heard tonight make me feel like a total fool. How about what they were saying about sacrificing a few demonstrators to get more sympathy from the public? Can you believe that?"

“It’s been one hell of a day, Carla. First, we find out Greenspeak and maybe the whole environmental movement is a farce. Then we hear that they plan to kill off a few demonstrators in upcoming demonstrations and blame it on undesirable groups. This paints the groups as terrorists giving the government an excuse to attack them. It would also build sympathy for Greenspeak, so the people won’t bitch when the government funds Greenspeak directly, saving the guys that are now funding it a lot of money. Then we go out and get chased and shot at. Finally, we kill the guy that was trying to kill us.”

“Not your typical day,” said Carla, with a nervous laugh. “That’s another reason to bail out of Greenspeak. If they are going to kill a few demonstrators, I could be one of the casualties. My God, what if I hadn't gone back for that CD? I would never have known about this, and I could have been killed."

"If they know or suspect you were there tonight, that would be a perfect way to get rid of you."

"I'm scared to death, Tim. I don't know if I can pull it off tomorrow."

"Just put on a good act, like your boss has been doing all this time."

 

***

 

The next morning, Carla went to work. She told Lansky that she was leaving because her parents, whom she hadn’t seen for six years, had tracked her down and planned on coming to see her. Now that they knew where she was, she was going to move on, because she didn't want to have anything to do with them.

“I sure hate to lose you, Carla,” said Lansky, “but I realize you have a life outside Greenspeak. Is there nothing I can do to help you so you could stay?”

“I can’t think of anything,” said Carla. “It’s a long story, and I don’t like to talk about it.”

“I understand,” said Lansky. “Where will you go?”

“Tim has some friends in someplace called Roatan. We will probably go there.”

“Roatan. Where’s that?” asked Lansky.

“I’m not sure, myself. Somewhere in South America. I just know that it’s another country. It’s far away. It’s tropical. Also, there are a lot of Americans there, so they speak English. It sounds good to me.”

After some small talk with Lansky, she left. She got in her car and headed north. Her first stop would be Lake Tahoe or Reno.

 

***

 

 The bell signaling the end of the class period sounded, and the students in Phil Collins' Psychology 402 course began filing out. Will Hastings, who sat in the front row, walked over to Collins' desk. "Doctor Collins," he said.

"Yes, Hastings. What is it?"

"I wanted to ask you about a couple of things that have been bothering me for a long time."

"Sure. Fire away."

"Almost everything in the average American's life is controlled or seriously affected, directly or indirectly by the government. Do you agree?"

"Yes, I agree."

"That makes the government one of the most, if not the most important influence in our lives. Okay?"

"Okay."

"Also, if you wanted to take a vacation trip for two weeks, wouldn't you figure out where you wanted to go, how to get there, and what you might need along the way and when you get there?"

"Of course."

"Since your life is more important than a vacation, shouldn't it be even more important that you figure out where you want to go, how to get there, and what you might need along the way and when you get there?

"Very good thinking, Hastings. I surely agree with you."

"Now, what I want to know, Doctor Collins, is why is it that practically no one seems to be seriously concerned about what is surely the greatest influence on every aspect of their lives, and why will nearly everyone put more time and effort into planning a two-week vacation than into planning their lives. I can't believe that people don't know any better. As far as the government is concerned, it's like giving the keys to your house, your car, and your safety deposit box to anyone who asks for them--only worse. The lack of planning for one's life is like taking a seventy-year trip, and just heading out the door, empty-handed, with no idea where you are going or how to get there. Why would anyone, much less the majority of people, act so irrationally?

"Wow, Hastings," said Collins. "You have posed two extremely complex questions." He rubbed his fingertips on his forehead, as if massaging his mind. "I'm glad they didn't ask them for my PhD"

"It seems to fall into psychology's bailiwick," said Will.

"No doubt about it. I don't think I can answer your questions off the top of my head. They are great questions though. Let me think about them for a while and see if I can formulate some answers."

"Okay, Doctor Collins. The questions didn't come to me overnight either."

"I can believe that, Hastings. I think it shows great insight on your part. Furthermore, I think it would be wonderful if everyone reached the same conclusions that you have."

"Shouldn't they be obvious to everyone?"

"Yes, they should. The mystery is why aren’t they. I have to thank you for giving me such a fascinating problem, Hastings. I'll let you know when I come up with answers, if I do."

"Thanks a lot, Doctor Collins. Goodbye."

"So long, Hastings.” Collins sat thinking about the last few minutes. Will's questions had affected him, not merely because their profundity made a quick answer impossible, but because it occurred to him that he, himself, was one of the people that Will Hastings was asking about. He was one of those that didn't seem to see the obvious. If he could answer the question, it would benefit him even more than Will Hastings, who had already seen the obvious.

 

***

 

“Here’s the file on her,” said Quentin Fitzpatrick, Joseph Jansen’s immediate superior at the Federal Bureau of Investigation... “Her IRS file is in there. It looks like she stopped filing tax returns. Since she appears to be practically indigent, they haven't wanted to waste money on her. If they can't get money or publicity, why bother? They are willing to cooperate fully with us. Sometimes, it will be easier to put people away for breaking the tax laws than for subversion or terrorism. The main thing is to put them away. That’s where the IRS may come in. If we determine that she needs to be taken out of circulation, it looks like we already have a legitimate way. She may or may not be worth bothering with, and prison space is at a premium these days. Check her out."

Jansen opened the file. Claire Fox was the woman’s name. She looked innocent enough, not that that meant anything. She was a forty-two-year-old journalist. Obviously, thought Jansen, she must have written something critical of the administration. The President had just signed the Patriot Pact yesterday, and they were already cracking down on people they didn’t like or people that didn’t like them and had the guts to say so.

“This top memo says she is speaking at a Rally for Freedom, in Santa Fe this Saturday,” said Jansen.

“It’s a big libertarian shindig,” said Fitzpatrick. “We'll have a crew there to cover it and to see if is there is any terrorist activity going on there.”

“It’s open to the public,” said Jansen. “Not a very likely spot for secret terrorist activities.”

“The definition of terrorism is flexible these days.”

I bet it is, thought Jansen, but choosing more tactful words, he said, “I can understand that.”

“It’s been suggested that the Fox woman may be supported by some wealthy pro-terrorist group. She has written a lot of anti-American stuff. She hasn’t filed a 1040 for a couple of years, Even though she has no apparent income of any significance, there's a possibility that she may be being paid under the table. She’s supposedly a caretaker of sorts for a rich libertarian. While you're checking her out, look into that and see if it’s just a sham, meant to support her and make it look like something else. You might get some bigger fish before this is over. Be in Santa Fe before she gets there and keep a close eye on her. See where things lead you. Friedman seems hot to trot on people like this Claire Fox. Nail her to the cross, and you’ll get some top-notch brownie points”

“Sounds interesting,” said Jansen. “It could even be exciting if there really is a terrorist group involved.”

“That would turn it into a team matter,” said Fitzpatrick. “Don’t take any unnecessary risks.”

“Don’t worry,” said Jansen. “I’ll be in touch as soon as I find anything at all.” He hoped Claire Fox was a terrorist. What a pleasant change that would be, going after a bad person. He was getting to hate harassing poor, innocent citizens and possibly driving others to suicide, while politicians and other crooks found a stay-out-of-jail-free card handed to them every time they were found out, if they were found out.

 

***

 

Carol Benson was cleaning her daughter's room. Since Carla had left home six years ago, she had changed nothing in it. She kept the door closed and the blinds down, so it didn't get very dusty. Nevertheless, she dusted it about once a week, whether it needed it or not. It was a task that served as her closest remaining connection to Carla. She wiped the knickknacks and trinkets on the dresser. She looked at the pictures around the mirror. She cried. She always cried when she cleaned Carla's room. She needed to cry once in a while. Six years with no word from her baby was hard to take.

The ringing of the phone startled her, causing her to jump. She had never used the phone in Carla’s room. She picked it up. "Hello." There was no response. "Hello," she said again. She was about to hang up, when a little voice came.

"Mom?"

In a split second, mental and emotional links that had lain dormant for years sprang into action within Carol Benson's mind. "Carla?" she cried.

"Hello, Mom."

"Hello, Baby," said Carol, suddenly crying a different sort of tears.

"Don't cry, Mom. Please don't cry."

"I'm not crying. I was dusting and I think I'm allergic to the dust. How are you, Honey? Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. I'm on the road, at the moment. I just had an urge to call you."

"Thank God for it," said Carol. "I was cleaning your room and thinking of you."

"Maybe you sent me a message. How is Daddy?"

"He's fine. He's at work. He will be sick at not having been here for your call."

"I'll try to call more often," said Carla. She burst out laughing. "After not calling for six years, I guess that sounds a little silly."

They talked for several minutes, about trivial matters.

"Your father and I are going to Santa Fe, New Mexico this week-end. You wouldn't be anywhere near there or anywhere between here and there, would you?"

"Sorry. I'm afraid not. What are you going to Santa Fe for?"

Carol told her about the Rally for Freedom and where they were staying.

"You and Daddy aren't libertarians are you?" asked Carla, anxiously.

"We don't know if we are or not. We are going to learn about it."

"I've got to go, Mom," said Carla. "I'm running out of change."

"No. Don't go. Give me your number and let me call you."

"I have to go, Mom. There are people waiting for the phone. I will call you very soon. I'll call later, when Daddy is there. I promise you."

"You can just call and give us a number and we'll call you back. You won't have to pay for it. You can call collect. Any time. Day or night."

"I will. Bye, Mom."

"Bye, Baby. I love you." Carol dropped into a chair. She was infinitely sad that the call had ended and infinitely happy that Carla had called. It was a strange combination. Look on the bright side, she told herself. Carla had promised to call again soon.

In Reno, Nevada, Carla Benson stepped out of a phone booth in the Golden Nugget Hotel. She found an armchair in a relatively quiet corner and sat down. She, too, had mixed emotions. Six years ago, her yearning for independence had been much more powerful than the tug of family ties. Now, quite suddenly, those family ties seemed more important, and the independence that once had meant everything to her, seemed almost trivial. What had she done to her mother? How many tears had her mother shed for her? She took a deep breath and let out a loud sigh. What about her father? Maybe they hadn't been the best parents in the world, but what kind of daughter had she been. She didn't want to think about that. She got up and went upstairs to her room.


 

Chapter Three

 

The Rally for Freedom - Day 1

 

In Santa Fe, in the lobby of the Prairie Inn, Joseph Jansen sat in an easy chair, waiting as inconspicuously as he could for Claire Fox to come down from her room. He took in the hotel, observing it in segments punctuated by glances toward the elevators. Hardly luxurious, but not bad for the price, he thought. Being within walking distance of the convention center, where the Rally for Freedom was to begin in an hour and a half was a definite plus. The manager walked by, smiled at him, and asked him if everything was satisfactory.

“Just fine, thank you,” said Jansen. Yesterday afternoon, he had to coerce the manager into giving him a room, in spite of there being no vacancies. Flashing his ID and stating it was important to national security did the trick. Jansen felt sorry for the person who later arrived to find that he had no reservation, but it couldn’t be helped. He had a job to do. The nation’s security could be at stake. The three letters, "FBI," have the power to strike fear into senators, congressmen, and Supreme Court justices, now, more than ever, thought Jansen. A hotel manager was easy. With the new Patriot Pact, he was worried that he and his colleagues would become a major source of terror for all Americans.

He had gotten Fox’s arrival time simply by checking on her airline reservation. Discovering where she was staying took a little longer, since she had not made the reservation herself. Now, with the Patriot Pact, it all could be done openly and “legally” for a change. Every scrap of information about anyone was theirs for the asking. How could so much of what he did be legal and unconstitutional at the same time, he had wondered, as he followed her from the airport to the hotel. An FBI technician had bugged her room and her phone for him. There should have been a warrant, but he knew that there hadn't been. There never was anymore.

He had read Claire Fox's dossier from cover to cover, several times. It painted her as a right wing, extremist kook. From reading several of her writings on the Internet, he got a quite different impression. Although she certainly had no love for the government, he saw her as a bright, sincere person who merely wanted to be left alone. He could even sympathize with her. By the time he arrived in Santa Fe, he had been anxious to see this enigma of a woman. When he finally saw her yesterday, she didn't match his mental picture of her at all. She was four years older than he was and hardly a beauty queen, but he found her strangely and strongly attractive. Probably because of the opinion he had formed of her from reading her writings, he told himself.

He hadn't read much about libertarian philosophy in general. He would catch up with that soon. From what little he had read, the libertarians seemed about as subversive as the Declaration of Independence. Could it be that the people calling the shots saw even the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as subversive to their intentions? That was a chilling thought, but not one he could readily dismiss.

Claire Fox came out of the elevator, and Jansen followed her to the Convention Center. She sat at a table in the front of the room with the other speakers. Jansen picked the best seat left, at a table in the second row. So far, she hadn't met with anyone; he was sure of that. He looked about him. Rows of tables filled the room; he counted the rows and the chairs in his row. If they filled every chair, there would be four hundred people. At a hundred dollars a head, that was forty thousand dollars. He wondered if they were paying Claire Fox for speaking. If so, would there be the proper reporting to the IRS? There could be a lot of people in trouble over this rally. There were several pitchers of water on each table. In front of each person there was a glass, a program, a tablet, and a ballpoint pen. The room was filling up quickly, with surprisingly enthusiastic people. He wasn’t looking forward to two days of listening to political speeches by a bunch of libertarians.

Two rows behind Jansen sat Derek Palmer. Suzanne Barrett and Phil Collins had gotten seats in the eighth row, while Carol and Roger Benson were in the center of the eleventh row. Luther Hastings, stationed on the wall to the audience’s right, waved discretely at Will on the opposite wall. With their stainless steel carts of ice and water, it was their job to keep the pitchers filled with cold water.

Will was bubbling with excitement. A few minutes earlier, he had worried about how little sleep he would get this weekend. He usually studied long and hard on the weekends to catch up on anything he had missed in the past week and get a head start on the week ahead. But his worrying was fleeting; he considered a loss of sleep a small price to pay for what he was about to experience. His concerns faded into the distance, and he let himself be caught up in the enthusiasm of the crowd.

 

***

 

The morning session of the Rally for Freedom went well. The audience returned from lunch, excited and eager for more. Claire Fox was the first speaker after the lunch break. Palmer and Jansen were anxious to hear her. Apparently, so were hundreds of fans in the audience, for when she walked out to the podium, most of the people in the room stood and applauded. She smiled and held up her hands. She had never liked public speaking. Making her first speech had been the most difficult thing in her life. Speaking still terrified her, but her libertarian feelings were stronger than her terror, and she put all of those feelings into her speeches.

When the applause subsided, she swallowed hard. She told herself that this had to be done. She had to motivate these people to get off their butts and do something before it was too late. She pulled herself together mentally and began.

"I had a lovely speech written well in advance," she said. "I couldn't give that speech now. I was going to warn you about the impending loss of our freedoms. After hearing our fearful leader publicly gloating a few days ago, over having annulled the Constitution with the so-called “Patriot" Pact, I realized that we no longer have to worry about losing our freedom, for we have precious little left to lose.

“If you actually read the Patriot Pact, something your ostensibly elected representatives admit they didn’t do before they rubber-stamped it for their “Fuhrer,” it is obvious that it abolishes the following rights and freedoms:

 

1. Freedom of the press.

2. The right to privacy of postal and electronic communication.

3. Freedom of expression of opinion.

4. The right of assembly and association.

5. Protection against unlawful search and seizure.

6. Property rights.

and

7. What was left of the states' rights of self-government?

 

“Furthermore, the President is now free to use our armed forces against us, at his pleasure.

“Woe are we. The tragedy of the Empire State Building set us up for a bloodless coup. They worked for years conditioning us for this. We knew it. In our hearts, we knew it. As surely as night follows day, we knew it was coming, just as we know now that worse is yet to come, and soon. Wide-eyed with fear, we let ourselves be led like sheep to the slaughter. I ask myself why. Sheep don’t know where they are headed: we did.

"Even as the ink was drying on the Declaration of Independence, Americans began losing their freedom. The more we lost, the faster we lost still more. It has been well over two centuries since we broke free from the despotic Mad King George. With the Patriot Pact, we have now gone full circle, and even the tyrant's name is the same.

"For the citizenry of America, the destruction of the Empire State Building and the death of some three thousand people was a monumental tragedy. For those that would rule the American citizens with an iron fist, far from being a tragedy, it was the answer to their prayers. In less than a week, before the rubble was cooled, the administration introduced a massive bill that had to have taken months to prepare, meaning that they had it in their hot little hands, waiting to introduce it in the moment of massive public distraction and outrage, so serendipitously provided by the alleged terrorists. By the time the Empire State Building’s dust had settled and all the rubble had been mysteriously and inexplicably hustled out of the country, the American people had a new government. Well, actually, it was the same government, but out of the closet, their disguise removed.

"The highways and byways of the late, great America can now be under constant surveillance for dissidents, which, when labeled 'terrorists' can be legally eliminated. An army of modern, high-tech, governmental vermin will sweep across the land, like a massive infestation of cockroaches. If there are any Nazi war-criminals still alive, they should feel right at home in the United States, with its new improved versions of the Gestapo and the SS. Already, Herr Upton has suggested compulsory mental examinations for every American. That is one of the most thinly disguised methods of setting up a way to get rid of undesirables ever proposed, even in Nazi Germany. Already, our fearless leader has mentioned that an inopportune terrorist attack could possibly interfere with our election process. Inopportune? For whom? Certainly not for him.

"He was “lucky” enough to get a crisis big enough to get the Patriot Pact through a rubber stamp Congress. Will fortune provide another convenient "terrorist" attack killing thousands more, putting the people in an even worse panic, ready for anything from following advice not to switch presidents at such a critical moment, to martial law and suspension of elections by decree? Would any of us be surprised?

"Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying there was a conspiracy to blow up the Empire State Building just to justify draconian legislation like the Patriot Pact and to justify tossing the Constitution out the window. Personally, I believe that there was, but I'm not saying it. You don't have to believe in such a conspiracy to realize that what the government has done since the Empire State Building is exactly what it would have done had there been such a conspiracy.

"What a tragedy. It is truly a crying shame. It definitely is a shame, and it definitely makes you cry, that we Americans could even suspect our government of cold-bloodedly sacrificing three thousand of our own people in order to get a virtual dictatorship. At least half of the people I know believe it happened. Everyone I know believes it is possible. Tens of millions of Americans believe it. Most Europeans believe it. Who knows how many billions of people around the world believe it. I don't know if they did it or not. They probably either did it or facilitated it, which is just as bad. Anyone who would institute something as atrocious as the Patriot Pact would do anything, and that certainly covers the administration and everyone in the legislative branch that voted for the Patriot Pact. I think they would do anything they think they could get away with, which is apparently just about anything these days.

"There are those who say that the Florida election debacle was actually planned, orchestrated to give them an excuse for instituting nationwide electronic voting, which is as totally unverifiable and undependable as it is programmable to provide any desired count. Maybe the unverifiable electronic voting will enable them to amend the Constitution to allow us to have an emperor or to repeal the second amendment, if not the entire Bill of Rights. If this president is reelected, I can only believe that the election was rigged. As low as my opinion of the electorate is, I can’t believe they could possibly be that idiotic.”

She hung her head for a moment. Then, she lifted it.

"It makes me cry to see my beloved America brought to this state. It makes me cry to think that the millions of Americans who died in the name of liberty died essentially for nothing. The freedom they died for is gone. For thinking people, the great American dream had turned into the great American nightmare, even before the Patriot Pact. Every day across our country, American storm troopers are breaking down doors, knocking women and children to the floor, beating them, tasing them, killing them, and even killing their pets out of pure spite. Every day, three to five thousand instances of illegal property seizure by runaway government occur in the United States. I am talking about outright, wholly unjustifiable theft of property, with no one ever being charged with a crime. More and more of the crimes in the US are committed by those we pay to prevent crime. What does it take to make people realize what sort of monster their government has become? What does it take to bring the people back to life, to snap them out of their catatonic state?

“I have mentioned only a few instances of what has come to be business as usual. You know that I could go on for days, if not months, reciting our government’s transgressions. There are said to be forty trillion laws and regulations in the United States with all its levels of government. It is impossible to live without constantly breaking some law. In many cases, obeying one law means breaking another. Our teachers spend their time handing out condoms, having contests to see who can put them on a cucumber the fastest, coaching our children on every sexual deviation imaginable, and convincing them that the government is the center of the universe. It is understandable that they don’t get around to the things that we mistakenly think we are paying them to teach. Mail delivery time is scarcely better than it was in the days of the Pony Express, and sometimes worse. We all know of the show of force at Waco, where men, women, and children were incinerated with napalm by a criminally insane justice department. Friedman, with his Patriot Pact, can make the Waco butchers look like boy scouts helping old ladies across the street. Everything that our government touches, our government ruins. Now, with the Patriot Pact, our government touches every aspect of our lives, and you can be sure that it will ruin them all, every single one of them.

"What else can they take? What else can they do? Yesterday, I heard someone say that, at least, we don't have concentration camps, yet. Wrong. We do. Guantanamo is a concentration camp, which is, by the way, property of another nation held by American military force. The International Red Cross tells us that the United States has numerous other secret camps. We know that President Bush, in 1989 authorized FEMA to construct forty-three primary camps capable of holding an average of forty thousand people each, plus hundreds of secondary camps. We know these camps have been built and are manned and ready for use. About the only difference between these camps, with their high barbed-wire fences, and the German concentration camps is their location, meaning the name of the country. Therefore, we do already have the concentration camps. The only thing left is to openly truck the dissidents to them. Of course, having failed their mental test first, their internment will be for their own good.

"Enough is enough. I think we have had enough squared or enough cubed. We have had too much, way too much. The thirteen colonies revolted against the abuses of their King George. History needs to repeat itself. It is time we defended our freedom. The Libertarian Party advocates working for change within the system. We have worked within the system for years, while our freedoms vanished before our eyes. If working within the system had any chance whatsoever of success, you can be absolutely sure it would be outlawed. The longer we work within the system, the more enslaved we become. The system is the problem. Are we going to wait for the concentration camps to be open and above board? Are we going to wait until the 'national mental health' database identifies every dissident and they all disappear to the big government sanitarium, the American equivalent of the gulag?

"Hitler may be dead, but his philosophy is alive and well in Washington, D.C. Hitler occupied one country after another in Europe. Our government has troops in 150 countries, more than any other would-be conqueror of the world. For over sixty years we have occupied Germany and Japan. Germany is still run by the provisional government set up by the Allies. Their legitimate government is there waiting to take over. It has been waiting for over half a century. In recent years, US troops invaded and or attacked Grenada, Haiti, Panama, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Libya, Iraq, Korea, Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, and others, and it fomented or supported the overthrowing of the government in dozens of nations, often our allies, more often than not, the very regimes we had put in place. Essentially every nation on earth is manipulated and coerced by the US in some way. Secretly and indirectly, or even directly now, we foment ethnic cleansing and genocide. The citizens of every nation of the world, particularly including the citizens of America itself, would do well to fear the ambition of the United States government or those behind the scenes, directing its policy.

"Have you noticed that the countries of the western world seem far too cooperative with our out of control government for what appears to be their own good? Their behavior defies conventional wisdom. For their actions or lack of actions to appear rational, unconventional wisdom must be used. Are they all working together, with any squabbles merely window dressing to mislead us? If so, what are they working toward? I don't know, and really, I don't much care anymore. I do know that if I wanted to go the expatriate route, there is no place left to go. There is no corner of the entire planet earth that is free. Moreover, there is certainly no spot that is beyond the ken of our King. Besides, to leave the good old US of A and plant roots elsewhere can be extremely costly. Slick Willy took enough time off from his debauchery to do some pretty rotten things to all of us. Acting in his unconstitutional legislative capacity, he made a “law,”--she held up her hands, making motions of quote signs--“that says that anyone who gives up his US citizenship is banished forever and everything he owns is subject to an outrageous tax, similar to an estate tax at death. So, for the first time since the civil war, we slaves must buy our freedom if we wish to leave the plantation.” She paused. "Unless we buy our freedom, we cannot even give up our American Citizenship. If you think that is already too much, think again; there is more. The US government can, by its own edict, tax you on all income for the next ten years, after you have bought your freedom, no matter where you go, where you live, or where you made the money. And we fought a revolution for a minuscule tea tax? My God, what happened to the land of the free and the home of the brave? We should change the words to the land of the fee and the home of the slave."

"That law is a law for slaves," she cried. She paused again, looking downward. Then she looked skyward, raised her arms in the air, and shouted, "NO. I am not a slave. I will not be a slave. No. I will not. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death."

The audience roared and jumped to their feet, applauding and cheering. Even Jansen and the other FBI agents scattered throughout the audience were up and applauding, although with little enthusiasm. They had previously decided that they should appear to be true libertarians.

When the cheering subsided, Fox began again, softly. "Just think a moment. That famous libertarian sentence has become un-American, if you listen to our government and its minions. Patrick Henry was saying that he would rather be dead than live without liberty. He wasn't going with the flow. Nor was he concerned with political correctness. Not in the least. No matter what everyone else chose, he wanted a life with liberty or none at all. And he was concerned not about being oppressed by a foreign power, but by his own duly elected government. There are few such lovers of liberty today. There are few that have a clue as to what liberty is, or even was. Young men are asked to offer their lives in the defense of liberty, while, actually, they are sent to spread a particular brand of oppression. Patrick Henry thought many of his fellow countrymen were lax in their concern for freedom. He would spin in his grave to know how easily successive generations of Americans have handed over their precious liberty without as much as a whimper.

"Repeating Patrick Henry's inspiring words surely puts me on Big Brother's list of dissidents, if I weren't already there. His words cry out against oppressive government. Hundreds of billions of our own dollars have been spent to drill it into our brains that America and its government are one and the same. Therefore, we are supposed to believe that to speak against our government equals speaking against our country, while nothing, absolutely nothing, could be farther from the truth. Maybe those of us here today are immune to the brainwashing, for we know that just the opposite is true. We know that if you are for our country, you are damned sure against our government in its present form, both major parties most definitely included. We know that true-blue Americans are against oppressive government, against all-powerful government, and against government having control over our lives and our livelihood. What have we come to, if everything that was once purely American is now called un-American?" She reached out and touched the American flag beside the podium. "What has happened to the nation for which this flag once stood? This Old Glory, this Star-Spangled Banner that we older folks loved and pledged our allegiance to, every morning in school. Today, the Pledge of Allegiance is politically incorrect, un-American. That is a crock of you know what, and I'm not putting up with it any longer."

She turned to face the flag, pulled herself erect, put her hand on her heart, and said in a loud and clear voice, "I pledge allegiance to the flag..."

The audience rose as one person and joined in completing the Pledge of Allegiance.

 

And to the republic for which it stands,

One nation under God, indivisible,

With liberty and justice for all.

 

When it was over, there was thunderous cheering and hundreds of people had tears in their eyes.

Claire Fox motioned for silence. "Liberty and justice for all. What a phrase. What a glorious phrase. Liberty and justice for all, the lost legacy of every American citizen. Liberty and justice for all, with which all things are possible. Liberty and justice, two things I will not let go of without a fight. May George F. Upton, Josh Friedman, and every idiot that ever votes for them or their ilk again rot in Hell. Those idiots vote away their freedom, but they also vote away mine and yours." She swept her arms out to her sides. "That makes them my enemies and yours. If they keep doing that, there is going to be a confrontation, I promise you that. To hell with omnipotent government. To hell with illegal income tax. To hell with our forty trillion laws and regulations. To hell with George F. Upton. To hell with Josh Friedman. To hell with all the crooks in the Senate and the Congress. To hell with conservatives who want to do away with our personal freedom. To hell with liberals who want to do away with our economic freedom. To hell with anyone who votes for them. To hell with them and their abominable Patriot Pact. Hurray for freedom. Hurray for liberty and justice. Hurray for libertarians. Hurray for me. Hurray for you. Hurray for us. I am not a slave. They don't own me. My God, I know not what course others may take, but as for me." She motioned for them to join her and they rose and shouted with one voice, “Give me liberty, or give me death."

She bowed, and the crowd roared as she backed off the stage.

Derek Palmer applauded until his hands were sore. Over and over, he said to himself and aloud, "What a woman."

Jansen was as enthusiastic in his applause and admiration as Palmer. He knew that he was going to have a problem. This woman was not an enemy of the state. On the contrary, everyone should be like her, he thought.

The other FBI agents saw things differently. They exchanged knowing glances. She was a good one. She would justify a lot of attention.

Will Hastings and his grandfather, completely mesmerized by Claire Fox's speech, were caught up in the excitement and were applauding along with everyone else, until Luther suddenly came to his senses, hurried over to Will, and said, "Hold on, Will. We shouldn't be clappin'. We're working here."

"You're right," whispered Will. "I got carried away. She got me so excited."

The cheering went on for a full ten minutes, with Fox coming out for dozens of bows. She was amazed, embarrassed, and heartened by the thunderous response.

 

***

 

The first day of the Rally for Freedom came to a close. The Master of Ceremonies announced that they would resume the next morning at nine o'clock. As people were filing out, Claire Fox’s name was on every tongue. She had touched their hearts and minds.

Derek Palmer walked out behind Claire Fox. It was amazing, he thought, how much better she looked now than she had before her speech. He had long admired her. His admiration had now grown astronomically. It was true, he thought. Beauty truly was in the eye of the beholder. In an intelligent beholder, beauty should be in the mind, more than anywhere else. The more he beheld her, the more attractive she became.

He had planned to go straight to his room in the Prairie Inn. However, when he saw Claire Fox turn to go away from the Inn, he stood, watching her for a moment. He thought that there was a man following her. Probably just going in the same direction. He followed along at a distance, until he was certain that the man was, indeed, following her, and then he followed them both.

Fox walked to a park, where she sat on a bench, pulled a notebook from her purse, and began to write in it. Guessing that she would be there for a while, Palmer found a bench behind her, at a discreet distance. He could keep an eye on her and the man following her. He thought about going back to the hotel. But what if this man meant to do her harm? Would he risk the possible consequences to protect a woman he had never met, he asked himself. Yes, he would. There weren’t many people for whom he would risk attracting the attention of the increasingly barbarous police that were the true terrorists in America, but Claire Fox was one of them. She had value, certainly more value than all that gang of criminals in Washington that those poor souls in the military are asked to give their lives for.

 

***

 

Will parked the pickup truck on the street in front of their lot. Parked across the street and up about twenty yards was a car with US government license plates. The man that he had seen several days ago with a camera was standing beside the car. The man looked at Will's truck, got in his car, and drove away.

"You go ahead. I'll be right in. I need to put the sprinklers on the grass," said Will. He had filled and leveled a rectangular plot around the trailer and planted grass seed. He figured that if he planted the whole lot at once, he wouldn't be able to keep it moist in the dry, New Mexico climate

"So you liked the Rally today?" Will asked his grandfather, when he came into the trailer.

"It was better than I thought it would be. I really liked that one woman, right after lunch. She was a doozie."

"You mean Claire Fox."

"I don't remember her name. The one that yelled, "I'm not a slave."

"That was Claire Fox," said Will.

"They were all good, but she was the best one.”

"Tomorrow, William Roberts is speaking. Remember the college professor I showed you on the Internet, the one that writes that weekly column I read to you?"

"Sure, I remember him. We heard him on the radio once."

"That's the one. He should be really good too. I saw my psychology professor there today. That really surprised me. He doesn't seem like a libertarian. I would have sworn he was a liberal."

"What exactly is the difference between a liberal and a libertarian?" asked Luther.

"In general, a liberal is for personal liberty and economic servitude. A libertarian is for personal liberty and economic liberty and no slavery at all."

"What do you mean by economic servitude? What's servitude?"

"Economic slavery. They want you to work and give your money to them. They figure they know how to spend it better than you would."

"Which one are the Democrats?"

"They are pretty much all liberals."

"Then the Republicans are libertarian?"

"Far from it. Just as far from it as the Democrats. They tend to call themselves conservatives. They are somewhat in favor of economic liberty, but want to control your personal life. The libertarians take the best from the liberals and the best from the conservatives. They don’t want to control your personal life or take away your money. They figure you should be free to do as you please with your life and your money, just as long as you don’t interfere with others doing the same thing.”

"What do you know," said Luther Hastings, chuckling. "Here, I've been a libertarian all my life and never knew it. Imagine that."

"I imagine the same thing is true of most folks. Wonder why they don’t know it."

"Probably because they never heard of anything but Republicans and Democrats," said Luther Hastings. "I know I was an old man before I ever heard the word "libertarian. I just now found out what it means.”

There was a loud knock on the trailer door. "Wonder who that could be," said Will. They had never had a visitor here. He went to the door. A man in a dark blue suit held up a badge and asked, "Are you Will Hastings?"

"Yes," said Will, wondering what was going on.

"This is for you," said the man, handing him an envelope.

"What is it?"

"It's a summons. Read it," said the man, as he turned and left.

Will watched as the man got into a car and drove away. He went back into the trailer.

"Who was it?" asked Luther.

"A policeman of some kind, I think," said Will.

"What did he want?"

"He gave me this," said Will holding up the envelope. He opened it and read it. "It's hard to understand," he said. He reread it a few times. "It looks like I have to go to the courthouse next week."

"What for?" asked his grandfather.

"I don't know. It is about some regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency. I think it has something to do with our lot."

"Don't sound good. Maybe you need to go to a lawyer."

"Lawyers cost a lot of money, Grandpa," said Will, suddenly worried. Until now, he had been only bewildered. If their lot was affected, he was worried. ""I'll see what I can do. I'll call Evans Carson. His father’s a lawyer. Maybe he won’t charge me too much." He opened a drawer and took out a small black telephone book. "Let's keep our fingers crossed," he said, picking up the telephone.

 

 ***

 

Claire Fox put her notebook in her purse. She walked about the park for a while, before going back to the Prairie Inn, with Jansen not far behind her and Palmer not far behind him.

Back in his room, Palmer showered and dressed for dinner. He was almost certain that the man following Claire Fox was a government agent. That the government had Claire Fox under surveillance didn't surprise him, not after her speech that afternoon. He had spotted several intelligence people in the audience. They were run-of-the-mill agents, not very good or they wouldn't have stood out so blatantly. He thought about it a while and decided that he would warn Fox. He wondered if he just wanted an excuse to approach her. He knew that he would have approached her anyway, but it was nice to have an excuse. He hurried to make sure that he got downstairs ahead of her.

 

***

 

Roger and Carol Benson were in their room in the Prairie Inn, getting ready for dinner.

"I'm ready," said Roger Benson, sitting down in a chair beside the window. "I keep seeing that Fox woman standing there and yelling, 'I'm not a slave.' She made a tremendous impression on me

"I think she made an impression on everyone," called Carol Benson from the bathroom, where she was putting on makeup.

There was a knock at the door.

"I wonder who that is," said Roger, getting up to open the door. He cracked the door slightly. A young woman stood there. It took him an instant to realize who it was. "Carla," he cried. "Come in."

"Carla? Our Carla?" cried Carol Benson running out of the bathroom, to see her daughter standing in the room, pushing the door shut. She rushed to her daughter and threw her arms around her. "Carla, Baby."

After several minutes of embraces and kisses, Carla told them about what had happened in San Francisco. "When you told me that you were going to a libertarian rally in Santa Fe, I thought I would meet you here. No one would ever look for me at a libertarian function. I was there today. I finally saw you guys in the back and followed you to the hotel. I didn't know where to go."

"You didn't hit the man, Carla," said her mother. "It was your roommate."

"I don't think she’s worried about that," said Roger Benson. "I think these people that are backing Greenspeak may be dangerously protective of their relationship. They might eliminate anyone who knew about it. Right, Carla?"

"That's right, Dad. Too bad they don't know that I couldn’t identify them anyway. Don’t have the slightest idea who they are, other than that the money seems to come from New York, and that Greenspeak seems to be an instrument they use to create public fear about the air and water becoming polluted. All the global warming stuff appears to be something they made up. These guys and their friends spend many billions of dollars on different organizations. I have no idea what their reasons are."

"Maybe they didn't find your earring," said Carol Benson. “Maybe you didn’t lose it in the warehouse, but while you were running away.”

"I have no idea. But I didn't want to hang around and maybe find out the hard way. Especially when I know they are planning on killing a few demonstrators. If they even suspected me, I would be the most likely target when the shooting started. I thought it wise to get as far away from them as I can. Like you say, they may not be even remotely interested in me. I just can't take a chance on it."

"Obviously, you can't come home to us," said Roger. "That would be the first place anyone would look."

"That's right," said Carla. "I don't want to make a nuisance of myself either, but I didn't know where to turn."

"Don't be silly," said Carol Benson. "You aren't a nuisance. You are our daughter."

"Do you think it’s okay to have dinner with us," asked Roger Benson.

"I think so. I doubt that they have me under surveillance. I don't intend to quit living. Wow. That was a bad choice of words."

"I can't believe you are here at last, after all these years," said Carol Benson. She was effervescent. "I'm so happy."

The whole happy family went downstairs to the dining room.

 

***

 

 Palmer didn't have to wait long. Claire Fox went from the elevator to the Reception desk. Palmer was about to walk over to her, when a tall, slender man began a conversation with her. Palmer waited in the background.

"Miss Fox," said the tall, slender man, "my name is William Roberts,"

"I know who you are," she said. "Every libertarian knows who you are. I seldom miss your column."

"I am honored, indeed," said Roberts. "I have to tell you that I count hearing your speech this afternoon as one of the high points of my life."

"You're kidding," she said.

"Hardly," said Roberts. "I was hoping that we could spend a while together and exchange some thoughts. I would be truly honored."

"I would enjoy that," she said

"Could we have dinner together, this evening?"

"Yes. I am just on my way to the dining room."

"I have to go to my room and make a couple of phone calls," said Roberts. "I’ll meet you in the dining room in about fifteen minutes, if that's alright with you."

"That would be fine. I'll see you shortly," she said. As Roberts left, she went directly into the dining room and sat in an isolated corner. A minute later, she looked up to see Derek Palmer standing beside her table, smiling at her.

"Act as if you know me, Miss Fox. Call me Derek, loudly," said Palmer, very softly. Then more loudly, he said. "Sorry to keep you waiting, Claire" He sat down opposite her. "My, don't you look lovely tonight."

"What the hell are you up to, Derek?" she said, in a loud whisper.

"Easy," said Palmer, smiling and making movements that hardly fit what he was saying. "I’m on your side. I just wanted to let you know you are under surveillance. Please don't look up or around. There is a man to your right, in the blue suit, who is following you. I thought you might want to know."

"How do you know he's following me?"

"I thought I noticed him following you when you left the convention center this afternoon, and I followed to make sure he really was. He was. He followed you to the park and back. He is undoubtedly a government person. Probably FBI."

"Are you a policeman or something?"

"Once upon a time. Believe me; I know what I'm talking about."

"Thank you for telling me," she said, softening somewhat. "Why are you so interested in me?"

"Would you believe me if I told you I thought I could fall in love with you?"

"Don't be silly. You don't know me from Adam."

"Oh, but I do. Believe me, there's no way that I could mistake you for Adam. I have long admired you between the lines of your writing. This afternoon was the first time I had seen you, and if it wasn't quite love at first sight, it was certainly infatuation at first speech. You took my breath away, dear lady, then and now.”

She was obviously flustered, and she stammered, looking for the words she wanted. "You have taken my breath away with your news about me being followed. But I do appreciate it. Really."

"Believe me, it was my pleasure. I would have come to you anyway, but that gave me an excuse. If I had left Santa Fe, without talking to you, I wouldn't be able to live with myself."

"I think you overestimate me," she said. "I'm just your average, middle-aged, libertarian activist."

"I don't think you have an average bone in your body, Claire Fox," he said. "I’m certain that you don't have an average cell in your brain."

Wanting to change the subject, she said, "Just knowing that I'm being followed fills me with a multitude of emotions. Even if I have been expecting them for years, I am still frightened. But more than frightened, I am disgusted, disappointed, frustrated, fed up, and perhaps most of all, angry. I think the time is at hand when we have to simply shoot the bastards."

"You would need a lot of bullets," said Palmer. "There are hundreds of thousands of them, and if you count the idiots that keep voting for them, millions. Even if you could miraculously get rid of the bastards currently in charge, the mindless robots are likely to put a fresh batch in office,"

"That is as sad as it is true," she said, with a sigh. "All those emotions I mentioned before, thinking how hopeless it all is only accentuates them.”

"At least, I'm accentuating some of your emotions,” said Palmer. “I just need to work on a different set."

William Roberts appeared, putting a stop to their conversation.

"Am I interrupting something?" asked Roberts.

"Hardly, Mr. Roberts," said Palmer. "Just a few sweet nothings. I'll be on my way."

"Derek, this is William Roberts, but you seem to know him," said Fox.

"Every libertarian knows William Roberts. I am Derek Palmer, one of your many admirers, Mr. Roberts."

"If you won't be bored by a desultory exchange of libertarian thought, please stay, Mr. Palmer."

"I can't imagine you being boring, Mr. Roberts,” said Palmer, “and Claire could enchant me reading the phone book. I would be thrilled to listen in on the meeting of two libertarian giants.”

 

By the time they finished dinner and were having after-dinner drinks, they were like three old friends. Initially, Fox and Roberts had done all the talking. After they had asked his opinion a few times, Palmer gradually became a participant in the conversation.

"My, my, I have certainly enjoyed this evening," said Roberts, leaning back in his chair. "I should be going though. I have to make a speech tomorrow, and I need to work on it a little."

 "Before you go, Mr. Roberts," said Palmer, "I would like to bring up one thing. I have read every word you have put on the Internet, and every word of Claire's. Both of you have good things to say about the Free State Project, while, to me, it seems an exercise in futility. In my opinion, they need at least ten times their target number to make a significant difference. There are other things wrong with it, but that is the most glaring defect, in my eyes."

"I have come out in favor of it," said Roberts. "Yet, I, too, share your reservations about the number. If they get twenty thousand libertarian activists to move to New Hampshire, they may influence things, but, like you, I don't see them controlling the state."

"I agree," said Fox. "It's not enough. But it is a beginning."

“New Hampshire is too damned cold," said Palmer. "Why do you think its population is so small, it being, perhaps, the best state to live in, apart from the weather? No one wants to live there. Why do you think there are so few people in Canada? Same reason."

"Where would you pick?" asked Fox.

"I'd pick a southern state with some coastline," said Palmer. "You would need many more people, but I think you could get them in a warmer climate. Once you get enough people, you have a plebiscite and secede. As you said this afternoon, Claire, working within the system is a waste of time. That is another serious problem with the Free State Project: they only want to work within the system. Even if you controlled Texas, the most populous state in the union, you couldn't change anything at the federal level by working within the system."

"I tend to agree with that," said Fox. "Even if you controlled a handful of states, it would be the same."

"The precedent has been set for prohibiting secession of any state," said Roberts. "The government isn't likely to act any differently now than it did a century and a half ago."

"That's for sure," said Fox. "If there were any hope that they would let a state go, most states would have seceded by now."

"What a shame," said Palmer. "I think any other alternative is a sheer waste of time."

The discussion went on and on. After another hour, Roberts declared that he absolutely had to go, and their meeting broke up. Palmer insisted on paying the bill. Roberts said goodnight and left the two of them alone.

On their way to the elevator, Fox said, "I enjoyed tonight. Thank you, Derek for everything.”

"I hope you haven't seen the last of me," he said. "I mean that."

"I'll be here until the day after tomorrow," she said. "I imagine you'll see me"

"I'm not a fool," said Palmer. "In case you haven't noticed, I don't beat around the bush. I know I've come on suddenly and strongly, and that probably shocks me more than it does you. You are one hell of a woman, Claire Fox, and up until yesterday, we were thousands of miles apart. In a couple of days, we could be thousands of miles apart again. I think you could be the one that I had long given up on finding, and I don't have a whole lot of time to confirm that. I know I could be wrong. I know, too, that just because you are my dream-girl, I am not necessarily your dream-boy. However, even if happily ever after isn't in the cards, I desperately want you for my friend, Claire Fox. I don't have many friends, but I am fiercely loyal to the few that I have. For now, will you do me the signal honor of being my friend, Claire Fox? Then we can see where it goes from there?"

"Yes, Derek Palmer. I'll be your friend, as long as you realize that it may never go beyond that."

"Not that our friendship is going to be one whit less than earthshaking," he said. "You'll see."

He saw her to her room. As she whispered, “Good Night,” from her door, he said. “One other thing, my friend. You may be liberated and independent, but I'm an old-fashioned guy. If we are right for each other, as I think we are, you are going to have to marry me. I'm not proposing. I'm just letting you know how I feel about things like that.”

“Goodnight,” she said, and she closed the door.

 

 

Once inside, Fox closed the door and leaned back against it. She knew she had felt like this before, but she couldn't even remember when.  Damn. She was as giddy as a high-school girl over a man she had met three hours ago. What the hell, she told herself. It might be stupid, but if felt so good.

There was a knock at the door. It's him, she said to herself. Easy, Claire. Don't throw yourself at him tonight. At least, wait until tomorrow. She opened the door. The man in the blue suit, the one Derek had said was following her, was there. She panicked and tried to slam the door, but he had his foot in it.

Jansen held his finger to his lips. "Shhhh." He handed her a slip of paper.

She read the hand-written note.

Don't be afraid, Ms. Fox. Don’t say anything. I’m here to help you.  Your room is bugged. Come out into the hall, so I can talk to you. I work for the FBI too.

 

"You've been following me," she said, stepping outside.

"Yes, I have," he whispered. "Do you have your key?"

"No."

"Get your key, so we can close the door."

She got her key and came back outside. He closed the door.

"Yes, I've been following you. That's my job. I work for the FBI, and you are my assignment. However, I just can't do it to you. I heard your speech today, and you are no more an enemy of the US than Thomas Jefferson was. I'm here to tell you what they are trying to do to you. I would lose my job and probably go to prison if they find out that I've told you, but I still have to do it. Let’s go around the corner for a little more privacy."

"I guess you can't do anything there that you couldn't do here," she said, following him.

He told her all that he knew or suspected about Fatherland Security being out to get her and others like her. "The IRS is cooperating with the FBI since some people can be put away easier on tax charges than anything else. That's the way they got a lot of Mafia leaders, you know."

"You say they suspect I’m getting paid under the table for speaking. I’m not getting paid a red cent for speaking. I would have paid to get to speak. I am getting a free room. I'm practically broke. If you sold my every earthly possession, you wouldn't get enough to feed me for a month in prison."

"I don't think money is an issue," said Jansen. "I think they want all you activists out of circulation. By the way, your friend William Roberts is also on the short list. I heard the other agents talking about him."

"I feel sorry for you," she said.

"For me? Why?"

"You seem like a nice guy. You must hate doing what you do."

"I went to work, full of ideas about helping my country," he said. "Lately, I've come to see myself as hurting it instead of helping it. You’re right to feel sorry for me. However, I doubt that I'll be doing it for long. But while I am, if you have an e-mail address that you can trust, I’ll let you know if I hear anything about you."

"I have an e-mail address or two, and I use PGP. I suppose you can find them if you try hard."

"I've heard that we can read PGP," he said. "The word is that it takes a while, quite a while, but we can do it. That may be just something we say to keep people from bothering to use it, I can't say. I understand that there is a German program that is better, and it can hide the message in a picture. Yes, I can get most e-mail addresses pretty easily. But if you will give me one, I'll not use it against you. I guess that's about it. Good luck, Ms. Fox."

"Call me 'Claire,'" she said. "Try foxyblonde@Juno.com. And thanks. I don't know your name."

"Jansen. Joseph Jansen. Just keep it to yourself."

"Don't worry. Thank you, Joe. When you get free, I'll buy you a few drinks."

"I'll remember that," he said. "Goodbye, Claire."

 

Back in her room, Fox flopped onto the bed. "What a day," she sighed. At least, she thought, Derek knew what he was talking about. What if he and Joe were in cahoots? That would set her up wonderfully. She didn't think that was so. She didn't think they would go to so much trouble to get in good with her. If they wanted to, they could put her in jail on a tax charge. Why go to so much trouble?


 

Chapter Four

 

The Rally for Freedom - Day 2

 

Claire Fox looked for Palmer when she stepped out of the elevator the next morning. There he was, waiting for her. She quickly told him about Jansen coming to see her. "I could hardly sleep last night," she said. "Even though I'm not one of the head-in-the-sand masses, I guess I still cling to a nostalgic image of the old America. The old America was the good America, the America with principles; the America that you looked up to, not down on; the America that came to mind when you stood for the Star-Spangled Banner, the America of Norman Rockwell, O'Henry, and Thomas Wolfe; the America where people trusted each other; the America where every container didn't have to be tamper-proof; the America where when a car hit a loved one, people called an ambulance before they called a lawyer; and on and on. Until you, personally, are the direct victim of the government's tyranny, you cling to that image, in the face of incontrovertible evidence that it is gone, as surely as the Roman Empire is gone. When you look up and see the rifle barrel pointing at you, even that faded image of the America that once existed vanishes, and you mourn. So add mournful to what I feel.

"I think I know how you feel," said Palmer. "Although I don’t harbor any illusions about what America is. Maybe I still have some illusions about what it could be. I still think that a great many Americans would love to go back to that old America. I sometimes think it may still exist, in a way. In natural disasters, the people put aside their new-found callousness, and they become the good neighbors that Americans used to be."

"You also see looters and con artists posing as contractors," she said.

"True, and you see more and more of them each time. Eventually, I suppose, there will be none of the American Way left, and the America that once was will really be nothing more than a legend."

"It may be sooner than you think," said Fox. "The Mad King and the Grand Inquisitor, Friedman, are latter-day abolitionists. They are abolishing all the wonderful things that America once stood for. I admit I'm primarily concerned with my own situation, right now. I wonder if this FBI guy is on the level or just trying to get me to trust him so he can set me up somehow."

"It could be a ploy of some sort, but it doesn’t sound like one. If he ever asks you for anything or asks you do anything, put him off, if you can, and let me know. If he's not after something, he's probably sincere. If he suggests that you do anything illegal, brush him off. Tell him you don't do that sort of thing and you don't appreciate him trying to set you up and possibly using you as a dupe to commit a false flag incident for the FBI. The agencies are wearing that technique out these days."

"Needless to say, it was hard to think about much else, last night," she said, not about to mention that it had also occurred to her that Palmer might be part of such a plot. "But I keep thinking that since they could send me to jail any time they want for not filing tax returns, it would be stupid for them to go to such trouble. Then, I remember that doing stupid things seems to be the norm for the government. "

"They may think you can lead them to bigger fish. Could you? If you can, for God's sake, don’t tell me who."

"No. I can't. My landlord is one of those rare creatures, a libertarian movie star. I act as a house sitter for him. He pays me a pittance. He wanted to pay me a lot more, but I thought it would draw the IRS like you know what draws flies."

"You're probably right about that," said Palmer. "They might not be out to get you, but to get him. They love making headlines that put the fear of Almighty Gov' into people and making them say, 'Look at that rich and famous guy. With all his money and pull, he couldn't escape the relentless, omnipotent government. What chance would I have?' Besides, the fact that this guy is a libertarian probably automatically makes him a target for the government.

He sensed that the conversation was making her nervous and uncomfortable. "Don't let it upset you, Claire. If push comes to shove, you can come and live where I live. Don't worry. I’m not asking you to move in with me. I could get you a place nearby. I just want you to know that, if need be, Claire Fox can completely disappear, and Madam X can materialize in a place that they wouldn't think of looking for you."

"Just who and what are you, Derek?"

"I'm not ready to let you in on what I am or was," he said. "There's too much at stake. Let's just say that I'm someone who can and will take care of you, if you need taken care of, and appreciate you not needing taken care of, when you don't."

"Where do you live that is so isolated?"

"I live in northwest Panama, in a high valley. It is fairly isolated, and because of the altitude, the weather is eternally springtime. With few exceptions, the temperature runs in the low to mid sixties at night and the mid to upper seventies in the day time, year 'round."

"It sounds wonderful. While I hope I don't need to go into exile, you never know these days. The warning signs are becoming more numerous all the time. That is a bad sign. If the Jews had heeded the warning signs that abounded in Germany, they would have suffered the relative inconvenience of relocation, instead of the disaster that they held out for. I really appreciate your offer, and I'll keep it in mind. You can count on it."

"Maybe it isn't in your best interest to spend that much time with me, Claire. If they connect us, it could ruin Panama as a hiding place for you. Damn. Well, for these two days, it shouldn’t hurt. After that, we'll see."

"These two days," she said. "I haven't known you for twenty-four hours. It seems like much longer."

"People always say that about me," he said, with a grin. He took her arm and they headed for the convention center. "It seems like I’ve always known you," he said. "Like you were part of me."

"Maybe we were together in a previous life."

"Yeah. Sure."

 

***

 

The second and final day of the Rally for Freedom, the audience was ebullient from the start, filled with the enthusiasm generated the previous day. Halfway through the morning session, they had a short break, primarily to give people a chance to stretch their legs and go to the rest room.

In the back of the room, Will told his father, "I'm going to call Mr. Carson. I'll be back in a minute." When he had called yesterday afternoon, Mr. Carson had been on his way out. He told Will to drop the letter off at his house, and he would look it over to see what it was about. Will was to call him at the office the next morning.

 

"What's wrong?" called Luther Hastings, seeing Will's face as he walked back into the hall.

"It could be just about everything,” said Will. "That letter says we have to go to a meeting with an officer of the EPA. They are claiming that we shouldn't have cleaned off our lot without applying for a permit from them first. They also claim that we destroyed a wetlands area."

"Wetlands area. They must be out of their mind," said Luther Hastings. "This is practically a desert. There probably isn't any wet land in the whole state."

"Mr. Carson says that these people are worse than the Gestapo. He said that fighting them can be the kiss of death for an attorney. If a lawyer fights them, the first thing he knows, he has the IRS going over his returns for the last twenty years, looking for something to trump up a charge against him. He won't fight it for us. He said that practically no one would. He said the only way we might walk away with a life after this is to throw ourselves at their feet and beg for mercy. He is willing to try to get us off as easy as possible. The least they are going to demand is for us to put the land back the way it was, and there will be a fine."

"Are you saying they want all that junk back on the lot? All those truckloads of old tires?"

 "I know it sounds ridiculous," said Will. "But Mr. Carson said that is what they are asking us to do. Naturally, most of that junk is buried under tons of waste in the dump. We couldn’t get the same junk back if we wanted to. They are going to want us to dig out that low spot where the cars got stuck in the sand. That's the wetlands part. What else they are going to ask, he can't say. But that is the stuff we did that was illegal and has to be put back like it was. Once we get it back the way it was, we can ask their permission to clean it off again. Of course, they may not give it, or they may make us wait for years while they make up their mind."

"Who wants to live on a lot full of junk and old tires?" asked Luther. "The bank is going to have a fit. They wouldn't even approve the loan until we cleaned off the land."

"I know," said Will. "The fine will probably be huge, too." He didn't say how huge. He didn't want his grandfather to have a stroke.

"I can't believe this," said Luther. "I must be getting old, or something. Things just don't make sense to me anymore."

"We'll just have to wait and see what happens next week," said Will. "Who knows? It might not be as bad as Mr. Carson thinks it will." He didn't believe that himself, but why not let his grandfather have a few more days of hope. For his grandfather's sake, he remained calm on the outside. On the inside, he was burning with anger and frustration. Economically and psychologically, he and his grandfather were being raped by almighty government, and, apparently, there was absolutely nothing they could do.

 

***

 

 Toward the end of the Rally, the zeal in the hall was palpable. By three o'clock, when William Roberts walked to the podium, the crowd was electrified. The vast majority of the audience recognized him and rose to their feet, in a standing ovation.

After a moment, he motioned for silence.

"Hang on a minute. I haven't said anything yet," said Roberts.

Everyone laughed and sat down.

"For those who don't know me, I am William Roberts. I am the last speaker of this Rally for Freedom. What a moving experience this Rally has been. Over the last two days, I have seen the passion in this hall grow steadily. The speeches fueled, in us, a fire that burns, or rather should burn, in all human beings. We need to fuel and fan that fire in the people throughout this nation, for it is in danger of dying out and vanishing forever. God help us if it dies out. Once that fire is lost completely, we are no longer humans, but mere animals. That fire and its existence are interdependent with the characteristic that distinguishes us from the lower animals: our marvelous ability to reason. Because we are rational, intelligent beings, we are capable of an infinite number of accomplishments, the least of which would be considered a miracle, if done by the lower animals. The fire of which I speak is the urge to use that treasure between our ears to the best of our ability, to strive and achieve, to set goals and reach them, and to seek knowledge and find it. It is our naturally boundless yearning to know, see, do, and have, without limit or limitations, that human essence that therefore resists all forms of domination, making it anathema to every tyrant and despot. Hence it is the most suppressed, most repressed, and most oppressed of human traits. It is the root source of man’s love of liberty, for liberty is essential in order to do, be, and have all that we want, all that we are capable of doing, being, and having. This is the human fire that was fanned and fueled by stirring speech after stirring speech during this rally.

"I am willing to wager that, at this moment, everyone here is chock full of enthusiasm for the cause of freedom. For many of you, this is not your first libertarian function. Nor is it the first time you were whipped into a frenzy for freedom.

"But," he paused and looked down at the floor for a moment before continuing, "what happens between those peaks of passion. Dare I guess that, where the cause of freedom is concerned, little or nothing happens? We get all worked up, we go home, and we drift back into our comfortable complacency, where we stay until the next libertarian rally. Why bother attending? What do we accomplish? It may make you feel better for a while, but surely it must eventually become depressing when you realize that it is at best a placebo, not a cure, for the problems we know exist in our nation and throughout the world.

"You can withhold your taxes. You can drop out and make no money to be taxed. You can call the President names. You can even tear the label off your mattress." This brought a ripple of laughter.

"Do all this and more, and what do you have? You have yourself deprived of any hope of realizing your full potential as a human being, even more deprived than if you were one of the 'slaves.' Moreover, you have placed yourself on the dangerous side of the law. Do these actions make you a free, sovereign individual? What do you think?

"I am reminded of a story that I have often used when referring to the Europeans who tell me they have freedom in their country. Three armed men enter a home, in which there lives a couple with their two daughters. The men take everything of value in the house, while holding the family at gunpoint. Then they order the man to stand on a rug and warn him that if he gets off the rug, they will shoot him instantly. The three men proceed to rape the wife and the two daughters, repeatedly, until they are too tired to go on, and they leave. When they are gone, the husband boastfully says, 'They think they are so tough. I got off that rug six times and they didn't even notice it.'

"Getting off the rug doesn't make you free. It doesn’t end your problems. You are free when you can you do whatever you wish to do, whenever you wish to do it, not when you do only what you can get away with.  Depriving yourself in order to deprive the government doesn't make you free. Being free is doing what you want when you want, as long as you don't interfere with the rights of others to do the same. Sometimes, carrying situations to an extreme points out their irrationality. The ultimate self-deprivation would be to commit suicide to deprive the government of you as a source of funds and as a victim of their oppression. Who really loses?

“I don't criticize those who do such things; I merely question what they accomplish with them, other than withholding a little money from 'the beast.’ Were they to number in the millions, they might accomplish something. However, long before the numbers were that significant, the tanks would be in the streets and a goodly number of the offenders would be drawn and quartered as an example. That would undoubtedly change the thinking of most of the rest. As it is, I fear they no more advance the cause of freedom than Jeffery Dahmer advanced the cause of cannibalism.

"'Hold on, Roberts,' you say. ‘If all this does no good, what are you standing up there talking to us for?’ The answer is simple. Like Claire Fox, I too had a speech prepared. It was a rousing libertarian speech. Yet today, I speak to you extemporaneously because I am anxious for some lasting good to come from this rally. This year, our country is in a worse state than it was last year, by far. Last year was worse than the year before and so on. Unless there is a major change, I think next year will be far, far worse than this year. I think there must be a major change. By a major change, I don't mean a decision over whether or not we have medical marijuana, whether libertarians should be for or against fractional reserve banking, or any of the other relatively trivial issues libertarians argue about. Medical marijuana is, indeed, crucial to a relatively few people. The Patriot Pact, however, is devastating for three hundred million people now and for countless millions to follow in the future. By major change, I mean meaningful change, for the first time in the history of the libertarian movement. Forget about getting off the rug, and do something about getting rid of the thugs that are robbing and raping us all. Don't talk about doing something. Actually DO something.

"As much as I hate to say it, for the most part, the Libertarian Party is a debating society. Hell, People, the barbarians are at the gate. No. With the Patriot Pact, they have entered the gate. They are upon us, swinging their battle axes. We are being pillaged and enslaved. Our way of life is being destroyed. Our children are being morally and mentally lobotomized. America is not even a shadow of its former self. Billions and trillions of dollars taken from us are used against us, to enslave us. All of the people's disposable income for decades to come has already been spent. Laboratories across the country are working harder to develop mind control techniques than they are to cure diseases, because that is where big brother's interests lie. You know damned well why mind control is so important to the government. The day will come, all too soon, when we won't remember the word 'freedom,' much less want it. We will want what they want us to want, do what they want us to do, have what they want us to have, and we will love it. Many Americans are already in that state―far too many. You may hear some ask if that is bad. Why should we fight being eternally content?  I didn't say that some ‘people’ ask that, because I don't consider anyone who can ask such a question as human. I believe that the desire for liberty is an essential characteristic of a fully evolved human, and without it, we cease being humans and are merely animals.’

"Our government is at war. I don’t refer to the fighting in the Middle East, or in Africa, or in Latin America. Our government is at war with us, the American people, and it is one war that they are winning. Everything we hold dear is being taken from us. The end is in sight. Do we seriously think we can debate them to death? Can we continue to gain a tenth of a percent of the population every four years until we have a majority? It will take us two thousand years at the rate we are going. Wake up, people.

"That's all well and good, Roberts,' you say." Just what on earth should we be doing besides or instead of debating?' To tell the truth, I really don't know. What I do know is that next time you hear someone discussing where libertarians should stand on federal support of shuffle board tournaments, you need to burst out laughing and tell them to get out of your sight. I don't know if these trivial pursuit people are shills for our enemies or they merely suffer from some mental malady. Don't play their absurd game. Play the down and dirty game. Don't listen to any ideas except those concerning how to get rid of the criminals in our government. Once they are gone, then you can worry about the insignificant details. For now, worrying about anything but winning the war will guarantee that the government win and we lose.

"It isn't a time for whooping and hollering or any other ado about nothing. It is a time for fear, a time for courage, and a time for serious reflection. Most of all, it is a time for action. Every day, the news is full of stories that, in one way or another, are about us losing our liberty. The enemy is well armed and dangerous. The enemy is determined and merciless. To concentrate on anything but defending our lives, our loved ones, and our possessions is foolish to the ultimate extreme. We must win. To lose in this fight is to face the unthinkable.

 “I charge everyone here with the task of working long and hard to find a way, a way to free ourselves of the beast. I don’t mean talk about how necessary it is to free ourselves; I’m talking about actually breaking free. That’s F-R-E-E, free. I charge you with joining others in the struggle for freedom. I charge you with winning the war. I charge you with saving our nation. Our nation will not save itself. The Republicans and the Democrats will not save it. They are the ones destroying it. Go forth and multiply. Go forth and fight, not talk. Thank you.”

The crowd sat in stunned silence. A handful began to applaud. Little by little, the applause grew. It grew until it was a roar. The people cheered. They growled. They howled. They shook their fists.

Roberts held up his hands for silence. Slowly, everyone sat down. When he could, he spoke. “This is by no means a proposal, just a simple question. How many people here would take part in a program to fill a southern state, such as Mississippi or Alabama with libertarians until we were in a majority, then to secede from the United States and form a libertarian nation, with the first and only libertarian government on earth? Those who would or probably would, please stand up.”

Half the room stood up. Little by little, others stood, until all but a handful were standing.

“I never would have guessed it would be that many,” said Roberts. “Think about it hard. Remember the War Between the States, often erroneously called the Civil War. The federal government may get very ugly were a state to secede. Are you that committed to freedom? If you are, stay standing. Otherwise, sit down.”

A number of people sat down.

“Amazing,” said Roberts. He estimated that between eighty and ninety percent of the people were still standing. “You leave me no choice but to follow my own advice and try to make it happen,” he said. "Not to do so would make me a hypocrite. In the meantime, keep your ear to the ground and keep your powder dry. May next year be better than this one. God help us, and God bless us all.”

After a few words from the Master of Ceremonies, people began filing out. A crowd gathered around Roberts, wanting to know what state they were going to and how to sign up.

Roberts held up his hands and called out, "Listen, folks. The idea of moving to a southern state is brand new. Right now, it is nothing more than an idea. If you are interested, watch my columns for news. At this time, there is nothing I can tell you, except that I will be working with others to make it happen."

Most of the people wandered away, allowing Claire Fox and Derek Palmer to get to Roberts.

"You didn't pull any punches," said Fox.

"I meant not to," said Roberts. "I meant no offense to anyone. I just believe that time may be running out for any chance of ever seeing liberty in this country, until sometime after a major Armageddon."

"No offense taken," said Fox. "You were dead right, all the way. I have called the Libertarian Party a debating society and much worse."

"I take it you were serious about working to turn a state into a free nation," said Palmer. "Do you need some help?"

Roberts looked at him for a moment and burst out laughing. "Some help? Yes. I'll need some help. I could use about a million helpers."

"I'm your first one," said Palmer.

 "I'll be your second one," said Fox. "It looked like a lot of the audience would go along, too."

"They were pumped up," said Roberts. "But, you’re right. I imagine quite a few would probably go along with us. We need to get together and work out a preliminary plan. Where do you two live?"

"I live in northwest South Carolina," said Fox. "Derek lives in Panama." She looked at Palmer, fearing she had blurted out a secret. He merely nodded once, telling her it was okay.

"Panama? Pretty far for a get-together," said Roberts.

"I can hang around for a while," said Palmer. "Don't forget that, with modern technology, we can be anywhere in the world and still meet. There are security issues, of course. There would be security issues no matter how or where we meet."

"And Ms. Fox and I are already on their list," said Roberts.

"If we are to be co-revolutionaries," said Fox, "shouldn't you dispense with the Ms. Fox and call me Claire?"

"It does seem ridiculously pedantic," said Roberts. "I prefer William to Bill, if you don't mind. I don't think 'revolutionary' is the correct term for what we are, although it may be. Whichever state we select is supposed to be a sovereign state. And so they all were until Lincoln conquered the southern states. He didn't preserve the Union, as he said. He led one of the cruelest and bloodiest conquests in history, for economic reasons. Any other reasons, such as slavery, were concocted to sanitize the history books. In my opinion, we are freedom-fighters."

"The federal government has essentially occupied the South for over a hundred years," said Palmer "They and the rest of the world think they own it and all the people in it.”

"The Moors occupied Spain for seven hundred years,” said Roberts. “Yet, in 1492, the Spaniards finally drove them out of their country. We are talking about thirty-five generations of occupation. It is only seven generations since the conquest of the southern nations. A lot of educated people still feel very strongly about what happened to the sovereignty of the southern states. Perhaps part of the reason for dumbing down students is to make them entirely ignorant of even the recent past, to wipe out not only freedom, but even the history of freedom-perhaps, even the concept of freedom. We're off on a tangent though. We're acting like a Libertarian Party meeting. When can we get together? I'm in eastern Virginia. Where do you want to meet?"

"I live on a large estate near Greenville, South Carolina,” said Fox. “It belongs to Clyde Masterson. I'm sure he would be glad to let us use it. I'd have to verify that, of course. It has umpteen bedrooms. It's like a bed and breakfast. Way out in the country. Very private."

"Sounds ideal," said Roberts. "I have a good friend who will be very helpful to us. I think he would love to come. Actually, it was he who gave me the information that made me believe that the time has come when secession is the only solution. He called me last night to ask if I had heard the president's latest proposal. Have you heard of what he proposed yesterday?"

"No," said Fox. "It must have been pretty bad if it was responsible for your decision. Last night you seemed to feel that secession was virtually impossible."

"The President,” said Roberts, “had suggested it before. You mentioned that in your speech yesterday, Claire. Yet, I never thought he would actually do it, or could do it. He actually proposes to submit every American to a government mandated psychiatric examination, ostensibly to address rampant mental illness. But now, he's tied it to that magic new excuse for anything and everything: terrorism. He claims that they are finding that most of the terrorists and those supporting them are actually mentally ill. He also claims that more and more mentally ill people are going on shooting rampages. He has to do this, he says, for the sake of national security. It still has to go through Congress, but these days Congressional approval it more or less automatic."

"Oh, my God," exclaimed Fox. "Brave New World is bearing down of us. The irony of that maniac wanting to address mental illness, when he's one of the most criminally insane persons ever to exist. We know precisely why he is taking that step. No wonder secession looks better to you today."

"He knows, just as we do,” said Palmer, “that even a supremely evil law such as that cannot break through the stonewall apathy of the average American. If people stood still for the Patriot Pact, they will obviously stand still for just about anything. As for Congress, if you ask me, they will love it, no matter what they might say. Criticize the government, and you are pronounced mentally ill. Your 'treatment,' if not fatal, will be some sort of lobotomizing removal of the cause of your ‘illness.’"

"There can be no doubt of the President’s intentions. But I can’t believe that it is just inherent apathy that lets him get away with something that has the power and the intent to make everyone bow unquestionably to the government’s slightest whim," said Roberts. "I think that the public schools have deliberately stunted people’s ability to reason and their intellectual curiosity, while fostering a dependency on and confidence in the government. Their success has been beyond their wildest dreams and beyond our wildest nightmares.”

"Who is this friend that gave you this tragic news?” asked Palmer.

"Do you know of Samuel Crowell?" asked Roberts.

"Of course," said Palmer. "Brilliant man. Love his writings."

"So do I," said Fox, "although I disagree with him on quite a few things, but most of the time, I agree. We have the 'where' for our meeting. What about 'when?' The sooner the better, I'm sure."

"I have my time pretty well filled for the next few days," said Roberts." I could probably drive to your place and arrive Friday evening and spend the weekend."

"I’m easy," said Fox. "I can fit my writing schedule around almost anything, and I can modify it pretty much at will. How about you, Derek?"

"I'm even easier than you are, Claire. You can consider me retired," said Palmer. "I made arrangements to see some friends early this coming week, but after Wednesday, I’m free."

"Let's all get together Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday," said Roberts. "Give me some directions and a phone number--an e-mail address would be good too."

Fox pulled a small notebook from her purse and began writing.

"In the meantime," said Roberts. "I suggest we try to come up with a list of things that we need to consider. If research is required, we should try to do as much as we can in advance. We should try to identify the state we want. If we do it independently and come up with the same one, it will probably be the right one. If we come up with different ones, we can each make a case for our selection and see how we feel after hearing all the arguments. Hopefully, we will agree on one. Maybe we should each have a second choice. That way, if we don't all have the same first choice, there will be a state which is one of everyone's choices."

"Great idea," said Fox. "I think some coastline is a must. Being landlocked by other states could be disastrous."

"Definitely," said Palmer.

"I agree," said Roberts. "Unfortunately, that lets out several states that might otherwise be at the top of the list." He looked at his watch. "I have to go. I'll miss my flight if I don't." As he turned to leave, he paused and turned back. "I feel like a different person," he said. "For the very first time, I feel that there is a chance. It may be slim one, but there is a chance that liberty is not doomed forever, that there can be a place of refuge from this pervasive plague infecting the entire world, slowly destroying everything good in civilization. Good God, what a wonderful feeling." He shook his tall body. "I wonder if our forefathers felt like this when they decided to break with England. For their sake, I hope they did. They certainly deserved to." He turned and rushed away.

"He is so right," said Fox, as she and Palmer walked out of the convention center together. "I feel the same way. I have always hoped, but I never really had any hope. Now, I do. It is a wonderful feeling."

"It's early to have too much hope," said Palmer, "but the idea is so glorious that it is impossible not to. If what I feel is what others will feel, given a chance to be free, it may be a lot easier than I expect it to be. I have a pretty low opinion of the mental and moral stature of most people. Let's hope that we can find enough of them that make the grade."

By the time they arrived at the Prairie Inn, they had agreed to meet for dinner. Both were leaving the next morning, going in different directions. He would call her early in the week and let her know when he would arrive.

"Let me see if I have any messages," said Palmer, when they entered the hotel. "Then I’ll see you to your room."

While he was reading the single message that the clerk gave him, Roger Benson approached Fox. "Ms. Fox, my name is Roger Benson," he said, "Could I speak with you for a minute?"

"About what?"

"It's about my daughter," he called Carla over. "She is in a bit of trouble and I thought you might be able to give us some advice."

"Just a minute," said Fox, She turned to Palmer. "Go ahead without me, I’m going to talk to these people for a minute."

"Okay, said Palmer. “ I’ll pick you up at a quarter to seven."

"Let's go sit in a corner over there," said Fox, to Roger Benson.

"My wife will want to hear your advice too," said Benson, motioning for Carol Benson to join them. "This is my wife, Carol and our daughter is Carla."

Once they were seated, Roger Benson gave Fox an overview of what had happened to Carla. Carla answered Fox's questions, filling in details.

"From what we have read in your articles," said Carol Benson, "we knew you had experience at keeping a low profile. We hoped you could give us some advice along those lines. Carla hasn't done anything wrong, but we don't think that will make much difference."

"It doesn't make any difference these days," said Fox.


 

Chapter Five

 

Three days later

 

On Wednesday morning, at FBI Headquarters, in the J. Edgar Hoover Building, at 935 Pennsylvania Avenue, in Washington, D.C., Joseph Jansen and three other FBI agents who had attended the Rally for Freedom met with their supervisor and his boss, the head of the new Anti-Terrorism Division. A Special Assistant to the Director of Fatherland Security sat in on the meeting, making everyone else nervous. Each man had transcripts of the speeches given at the Rally for Freedom and a copy of the agents' report. Anything the agents thought might be of particular interest was underlined in the reports and the transcripts.

"I didn't read everything word for word," said Zachary Pitts, the Anti-Terrorism Manager. "But, there was very little underlined in the report, and what was, apart from a few speeches, looked pretty innocuous to me. The speeches are something else, altogether. The Fox woman and William Roberts definitely crossed the line. By their speeches alone, they could be guilty of sedition."

The meeting digressed into dozens of trivial matters. The Special Assistant to the Director of Fatherland Security stood up. "We're wasting a lot of time," he said. "I did read every word of all this." He tossed his reports on the table. "Claire Fox and William Roberts are the only significant ones. That they spent time together outside the Rally may indicate that they are involved in some sort of conspiracy. Put those two on a list of Primary Suspects. Fred Simons and Karl Prescott are borderline Possible Suspects, and qualify for that list.  Nothing else matters. I assume that you know what to do now."

"Of course," said Pete Farrell, the agents' supervisor. He didn't like the attitude or the actions of the Special Assistant, not that he dared say a word. The Director of Fatherland Security could replace him or anyone else in the FBI, even the Director. He looked at Pitts. Pitts was stone-faced. He obviously felt the same way about the Special Assistant, but kept silent for the same reasons. Jansen had a strange expression on his face. What about his own face, thought Farrell. He put on what he hoped was one of gung ho enthusiasm.

"You don’t need me any longer," said the Special Assistant. He took his briefcase from under the table and left.

Opening a massive notebook, labeled Anti-Terrorism Standard Operating Procedure, and leafing through it for a moment, Farrell said, “I’ll arrange for the standard monitoring: credit cards, bank transactions, mail, phones, and Internet for Fox and Roberts. If the computer flags anything suspicious and it's confirmed, we will go from there. Jansen, you're already assigned to the Fox woman. You can take Roberts too, since they might be working together."

“Yes, Sir,” said Jansen. He had been growingly distressed since the Rally for Freedom. His discomfort with his job was turning into disgust. How could the F.B.I. be targeting people that could only be described as patriots? It was like a bad dream.

Farrell hefted the SOP notebook. It weighed at least five pounds. He wondered how the legislation for the Patriot Pact, the creation of Fatherland Security, and the mountains of guidelines and regulations that they required were created almost instantaneously after the Empire State Building disaster. Either they had been in the works for years and the Empire State Building was merely a convenient excuse for implementing them, or hundreds of people had worked twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, with little or no review and no time to seriously consider what they were doing. Either scenario was terrifying, and either seemed to indicate an enormous amount of prior planning. Either way, the implications were chilling.

"Very good," said Pitts. "We're off to a good start. Both of these people could possibly present a clear and present danger. The Roberts guy is preaching outright revolution, and the Fox woman is suggesting assassination. I listened to the tapes of both speeches. She whipped those whackos to a frenzy."

"I'll say," said Farrell. "That 'Give me liberty or give me death,' line really set them off."

It was all Jansen could do to keep from laughing.

Pitts looked quizzically at Farrell, wondering just how he meant that remark. What did it matter? "Yeah, I guess it did,” he said.

Back in his own office, Farrell sat at his desk, pondering. He didn't feel the way he used to about his career. He had always told his wife a lot about his job. He had an idea that was about to end,  not because of security considerations, but because he thought he was going to be ashamed to let her or anyone else know what he was involved in. Early retirement was looking better all the time.

At his desk, Jansen wondered how he was going to handle his assignment. He had no intention of persecuting Claire Fox or William Roberts. Could he just say there was nothing going on there, that they were harmless? He might have a problem with the Special Assistant from Fatherland Security who saw them both as potential terrorists. He had sixteen years in with the agency, if he hung in there he would have a nice pension at a relatively young age. Could he last that long? Was it worth it? He had some serious thinking to do.

 

***

 

Early Friday evening, William Roberts arrived at the Masterson estate, with his friend and colleague, Samuel Crowell. Palmer let them in, and, after the greetings and introductions, he helped carry their luggage to their rooms.

"What a beautiful place,” said Crowell, as they came back downstairs. “It is so quiet and private, off the beaten path. One feels immediately comfortable in its subdued elegance. To whom did you say it belongs, William?"

"Clyde Masterson," said Roberts.

"Oh yes, the libertarian," said Crowell.

"That's the one," said Roberts, with a smile. "That being but one of his many attributes."

"Clyde Masterson will be here tomorrow morning," said Palmer. "I don't know if he will be one of us or not, but he is coming all the way from California to hear about it. Thanks to him, we won't have to make our own beds or drive into town to eat something besides pizza or Chinese take-out. He made some calls, and now we have a maid and a cook" Recalling the delicious lunch the cook had prepared a few hours ago, he added, "A very good cook."

Claire Fox met them in the great room. She introduced Carla Benson, merely as her guest. "Carla may be helpful to us," she said. "She has experience at motivating young people. Her parents will be here tomorrow.  I met Carla and her parents at the Rally for Freedom, so they are the right kind of people." That was stretching the facts a little, as far as Carla was concerned. Palmer knew she had invited Carla to stay with her. They agreed that there was no reason to mention Carla's dilemma to anyone else. “When I discovered that her father was a computer guru, I knew we could surely use him.”

"Excellent," said Roberts. "We will need all the help we can get."

"Perhaps more than we can get,” said Crowell.

"Quite so," said Roberts.

After a minimum of small talk, they turned a few easy chairs to face each other, in a compact circle, and they got down to business. They compared the states that each of them had selected. Palmer and Fox had Mississippi as their first choice and Louisiana and South Carolina as their second choices, respectively. Roberts had South Carolina as his first choice and Mississippi as his second choice. Crowell had picked Delaware as his first choice, and Mississippi as his second choice.

"All four of us have Mississippi on our list," said Roberts. "It would have been my first choice, but for two things: the large percentage of blacks and the high number of military bases there."

"I had the same reservations about Mississippi," said Crowell. "It has a rather short coastline, as well."

"I know you probably think that nearly all blacks would vote for Adolph Hitler if he ran as a Democrat," said Fox, "and a lot of them probably would. However, just as many rednecks would vote for him if he ran as a Republican. I think you will have some educating to do, no matter where you go."

"That is undoubtedly true," said Crowell. “Perhaps, being black myself and having done so much research on our political behavior, I tend to pounce on the more familiar obstacle."

"We were concerned about those two things too," said Palmer. "We have to weigh every pro and every con. However, we suspect that as we approach a majority and knowledge of our plans becomes widespread, a lot of people will start to panic. Many career welfare recipients and many of those extremists, at both ends of the political spectrum, which actually thrive on omnipotent government, will leave the state. Every one that moves out will be one less that we need an immigrant to compensate for.”

Carla, until then a silent observer, meekly spoke up. "Shouldn't you do all you can to encourage them to move out sooner, rather than later? The sooner they leave the sooner you will reach your majority." She was a little surprised to find herself taking such an interest in the creation of a libertarian state. It was just that she enjoyed a challenge, she thought.

"It might be counterproductive to openly suggest that they leave,” said Roberts. “I think it would be better to go about it indirectly, by making it apparent to them that they should leave. We wouldn't want to create a backlash.”

“If we exude confidence that passage of the plebiscite is a foregone conclusion,” said Crowell, “that alone should terrify the fascists, the leftists, and the shiftless. If we strongly emphasize that our plans are to bring about their worst nightmare, that will intensify their fears. However, we dare not do that until we are quite close to our critical mass.”

“I get the feeling Derek and Claire have gone deeper into this than I did,” said Roberts. “Have you two been working on it all week?”

"I got here Wednesday evening," said Palmer. "We’ve had more time and we debated a lot of issues, which helped broaden our scope."

"What was your thinking about Mississippi's military bases?" asked Roberts.

"It's true that Mississippi has more military installations than the other states that we considered," said Fox, "but not that much more. The government is going to scream whether it's three or six. They are going to say all of them are crucial to their national defense. When we started looking into the number of bases in Mississippi, and I saw the hundreds of bases that blanket the United States, it was shocking. They can't possibly need that many. Maybe in the days of the cavalry, when it took so long to get anywhere, there was an argument for having a fort every few hundred miles. Today however, it’s safe to say that most of them are unnecessary. You almost get the feeling that the primary purpose of the blanket distribution of all that military might is not to protect us, but to impress us with the massive display of power, much like the big military parades in Russia and Nazi Germany. Getting back to Mississippi, we think our main problem with the military bases is going to be the people that make a living off them. I imagine that they are going to vote their pocketbook, not their conscience. You have to either convince them that the jobs with the military will be replaced with something else or simply outvote them. Of course, those that wish can always move to wherever the Feds move the bases."

“Mississippi's low population makes it quite attractive,” said Palmer. “That alone might make it the most practical choice.”

 After some discussion, they unanimously agreed on Mississippi as the target state. They broke for a light evening meal, which produced unanimous accolades for the cook. Afterwards, they sat on the porch enjoying the serendipitous combination of the serenity, the moonlight, the occasional hooting of an owl, and the sweet scent of jasmine that wafted their way on the evening breeze.

With expressed reluctance, they resumed their planning. As they began to calculate how many immigrants they might need, they moved back inside to use the computer.

"You must spend a lot of evenings out here, Claire," said Crowell, holding the door open for her. "I know that I would. You can sit out here and unwind so far that you start winding the other direction."

"I do," said Fox. "I don't know if you are an early riser or not, but the dawn from your balcony is spectacular."

"Ordinarily, I sleep through dawn," said Crowell. "I tend to be a night person."

"For people like you, we have sunset at the other end of the house," said Fox.

"That's more to my liking," said Crowell. "I'll take a look tomorrow."

"I may join you, if you don't mind," said Carla. "The few sunrises I have seen have been on the way home." She liked Samuel Crowell. He didn't say a lot, and what he did say was terse and to the point. She loved his little witticisms that were so different from the bathroom and bedroom remarks that had passed for humor among most of the people she had known.

"You might find it hard to believe," said Crowell, "but there was a time when I did that too. It was so long ago that I had forgotten it, until you brought it up. I wasn't always such a stick-in-the-mud, you know."

"Stick-in-the-mud," repeated Carla. "That's a cute expression. Did you just make it up?"

Roberts and Crowell laughed heartily.

"Stick-in-the-mud is an old expression, Carla, undoubtedly used only by old-timers like Sam and me," said Roberts.

 

 

 "That is considerably more than I had bargained for," said Crowell, when they came up with an estimate of six hundred thousand immigrants required to get the plebiscite passed. The Free State Project is trying to get twenty thousand to move to New Hampshire.”

"That the Free State Project really needs a much larger number is what got us started on this enterprise," said Roberts. "Derek called me to task for supporting the Free State Project, saying it was ridiculous to think that twenty thousand libertarian immigrants could make New Hampshire a libertarian state."

 "The number is a bit disheartening," said Palmer. "However, we never thought it was going to be easy. Did we?"

The daunting figure dampened everyone's enthusiasm. Their forward motion seemed to have halted.

"Can I ask something?" asked Carla.

"Of course," said Claire.

"All you need is a majority. Right?" asked Carla.

"That's correct," said Roberts.

"Then they don't all have to come from outside Mississippi. If you get four hundred thousand immigrants and, on average, each one converts one Mississippi resident, you would have eight hundred thousand. You wouldn't get one per person, of course. But one for every two people would give you the six hundred thousand."

"That it would," said Crowell. "It also reduces the opposition, making the total needed less."

"With a little training, you could increase the odds of winning people over,” said Palmer. “Don't forget that the Free State Project was hoping to do more or less the same thing in New Hampshire with twenty thousand, while they needed more like ten times that much, if not more."

"It could take some time," said Roberts, “but it could work."

Their enthusiasm somewhat revived, they went back to work.

 

 

 The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, they pitched in and were hard at work when Clyde Masterson arrived. With him, was another libertarian cinematic celebrity, Ron Kellis, well known to everyone, including Carla, although she was surprised to learn of his political inclination.

After the introductions, Masterson said, "I knew Ron would be interested in this. When I told him about it, he insisted on coming with me. He has a place in Tennessee, not all that far from here. I met him there yesterday, and we drove over this morning."

Both Kellis and Masterson were cautiously optimistic, after hearing a brief statement of the overall concept and a summary of the little progress made thus far.

"If this works,” said Kellis, “Mississippi will be such a haven for disgusted, frustrated, and generally fed up people, that your problem won't be not enough immigrants, but too many.”

"Once it has worked, Ron, you don't need any more. But I think you are right. I think they would keep coming,” said Masterson. “I’m really excited about this. You know that the people that will leave a welfare state for a free one will tend to be the most responsible and productive ones. Filling Mississippi with people like that will make it an economic phenomenon. If you push that concept, along with the freedom, then you’ll attract even more of the kind of people that will make it a self-fulfilling prophecy."

"The opposition from the federal government is going to be ruthless," said Kellis. "You know it will be. It’ll make the Soviet Union look positively benevolent in comparison."

“You’d better believe it,” said Palmer. “I don’t know what, if anything, we can do to counter them, but we had better come up with some kind of strategy along those lines. Once it starts, we won’t have time to think about it.”

That was a sobering thought, and it put them in a serious mood. No one had much to say. Samuel Crowell broke the heavy silence. “Why don’t we all think about this most serious problem between now and the next meeting and record every idea that occurs to us, no matter how ridiculous it may seem at the moment. One person's bad idea may trigger a good one in someone else. We can also try coming up with some names of people with relevant expertise that we might possibly recruit, for this as well as other important matters. At our next meeting, we can lay all our ideas on the table and see if we have anything to work with. Even now, if you have any ideas, write them down, before you forget them. Some of our best ideas are so fleeting in nature that unless we seize them instantly, they vanish into oblivion. We don’t want to lose even one.”

Everyone reached for their tablet and began writing. .

“We should carry a little notebook with us at all times and jot down our thoughts about any aspect of our project” said Roberts. “I am never without one.” He held up a small, black, loose-leaf notebook.

 

 Early that afternoon, Roger and Carol Benson arrived. When the Bensons had asked her advice in Santa Fe, Fox had told them that Carla could stay with her until she got her situation straightened out. She had also expressed her concern that a liberal activist could pose a threat to her and her group of libertarian activists. Roger and Carol Benson had announced their own emerging libertarianism and asked Carla how she felt about Fox’s concerns.

Carla had admitted her liberal stance, adding that her recent disillusionment with Greenspeak was causing her to question all her beliefs. Moreover, the speeches she had heard at the Rally hadn’t been the crackpot ranting that she had been led to expect from libertarians. One of the speakers had said that liberals don’t use logic, operating strictly on feelings, which often have no basis in reality. She could see that she operated on feelings, and look where her feelings led her with Greenspeak. She had said she was so thoroughly confused at the moment that she didn't know what to believe. While she was hardly a budding libertarian, she gave her word never to intentionally do anything to harm Fox or her friends and certainly not her parents. Fox had been satisfied with that and had invited Carla to join her in South Carolina for the time being.

Since Carla was bound to find out what was going on, anyway, Fox had told the Bensons about the project that she and her new friends were undertaking. Roger and Carol had immediately volunteered their assistance. When Fox discovered what Roger Benson did for a living, she had invited them for the weekend.

Time was of the essence, and they wasted little of it on pleasantries and small talk, but turned to their project with genuine enthusiasm. Their discussions were wide-ranging and intense. Numerous points of disagreement were resolved quickly and harmoniously. The one thing everyone agreed on was to have no direct association with the Libertarian Party.

"We can welcome any of their members that are on our wavelength," said Fox, "but to bring the LP in on this would be the kiss of death, death by analysis paralysis. I thought your references to the LP at the Rally for Freedom were dead on, William."

"I feel very strongly about that, too," said Roberts. "We are fighting a losing battle for our freedom and our very existence and that of our descendants. I firmly believe that if any of the leaders in the LP were holding a gun on a mad scientist reaching for a switch, with which to annihilate mankind in its entirety, shooting him would be out of the question, because it is considered bad sportsmanship to shoot someone in the back."

"I wrote them off long ago," said Fox. "At the Rally for Freedom, you said we were fighting for our lives, and you were right. Governmental violence against the American people has been going on for years, and lately it is dramatically increasing in intensity. These Pollyannas seem more worried about some hypothetical critic calling them names than they are about the certainty of losing the election, the increased loss of our liberty, and the impending tyranny and slavery. I'm beginning to suspect that the Libertarian Party is nothing more than an establishment tool to control a large block of dissenters by funneling their energies and resources into meaningless exercises in futility."

“Well,” said Roberts, “I think we are unanimous that we will not be affiliated with the Libertarian Party. We will accept their rational members and leave the rest of them to their debates about what they would do, were they ever to actually do something."

 

Sunday afternoon, the group broke up. Some had to go to work on Monday. They agreed to keep in touch by e-mail. Fox mentioned that she had been using the encryption program, PGP or Pretty Good Privacy, but she had recently been told that the federal government could read it with considerable effort, but there was a better program available from Germany.

Roger Benson said he had heard of such a program and would try to find it. In the meantime, saying he thought PGP difficult for a naive computer user, he downloaded programs for chatting and email that had quite good encryption. He made a CD for everyone to take home with them. When they had the best and most secure software available installed, they could communicate even more freely.

Everyone gathered in the front of the main house, making their goodbyes and expressing their elation.

"I feel thirty years younger," said Masterson.

"For some time," said Crowell, "I have tended to stifle any surge of hope that things would ever improve. However, I find it virtually impossible to suppress my present impulses. My feelings are unusual and difficult to classify, but I think it might be appropriate to call me giddy."

"No one is accustomed to having hope in political matters anymore," said Fox. "You're not alone, Sam. If I were to try to describe how I feel, I might burst into tears. I had reached the point that I occasionally wished I were a mindless robot like most people seem to be. If I didn't know what was really happening and if I weren't aware of what we had lost and were in danger of losing, I would be far less miserable."

"I know that feeling too," said Crowell. "I have thought about that. However, isn't that akin to longing to be so mentally deficient as to be unaware of what is in the world and what could or should be? Would you aspire to that state, merely to escape discontent? I think not."

"Well said, Sam," said Roberts. "I doubt that many would consciously aspire to being severely mentally lacking merely to avoid awareness of reality. Yet, a great many do unintentionally reach that state. Theoretically, all they need to escape that condition is a little thought."

"Speaking of a little thought," said Masterson, who had been following the conversation, "I’ve thought of one important thing that we have given no thought to. I'm talking about money. Setting this thing up and implementing it is going to require a lot of people working full time, if it's going to move forward. To get the many thousands of immigrants that we need, we will have to advertise the project. You can get a lot done with volunteers, but you will still need quite a bit of money."

"Do you have any ideas along that line?" asked Roberts.

"As a matter of fact, I do." said Masterson. "I'll see what I can come up with."

"There's one other thing that we didn't get to," said Palmer. "Security. The Bad Guys are already interested in Claire and William. Without some serious security, we could have a series of fatal "accidents' and "suicides, once our plans become known." That's the way the government reaches a consensus these days. It's foolproof, fast, and relatively inexpensive."

"Do you have some expertise in this field?" asked Kellis.

"Some," said Palmer.

"Why don't you take security?" said Fox.

"For the time being, I will," said Palmer. "We need someone seriously concentrating on identifying our enemies and determining their plans and planning our security strategy. When they do come after us, and they will, we will need dependable intelligence. Forewarned is, indeed, forearmed.”

"Technology can be important in that, especially Information Technology," said Roger Benson. "I can help there. We've discussed secure communication but technology can be used in a lot of ways. I imagine that some good hackers would be indispensable for gathering intelligence."

"We can work together, Roger," said Palmer. "Once we get a secure communication system implemented, we can keep in touch and up-to-date, without the inconvenience and the risk of frequent face-to-face meetings. They are sure to try to intercept our communications. We would be wise to try to find out what they know and what they intend to do. If you can get us some good hackers, we can surely use them.

 

Two Months Later

The College of Santa Fe

 

At the College of Santa Fe, not many students complete their degree requirements at the end of the fall semester, and no commencement ceremony is held until May. To Will Hastings, that didn't matter at all. He was happy just to get that piece of paper. Stepping into the welcome warmth of the midday sun, he stared at his diploma. It seemed rather modest, considering the amount of effort that it represented. Learning can’t be seen, touched, or weighed, he thought. It can only be inferred from its effects. He was extremely happy to have finished, but was suddenly aware that he was going to miss the academic atmosphere. He had originally planned to get a master’s degree and teach while he worked on a PhD. But his plans had changed. He looked around him. The campus suddenly looked so beautiful. He hadn’t really looked at it before, he thought. Why not? Had he been too preoccupied with other things to notice the beauty around him? What a shame. What a lesson.

He stopped, put his diploma in his briefcase, and was off to make the rounds of those few faculty members that he wanted to say goodbye to. He would miss them too.

 

"Congratulations, Hastings," said Phil Collins, shaking Will's hand. Collins was the last faculty member on Will’s list. "I will miss you. By the way, I’m so sorry for all the problems you had with your property.”

"Thank you," said Will. "At least, I'm not in jail, although I can hardly say that I feel free. According to our lawyer, we were lucky. We got off easier than most people in our situation. Fines for similar offenses run to hundreds of thousands of dollars. There are few blacks in New Mexico, and we were the only ones in that end of town. Our lawyer cried discrimination as loud as he could, claiming they were trying to get us out of there because we are black. The government people were ready to shoot the judge when he said that confiscating our property was punishment enough and waived the fine. If he keeps his job at all, he can surely forget any advancement. It is pretty bad when this sort of thing happens in what is supposed to be the best nation on earth. It shows that being best doesn’t mean a thing, unless you are being ranked against something or someone with some merit. Today, being the best government is about as much of an honor as being the best child-molester. Maybe our government is the least tyrannical. Then again, maybe it isn’t. At the rate we’re going, there will soon be no liberty and justice at all, much less for all. While I am extremely angry about the whole thing, I am also utterly disillusioned to find that the term 'land of the free' is no longer applicable to my country."

"The whole thing still seems incredible," said Collins. "That isn't the intent of environmental legislation."

"It may not be the stated intent," said Will, "but who knows the true intent of any legislation? Moreover, what government program ever worked the way the government said it was supposed to work? Can you name one?"

Collins thought for a moment. He was the liberal, favoring a strong central government. It would be embarrassing not to be able to think of one. "The draft," he said, and instantly wished he hadn't.

Will burst into laughter. "Libertarians are always asking that question. That, however, is the first answer I ever heard that is probably correct. I never thought of that. It's priceless."

Collins laughed too. It was humorous, he thought. The fact that it was the only one he could think of was far from humorous. "There must be others," he said. "But they don't spring to mind."

"If you went to a home for the insane and put the inmates in the government, they would do some things right, strictly by accident. Probably more often than our government does, supposedly on purpose."

 "You are certainly anti-government, Hastings."

"I strongly oppose slavery and oppression in any form. To the extent that the government favors oppression and slavery, I am anti-government. I strongly believe that it is my right to do everything I can or wish to do, in order to have, do, or be whatever I want, as long as I don't infringe on the rights of anyone else to do the same. To the extent that the government restrains people from doing precisely that, I am anti-government. I strongly believe that taking property without freely given permission of the owner is theft, regardless of the motive, and is therefore intrinsically wrong. To the extent that the government takes property without freely given permission, I am anti-government. Moreover, to the extent that John Doe aids and abets the government in doing these things I know to be wrong, I also have to be anti-John Doe."

“I suppose that I might feel that way too, had I gone through what you and your grandfather suffered at the government's hands. That would make anyone bitter.”

“I felt that way long before they took our property,” said Will. “I feel that way because those things are my rights and they took them from me. But let’s not talk about that today. This is a special day.”

“You are absolutely right, Hastings. What are you going to do now that you have graduated?"

"I saw you at the Rally for Freedom. Don't tell me you are a libertarian, Doctor Collins?"

"Heavens no," said Collins. "My sister-in-law is a libertarian, and she talked me into going."

"I didn't think you were a libertarian," said Will. "I was surprised to see you there."

"Why would you be surprised to see me there?"

"Most academics are liberals, or so they say. I don't know why."

"I suppose they are," said Collins. "Maybe it's an intellectual thing."

"I suppose a penchant for individual freedom could be based on intellect," said Will, with a grin. ”I doubt it. I consider you very intelligent, Doctor Collins, and yet, you’re a liberal. There must be some other reason."

"Ouch," said Collins. "With my libertarian sister-in-law's constant barrages and those surprisingly cogent speeches at the Rally for Freedom, I could almost agree with you. There's no doubt that those speakers were very intelligent people, as I happen to know you are, Hastings. Lately, there has been a little inner voice suggesting that I check my premises. My statement was impulsive, and I retract it."

"Likewise," said Will. "I meant no offense. I brought up the Rally for Freedom because what I plan to do is related to something that came up there. Do you remember the last speech of the Rally? The speaker was William Roberts, a tall man." He felt better about Collins. Maybe he was just brainwashed, and reason was beginning to break through.

"I remember him very well,” said Collins. “He took the Libertarian Party to task, calling them a debating society."

"That's the one. After his speech he asked how many would move to a southern state to fill it with libertarians and secede to form a libertarian nation."

"Oh, yes. I remember that. He committed himself to trying to make it happen."

"I got in touch with him. He and some others are making it happen," said Will. "Naturally, it's still in the planning stages. I’ll be moving there and doing what I can to help them make it happen. I'll have to get a job to make enough money to live on, but my main objective will be to make a free nation, where things like what happened to my grandfather and me don't happen--cannot happen."

Several students had accumulated at the door, waiting to talk to Collins. "It looks like I’m going to have to let them in, Hastings.”

Will stood up, and Collins came around the desk and shook his hand. “I sincerely wish you every success in your endeavors, Will Hastings. Please keep in touch. Keep me posted on your project. I’m really interested in it. My e-mail is pcollins@csf.edu."

"I will," said Will. "Who knows? Maybe you will heed your little inner voice. If so, you will probably end up in our new nation."

Collins laughed. “Don't hold your breath. Goodbye, Will Hastings and good luck."

"Goodbye, Doctor Collins."

 

  ***

That evening, over dinner, Phil Collins was helping Suzanne clean up the kitchen. The children were in their rooms doing their homework. Collins told Suzanne about his conversation with Will.

"He sounds like a pretty bright young man," said Suzanne Barrett.

 "He's brilliant," said Collins. "Without seeming to be aware of it, he enjoys a rapport with the faculty that I can’t remember seeing any other student achieve. It's almost as though he were one of us--almost, but not quite. It's like someone with a master's, teaching while working for his doctorate. We give them credit for their potential and what we know is on the way."

"I think it's amazing that they would feel that way about a libertarian,” said Barrett. "Perhaps it's a form of condescension, since he’s black. That should give you all a warm, fuzzy feeling."

"Do you think that is the only motive liberals have for their compassion?"

"It's probably the only real one," she said. "Any others are likely to be rationalizations. Don't knock it. Without that, you would be supporting the destruction of the world and the people in it, for no real reason at all."

"You would stand a much better chance of convincing people, if you weren't so acerbic," he said. "Such belligerence begets more of the same."

"I'm sorry," she said. "Really, I am. It just strikes me as such a terrible thing to have happened to you."

"What are you talking about?”

"Apart from your philosophical position, you’re a fantastic person, Phil. I can see what Cheryl loved in you. If you would only stop and analyze your philosophy and use that brilliant mind of yours to put your thinking on a sound basis, instead of parroting clichés programmed into you in school and college, you would be just about perfect."

"Really? Perfect?" he laughed.

"Yes, perfect. You're good-looking, brilliant, thoughtful, kind, sensitive, loving, and a wonderful father. It pains me to see someone like you, the father of my sister's children, so incredibly marred by the brainwashing they have done to you. You have a PhD in psychology, Can’t you stand back and start from some basic axioms, like what constitutes value to you, so you can then decide which of two or more alternatives are of the most value to you, and work your way from that to a personal philosophy in a logical manner?"

"Obviously, as a thinking human being, I wouldn't want to live my life based on irrational beliefs,” he said. “I'll tell you what. I’ll make a deal with you, Suzanne. I’ll try what you say. If I do, and my beliefs don't change, will you stop trying to change me?"

"Yes, I will. I promise. But you have to make an honest effort."

"You can monitor my effort," he said. "I'll not hide anything. Be careful what you wish for, though. You may be the one to change your philosophy."

"Highly unlikely," she said. "You may not believe it, but I was once like you. I did what I'm asking you to do, and you see how I am today."

"Good Lord," exclaimed Collins, “I thought you were born that way, with a silver, whatever the symbol of libertarianism is. Okay, since you've done it before, help me get started. How did you determine what constitutes value and why?"

"The why should be evident. The life of a rational being is one of constant decisions or value judgments. At every turn we face numerous alternatives. In each instance, we select, or should select, the alternative of most value to us. So we need to have a rational method of measuring value."

"Okay. I'll go along with that."

"Let's consider value. There are an almost infinite number of things of value, but some have much more value to you than others. What is the fundamental value to you, the most important thing of all--that without which nothing else has meaning?"

He thought a moment. "I would say it has to be my life. Without that, nothing else matters."

"Excellent,” she said. “Now, since your life is the ultimate value to you, what would you say about things that sustain your life and enhance it, and about things that endanger your life or detract from it?

"That's easy,” he said. “The things that sustain your life and enhance it are good and desirable, while the things that endanger it and detract from it are bad and undesirable."

"See how simple it is," she said. "In just a few simple thoughts, you have a basis for a rational philosophy. Incredible as it may seem, this simple concept is a great stride for most people."

"You can't be serious," he said. "It's only common sense."

"Common sense is either very uncommon," she said, with a smile, “or, if it really is common, it is generally ignored.”

"We can’t stop at this point,” he said. “What’s next?”

“Having identified the fundamental value, your life, a natural next step would be to identify what is necessary to sustain your life and allow you to live it as you want to live it. In the process of doing this, you will develop a hierarchy of values, with the fundamental value at the top. Then you have created a personal morality to live your life by.”

“I took several courses in philosophy, Suzanne. What you are suggesting is not at all simple. People have spent their entire lives thinking about these things without completely resolving them.”

“The few philosophy books I read or tried to read were useless,” said Barrett. “None of them started at the beginning, but rather started with some basic assumptions by saying, ‘Since everyone knows so and so, therefore such and such is true.’ The only thing is that so and so is probably false and just something they are trying to foist off on people. If you start with the idea of a fundamental value, being one’s life, and work from there, you know your basic premise is sound, not just some fable.”

“Did you come up with this on your own or did you get it from some outside source?

“I got it from Ayn Rand.”

“Aha,” he cried. “I thought so. Objectivism.”

“Yes, I think it was called that. You know her?”

“Of course. I read some of her books when I was a freshman in college. As I recall, I thought them interesting, but not too impressive.”

“Maybe you should read them again, now that you are more mature. Maybe you’ll see things differently if you look at them, not as just another of the many approaches to philosophy, but a possible way to approach life and reality. She may not have everything perfectly thought out. I don’t know if any human being can do that. But I think she did a damned good job, better than anyone else.”

“If I study Ayn Rand’s philosophy, and still don’t agree with you, will you be satisfied?”

“If you do the study and you don’t agree with her and you can logically refute her position and present a more logical alternative, I will not only be satisfied, but I will have no choice but to agree with you. I don’t mean that you find a few minor points of disagreement, because I have those myself. I’m talking about the overall concepts.”

“You’re on,” he said. “It will take a while, but I’ll do it.” He was overjoyed. She had painted herself into a corner. Not only had he found a way to stop her libertarian babbling, but she would have to stick around long enough for him to fulfill his tasks. Sooner or later, she would have to leave. He didn't want to think about that.

“I think that instead of looking at things logically,” she said, “most people live their lives by programmed ideas that are illogical. Can you actually tell me that you have sat down and analyzed your positions logically and been satisfied that they are rational?”

“No, I can’t tell you that,” he said. “However, I believe that through my extensive education, my thinking has reached a fairly high degree of rationality.”

“We’ll see,” she said. “Keep in mind that a rational philosophy would allow people to live in relative harmony. Otherwise, their fundamental value would be constantly at risk, certainly more at risk than with a philosophy that did promote harmony.”

“Living in harmony makes it considerably more complex,” said Collins. “But, I’ll keep that in mind.” Poor Suzanne, he thought. It would be like taking candy from a baby. In a way, he felt sorry for her. She would be shattered to find that all her beliefs that she felt so strongly about were naive misconceptions. When the time came, he would go about it as gently as possible.

"If just getting along with people is so complex,” she said, “why is it so easy to decide something like whether it is acceptable to take money from productive people and give it to non-productive people? Such an important decision should be based on a firm core philosophy. If your core beliefs are vague and impossible to put into words, do you want to live your life by such a philosophy? Do you want to go to the polls and vote without a solid core philosophy to guide your voting decisions? A tree can't be all leaves; it needs branches, a trunk, and solidly entrenched roots."

"I see the logic in what you say," he said, surprised at the profundity of her thinking. “Don’t worry. When I get through, we’ll sort it all out. I’ll start right away, but you have set me quite a task.” He recalled having told Will Hastings that he needed more time to think about his questions. He hadn't really thought that much about Will's questions, and they, too, concerned extremely serious matters.

"Of course you need some time,” she said. “Let me know when you have it sorted out."

"Oh, I will. You'll be the first to know. Actually, you'll be the second. I'll be the first." He suddenly felt a little apprehensive. How sure was he that his position was logical? What if she turned out to be right? What if he turned into a libertarian? Heaven forbid. If nothing else, he would lose his job and probably never get another one. But, wasn't that last speaker at the Rally for Freedom a college professor? What university would hire a libertarian? On the other hand, why should university professors have to be liberal to get a job? What was the basis for that unspoken policy? Did it arise spontaneously, or was it planned? How could the answer to such a question be discovered? What a train of thought. Where would all this take him? Where would it end?


 

Chapter Six

 

Two Weeks Later

 

Josh Friedman dropped into his chair, and leaned over his desk. He was so tired that he felt like laying his head on the desk and taking a nap. Something had to change. He was stretched so thin that his health was going to suffer, if he kept this pace up. Being the Director of Fatherland Security was, in itself, a monumental job. Advancing his personal agenda, was just as big a job and much more important to him. He also had to keep an eye on the President to try to keep him from doing anything disastrous on his own or under the influence of the numerous others that were constantly pushing other agendas. He could hardly count on the President being reelected to keep him on the job, no matter how good electronic voting appeared.  His private network had to be as extensive and as complete as possible, as soon as possible. If only he could trust someone to help him run it. I'll delegate nearly all the Fatherland Security work, he said to himself. That way I can concentrate on my own work. He would have his assistant call a meeting of his top level people. Time was running out to build up his treasury and set up all the logistics that he might need. He didn't want to pass up another golden opportunity like the Bilderbergers' birthday party that he had missed. He needed to be fully alert for any such events.

There might be times when he had to lay low, and it would be nice to think that things could still run without his direct intervention. Of the hundreds of people on his private payroll, some thought they worked in deep cover for the FBI or the CIA, some considered themselves undercover agents in Fatherland Security, and all believed they were so secret that even they couldn't know who they worked for, Many were employees of various government departments, that believed they had been selected to secretly monitor their units as part of a program to detect spies and terrorist infiltrators. These would be handy for gathering classified information in almost any department. He wanted to put a few people between him and the nearly fifty people currently reporting directly to him. That wouldn’t be easy. However, nothing he had accomplished could be called easy, and he had worked wonders. Even he was amazed at his brilliance.

 

***

 

Derek Palmer and Claire Fox were checking in at the Econolodge near the Atlanta airport. Palmer took the key that the clerk handed him, picked up their suitcases, and said, "Come on, Claire."

They went up the elevator and down the hall to their room. Once inside, Palmer put down the bag. "So far, so good. Here’s all your identification,” he said, handing her a passport, a driver's license and two credit cards. "Don't use the credit cards, except for ID purposes."

Claire Fox opened the passport, looked at her photograph, and smiled. "Joan Tillman. Not bad. Could have been Prunella. Is there such a person?"

"Definitely. Except for the picture and the fingerprint, this is a copy of her passport. Their computers would immediately flag a non-existent passport. Miss Tillman was at home yesterday morning. Let's hope she never flies at the same time you do. That could create a serious problem."

"We're going to a lot of trouble to get from here to Tennessee. Couldn't we just sneak out to Tennessee?"

"Sure. False passports are very difficult to make these days. The government tries to make if as hard as possible, but anything they can make, someone else can make too. They just make it that much harder for themselves as well. Those bugs that I found prove that their interest in you has grown. Now, you're moving out, right after they install the bugs. If you just vanished, they would look for you until they found you. That's why we want them to think you've left the country." He picked up the telephone and dialed three numbers. "We're ready for you," he said. "We're in 302."

"Okay. Okay. I understand. What is the country coming to? All I have done is voice my discontent with the unconstitutional actions of the government. For that, they are bugging my house and following me. I seem to remember that I have a constitutional right to say everything that I said about them."

"Of course you do," said Palmer. "You were criticizing the government for its unconstitutional actions. Now you have one more infraction to criticize. As long as these guys are breathing, they are going to ignore the constitution. That's why you either go to war with them or bail out. We are going to try to bail out."

"It had better work," she said. "I've had it up to here."

"That makes two of us," he said, waiting at the door. When there was a knock, he opened the door. A dark-haired woman stood there. "Come in," said Palmer. “Let me get your suitcases.”

"Stand together," said Palmer, moving the woman next to Fox. "Almost perfect. Less than an inch of difference. He took a blond wig from his suitcase and handed it to the woman. "Try this on." He adjusted the wig a bit and stepped back. He gave the woman Fox's sunglasses and hat. "Put these on."

"Pull the hat forward and down, like this," said Fox, adjusting the hat on the woman's head. "What do you think, Derek?"

"Looks just like you. She needs a bit more bosom."

"Toilet paper will fix that," said Fox. "Come with me," she took the woman into the bathroom.

In a moment they returned. "Voilà," she said. "She looks more like me than I do." After everyone laughed, she said, "What's your name, Honey?"

"Irene," said the woman.

"Now take off your wig, Irene," said Palmer. He handed a dark wig to Fox. "You put this on, and put on her hat and glasses" He looked at the two women. "Close enough," he said.

Fox walked over to the mirror over the dresser. "I never had dark hair. I like it."

"You know where to go, Irene?" asked Palmer.

"I go to the airport. I go to Wendy's. I wait for you two to show up. You will start checking in about seven o'clock. I should see you before seven-thirty. When you get there, she goes into the rest room, I follow her."

"Perfect," said Palmer. "You better get going. The less time we are together, the better. We'll be there. I'll call you if anything changes. You might want to get some dinner, to avoid the airline food.

When Irene was gone, Fox asked, “What do we do for two hours?”

“We can't just check out,” said Palmer. “That would look strange: getting a motel room for fifteen or twenty minutes. We needed to meet with Irene without the Gestapo knowing. “If we stay here until time to go, they'll think we are saying good-bye, so to speak.” He turned on the television.

“There goes my reputation,” she said.

 

 Two and a half hours later, Fox and Palmer left the ticket counter in the airport. Fox had checked in for a flight to Buenos Aires. They walked through the terminal, until they found Wendy's. It was seven-thirty-five; Irene was there. They got a couple of Cokes and sat not far from her. A little after they were sure that she had seen them, Fox said, "I need to go to the bathroom. I get nervous when I fly." She went into the rest room. Shortly later, Irene followed her.

Inside the rest room, they went into the large stall for the handicapped. Each quickly undressed. They exchanged clothing and dressed again. Irene put on the blond wig, and Fox put on a dark one. They went out and carefully arranged their wigs and clothing. Irene, looking like Fox, walked out, and Fox went into a stall, closed the door, and sat down to rest and wait. She checked her watch. She had to wait ten minutes.

Irene joined Palmer at his table in Wendy's. They finished the drinks. “I guess we might as well go," said Palmer. He pulled her put his arm taking Irene by the arm. He glanced out of the corner of his eye to make sure the man who had been following them since they left Clyde Masterson's place was still with them. He was standing in front of a magazine rack. "Let's get a magazine for the trip," he said. "When I hold up one finger, say ‘I know. I know.' When I hold up two fingers, say 'Let's not go over that again.' Got that?"

Irene nodded, as he led her over beside the man, whom he assumed to be an FBI agent.

"I understand your aggravation, Claire. Believe me," he said, loud enough for the agent to hear him. "I still think it's counterproductive to go to a place like Argentina. You know that the Argentine government is worse than the American government." He held up one finger.

"I know. I know," said Irene.

"Besides, given a little time, I really think we would have had a wonderful, lasting relationship. It's not too late, Claire. Turn around and stay here. Stay with me." He held up two fingers to Irene.

"Let's not go into that again," she said.

"You are a wonderful woman, Claire Fox, but you are so stubborn. I hope you love it in your valley in Argentina. Maybe I'll come and see you there." She picked out two magazines and he took them to the cashier and paid for them. They walked to the security check-in. He took her in his arms and held her. He kissed her. "Go ahead," he whispered in her ear. "You were great. Thanks a lot."

"It was fun. You are damned good, whoever you are. Javier just told me you were a friend who shall remain nameless. Thank you for a nice vacation in Argentina, and with what's left over, an A-frame in the mountains."

He stood in front of the check-in gate. He waved until she was out of sight. He turned and walked toward the taxi stand. In a little over an hour, Claire, as Jane Tillman, would fly to Memphis, where she would meet Carla who had gone there on the bus. He would drive his rental car there and pick them up. It had gone well, he thought. What a brilliant move to feed the information directly to the FBI. He mentally patted himself on the back.

 

***

 

 "The FBI asked if I knew how to contact you," said Clyde Masterson, talking to Claire Fox on the Internet, using Zfone, a voice encryption program. "I told them I had no idea where you went. You had just quit your house sitting job and left. Since they were aware that you left, they were definitely watching you."

"We knew they would be watching me. They were definitely following me everywhere I went. Derek's plan seems to have gotten them off me. I surely hope it did. I feel a lot better that they think I'm thousands of miles away. Are you coming to the meeting?"

"You're damned right I am. I'm really excited about this. It seems to me that a month is too long between meetings. Ron Kellis and I will be there tomorrow evening, about seven."

"I think we all feel we’re going too slowly. It's just this first time though. Most people had commitments and arrangements to make. We'll be moving faster now, especially once we get used to our secure communications. Meeting in cyberspace will save all that travel time. Besides, a bunch of libertarian activists getting together on a regular basis would attract a lot of attention."

"I hadn't thought about that," said Masterson. "I suppose there is a risk that we are putting ourselves in the cross hairs of the administration's new Patriot Pact."

"You can count on it, once they learn what we're up to, and they will, once the recruiting gets underway. I believe that monitoring and eliminating dissension was a primary reason for the Patriot Pact. I also believe the Patriot Pact and shutting down the offshore financial centers were two primary reasons for the attack of the Empire State Building. I would give anything to believe otherwise. I would like that, even more than I wanted to continue believing in Santa Claus after I discovered the truth about him. Unfortunately, I am cursed with a logical mind. I just can't look at white and see black."

"That's why you are what you are," said Masterson. "You know I agree with you, wholeheartedly. With the government's vast resources, there may not be enough evidence left to ever prove or disprove anything about the Empire State Building. Any evidence the government tells us about should automatically be suspect. As it is though, every shred of independent evidence, meaning any which isn’t likely to be fabricated by the government, indicates that every word the government put out about the Empire State Building is a lie."

"And, with all that evidence staring them in the face, the so-called news media is looking the other way and humming 'Hail to the Chief,' said Fox. “They wouldn’t follow the establishment line any more religiously, if they were androids programmed by Herr Friedman himself."

"Maybe they are," said Masterson. "I hadn't thought of that. You know some of them never blink on camera. Here, I always thought it was because they’d had so many face lifts that they couldn't blink. Perhaps they are androids."

Fox laughed. "Thanks for making me laugh, Clyde. I need to laugh more. The last couple of weeks have been pretty intense for me."

"Gotta run. I'll see you Friday. Keep your chin up."

"Until Friday. Bye."

 Claire Fox closed the program and went outside. The air was crisp and cold. She had loved living in Clyde Masterson's country estate. This new place, which Ron Kellis had made available for the project, was even more to her liking. The discovery of the bugs in Masterson's house had almost made her hysterical. They had barely begun working on the project, and already the Gestapo was after them. How bad would it be once their plans were out in the open? They needed somewhere to hide out and work in secrecy. She had called Masterson to let him know about the bugs. Masterson had told Kellis, who had offered his place in Tennessee. All they had to do was get there without Big Brother knowing about it. Masterson's retreat had been more luxurious, while this was rustic elegance. She loved the rustic quality, the massive stone fireplaces, and the carefully planned naturalness of the grounds. The wild flowers were appropriate for the region, but aided by design. It was like a movie set for an idyllic paradise. Her personal quarters were in what had been an old mill, not far from the main house. It was now a guest house or retreat. The minute she saw it, she wanted to stay there. Kellis had told her to move in. The next time he had called, she had said she thought she needed to move into the main building, because she needed Internet service, which was missing in the old mill. “Don’t be silly,” Kellis had said. Two days later, she had DSL service in the mill.

She looked at her watch. Derek would be arriving soon. He had gone into Savannah for some shopping that couldn’t be done in the small towns nearby. It was amazing how close they had become in such a short time. Because he lived so far away and together they could work so productively on the project, he had been staying in one of the many rooms at the Masterson place. There was no romance between them.  Since that first meeting, he had been all business. She wondered if he had been serious that first day, or maybe high on something. However, she wasn't about to bring it up. No need to embarrass herself, she thought. Looking down at her jeans and shirt, she thought she would change into something more lady-like. Good Lord, Claire, she said to herself. Are you primping for Derek? Well, yes. But she was doing nothing more than she would for Clyde Masterson or William Roberts. It was just common courtesy. Wasn't it? Besides, maybe he hadn’t changed his mind after all.

 

 ***

 

"Just what do you think an old black man is supposed to do, here in Tennessee?" asked Luther Hastings. "Pick cotton?” They had just parked their trailer in a trailer park in Selmer, a small town in southwestern Tennessee, and were putting things in order.

"Just collect your Social Security and go fishing," said Will Hastings. "With any luck, you won't be limited to that very long. I don't plan to be poor, just because I'm working on turning Mississippi into a free country. There are just as many hours in my day as there are in the days of all the successful entrepreneurs and business men in the world."

"I still don't see how you are goin' to turn Mississippi into a free country from here in Tennessee. It seems to me like you need to be in Mississippi to do that."

"We'll be in Mississippi, when the time comes, Grandpa. Right now, it’s safer being in Tennessee."

"Not safe, just safer. Are you telling me what you’re doing is dangerous?"

"Probably. We sure were in danger in New Mexico. Maybe not us, but our money and our property obviously were," said Will. "New Mexico wasn't the danger. It was the federal government. They will be a danger in any state. If we're going to try to get Mississippi to vote to be a free and independent country, the government isn't going to just sit by and let that happen. They’ll be like any other totalitarian power. They are going to fight it, tooth, and nail. They are sure to go after the people that are trying to make it happen, and I am, or plan to be, one of those people. You don't have to be, Grandpa. Maybe you really shouldn't be living with me."

"I don't want to hear any more dumb talk like that," said Luther Hastings. "Where you go, I go. If they go after you, they go after me too. I promised your mama I'd take care of you, and that’s just what I’ll do, as long as I can."

"I’m grown up now, Grandpa. You've done your duty. No use putting yourself in danger because of me. I don't think Mama would have wanted that. I know I don't."

 "My daddy told me that when he was young, liquor was illegal and marijuana was legal. Today, it's just the opposite. Liquor is legal and marijuana is illegal. Neither has changed. Neither is any better or any worse for you. In my daddy's time, the government went around raiding and killing people for drinking or selling whiskey. Today they go around raiding and killing people for drugs. Seems like they aren't happy if they aren't raiding and killing people for something. They killed your mama while they were raiding and killing. They took our land and wanted to take all the money we would have made for the rest of our lives. Why would the government want to kill your mama? What could they want with our land?"

He looked off into space. "All my life, I have been voting for the kind of evil people that did those evil things. I'm sure they did millions of other things just as bad or worse. It was a Democrat government that killed your mama. It was a Republican one that took our land. Those people at that rally in Santa Fe had it right. Neither one of those parties is worth the powder to blow it up. It took me most all my life to grow up, Will. But, you know, I think I’ve finally made it. You told me that President Lincoln said he thought blacks could be domesticated but not educated. I was just domesticated until I was an old man. Finally, I opened the door to my brain and let some sense into it. You taught me to talk right. You tried to teach me to think right. I'm ready to do that now. I know I don't have all that much time left, but I want to spend it doing something worthwhile. I know I can't do anything to bring back your mama. I can’t do anything to get our land back. But, I am so mad, Will. I'm mad at the government for what they did to your mama. I'm mad at the government for stealing our land. I'm mad at them for all the lying, killing, and stealing that they do. But most of all, I'm mad at myself for being their farm animal all those years, for letting them pat me on the head and toss some fodder my way and then use me like a workhorse. I'm not an animal, Will. I’m a man. If you don't act like a man, you aren't really a man. I want to do what a man would do, what a real man should do. I don't want to die as a man that never was.”

There was a moment of silence. Neither seemed to have anything to add.

Luther looked up. His eyes were moist. "Never a day goes by that I don’t think about my little girl, about how much I loved her, and how much I miss her. Without knowing who I was asking, I've asked a million times why she had to die so young, when she never did anything bad in her whole life, when you and I loved her and needed her so much. I think that I know the answer now. The answer, so far, is that she died for nothing. She died because people like me voted for garbage politicians that are more likely to rob and kill us than they are to protect us. But so far, she died for nothing. It is up to you and me to see to it that she died for something. What better could we do than try and make a spot on God's green earth where people like your mama don't get killed by their own government, where honest people like us don't have their land stolen by government robbers. You taught your old Grandpa a lot. Let me put that teaching to some use. Your mama always said that you gave her life meaning. Let me help give some meaning to her death."

Will sat down beside his grandfather and put his arm around him. "I can't remember Mama, only loving her. I still love her, and I always will," he said. "You're right, Grandpa. We aren't animals. We are men. You and I are men. We are going to live like men. What we do from here on out, we'll do for Mama and for ourselves. I think she's up there, watching us and loving us. Right now, I'm sure she is. I can feel her. Let's make her proud of her two favorite men."

 

 ***

 

"Doctor Roberts." said Joseph Jansen.

"Yes." William Roberts stopped scraping the snow from the sidewalk through his back yard. "How did you get in here?"

"Your wife let me in and sent me out here," he said. "He held up his badge and ID.” My name is Joseph Jansen, with the FBI. Don't get upset. This is not an official visit. I was assigned to investigate your friend, Claire Fox. I went to the Rally for Freedom for that purpose. Once I heard the speeches, especially yours and hers, it was apparent that I was more of an enemy of the state than Claire Fox. For quite a while, I had been feeling a little uneasy about what was going on in the Bureau and in the country. A lot of post Empire State events have intensified my concerns. There was a time when I felt good about my job and proud of what I did. Any more, I feel dirty. I joined the Bureau to contribute to my country, not to destroy it. We have some pretty bad people running the country today. I can’t do their dirty work for them any longer. I know about your plans for Mississippi. I think I know where Claire Fox is. I don’t want them to get her. Not only that, but now that I have admitted to myself what I really have known for many months, I can't continue with the Bureau. I want to be a part of what you and your friends are doing."

"That's very commendable," said Roberts. "How do I know this isn't just a way to infiltrate us and keep an eye on us?"

"That's a good question," said Jansen. "I hadn’t thought about that. Maybe I could take a lie detector test."

"Give me your card, and I'll talk it over with the others and get back to you."

"I’ll give you my card, Mr. Roberts, but, obviously, you can't contact me at work. They would be all over me if you did. I'll contact you. You probably should disappear too. They think Claire Fox has become an expatriate. I have done what I could to reinforce that idea. They have her in their database of people to watch for, coming into the US. If she uses her passport, they’ll be all over her, instantly. Your speech at the Rally put you on a list of primary suspects. You should be aware that your phone is monitored; your house is bugged, all your e-mail is scanned; your credit card and banking transactions are recorded, they monitor your whereabouts via your cell phone, and they keep a list of the people you contact and do business with. Be aware of all that, and act accordingly."

"Good Lord,” gasped Roberts. “I assumed they would be keeping an eye on me. I never thought it would be to such an extreme."

"Your car has StarTrack. They know where you go, and can listen in on your conversations in the car. If they want, they can stop your car at any time and you can’t get it to start, unless they want you to be able to. You should be aware of that too. Don’t drive or take your cell phone to where Claire is hiding or they will have her."

"Damn," exclaimed Roberts. "How do I get around that?"

"Take out the StarTrack. Just remember it only exists because they wanted it to. Think about it. If you can push a button and tell them to send someone to bring you gasoline, and they have a conversation with you, it stands to reason that they can push a button on the other end and listen in on whatever is happening in your car. And if they can locate it to take you gas, they can locate it to find you whenever they want."

"All that makes perfect sense," said Roberts, "and it's coming out as soon as I can get to a garage."

‘For a while, they may think you just aren’t using your car, but it won’t be long before they figure out that your StarTrack isn’t working. I would advise making it look like it broke. Talk about it on the phone or send an e-mail to a friend saying it doesn’t light up, or something. Then they might not suspect you removed it. They might not.”

“I’m beginning to feel like more like James Bond than a mild-mannered college professor.”

“Neither of us feels good about what is happening in our country, Doctor Roberts. Things are so far gone that I don’t think it is possible for it to get better at the federal level. You and your friends have the right idea. Get out while you can, if you can.”

“If is a tiny word with an enormous implication,” said Roberts. “God help us if we can’t.”

“Amen,” said Jansen. “God help the current target of the madmen, Mankind itself.”

 

***

 

Late Friday afternoon, William Roberts pulled up to Kellis' hideaway. Sitting in the passenger's seat of his rental car was Will Hastings. Their meeting in the Hastings' trailer had been brief, but Wills' obvious sincerity and enthusiasm had quickly won him over. He was happy to take this bright young man into the fold.

Once they were inside, Roberts introduced Will to the rest of the group and gave them a short synopsis of Will's recent run-in with the U.S. government. "Will just graduated with honors from the University of New Mexico," he added. "He says he will have to be gainfully employed to live, but he wants to spend the rest of his waking hours working to make Mississippi a free nation. I believe he can be a valuable asset. He certainly seems motivated, and with good reason."

Everyone expressed their sympathy for Will, and there were several derogatory remarks about the federal government and the Environmental Protection Agency in particular.

“I just want to make it clear,” said Will, “that I have been ready for your project for some time. When I was three years old, a horde of jack-booted DEA troops smashed in the door to our apartment and shot and killed my mother in cold blood, before they discovered that they were in the wrong apartment. With that background, unlike your average citizen, I was never predisposed to assume the federal government was anything other than what it is. The recent unpleasantness only served to further strengthen my desire to get out from under the yoke.”

Fox looked away, afraid she would tear up. What would she feel if they had smashed down her door and shot and killed her mother in cold blood? What would she feel about the “unpleasantness” of that same government taking her life savings? She shuddered to think of it.

“I want to thank you for allowing me to join you in whatever capacity I can help,” continued Will. “It is awe-inspiring to meet people that I have revered for so long. Even surpassing my awe is my joy that you are all libertarians. It is so gratifying to find that people you admire agree with you. It makes you admire them all the more, and it reinforces your convictions, making you feel better about yourself.”

Samuel Crowell patted Roberts on the back. “Nice young man,” he said, softly.

“Glad you approve,” said Roberts, with a smile of satisfaction.

Will felt at home, as he moved with the crowd into the great room. He sat on one of the several sofas, and was pleased when Claire Fox sat beside him.

"I wish it were possible to tell you how much I loved your speech at the Rally for Freedom," said Will.

"Thank you," said Fox. She was glad to find that the newcomer was dedicated enough to have attended the Rally for Freedom.

The FBI's intensification of surveillance of Claire Fox was the first subject taken up by the group. Palmer explained that he had made it appear that she had left the country.

"That worked once," said Palmer. "If they find out what we are up to, we can't expect it to work again. We need a way to keep them from coming after us, if that is possible."

"The only way to do that is not to be seen doing anything," said Fox.

"Is the only way to do that, not to do anything?" asked Kellis. "If you are going to build a country, you have to do a lot of work with a lot of people. How can you possibly do that and keep a low profile?"

"There you have a dilemma," said Crowell. "I would think that the leaders have to follow the example of the military. The generals are behind the lines, out of the range of the enemy's guns. They direct, by remote control, the actions of the troops at the front."

"We don't have any troops," said Palmer. "We have to recruit some before we have anyone to direct."

"What about all the people that stood up at the Rally?" asked Will. "Surely some of them were serious, serious enough to serve as your first troops."

"That's true," said Fox. "Out of the hundreds that stood up, there are surely some that are gung ho enough to go to Mississippi and help bring in others."

"That is an excellent suggestion," said Roberts, already feeling justified for having invited Will. "I told them to watch my column for further information. However, I would be hesitant to turn my column into a bulletin board for the new Mississippi. That would endanger me and through me, the rest of the group."

"Perhaps you could mention our project and refer people to our website," said Roger Benson. "That makes you supportive of the idea, but hardly directly involved. The trick is for us to set up a website and to keep the owners and operators of the website out of their gun sights. There are a handful of places offering anonymous web hosting. You don't give them any information about who you are and can pay by cash or anonymous money order. You can download your web page's content from anywhere. To keep it anonymous, you would use cybercafés, libraries, etc. Unless you develop a method of using a very large number of cybercafés and libraries over a large area, they would be able to eventually track you down. I have been thinking about this a lot. I think I've devised a strategy for getting the content to the website in a way that is difficult to track. When we want to send an article or whatever to our server to put on our web page, we will first encrypt it, break it into pieces, hide the pieces in pictures, and distribute these pictures to many other servers around the world. Our web page’s server will check all these servers periodically to see if there is anything new. If there is, our server will download it, reassemble the pieces, and after decryption, insert the new article in the web page. It shouldn't be difficult to have thousands of pictures on hundreds of servers, all of them belonging to people totally oblivious of our use of their content. If we can put some encrypted text or images in all or most of them, but we have a sure way of identifying our new text, even if the government should stumble onto what is going on, it would have an eternity of work, decrypting and trying to piece together enough evidence to find us. If the distributed servers have the type of website that invites others to post their photos, there will be so many records of people uploading pictures that they will not know who sent the ones they are interested in, as we will be continually downloading pictures from all over cyberspace, just to throw them off. Furthermore, we can set up several websites and let them mirror each other. Each one can assemble a portion of the total content pass it on to the others. They can exchange information and instructions, making analysis many times more difficult. I don't think you can get any better than that, and still have changing content on a website. Best of all, the technology is all there, already. Each step is quite simple; it is only the arrangement of the steps that is complex. All we have to do is devise a system for manipulating our data. And we need a few good hackers.”

"It sounds ingenious," said Palmer. "Nevertheless, nothing is perfect. Sooner or later, the government will figure out or guess that updates are being automatically downloaded by the computer, and make a list of every site the computer gets anything from."

"That’s for sure," said Benson. "But we will be pulling in bits and pieces of our data from hundreds of completely unrelated computers and getting many, many more decoy trash bits and pieces from the same places and many other places. We will get the real stuff from different places every time. It will be virtually impossible to figure out which is the true data and which is the decoy data. We can use the Louvre, in Paris, and the Prado Museum, in Madrid, for instance. Each has thousands of images of art. They get thousands of visitors every day. We could hack into them and hide real data and decoys in their images. We could even hack into the government computers and hide stuff in their images. It is as perfect as you can hope for."

"The government has almost unlimited resources," said Roberts.

"We will surely come up with other nuances," said Roger Benson. "This is merely the basic concept. Even if we called the FBI and told them what we were doing, they would be hard pressed to track us down. Mississippi would probably be a free nation before they found one of us that way. I would think there are many other ways in which we are at far greater risk of being caught."

"I don't understand it very well," said Crowell. "It sounds very complicated, but then I imagine that the complexity is part of what would make it work. Let us assume that we have a way to get our message to the people, at least to those who have Internet access. That alone isn't going to get many people to move to Mississippi. How are a handful of us, who want to remain hidden, going to get hundreds of thousands of people to uproot and move?"

"Obviously, we have to have people in the field to handle that work, at least to facilitate it," said Roberts. "Let us assume that a large number of people are convinced by our website. They have to have someone to contact and help them with logistics. We will need to know how many there are and where they are. Once they are here, they have to be organized to some degree."

"Derek and I have tossed that around a lot," said Fox. "We checked on the method used to ratify the US Constitution. When nine of the thirteen states had ratified the Constitution, it was considered in effect for those states that had ratified it. It said nothing about how the states were to ratify it. It left that pretty much up to the states. Ratification didn’t happen overnight; it took several years. Following a similar approach would help us a lot. We could work with counties, having each county ratify it, instead of the state as a whole, that way the process is simplified in many ways. With the communication we have today, it shouldn't take years, but could still take months. You can have a vote today in one county, a few days later, a second county, and so on. When two thirds or even a majority of the counties have ratified it, it could be considered adopted and in effect for those who have ratified it. If all the states hadn't ratified it, the ones failing to ratify the US Constitution would have remained separate nations. But they all eventually ratified it."

“I don't know if that would fly, “said Roberts. “ I would guess that the population is concentrated in a handful of counties, and they could be outvoted by far less people in a lot of sparsely populated counties."

"Exactly," said Palmer. "I'm sure the Founding Fathers had that in mind when they set up the ratification process for the Constitution. It would probably make sense to allow the counties that didn't ratify, the opportunity to remain part of the United States. We wouldn't want any involuntary citizens anyway. There are eighty-two counties in Mississippi. Close to a quarter of the people live in five counties. Two of those would be isolated if they remained part of the union. We certainly wouldn't want that. Another two of the five comprise two-thirds of what little coastline Mississippi has. The distribution of the population is such that we can get a majority in three-quarters of the counties with less than half the immigrants we need to get the whole state. If we were to lose those five most populous counties, it would be a shame, but getting eighty or ninety percent of the state is considerably better than not getting any of it. Besides, we would naturally work as hard as we could to get those five counties too."

 "If you have your most secure counties vote first," said Will, "you would come across as being on a winning streak, and the bandwagon effect would sway many people on the fence in the upcoming counties. With fifty-five counties, you have your two-thirds and you are in business. You would want your weakest counties to be the last ones to vote, following a record of wins. Furthermore, unless you get a unanimous vote, even in a small, secure county, you are going to have some involuntary citizens. If they are strongly enough opposed to being free, they can move out to another state. The same thing is true for the counties that don't want to be free. Start pushing the holdouts in those counties to move out, well in advance of the voting. The fact that you have already gotten your two-thirds should bring in a flood of new people wanting to live in a free nation. Try to pack those new people into the remaining counties. When you get a majority, they vote. That would follow the same type of timetable the thirteen original states followed. With any luck at all, you should get the whole state, not a fragmented one."

"Great ideas," said Fox. "I like the way you think, Will."

"Remember that I asked how we were going to handle the interaction with the immigrants and remain secret," said Crowell.

"We obviously need some representatives in Mississippi," said Masterson. "Probably at least one in each county. That would mean a minimum of eighty-two representatives."

"Probably a lot more than that," said Carla. "You need an office, a receptionist or secretary to answer the phone and greet visitors and at least one person beat the bushes for converts.”

"That might be the way to start," said Kellis. "As you grow, you can expand.”

"Don't forget about each immigrant trying to convert one or two people a year. Those people could be friends and relatives back home or they could be Mississippians," said Carla.

"It seems to me," said Will, "that the early immigrants, if that is what we are going to call them, are going to be people that are extremely passionate about their freedom. That would make them excellent candidates for volunteering for all sorts of posts. With couples, you get two for the price of one. In some cases, one spouse will work and the other might be free for volunteering."

“Still,” said Crowell, “even if you get all these representatives across Mississippi, you have to have direction and coordination, some sort of management at the top. When the government decides that we are a potential threat, they are going to go after the leaders, not the followers. Then the only way to keep from being ‘suicided’ by this administration is to remain unknown to them. Hiding is getting nearly impossible these days. How can we direct a large statewide organization and remain unknown?”

No one had any ideas for a reasonable answer to Crowell’s question. They decided to push on and work on that problem later.

"How are you going to recruit these representatives and control them?" asked Carol Benson. "Someone needs to be in charge of this, even though all of us are working toward that. Someone has to have contact with them. It seems that someone should be put in charge of every major task, or it is going to be chaotic."

"Mother is right," said Carla. "Everyone can’t be in charge of everything, and the representatives have to have someone to go to with questions and problems."

"Well said," said Crowell. "Why don't we make a list of the major tasks to be done and put one or more persons on each task? This young man," he put his arm around Will, "has put forth some excellent ideas. I think he will be good at planning or recruiting. That he is black is a plus. Once we become known, were everyone white, our opposition would call us white supremacists, wanting to make a segregated state. Right now, two of us are black. Thirty-six percent of Mississippians are black. William and I were against Mississippi at first, because of that. Derek and Claire convinced us that the black Mississippians were no more an obstacle than rednecks would be in another southern state. We can only hope that there are a great many young blacks out there that don't think it is wrong to use your head. Will, you can be a firebrand in that area. Young, open-minded people of all stripes can find something to look up to in you. Actually, so can old fogies such as me."

Embarrassed by the older man's praise. Will sputtered. "I don't see myself as a firebrand," he said, "but I'm here to do all that I can, to the best of my ability. That's all I can promise."

 

 

 Saturday evening, after dinner, they sat on the wide front porch, immersed in the tranquil beauty of their surroundings.

"You must miss this place when you are away from it, Ron," said Crowell. "It is such a wonderful tonic to me."

"I do miss it," said Kellis. "But I have a ranch in California too. Besides, I enjoy my work tremendously. I'm lucky to be happy just about all the time."

"I imagine there is more to that than luck," said Roberts. "I think your mindset is important. Some people could have an identical lifestyle and be constantly unhappy. Don't you think being happy is something you do, more than something that happens to you?"

"If I think about it, really think about it, I believe you are right," said Kellis. "I guess I never thought about it before."

"Speaking of that, maybe we should take the evening off, and enjoy ourselves," said Crowell. "We have had a very intense day."

"We only have tonight and tomorrow morning," said Fox, "before our time together is over. Maybe we had better take an hour off, instead."

"You're right, of course," said Crowell. "I concur."

"I love the way you talk," said Carla. "Anyone else would agree. You concur."

"There is a subtle difference," said Crowell. "If I agree, it might be reluctantly. If I concur, it is evident that I do so freely."

"Okay," said Carla. "Now, I concur, too."

"I'm sorry to interrupt our little intermission," said Will, "but I'm afraid I might forget this once we get involved in other things. Don’t you think we need a name for our project? We can't keep calling it the project, especially when we begin to sell it to prospective immigrants."

"I've thought of that several times," said Masterson.

It seemed everyone had thought of the need for a name, and some had even tried to come up with a suitable name, without significant success.

"The name is important," said Fox. "Not per se, but for what the opposition could do with it. You have to think of every possible way to distort and twist it."

A series of names were suggested: Mississippi Mine, Free Mississippi, Mississippians for Mississippi, The United Counties of Mississippi, Sovereign Mississippi, Sovereign Mississippians, Mississippi Sovereignty, Mississippi Freedom, and Take Back Mississippi.

"Nothing so far really grabs me," said Palmer. "I think a catchy acronym might be good too. Our opposition would have a field day with some of the ones we have considered, so far, if you think of their acronyms."

"I noticed that," said Will. "I also thought about the "Sovereign Mississippi" and Sovereign Mississippians," for acronyms. Certainly not for "SM" or "S and M, but as the first two letters of a longer acronym: S.M.A.R.T."

"That would be a great one," said Fox.

"Think of how we could use that in our campaign," said Masterson. “Are you S.M.A.R.T. yet? Find a S.M.A.R.T. person near you and learn to be S.M.A.R.T. Act S.M.A.R.T. Look S.M.A.R.T. Feel S.M.A.R.T. Be S.M.A.R.T. Join S.M.A.R.T. now."

"It's perfect," said Roberts. "You've done it, Will, if we can come up with the other three words."

It took them a while, but by the time their hour of "rest" was over they had a name for their project: "Sovereign Mississippians Against Repressive Tyranny" or S.M.A.R.T.

"I really feel good about this name," said Kellis. "I think it will help us tremendously. We didn't rest, but I feel better than I would have if we had rested."

"Strange," said Crowell. "So do I. I'd wager that our elation stems from the satisfaction of accomplishment."

"There you go again, Sam," said Carla.

"Sorry," said Crowell"

"Oh, don't be sorry. I love it," exclaimed Carla. "I only hope a little of it rubs off on me."

"Here we all go again," said Palmer, standing up. "We have work to do. S.M.A.R.T. work."

 

Sunday morning, at the breakfast table, Will said, “I had trouble going to sleep last night, thinking about Sam’s question about running the organization and remaining unknown.”

“Did you find a solution?” asked Crowell.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a solution,” said Will. “I have an idea. You know how some people might keep two sets of books, one for the Internal Revenue Service and one for themselves?”

“Yes,” said Crowell.

“What if we had two sets of leaders,” said Will, “one set for display purposes, and one to really run things? It would probably require some coordination, but it might be a way. The display management could appear ineffective, accomplishing little. They could keep phony records about how many people had joined the movement. It might fool the Feds, at least for some time. Meanwhile, the real management would be here in Tennessee, behind the lines, so to speak. There would have to be at least one or two at the top of the display management that were on both teams. They would implement the policy of the true management, and see to it that the illusion was preserved.”

“The display leaders could act like the leadership of the Libertarian Party,” said Fox. “They are a perfect model of leaders leading nowhere.”

“Or the puppets in Washington,” said Palmer, “doing the dirty work of whomever is pulling their strings.”

“It’s a fantastic concept,” said Crowell. “We must develop it more thoroughly to make sure it really is feasible. If S.M.A.R.T. appears to be open and above board, and sufficiently ineffectual, the Feds will think we’re just another bunch of kooks and leave us alone. The longer we could sustain that illusion, the better.”

Everyone agreed that it was a good idea. Unless it somehow proved unfeasible, they would go with it.

 

By the time the meeting broke up Sunday afternoon, they were satisfied with their accomplishments. They had a plan for progressively organizing chapters in each county, with representatives for every city, town, and community. They had identified what appeared to be the easiest counties, which could give them control of the State Senate and the fifty-five least populous counties that would cinch ratification. They would concentrate on these counties, progressing up the list in order of population. They knew that many people would want to live in or near major population centers. It was serendipitous that the two heavily populated counties on the short, but critical, coastline would be attractive to a great many people, including most of those in their group. They absolutely had to have some coastline.

The recruiting effort was assigned to Will Hastings, which would make him the most visible person in the organization. As Roberts had publicly suggested the project at the Rally for Freedom and promised to do what he could to bring it about, he had become inextricably identified with S.M.A.R.T. Will and Roberts would be the display leadership, for the time being, with Roberts as the apparent leader of the movement and Will as his second in command. Later, they would add more people. Recruiting was a major task, requiring a lot of people. Part of Will’s initial job would be to recruit more recruiters.

Drafting a constitution fell to Samuel Crowell, with William Roberts, Clyde Masterson and Ron Kellis assisting him. Roberts, being an economist, was a natural for devising a monetary system for the new nation and developing plans for attracting business to Mississippi in anticipation of its secession. Roberts, Crowell and Fox would come up with ideas for the transition from a state to an independent nation. Masterson was in charge of fund-raising, with Kellis helping him.

Members of the National Rifle Association were all too familiar with the government's campaign against the Second Amendment, Fox had pointed out. "Give any of them three guesses as to why the government wanted to disarm the people,” she said, “and not one of their guesses will involve public safety. A lot of people in the NRA don't own a gun, never owned a gun, and may never own one, but they cherish their right to own one, and know what can happen without that right. Surely, they are good prospects for us."

Kellis pounced on that suggestion. It turned out that he was very active in the NRA. Charlton Heston, the famous previous head of the NRA had been a close friend of his. He would set about making sure that their six million members were well aware of S.M.A.R.T. Will Hastings saw NRA members, with their greater concern for freedom, as ideal candidates for the new nation. There were probably fifty to a hundred thousand NRA members in Mississippi, many or most of whom would probably support S.M.A.R.T. There was also a state organization, the Mississippi State Firearm Owners Association that Kellis would be in contact with. From the NRA's national membership, they could conceivably attract that many or more as immigrants.

Roger Benson was in charge of communications and information technology in general. Carol Benson was going to be a sort of secretary cum director of documentation and information. She would coordinate, with her husband's technical assistance, a S.M.A.R.T. website. She would keep all their records, as long as it was possible for one person to do it. Roger Benson would see to the security of their records, which was essential given the expected government campaign against them.

Palmer was in charge of security and defense. When he had brought the topic up, he was asked to take charge of gathering intelligence as well. Roberts had mentioned Jansen's visit, and Palmer had taken Jansen's card. "If he’s trustworthy," he said, "he could be invaluable as an undercover agent in the FBI. First, we have to determine whether we can trust him."

Fox, Roberts, and Hastings were a troika or committee of three, in charge of S.M.A.R.T. Roberts, Crowell, and Fox were to put the S.M.A.R.T. philosophy into words, both formally and informally. Theirs was the significant task of putting on paper the reasons for the secession and a plan for achieving it. Everyone was encouraged to make suggestions to anyone in charge of anything. They wanted all the ideas they could get.

Will Hastings brought up the fact that he had to work for a living, but had been searching for something that would take as little time as possible from the project. He was considering setting up an online real estate business, with a comprehensive database of real estate for sale in Mississippi. He was already working on a Mississippi Real Estate license, which he jokingly commented would still be necessary, at least temporarily. From the others, he got several helpful suggestions. It was agreed that since this would facilitate immigration, they would link to his site from the S.M.A.R.T. site. When Roger Benson promised to give him a hand with his website, Will insisted on paying him, if only at a future date, when he had made some money.

 

 

Fox, Palmer, and Carla were sitting on the porch, relaxing after the last visitor's car had disappeared. Leaning back in her rocking chair, Fox said, "I think we had a great session. What do you think, Derek?"

"It was wonderful," he said. "It’s hard to believe we accomplished as much as we did. We've reached the point that real progress can be made on a continuous basis and not just during our meetings. Everyone has his job to do, and we don't need a committee to accomplish every little thing."

“I was really impressed with Will,” said Fox. “He came up with some brilliant suggestions. Much of the progress we made this weekend is because of him.”

“For a newcomer, we piled a lot of responsibility on him,” said Palmer. “But I don’t think we overloaded him specifically. Everybody has more than enough to do.”

"Carla doesn't have a job to do," said Fox, glancing toward the young woman.

Carla shrugged her shoulders. "I know I'm on the fringe here. I don't have any assignment. I'm not really a part of things. I feel like I should be. At the same time, I feel that I shouldn't. Intellectually, I have no problem with the libertarian position on anything. Emotionally, it's another story. Yet, I can't come up with any sensible criticism of libertarianism. What do you think is happening to me?"

"The mind is like a computer," said Fox. "You let others program it for you, and it does what they want it to do, meaning that you believe what they want you to believe. Now, you are realizing that your beliefs are erroneous, and you are reluctantly beginning to reprogram. It'll take time. I know what you feel. I've been there. We will go through the most complex, mental gymnastics to avoid admitting that our basic beliefs are wrong, no matter how completely obvious it is. Just think about the Germans under Hitler, rationalizing a list of horrors; the white supremacists, believing that the color of their skin somehow makes them superior; the Church burning people at the stake for witchcraft, or perhaps for claiming that the earth went around the sun; and countless other instances throughout history. Sure, we know now how irrational these positions are, but those who held them were passionate in their beliefs, often passionate enough to fight to the death for them."

"Just be thankful for your enlightenment; even though we all know what a mixed blessing it is," said Palmer. "You're an intelligent woman, Carla, with virtually unlimited potential, I imagine that you always thought of yourself as being liberated, free, emancipated, so to speak. Suddenly, you’re facing the fact that there are considerable constraints placed on how you can live the one life you have and limitations on how much of your potential you may be permitted to realize. Since you cherished your independence so passionately, discovering that it's an illusion has to be disconcerting, to say the least. More likely, it's overwhelming. You may not know what you want to do with your life, but you want to be the one to decide what you do or don't do with it. It is disturbing to find that others, not you, have control over far too many aspects of your life. Even worse, you are probably feeling a little humiliated for having essentially collaborated with your oppressors, no matter how unknowingly, thinking that you should have known better. The evidence was there for anyone to see. All you had to do was look. No one likes to feel foolish."

"Libertarian philosophy seems so unfeeling. It seems to have no concern for the poor and downtrodden," said Carla. "I think that is my biggest problem with it."

"First of all," said Fox, “whether something is right or wrong should not be related to a person's net worth. Something is right or it is wrong. It is wrong to steal. It is wrong to rape. It may be someone's desire to steal or rape, but that doesn't make it right. Strangely, that simple fact is lost on the majority of people. They think that because they desire something, getting it or doing it is right, especially if a lot of people desire it.”

"Liberals have a tendency to think short term, and what they see as their good deeds often turn out to be bad. Suppose in some nice little city, there is a large parcel of land at the edge of town. A rich man comes to town, with the intention of building a factory. He makes a fair offer on the parcel of land.  The city decides it wants to build a homeless shelter there, so they take the land or, at best, pay the owner a fraction of the amount the rich man offered, and build the shelter. Is that right?"

"To a point," said Carla. "The owner had it all to himself. He probably has lots of money and won’t suffer. A lot of people benefit from the homeless shelter."

"Bad thinking, Carla," said Fox. "The land belonged to the owner. The government thieves stole it from him. The homeless benefited from the theft and so become immoral recipients of stolen property, as well as homeless. The ones who derive the most benefit from it are the contractors who built the shelter at atrociously inflated prices, the people that run it for obscene profits, and the politicians who receive kickbacks from the contractors and managers. These politicians are the ones probably responsible for the plight of most of the homeless, anyway.  On the other hand, the rich man would have purchased the property at a fair price. The factory that he built would have given honest employment to a few hundred people, who in turn would give work to the commercial enterprises in the area, the shoemakers, the butchers, the bakers, the barbers, the kids that mow lawns, and so on. The local businesses pick up and add jobs. The whole town benefits. The owner may have had money yes; he may have had a lot of municipal bonds and now he has to sell them to have income. He sells them below market to get rid of them. The city now has to up the interest on their new bonds or no one will buy them. Taxes must go up on all the citizens of the city to pay the higher interest rates. Facing higher taxes, small borderline businesses lay off people. It goes on and on. One case expands the perfidy of its wrong, while the other expands honest benefit. Yet, your beliefs led you to choose the one with the least good to society. However, the good to society should never have been the yardstick. Such good is impossible to measure objectively, as we have just seen. Short-term benefits often bring long-term disaster, while short-term disaster may bring long-term benefits. An act should be judged on its own merits, not on the benefits to a select group."

"How do you do that?" asked Carla.

"If it initiates violence against anyone, or anyone's property, it is wrong," said Fox. "You can't get much simpler than that. Although there are always those who will try to find a hypothetical case in which any action possible will initiate violence against someone and say, ‘see your idea is no good.’ But that same ploy can be used against any idea. A rational being will take the best there is and go with it, knowing that perfection is unattainable. With this rule, you know that rape is wrong. Slavery is wrong. Stealing is wrong. Killing is wrong, except in self-defense. It is the initiation of violence that is wrong, not the response to violence initiated by another. The initiation of violence is wrong, no matter who does it and no matter for what reason. It certainly makes no difference how many vote to commit the wrong. Voting cannot make a wrong right. Little by little, you will see that the universal application of this simple rule would result in the maximum benefit for all mankind, because it benefits every single individual. Mankind is composed of individuals. The minute you permit the loss of one person's rights, it is only a matter of time before there is a second, a third and so on, until only the mighty have any rights to speak of. If the candidates for political office were honest, they would never get elected, because they would have to say they want to be elected so they can order people about, rule them, control them, redistribute the people's money to themselves and their friends, manipulate the rules and regulations, and whatever other skullduggery they have in mind. It is exceedingly rare, if it ever happens, that a politician seeks office in order to increase individual liberty. In essentially all cases, they are anxious to decrease our liberty, if not do away with it altogether."

"You make it sound almost hopeless," said Carla.

"It is almost hopeless," said Fox. "Mississippi is possibly our last chance."

Palmer broke in on their discussion. "You were a liberal, Carla. Liberals tend to operate on the basis of feelings, as opposed to facts. They feel it is right to be Robin Hoods, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. What if we moved the poorest family in America to millionaire status, and we still had a spread like we have now, meaning that some families were multibillionaires, with a few trillionaires. Would you still want to rob the trillionaires and give to the 'poor' millionaires?" I think not. At what point would the robbery that you see as right become wrong. How well off must the poorest person be, before stealing is no longer justified? Who should make this decision? If the poorest make it, the robbery will always be right, and you know it. The poor in the America, today, are rich compared to the poor in other times. In fact, they are better off than most of the wealthy and all the middle class in previous times. Yet, according to the government and most liberals, they are so poor as to justify stealing from those better off. You have to see that this will never end."

"There is a lot more to it than meets the eye," said Carla. "I have had so much of my life turned upside down, lately. I feel so confused. I don't even know what I think."

 "It's a big step to go from evaluating people by what they feel, or say they feel, to evaluating them on what they actually do,” said Palmer. “It is going from the unrealistic to the realistic. It’s going from dreams to reality. Where all is but dream, reasoning and arguments are of no use, truth and knowledge nothing. Once you begin living in the real world, reasoning and arguments begin to fill your thoughts. Truth and knowledge become so very important.” He noticed Fox staring at him with a puzzled look on her face. He wondered if he had said something foolish. But he went on. “It may affect not only the way you evaluate others, especially politicians, but the way you see yourself. So many people pat themselves on the back because they feel sorry for someone. That feeling does no good for them or for the ones that they feel sorry for. How many people tend to measure the merits of their life by what they feel about things or people, not by what they do? Far too many, I would guess."

"I guess I was one of them," said Carla. "I could still be one."

"Yes you could," said Fox, "If the transition or the disillusionment is too much for you, you could forever be one. Let us hope not."

"I doubt it seriously," said Palmer. "I don't see how you could stick your head back in the sand, after seeing how much you have been missing."

"I was so happy missing it," said Carla. She hesitated a moment. "God, that was a stupid thing to say, wasn't it." She laughed. "Bear with me. I may grow up yet."

"Something tells me you just did," said Fox.

 

When Carla went on her way, Fox said, “You really surprised me with that quote from Locke.”

“What quote?”

“Come on. You had it word for word. I know Locke. You started in mid-sentence, but you got all the necessary parts.”

“I still don’t know what you mean.”

“’Where all is but dream, reasoning and arguments are of no use, truth and knowledge nothing.’ That is John Locke. I read a lot of him when I started thinking like a libertarian. Should I say when I started thinking, period?”

“Is that who said it? It just popped into my mind. Don’t know where it came from, but I like it.” He smiled broadly.

“You surprise me, Derek Palmer. Still waters run deep they say. What other secrets are you hiding?”

“I’m an open book,” he said.

“From where I opened the book in Santa Fe, I know what has happened. Sometimes I wonder what happened in the earlier chapters of the book.”

“In due time,” said Palmer. “In due time.”


 

Chapter Seven

Three Weeks Later

Late Friday Afternoon

Byram, Mississippi

 

Will Hastings pulled into the circular driveway in front of an impressive southern, colonial house. He looked around. This looked like a perfect place to live. Big trees lined the street. The houses were stately, but not ostentatious. The lawns were nice, but natural. There were a couple of kids playing ball in the street, further down the block. It was an upscale, residential neighborhood, probably the best part of town. This particular house belonged to William Carter, a doctor, recommended to Will as a likely candidate for heading up a chapter in Hinds County. As Will walked up the wide steps to the front door, a bower of roses beside the steps filled the air with a sweet perfume. He leaned over one of the roses to savor it. Roses were not something Will was accustomed to, although he thought that he would like to be. He rapped the shiny brass door knocker. In a few seconds, the front door opened.

A slender, half-bald man, of medium height, with short, curly hair and a thin mustache flashed a smile and said, "Will Hastings?"

"None other," said Will, extending his hand.

"Billy Carter," said the man. "Come on in, Will." He looked at his watch. "Jamie told me you were punctual, and you certainly are. Right on the money."

"I try to be," said Will, with an instantaneous survey of what he could see of the house as he entered. "No one likes to sit around waiting for someone. I know I don't." He saw a well-dressed, heavy-set, middle-aged man standing inside.

"This is Buck," said Carter. "Buck Smith. Buck, this is Will Hastings. I hope you don't mind me asking Buck over. He and I are almost brothers, and we agree on 'most everything. Buck's the best attorney in Mississippi, so they say. He could be a great asset to your cause, if you can get him on your side."

"Glad to meet you, Buck," said Will, shaking the man's hand. "We need all the help we can get."

"Since it's such a pleasant afternoon, I thought we would sit outside in the gazebo," said Carter. "Is that okay?"

"Fine with me," said Will.

 Carter led them into the dining room. Two attractive women wearing aprons came out of the kitchen, into the dining room.

"Will, this is my wife, Stella," said Carter, "and this is Caroline Smith, Buck's wife. They are putting together a little dinner for us. You will stay for dinner, won't you Will?"

"I don't want to put you out," said Will.

"Don't be silly," said Stella Carter. "We have to eat anyway, and one more person at the table is not putting us out at all. Won't be anything fancy. Just plain ol' southern food."

"I'd be happy to have dinner with you," said Will. "So far, all the plain ol' southern food I have had has been delicious. The only two places I ever lived until recently are Philadelphia and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The college cafeteria in Santa Fe seemed to specialize in vegetarian meals. I ate a lot of them, but was never crazy about them. People there don't know what they are missing."

Carter led them through a pair of French doors onto a deck, down a wide stairway, into a pleasantly landscaped backyard, and across to a large gazebo covered with more climbing roses. There was a round, glass-top, wrought iron table in the gazebo with six wrought iron chairs.

"Sit here, Will," said Carter. "You'll have the best view."

"I think I'd be happy with any view from here," said Will, easing into the chair and marveling at the view. "You have such a beautiful place. I think I just fell in love with your backyard."

 "Thank you," said Carter, grinning appreciatively. "We like being outdoors, so we put about as much emphasis on the outside as we do the inside."

"Jamie told us a little about what you are trying to do here in Mississippi," said Buck Smith, sitting down on the left side of Will. "While nobody would be happier to see you succeed than I would be, I don't think there's a chance in Hell of you pulling it off."

"What makes you say that?" asked Will.

"There are too many things against you," said Smith. "This is Mississippi. Mississippi is a laid-back place. I really mean laid-back. It takes a lot to get people to do damned near anything, much less something as far-reaching as this. Then too, thirty-six percent of Mississippians are poorly educated blacks. They are going to be extremely hard to convince and even if you could convince them, virtually impossible to motivate to actually do something. Probably another thirty-six percent of Mississippians are rednecks, just as poorly educated, just as hard to convince and just as hard to motivate. That means that about three quarters of Mississippians are bordering on being lost causes."

"Wow," exclaimed Will. "Right off the bat, you have certainly convinced me that taking Mississippi out of the Union and making it separate nation is the best thing that could possibly happen for the Mississippians. If the current situation has resulted in three quarters of them being what you call "lost causes", you are looking at a monumental tragedy."

"We certainly agree that it is needed," said Carter.

"But being needed doesn't make it viable," said Smith. “The very things that make it needed are precisely the things that make it unlikely to happen."

"I certainly understand your position," said Will. "There was a time, just a few years ago, when I would probably have taken the same position. There was a time when I thought being black meant you were beaten before you began, so there was no use in beginning. Fortunately, one day, something clicked in my brain, and I somehow realized that the way I perceived my reality created my reality. While my actual situation was anything but ideal, as are most situations, but hardly insurmountable, my attitude made it insurmountable. I could not accomplish anything because I sincerely believed that I couldn't. While believing that you can may not guarantee that you will accomplish something, believing that you can't does just about guarantee that you will not be able to do it. I may not be a great success, yet. But I'm still young, and I intend to be a great success. I have gone from an ignorant, angry black youth, with no ambition, to a man with a degree in Business Administration, a budding real estate business of my own, and virtually unlimited ambition. Yet, nothing changed, but me. Once I changed though, almost everything else changed. I don't believe everyone or everything was against me. But even if they were, just being against one's self is the kiss of death. By converting just a single person to my side, myself, I changed my life completely.

"I sincerely believe that nearly every black person, redneck, and whatever in Mississippi has it in him or her to do anything that he or she can manage to dream about. As things stand now, they are constantly being brainwashed into believing they can't do anything on their own, that they need to be taken care of, as if they were mentally retarded. Of course, the government is there, proclaiming to be ready and willing to take care of them, look out for them, and even--no, especially, to think for them. The government has to hold the people back in every way it can. The government loves its big voting block of ‘poor’ whose vote 'authorizes' the government's confiscation of trillions of dollars a year. If the poor were to become successful, they would vote against the current system.

"Well, gentlemen, you and I know better, because we have done a little thinking on our own. Isn't getting people to put down their mental crutches and take a few mental paces on their own all it takes to see through the snake oil spiel that the people are inundated with. I have done it. You two have done it. We are three black people who have done it. Most people can do it, no matter what color they are. We only need fifty-one percent of them, and we are bringing in hundreds of thousands of people that have already cranked up their brains and discovered the joy of thinking. If we have to, we will bring in enough to outnumber those that can't think or won't think. One way or the other, we are going to do it. Personally, I think more highly of Mississippians than most of them think of themselves. I mean all Mississippians, black, redneck and whatever. They are human beings, which, by definition, have the ability to reason. Granted, many of them may not be in the habit of using that ability.

“I believe that one of the most important things we have to do is make thinking the ‘in’ thing to do. When the ‘in’ thing to do was to be honest and moral, most people were honest and moral. I have it on good authority that a few generations ago, people actually left their cars and their houses unlocked. People walked around at night without fear of being mugged or robbed, even in major metropolitan areas--even in New York City."

"That's true," said Smith. "Things really started deteriorating in the sixties. In a period of about twenty years, America went from a safe place to a dangerous place, at least in the large cities. The small towns took a little longer, for some reason."

"If a change for the worse can occur that rapidly, why couldn't a change for the better take place just as quickly?" asked Will. "Logic tells you that to get the right effect, all you need are the right causes, just as it tells you that the wrong effect is due to the wrong causes."

Buck Smith slapped Will on the back. "Damn, I love talking with someone like you, Will. It does my heart good. My mind rejoices."

They talked on and on, until Stella Carter came to tell them that dinner was ready.

"Wow," said Carter, as they entered the dining room. "We were at it for an hour and a half. It sure didn't seem like that long."

"We must have been having fun," said Will, "if there's anything to that expression."

"I was having fun," said Smith. “Well, here's my baby." Taking a tall, long-haired, young woman by the arm, he said, "Trisha, meet my new friend, Will Hastings. Will, my daughter, Trisha. Will has given Billy and me an hour and a half-long intellectual rush. I can't recall when my brain has had such a good time, if it ever has. Trisha, here, is no dummy, Will. She may end up on the Supreme Court. I admit to being a bit biased, but she is mowing them down in law school."

"Maybe she will be on the Supreme Court in the new nation," said Will. "That might be a lot more satisfying. I know it would be for me"

"What new nation are you talking about?" asked Trisha.

"We'll tell you all about it over dinner," said Smith.

Over dinner, Carter and Smith gave their wives and Trisha an overview of S.M.A.R.T. and covered the highlights of their discussion with Will. Buck Smith repeated, word for word, Will's statement that "Logic tells you that to get the right effect, all you need are the right causes, just as it tells you that the wrong effect is due to the wrong causes."

"That may sound like a simple or even obvious concept," said Smith, "but it seems to be so darn difficult for everyone, especially all politicians to see. Armed with that concept, it is clear that if you keep doing the same thing, you keep getting the same results. But when you get right down to it, most of the world's problems and individual's problems as well, are a result of people being unable to realize and accept that simple fact. I thank you, Will, for bringing it to my attention. Sometimes, it seems that the more obvious something is, the sharper one has to be to notice it."

Trisha watched Will. He was oblivious, she thought, of the accolade implicit in her father's remarks. Her father was a man with very high standards. He seldom had words of praise for anyone. But, of course, Will had no way of knowing that. He had no idea how honored he was.

When dinner was over and dessert and coffee were served, Buck Smith leaned over the table, toward Will, and announced, "You can count me in, Will Hastings. You have a tough row to hoe, and you might not make it, but I know that you will give it your all. I want you to know that I will give it my all, too. The goal is well worth the risk, and then some. How about you, Billie?" He turned and looked at Carter.

 "I'm game, if you are," said Carter. "Like you say, it won't be easy. Far from it. But if it works. Oh, boy. We’ll have paradise on earth. I think there's a chance. There might not be that many of us here now. But a lot of people in this country will go for it. If enough of those people come to Mississippi, it can happen. What do you think, Stella?"

"I've been sitting here wondering how I would feel living in a country that was completely free, or as close to being completely free as you can get and still have some security," said Stella Carter. "I think it would be so wonderful. But I think that even if you got enough votes to get a majority wanting to do it, you would still have problems with the Federal Government. I seem to recall that they weren’t exactly anxious to let the South secede. What makes you think they will sit still for it now, from a single state?"

"I don't think they will exactly sit still for it," said Will. "None of us think that. We are counting on diplomacy and public opinion to make the difference. They wouldn't let the South go before because the South was paying almost all of the taxes that were being paid at that time. There was no income tax, and the only taxes were excise taxes on exports and imports. The North had nothing to export and imported very little. The South did the vast majority of the exporting, mostly agricultural products, especially cotton, and so paid the vast majority of the taxes. Mississippi is a relatively poor state. It has a small population. The Feds might be happy to get rid of all the dissidents in one fell swoop. We can hope for that. Barring an amicable settlement, we have to be prepared for the worst. There is a group working on that, right now. We want to have some way of making it extremely costly to attack us. That's about all I can say. We have to make the cost way out of proportion to the value of keeping Mississippi in the Union. I have confidence that we will have such a way, when the time comes."

"Well, we know that anything worth having requires paying a price," said Buck Smith. "Everything about it will be difficult. Hinds County is going to be the toughest county in Mississippi. It has about ten percent of the people of Mississippi. It will be a big job."

"No doubt about it," said Will. "Jackson has a hundred and eighty-four thousand, and seventy percent are black. You will need a lot of help. The other chapters are trying to get somebody in each town or community. But Jackson’s size and demographics puts it in a class by itself."

"Billy and I can come up with a team," said Smith. “I know a lot of people. Naturally, most of the blacks I know are Democrats. Almost everyone I know is either a Democrat or a Republican, but there are a few here and there that I think might be our kind of people: people that think like us, but are a Democrat or Republican because they feel there is really no other choice. We’ll go after them first. If we need some help, we will let you know. You say you have a high-powered black mind in your group. We might need to ask for suggestions, if we strike out with our candidates."

"Whatever happens, keep me posted," said Will. "Don't let it get bogged down. You know too, that once this becomes a real threat to the status quo, anyone connected with it may be targeted. We hope to set up the organization, and make it huge and comprehensive, before we take off. Right now, just form your team. If we start with a big group, it will be much more difficult for the establishment to combat us. If we come out with only a handful, they can blow us away, and no one will ever know about us. So don't go spreading the word openly until we give you the go ahead. When we have chapters in all the counties, and they have some organization and we all have plans, we will hit the ground running and get all the people we can, before the opposition knows what happened. We want to be so big by then that we are a force to be reckoned with. Understand?"

They understood and would act accordingly.

Will stood up. “I’ll have to be leaving,” said Will. “I want to thank you all on behalf of S.M.A.R.T. for your support. I want to thank you on behalf of Will Hastings for your warm friendship, hospitality, and a meal that I will always remember. It may be plain ol’ southern food to you all, but to me it was plain ol’ delicious. I have thoroughly enjoyed myself, and when I say thoroughly, I mean right to the core. Today, I think I have, for the first time, realized the difference between a house and a home. To top off my day, I had my first meeting with the lovely young lady that we all expect to be at least a justice on the Supreme Court of the nation of Mississippi, if not the Chief Justice. Thank you all.”

The next few minutes were spent with Carter and Smith taking turns shaking Will’s hand and putting an arm around his shoulder, followed by the women hugging him and kissing him on the cheek.

“Before I forget,” said Will. “Everyone here knows it is necessary to educate people about freedom, how important it is, and the cost of not having it. The only reason people let themselves be victimized is that they don’t know it’s happening and or they don’t know what to do about it. I think most of them just need a nudge to get their mind running, although some may need to be pushed a few miles. Don’t let an opportunity to spread the word go by. If it isn’t important to you, who do know the score, how can you expect it to be important to those that don’t? Read up on it. Get on the Internet and get the real news. Talk about it among yourselves. Be able to hold your own in a discussion. Don’t fight with people over it, but when you find someone with an open mind, fill it up with the right ideas. Stress common sense, morality, honesty, which, when you get right down to it, is the substance the libertarian philosophy is made of. Only a lack of knowledge or a lot of rationalization can twist morality to fit any other political stance.”

“Will,” said Buck Smith, “I can’t tell you how good it makes me feel to see someone your age thinking like you do. Most people, if they ever get that far at all, are my age or older by the time they reach it. God Bless you and your project, Will Hastings.”

“Our project,” said Will.

 

***

 

 "Sit down, Joe," said George Kingston. "I haven't seen you for a while."

"Quite a while," said Joseph Jansen. "Congratulations on your promotion, George.”

"Thank you. You know you would have had this spot, if you had followed my advice. The Bureau isn't the Boy Scout organization that it once was. If you want to get ahead, you have to get rid of all those old-fashioned ideas that you have. Think of yourself as a weapon for the government. They point you at something, and you lock on and go after it, for all you're worth. If you stop to wonder if what you are doing is right, you'll never get ahead."

"Don't you ever wonder if you are doing the right thing, George?"

"At the beginning, I suppose I did. When we took the big turn from protecting the people to protecting the government, I used to say, 'Hey, this isn't what we are supposed to be doing.' But it didn't take me long to see that it was what my boss was pushing for, and his boss, and his boss's boss, right up to the President and the Congress. Hell, something like that obviously comes from the top down. Just look at the way they are running the country. It didn’t take long to understand that it was either get out of the bureau and go to work for some security agency, or go with the flow and rise to the top. I tried going with the flow, and it was easy. I think humans are inclined to do whatever it takes, without any reservations. I know I am. Anyway, as you can see, it paid off. How about you, Joe? Are you ready to give it your all?"

"I do have to admit that it paid off for you," said Jansen. He had to appear to believe this drivel, if he wanted to keep his job. Now that he was working undercover for S.M.A.R.T., he had to try to keep in a position to find out all that he could about the government's strategy against Mississippi. "I really want to. I know I've been held back by my beliefs, and I want to do all that I can to build new ones. I don't know if I can ask this of you now that you are my boss, but I would appreciate it if you would give me a hard assignment and even more if you would nudge me once in a while if you see me being held back by my old ways."

"Of course you can ask that of me. I'm still your friend, Joe. Even more so, given that new attitude. I'll give you a bit of advice now and then, if I think you need it. The best advice I can give you up front is to think of yourself as a robot, programmed to accept an assignment and to carry it out as if it were the only thing that ever entered your mind. Above all, don't consider the morality of your assignment. If you are sent to blow up an orphanage, you just blow it up, and don't worry about it."

"I don't know if I can keep from worrying about blowing up an orphanage, George. But I will try to blow it up, even though I'm concerned about it. Courage is not wanting to do something and doing it anyway. That's the way I'll go about it. Maybe, with practice, I'll learn not to be concerned about the right and wrong of what I do. I hope so. I suppose there are usually overriding circumstances that they don't tell me about. After all, they never tell us why we have to do things, just to do them."

"Practice makes perfect," said Kingston. "How is it going with those libertarians that want to take over Mississippi?”

“They’re still just a handful of people with no money and not much of a plan,” said Jansen. “They are attracting a few people here and there, but you know they need a million to get anywhere.”

“How many do you think they have now?”

“Not more than fifty or sixty, including the founders. But they have only been at it for a short time.”

“How would you like to join them? Live with them and keep an eye on them for a while. It sounds like they aren’t going anywhere, but I hear Friedman and Bridges want us to keep an eye on them. We’ll set up a way for you to keep us up to date, and we’ll cut you loose.”

“I don’t know that they are big enough to get anywhere,” said Jansen, “But if the head of Fatherland Security wants to monitor them, I don’t think we have much choice.”

“You’ve got that right,” said Kingston. “Are they still looking to take over Mississippi and secede?”

“As far as I know,” said Jansen. “Of course, I should know a lot more after I join them.”

“The powers that be don’t look too kindly on secession.”

"I don’t imagine they would,” said Jansen. ”Abraham Lincoln took a fairly dim view of it when the southern states wanted to leave the union."

"Today, you can bet they’ll stop it before it gets that far. It’s such a crackpot idea that nobody thinks they have any chance of getting their plan off the ground. Keep an eye on them though. Maybe you can work your way up in their organization. If they are that small and don’t have any money, anyone that is willing to do a lot of the work can probably move up in a hurry. If you can get to the point that you can influence their policy, you can make sure they don’t get too successful. As long as they stay just a bunch of kooks, they’re okay. They even provide a safety valve for a handful of whackos that might otherwise join some other more dangerous group. If they ever start accomplishing anything, something will have to be done about them."

“I’ll have to think up a good cover that allows me to have a steady income without working. Since I don’t think they have any funding at all, they aren’t going to pay me.”

“Figure it out, Joe, and set it up. If you need any authorization, just let me know. By the way, find out how they update their web site.”

“I didn’t know they had one.”

“Fatherland Security routinely checks out all anonymous web sites. Anyone who wants to remain unknown is immediately suspicious. Your guys just started one a couple of weeks ago. They keep posting stuff on it, but our guys can’t see it coming in, so they can’t trace it to its source. These guys must be pretty savvy about the Internet.”

“A lot of people are," said Jansen. "They could be pulling your leg, George. What if they put in a bunch of phony updates on the site when they set it up? They program it to update itself. You would think they were doing it and drive yourself nuts trying to figure out how they are doing it. The whole thing could be a hoax, just to pull our chain. But, if it's for real, they could be waiting until they think you will have essentially given up, and then they might start sending in the real updates in ways you would have already checked for and eliminated.”

"That’s pretty shrewd thinking, Joe. Check it out. If they don't have any references to things that they couldn’t have known about ahead of time, you could be right. Anyway, just join them, find out about them, and keep me posted."

"Do you have a file on them?"

"I'll get you full access on everything related to them, ASAP. Keep these whackos under control, Joe, and you'll get a ton of brownie points. We need dossiers on the masterminds. If the group ever becomes a threat, then we’ll take out the leaders and the peons will fade away.”

A few minutes later, after some small talk, Jansen went to his office. While he waited for access to the files on the Mississippi Sedition Case, as the FBI called it, he contemplated how he might approach this new assignment. It would certainly facilitate his awareness of the government's knowledge about those people running S.M.A.R.T. and of the government's plans to combat the project. On the other hand, he would be expected to make some positive contributions or he would be off the project and perhaps suspect himself. Positive contributions to the FBI could, of course, mean potential harm to his new associates in Mississippi. It was going to be difficult, to say the least.

 

***

 

Sunday morning, Will was back in Jackson, having spent Saturday in Canton, a city of about thirteen thousand, about twenty-five miles north of Jackson, recruiting a leader for a S.M.A.R.T. chapter there. He had just attended services in an all black church in Jackson and went outside to mingle a bit, never wanting to miss an opportunity to expand the S.M.A.R.T. Network or spread the smart philosophy.

"Hello, Will," said Buck Smith. "Surprised to see you here, this morning."

Will turned to see Smith approaching him. "Hello, Buck. I'm surprised to see you, too. I didn’t see anyone that I knew inside."

"I wasn’t inside. I'm here to meet a colleague. He and I are going to breakfast. I hope to bring him in with us. Here he comes now. Let me introduce you." As a tall, slender, man, with short white hair, approached, he said, "Come here, James. This is Will Hastings, the young man I told you about. Will, this is James Talbot, the best lawyer I ever knew. He’s retired now, and he has written a few articles that I'm sure you would enjoy."

"I'm very happy to meet you, Will Hastings," said Talbot, shaking Will's hand with a firm grip that belied his apparent age. "If you are trying to do all that Buck tells me and for the reasons he gave me, I have to say that it revives hopes I had long ago given up on. You are up against the greatest force the world has ever known. Make that greatest forces, for if the virtually omnipotent government weren't enough, you have the almost hopeless task of convincing a populace of spineless, mindless jellyfish to unite and stand up to the awesome engine of coercion that controls the land of the weak and the home of the slave."

"But after that, it's all downhill," said Will. He looked beyond Talbot at an attractive young woman, standing by the church door, with a young man about her own age and an older man who seemed to be lecturing the pastor.

Talbot broke out in a loud laughter. "Good answer, Will Hastings. Unfortunately, I'm no spring chicken. I would give anything to live to see your dream come true, but then, I'm old enough not to be reticent about risking my neck by standing up to Big Brother Sam, the illegitimate spawn of the benevolent, old Uncle Sam of my youth. Therefore, anything this old man can do to help you, just let me know. Over there are some young men that should meet you, since they are sure to be hearing about you soon." He motioned to a group of well-dressed, young men not far from them.

"Since James retired," said Smith, "He's taken to mentoring a few bright, young, black law students. He also gives some of them a hand, financially. James is a good man. I am proud to be his friend."

"I'm very selective about who I help," said Talbot. "All the young men I am mentoring now or have mentored in the past will be seriously interested in your project, Mister Hastings."

The young men came and joined their group. After introductions, they began discussing S.M.A.R.T. The young men had a lot of questions, and Will answered most of them, with Talbot and Smith injecting comments. Will was aware of the attractive, young woman and two men he had noticed at the church door walking toward his group. He saw the older man say something to the two young ones, and they stopped, while the older man came and stood very near him and his friends. He obviously wanted to hear what they were saying.

"I believe that man is trying to hear what we are saying," said Will softly.

Looking around, Talbot called out, "Good morning, Senator Greene. Want to join our little group?"

"I just happened by your little gathering, Counselor, and saw you and Buck Smith. Not often we see two prominent attorneys at our church. I was a bit curious. I overheard some of what this young man was saying, and I found it quite entertaining. I apologize for interrupting you."

"You're welcome to join in, Daniel," said Talbot. "It might do you some good."

The senator laughed. "You haven't mellowed with age, James. Thank you, but I doubt that I would learn much from a young, Yankee buck, coming here, acting white, and trying to corrupt our young men."

"Just what does the senator mean by the phrase 'acting white?'" asked Will, loudly. "Would the senator be so kind as to clarify his remark? What does it mean?"

"What I mean is that you are doing things that white folks do and black folks don't." His tone was soft and deliberate, almost condescending.

"That would certainly be acting white," said Will, "if it were true. I haven't the advantage of the senator's vast experience, and so am still perplexed. What, exactly, am I doing that is limited to white folks?"

"It's not easy to define," said the senator.

"Surely, it's worth a try, Senator. I'm sure the young people here would like to know what is expected of them. I know I would."

"Well, you are worrying about things that black folks don't concern themselves with," said the Senator. He was obviously a bit uncomfortable. More people were gathering around, listening to the exchange. The pastor was edging through to get closer. "All that government stuff. State. Nation. Republican. Democrat. Even this new libertarian stuff."

"Now you do have me confused, Senator, said Will, scratching his head.” Concerning ourselves with government is something black folks don't do. It is 'acting white.' Yet, you are black. You are a senator. I would hope that, as a senator, you concern yourself with government. Isn't that what senators do? Does that mean that you are acting white?

The senator choked and coughed.

Before he could respond, Will continued, “Let this young buck tell you something, Senator. The government governs both black and white. The people that take an interest in who is governing them and what is being done for and to them by that government are the ones that are going to know what is really going on and have a chance to control what happens to them. If black people don't take an interest and participate actively, they are going to be the governed, not the governing. Somehow, that doesn't seem very smart. In fact, it seems downright dumb. If you are telling me that acting dumb is acting black and acting smart is acting white, then forgive me, Senator, if I act white."

Senator Greene stammered. Will noticed the attractive young woman, smiling and whispering to the young man, whose arm she was clinging to. Will guessed that one of them was the son or daughter of the Senator.

"I think the young man has a valid point," said the pastor, stepping between them. "But here in front of the church, is not the place, and the Lord's Day is not the time for arguments, but for brotherhood. Put your differences aside for another day."

Will sensed that the pastor saw that the Senator was boxed into a corner and was giving him an out. Since he didn't want to alienate the Senator's followers that may have been in the crowd that had gathered around them, he took advantage of the situation. "I'm afraid I got carried away, Senator." he said. "I meant no offense."

"None taken," said the senator. He was grateful for the opportunity to end his embarrassment. He didn't know who this young man was, only that he hated him for making him look like a fool in public. He ignored the hand that Will extended. He turned and walked away, joined by the attractive, young woman and her young man.

"I'd say, you made an enemy this morning," said Talbot. "A powerful one, too. You made him look pretty bad. The preacher saved his butt, because I think that if he had responded, you would have buried him. Believe me, he knows that, or he wouldn't have left. I noticed his daughter smiling at his plight. I think she enjoyed it."

So, thought Will, that pretty thing is the Senator's daughter. What a shame. Poor girl.

The crowd quickly dissipated, leaving the group to their conversation, which soon drew to an end. Everyone was shaking hands and saying goodbye.

“It has been a pleasure meeting all of you,” said Will. “I appreciate your interest in S.M.A.R.T. Please let all your friends know about us, what we stand for, and the need to join us and support us, as well as asking them to tell their friends to pass it on. Word of mouth is the best way to get the message out. People trust their friends not to lead them astray. I don’t think they put any trust in politicians and precious little in political talk from strangers. Keep up with us on the web and advise your friends to do the same. We have some suggestions there on explaining S.M.A.R.T. and libertarian philosophy in general. For the newcomer, there are a numerous FAQ’s and articles.” We even have a section for liberals and another for conservatives. He tried never to leave anyone without asking them to tell everyone about S.M.A.R.T. It was their only hope of getting the number of people they needed.

 

A Month Later

 

 Will Hastings stopped outside the new Jackson office. It had been open for almost a week, but with his days and nights filled with nearly constant recruiting, seven days a week, this was Will's first visit. William Roberts, as the ostensible head of S.M.A.R.T. had been there for the grand opening. S.M.A.R.T now had a quite a few informal offices in private homes, scattered around the state. This was their first real, full time office, with three people there all day and a handful of part-time workers. Entering the office, Will looked around. A dozen people were inside, hopefully immigrants or inquisitive Mississippians, he thought. Just then, Trisha Smith walked in with Senator Greene’s daughter. Trisha walked straight over to him, followed by the senator’s daughter.

“Will Hastings,” she said. “How nice to see you again. Let me introduce Nicole Greene. Nicole, Will Hastings. He’s the one I told you about.”

“Hello, Nicole,” said Will.

“He’s the one I told you about too,” said Nicole. “How do you do, Will Hastings?”

“You mean the one at the church with Daddy and Mr. Talbot. Of course, that makes sense.” She turned to Will. “So you gave Nicole’s father a hard time outside the church a couple of Sundays ago. I should have known it was you. “

“I hope you won’t hold that against me, Nicole,” said Will.

“Are you kidding,” said Nicole. “I loved it. So did my brother, Norm. We never see Daddy on the receiving end. It was a special occasion for us.”

“Mama works here, and I’ve been doing some part-time work here, when I’m home from school,” said Trisha. “When I told Nicole, she wanted to help too. Of course, if her daddy finds out, he’s sure not to like it.”

“Maybe he’ll never know,” said Nicole. “He doesn’t take much interest in what we do, as long as our grades are good. “

“Where are you studying and what?” asked Will, overjoyed to see her again.

“Trisha and I both go to Ole Miss,” said Nicole. “She studies law and I study business administration.”

“I just graduated from University of New Mexico in business administration,” said Will. “We must have some common interests.”

“I imagine so,” said Nicole.

“You two should get together,” said Trisha, sensing a mutual attraction between Nicole and Will. “You can certainly explain S.M.A.R.T. to her much better than I ever could, and she is very interested.”

“I’d be glad to,” said Will, with complete honesty.

“I don’t think Daddy would be too happy to see me with you,” said Nicole.

“Well, we just won’t let him see us,” said Will. “Anyway, we’re only talking. It isn't like we were dating. Not yet anyway. I passed a little café just a couple of blocks from here. We could sit and talk there over a glass or cup of something.”

“I’d like that,” said Nicole.

“Go ahead,” said Trisha. “I’ll go to work and see you when you get back. If anyone asks, I’ll tell them that you are being brought up to speed on S.M.A.R.T. by the one that wrote the book.”

“That’s not quite accurate,” said Will, “but it will do.”

 


 

Chapter Eight

 

 

Phil Collins smiled as he looked at his email inbox. There was a message from Will Hastings. He hadn’t thought about him for some time. He remembered the questions Will Hastings had asked him, and he frowned. He had thought about those questions frequently for a while, but had eventually given up on them completely. He was aware, in an oblique way, that this made him one of the people whose foibles he was attempting to explain. It occurred to him that he was pushing it out of his mind because the answer was threatening. That was a relatively common practice. How then was it threatening to him? Another good question, he muttered under his breath. A very good question. He opened Will Hastings’ message.

 

Dear Doctor Collins

 

I thought I would drop you a line to let you know what is going on with me and the project that I'm working on. All is well on both counts. The project is well ahead of schedule. I have no doubt that it is going to happen as planned. It keeps me busy, but in my spare time I have set up a business finding homes for all the people attracted by the project. This way, my many hours of work for the project also contribute to my own financial well-being. But the contribution to my mental and spiritual well-being is spectacular. I truly love what I am doing.

 

In case you begin to heed your inner voice, drop me a line. I would love to see someone of your caliber join our project. We could certainly benefit from your particular expertise. Check us out at www.smart.org

 

Regards,

 

Will Hastings

 

P.S. About the questions I posed to you. If you have any answers, I would appreciate your sharing them with me. I have had no luck at all.

 

 

Collins printed the message, and then deleted it. He was leaving for the day, so he ran his Evidence Eliminator program. It took several minutes to clean all the records of his day at the computer. While the program was running, he turned his chair toward the window. His eyes were directed toward the view of the campus, but he was seeing his existence and he wasn't happy with it. He hated having to be concerned that something as innocent as the e-mail from Will Hastings might adversely affect his position at the University. Unfortunately, his computer was part of the University's network and they may have scanned his e-mail even before it got to him. Actually, the government probably scanned it before it got to the University. He was becoming paranoid about the possibility of them watching him. Since he had first found out that they knew he was going to attend the Rally for Freedom and had even discussed it with the Chancellor of the University, he had been increasingly concerned about how thorough their monitoring might be. He had convinced himself that he was under surveillance.

His “particular expertise” that Will and his people could use must refer to his research in mind control. Collins had viewed his work for the government as purely academic research. However, since the government apparently thought attending a rally for freedom could constitute grounds for taking him off his project, there must be a significant conflict between the Rally for Freedom and the government’s intentions concerning his research. He was well aware of the dreadful ends to which the mind control techniques he was working on could potentially be directed, but he hadn’t considered that the government might actually be planning to use them that way. In light of the evidence that freedom and libertarian ideals apparently conflicted with the government’s intended use of his work, he had to think differently. He could only surmise that he was working to enable the government to mesmerize the entire population, to eliminate dissent, and to create a society of what is commonly referred to as 'mindless robots.' Was he any better than the scientists that had worked on the Manhattan Project, which eventually brought about the deaths of half a million people and made the annihilation of mankind itself possible, if not inevitable? His work might not take people’s lives, but it could take their free will, their humanity, by depriving them of their ability to think for themselves. In the extreme, mind control could someday be used to create a world of slaves, oblivious of their condition, working to satisfy the needs of a ruling elite. Why did the government have to see every scientific advancement as a weapon, as a tool to extend its power? Was there ever really any government of the people, for the people, by the people? Was government always a monster? “My God,” said, under his breath, “I sound like Suzanne.” Maybe she was right and he was wrong. If his judgment was no better in political matters than it was in deciding to work for the government, he could be really off base.

 

That evening, after dinner, he went to the study, opened his briefcase, and took out a sheet of paper. “Suzanne, do you remember that student of mine that had his property taken by the Environmental Protection Agency?” he asked his sister-in-law, as he walked back into the living room.

“Of course,” she said. “He was the libertarian that all the liberals seemed to like. He's black, isn’t he?”

“Yes. He sent me an e-mail today.” He handed her the printed message.

She read it quickly. “I remember now that you said he was going to work on setting up a libertarian nation. Did you look at the website?” she asked

“Not yet.”

“I have to see it,” she said, excitedly. She got up and went to the study.

He picked up the message and followed her, rereading the message as he went. He had forgotten the postscript reference to Will’s questions. Perhaps she hadn’t paid any attention to that.

She had the site on the screen and was poring over various pages. “This is fantastic,” she said. “I love it. I have to go there.”

Collins suddenly felt as if the floor had fallen out from under him. It had never occurred to him that Suzanne would want to go and join Will Hastings. Oh, God, why had he shown her the message? Why had he mentioned it at all?

“I wouldn’t be too hasty,” he said. “I’m sure they have a long way to go.”

“But, Phil, they are trying to create a truly free nation, a refuge for freedom-loving people. They need every person they can get. If I stay here, I could be instrumental in causing them to fail. Everyone who loves liberty should be going there and doing all they can. Right now, there isn’t a single spot on the face of this entire earth where a person can be truly free. What a terrible tragedy that is. Don’t you see that I have no choice? I would hate myself if I didn’t go.”

He turned and walked back to the living room, dropped into an easy chair, and sat pondering his situation. He was crestfallen.

After a few minutes, she came in the living room. “What’s wrong?” she asked, seeing him so dejected. “Are you okay?”

“No,” he said.

“What is it? Can I get you something?”

“I don’t want you to go,” he said.

“I understand,” she said, “but the kids are doing fine. Of course, they still miss Cheryl, but the grief has passed. As for things around the house, you can get someone.”

“I don’t want someone,” he said. “I want you. I don’t want to be without you. I couldn’t bear coming home to this house without you in it. I hate to leave it in the morning, and I can’t wait to come home at night.”

“What are you saying, Phil?” she stammered.

“I’m saying, and not very well, I’m sure, that I have fallen in love with you, Suzanne. Head over heels, lock stock and barrel, any way you can say it, I love you. I know that it has to come as a shock to you and that you don’t feel that way toward me. It’s still a shock to me. I know you have no reason to stay. But, God help me. I loved Cheryl deeply, and she died. I thought I could never love again, but I have fallen madly in love with you, and I was hoping for the chance to somehow get you to love me, and now I am to lose you. The gods must really have it in for me.”

“I never dreamed,” said Suzanne. “You are right. It does come as a shock. I don’t know what to say.” She fell onto the sofa. “You should have said something.”

“I don’t know how many times I was on the verge of telling you. But I was so afraid of chasing you away. I thought I would try to be more the type of man you wanted. Maybe even a libertarian. I think about it a lot. I have read several books on the subject.”

“You have seemed a lot less adamant about your liberal positions lately,” she said. “I thought reading Ayn Rand and some serious reflection were getting to you.”

“You were getting to me,” he said, “in every way possible. I have sat for hours talking, so to speak, to Cheryl about it. I don’t think she would mind me falling in love with you. I even think she might understand me loving you even more. After all, she and I were so young when we fell in love, and our love was based a lot on chemistry and hormones. In your case, the chemistry and hormones are based on love.”

“I don’t think she would mind,” said Suzanne, softly.

“I know I can’t keep you here, if you want to go,” he said. “I also know that I’ll always love you, no matter where you are or where you go, whether you care for me or not. That’s just the way it is.”

She got up and walked over his chair. “Thank you for loving me,” she said. She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. He looked up at her.

“Why don’t we both go to Mississippi?” she asked. “All four of us?”

“You and I,” he said. “Would you want that?”

“If I didn’t want you to go with me, I wouldn’t ask you,” she said. “I am sure Cheryl wouldn’t mind. And she would even understand if I loved you more than she did.”

He sat dumbfounded. Then tears welled up in his eyes.

“Don’t cry,” she said. “I thought that would make you happy.”

“Suzanne. Suzanne. Suzanne,’ he said. “Happy. I thought I had been happy before. I hadn’t. God, Suzanne.” He took her hands in his, and stood up. “Suzanne. Suzanne,” he said. “I would go anywhere to be with you. Anywhere. Anytime. Where you are is where I want to be. Oh, Suzanne. What a wonderful day. What a happy day. I feel like a condemned man given a full pardon and the keys to the kingdom. What an angel you are. God, how I want to kiss you. May I?”

“You may, and you can consider that a carte blanche permission, good for life.” She threw her arms around him.

After a lengthy series of kisses, she laid her head on his shoulder. “Why do you think I stayed so long?” she asked him.

“I thought you felt sorry for us,” he said.

“I loved you. When I found out what was going on in Mississippi, I knew I had to go, not just because of what they are doing there. I also saw it as a way to break free from an impossible situation. At least, I saw it as impossible.”

“Oh, darling Suzanne. Every time I said your name, I thought you must surely hear the yearning in it.”

“I guess I did, but I thought it was wishful thinking,” she said.

“All’s well that ends well,” he said.

“This is just the beginning, Phil Collins.”

“God, I hope so.”

 

 

At the Kellis Ranch in Tennessee

 

"Is everything set, Roger?" asked Claire Fox.

"I think so," said Roger Benson.

"You think so," she said. "Well, I guess you can't tell until it starts. I'm as used to the Internet as anyone here, except you, of course. Personally, I'll be amazed if it works right off the bat."

"I've checked it with just about every user, individually," said Benson. "The only difference will be having them all on at once. It’s commercial software, designed for just this sort of online conference."

Palmer, Roberts, and Crowell arrived. "Everything ready?" asked Roberts.

"As ready as it is going to be," said Benson. "We are already connected to Mexican government’s computer in Mexico City. It will be the source of Claire's talk right on schedule. Everyone else is online via pretty ordinary places, libraries, hotels, and the like."

"That should throw the Gestapo for a loop," explained Palmer. "We know they will be trying to monitor the meeting. Our contact in the FBI alerted them to it. It gives him some credibility and allows us to mislead them as much as we can. Maybe they’ll think that the Mexican government is supporting us. They will surely wonder about it. Even if they suspect that we hacked in, they can't be sure. We will have no traceable link to the Mexican computer at the time, since you planted the programs last week, with a timer. We just have to fit it in smoothly. Maybe in the future we can even use some of the government's own computers. That would be ironic."

"That sounds good to me," said Crowell.

Will Hastings, who had just come in, said, "If you can get into the government’s computers, perhaps you could somehow leak some damning information, to create a public uproar. The government is always throwing up a smoke screen when they do something that could get the public down on them. Why not reverse it, and get them in trouble to distract them from what we are doing?"

"Good idea," said Palmer, "but what information could we leak, or even invent in order to leak it?"

"There are always rumors of wrongdoing or scandal in government," said Will. "Do like the government does, creatively plant 'evidence' that the rumors are true. Keep them busy defending themselves."

"I like that," said Roberts. "There are myriad, ready-made opportunities. Most of the rumors probably are true anyway."

"We'll work on what to leak and when, once you tell us it can be done," said Crowell, writing a note in a small black notebook. "That makes six thousand, four hundred and eight things to work on.” He smiled. "Of course, I’m kidding,” he said. “Really, there are many more than that."

 

Following a brief review of how to use the software, the meeting got under way with Claire Fox's recorded speech, played from the Mexican government's computer. She welcomed the participants, thanked them, and gave them a rousing pep talk. William Roberts recapped the speech he had given in Santa Fe and gave the public version of S.M.A.R.T.'s history to the present. A newcomer to the S.M.A.R.T. leadership, Nelson Defoe, a former Libertarian Party candidate for president, speaking as an anonymous libertarian patriot to help maintain S.M.A.R.T,'s low profile, gave a speech relating why he had joined S.M.A.R.T. and why everyone should, and predicting rapid and overwhelming success. Then Roberts asked for remarks and comments from the people working in the field in and outside Mississippi.

Several people commented very passionately on their reasons for supporting S.M.A.R.T.

"I'm a little concerned," said one person, working to recruit people in California, "about the fact that the libertarians are in favor of legalizing drugs. Won't a libertarian Mississippi be full of drug addicts?"

“Do you want to answer that?” asked Roberts, pointing to Nelson Defoe.

“Sure,” said Defoe. “The government spends millions of taxpayer dollars each year to spread the belief that legalized drugs would mean countless drug addicts, and children of all ages on drugs. If that were true, it is easy to understand people fearing a repeal of the drug laws. But forget the government's message a moment. Look at the realities. What do we have now? Don’t we have countless drug addicts now? Aren’t children of all ages using drugs now? So that part of the concern is unfounded. It is already happening with all the laws we have. What does that say about the effectiveness of the drug laws? It says that the drug laws are no deterrent to the spread of drug usage. Has the 'war on drugs' made any difference? You bet it has. The difference is that the number of drug users has skyrocketed, and the average age of the users has plummeted. All you have to do is consider the one place in which the government has more control over people than any place on earth, the prisons. Nowhere in the world are drugs more prevalent than in U.S. prisons. So much for the effectiveness of drug laws and the ability, or perhaps the will, of the government to control drugs.

“On the other hand, what might we really expect were we to legalize drugs? First of all, drug addicts would not have to pay the huge prices that the drug lords charge for drugs. Drugs on the open market would be relatively cheap. Since most of the burglaries, robberies, and muggings that occur tend to be committed by people seeking money to support their addictions to expensive illegal drugs, legalization would eliminate most of these crimes. Drugs would be controlled and would be purer and less dangerous, meaning that addicts would not be dying from taking toxic drugs. Addicts wanting to be cured could get help without exposing themselves to arrest and prosecution. Drug dealers wouldn’t be on the street corners selling drugs when cheaper, safer drugs were available in the drugstore. Gone, along with the dealers, would be the street violence and gang killings that happen in disputes over drug turf. The practice of giving free drugs to kids to get them hooked would disappear. With this source of new addicts wiped out or, at least, drastically reduced, each generation would see fewer addicts than the one before it. You don’t see anyone giving away free beer or booze to make kids into alcoholics. If drugs were legal, you wouldn’t have government money being spent on convincing children that drugs are virtually irresistible. If drugs were legal, a large percentage of the people now in prison wouldn’t be there, making room for those who commit violent crimes. Likewise the gazillions spent on “fighting” drugs would not be needed, hundreds of thousands of police would be freed to occupy themselves with what police should be doing, ending violence. The corruption from drug financed bribes and the temptation to profit from drugs taken from criminals would fade away, leaving a better police force. You wouldn’t have people joining the police force in order to make their life of crime easier. The legalization of drugs would take away one of the favorite excuses the government uses for disregarding the constitution and all our rights. Last, but far from least, the legalization of drugs would  put an end to a primary source of funds to the secret, illegal, unconstitutional, and immoral acts of the CIA and other corrupt government agencies.

“If you don’t believe that things would be like this if drugs were legal, it can only be because you are too young to know, because that is precisely the way things were back before the government got into the drug business. People left their homes and cars unlocked. They walked home at night, without worrying. Sure there were some drug addicts, and there were some drunks. But the effects of Prohibition were a thousand times as bad as the problems of legal alcohol, and the problems generated by switching Prohibition from alcohol to drugs is thousands of times worse than the problems were or would be were drugs legal.

“If you really want what is best for human beings, if you really care about our young people, and if you really want to live in a safer, saner, freer, more moral country, you cannot at the same time be in favor of keeping drugs illegal.”

"Next question or comment," said Roberts.

"I'm in favor of ninety percent of the things the libertarians are for," said a female voice. "But, I'm also a Christian, and I feel that pornography should be illegal."

Samuel Crowell responded to her.

"I am a Jew," said another. "I understand that you are against the idea of hate crimes. Does that mean that in the nation of Mississippi, there are to be no restraints on anti-Semitism?"

William Roberts said that he would answer that question.

"I have to say something before this goes any farther," said Will Hastings, cutting in. "My name is Will. Most of you know me or know of me. I recruited and trained many of you. I apologize for interrupting, but I simply cannot believe what I'm hearing. We are here to discuss and refine our plans for the establishment of a libertarian state, a state where every individual is free and sovereign. When I say free, I mean free. I do not mean free to do what you, personally, want him to do. What I am hearing sounds exactly like what we are trying to get away from. You don't think people should take drugs. You want them to be illegal. Suppose I don't think people should eat meat. Should the government make meat illegal? That's different, you say. Is it really? Is it all right for me to be offended, but not you? You're offended by pornography. You want it to be illegal. Suppose I'm offended by the Bible. Should the government avoid offending me and make the Bible illegal? That's different, you say. Is it really? You're a Jew; you want disparaging remarks or even thoughts about you to be illegal. Suppose I'm a Nazi. Should the government make disparaging remarks or even thoughts about me illegal? That's different, you say. Is it really? Are your feelings more important than mine? Furthermore, you call anti-Semitism racism. If we are to refer to Jews as a race, then we have to speak of the Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. races-even the Atheist race, if we are to call a belief a race. If we are to criminalize anti-Semitism, is it not immoral to fail to criminalize anti-atheism. Come on people. Use your head. Don’t just feel. Think.

“By the way, there are differences in all these contrasting cases I have mentioned. The glaring difference is that, on the one hand, it is something you want, while, on the other hand, it is something someone else wants. The last three questioners want the government to be their private enforcers, their goon squad, forcing people to bow to their wants. Experience has shown that you cannot give government the power to force others to obey rules that you approve of without giving it the power to force you to obey rules you disapprove of. The government must never be allowed to have that power, or you will have the progressive erosion of freedom that you have seen in the United States. Sticks and stones may break your bones, and if someone uses them on you, government should do something about that. Words, and even pictures, however, can never hurt you, except possibly your feelings, and the government should have no authority over hurt feelings. Such restrictions on personal freedom are an anathema. You must guard every man's every freedom, including his freedom to hate you and to offend you, if you would have any freedom yourself.

"As a libertarian, I cannot dictate your behavior, because I value the right to determine my own behavior, and if I grant anyone the power to dictate your behavior, I automatically grant them the power to dictate mine. But I can and do heartily suggest that if any of you still have a question about why libertarians don’t want to restrict the other guy's liberty, don’t waste our time and yours. Just stay where you are, and stay what you are. If you are in favor of freedom for yourself and not for others, you are not really in favor of freedom--every despot feels exactly the same way--and you would be out of place in the State of Mississippi or any other free place, were there one.

“One other thing, please don't ask a question about majority rule. We will use majority rule one time to get out from under the federal government. Once we do that, you can kiss it goodbye, as far as restricting the freedom of a minority is concerned. Something is right or it is wrong. A wrong doesn't become right just because fifty-one percent of the people say so. A wrong doesn't even become right, even if all the people say so. The earth is more or less round. Even if a hundred percent of the people were to say it is flat, it is still round. Picture a majority of homosexuals and sympathizers voting in a law that you cannot marry anyone of the opposite sex, only those of the same sex. Given some of today’s laws that say just the opposite of that, such legislation wouldn’t be too far-fetched in a nation with majority rule. The initiation of violence is wrong, even if a hundred percent of the people say it is right. If you let it be possible to make murder and robbery legal, someday it will be. We know that from experience. If you can't see the problems with majority rule, read the essays and articles about it on our web site. If you still can't see what's wrong with it, forget about it, and please, forget about living in Mississippi.

“While I have all of you together, I also want to say that I’ve been hearing some rumors of squabbles and in-fighting among people in different chapters. I sincerely hope those rumors aren’t true. Our people are working to establish freedom. Freedom is our goal. It is a seriously important goal. Anyone who is willing to jeopardize our chances of success over some trivial matter should drop out now, before you poison the well for the rest of us. If any of you see such childish behavior, remind the offenders of what we are about. If that doesn’t do it, let me know about it. That's all I have to say for now."

 

Will had made his point. Order had been restored. The rest of the meeting went like clockwork. Will announced his web site and its comprehensive database of property for sale in Mississippi. There were several questions about accessing it and adding properties to it. There were questions about keeping the identity of new immigrants and converts secret, for their security in the event of a government pogrom. Roger Benson explained that they had taken extreme measures to make it absolutely impossible to extract any of the names or any personal data.  For obvious reasons, the details of how this worked were not divulged.

New immigrants and resident supporters were strongly encouraged to register with the S.M.A.R.T. chapter in their county. The registration would be instantly super-encrypted and sent to secret locations around the world. Later, when the dust had settled and Mississippi was a free and sovereign nation, that data could be released and people would know their place in the growth of the movement and could be identified as being among the first ten, the first hundred, the first thousand, etc., residents of the nation. Everyone who registered prior to the date of the plebiscite would be considered a founder of the new nation.

It was announced that much of the recent significant increase in new housing development, around Mississippi, especially around small towns, was believed to be due to investor optimism about the effect of S.M.A.R.T. At the geographical center of a cluster of these towns, there was to be an industrial complex, which hoped to attract industries that would employ many of the people from the towns and the new developments.

It was suggested that in several sparsely populated pockets, within easy driving distance of the capital and the other five largest cities in Mississippi, other speculators were picking up land and earmarking it for elite developments, for those who wanted to live in the country, but still be near a major city.

No mention was made of two obscure developments in the northeast region which were kept as secret as possible. Two valleys had been selected and cabins were being built into hillsides and in dense forests. Cattle, sheep, and other domestic animals dotted the countryside, for the purpose of confounding government surveillance systems both visual and infrared. From out in space, the animals would be hard to distinguish from people, especially at night. Carefully engineered camouflage was used to hide the presence of people. These places were essentially hideaways for people involved in the movement, should they need them. There were no roads and horses and horse drawn wagons or carts were used, although vehicles and even a helicopter were there in case of emergency. Electric fences and high tech surveillance guarded the perimeter. Several ex-special forces people were roving guards, assuring privacy. Palmer had suggested a safe hideout, and this was what had been agreed upon.

 

***

 

Phil Collins and Suzanne Barrett took Christy and Gary to a park with a few, scattered picnic tables. Suzanne had seen too many articles about illegal eavesdropping by the government to trust the house. She also knew that recent cell phones never turned completely off and that they could track you and listen to you, unless you took the battery out of the phone. Their cell phones were at home on the dining room table.

“Just sit down and get comfortable,” Phil Collins said to his children. “We need to have a talk, and it will probably take a while.”

“Is something wrong?” asked Gary, apprehensively, wondering why they would come so far just to talk.

“Not exactly,” said Collins. “We’ll explain it to you.”

“It’s about my going away,” said Suzanne. “I came here because of your mother’s tragic accident, and I stayed on to help you get back on your feet. I’ve stayed much longer than I expected to. I guess that’s because I became too attached to all of you. It has been wonderful living here with you.”

“Can’t you stay, Aunt Suzy?” pleaded Christy. “I don’t want you to go.”

“I don’t want to leave you, either,” said Suzanne. “But I need to get on with my life.”

“Couldn’t she stay here with us, Dad?” asked Gary. “We have plenty of room.”

“I don’t think it’s a question of room,” said Collins. “I don’t want her to go. I’ll miss her as much as you two will, if not more. But she has to go. If we want to be with her, we would have to go with her. She would like for us to go with her.”

“Why do you have to go, Aunt Suzy?” asked Gary.

“Because,” said Suzanne, “no matter how much I care for all of you, there are some things more important than what I want to do this moment or even the rest of my life. You have seen movies where people must to do things they don’t want to do, even die, for things they think are more important.”

“What’s so important?” asked Gary.

Suzanne took a deep breath. “It is hard to explain in such a short time,” she said. “To say it in very simple terms makes it sound simple, which it isn’t. There are some very bad people that are taking over America and most of the world, little by little. We are losing our freedom to live as people should be allowed to live. Lately, things have been getting worse, faster. Most people don’t seem to notice. Much like the farm animals in the movie ‘Animal Farm’ that we saw the other night. They didn’t mind that the pigs were taking over, until it was too late. Well, most people are the same way. Some of us are wiser and pay more attention. A very brave group of the wise people wants to get together and do what they can to set up one place where people can be free and happy, in peace and harmony, before it is too late. I’m going to join them and help them, not just for myself, but for you and your father, and hopefully for all people. If this group is successful, more people in other places may get up enough nerve to do the same thing. It could spread and spread. That is our hope. That is what I feel is so important.”

“Where are you going?” asked Christy.

“Mississippi,” said Suzanne. “Do you know where that is?”

“I think so,” said Christy. “Is it nice there?”

“Pretty nice,” said Suzanne.

“What will you be doing to help these people?” asked Gary. “Are you going to be fighting in a war?”

“Heavens, I hope not,” said Suzanne. “I don’t know what I’ll do. But, even if it’s only to be one more of them so that they can outnumber the ones that don’t care, I have to go.”

“Do you want to go too, Dad?” asked Gary.

“I don’t look forward to us living here without your Aunt Suzy,” he said. “You aren’t the only ones that want to stay with her. Yes, I would like to go with her. What do you two think?”

“I want to be with Aunt Suzy,” said Christy. “But I hate to leave Terry and Maxine, and Lois, and my other friends.”

“I don’t want to move away from Eric and Todd,” said Gary. “I don’t know which is the worst, to move away from them or to have Aunt Suzy move away from us. What would we be doing there, Dad? Would you be helping those people make a good place to live? Would we be like pioneers or freedom fighters?”

Collins felt a wave of dismay. He suddenly realized that he had never talked about world events on any level with his children. He had neglected that part of their training completely. Along with probably everyone else, he was letting them grow up and face the world, completely ignorant of the way it worked. No wonder the world was such a mess.

“I hardly think you two would be pioneers or freedom fighters,” he said, “not at your age. Mississippi is quite civilized. You would live pretty much like you do here, possibly much better. Just now, wanting to explain why I would want to go to Mississippi, I realize what a terrible parent I have been. I have let you both down, and I couldn’t regret it more.”

“What are you talking about, Dad? You are a wonderful father,” exclaimed Gary.

“Suppose,” said Collins, “I had never bothered to tell you to be careful crossing the street, to watch the traffic lights, and to look both ways, just counting on you to figure it all out on your own. Suppose I knew, too, that on every street corner, there were evil people who wanted you to get hurt, and these people would tell kids to go ahead and cross when they could get run over. That would make me a bad parent for not preparing you in advance. Do you understand that?”

“Yeah,” said Christy.

“Sure,” said Gary.

“Well, the world is an extremely complex place,” said Collins, “and there are a lot of evil people doing evil things. The evil people are after either wealth or power. There are some extremely evil ones that to get massive wealth and power, will do anything, and I mean anything, as bad or worse than anything you have ever seen in the movies and TV programs.

“Wealth only comes from one source,” he continued, “the labor and the intellect of productive people that actually make something of value, be it a toothpick, a car, or a poem. As long as people are willing to pay for something, it has value. Productive people create all the wealth, and all the other people get their money either by trading their labor for money, or they get it by hook or crook.

“The evil men take the route of hook or crook. They use any way possible to get wealth from anyone who has it. The super-evil ones that get the lion’s share of all the wealth on earth don’t go into people’s houses and steal. It would be an impossible task to rob every house and business in the country or the world. Besides, the people would resist, and it could be dangerous for the evil people. The super-evil people use many ways to get people’s wealth, but all of their ways depend on one tool: government. Ideally, the government should be a servant and a protector of the people, but it is more often a tool for separating the people from their money and making sure they can’t resist.

“The government has a monopoly on force. Anyone else who steals can be arrested and jailed. The government steals and calls it taxes. No one can do a thing. The super-evil people have the government take the people’s money, and they have many ways to divide it up among themselves, hiding the evidence from the people as best they can. But they are never satisfied, and always want more and more. So the government takes more and more from the people. The super-evil men know that eventually the people will figure out what is going on, especially today, with the Internet putting out so much information. They fear the people will get fed up and bring down the government, ending their access to money and power.

“To keep the people from finding out, the super-evil people take control of all the newspapers and the television and radio stations. They make sure the news doesn’t tell the people anything that would make them suspect what is happening. To keep the people from getting fed up and taking over the government, the super-evil people try to control the way people think and the way they act. They work on ways to get inside people’s heads and control their thoughts. The people that do this are like those I mentioned that could stand on the corners, disguised as crossing-guards, and send kids out in front of speeding cars. Only these people are much worse. They send thousands of our young men and women to die in senseless wars and kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people, simply for their personal gain and power.

‘You two are not old enough to be of use to these super-evil people, but they are working on you now. They have been working on your mind since you first sat in front of a television set. When you started to school, they really went to work on your minds. I know all about this kind of thing because for the last fifteen years, I am sorry to say that I have been helping the government get into people’s minds and control what they think.”

“You, Dad? How could you do that?” cried Gary.

“Just as I only now realized what a bad parent I have been, I only recently realized that my work was being used for evil purposes. I was as much a victim of thought control as anyone I helped them work on. When I realized what I was helping them do, I was horrified. Now, I know, and I will stop helping them. But these are really bad people. I can’t just say I don’t want to help them any longer. They would be afraid I had turned against them and that I might tell people what they are doing. They would do whatever they thought it would take to prevent that. I have to have a reasonable excuse to quit. Leaving to keep us together as a family would be a good thing to do, and it would be a good excuse for leaving my evil job.” It has worked out, he thought. He knew that he had to go with Suzanne, not just because he loved her, but because he had to stop doing what he had been doing for so many years.

 

***

 

Claire Fox switched off her monitor. She leaned her elbows on her desk, and laid her forehead in her upturned hands. “My mind is turning to peanut butter,” she said. “I have written more in the last few months than in the two years before that. I know it can’t be as good as it needs to be.”

“It’s very good,” said Palmer. “Your heart is in it, and that gives your writing such passion.” He thought of the passion he felt for her. It was getting harder and harder to hold it in.

“When I put my own name on it, I’m more thorough,” she said. “I can’t possibly do it with all the others. Besides, they make Claire Fox look so good, by comparison. This week, I got nearly a quarter from outside, but I still have to read it all carefully before it goes into the newsletter. Sometimes, I have to edit it and then send it back for the author’s approval. It isn’t quite as tough as writing it, but it is still time consuming.” She had been writing the lion’s share of everything on the S.M.A.R.T, web site and the newsletter, much of it under pseudonyms or anonymously. Roberts and Crowell contributed now and then, and more and more readers were sending in articles and essays.

“We need to find someone to help you,” said Palmer. “I hate to see you knocking yourself out the way you have been.” He wanted to grab her and hold her. But he kept waiting for some little sign that it would be welcomed. So far, he had seen none.

“We’re all knocking ourselves out,” she said. “I can’t think of a better reason to be knocking myself out. I think there is a damned good chance that we are going to pull it off. Don’t you?”

“I don’t have any doubt,” said Palmer. “The only thing that can stop us is violent aggression on the part of the federal government. If we can get big enough, they can’t stop us without a full-scale war. Unfortunately, they could easily stop us while we are small, and they will certainly try.”

“When that time comes, you and I will surely be at risk, great risk,” said Fox. “I just hope I can get a lot of them before they get me.”

“I hope they don’t get either one of us. But you’re right, when they come, they will be after us. They will want it to look like an accident or a mugging, or anything but what it is. Hopefully, our man on the inside will give us enough warning that we can disappear. But since the risk is so great, Claire, I’m not going to wait any longer. Here it comes, ready or not. I love you, Claire Fox. I can’t wait any longer for you to warm up to me. Since we might not live that long, I want you to know that I love you deeply, and completely, and have for some time.” When she just sat there, not saying a word, he added. “I’m sorry if I’ve upset you. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. The thought that they might eliminate us in the not too distant future made it impossible to hold it in any longer.”

“You haven’t upset me, Derek. I’ve been trying to recall what it was that you said to me that first evening in Santa Fe, about your being old-fashioned.”

“I said if you wanted me, you’d have to marry me.”

“That’s right. That’s what it was,” said Fox. “Does that still hold?”

“ I’m afraid so. My feelings for you are honorable, Claire Fox. I want you forever, but I will settle for a lifetime. I can’t see taking less than that. You aren’t just a bimbo. You aren’t just anything. You’re the amazing woman I love.”

“Can we, at least, have a short engagement?” asked Fox.

“Of course we can. I don’t think they will be eliminating us for some time.” He stopped. “Claire,” he blurted out. “Are you saying? Do you mean? Would you? Oh my God, Claire. Tell me.”

“I love you too,” she said. “I’ve been wondering for a long time whether you were kidding that first night or maybe you were high on something. I thought that you might have reconsidered once you got to know me. You never said another word about anything.”

“Claire,” he stammered. “I thought you were totally indifferent toward me, that way. Oh, Claire.” He put his arms around her and kissed her. “Oh, Claire. My heart is doing cartwheels. You have made me such a happy guy, Claire.”

She didn’t say a word, but she certainly responded.

 

Later that afternoon, Palmer and Fox walked out to a bench next to the stream that ran by the old mill in which she lived.

“Let’s sit here a while, Claire,” he said. “It’s spring, and this is such a beautiful spot. It’s almost fitting for the beautiful way I feel. It’s almost appropriate for us. Under our new and wonderful circumstances, I think it’s time to tell you about myself.”

“It would be nice to know a little about my intended,” said Fox. “I hope it doesn’t get too weird. A little weird can be exciting, but there are limits.”

“I have been involved in some very weird things,” said Palmer, “but I hope that they haven’t made me weird. They have made me a libertarian. That is for sure.”

“Then, thank heavens for your weird events. Without them you might not have been a libertarian, and you might not have gone to the Rally for Freedom. Our paths would never have crossed. What a tragedy that would have been--the tragedy of the century-the tragedy of my century or that part of a century that I am to exist. But, here I am chattering like a schoolgirl. Please, tell me about your life, Derek Palmer.”

“Well, to start at the beginning, I was born at a very early age.”

“So far, not too weird,” said Fox.

“I was born in a small town in Ohio, but I left there when I was six, so I scarcely remember anything of my home town. We moved to Miami, Florida. To accelerate this tale, the next thing I knew I had graduated from high school and was in college. I was quite idealistic at that time and quite ignorant. I thought the government was a benevolent organization, existing for our benefit. I befriended a classmate whose father was in the CIA. To me, that sounded like the perfect career, exciting and making a glorious contribution to the safety and liberty of my fellow countrymen.”

“Yeah, sure,” said Fox. “But I can understand you thinking that when you were young and your mind wasn't formed yet.”

“I went to my friend’s house one day. There I met his father and another visitor, William Colby. I announced my dream of being in the CIA. It seemed that my friend had spoken of me to his father, and he had praised me to high heavens, telling him I was some sort of ultra-patriotic genius, et cetera. Colby took a liking to me and told me to call him when I got out of college. I did. By that time Colby had moved pretty high in the Agency, and I became an ultra-secret operative, reporting directly to him and not even on the records as a CIA employee. My pay was from secret slush funds. Colby often used me to check on other agents that he suspected of working against him. I became extremely good at my job. I had so many identities that it was almost difficult at times to remember who I was that day. When Colby became director of the CIA, I was his watchdog, so to speak. I watched his back and dug into anything that he or I thought looked suspicious. Believe it or not, there is some serious in-fighting and intrigue in the CIA.”

“Oh, I believe it,” said Fox.

“Anyway,” continued Palmer. “I was onto a plot to essentially steal a thousand nuclear weapons.”

“How could anyone steal a thousand nuclear weapons?” cried Fox. “That sounds impossible.”

“It wasn’t exactly stealing them,” said Palmer, “but in essence, it was. In the mid-nineties, we were negotiating with the Russians about how many warheads each would destroy. We asked them how many they had, and they said X. They asked how many we had, and we said Y. Both probably lied. I know we did. We had over three thousand cruise missile warheads, but we only admitted to just over two thousand. But we knew that they thought we had two thousand, so we let them continue to believe that. It seems silly for two theoretical enemies to say to each other, 'How many nukes do you have? Twelve thousand? Okay. We accept your word on that. We have nine thousand. You accept our word too? Good.' Only an idiot would put any credibility in either number.”

“A below average idiot, at that,” said Fox. “Maybe George F. Upton.”

“There was a plan devised to take a thousand nukes and hide them-really hide them. Two hundred more were shipped to Israel—some things haven't changed at all. No one, even or especially Congress was to know about any of these. For some reason, Colby suspected something was going on and he told me to find out what it was. The president had to know, because he had to approve the moving of the nukes. The guy who was running the show on this was none other than Josh Friedman, who is now our Machiavellian Director of Fatherland Security. The secrecy made the Manhattan Project look like a marketing campaign. What little there is of the gold that is supposed to be in Fort Knox is really in a vault built into a hill or small mountain, in West Virginia, on a piece of property that, on paper, belongs to the Stonermans, but is guarded by a small garrison of US army troops. Very few people know about this.”

“Why is it there instead of Fort Knox?” asked Fox.

“Have you ever seen Fort Knox or a picture of it?”

“No.”

“It may have been practical when it was constructed in the thirties, but today, it would be stupid to keep the nation’s gold reserves in it. It’s out in the middle of a field, above ground, like a private home. Sure, it has tons of steel and concrete in it, probably more of that than it ever had of gold, but with today’s weapons, it could be wiped out in a heartbeat. It is there just for show, and maybe, as a decoy for anyone wanting to destroy whatever, if any, gold we still have. In West Virginia, Friedman had a big, secret back room built in the mountain, behind the gold depository, and he stored the thousand nukes in it. Supposedly, all the records of the existence of these nukes disappeared. As far as the world is concerned, they don’t exist. They never existed. I told Colby what I had found out. He got quite excited about it, and he told me to keep an eye on the people involved, and let him know if I found out any more.

“So far, what they were doing wasn’t all that bad. A lot of arguments, valid by government standards, could be used to defend such an action. But, there is more. Herr Friedman had some plans of his own. He also had a tunnel made from the other side of the mountain, to come up to the rear wall of the nuke storage room. That rear wall had a lot of wires in it to detect attempted entry from the outside. But there was a secret panel door in the wall, and the sensing wires were routed around the door. That way, the door could be opened from the tunnel, without tripping the alarms. Actually, the tunnel has a room at the end and there are six feet of dirt between it and the nuke room. This way, if anyone ever got into the tunnel, the only thing they would find at the end would be dirt. The mouth of the tunnel is also sealed off and a ten-foot barrier of soil separates it from a utility hut built into the side of the mountain. And a hundred feet into the tunnel, there is a dummy room to make any intruder think he has come to the end of the tunnel. There is a secret door in that room that opens to the continuation of the tunnel. All the surrounding area has high fences with barbed wire and warning signs of radioactivity, to scare people off. The people that built the tunnel didn’t know what they were making, but, as a safety precaution, they were all eliminated, as were just about everyone who was at all aware of the plan.”

“It sounds like Friedman had plans to loot the nuke room at some future date,” said Fox.

“Precisely,” said Palmer. “I have no proof, but I suspect that the Stonermans may be involved. The rear entrance is on their property. It's hard to believe that they weren't aware of all that construction on their property. When I found out about the tunnel, I set up a meeting with Colby to brief him on what I had discovered. He had a place on a lake. He was to go fishing, get in his boat and go to a point on the lake shore, where I would meet with him. It was early in the morning. I was in the bushes, watching through a pair of binoculars, as he loaded his boat. Three men ran out of the trees, and grabbed Colby. They must have shot him with a silencer or given him some sort of injection, because he went limp in their arms. One of the men dumped him in the boat and rowed out into the lake. He dumped Colby in the lake and swam back to shore. I had taken dozens of photos of the whole thing. I had no doubt that these guys were pros, probably FBI or CIA, killing the Director of the CIA. I assumed that he was killed because he had found out about the nukes. I cut around the lake while the one guy was swimming back. I found their car. The other two guys were coming through the woods, laughing and joking about having killed the big man. I wanted to kill them, but that would have let the bad guys know someone else was involved with Colby. I didn’t want the whole CIA and FBI after me. I vanished into the woods and went home.”

“My God, Derek,” exclaimed Fox. “It sounds like a movie. Is that when you went to Panama?”

“Not quite,” said Palmer. “The invasion of Panama was in 1989, and Colby was killed in 1996. Anyway, I knew several of the people involved in the scheme, but I wanted to make sure I knew them all. I was bent on avenging my friend, Colby. I bugged those I knew and soon found out about a meeting they were having at a mountain lodge belonging to one of the group. Naturally, I listened in on that meeting. I heard them say that only one person outside that room, besides President Clinton, knew about the nukes, because they had killed everyone else that knew. They even mentioned some of those that had been eliminated. Some of the people in the Clinton administration that had supposedly committed suicide were among them. I knew the one other person had to be Josh Friedman, because I already knew that he was the mastermind, and he wasn’t there. Of course, as I said, the Stonermans almost had to have known something, although Friedman could have easily deceived them with some excuse for the work, since the whole gold depository is on land that legally belongs to the Stonermans. I had planned to eliminate these people one at a time, but I figured this was a wonderful opportunity to get rid of all of them at once, except, of course, Friedman and the President. I fed some gas into the room and put them all to sleep. When I entered, I found nine comatose men. A few were people well known to the general public. Most were well known only in the circles they moved in.

“I injected them with alcohol to make it look like they were drunk. I doused them with liquor and put their fingerprints on a dozen bottles that I strewed around the grounds. Once I had them all loaded into a van, I went into the house and downloaded some child porn, made some copies on their printer, put some in everyone’s pockets. I drove the van up the hill, made sure the battery was run down so I reduced the chances of fire. Stuck one of them behind the wheel. Opened their pants and pulled their penises out. I wanted them to look like a bunch of drunken perverts. Then I pushed the van over the cliff. I walked back down to the house to see if there was anything I needed to get rid of.  It was fortunate that I did, for I discovered a safe in a closet, and when I pulled on the door, it swung open. Apparently, they had unlocked it and not locked it again before I got them. So, I literally stumbled across all the plans for the tunnel and the nuke chamber along with the instructions for opening the secret doors and the key for getting into the hut at the opening of the tunnel. There were several copies, and I took them all. I printed a few more kiddy porn pictures and put them in the safe and locked it. Then I poured gasoline all over the place, set fire to it, and left. As far as I know, Friedman and probably one or more of the Clinton family are the only people left that know about the nukes, and chances are that Friedman is the only one that knows about the tunnel. I doubt that he knows how to get into the tunnel and open the secret doors. I may be the only one that knows that now. I thought it wise to disappear, so I went to Panama and became Derek Palmer. “

“Oh, my honey,” said Fox. “What you went through. Are you putting yourself at risk by being here?”

“No more than you are. They may come after me for being part of S.M.A.R.T., but they have no way of knowing anything about the nukes or any of the other things. I was super secret. Only Colby knew of my existence. When I was in Panama during the US's invasion of Panama, I stashed a considerable amount of money there. I don’t have to worry about money. If things get bad, I can go back there. I also have other places to go and other people I can be.”

“If you go someplace else, are you going to take me with you?”

“Of course. Where I go, you go and vice versa.”

“The strange thing,” he said, “is that I never heard a word in the news about the deaths of the nine men or the fire. That bothers me, in that it may mean that someone else knows. Of course, Friedman could have covered it all up, I guess. I think the kiddy porn was a good idea.”

“Is it that easy to find on the Internet, being so illegal?”

“Couldn't be any easier,” he said. “Most of what you find easily is put there by law-enforcement to entrap people. People think that is a good thing, catching pedophiles. No one ever stops to wonder where the cops get the kiddy porn. Maybe most of what exists is in the hands of cops.  Sort of like the drug traffic.”

“Imagine my shock,” she said.

 

 

The next day, Palmer was performing his daily sweep of the premises, when he heard Fox cry out, “Derek.”

Running inside, he called out, “What’s wrong?” He found her standing in the door of the computer room.”

“Nothing’s wrong,” she said. “I just had an idea.”

“You scared the crap out of me,” he said. “I’m glad you’re okay.” He kissed her. “What’s your big idea?”

“Could we get some of those nukes in West Virginia?”

“It wouldn’t be easy,” he said. “But it shouldn’t be impossible either, at least in theory. Why? Who do you want to nuke?”

“Look, Derek,” said Fox. “We know that they aren’t going to just let Mississippi be free. Even if they thought it would be a good chance to get rid of all the dissidents at once, they can’t take a chance. Other states might think of doing the same thing. They are going to do whatever it takes to stop us. War is the last option, perhaps. But if it doesn’t come to a war, it is only because they were able to stop us without going that far.”

“Do you believe that?”

“Unfortunately, I do.”

“You want us to have the nukes to defend ourselves?”

“Suppose we stashed a few around the country. If you put one in each of the ten largest cities, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas, San Antonio, and Detroit, plus one in Washington, of course, you have probably ten percent of the entire population of the US covered. If you can set them off at will, you have them at your mercy. They aren’t going to let all those places go up in mushroom clouds.”

“They wouldn’t believe you until you blew up at least one city,” said Palmer.

“I thought about that. You can put one in the middle of nowhere, and when push comes to shove, you set it off, as a warning shot, to prove you have the capability. I doubt you would have to use any of the other ones.”

“Good idea,” said Palmer. “Fantastic idea. Even if you did have to blow up one city, you would annihilate Washington and do the world a big favor. Bimini Atoll might be the best place to be our ‘middle of nowhere’ nuke. That is where they tested most nuclear weapons up until the mid-fifties. They wiped out every living creature around there. They are trying to get the Marshall Islanders to return there, but they aren’t buying it that the radiation levels are safe for long term existence.”

“Derek,” chortled Fox, “you realize what this would mean, don’t you? It would guarantee the success of S.M.A.R.T. It would guarantee a free nation in this unfree world, assuming, of course, that the plebiscite passes.”

“It might be wise to plant some around the world,” said Palmer, “in case the other nations are afraid of having a free spot on the face of the earth. Besides, the Feds might convince them to take us out, because they were afraid of our nukes and they thought we couldn’t retaliate in Europe, or Russia, or wherever.”

“My God,” said Fox. “You’re right. Shades of Tony Blair, you are so right. Despots do stick together.”

“One in London, Berlin, Brussels, Rome, Paris, Tokyo, and naturally, one in Tel Aviv,” said Palmer counting them on his fingers. “One in Haifa, too, just to make sure. The Mossad is a plague on the face of the earth. I’ve met some of them. I would take Lucifer any day, to one of them. That’s thirteen overseas, an unlucky number. We need one more. One in Moscow. I often believe the Russians and the Americans are putting on a good guy, bad guy show for the world, when in reality they are working together toward the same ends.”

“Which one is the bad guy?” asked Fox. “It’s hard to tell any more.”

“Both,” said Palmer.

“The nukes have been there for some time,” said Fox. “Don’t they run down or expire or something? I read somewhere that they had to refurbish them or something.”

“They used to think they would only last twenty or twenty five years,” said Palmer, “but recently some new group, the SBSS, said that they are good longer than they thought. Forty to sixty years is the new guess. Of course, it is a guess. These nukes couldn’t have been made before 1981, which is when they started making that kind. The last one was made in 1989. That puts us up to 2021 to 2069, well outside our time frame. Just to make sure, everywhere we put one, we should put two, just in case one doesn’t work. Let’s sit outside a while. I need a rest. We have had a creative climax this morning.”

“Maybe you need one of a different kind,” said Fox, coyly.

“Claire Fox, I think I should call you Foxy Claire.”

“You bring out the best in me,” she said. “But, isn't that only fair?”

 

 

Half an hour later, they were lying on their backs, relaxing on a blanket under a tree.

“When you were a kid, did you ever look up at the clouds and try to see figures in them?” asked Palmer.

“Didn’t everyone?” asked Fox.

“I don’t know if kids in Harlem would,” said Palmer. “I think they should have a course in school to teach kids some of the finer points of life, like that, instead of training them in every form of perversion.”

“That one looks like a mushroom cloud,” said Fox. “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”

“You are assuming that we can get a flock of nukes out of there,” said Palmer. “It might be easier to steal the president’s wallet while he and the Secret Service were looking.”

“I’m not interested in that traitor’s wallet,” said Fox. “But you said getting the nukes wasn’t impossible. That means we can do it. All we have to do is figure out how.”

“Figure out how and do it,” said Palmer. “You only get one chance, if that. You have to do it right the first time.”

“If anyone does it right, it’s you, Honey,” she said, snuggling up to him.

“Hey,” exclaimed Palmer. “What if we hid a bomb in a couple of major cities around the world, and anonymously notified the governments that the US had hidden them, in case they got upset with those nations or decided to blow up their cities and blame it on terrorists, or whatever. They would go where we told them to look and find a very definitely American nuke. Wow. Would the feces hit the fan then. We might also leak it to the world press. Maybe that is how we would break the news. The US government would deny it, and, of course, no one would believe them. It would be the first time they would be telling the truth in decades, and no one would believe it. International relations would be in turmoil.”

“What if we made it look like there was a plot among the major powers to blow up a few major cities, when all the politicos were out of town, of course, and blame it on the Arabs or Muslims, in order to gain support for a major onslaught, maybe vaporizing a billion Muslims. Hell, look how much mileage they got by blowing up the Empire State Building. If they nuked one or more of London, Paris, Berlin, and maybe Detroit, they could get support for the complete genocide of all Muslims.”

“There may be so many possibilities that it would be hard to decide which is the best,” said Palmer. “You could make it appear that it was the US and the UK that were plotting to blow things up. Show that they planned World War Two just to get the United Nations in place, and that they intend to control the UN and run the world together. The scary part is that any one of the scenarios may already be in place, even now.”

“I know,” said Fox, “I was thinking exactly that, myself. None of those scenarios are the least bit unbelievable. Just about anyone, but the most determined ‘head in the sand’ descendants of the Kalikaks would readily believe the US government capable of any of them.”

“I had forgotten all about the Kalikaks, Claire. I love that stuff between your shell-like ears.” He kissed her.

“Not that the concepts that made the Kalikaks famous find much support these days,” said Fox. “Today, no one is just naturally bad or inferior, in any way. Nothing is anyone’s fault. They want you to believe there is a gene for every aberration, such as homosexuality, when it is anything but self-evident. And when it is self-evident, it's just the opposite. So, there is no stupid gene. Furthermore, all the scientific evidence indicating that feeble-mindedness-something you can’t even say these days--is genetic is pooh-poohed and denounced as politically incorrect. You don’t want to hurt the feelings of the stupid by telling them they were born that way, and you don’t want to hurt the feelings of the gays by telling them they weren’t born that way. So the scientific proof is ‘created’ by social engineers on fat government grants, to prove the politically correct position. Not incidental is that the promulgated reason for stupidity or any other lack of ability is insufficient socialism. We are told that if everyone had the same environment, everyone would be equally intelligent, equally healthy, and equally everything.”

“What a bunch of garbage,” said Palmer. “If that were true, then all the equally brainwashed kids the American public school system turns out would think the same, vote the same, and if the administration had its way, say a prayer to George F. Upton every night before going into an even deeper stupor than they were in all day. But they don’t come out the same, so the environmental razzmatazz is just that, razzmatazz. Even those from similar or identical backgrounds, brothers and sisters, don’t come out the same, or anywhere near the same, in many instances.”

“Precisely,” said Fox. “Whenever I hear the phrase ‘social science’ I want to choke the idiot that says it. Today, all descriptive words are corrupted by the very people that should guard their specificity, the journalists and writers. All those pseudo sciences are used to sell the mind-manipulation fad of the moment. Phrenology is as much a science as are any of the social sciences, meaning not at all. Physics, chemistry, electronics, those are sciences, and even they are imprecise to a point. Mind reading by inference is not my idea of science. Most of the university researchers and other grant recipients come up with whatever conclusions the government wants, because they know that they won’t get any more money if they don’t. They use a lot of double talk and jargon to support their findings. Not only do they fool all the purposely poorly educated public, but after a while, they even convince themselves that their pipe dreams are true. Eventually, we have a whole new set of ‘facts’ that the government uses as reasons to extend its power and to take away still more of our liberty.”

“How did we get so far off the nuke track? We do that all the time, don’t we?”

“We certainly do,” said Fox. “Talk to me about getting the nukes.”

“I would need a sizable team, of trustworthy, able people,” said Palmer, probably ten to fifteen, if not more. They have to be super-trustworthy, intelligent, and agile. Strong would be nice.”

“You should start working on a plan and have it ready, and then work on getting a group of people lined up. How long would it take?”

“I don’t know. Probably not that long, once it was all set up. It might take months to set it up. We need to know how many we want. We may want to try to get them all, if only to keep Friedman from having them. Wouldn't it scare them to death to think we have a thousand nukes? We have to stash the nukes somewhere, and then find locations for them in the various cities around the world, to say nothing of handling the detonation capabilities. We are talking about another group of people there, and some pretty savvy people too. Just identifying hiding places in twenty or more cities is a major task, and getting the nukes in those hiding places without being observed is another one. I don’t know what sort of detonation devices are on the nukes as they are stored, or even if there are any. That is not my bailiwick. We will need some expertise in that field. Not easy to come by.”

“I see what you mean by not easy, but not impossible either,” said Fox. “Still we need to be forming our plan, our strategy, and be ready when the time comes.”

“I agree totally,” said Palmer. “I’ll get started, and I may need your help with some of it, at least, your opinion. Obviously, we aren’t in a position to do anything now, anyway. I have quite some time to make my plans, line up some people, and a place to store things. Probably, we would want to get them just before the plebiscite.”

“I don’t like to bring this up,” said Fox. “But I have to. Since something could happen to us, you should have someone else who knows about this to be able to handle it if …”

“You’re right,” said Palmer. “We need to think about a lot of alternatives, not just for this, but for almost everything. It’s a good thing you mentioned it, no matter how unpleasant a thought it is. You may have just made a case for getting the nukes earlier and maybe, warning them earlier too. We can think about that. Maybe we should talk it over with the rest. But, how many people do we want to know about the nukes? It’s getting complicated.”

“More complicated,” said Fox. “Complicated, it’s been for a long time. You know that with the sickos that are running the United States now, there is still a remote possibility that we might have to blow up one of those nukes. Could you actually do that?”

“I don't know,” he said. He thought about it a while. “I would like to think I could. The only reason we would have to do that is if they were going to kill us if we didn't. It would be in self-defense. The American people can prevent their government attacking us, anytime they want. We are no threat whatsoever to any of them. If they are okay with killing us, we should be okay with killing them first, before they can kill us. It is unfortunate that you would also get some of those in that minority that do want to let us go. But if they don't do anything to see to it that we are free to go, it is their hard luck. The only reason they would be so ready to let the Feds kill us is that they think we are a bunch of relatively unarmed crackers that can't fight back, and you know that.”

“It seems like that is the only kind of fight America picks these days,  like the school bully picking on the little weaklings that can't fight back. Even then, they don't do too well at it.”

“Let's hope that we don't have to find out if we would do it,” he said. “I think that once they knew we had them, they would fold. The people would finally stand up and act, if only out of fear. They would fear us even more than their government. They might suspect their government would nuke a city in order to blame it on someone they want to attack, but in our case, they would know that we would do it, if pushed enough. We certainly would never have to use more than one, and I doubt if we would need that, it we can make it known that we have them.”

“You must get them, Derek. You must.”

 

***

 

"We should be very happy with our progress," said Samuel Crowell. "We have more people in six months than we expected to have the first year."

"That may be so," said Will Hastings. "But, we didn’t expect very many the first year, and we don’t have very many. I have some serious concerns about the numbers."

"We need to address Will's concerns," said Claire Fox. "He has some important ideas that have to be discussed and the sooner the better."

"No time like the present," said Crowell. "If they are important, I think it's better when we are all together in a 'real meeting', and not meeting in cyberspace. I still feel like Big Brother may be listening in when we are on the Internet. I hope it's just that I'm old-fashioned."

They only met at the Kellis Ranch about once a month. Internet meetings were frequent, three or four a week for all of them, with smaller groups going on every day. This was their first "real” meeting in five weeks.

  "We have less than three years before the next elections," said Will. "Even if we are a bit ahead of our projections, as we are now, we haven’t any chance of carrying those elections. We won't have enough people to carry statewide elections until our fifth or sixth year, so the first election that we could hope to carry is the one seven years from now. I know that is still four years ahead of schedule, but bear with me. Sam is worried about Big Brother now. As we grow, we are going to attract a lot of attention from the Administration. If we follow our present course, we may be eliminated before we get enough people to carry an election. I'd like to see us carry the next election, three years from now, hopefully before we all have had 'accidents' or have committed 'suicide.'"

"We all would like to see things move up from eleven years to three," said Roberts. "But we know that things are likely to slow down after the initial influx of immigrants. If you have some way of getting six-hundred thousand people on board in time for the first election, I'd love to hear it."

"We all would," said Palmer, leaning forward in his chair.

“There may be a way to do it with less people,” said Will. “It will take a bit of explaining, but hear me out.”

“We’ll listen for days, even months, if you can get us to carry this next election,” said Fox.

“In the last general election,” said Will, “a record number of people voted in Mississippi. One point one million voted. However, there were nine hundred thousand potential voters who didn’t vote. We can’t know how many of those were essentially voting for “none of the above,” but from the polls and surveys I’ve read about, somewhere between a quarter and a third of them are just fed up and think voting is a waste of time. That suggests that a lot of those people would have made it to the polls if they thought it really made a significant difference whom they voted for. If we take it as thirty percent, that’s two hundred and seventy thousand people. We need to reach out to these people and show them that their vote can count for something, something important to them, something wonderful and lasting. If we can find a way to communicate the right message to them, I think we can get them to the polls, voting for our candidates, when the time comes. I don’t think it unreasonable that we can convince a hundred thousand fed up people to vote for a solution they know they may never see offered again.”

“That’s an incredible idea,” exclaimed Crowell. “I love it. It won’t be easy, but it should be much easier than convincing the same number of people to uproot and move to Mississippi.”

“That’s what I was thinking,” said Will. “But there is more. Of the one point one million that voted for the Demopublicans, I’d guess that at least a quarter of them were voting for what they considered, or hoped, was the lesser of two evils, and they probably had a hard time deciding which evil was the lesser one. It may be a lot more, but let’s let it go at two hundred and fifty thousand. If we can get our message out and make our case effectively, we should get at least a quarter of these, or another sixty thousand. Now we are up to a hundred and sixty thousand.”

“Fantastic,” cried Roberts. “You are getting me excited, Will.”

“Wait,” said Will. “There’s more. In 1992, Russ Monroe got eighty-five thousand votes in Mississippi. Some of those may be included in the people I’m targeting already, but if we can’t get forty thousand of the disillusioned, anti-establishment people that voted for Ross Monroe to vote again against the status quo, we’d better give up. That would give us two hundred thousand. It would also reduce the Demopublican supporters to just about a million. We accomplish this without immigrants. Now if we can bring in two hundred thousand immigrants, far easier than the six hundred thousand we planned, we can have four hundred thousand.”

“Good Lord, Will,” gasped Crowell. “There isn’t any more is there?”

“Not too much,” said Will, with a grin, “but hang in there. Liberals are, in the most general sense, in favor of personal liberty, but against economic liberty. Conservatives, on the other hand, are in favor of economic liberty, but against personal liberty. Liberals tend to be Democrats, and conservatives to be Republicans. Now surely, there are some who call themselves Democrats solely because they favor personal liberty, while they have nothing against economic freedom. Similarly, there are some who are Republicans solely because they feel strongly about economic freedom, while they do not necessarily oppose personal freedom. These people might be libertarians if they didn’t think they were throwing their vote away. With a Demopublican government, no freedom of any kind is safe, and many are becoming very aware of that. When the Democrats are in, they are the sworn enemies of economic freedom. When the Republicans are in, it’s toe the line to their morality. Personal freedom goes out the window. Even the die-hard liberals and conservatives are better off with a libertarian government than with a Demopublican one, because, then, they get at least half of what they want from the government. The way things are, no one gets any of what they want, except the government. We need to make these concepts second nature to all America. We should be able to get at least another fifty thousand each, from Mississippi’s Democrats and Republicans, if we can get that concept across to them. That gets us to an even half a million on our side and the Demopublicans down to nine hundred thousand. Don’t ask. There is more. Not more people, but a strategy to use these people and make sure we win with them.”

“Before you go on, Will,” said Fox. “Can we take a five-minute break?”

During the break everyone heaped praise on Will for his ideas.

“If we make it, “said Palmer, “it will be because of you, Will Hastings. You know that.”

“Every step I mentioned requires an almost infinite amount of work,” said Will. “I don’t see how you can give me the credit for that.”

“We’re only giving you the credit for discovering a way to do it,” said Roberts. “The Feds are going to rue the day they took your property, Will Hastings.”

“I hope so,” said Will. “I certainly hope so.”

When they were all back in place, Will continued. “Okay. Think about this: Mississippi runs about fifty-five percent Republicans versus forty-five percent Democrats. That means that we still have an opposition of five hundred thousand Republicans and four hundred thousand Democrats. If we want to win in this coming general election, we have to run our candidates as Republicans or Democrats, for two reasons. First, if it even looks like libertarians are going to win, the Feds will be all over us. They would probably assassinate us and the candidates and blame it on terrorists. Second, we still won’t have enough people. However, if all our people register as Democrats, we would outnumber the other Democrats five hundred thousand to four hundred thousand. That would essentially guarantee our success in getting our candidates in the Democratic primary, and making sure they win in the primary. I figure that at least three quarters of the Democrats will vote for the Democratic Candidate, giving us at eight hundred thousand to six hundred thousand in the general election. Were we to run a candidate as a Republican, the general election would be no problem. However, winning the primary could be pretty close or even a loss. The only thing we’d have going for us would be the fact that the turnout is usually much lower in the primaries. If a lot of the Republicans stayed home and we got all our people out, we might make it. But I think running as Democrats is much safer. Well, that’s about it.”

“I’d say that’s about perfect,” said Fox.

“Of course, there is the little problem of convincing all these hundreds of thousands of people to vote for us,” said Roberts. “But, hard as it is, it is not nearly as hard as getting six hundred thousand people to move to Mississippi, not by a long shot.”

“Reducing the required number of immigrants from six hundred thousand to two hundred thousand would be a miracle,” said Crowell. “Your thinking is ingenious, Will. Even if a large group of brilliant people sat down and came up with that plan after months of study, it would be wonderful. For one person to come up with it in his spare time and over such a short period is beyond brilliant. I salute you, Mr. Hastings.”

“I drive a lot,” said Will. “I have a lot of time to think.”

“And, apparently, a marvelous brain to do it with,” said Fox. “Have you had any thoughts about how to reach these people to get the hundreds of thousands to come to our side?”

“I have thought about it,” said Will. “As I said, I do a lot of driving, and I spend most of my driving time thinking. The first time I was here, Samuel told us to write down our ideas, no matter how ridiculous and I have been doing that.” He opened a small spiral notebook. “First of all, we need to have everyone we get, immigrant or Mississippian, to go out and work hard to get more people and get those people to get more and so on. I was thinking we could organize parties, like Tupperware or cookware parties, and build up a force of people that are good at selling the message to go to these parties and convince the people. If we could have them all across the US, we could use them to get immigrants, and when they won’t or can’t go to Mississippi, they can at least be supporters. The time will come when we will need support from other states; at least we hope it will.”

“That sounds like a good concept,” said Fox. “Another good one, Will.”

“This is just a note,” said Will, “just an idea. The vast majority of blacks, in Mississippi, and throughout the nation, are hardworking, responsible, and non-stereotypical. I think these people are far more open to an appeal from us than we might think. We have to be careful not to be influenced by ‘conventional wisdom.’ Or should I call it propaganda? Is there something that might motivate them to come in droves to Mississippi? Something we could expose? Is it enough to just get the word out? Would it take some mighty event of some sort? Maybe we can sit down and kick that around and see if we can turn it into something.”

“It has promise,” said Crowell. “And it is thinking outside the common frames of reference.”

“Somewhere along the line,” said Will, “we might want to consider a national S.M.A.R.T. organization, even an international one. They can drum up support for us, which we will need. They, especially the national one, can contribute immigrants to Mississippi.”

“A good idea, too,” said Masterson. “Such expansion could act to protect S.M.A.R.T. in Mississippi, when they start after us.”

“That’s right. I didn’t consider that,” said Will

“That’s a shame, Will,” said Fox. “Don’t worry about overlooking something. It shows that you’re human. I was beginning to wonder.”

. “It wasn't easy coming up with an acronym for S.M.A.R.T. For Mississippi,” said Defoe. “How about one for the entire country?”

Everyone put their minds to it. Words starting with the appropriate letters were listed. In a few minutes, they decided on “Smart Means Americans Rallying Together.”

“I know it's not perfect,” said Will. “But nothing is going to be perfect. It has a lot of good things going for it. It implies that the members of the party are smart. It shows unity in the rallying. It implies patriotism with the word “Americans.” Best of all it has the right acronym. I doubt the full name will ever be used anyway. Everyone will call it SMART.”

“I don't doubt that,” said Fox. “I like it.”

“I’m recruiting a number of business people,” said Will. “We could give businesses posters to display and business cards to distribute. In some stores, like bookstores, they could hand them a card that might say something like, ‘That you are in this store indicates you may be our kind of person. Check our website at smart.org, or call 1-800-smartorg,' putting the numbers in parenthesis. We should give out, or sell if we have to, bumper stickers, pins, flags, buttons, and even book covers for students. We should try to make it a badge of honor to belong to S.M.A.R.T.”

“We should be able to get a lot of that stuff at special prices,” said Masterson. “Maybe we can get some of it free. I can help with that.”

“I only have one more thing written down here,” said Will. “I think this one is a good idea.”

“I’m sure it is,” said Palmer. “They have all been good.”

"Remember Russ Monroe?" asked Will.

Everyone remembered the industrialist who ran for president a few elections ago.

“He got nineteen percent of the votes, nationwide," said Will. "Granted, Monroe was hardly a libertarian, but he got his votes from people dissatisfied with the Republicans and the Democrats. Other than that, we don’t know anything about them. There are bound to be a part of those people that would be attracted to the libertarian philosophy. If we got a third of the people in Mississippi that voted for Monroe and we got just two or three percent of his supporters in other states to come here, we would have more than enough people, even if we fell a little short of our projections."

 "By God, you've got something there," said Crowell. "There might not have been a lot for a libertarian to love about Monroe. But he certainly capitalized on the widespread dissent and unrest of the time."

"I don't know much about Monroe's motivation," said Will. "He was supposed to be unhappy with both of the major parties. Since then, things have gotten worse. If we could get him to come out in favor of S.M.A.R.T., it could hand us a good part of the eighty-five thousand Mississippians who voted for him in ninety-two. It could also give us a tremendous boost in getting the two hundred thousand immigrants we need.”

"That could do it alright," said Crowell. "Getting him to endorse us might take some doing. Who would be the one to approach him? He's an old boy. Whether he is a good old boy, I don't know. Maybe our emissary should be white. His support would be so important that if we can increase our odds a tenth of a percent, we should do it. Even though he might not realize it and would deny it, in all honesty, there might be a smidgen of prejudice in him, due to his upbringing. We wouldn't want to risk it unnecessarily. That lets me and Will out."

"Don't look at me," said Fox. "I don't have a diplomatic bone in my body."

"How about Clyde or Ron?" asked Will. "They are actors. Perhaps they could act the way they have to act to convince him."

"Clyde has had some experience in politics," said Kellis. "So has Nelson."

"Clyde got elected, and I didn’t get past the convention," said Defoe.

"What if the two of you approached him?" asked Will. "If he took a liking to either one of you, it might give us the edge we need."

 "I'm surely glad I brought you into the group, Will," said Roberts. "Your contributions have been invaluable."

"Yes, they have," said Fox and Crowell in unison.

"He’s working miracles with young blacks," said Fox.

"A lot of the credit for that goes to Carla,” said Will. “She’s given me some great ideas on organizing teams for recruiting.”

“How about Nicole Greene?” asked Carla.

"Who is Nicole Greene?" asked Palmer.

"She's a girl working part time in the Jackson office," said Will. "She's pretty good at recruiting.”

"And she’s gorgeous," said Carla. "She gets the attention of the young men and Will's attention too."

“From what I know about you, Will," said Fox. "I'd bet she is extremely bright and as pretty on the inside as she is on the outside. Am I right?"

"I guess you could say that," said Will.

"One thing about black people," said Crowell. "It's harder to tell if they are blushing. But I think Will is blushing now.”

"Is she good enough that she ought to be one of us?" asked Roberts. "Would she fit in?"

"Quite well," said Will. "She is sharp, dedicated, and productive. She's going to Ole Miss, studying Business Administration. She's very good with people. She’s brought some good people on board, and they, in turn, have brought more. I get the impression that black families in Mississippi tend to be matriarchal, and she is good at talking to the black women. You get the mother on board, and the older kids are easier. In Mississippi, I believe the structure of the average black family is stronger than it is in states like California, Florida, New York, and so on. I could be wrong, but that's my take so far."

"How old is she?" asked Crowell.

"Twenty-two," said Will.

"Sounds pretty good for a twenty-two year old," said Palmer. "All that and good-looking too. No wonder you like her, Will. Maybe you should bring her to one of our meetings.”

“She’s only working with us part time,” said Will. “She goes to college full time at the Ole Miss, in Oxford.  Actually, I’m hesitant to divulge this location and the identities of all our team to anyone, even her.”

"We’d better get back to Russ Monroe," said Masterson. "We need to do an in-depth study of him. We want to know all there is to know about him and what makes him tick."

"That's for sure," said Defoe. "Clyde and I will set up a meeting with him and try to bring him around to our side, but we need our strategy worked out ahead of time. If we know enough about him, we’ll know what might persuade him, as well as what to avoid."

"Everyone can contribute to that," said Masterson.

"I'll download all I can find on the Internet about him," said Carol Benson. "I'll get copies of it to everyone."

 "Carol," said Palmer, "why don't you let Claire go through it and try to make some sense of it? Maybe organize it and cull out the extraneous stuff and any duplication. She's very good at research and writing." To himself, he added that she was good at just about everything.

Fox agreed to handle that task. It was decided that, afterwards, she and Palmer would make a first pass at identifying Russ Monroe's personality quirks to consider in approaching him. Carol would get the final package to everyone else for their review and comments. When they reached that point, they would see where they stood and what to do. The immense value of Monroe's backing was appreciated by everyone. The dream of putting some libertarians in Mississippi's government in three years excited everyone.

 

***

 

“It's getting longer and longer between your visits,” said Luther Hastings.

“I know, Grandpa,” said Will. “I'm sorry. I'll try to get by here more often. I am so busy that I don't have time to do what I have to do, much less what I want to do.”

“I know,” said Luther. “I'm not complaining, just wishing I could see you more often. There's not much to do here all alone.”

“Don't you go fishing?”

“Sure. I eat fish at least five times a week. Want some fish tonight?”

“I'm taking you out to eat, Grandpa. Get yourself decked out.”

“Don't you go spending your hard-earned money on restaurant food,” said Luther.

“There's nothing I'd rather do with my hard-earned money than spend it on my Grandpa. Lord knows, you spent enough on me, while I was growing up. Come on, now. Get ready.”

 

 

 

 


 

Chapter Nine

 

 

“I’d better send an e-mail to William, right now.  The sooner he gets it, the better,” said Fox. “I’ll be right back.

In the afternoon, the rear deck was the coolest place to be around the main house of Kellis’ farm, and it was an unusually warm spring day. The sky was cloudless, clear and deep blue. She and Will had been brainstorming at a small table in the shade of one of the large sycamore trees scattered about the back yard. Left alone, Will moved to the swing. It seemed to be calling him. He was tired. For months, he hadn’t stopped at all. The constant strain was beginning to wear him down, physically. There were as many meetings with groups and prospective chapter leaders as he could cram into every day and every night. When he finally got home at night, he worked on his web site. He had his real estate license and was working under the broker’s license of an elderly Realtor named Leroy Baker. Baker had attended a S.M.A.R.T. rally and become an enthusiastic supporter.

Will savored the opportunity to just relax. He was thinking that he should call in to see how things were going in the real estate office. Later. This was too sweet to quit. Instead, he leaned back and let his thoughts meandered through the history of his real estate business. When Leroy Baker had discovered that Will was looking for a sympathetic broker, whose license he could use, he immediately sent an e-mail telling him to look no more. Baker lived in the northeast corner of Mississippi, in the small town of Iuka, where he maintained a modest real estate business, having semi-retired several years ago and closed his larger office in Corinth, some 20 miles away. Will and the crusty, old Realtor had hit it off, right from the beginning. Although Baker brushed aside Will’s offer to pay him, Will insisted, and finally he agreed to accept five percent of Will’s profits for the use of his license, address, and perhaps, the occasional use of the office. Iuka was conveniently close to the Tennessee line and the Kellis farm.

In every town that he visited in his recruiting, Will tried to get the Realtors to cooperate with him. He also tried to find a supporter in each community with a digital camera and some common sense to go to the houses that he would list and take a lot of pictures. He already had thousands of properties in his portfolio, including hundreds over and above the multiple listing properties that any broker's office could sell. His goal was to have every property for sale in the state. Sympathizers everywhere were displaying posters and business cards for his service. An ever-increasing number of owners were listing through him, entitling him to a listing broker’s percentage of the commission. Word was spreading about the huge success of his listings with their numerous photographs and detailed information, which allowed people to save time, eliminating unsuitable homes without the nuisance of appointments and visits. Will handled the editing of the pictures himself. If the pictures were bad, he sent the photographer out again. After a time or two repeating the task, the quality of the first pictures generally improved. He told his people that these pictures weren't snapshots for their album. They were to show people the house, the best it could be done in pictures. “Take several pictures of each room. With digital cameras, they're free,” Will told them. He would pick the best and scrap the rest. Most real estate web sites, if they have any pictures at all, have one or maybe two, and those few pictures often seem chosen to make sure no one would be interested in the property. With Roger Benson’s help, Will was becoming quite the guru on the computer.

In his business, things were going well. For S.M.A.R.T., even though they were ahead of schedule, there was always the specter of Big Brother coming down on them. He felt he had to do as much as possible, as soon as possible, before the inevitable assault began. If only there were more hours in a day, he thought. Originally, he had intended to work for S.M.A.R.T. in the spare time remaining after his personal business activities. His fervor for the S.M.A.R.T. cause burned so intensely in him that the reality was just the opposite. He spent most of his time on S.M.A.R.T., and his spare time on his business. The other S.M.A.R.T. leaders tried to convince him to take a salary from S.M.A.R.T. funds. His efforts on behalf of S.M.A.R.T. were worth much more than the money, they had said. But Will wouldn’t hear of it.

When his business began to grow and he was unable to handle it, Will had made another deal with Leroy Baker. In Baker’s office, he installed an Internet telephone with a toll-free number. He paid half of the salary of the woman that answered the telephone in Baker’s office. He would contact her periodically and get his messages. Recently, he had to put in a person of his own. Baker’s little office was humming.

As Will thought about all this, he leaned back in the swing, closed his eyes, and gently rocked the swing back and forth. It was so quiet, so peaceful. How nice it would be to have an entire day off, lean back in the swing, and just relax. He could go to sleep, right there, in a matter of seconds. He felt himself sinking slowly.

“Hello, Will.” A feminine voice jolted him from his reveries.

“Hi, Carla,” he said, sitting up.

She sat down beside him in the swing. ‘You look like something the cat dragged in. Are you tired?”

“Yes, a bit,” said Will. “My grandfather uses that expression. He says drug, not dragged. I never heard anyone else use it.”

“I heard Sam Crowell say that not long ago,” said Carla. “He uses such colorful language. I love to hear him talk.”

“How are you coming along with your renaissance as a libertarian? Still having withdrawal symptoms?”

“It’s difficult,” said Carla. “My brain agrees with everything that you, Claire, and the others say about politics and philosophy. But when it comes to my heart, it tells me that libertarians don’t seem to care about anyone but themselves. They have no compassion whatsoever. At least, that’s the way it looks. Besides, I feel that I’m being preached to all the time.”

“I don’t know the details of your being here,” said Will. “But I know that you were living with Claire in South Carolina and now here in Tennessee. Are you hiding out or something? You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, of course.”

“More or less,” said Carla. “I felt I was in danger. Claire took me in.”

“Then Claire doesn’t strike me as someone uncaring or completely lacking in compassion,” said Will. “Nor does Ron Kellis or Masterson.”

“I don’t mean them, or any of you guys, personally. But your philosophy is to let everyone fend for themselves, no matter what. I find that hard to swallow.”

“Do you think that libertarians are against charity?”

“I don’t really know. Are they?”

“Of course not. But it isn’t charity if I take your money away from you, spend half of it, and give the rest to someone. That isn’t charity; it’s theft. Charity is something given freely by the owner. Libertarians are as much in favor of charity as anyone, and they are apparently much more against theft than most others are. You fell for the Robin Hood story, which was undoubtedly written by a criminal, or, at least, someone with a criminal mind. If it’s not voluntary, it isn’t charity or charitable, it’s a crime or criminal.”

“I don’t think people would voluntarily give enough to fill the need,” said Carla.

“That may be so,” said Will. “It is also irrelevant. No man has the right to the property of any other. He may want it, but there is no moral way for him to get it, unless it is given to him, willingly, by the man who owns it. The moment you allow the government to steal under any circumstance, they will invariably extend their theft to another circumstance and another and another, ad infinitum. It has always happened and it always will, unless the people prevent it. Look at the organized extortion in the United States, with the various levels of government extorting four or five trillion dollars a year from the people and I would be amazed if a quarter of a trillion of it went to help the “needy.”

“But there are so many in need,” said Carla. “Someone has to help them?”

“Isn’t helping them what you call ‘charitable?” asked Will.

“Yes.”

“Not that it is pertinent, but let’s see how the ‘rob the haves and help the have nots works anyway. A few generations ago, most mothers stayed home and took care of their children, providing the example and the training they required. Now, nearly every mother is forced to work, in order to pay the enormous tribute exacted by government. It’s not surprising that a direct result of the great increase in the percentage of mothers working was followed by a similar increase in juvenile delinquency, and later, as the delinquent kids grew up, by a rise in all forms of crime. Directly and indirectly, the government steals thirty or forty percent of people’s income, and in the process, creates criminals and greatly diminishes the quality of life. Furthermore, as Nelson Defoe pointed out in the first comprehensive S.M.A.R.T. meeting, government creates drug addicts, which steal whatever they can get their hands on. After it destroys the childhood of our children by essentially forcing the mothers to work, government destroys the rest of our children’s lives by subverting the schools. Students are indoctrinated and get a tiny fraction of the massive benefit they could expect in schools free of government corruption and mismanagement. They are introduced and even incited to every form of perversion and worse. All this tyrannical behavior is purported to be in the name of compassion. In spite of, or maybe because of a much touted war on poverty, in which, every year, government somehow manages to spend more for each person living in so-called poverty than the average working person earns before taxes, government itself tells us that the number of people living in poverty has increased steadily. This is how the so-called liberal idea of compassion works, has always worked, and always will work. Think hard about it, Carla, a few stealing trillions from millions, enriching themselves and their friends, while leaving the masses with a small fraction of the benefits they would otherwise have for their labors, brainwashing them to be grateful for what little they have, and dumbing them down so as not to be able to reason that it is but a small part of what it would be without the government’s massive confiscation. If this is your idea of compassion too, then you know what you can do with your compassion. If you have money, when you hold up your money and say, ‘This money is mine.’ You mean it belongs to you. It is yours. It does not belong to every Sam, Dick, and Harry who claims to need it more than you do. If you feel like it, you may give your money to whomever you please. But if you were to support the government telling everyone else that their money does not belong to them; that it is not really theirs; that their money belongs to the government, or society or whatever buzzword you want to use, to give to any Sam, Dick, and Harry it decides needs it more than they do, then I would have to call you a very evil person, Carla. You would be advocating mass theft, just so you can have a warm and fuzzy feeling, while, in effect, you are advocating a program which condemns millions of children to childhoods without a parent, and hundreds of millions to an entire life of severely reduced quality, and in the end, actually helps few or none, outside the gang of thieves taking the money. That is compound evil on a scale so horrible to contemplate that you and the others advocating it choose not to contemplate it. If it’s pointed out to you, you say you are being preached to. You are being preached to. Parents preach to their children, hoping to prepare them for a better life when they grow up. Libertarians preach to the unenlightened hoping to halt the prevalent tyranny and make freedom possible. You somehow convince yourself that the results and even reality itself don’t matter. The only thing that matters to you is that your intentions are ostensibly to help people. If the treatment kills the patient, what does the intent matter, Carla? How should I feel toward the misguided souls that advocate such evil? Do they have to be done away with, eliminated entirely, before anyone at all can be free? Let us hope not.”

 “Bravo,” called Fox, from the doorway. “I adore you, Will Hastings. These days, most people don’t have the guts to disagree with conventional wisdom, even when they know full well that it is wrong. They can look right at black and call it white. You can’t tell the cowards from the dolts.”

“Cowards will usually try to rationalize their irrational stance,” said Will. “Dolts won’t see a need to.”

“How you cheer me, Will,” said Fox.

“You have me afraid to open my mouth,” said Carla.

“I don’t mean to do that,” said Will. “Yes, I came down a little hard. But everything I said is true, and you know it, Carla. Even if you won’t admit it, you know it. You can’t logically refute it. But you don’t accept what you know to be true. I like you a lot, Carla. You are a very bright girl. If I didn’t care about you, I wouldn’t take the trouble to try to straighten you out. You have been programmed and reprogrammed to think and feel exactly what you think and feel, and have been thinking and feeling for years. It isn’t easy to accept that your thoughts and feelings are irrational, even when, as you say, your brain knows that the libertarian philosophy is correct. You ‘feel’ that it is wrong, even though you can’t support your feelings with logic. That is because your feelings are illogical, meaning that they are not based on reality. They are the result of countless hours of propaganda bombarding you from equally countless sources. It will take some time and effort on your part, but you can get over it, just as an addict can get over the urge to shoot up or snort something that his brain tells him is wrong. If you aren’t able to get over it, may God help you, Carla, because, apparently, no one else can.”

 

***

 

“Come in Mister Crowell. Please sit down,” said Justice Fannon. Fannon had the reputation of being the most conservative Judge on the Mississippi Supreme Court, which was precisely why Crowell had chosen him as the first of the nine justices he would ultimately interview. That way, if all went well, he would be able to truthfully say to the next justice that, so far, no justice had disagreed with him.

“I appreciate your agreeing to talk with me, Justice Fannon,” said Crowell, sitting down in the chair in front of the Justice’s desk. The desk was covered with large books.

“I have long been an admirer of yours,” said Fannon, “your books and your column. I feel honored to be a part of one of your books. What did you say the book was about, exactly?"

“Everyone has some idea of what the United State Supreme Court does. I hope to point out the evolution of the concept of a supreme court, the differences between the US Supreme Court and the state supreme courts, as well as the differences between the various state supreme courts. I may touch on the courts of certain other nations, if I can get enough information on them. With luck, I will be able to spice it up with some interesting anecdotes for each court that I cover.

“I’ll be anxious to read it,” said Fannon.

Crowell interviewed Fannon in depth for half an hour. Then he wound up the interview, and the two men were having a little chat, when Crowell brought up the true purpose of his visit.

“Justice Fannon, have you heard of the movement to fill Mississippi with libertarians, control all the state elections, fill the offices, and then, if necessary, to secede and become a totally free libertarian nation?”

“I can’t say that I am very knowledgeable about it,” said Fannon. “It would be better to say that I am vaguely aware that there is such a movement. I wouldn’t think it has any chance of success, for if they did get to the point of secession, I don’t think there is any chance of the federal government allowing them to secede.”

“That may be the case,” said Crowell, “but, in the hypothetical event that they do successfully secede, they claim that they would like to keep the same Supreme Court and not even change its name. They say that no one will have any experience with their new constitution, and you and your colleagues have the most experience doing what Supreme Court judges do. Were that to come to pass, how would you feel about converting to being a Supreme Court judge for a nation with minimal laws and more freedom than mankind has ever known? Would you consider it, or reject it out of hand?”

“I hope they would give more than a few seconds to think it over,” said Fannon. “But, my first reaction is that I would consider it. I am very much in favor of freedom, not anarchy, mind you, but freedom. I do know the moment you eliminate anarchy, you have given up some freedom, and I would hope that someday, mankind can evolve to the point that universal anarchy would be feasible. Until then, I believe a minimal government is required, although I feel it should be severely limited, if the citizens are to retain even a modicum of freedom. If the government they set up is one of freedom, not anarchy, or merely license, I would consider it, most definitely. However, I doubt the occasion will ever arise.”

“Don’t be too sure,” said Crowell. “They are keeping a low profile to avoid having the full force of the federal government trained on them. I believe that there is a good chance their candidates, most of which are not running as libertarians for obvious reasons, will sweep the next elections in a major landslide. Should that happen, in this coming election or some future one, you may be hearing from them. They will be rushing to identify their friends and foes. Once they have taken over the legislature and the executive branches, and have a solid majority of the populace behind them, their success will be imminent. At that time, their friends will have a definite advantage over their foes. They won’t be asking for any advance favors, just wanting to know who they can turn to when the time comes.”

“If the time comes,” said Fannon. “Well, time will tell. I must say that it would provide some excitement, more excitement than I would otherwise expect to have in what remains of my life.”

“And mine, even more so, having a few years on you, Mr. Justice. I must say that the mere idea of a really free spot on this earth in my lifetime excites me. Should they sweep the elections and begin implementing their plans to secede, I think I would move to Mississippi. I may be getting old, but I’m not dead, and freedom is something I have been seeing drained out of America every year that I have lived. I would dearly love to get a taste true freedom, however little time I have left.”

“I feel pretty strongly about freedom myself,” said Fannon. “I’m not in a position to say much about these people, because of my ignorance concerning them. However, rest assured that my ignorance will be short-lived. After this conversation, I intend to find out about them.”

“Might I suggest their website,” said Crowell. He wrote the web address on the back of one of his business cards and handed it to Fannon. “I will be happy to attend your inauguration, if I’m invited,” he said, with a chuckle. “You know, I used to wish I had lived in the time of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and the rest, during the founding of this great nation. Maybe I will be present at the founding of an even greater one, if you measure greatness the way I do.”

“You can count on an invitation,” said Fannon, "should the occasion arise. But don’t hold your breath.”

“Don’t worry. I can’t hold my breath more than a minute,” said Crowell. “I’ll just try to stay alive until it happens.”

As he shook hands with Justice Fannon, thanking him and bidding him farewell, Fannon looked him straight in the eye and said, “Good luck, Mr. Crowell. You are going to need it.”

He realized that Fannon had seen through his ruse and deduced the true reason for his visit. The wish for good luck meant that Fannon was not against S.M.A.R.T. He might be neutral, not in favor of it or against it, but even that was a success. As he walked out of the Supreme Court building, Crowell felt very satisfied. He had appointments with the other eight justices, over the next few days. If those discussions all went as well as this one had gone, he would be jubilant. The time may very well come when the Mississippi Supreme Court might hand down a decision in favor of S.M.A.R.T.

 

***

 

Will answered his mobile telephone. “Hello.”

“Hi, Will, this is Trisha Smith.”

“Hello, Trisha. What can I do for you?”

“Nicole asked me to call you. Her father found out that she had been working in the S.M.A.R.T. office. Naturally, he had a fit. He forbade her to come near the office or to have anything to do with any of the S.M.A.R.T. people. She wants you to call her on her cell phone at three o’clock this afternoon, if you can.”

“Of course I can. Thanks a million, Trisha. How’s your father?”

“He’s fine. He talks about you all the time. I think he is trying to push me toward you.”

“He does me a great honor,” said Will. “If it weren’t for Nicole, I’d probably be pushing you that way myself.”

“You are so smooth, Will Hastings. You need to use a little of your smooth talking on Senator Greene.”

“I think I need a steamroller to smooth him out,” said Will.

“I have to run, Will. I just wanted to give you the message.”

“Thanks again, Trisha. Bye.”

 

At three o’clock sharp, Will excused himself from a meeting with a few businessmen in Clarksdale, a town of about 20,000 in northwest Mississippi. He went outside and called Nicole. “Hello, Nicole,” he said. “I got your message.”

“It’s terrible,” she said. “I don’t know what to do. I’ve never seen Daddy so angry. The things he said about S.M.A.R.T. were terrible. He said I made a laughing stock of him. ‘My own daughter working for S.M.A.R.T.,’ he said. He said he’d just as soon have me working for the KKK. He said that if he heard of me being even close to a S.M.A.R.T. office, he’d disown me, and he’d never pay a cent of my education again.”

“Does he know about us?” asked Will.

“I’m sure he doesn’t. If he did, he would surely have mentioned it. He did forbid me to have anything to do with anyone from S.M.A.R.T.”

“I’ve never seen him except that one Sunday, outside the church. Maybe he doesn’t know that I am part of S.M.A.R.T.”

“He might not,” said Nicole. “I don’t know what he heard you say that day. I do know he’d be pretty upset if he knew about us, even if he didn’t know you were part of S.M.A.R.T. If he knew about us and knew that you were part of S.M.A.R.T., I don’t know what he would say or do. I don’t want to find out. What are we going to do, Will?”

“Right now, we don’t see each other all that often, because of your school and my schedule. Since I can’t see you when you come home, I’ll have to go to Oxford and see you there. We may even see each other more often now. Your father is going to have to face up to us, sooner or later. We know that. Once you are out of school, you just have to tell him. If we are going to get married, he is going to have to know, I would think.”

“I can’t wait for that to happen,” said Nicole. “I love you so much, Will.”

“I love you, Nicole,” he said. “Just take it easy. We’ll work things out.” He wasn’t as optimistic as he tried to sound. He knew they would work things out, but he didn’t have too much hope that Senator Greene would be seeing much of his grandchildren.

“Where are you, Will?”

“I’m in Clarksdale,” he said.

“Where’s that?”

“It’s a sizable town, about twenty thousand, about seventy-five miles south-east of Memphis and the same distance from Oxford and my heart. Mostly farming here, I guess. It’s also famous for rhythm and blues music, so they tell me.”

“I wish I were there with you,” she said.

“God, so do I,” he said. “Soon. Not soon enough for us, but soon. Did you install that free phone software on your computer?”

“Yes. My ID is nicolehastings, all one word, small letters. I got a head start. I didn’t think anyone would connect me with that name, except you, of course.

“Good. I think I can remember that ID. If I see you online, I’ll know it’s okay to call you. That way there will be no phone records. Same with me. You should remember that I am willhastings, all one word and small letters too. Got to go, Honey. There are eight people waiting for me inside. I love you.”

“I love you, my darling, with all my heart. Bye.”

“Bye.”

.

***

 

“What happened with Terry Patterson, Lucky?” asked Josh Friedman. “What the hell is going on with the damned Libertarians?”

Jansen’s first report that S.M.A.R.T. was a small, slipshod, loosely knit organization, with a lot of disagreement about what to do and how to do it had made its way up to Friedman that morning. He in turn had his personal assistant, Lucky, check with Terrence Patterson, their contact in the Libertarian Party. Patterson and a few other officers used their influence to make sure the Libertarian Party remained little more than a debating society, serving as a safety valve for dissidence in the United States, giving thousands of people a way to let off steam without posing any threat to the status quo.

“He said the S.M.A.R.T. people are a ragtag group, with no leadership, and they probably won’t last long, and they surely aren’t going anywhere,” said Lucky. Lucky's real name was Phuc Hu, which means “lucky” in Vietnamese. For obvious reasons, everyone called him Lucky or Mr. Hu.

“That agrees with what the FBI is telling me,” said Friedman. “I guess it must be accurate. I just had a bad feeling about these S.M.A.R.T. people.”

“Patterson says they’re in no way related to the Libertarian Party,” said Lucky. “If fact, the LP has come out strongly against S.M.A.R.T. He says the LP is very much for working within the system. We know what a waste of time that is.”

“Careful with that talk,” said Friedman. “Working within the system is an American tradition. Let’s keep it that way. If every government could convince their people to always work within the system, it would be the end of revolutions on Planet Earth.”

“It would ensure universal totalitarianism,” said Lucky. “It may very well come to that someday. The EU is on its way to being much like the US, a bunch of mindless robots.”

Dammit, Lucky,” said Friedman, “What’s wrong with you today? Those mindless robots are your bread and butter. Show a little respect.” He leaned back in his chair and laughed heartily.

 

***

 

“I can’t go with you guys tonight, Trisha,” said Nicole, dropping into a chair in the corner of Trisha’s room. Having been first in the bathroom that morning, she was the first to be ready to leave.

“That means Will is in town tonight,” said Trisha, peering into the mirror, checking her makeup. “I could tell anyway from the grin on your face. You’ve got it bad, girl.”

“I do. I really do,” said Nicole, “and I love it. Part of me wants to run out and get married this instant. But another part of me says, ‘Hold on, Nicole. You are just a kid. If this is what it seems to be, it will only get stronger as time goes by, and you’ll have many years ahead.’ I know I need my education, if only as a back up. Suppose something happens to Will, God forbid, and I have kids. I’ll have to take care of them. I need to be armed for whatever I might have to face, but another year seems like an eternity right now.”

“Look at the situation, Nicole. Will is so busy right now; you wouldn’t see much more of him, if you did marry him. You have all you could have, except that piece of paper. Don’t worry about what you don’t have. Enjoy what you do have. If you need something to worry about, worry about your daddy finding out about you and Will.”

“He would have an attack,” said Nicole. “He would be frothing at the mouth. I know he would disown me and never let me in the house again. Mom would be caught in the middle, and it would tear her up.” She shook her head. “Love is wonderful, but it certainly complicates things.”

“Maybe it just makes you assess your priorities,” said Trisha.

“Assess my priorities. That sounds simple, but it’s really not. Daddy always was pretty tyrannical. But he was my Daddy. I know Mom has had some really tough times living with him. He was, and he is, Daddy. Apart from half my genes, what has he given me? He gave me a nice house, lots of toys, pretty clothes, and he’s giving me a college education right now. I appreciate that. But I had to pay a price for them. So did my mother. Where does that put him, if I assess my priorities? Love carries a lot of weight, and love breeds love. So does liking. I suppose I love my Daddy, but I can’t like him, no matter how hard I try.”

“Just hang in, Nicole. Will’s rat race around the state is going to pay off. S.M.A.R.T. will succeed. A couple of major milestones, and Will won’t be the only one pulling all this together. With any luck, it will be around the time you are getting your diploma. You and he will get married. I’ll dance at your wedding, honey. Oh, how I’ll dance at that wedding.”

“I feel better,” said Nicole. “Thank you, for letting me cry on your shoulder.”

“Anytime,” said Trisha, checking herself in a full-length mirror.

“If I get a little down, I’ll picture you dancing at my wedding.”

“I’ll be around when you christen each little one, too. But for God’s sake, don’t have any ahead of time. That would put a major crimp in your plans.” She was standing at the front door of their room. “Are you going now?”

“Yep.” Nicole grabbed her purse, and put her cell phone in it. “Don’t worry. That’s taken care of. We will be man and wife, with everything but the paper, but we don’t want to be mom and dad, until we do have the paper. Besides, that would kill Mama, and Daddy would kill me.”

They each went their separate way.

 

***

 

"Will,” said Carla, “I've been thinking a lot about what you told me the other day, or maybe lectured me about. I've pretty much come to grips with it all. From your point of view, you might say that I've seen the light. I guess it would be right to call it an enlightenment, much like that of the historical period of that name, only my enlightenment is a personal one--very personal"

"I couldn't be any happier, Carla," said Will. "I really mean it. To me, it is extremely distressing to see someone I really like have such strong feelings about something so important, to know that they are completely wrong, and to be incapable of getting them to see that they're wrong. I suppose that isn't an uncommon situation. Imagine trying to talk your child out of being a drug addict, a drunk, a hooker, or a criminal, and getting nowhere. You'd rack your brain, trying to come up with an effective way to persuade your kid. I'm glad you were susceptible to logic. Fortunately, you are a very bright girl, Carla. Unfortunately, so many of those that I need to convince are not. Logic carries little weight with them. They are ruled by gut feelings, and you know what guts are full of."

"I can see the humor in that now," said Carla. "I feel sure that I would not have found it humorous before, because I was driven by gut feelings, and I certainly was full of it."

"Don't take what I'm going to say the wrong way, Carla," said Will. "But that last remark endears you to me, more than you can imagine. It takes a special kind of person to see the error of their ways, no matter how illogical they might be. But to realize it and say that you had been full of it makes you the best kind of special. You have really moved up in my estimation, Carla. I see you as intelligent, wise, honest, and," he paused and smiled, "for a white girl, quite beautiful. I can conclude that you are not rich."

"I am definitely not rich, but how can you conclude that?"

"They say no one is perfect. If you were rich, you would be perfect. Therefore, you are not rich."

"Thank you, Will," said Carla, "and not just for the flattery, but for taking the time to help me sort things out. I know I still have a long way to go, but I think I've cleaned most of my roadblocks away. Would you enlighten me on one more thing?"

"I'll try. What is it?"

"Well, it's hard for me to understand how you got to be part of S.M.A.R.T. or even to embrace the libertarian philosophy in the first place."

"Why is it hard to understand?"

"You’re black. It seems to me that you would feel differently about the federal government, differently than the libertarians do."

Will stared at her for a moment. "Are you serious, Carla?"

"Of course I'm serious."

"I don't believe that you are a racist, Carla. Therefore, I assume that your racist question is without malice."

"Me a racist? I never had a racist thought in my life."

"I think you really believe that," said Will. "Yet you think I should be grateful to the government because I'm black. Do you think that, because I'm black, I am so inferior that I can't get by without the government to take care of me?"

"No. Of course not."

"Are you grateful to the government, Carla?"

She thought a moment. "For some things, I guess I am. We have a pretty good life, compared to most other places."

"And you think the government deserves the credit for that?"

"At least part of the credit. Don't you think so?"

"I think we have a RELATIVELY good life, here. However, I believe it is but a shadow of the magnificent life we would have without governmental intervention. Any increase in the quality of life that we have had is primarily due to technological advances brought about by the profit motive. Productive people create goods, or wealth. They sell these goods for money. A certain amount of their earnings they spend on the basic necessities. After those necessities are met, much of any surplus is used for investments like factories and stores, to create more wealth. Unfortunately, we have a government that sucks up over a third of all the wealth created and uses it for non-productive purposes, actually, most often for counter-productive, even destructive purposes. That eliminates the vast majority of any surplus, over and above basic necessities. It is probable that most of the government's booty would have gone to investments that would have created even more wealth, enabled more advances in technology, more cures, a far greater quality of life, etc. Therefore, we can say, with confidence, that the invertible surplus is held to a tiny fraction of what it would be, were it not for the plundering of the government. We can also say, with great confidence, that the advances in our quality of life, through technology and medicine, etc., is but a tiny fraction of what it would be without massive tribute being exacted by our government. Since these increases are cumulative, we have to conclude that our great quality of life is an insignificant part of what it would be without the plunder by our government. For this, I should be grateful? Forgive me if I decline."

"I don't see why you stand up for the rich, Will. You aren't rich."

"Hardly. You aren't black either. Should you not support justice for blacks, just because you aren't black? Should you favor persecution of blacks because you are not black?"

"Of course not."

"Then, why shouldn't I support justice for the rich, even though I am not rich? Why should I favor persecution of the rich, because I'm not rich?"

“You make me feel so foolish,” she said. “I don’t know how I could be so irrational.”

“You’re not irrational, Carla. Irrational is when in when you see the error of your beliefs and still won’t give them up. And that happens all the time. Believe me; I see a lot of that every day. People essentially know that they are wrong and I am right, but refuse to change from the beliefs that they know to be wrong. The moment I see that, I just walk away. There’s no use wasting time on someone with that mentality.

“Perhaps I was predisposed to resist oppression,” Will said, as an afterthought. “It hardly seems a popular position any more. You heard about what happened to my mother, and what happened to our property in Santa Fe. That surely makes me look askance at any government program. And now from the people that killed your mother and took your land, we have a new program. Their garbage doesn't work on me.”

“I can understand that,” she said. “It was a horrible thing to happen. Look at me, I have a wonderful mother, and I was so stupid that I ran away and didn’t see her for six years. Of course, I was an idiot. Maybe I still am. Maybe that is why I have so much trouble grasping all this libertarian stuff.”

“You’re not an idiot, Carla. You are very intelligent. Maybe you aren’t S.M.A.R.T. yet, but you are smart, meaning intelligent. You were brainwashed. Conditioned, like Pavlov’s dogs. Why do you think the government is forcing kids into the system younger and younger? So they can get them before their brain is formed. That way, they can surreptitiously condition them to accept an omnipotent government and obey it blindly. You know they aren’t teaching them any more. All children get as least one more year and probably two more years of school than your parents got. Yet, the quality of today’s education is but a shadow of what it was in their time. It isn’t to teach them more that the government spends hundreds of billions a year to get the kids in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten. It wants to get into their little minds. You will be seeing them pushing the age lower and lower as time passes. You might see federal standards for day care, so they can get to them when they are less than a year old. By that time, it will be all over.”

“I don’t recall any overt political teachings,” said Carla.

“There’s the clue: overt. Overt would create a lot of opposition. Why risk that when all they have to do is teach you how wonderful your government is, how lucky you are to have someone to tell you what is good for you, make sure your food is safe to eat, and protect you. See the nice policeman taking care of little boys and girls. This is a picture of the White House where our benevolent, loving, all-powerful President lives. This is President Lincoln, the nice man that kept all the states together when some of them wanted to be free from tyranny. That sort of thing. Then add the indoctrination embedded in Sesame Street, and similar programming. By the time the average American kid gets out of high school, he has had over fifty thousand hours of school and television. I don’t know what percentage of that would be directed to conditioning, but that’s five hundred hours for every percent. So if it’s ten percent, it is five thousand hours. Personally, I think it’s in every subject, from English through history. And it’s spread out over fifteen years. Small wonder that people are looking more and more to the government, not as a public servant, but as a surrogate parent, or a totalitarian ruler, the only solution to every problem, and by doing so, they make it so. It was a terrible thing to lose my mother as I did. But, maybe there is some good in every event, no matter how terrible. That tragedy made me immune to the government’s indoctrination. Now, that immunity has positioned me to help create something as wonderful as a new nation, where people can be free and the government won’t break down doors in the middle of the night and shoot innocent people, especially where a victimless crime is involved, and where the government won’t steal someone’s property because they cleaned the trash off their lot and filled a hole. Every day, I think about my mother’s death putting me here, doing what I do, and I work as hard at it as I possibly can, so that something wonderful will come from her death. I don’t know if telling you all this helps you or not. I hope so.”

“Can I hug you, Will. Nothing romantic. I just want to hug you.”

“Sure. If you want to.” He opened his arms to her.

She put her arms around him and squeezed. “You have helped me a lot, Will. Tremendously. In more ways than one. Thank you.”

“You’re most welcome, Carla. Any time.” He felt a little embarrassed, without knowing why.

 

***

 

Nicole Greene rummaged through her purse looking for her ringing phone. Just as she found it and pressed the button to take the call, it stopped ringing. Checking the screen, she saw that the call had been from home. It was unusual for them to call during the day, knowing that she was in classes and usually had to turn her phone off. It must be important, she thought, as she called the number. Her mother answered.

“Is that you, Nicole?”

“Yes, Mama. It’s me. What’s up?”

“Your father has found out about you and your young man, there in Oxford. He had a private detective watching you, to make sure you stayed away from those libertarians. He knows everything. He has pictures of you and the boy. He knows, of course, that this is the one he had the run-in with that Sunday, after church. He knows that he is connected with the libertarians too. He is furious. I wanted you to know as soon as possible. I’ll try to calm him down, but I don’t know if I can or not. I’ve never seen him so mad. Keep your phone with you, so I can keep you posted on what is going on.”

“Oh, God,” sighed Nicole. “Has he taken it out on you?”

“No. He’s not been at all violent. He’s seething, like a volcano about to erupt.”

“Don’t let him hurt you, Mama. Why don’t you go visit somebody for a while?”

“He isn’t mad at me, Baby. He’s mad at you and your boyfriend. What’s his name, anyway?”

“Will Hastings, Mama. He’s not just a boyfriend, either. I really love him, Mama, and he loves me. It’s very serious.”

“It’s serious all right, in more ways than one,” said Mrs. Smith. “I’d advise you to keep away from Will Hastings, for a while anyway.”

“Okay, Mama. I will. I have to go. I have a test to go to.” It wasn’t true. She didn’t have a class for half an hour, but she wanted to call Will. She called his number. She was so upset that she it took three attempts to get the number right.

“Will,” she said.

“What is it?”

“Daddy knows about us. He had a private detective follow me. He also knows that you are the one that humiliated him in the churchyard and that you are connected to S.M.A.R.T. Mother says she has never seen him so furious. She said we had better not see each other for a while. She will try to calm him down, if she can. I hope so. Daddy can be pretty rough sometimes.”

“She is probably right,” said Will. “We’ll just communicate on the Internet for a while, until this blows over.”

“God bless Bill Gates,” said Nicole. There was no response for a moment. “Are you still there, Will?”

“My battery is dying fast,” he said. “It has had a lot of use today. I’ll call you on the computer this evening when I get to Oxford. I’ll not be late. “There followed some professions of love, most of which were lost, because his battery died completely in mid-profession.

 

Nicole had just gotten back to her room. She switched on her computer, and checked that the volume was up. She didn’t want to miss Will’s call later. She had just started to get undressed to get into the shower when her cell phone rang. She looked at the screen. It was her mother again.

“Hello, Mom.”

“Oh, thank God I got you. I heard your daddy talking to some people on the phone. I think he is getting someone to do something terrible to your boyfriend. I couldn’t tell what, but I think it is going to happen today, this evening.”

“Oh my God,” cried Nicole. “They’re not going to kill him are they?”

“I don’t know, Baby. I honestly don’t know. I’d hate to think your father would do something like that, but I don’t know. You had better call him and tell him not to go home, to get out of town.”

“I will. I will. Bye, Mom. I got to go and call him now.”

“Hurry, Honey. Bye.”

Nicole called Will. She got a message that he couldn’t be reached. His battery was dead, she remembered. She looked at the clock on her phone. It was five-thirty. Will had no telephone other than his cell phone. He was gone most of the time, and with cable television and cable Internet, he didn’t think he needed a conventional phone. He used his cell phone and an Internet telephone program.

She started putting on her clothes again. What were they going to do to Will? Beat him up. Threaten him. Kill him. She was crying by the time she got dressed. She was so nervous, that she couldn’t fasten her shoes. She called a taxi, slipped into a pair of loafers, and raced out the door.

The taxi dropped her at Will’s. Will’s car was parked across the street, so she knew he must be home. She ran up the driveway, to his door. Pounding on his door, she cried, “Will. Will.”

“Hold on,” said Will, when he opened the door and pulled her inside. “What’s your rush? I thought we weren’t going to see each other for a while.”

She threw her arms around him. “My mother called again. Daddy’s got somebody to do something terrible to you. She didn’t know what. She thinks it’s today. This evening. You have to get away. Go somewhere. Disappear. I’ll go with you.”

“They are after me,” he said. “I don’t want anything to happen to you. You stay here a few minutes. I’ll leave. If they are watching, I’ll draw them away. You can get a taxi or a bus down the block. Go home and wait for me to call.”

“Be careful.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll be all right.” He hoped he was right. “Lock the door behind me. Wait five or ten minutes before you leave.” He went out the door, and pulled it shut. He whistled loudly as he slammed the door, and all the way to his car. If there were someone watching, they couldn’t possibly miss him. He started his car and took off, heading across the state. If he had to, he would go to one of the refuges that had been made for the S.M.A.R.T. leadership. He just had to make sure that he wasn’t followed. There were no cars behind him.

 

Nicole sat quietly, watching the digital clock beside the bed. As her eyes adjusted, the darkness became lighter A bit of moonlight shone in through the window by the stair landing. Time seemed to stand still. She thought she heard a car door outside. Maybe next door, she thought. Then she heard what sounded like someone in the driveway, right outside. She froze, listening intently. Oh, God. There it was again. There was someone out there, walking ever so slowly, trying to be quiet. But the driveway was gravel, and the occasional crunching was unavoidable. She crawled under the bed, quaking with fear.

She heard the doorknob turn back and forth a few times. Someone was trying to get in. Maybe when they found it locked, they would leave. She was amazed by how loud her breathing was in the stillness. If they put their ear to the door, they would hear it. She saw a shadow moving across the moonlight on the floor beside the bed. They were at the window right above the bed. Terrified that they might see the edge of her body from that angle, she inched farther in from the edge of the bed.

Suddenly, her foot caught on something. There was a loud crash as the lamp on the night table fell and the bulb smashed to smithereens. Her foot had caught in the lamp cord. It was all over. They knew someone was in the apartment. But everything was so quiet. Then they tried to open the window. She saw their shadow and heard them. Her heart was pounding in her chest, about to burst. How can the human heart beat so hard? There was the sound of glass breaking. They were going to come in. She felt sick. Would they kill her? Something hit the floor with a loud noise, and she heard it rolling. Looking out from under the bed, she saw them. She had seen enough movies to recognize them. Two grenades. She heard the person racing down the driveway, and the screech of tires as a car sped away. She scurried out from under the bed and lunged for the door. Frantically, she tried to still her shaking hands and unlock the door. She got it open and had started to run, when the apartment exploded. She heard the tremendous noise, saw the brilliant flash of light, felt herself lifted and thrown through the air, felt herself slam down hard and painfully, and then there was nothing.


 

Chapter Ten

 

 

Norman Greene, Nicole’s brother, sat on one side of his sister's hospital bed. Her mother sat on the other side. Nicole lay in the bed, drifting in and out of consciousness. It was the afternoon of the day following the explosion of Will’s apartment. Neighbors had run out to see what had happened. They had called the police, and when they saw Nicole lying in the driveway, called an ambulance. Nicole looked a like a mummy, wrapped in bandages. She had a concussion, multiple fractures, cuts, bruises, and abrasions, but the doctors said that with her youth and good health, her chances of recovery were good. In a month to six weeks she should be in pretty good condition.

“Are you awake, Baby,” said Alice Green.

“Almost,” said Nicole, weakly.

“You’re going to be fine, Honey, It’s just going to take some time. But the doctors said you are going to be like new.”

“That’s right,” said Norman.

“Will,” said Nicole. It was an effort to speak. She hurt all over. When she talked, her ribs ached and her jaw hurt. She couldn’t open her mouth more than a fraction of an inch. It was wired shut.

“Will’s coming, Nicole Baby. He’s on his way, getting here as fast as he can. He should be here in an hour or so.”

Mrs. Greene had called Nicole the previous night to see if she had gotten to Will in time. When she got no answer, she had been concerned, but not yet worried. She had thought that the two of them might have gone somewhere together. The next morning, still unable to reach Nicole, she called the college and found Nicole had missed her first class. Then she called the campus police. Not long after that, she had the awful truth. She and Norman had driven straight to Oxford. Nicole had asked for Will several times. She managed to communicate Will’s number to her mother. Mrs. Green called him and told him what she knew of what had happened, which was only that his apartment had blown up. The police said Nicole must have been in the doorway or just outside, from where she landed. She had been unconscious the first ten or twelve hours. When she regained consciousness, her speech was labored and painful, and her medication made her drowsy all the time.

There was a knock on the partially open door. Senator Greene stuck his head in the room.

Alice Greene sprang to her feet. “You have some nerve showing your face here. You damned near killed my baby. Get out of here. Get out of my sight. Out of my life. Our lives. Don’t ever come back. Don’t come near the house again either. If you don’t leave and stay gone, I’ll go straight to the police and tell them that you hired someone to blow up that apartment. I’ll see you rot in jail, so help me God.”

“You know I didn’t mean for anything like this to happen. I wouldn’t hurt Nicole.”

“You hired someone to kill that young man,” said Mrs. Greene. “I heard you on the phone. Now you get out, or I’ll call the police. I mean it. Now.”

“I’m sorry, Nicole honey,” groaned the Senator. “God, I am so sorry.”

Nicole closed her eyes and turned away from him. With great effort she managed to blurt out, “You’re not my father. Murderer. God have mercy on you. I sure won’t.”

With tears in his eyes, he turned and was gone.

 

 

Will pulled into the hospital parking lot. He parked in the first empty space he saw. He sprinted across the lot, into the hospital, and up to the desk. “Nicole Greene,” he gasped.

The elderly lady behind the desk looked at the monitor screen beside her. “517,” she said. “Elevator over there,” she added with a wave of her arm.”

He walked rapidly to the elevator. He got in the first elevator. It was going down. It seemed to take forever to get back to the ground floor. At last it arrived. It filled up with people and stopped at every single floor on the way up. On the fifth floor, he stepped out, looked for a sign, saw it and went down the hall until he came to room 517. Now, he slowed down. He eased the door open. Her bandaged body came into view, his heart turned to lead and his legs to rubber. He had to be upbeat, he told himself. She had enough problems without him adding to them. He managed a smile, not much of a smile, but a smile. He walked in and stood by her bed. He hadn’t even noticed her mother and brother. All he had seen was Nicole. As he drew alongside the bed, she noticed him and looked up. She began to cry. He leaned over and kissed her gently, fighting back his tears, with modest success. Mrs. Greene wasn’t even trying. She just let the tears roll down her cheeks. She knew Nicole’s tears were tears of joy. If this boy could make her baby cry tears of joy in her condition, he wasn’t just any young man. He was the young man.

Will and Nicole just looked at each other for a while. Then Nicole said, “Mama. This is Will.”

Will turned. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Greene. I just barged in. Forgive me for being so impolite.”

“She’s been waiting for you, Will,” said Mrs. Greene. “You did the right thing, barging right in.”

“You told me the doctors said she was going to be all right,” he said, making it a question, a plea.

“That’s right. It won’t be overnight, but she should be just fine. Just like new.”

“It should have been me,” said Will.

“No,” moaned Nicole, loudly.

“I’m not going to argue with you now, “he said. “We will have plenty of time to argue about that later. Having all that time is what I’m happy about now, my sweet angel.”

Norman walked around the bed to Will. “Hello, Will,” he said.

“Norman,” said Will, putting his arms around Norman. “What can I say? I’m just so glad she’s going to be okay.”

“Me too.”

 

***

 

On Russ Monroe’s huge, front porch, seated in a cluster of high-backed rocking chairs, were Clyde Masterson, Nelson Defoe, Ron Kellis, William Roberts, Samuel Crowell, two former congressmen, two former senators, and a former governor. Before making his final decision, Monroe had insisted on meeting with some of the S.M.A.R.T. leadership. For over an hour, the S.M.A.R.T. people had been doing their best to sell their ideas to Monroe.

"Okay," said Russ Monroe. "I think it’s time to talk turkey. I know dang well that you all know even more about me than I know about you. I can tell that you’ve done your homework. So, I’m sure you know that there are a lot of things we will never see eye to eye on. Nevertheless, I am also dang sure, one hundred percent against the same things you’re against. If you fellers make a go of it, I can see that everybody in the new Mississippi is gonna be able to do what he wants. He might not like what the feller next door is doing, but he can do whatever he wants. Besides, there’s no question that you’re dead right when you say that if the government has the power to keep the guy next door from doing what you don't like him doing, it also has the power to stop you doing what you want to do. What it boils down to is plain old live and let live, which everybody can understand.

“I may be getting old, but I’m a long way from losing my marbles. Since I first met with you fellers, I’ve been mulling over our differences and our agreements. Most of the differences come out to be things I wanted to see done in the current form of government, but seem pretty much impossible to accomplish any more. Since I ran for president, against what I saw wrong then, things have gotten so much worse it makes me sick to my stomach, and I really think the worst is yet to come. I don’t see any chance at all of anything getting better in the current government. It also stands to reason that if the government has the power to do what I want done, it also has the power to do what it’s been doing. That stinks to high heaven. I think starting over and keeping the government in its place has got to be one heck of an improvement. If you can pull this off, I reckon a lot of people are going to take notice, and the government will either get its act together or start losing more states. I love America, but I believe in tough love. You fellers got the right idea, and you got my support.”

"Then you will communicate your support for S.M.A.R.T. to your followers?" asked Nelson Defoe.

"I sure will," said Monroe. "I'll do better than that. I'll make some TV commercials. I know for a fact that is right down your alley, Mr. Defoe. You make them; I'll be in them. I’ll pay to have them broadcast. How's that grab you?"

"It grabs me just fine," said Defoe. "We couldn't hope for anything more. That should bring a lot of new immigrants into Mississippi."

“I never believed in doing things halfway,” said Monroe. “I’ll also buy me a house in Mississippi, and set up a business or two there. I believe in putting my money where my mouth is.”

"It's only fair to tell you, Mr. Monroe, that such open support for S.M.A.R.T. may be dangerous to your health," said Ron Kellis. "The Feds aren't going to sit on their hands and let Mississippi leave the Union."

"You’re dang right, they aren't," said Monroe. "Those cotton pickers have been after me before. I know they might try to make an example of me, to discourage others from supporting you. I think the best way around that is to come out strong at the beginning, saying that they are trying to shut me up and will do anything they can do to keep me quiet and to say that if anything happens to me, it was the Federal Government that did it, no matter how things may look. Even if I get struck by lightning, they can create lightning and wouldn't hesitate to do so. There is no limit to what they will do to keep people under their control."

"Very wise, Mr. Monroe," said Crowell. "The War Between the States didn't abolish slavery at all; it merely paved the way to making slaves of us all."

"By golly, I like that remark," said Monroe. “What did you say your name was?"

"Crowell. Samuel Crowell."

"You've got a way with words, Mr. Crowell. I envy you that."

"Thank you, Mr. Monroe. Words are my stock in trade. Since I make a living using words, it's only natural that I have achieved some proficiency in their application. It is also obvious that you have used your stock in trade, your way with people, with extraordinary success. I certainly envy you as well."

"I think you and I could get to be buddies, Mr. Crowell," said Monroe. “If there’s anything I can do for you, just let me know.”

"If we are to be friends, I think you should call me Sam," said Crowell. "As for doing something for me, you are doing something for me by exhorting your followers to come to Mississippi and join S.M.A.R.T. You are doing a very important something, not only for me and for all of us here today, not only for the people of Mississippi, but for all Mankind. You are taking part in the formation of the only truly free nation to exist on the face of this planet. I hope, in the not too distant future, to see you honored in Mississippi as one of its foremost founding fathers."

“Well, Sam, that sure beats going down in history as a two-time loser, running for the presidency. Let’s hope your country holds up longer than the republic founded by Jefferson, Madison, Washington, and the rest of them fellers.”

"If it gets a chance to exist, it will endure," said Kellis. "It’s also possible that some people in the other states will be fed up enough to follow our example."

"You’d better hope a whole lot of them are fed up enough to give you some support," said Monroe. "Lord knows you're going to need it."

 

***

 

After a few days, Nicole had improved a bit. She could sit up. It hurt to move at all, but once moved, it didn't make much difference which position she was in. Her speech was often difficult to interpret, because she couldn't open her mouth. Will was better at deciphering her words than anyone else.

Trisha Smith visited Nicole every evening. Several classmates and two faculty members had stopped by, bringing flowers. Nicole began telling Will that he needed to get back to S.M.A.R.T. By the end of the week, she was insistent. She felt as strongly as he did about S.M.A.R.T., and she wanted it to succeed. She begged him to go back to work, for her sake, for the sake of all the others working so hard. Her strategy made it impossible to deny her, and he agreed to go back to work. He would visit her every day, if he were close enough to drive back to Oxford at the end of his day. He would call her several times a day, and Mrs. Green or Norman could hold the phone to her ear.


 

Chapter Eleven

 

 

"Norman told me they stopped your daddy downtown yesterday for driving drunk.” Mrs. Greene picked up the coffee pot and topped off her cup. “He apparently managed to fix it though. I guess he's still got a lot of influence."

Since Nicole had gotten strong enough, they had their breakfast on the terrace every morning. The terrace was Mrs. Greene’s pet project. A lot of love and labor had gone into making it an idyllic, restful nook, and she felt that it had a therapeutic effect on her daughter. "From what I hear,” she said, “he's turned into a real lush. He never used to drink much at all.”

Senator Green hadn’t complained when his wife had told him to get out of the house. There were three of them, she had said, and one of him. Besides, he spent so much time in Washington that he didn’t really need a house in Mississippi; a small apartment should be adequate. As Norman lived on campus most of the time, she and Nicole had the house to themselves.

"Maybe he turned to drink because he lost his family," said Nicole, reaching for the plate of pancakes. "I think I'll have another pancake. I have to get my strength back, you know."

"You are doing so well, Baby. It’s amazing how fast you’re bouncing back. I suspect that Will has something to do with that. What do you think?"

"Oh, I'm sure he does. He makes me feel so happy, Mama. My body goes all out, fixing itself up for him--and for you too, Mama. You’ve taken such good care of me. So much love in my life must have a healing effect. I know it does. I am so happy; I could burst. Just look at this fantastic day we have. I love it here, on our terrace, with all the beautiful trees, the birds singing, the soft breeze, and the sweet smell of those roses. Add to that a delicious breakfast with a mother that treats me like a princess, and my Will, who loves me as I love him. What more could I ask for? I am the luckiest girl in the world."

"You are my princess, Nicole," said her mother, wiping a tear from her eye. "You always will be. Even when you have your own family someday, and move away from me.”

“That could happen sooner than you might think, Mama,” said Nicole. “Will and I have been considering getting married right away.”

“What brought this on?” asked Mrs. Greene, sitting up straight in her chair.

“We were putting it off until I finished college,” said Nicole. “Now, not only have I missed a semester, I came very close to getting killed. What happened to me made us realize that being young is no guarantee of a long future. After all, Daddy was actually trying to kill Will. Will is deeply involved with S.M.A.R.T., Mama, and that alone can put him at risk when they get strong enough to get the federal government coming down on them. What if we put off getting married, and we never did, because one of us dies? We don’t want to risk that. Of course, it would be more difficult for us now, than it would be later. But we would be together. I know you know what that means to us.”

“Of course I do, Honey.” Mrs. Greene put her arm around her daughter. “I’m behind you one hundred percent, whatever you decide. Will is a fine young man, and I’ll help you in any way I can.”

“I know you will, Mama.” Nicole leaned her head on her mother’s shoulder.

 

***

 

“I’ve decided to run for Governor in the next election,” said Defoe. He listened for comments from the rest of the group, during one of their periodic cyberconferences.

“Wonderful.” “Great.” “We couldn’t do any better.” The comments were all short and supportive.

“Claire and I were saying the other day that you would be the ideal candidate,” said Palmer. “We were going to beg you to run.”

“No begging required,” said Defoe. “It is quite a challenge. I hope I’m up to it. I racked my brain, trying to think of someone else who would do it. In the end, I decided to do it myself.”

“Have you thought about a Lieutenant Governor,” asked Crowell.

“Not a lot. I didn’t decide to run, until last night. So I haven’t had a lot of time to think of a Lieutenant Governor. How about one of you.”

“What about William?” asked Will, talking from the Greene residence in Jackson. He and Nicole were having a dome home built in Ocean Springs, on the Mississippi gulf coast. That was their favorite spot in the state, but it was a regular target for hurricanes, hence the hurricane resistant dome construction they were using.

“No way,” said Roberts. “I’m too old and tired for that. Were I ten years younger, I’d jump at the chance. What about you, Will? You’re young and certainly capable.”

“Me?” said Will. “You have to be kidding.”

“I couldn’t be more serious,” said Roberts. “You have done more for S.M.A.R.T. than any ten people. We would still be floundering around at one tenth our present strength, but for you Will Hastings.”

“I still have a lot to do getting people here and convincing people that we are the answer to their problems,” said Will.

“You have a statewide organization now to handle that,” said Roberts.

“William is right,” said Crowell. “You would have much better access to people as Lieutenant Governor. A lot more people would see you as credible, who now see you as some fringe group kook.”

“Lieutenant Governor might not be bad,” said Will. “If I were a legislator, I could get a lot done, but I wouldn’t have time to beat the drum for S.M.A.R.T.

“I think we would make an excellent team,” said Defoe. “We complement each other in so many ways.”

“Even in color,” said Crowell, “which can’t hurt in Mississippi, with thirty-six percent of the population black.”

“I never thought of myself as a politician,” said Will. “Until I was in it, I never thought of myself in the real estate business either.”

“Your motivation would be obvious to everyone,” said Fox. “You are well known as an advocate for S.M.A.R.T., preaching freedom and the libertarian position. They will know that you aren’t running for the usual reasons. That will be a definite plus.”

“My reasons would be selfish,” said Will. “I want a decent place to live for me and my family. The only way I can see to get that is to change the government somewhere. Today, if any place on earth looks at all good, it is because it is an illusion or it is on its way to becoming unbearable. With a village idiot running the greatest country on earth, the situation is indeed grave. Anyone with a bit of awareness has to be afraid that someone will finally blow the United States away, if only to get some peace in the world. Are you sure, you don’t feel I would be a detriment to your campaign, Nelson?”

“Of course not,” said Defoe. “I know that, running with you, I would have a far better chance than with anyone else I can think of.”

“I’ll talk it over with Nicole,” said Will. “I don’t think she would object. Just one thing, Nelson. If we win, you have to take very good care of yourself.”

“Fear not,” said Defoe. “If I die in office, it will be over my dead body.”

“Don’t even joke about that,” said Fox. “Not with the federal government we have.”

“While we're at it,” said Will, “it wouldn't hurt to have some of our people in other elected offices.”

When they had finished, William Roberts had agreed to run for State Treasurer and Samuel Crowell for Secretary of State. Will was to talk to James Talbott about running for Attorney General.

 

***

 

“Lying here, in this field, I'm reminded of a painting by Renoir,” said Suzanne Barrett. She was sitting on a blanket, leaning against a tree, with Collins head in her lap. They weren’t far from Kellis’ farm, but far enough that they couldn’t see any of the buildings, for the trees and brush. “I don’t remember the name of the painting, but I can see it clearly in my mind. Actually, I don’t know why this makes me think of it. There is very little resemblance, other than a field of grass. Maybe it’s because every time I saw that painting, I thought of having a picnic in that field, and here we are having a sort of picnic in a field of grass.”

She touched a grape to Collins’ lips, which he opened to take it.

“As long as we’re recalling things,” said Collins, “this grape in my mouth reminds me of a line from Keats, I think it was, in which he mentions a man whose strenuous tongue can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine. Even as a boy in high school, I appreciated that metaphor. Today, I feel that I am such a man, and my tongue is indeed bursting Joy’s grape against my palate. With you, Suzanne, I’m tasting all the sweetness that Joy can offer.”

She ran her fingers through his hair. “It was Keats,” she said, “in his ‘Ode On Melancholy.”

“It hardly brings melancholy to mind,” he said, “except maybe in contrast to the joy.”

“Speaking of contrasts,” she said, “how do you find being here these last few days in a bevy of libertarians after years of liberal academia? Are you experiencing culture shock?”

“Not really. That may sound a bit strange to you, but I have swung a long way from the ultra-liberal that I was,” said Collins. “I’m still not the libertarian that you are, Suzanne. I really want to accept it all the way as you do. But there are still a few points that don’t seem rational to me. However, that isn’t going to interfere with us, certainly not as far as I’m concerned.”

“We fell in love while we were poles apart,” she said. “I just don’t want to have problems come up down the road. I don’t want us to have a serious disagreement over some political thing. I’d feel a lot better if we agreed on the major points.”

“So would I, but I don’t know of any way to expedite the matter, short of hypnosis, and that wouldn’t be acceptable, not really. There’s probably nothing wrong with the libertarian views. Most of those that I have accepted were completely foreign to me a year ago. I may just need a more in-depth analysis to get to the root of the situation.”

“I guess we both do,” she said, “otherwise I would have been able to resolve your doubts or answer your questions. I’m hardly an expert, you know, being a convert myself.”

“If I figure it out, I can share it with you,” he said. “That would be a pleasant first, for me to explain a libertarian concept to you. I’ve come a long way, Suzanne. It’ll work out. If you want me as a full-fledged, died-in-the-wool libertarian, you’ll just have to wait a while.”

“I want you any way I can get you,” she said. “I was voicing a preference, not a condition. I’m overjoyed that you’ve come as far as you have. Of course, I’ll be even happier when you are thoroughly deprogrammed.” She held him close to her. “If you only knew how many times I wished I could be with you like this and how desolate I was to think it could never happen.”

“Probably no more times than I dreamed of holding you and felt desolate because I never thought it would happen. But here we are, and desolation is a thing of the past.”

“It’s history,” she said. “As much in the past as the pharaohs or the Roman Empire.”

“As much in the past, yes, but a much more recent past. From desolation to elation in one wonderful step. What a step.” He rolled off her lap and pulled her down on the blanket.

 

Half an hour later, Suzanne opened her eyes. She had fallen asleep. Collins was sound asleep beside her, with a trace of a smile on his face. When she moved, he woke.

“I must have fallen asleep,” he said.

“We both did. I guess we still haven’t gotten over getting up so early yesterday to come here. Then too, traveling by air is such a disgusting hassle these days. We should be fine by tomorrow.” She stretched and groaned. “Look how low the sun is. It’ll be dark soon. We should be getting back to the house.”

He looked at his watch. “We have an hour before dinner. It’s a good thing we woke up.”

 

 

 

After dinner, everyone sat outside on the deck. It was a perfect evening. The moon was just coming over the treetops. Here and there, fireflies blinked their tiny lights.

“It is so beautiful here,” said Suzanne Barrett. “Too bad it’s not in Mississippi.”

“It wouldn’t be safe for us in Mississippi right now,” said Claire Fox. “The government has William Roberts and me on their list. Supposedly, our speeches in Santa Fe last fall incited people to sedition.”

“The government is driving us to sedition, or, even better, secession,” said Suzanne.

“I suspect we have you to thank, Suzanne, for converting Dr. Collins, “said Will. “He once mentioned something about barrages from a libertarian sister-in-law.”

“He certainly got a lot of barrages from me,” said Barrett. “But I think attending the Rally for Freedom helped a lot too.”

“It made a difference,” said Collins. “To tell you the truth, I went there expecting to hear a bunch of kooks. I was very pleasantly surprised. I can’t say it converted me, but it certainly started me thinking about a lot of things.”

“He’s still not totally converted,” said Barrett. “There are some major stumbling blocks, and I’m not knowledgeable enough about libertarian philosophy to clear them up for him.”

“What are these stumbling blocks?” asked Fox. “Maybe we can help you past them.”

“There are several,” said Collins. “I think the biggest one is your stance on majority rule. Okay, I can understand that if you have any government at all, you automatically give up some of your freedom. I’ve read Robert Nozzick’s, ‘Anarchy, the State, and Man.’ He convinced me that some government is necessary, and even if you try to have anarchy, you’ll eventually end up with a government anyway. If you are going to have a government, you have to have a way of arriving at some guidelines. It seems to me that the guidelines are best set by the majority. A super majority could be required, but some sort of democracy has to be the best.”

“That is tough for a lot of people,” said Will. “Before we deal with majority rule, let’s deal with the word ‘best.’ In this context, people tend to imbue the word “best” with unwarranted meanings, such as moral or just, benevolent, etc. If every country on earth was a dictatorship, and we found that country X had the best dictatorship of them all, that wouldn’t make country X’s government the optimum government possible. If you are given a choice of being executed tomorrow morning, in six months, or a year from now. Your best choice is a year. But you would much prefer to be able to opt for no execution at all. Add that as a choice and it immediately becomes the best, no matter how many other time periods they might offer you.

“As for majority rule,” continued Will, “while we are having this discussion, I want you to bring your mind to bear on the fact that you, Doctor Collins, are a minority of one. Let’s see you in relation to certain societal groups. First, see yourself alone, then you and Suzanne. In these two instances you are not a minority. But then consider you and the rest of us in this room; then you and the rest of the people in this county, then you and the rest of the people in Tennessee, then you and the rest of the people in the United States, and finally you and the rest of the people in the world. Are you with me on this?”

“Yes.”

“The most serious problem with majority rule is the word ‘rule.’ Since you read Robert Nozzick, you may recall that his conclusion was that the need for protection dictated that eventually we would end up with a government. The purpose of government should be to protect, not to rule. Most libertarians don’t mind being protected, but we don’t want to be ruled by one person or a multitude. The morality and the dangers of majority rule are evident in Benjamin Franklin’s description of democracy as ‘two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner.’ Then he said, ‘Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.’ Do you think the lamb should become dinner for the wolves simply because there are more wolves than lambs? Should members of group A be able to take over the government and persecute group B simply by having larger families, outnumbering them, and thus outvoting them?

“No. And I admit that I can see a multitude of horrors that can happen with majority rule,” said Collins. “Nothing is perfect.”

“Consider America’s takeover of Hawaii,” said Will. “The hospitable Hawaiians let a few families build plantations there, growing sugar and pineapples. These families made a lot of money shipping their produce to the US. But the US had tariffs on foreign imports, which kept them from making even more money. The wealthy planters ‘influenced’ the US government to invade Hawaii, make it a US possession, and put them in as the new government. Then they took the land belonging to the native Hawaiians and sold it to Americans wanting to live in a tropical paradise. When they had enough Americans in Hawaii, they voted to make Hawaii a state. The Hawaiians lost their paradise, their land, and their freedom. Majority rule enabled the US government to go outside its natural role of protector and become an aggressor, attacking, stealing, and plundering weaker peoples. The Constitution is the employment contract for the government. I challenge you to find taking over other weaker nations as part of the government’s job description. Next, the doctrine of majority rule was used to lend an illusion of consent to the total and probably irrevocable acquisition of Hawaii, by outnumbering, and outvoting the poor Hawaiians. You don’t think our acquisition of the Hawaiian Islands was a moral action, do you?”

“Hardly,” said Collins. “Actually, I wasn’t aware that we had invaded Hawaii and installed a government there.”

“Not many Americans are,” said Will. “It’s hardly part of the phony standard American History curriculum. But, let’s look at democracy and majority rule from another angle. Would you consider mob rule acceptable, perhaps desirable?”

“Not at all.”

“You are an expert on mind control, Dr. Collins. I assume that the way people are affected by words and phrases comes into play in that field. In today’s world, the term ‘majority rule’ is seen as acceptable and even desirable by most people. Mob rule on the other hand is seen as evil and undesirable. Can you tell me, Dr. Collins, what is the difference between mob rule and majority rule?”

“Hmm. I see your point. I guess a mob is disorganized, with no plan.”

“That’s pretty good. An ochlocracy is rule by a disorganized mass of people. In olden times, in places where the army was small and the population very large, the people sometimes rose up and overwhelmed the government, and you had an ochlocracy. On a smaller scale, in the old South, you might have found a lynch mob, out to lynch a runaway slave. They may have been disorganized, but they definitely had a plan: to hang the slave. We can picture two scenes. First: during the French Revolution, supposedly hundreds of thousands of people, fed up with oppression, running rampant in Paris, killing all the aristocrats. Second: fifty people, who have just captured a runaway slave and are preparing to hang him. Now, let these two mobs suddenly pause, elect a leader and vote on whether to continue their actions, and having so voted, proceed as before. Have they not ceased being mobs and become democracies, legitimized by majority rule?”

“You make a great debater, Will,” said Collins. “You certainly have me on the defensive. I’d say there have to be some basic rights that even a majority can’t take away.”

“Aha,” said Will. “That is precisely what the Founding Fathers thought. They just couldn’t come up with a good enough way to guarantee those basic rights. That was what the Constitution was supposed to do. If you get three hundred million citizens, eighty percent of whom don’t know about or care about what is going on and a government with extreme expertise in manipulating them, majority rule becomes a powerful tool of the government. If the government can control education, it can control what people ‘know’ about the role of government and their rights, what they ‘know’ about philosophy and history, and on and on. If an immoral government has enough power to extort money from the people, it makes perfect sense to invest some of that money in finding ways to secure and expand its control over the people. It might, for instance, fund grants for studies in mind control. Inevitably, majority rule allows government to rule all the minorities, but since each person is a minority, that means that, in the end, they will control everyone, not even limiting themselves to the majority.”

‘You got me where it hurts, Will,” said Collins. “There have to be some trade-offs,” said Collins. “Sometimes you have to take away the rights of the individual for the benefit of the rest of the people,”

“What are the rest of the people, if not other individuals,” said Will. “As I said, majority rule even gives government control over the majority itself and eventually everyone. For every minority there is a unique majority. For each individual there is a unique majority consisting of everyone else. You are a minority. There is a unique majority defined as everyone except you. If, I represent the government, and each of the people in this room represents a segment of the population, and I want to strip you of your rights and your wealth, and I have the tool of majority rule, I can go to the others here and say the following: 'I want the power to control Dr. Collins and take most of his money. I know that sounds a bit extreme at first, but be aware that Dr. Collins is an evil man. He isn’t at all like we are. He is evil and greedy. He got his money in immoral ways, so he really shouldn’t be allowed to have it anyway. If you authorize this new anti-Collins law, the rest of you won’t have to pay nearly as much taxes. Why should this evil man be responsible for you having to pay such high taxes for your protection?' Do you think that my proposal would pass?”

“I think it would pass easily,” said Collins. “I would probably cast the only vote against it.”

“Absolutely,” said Will. “The rest see nothing but wisdom and justice in my proposal, and you are done for. Next, I single out Claire Fox, and approach the rest with a disguised variation of the same plan directed this time at her. Eventually, each of you has your turn at being the minority and the victim of the majority. I, as the brilliant government, now have control over everyone, and essentially have enslaved the whole room. Since we have a democracy, I can claim to have done it with the cooperation of the enslaved. You see. Dr. Collins, if democracy allows me to take away the rights of an individual, I can take away the rights of everyone, for everyone is an individual.”

“But what about the rights of the majority? Shouldn’t they have some rights too?” asked Collins.

“Again, the majority is a group of individuals. What right can two people have that can’t be had by a single person? Give me an example of the rights of a majority being infringed on by a minority.”

“Okay. Supposing that a new family moves into a nice neighborhood, and doesn’t keep their place up, doesn’t mow the lawn and has a bunch of trash in the yard. Do the others have to put up with this? Or do they have a right to live in a decent looking neighborhood?”

“What do you think?” asked Will.

“I think they have the right to expect that if they buy an expensive house in a good neighborhood, that it will stay that way.”

“They certainly have a right to expect that,” said Will, “but do they have a right to demand it and impose that demand on others? If you buy stock in a company, you have the right to expect it to increase in value. But I don’t see you as having the right to demand that it increase in value, or have the government legislate that it increase in value. You plant a tree. You expect it to grow. It may wither and die. You can’t prevent that by making it illegal for the plant not to grow.

‘You see,” continued Will, “you are making the common mistake of confusing wants and hopes with rights. You want your stock to go up. You hope it will. You want your tree to grow. You hope it will. You want the family to keep up their house. You hope they will. An increase in stock value isn’t a right. A growing tree is not a right. A neighbor that keeps his house looking the way you want it to look is not a right. These are wants and hopes, not rights.

“Consider your neighborhood, where you live in peace and harmony. It attracts some very wealthy residents that buy there. They put up ornate gold, jewel-encrusted fences around their homes. Pretty soon, all but a minority have such a fence. Maybe most people have sold their homes to the new rich people, and you are the only one left with an old, vulgar fence. The new wealthy residents want you to put up a fence like theirs. You can’t afford it, and even if you could, you wouldn’t want to. You find their fences garish and ugly. Even if you are the only one left, should the fact that they outnumber you permit them to force you to put up such a fence or move out?”

“I was there when they bought,” said Collins. “They bought into a middle-class neighborhood; they can’t expect it to change for them. In the case I mentioned, I assumed people bought in a nice neighborhood, and later, one family began to let its property deteriorate, detracting from the values of the others.”

“Very well,” said Will. “Let us suppose that you are going to teach now at Ol’ Miss, in Oxford, Mississippi. Having sold your home in Santa Fe, you move into a nice middle class neighborhood in Oxford. You extensively remodel your home, landscape it, and end up with a magnificent showplace. The neighbors want you to put it back the way it was, because now their homes look bad by comparison. You think they are wrong to demand such a thing, and you refuse. They go to city hall and lobby for a law to make you comply with their wishes. Should they get that law? Is that instance of majority rule okay?”

“I give up. At least, in this case,” said Collins. “Allowing infringement of the rights of one enables infringement of the rights of all. You’ve convinced me of that much.”

“There are morally legitimate ways to control your neighborhood,” said Fox, “without trampling the rights of your neighbors. You can create a neighborhood association, and when one neighbor wants to sell, the other neighbors can bid against the outside buyers for the home. Then, they could put it up for sale with the deed restrictions that they wish. Any new buyers would be buying it, aware that they must abide by the deed restrictions. However, the restrictions couldn’t be modified by majority rule, as is currently often the case. It would have to be a unanimous or voluntary agreement for it to be morally right.”

“Okay,” said Collins. “I’ll go along with that method. You have convinced me.”

“Do you want to try another instance where you think the majority should rule?” asked Will.

 “Let me see,” said Collins. “I’m sure libertarians are against government providing public education. What if a majority of the people wants to see to it that those who can’t afford to pay for private education can still have an education? Would that be wrong?”

“I would think it very commendable,” said Will. “If I could afford it, I would contribute, right along with that majority. Of course, they are free to do what they choose with their own money. As long as they don’t try to tell the minority what to do with theirs, they are perfectly within their rights. Using the government to steal money, for whatever cause, is definitely wrong. Furthermore, it invites, and inevitably results in, governmental manipulation of the thing being subsidized, in this case, education, to serve the government’s ends. We have already touched on government and education. Besides, if you really wanted the poor to have an education, you should want them to have a good education. We can see what the ‘best’ form of government has done with public education. I can’t find much to praise in spending ten dollars for every two cents worth of indoctrination and dumbing down. If the purpose of public education is to give the mere appearance of caring, with no regard to substance, I can see how you could mistakenly opt for government running the schools. But there have to be cheaper ways to make people think you care. Really caring would be one way, far cheaper and far better.”

“There must be some case in which a vote needs to be taken,” said Collins.

“There are numerous cases,” said Will. “First of all, you have an initial vote to secede and ratify the constitution. Periodically thereafter, you vote to select the people who are to direct the few governmental activities--to elect your public servants. The need may arise to modify or clarify one of the few laws that must exist, even the constitution. The Constitution of the United States was supposed to be a document spelling out the restrictions on government. Somehow-either the government was smart enough or the people stupid enough-the people became convinced that it was the other way around, hence the amendments restricting people’s rights. That would never occur with a libertarian government, but just in case the governmental restrictions need to be expanded or clarified with changes in technology, some sort of super majority can accomplish that.”

“What about a change or a law that restricts what the citizens can do?” asked Collins.

“The citizens cannot initiate violence against other citizens or the property of other citizens. There may be some clarification required there, also with changes in technology, particularly. As long as an individual doesn’t infringe on the rights of another, and I do mean rights, not wishes, desires, wants, etc., there can be no legitimate restrictions imposed by the government, no punishment and no financial rewards. So, there can be neither laws nor amendments restricting individual rights, even by a unanimous vote, since each individual possesses these rights by natural law, simply by being a human being, with one exception. That exception being when an individual has initiated violence against another or the property of another or otherwise infringed on the rights of another, in which case, he has relinquished his own right to freedom and is subject to punishment. Here we might have another place where voting and a majority or super majority can establish the punishments that can be meted out to such individuals. Needless to say, the more grievous the crime, the more grievous should be the punishment.”

“Are you saying that once you establish a libertarian nation, periodic elections are just about the limit of majority rule?” asked Collins.

“I don’t think I would even call that majority rule,” said Will. “Perhaps you could call it majority administration or majority oversight. Rule seems rather inappropriate. But, yes, barring special events, there is little voting to be done and little legislation or regulation, if any. Once you have defined what constitutes violence, and what the punishment for violence is, what else is there for the legislature to do? There is no such thing as a non-violent crime, at least, not in the eyes of the law. There are sure to be some controversial areas where some think something should be considered violence and others don’t, perhaps similar to the abortion controversy we have currently. Nothing will ever be perfect. A libertarian government can’t be perfect, but it can be more perfect, fairer, and more moral than any other form of government. Some will say that we purport to do nothing for people. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since people are indeed all individuals, we are doing more for them than any government on earth. The others proclaim that they are helping the people, but they repress and oppress the individuals. That is doublespeak, right out of Orwell, right up there with bad is good, more is less, kill with kindness, save you if we have to kill you doing it, free to do what you are told, etc. We will carefully protect the right of everyone to do, be, and have all that they want enough to do whatever it takes to get it, as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others. We will make sure everyone can do his best and keep his rewards, regardless of how many people want to rob him and enslave him. We will not punish success and industry, and therefore, we will have so much more of both than do those nations that do punish them. We will harshly punish violent crime, and therefore, we will have so much less of it than those nations that not only indulge it, but have governments that set a bad example by committing violent crime.”

“I have been trying to come up with a valid situation for majority rule,” said Collins. “Everything that comes to mind now, I can see what’s wrong with it myself. I think you have cured me of whatever mental aberration caused me to think that majority rule was good.”

“It is good,” said Fox, “if you are a would-be despot, wanting to gain power over your citizens. It is good, if your goal is to live by selling your vote for a handout of stolen money. It is good if you want to take the lion’s share of the wealth produced in a nation. There is a rule, called the eighty-twenty rule. According to this rule, eighty percent of all sales are made by twenty percent of the salesmen, eighty percent of the crimes are committed by twenty percent of the population, eighty percent of all the wealth created is created by twenty percent of the people, etc. Of course, these percentages are not precise, but merely indicative. Democracy, or majority rule in modern governments, is a tool with which the government can take your money by asking permission from some other guy. Naturally government wants to target the money earned by the twenty percent that make eighty percent of the money. How convenient that they can ask the permission from the eighty percent that earn twenty percent of the money. How convenient to be able to say, ‘We need three trillion dollars this year. Since you don’t have much, we were thinking of taking it from these guys in the top twenty percent. Is that okay with you, or would you rather we spread it out more, getting more from you?” Guess how the bottom fifty percent vote.”

“Why the bottom fifty percent? Why not the whole bottom eighty percent?” asked Barrett.

“I would think that the higher you go, the more people have hopes of getting to the top twenty someday,” said Fox.

“With very few exceptions people will choose what they perceive to be in their own best interest,” said Will. “This is where propaganda, dumbing down, lies, and misinformation come into play.”

“And mind control,” said Barrett, glancing at Collins.

“Which reminds me, Will,” said Collins. “In your first e-mail after you left Santa Fe, you inferred, or I think you did, that you would like to use mind control for this project, for S.M.A.R.T. Wouldn’t that be an immoral thing to do, and contradictory to what you say are your standards?”

“As an expert on mind and behavior control, Dr. Collins, tell me if it is true that the government has been doing all it can in those two areas, to keep people in line, for the last five or six decades. I want to include the indoctrination through the schools, management of news, outright lies and misinformation by commission and omission, and all the covert and overt tricks at their disposal.”

“To the best of my knowledge,” said Collins, “yes they have used all those avenues.”

“In that case, mere logic is either useless against people so brainwashed, or it would take so long and so many repetitions that most people of voting age would be dead before the effects of the government’s work could be undone. Is that probable?”

“I imagine it would be the case,” said Collins. “I think reversing the effects of the past fifty years of indoctrination may be impossible, altogether. You might have to start with the very young and wait for attrition to give you a majority of unconditioned people. You would need intensive interaction for a prolonged period, and that would be extremely difficult to achieve.”

“But wouldn’t the use of mind control techniques facilitate such a reversal?” asked Will.

“To some extent,” said Collins. “But the more effective methods would hardly be available to you, and those methods that you could use are much less effective. You would be limited to associating pleasant feelings with you and your ideas, while associating unpleasant feelings with your opposition and their ideas.”

“We wouldn't want to use mind control as a weapon, as the government has been doing for decades. We want to use it as an antidote to the poison people have been injected with. When bones have been broken and left to heal in a twisted way, it is often wise to re-break them and set them straight so that they will heal straight. This is an analogous situation. People's minds have been intentionally broken and left to heal in a twisted fashion. We need to reset them straight. I don't want to make people agree with us. I just want them to be able to reason, to think straight. I truly believe that is all that is needed for us to win. Given what we are trying to achieve, don’t you feel, Dr. Collins, that we are justified in trying to undo or at least counteract the governments brainwashing?” asked Will.

He reflected a moment. “I think you are justified, yes.”

“How much would that help us,” asked Palmer.

“It would depend on how much exposure the subjects have to your messages, how effective you are at composing the messages, how many times it happens and how often. From what I heard at the meeting, and from my conversations since I have been here, I assume you want to know how it might affect the voting at the next election and when the time comes for the plebiscite.”

“Exactly,” said Palmer.

“Since it is impossible to know how you are going to use what, I can only tell you what I think you might do as a maximum, with a modest exposure of a well-planned program on radio, television and printed media. It is very unlikely that you will get any hard-core opponents to change. Any additional voters will probably come from those on the fence and undecided, with a declining percentage, as you move from there to the hard-core opponents. Since I don’t know what the distribution of these categories is, I can’t make even an educated guess. But let’s say the distribution is linear, and you have a million voters that would vote against you. You have 100,000 at the top that are just about convinced but slightly leery. You might get most of these, perhaps two thirds. And the next hundred thousand, maybe a third; and the next hundred thousand, fifteen percent, then five percent and one percent and none after that.” He summed up his numbers. That’s a hundred and twenty-one thousand that you might not have gotten otherwise.”

“That could easily make the difference between success and failure,” said Fox.

“That’s what’s known as a SWAG,” said Collins.

“A SWAG?” asked Will.”

“Scientific Wild-Ass Guess,” said Palmer.

“You could say anywhere between seventy-five and a hundred and fifty thousand,” said Collins, “and chances are you will find the truth in that range.”

“We’d never know how many of the votes we got were from the use of mind control techniques,” said Fox.

“That’s true,” said Collins. “With multiple experiments using control groups, you could come up with a figure, but that is hardly feasible under the circumstances.”

“We would certainly concentrate our efforts in those areas where we are the weakest,” said Will. “This could help us avoid losing some counties. We wouldn’t want to waste the expense in areas where we have a solid majority.”

“Will you help us with such a program, Dr. Collins?” asked Palmer.

“Can you give me a couple of days to think about it?” asked Collins. “I took an oath not to divulge any of the work I did for the government.”

“Of course we can,” said Palmer. “We don’t really have any choice. Just remember to what kind of people you made your promise. Consider that by keeping a promise made to a band of assassins, you could allow them to permanently end all hope for freedom, worldwide. I firmly believe that if this headlong rush to world tyranny isn’t stopped in the near future, it will reach the point that it can never be stopped. It may be too late already, but we think we have a chance, and we are taking it. I don’t see much else going on out there to even attempt to halt it.”

“I certainly didn’t see anything, until I heard about S.M.A.R.T.,” said Suzanne. “The moment I heard about you, I knew I had to join you and try to make it happen.”

“I understand,” said Collins. “All this is newer to me than it is to the rest of you. I probably agree with you, but I need to ease into it, as I have with the rest of my transition.”

“Are there techniques with which you are familiar that rely on work done by others, to which you are not sworn to secrecy?” asked Will.

“Oh yes. There are many,” said Collins. “I don’t mind helping you with those, either. In fact, the only methods that are likely to be available to you are from the work of others. I have just polished a few of them up a little, made them more effective. Most of the things I’m sworn to secrecy on are things you couldn’t possibly use because they require actual intervention with the subject, and you won’t want your subjects to be aware of your efforts. Yes, I will be glad to help you with the basic methods.”

“Wonderful,” said Fox.”

“It is imperative that we keep your assistance secret, Phil,” said Palmer. “If the Feds find out you are helping us, two things are likely to happen, and both are bad. They would certainly spend billions of dollars on a campaign to smear S.M.A.R.T. as using some horrible mind control techniques for nefarious purposes, and you would be put in personal danger. You should be aware that by helping us, you could end up in harm’s way.”

Collins thought for a moment. “Obviously, I don’t want to get myself killed,” he said. “On the other hand, the restrictions on my activity, the people with whom I am allowed to associate, the reading of my mail, and so on are all signs of the end of all that was supposed to be wonderful about America. I’m not a soldier. I never fired a gun in my life, and hopefully, I never will. But there are limitations to my cowardice, and I think they have been reached.”

“Aren’t there ways that he can help you without them knowing about it?” asked Suzanne, her voice showing her obvious concern for Collin’s safety. “I can be an intermediary. He can give the information you need to me and I can get it to you.”

“That would put you in danger too,” said Collins. “Besides, they would know that you got the information from me, so you wouldn’t be protecting me. You would merely endanger yourself, unnecessarily.”

“There are ways that minimize the danger to everyone,” said Palmer. “All of us here and a good many others may be in grave danger in the not too distant future. When the Gestapo comes for us, we have some plans. But for now, we have some great communication techniques that are essentially foolproof.”

“I realize you both want to help us, Dr. Collins,” said Will, “or you wouldn’t be here. What if you made your move look like you were simply moving to Mississippi with the thousands of others? You might take a position at Ol’ Miss and settle down to a quiet life, as far as everyone on the outside is concerned. You have to assume that your previous connections with the governments mind control will cause them to keep an eye on you for some time. Therefore, you need to be extra cautious. Fortunately, you can keep in touch with us in ways they will never be able to discover, and we are constantly honing our communication technology. Your connection with us will then remain unknown. Your assistance is so important that it is in our best interest to keep you as safe as is humanly possible.”

“I want to keep him as safe as humanly possible too,” said Barrett.

“You could even do it from Santa Fe,” said Will.

“However,” said Palmer, “your house there is probably already so wired by the Gestapo that unwiring it would attract attention. It would be hard to even talk to yourself there. Naturally, you have to assume that they will bug your new home, once you have one.”

“That is thoroughly disgusting,” said Collins. “I don’t want to stay in Santa Fe and help them do their dirty work anymore. I want to divorce myself from them as completely as possible. It’s bad enough that I have done as much as I have to help them create a nation of mindless robots. I’m afraid I’ve done a great deal of harm to the American people, even to the world.”

“You didn’t see it that way, while you were doing it,” said Barrett. “You aren’t an evil person. You were brainwashed just like everyone else.”

“Salesmen are said to be the easiest people to sell to. I guess mind control people are the easiest to brainwash,” said Collins, with a grimace.

 

***

 

"You've lived in Mississippi for only three years," said Butch Crenshaw, Mississippi's leading talk radio host, pushing on with his interview of gubernatorial candidate, Nelson Defoe. "Can you really consider yourself a Mississippian, after such a short time?

"I understand you were born in Mississippi, Butch," said Defoe. "At what age do you think you became a Mississippian?"

"Yes, I am a native," said Crenshaw. "I would think that being born here would make me a Mississippian instantly, at birth"

"All right, I’ll concede that you may have been a Mississippian at birth," said Defoe. "However, I hardly think you were born qualified to be governor. Being a Mississippian may be a requirement for being governor, but it obviously has little to do with the ability to perform the job. The state prisons are full of people, born and raised here, but hardly qualified to lead the state at all, much less to new heights. One has to be a native born US citizen to be president. There are hundreds of millions of people that meet that requirement. Most of them are patently unqualified to be the president of the United States, including, I might add, the current resident of the White House, George F. Upton."

"Let me rephrase the question," said Crenshaw. "Do you think you have been living here long enough to be aware of the needs of Mississippi and Mississippians?"

"You see, that's a much better question," said Defoe. "There are important thresholds that a candidate should exceed. They concern things like interest, involvement, ability, experience, and such, as opposed to such irrelevant issues, such as length of residency. In my three years in Mississippi, I have accomplished as much or more for the betterment of Mississippi than any of my opponents, if not more than all of them put together.  Furthermore, I have not done harm to Mississippians as all my opponents have done. Those things are far more important than the time I have lived here. Moreover, it shouldn't be completely unknown to you that the vast majority of the needs of Mississippians are the same as the needs of people all over this nation, even all over the world. It’s time to begin concentrating on things that are important and ignoring the unimportant, the trivial, the red herrings, and the smoke screen material that the media generally harps on, to avoid discussing the important issues."

Crenshaw winced inwardly at the lightly veiled insult. This Defoe was no dummy. Nor was he the smiling, nodding, obsequious fraud he found most politicians to be. He obviously wasn't one to say whatever he thought people wanted to hear. "What could we expect from Governor Defoe, should you be elected?" he asked.

"In my opinion,” said Defoe, “it is inappropriate for Mississippians to expect anything of me. However, as governor, I will expect a lot of them. Let me elaborate on that, because I know it is a concept that has become almost alien to this nation. I'm sure you've heard it said that that government is best that governs the least. Actually, to govern means to rule by authority, as a sovereign rules. I may be running for governor, but I don’t think free people need a sovereign over them. We fought a revolution to get out from under a sovereign. But we keep the words govern, governor, and government in our vocabulary, and we should have scrapped them. I think administrators and administration would be far more appropriate for free human beings. What Mississippians will get from my administration and me is as little interference as is necessary for their protection and to guarantee their rights. Don't expect a lot of handouts from me. Those who do will be sorely disappointed. One thing you can expect of me is that I will be doing everything in my power to make Mississippi the freest state in the union. I want to make sure that every Mississippian has the right to realize his or her full potential as a member of the most advanced species on this planet."

"Will that Include minorities?"

"I realize that you are trying to sway the audience with that question, among others. That accentuates a major difference between us, Butch. You see, I believe the majority of the audience is intelligent enough to see that too," said Defoe. "Let me repeat that I want to make sure that every Mississippian has the right to realize his or her full potential as a member of the most advanced species on this planet. While it may be a trait you are unfamiliar with, I say what I mean and I mean what I say. Therefore, when I say every citizen, you can take that to mean every citizen. Understanding that will save a lot of unnecessary questions and hopefully keep the listeners from getting the wrong impression about my convictions."

Crenshaw was beginning to dislike Defoe. He usually put the interviewee on the defensive, not vice versa. "You say you want to make Mississippi the freest state in the Union," he said. "What exactly do you mean by that?"

"That question is a good one," said Defoe. "Perhaps it’s a better question than you realize. It is a good question because a state can't really be free. Can it? States aren't free. Only the citizens can be free. Even though we say a country is free if it allows its people to be free, it would be more precise to say that I intend to make all Mississippians as free as I possibly can. Now, what do I mean by free? People who are free may do as they please as long as they don't infringe on the rights of others, meaning as long as they don't initiate violence against others. Notice that I say 'As long as they don't infringe on the rights of others.' I don't say anything about other's wants, or desires, or whims, which have no power to restrict people's freedom in a free country. Such freedom is the birthright of every human being. The purpose of a legitimate government should be to guarantee that freedom for its citizens. Yet, in practice, every government on the face of the earth abridges that right, some much more than others. At one time, Americans were the freest people ever. That was long ago. Today, only the rulers are free to do as they please. I pledge to do all that I can to return freedom to Mississippians and to protect it. Only free people can hope to realize their potential as human beings."

"Are you inferring that Mississippians are not free now to realize their potential as human beings?" asked Crenshaw.

"Do you seriously think that all or even most of them are being all they are capable of being and doing all they are capable of doing?" asked Defoe.

"Hardly," said Crenshaw. "But this is America where more people are successful than in any other country. Everyone has the same opportunity."

"I'm not saying they don't," said Defoe. "But they all could certainly use a lot more opportunity, and it could be available. Why do you think most people that don't achieve what you call success fail to do so?"

"Many of them don't have enough money for the necessities much less a surplus for investment in assets or in education,” said Crenshaw. “In America, there is a lot of inequality in the distribution of wealth." Let's see him counter that statement with some of his libertarian garbage, thought Crenshaw.

"Yes, there is a lot of inequality in the distribution of wealth," said Defoe. "However, there is a lot less inequality in the distribution of wealth than there should be, given the far greater inequality in the amount of effort expended in creating wealth. Thanks to our government, the indolent do relatively well with the income from the sale of their votes. You are on the right track, too, when you suggest that a shortage of funds shatters a lot of people's hopes. The wealth-devouring machine that our government has become prevents every American, even the most successful, from reaching the level of success they are capable of achieving. It prevents millions from reaching any significant level of success whatsoever.

"It's fairly obvious," Defoe continued, "that all investments in businesses can only be made with money that is left after paying for the bare necessities of life, i.e. surplus funds. America became a powerful nation under a governmental system that consumed less than ten percent of the gross national product. Now government is gobbling up over forty percent, and considerably more, if you count the compound hidden taxes and, perhaps the worst tax of all, inflation. Every year, the various levels of government openly confiscate well over a third of the gross national product in this country, and in hidden ways, such as inflation, take, conservatively, another ten percent, if not more. The surplus that remains for investment in the needed businesses that could create wealth and real jobs is a tiny fraction of what would otherwise be available. Freeing up funds by curtailing or eliminating government’s confiscation would allow the creation of countless new jobs, making more people able to afford more products, and so on.

"No matter how you want to say it," said Defoe, "the government is robbing the people of the wherewithal to make America the wealthiest country in the world. They are trashing the economy of the nation and of most of its citizens. Why, I'm not certain, and why doesn't matter as much as the fact that they are doing it. They are counting on the ignorance and or the stupidity of the public to keep this up. However, while most people may currently be ignorant of the facts, they are definitely not that stupid. Once they realize what is happening, most people are intelligent enough to understand it and to become seriously concerned. The handwriting is or soon will be on the wall for the government, and I am going to be one to heed that handwriting and even to call attention to it. As far as Mississippi is concerned, I intend to put the brakes on governmental theft and corruption, and return government to its proper role as servant of the people. The primary reason for the existence of government is to protect people's freedom and guarantee them the freedom to do, have, and be all that that they are capable of. I want Mississippians to have money left over to secure a prosperous future, if they so desire. If their money is wasted on frivolous things, it won't be by the government, but by the people that made the money. My administration won't force people to be successful, but you can be damned sure we won’t stand in anyone's way. We will make them free to be as successful as they are motivated to be."

"You're running as a Democrat. You once tried to be the libertarian candidate for President. It sounds to me like you are still a libertarian. I find that confusing."

"You find that confusing,” said Defoe, with obvious incredulity in his voice. “Do you find it confusing that ostensibly conservative Republicans today run on a platform well to the left of the platform the Communist Party once ran on under Gus Hall? Do you find it confusing that the current president took an oath to uphold the Constitution, yet he recently referred to it as "nothing more than a goddamn piece of paper?" Do you find it confusing that Republicans scream opposition to whatever legislation the Democrats pass when they are in power, but they never ever undo any of that legislation when they get in power themselves? Likewise, do you find it confusing that Democrats scream in opposition to everything the Republicans pass when they are in power, but also never ever reverse anything when they get the chance? When Shakespeare said a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, he meant that names and labels are essentially meaningless. This has certainly been true of the Demopublicans or Republic rats. But things are about to change--at least they are about to change in Mississippi. Don't be too concerned about my party label. I had to run as something, because that is the way things are set up. You would do well to pay attention to what I intend to do, and forget my party label. My intentions and my convictions have not changed, and they won’t. I would hope that Mississippians will appreciate that, and welcome the rare opportunity to vote for someone they can rely on.”

“Are you associated with S.M.A.R.T.?” asked Crenshaw. “I think Mississippians would want to know.”

“Meaning?”

“Come on,” said Butch. “S.M.A.R.T., Sovereign Mississippians Against Repressive Tyranny. Will Hastings, the Democrat candidate for Lieutenant Governor is one of their leaders. Are you associated with them or not?”

“Well,” said Defoe, “let me say this. I, you, and every Mississippi resident are or should be a Sovereign Mississippian. Furthermore, I expect that, like me, you and every Mississippian are against repressive tyranny. So that should make us all candidates for this S.M.A.R.T., shouldn’t it? Excepting, of course, those who prefer a sovereign over them, as opposed to being sovereign citizens themselves, and those who are in favor of repressive tyranny. I do agree with S.M.A.R.T. on those basic principles and on just about all their declared positions. Like them, I believe in self-reliance, honesty, integrity, freedom, and such. If, you have something against those qualities, so be it. You have the right to support whatever you want. From what I know about S.M.A.R.T., they have no membership, per se. They put out information and you can use or ignore that information as you see fit. They don’t recruit people like the military does. All in all, I guess I can answer your question with an unequivocal ‘Yes.’ But so can ninety-nine percent of all Mississippians outside mental institutions.”

“S.M.A.R.T. is supposed to be bringing in libertarians from outside Mississippi, to fill it up and control the elections, making it a libertarian state,” said Crenshaw. “Are you in favor of that? And would you as governor, support that?”

“I don’t think you truly understand their position,” said Defoe. “I have read everything on their website, theirs and the Republican and Democratic Parties’ sites, as well as several others. From what I can see, they make a point of having no connection whatsoever with the Libertarian Party. That means if they tend to support a libertarian government, it means libertarian with a small ‘L’ and in no way infers support for a Libertarian government with a large ‘L” meaning of the Libertarian Party. In the same way, Republicans, in general, are in favor of a democratic government, with a small ‘D.’ but strongly against a Democratic government with a large ‘D,’ meaning one of the Democratic Party.

“What does libertarian with a small ‘L’ mean?” continued Defoe. “When pertaining to government, it means ‘advocating liberty or conforming to the principles of liberty.’ I, personally and proudly, stand foursquare in favor of liberty. In fact, I stand foursquare in favor of those two items referred to in the politically incorrect Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, liberty and justice, for all. Anyone who wants to bring about a government conforming to the principles of liberty is my kind of person. Of course, I will support them. Who, in their right mind, wouldn’t? Let me go even further and state that I will oppose everyone who wants to destroy liberty, period, regardless of their motives or their affiliation. Patrick Henry had the right idea when he said, ‘Give me liberty, or give me death.’ Perhaps, he meant ‘Give me liberty, or I’ll fight to the death to get it.’ I believe he was that kind of person.”

“We’ve run out of time,” said Crenshaw. “Thank you for being with us, Mr. Defoe. You have a few seconds to make your case. What have you to say to the voters?”

“The choice is simple,” said Defoe. “If you are against making your own decisions, spending your own money, and being responsible for your own actions, don’t vote for me. Vote for any one of my opponents. It makes little or no difference which one. On the other hand, anyone who wants to return to the concept of the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave,’ or that of ‘liberty and justice for all’ should vote for me and those aligned with me in the upcoming election. Those who want to think for themselves, act for themselves, and live for themselves--themselves and their loved ones--should vote for me and those aligned with me in the upcoming election. It’s that simple.”


 

Chapter Twelve

 

In Jackson, Mississippi, on a Saturday morning, at eleven o’clock, Will Hastings and Nicole Greene were married. It was a very quiet affair, at the same church, outside of which they had first seen each other on that Sunday when Will and Senator Greene had clashed. Mrs. Greene, Norman Greene, Luther Hastings, and Trisha Smith were the only ones attending. Will was very cognizant of the risks associated with his work for S.M.A.R.T. As the highest profile person in S.M.A.R.T., he had to assume that he was under constant surveillance. He and Nicole would have loved a large wedding, with all their friends in attendance. But that might expose everyone who attended to scrutiny by the Fatherland Security Gestapo.

After the ceremony, Nicole gave Luther Hastings a hug and a kiss.

“Will’s mama would have cried like a baby, if she could have been here,” said Luther. “You would have loved her, Nicole. She was the sweetest, kindest person I ever saw. You remind me a lot of her.”

“I wish I could have known her,” said Nicole. “Will told me that you two are dedicating your efforts in S.M.A.R.T. to her memory, to create a place where tragedies like hers don’t happen. I think that is wonderful, and I will help you all I can.”

There was no reception, no gathering at all. Outside the church, the newlyweds bid farewell to the little band of guests and left for a one week honeymoon, at an undisclosed location.

 

Although none of his friends and colleagues attended Will’s wedding, they all were well aware of it, and of the fact that he would be away for a week. Palmer had offered his home in Panama for their honeymoon. Will had thanked him for the offer, but said that they didn’t want to go through the torture that flying had become in the United States, not unless it was absolutely necessary.

“I can understand that,” Palmer had said. “I hate it, myself. Where are you going?”

“I’m keeping it a secret,” Will told him. “I don’t know if we will be under surveillance or not. But I’m doing all I can to prevent that. It’s not something you want on a honeymoon.”

“No, it wouldn’t be,” Fox had said. “I was surprised to hear about the wedding. I thought you were waiting until Nicole finished college.”

“She’s missing a semester because of the bombing,” Will had told them. “But that isn’t why we decided to go ahead and get married. The bombing brought us face to face with the fact that we don’t know how long we will be around. I, especially, am in a risky position. Nobody in S.M.A.R.T. is exposed as much as I am. If they start eliminating us, I’d probably be one of their first targets. We decided to get what we could while we could.”

“I certainly sympathize with that,” Palmer said. “Claire and I are not high profile, but when the war on S.M.A.R.T. begins in earnest, we are bound to be targets.”

“If they find out that I’ve been here all along,” Fox said, “Who knows what they would have in mind for me. And if they find out what we’re up to, we are goners.”

“Maybe you and I should do like Will and Nicole,” Palmer told her. “We are planning on doing it anyway. Why put it off. If we put it off too long, we might never do it.”

“That’s what Dr. Collins and Suzanne said when I was talking to them earlier,” Will told them. “They had wanted to be the first to marry in the new nation. Now they are thinking of moving it up, just in case.”

“Well, Claire?” Palmer asked. “I’m in favor of it.”

“I know,” Fox had told him. “We’ll talk about it.”

 

***

 

“Thanks for getting back to me so soon, Russ,” said Nelson Defoe, in a cyberconference with Russ Monroe. They were using small video instead of full screen, because encryption slowed down full screen to the point that it was too jerky. “It may be a little earlier than we planned, but we have some new strategies to talk about. Since you are the one that is appearing in the ads and the one that is paying for them, anything that will have a major impact on our strategy should be run past you.”

“I appreciate that,” said Monroe.

“Do you remember when we were talking about the new addition to our team,” asked Defoe, “the expert in propaganda and mind control techniques? He’s lending us a hand with our advertising campaign. For security reasons, we won’t be meeting him. He’ll advise us indirectly. So far, all we have from him is a list of basic propaganda techniques for our writers to consider. Once they have digested them, there will be more to come.”

“If it helps us get where we aim to go,” said Monroe. “I’m for it.”

“Exactly the way I see it,” said Defoe. “The government is doing everything it can to make the people think the way it wants them to think. If we are going to have any chance at all, we have to get enough people to think for themselves. We have to combat the government’s powerful mind control programs. We don’t have the billions of dollars that they have to work with, and we don’t have the full cooperation of most of the media the way they do. To win, we have to get as much bang for our buck as we possibly can. We have to fight fire with fire plus a lot of ingenuity.”

“I’m the kind of person that likes to win,” said Monroe. “I’m an honest man, and I don’t cheat. But, the other side is out to bury us. If we pussyfoot around, playing by the Marquis of Queensbury rules, they are going to hit us with a sledgehammer and kill us. If you are asking me if I want a sledgehammer to fight back with, you’re danged right I do. I like an honest fight, but if the other guy is shooting at you, you either shoot back or, sooner or later, they are going to kill you. They picked the weapons; we just go along. Have at it.”

“Do you want to hear the basic techniques that we have so far?”

“If it won’t take too long, I’d like to,” said Monroe.

“I’ve got your old friend, Charlie Davis, here,” said Defoe. “I’ll let him tell you about them. Switch on, Charlie.”

“Hello, Russ,” said Charlie. Charlie Davis had been Monroe’s top speech writer during his presidential campaign. When Monroe had thrown in with S.M.A.R.T., he had contacted his old campaign team, and most of them were now working for S.M.A.R.T. Since Defoe had brought most of his presidential campaign team too, S.M.A.R.T. had a sizable group of experienced campaigners. They were hard at work on preliminary strategies for the next state elections in Mississippi.

“You’re a sight for sore eyes, Charlie,” said Monroe. “I guess I should say a sound for sore ears, since the picture is so small, I can just barely recognize you. I sure appreciate your joining in with me again.”

“I’m glad you asked me, Russ,” said Charlie. “I’m going to love this. If this works, it is going to be the highlight of this ol’ boy’s life. That’s for sure.”

“I feel the same way about it, Charlie,” said Monroe. “This is better than just being president. Being president would be fine and dandy, but with all the claptrap you have in Washington, it’s dang near impossible to change the direction the government is goin’. S.M.A.R.T. can make a real, permanent change, even if it is on a smaller scale. Tell me about this new stuff, Charlie.”

“It’s not really anything new,” said Charlie. “Actually, just about everything on this list was spelled out in 1938 by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis. It was the stuff Adolph Hitler used, and when you hear it, you’ll know it is pretty much what they are using on us today, everyday. Some of it we used in our campaign.”

“If I said it once, I said it a thousand times,” said Monroe. “This president is impersonating Adolph Hitler, and doing a bang-up job of it. Let’s hear it, Charlie.”

“Here are the seven basic techniques for propaganda, listed by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis in 1938. They work as well now as they did then, probably even better since there is a much more pervasive media. If Hitler had had all the media coverage that George F. Upton has, he would probably have taken over the world, with the people rolling out the welcome mat for him. Don’t think for a minute that’s an exaggeration. If someone had told our founding fathers that the American people would someday lie down and impersonate a doormat, while their freedoms were stripped from them on a daily basis now, they would have had you committed, if they had people committed in those days.”

“I like that, Charlie,” said Monroe, “the part about impersonating a doormat. I’ll have to remember that.”

“The first basic propaganda technique,” continued Charlie, “is known as Bandwagon. Everyone wants to be on the winning side. Everyone likes to seem at least as smart as the next guy, and at least as informed as the next guy. Stating that everyone agrees with you or is clamoring for your product, telling your audience to get on the bandwagon, to not be left behind, not to appear more ignorant than everyone else, etc. is using the Bandwagon technique.

“The second basic propaganda technique is Card-Stacking. In Card-Stacking you present only the evidence, real or fabricated, that supports the case you want to make, and you omit all the evidence that fails to support it. You might say that your actions have prevented four terrorist attacks in six years, but you fail to mention that they have alienated every Muslim on the planet and created hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of militant enemies. You could say your wonder drug cures dandruff, but you would omit the fact that it sometimes causes heart failure. That is Card-Stacking.

“The third basic propaganda technique is called Glittering Generalities. Here we’re talking about using words and phrases that are associated with concepts with high emotional value, but which are so vague as to be meaningless, when used alone. It’s for the good of our children. It’s to protect democracy. It’s called the Patriot Act. When no clarification or details accompany such remarks, we have the propaganda technique of Glittering Generalities.

“The fourth basic propaganda technique is Name Calling. Name Calling is pretty much self-explanatory. Something or someone you want to defeat or destroy is labeled with terms that put them in some highly unpopular group. So and so is a traitor. So and so is a child molester. Countries that won’t let us see all their banking records are pro-terrorist.

“The fifth basic propaganda technique is Plain Folks. We sure know about this one, Russ. To use this technique, you adopt common speech, make grammatical errors, use slang, use a countrified accent, and come across as just Plain Folks. This makes the majority of the people think that you’re one of them. This is very effective when you use it in combination with Glittering Generalities. You are just plain, unsophisticated Joe Six-pack, and you share the same values, love of country, motherhood, etc. You are anything but an intellectual. Sound like our current president, George F. Upton?”

“I think he way overdoes it,” said Monroe. “Nobody can be that dumb.”

“The sixth basic propaganda technique,” said Charlie, “is Testimonials. You are using Testimonials when you get popular figures to support your position. Movie stars, sport figures, singers, heroes, etc. are used a lot for this. Naturally, no qualifications or expertise of any kind is needed to make a propaganda proposal-just popularity. Frequently, they never used the product or were even aware of the position. For their testimony they are paid or get some privilege. Their popularity, though, rubs off on whatever they support, which is the whole idea. Also, you can put a guy in a white coat and hang a stethoscope around his neck and he can sell your poisonous drug for you.

“The seventh basic propaganda technique is Transfer. Transfer is used to attribute some characteristic or quality associated with one entity to another entity. Imply that birds of a feather flock together. For years, we have been making cookies for the Girl Scouts of America. Every child-molester in America wants this proposition to be defeated. This president is known as the Democracy president.

“Those are the seven basic propaganda techniques identified in 1938 by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis. Our guy has added a few more that he thought we should know about.

“Assertion. Assertion is just saying something, as though it were an obvious fact, regardless of whether it is true or not. If you strongly imply that it is so obvious that no evidence is needed to back it up, even better. In advertising, you might say that your widget is the best widget the world. You may say it repeatedly in your commercials. The more times people hear you say it, the more of a fact it becomes.

“Simplification. Simplification reduces a complex situation to an extremely simple, black and white one, good versus evil one. You are with us or against us, meaning you agree with me or you are an enemy of the country. America: love it or leave it. If you have nothing to hide, you don’t need privacy or any rights at all.

“The Lesser of Two Evils. State what you want to happen and state that, bad as it is, it is better than the only other available option, and then state some option far worse. We know you have to give up all your freedoms, but that is far better than having you and your loved ones being all killed by terrorists. This may be true, but are these the only two options?

“Pin-Pointing the Enemy. Hate and aggression are powerful unifiers. They must have a target. Someone is responsible, and you know who they are. Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Saddam Hussein, or the Taliban, or Al Qaeda, or the Muslims, or terrorists that blew up the Empire State Building. Usually one at a time, of course. When you need to attack someone, pinpoint them as the enemy. If you have evidence, present it. If you don’t have any evidence, invent some or use Assertion.

“Obviously, these techniques often overlap, with elements of one found in another one. I’ll send you a copy of this for you to review, if you want, Russ. Read them out loud at least eight times to make these concepts automatic for you. These are merely some ideas to keep in the back of our minds, while we work on our campaign. Our guru will review everything we come up with and make any suggestions he thinks are needed.”

“Most of those ideas are as plain as the nose on your face,” said Monroe. “But if everybody was aware of everything that was obvious, we wouldn’t be in the fix we’re in today. It takes most people quite a spell to find the hidden stuff, the obvious can take forever.”

“Are you okay with using these techniques?” asked Defoe.

“Dad-gummed right I am,” said Monroe. “We get them used on us all day every day, every single one of us, paid for with our own money, to add insult to injury.”

“From what I gathered in my conversation with our guys this morning, we are going to be using some secret weapons in our ads too. But we don’t need to worry about them when we make the ads. They won’t be anything people can consciously see or hear. But they are things the government showers the public with. We will be using the government’s own weapons against them. Unfortunately, we’ll be doing it on a smaller scale.”

“You’re telling me that we are going to bury something in the ads that makes them more effective. Isn’t that right?”

“Yes.”

“Ant this something is something that once you stick it in the ad, you can't see it or hear it?”

“Right.”

“And you say this is common practice, by the government, which infers that the media is in cahoots with them. Is that right?”

“Also right.”

“You need to talk to the people that know how to do this sort of thing and suggest a couple of things to them,” said Monroe. “First of all, can’t we bury these same things in as many places as we can? Don’t we have some people on radio and TV that are on our side? Find some people that will go along with us on this. Furthermore,” he paused, gathering his thoughts, “What if we could get some people to switch our stuff for the government’s stuff. You know: hackers or spies or whatever you want to call them. Substitute our messages for the government’s messages. Since you can't really hear it or see it, they might never even notice it. If that could be done, we could work with our own money again, even after the government has taken it and is trying to use it against us.”

“By God, Russ,” exclaimed Charlie, “That’s one helluva an idea. I love it.”

“That makes two of us,” said Defoe. “This is out of my bailiwick, but I’ll get your ideas to the people that know what to do with them. I agree with Charlie. That is sheer genius, Russ. That is just the kind of tactic that can decide who wins and who loses. It’s something they surely wouldn’t suspect. The question is: would they notice it right off the bat? Let’s hope not.”

“Let me know what they say about it,” said Monroe. “It just came to me in a flash. Once in a great while that happens. I can fritter away hours and days trying to come up with a fix for a problem, and once in a blue moon, one just pops into my head, like it was there-waitin’ for the problem to come along.”

“I guess we’re about through,” said Defoe. “I’ll get busy finding out if we can do as you suggest. Keep your fingers crossed.”

“I’d keep my eyes crossed, if I thought it would do any good,” said Monroe, with a chuckle.

 

***

 

“Our conferences via the Internet are extremely functional,” said Fox, “but I wish we could have a good, old-fashioned, face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball meeting once in a while.”

“That would be far too risky,” said Palmer, putting his arm around her. “Sam is here only because he has done nothing that might connect him with S.M.A.R.T. Once he declares himself a candidate for Secretary of State in Mississippi, I don't think he should come here either. We don’t think they know about this place yet, and that makes it a safe house. Eventually, they may discover it, and if they do, anyone that comes here at all will be in trouble. That includes you and your parents, Carla. It might be wise for Carla to move back with her parents. Now that she has found her missing earring, she can assume that no one is looking for her.”

Some time ago, Carla had found her sterling silver, dolphin earring in the lining of her jacket. It had apparently slipped through a small hole in the pocket lining.

Everyone was quiet for a while, considering what Palmer had said. They were sitting on the porch. Palmer and Fox were in the swing; Carla and Crowell were in high-back rocking chairs. It was dusk, and the first few fireflies could be seen here and there. Whippoorwills were calling. The scent of the climbing roses on the porch posts blended with that of the jasmine in the yard.

“I know you are right, Derek,” said Crowell, heaving a sigh. “How I shall miss all this serenity,” he swept his arm from left to right. “And, like Claire, I prefer old-fashioned, face-to-face contact. I shall miss you, my friends. Fortunately, apart from the restrictions on our association, things are, thus far, going swimmingly.” He glanced at Carla Benson, and grinned.

“Swimmingly?” said Carla.

“You seem to find my dated colloquialisms entertaining,” said Crowell, “while I enjoy your amusement. In this case, the word is so appropriate that its resurrection from its lexical mausoleum was called for. Think, Carla, of your body gliding smoothly, effortlessly through calm, refreshing water. That is swimmingly-successfully and problem-free.”

“Things may be going swimmingly,” said Claire Fox, “but keep your eyes peeled for sharks. If they aren’t here, already, they are certainly on their way.”

“Precisely the reason for my ever present foreboding,” said Crowell. “Things are going so well for us that it seems too easy. We are an order of magnitude farther along than we expected to be, at this time. Granted, we developed some ingenious strategies. Nevertheless, I feel like a crapshooter who has been shooting sevens and elevens continuously--on a phenomenal, statistically impossible run, with cashing in strictly prohibited. I keep feeling that snake-eyes are long overdue.”

“I know exactly how you feel,” said Palmer. “I live with that same fear, day in and day out. I sense disaster is either upon us or right around the next corner. I review and review, looking for loopholes in our strategy, trying to come up with new and better safeguards. I’m afraid to trust anyone, even myself. I am afraid I can be too lax and make some stupid blunder. Just think of the odds. We have hundreds of thousands of people supposedly on board. How many of them are plants, to spy on us or to subvert our efforts? Surely hundreds, if not thousands of them are working for some form of the ubiquitous Gestapo. We know of dozens that we are constantly feeding false information. But we only have good connections to one branch of the F.S. troops. I suspect that they are everywhere. I don’t think they know about this place. Very few of our own people do. Electronic contact is risky enough. But, we have to communicate. Sooner or later, they will find us, and if we are lucky, we can get away before they get us. Otherwise-“

“It’s frightening,” said Crowell.

“Terrifying,” said Fox. “But, it’s a price we knew we had to pay, from the beginning.”

“True,” said Crowell. “Our Founding Fathers put their lives on the line. Benjamin Franklin said, 'We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.' These days, hanging is generally out of the question, although they apparently hanged the DC Madam. The end result is the same. Fortunately for Franklin and his friends, the British didn’t possess the technology that the tyrants of today have.”

“I wish today’s tyrants didn’t have all that technology,” said Palmer. “The day is coming, and all too soon, when even to think anti-government thoughts will be to invite execution or some electronic lobotomy. They already have microwave devices that can scramble your brain and make you suicidal. We can only speculate as to how many of the recent spate of suicides by whistleblowers were induced by such devices. Probably, all of them. It happens so often that no reasonable person could possibly believe all those suicide stories. “

“I don’t think you should be worrying about things going too well,” said Carla. “If they were going really badly, then you should worry.”

“We’re glad they are going well,” said Fox. “They can’t go too well. Believe me.”

“Absolutely,” said Crowell. “No matter how amazing it is, more would be even better. But think about how we projected things and how they have gone. There are dozens of us working behind the scenes, hundreds of county workers, thousands of people on the front lines, and all those former Russ Monroe supporters. The “in” thing in Mississippi is to hold a S.M.A.R.T. party, as often as possible. Even outside Mississippi, we are growing like crazy. S.M.A.R.T. chapters are popping up in every state. Many are people planning to move to Mississippi later on, but aren't able to yet. Others are sympathizers that merely want to show solidarity, thinking that if one state breaks free, they might set an example for the ones left in the union. They think that if Mississippi breaks free, other states may be forced to back off and let their people have more liberty or their citizens may be holding a plebiscite before they know it.”

“I love it,” said Fox. “I am deliriously happy about the way it is going. It’s miraculous.”

“It is miraculous,” said Crowell. "I’m amazed at how well S.M.A.R.T. functions, with essentially no organization at all. It's a free-form, amorphous entity. Yet, somehow it is not only functioning, but functioning better than we had ever hoped for. I don't understand it, and maybe that is best. If I understood it, I would lose the joy of my amazement."

"I was talking to Will a couple of weeks ago.” said Carla. “He’s my mentor, when it comes to politics and philosophy. He said some things along those lines. He said that when the Illuminati wanted to expand, they were intelligent enough to realize that a worldwide organization of a secret society would take decades to create. Some Illuminati guru must have said, "Hey, Guys, the Masons have a worldwide organization already. They are a "secret" society. Why don't we just take them over, and Bingo, we have a worldwide secret society, with a lot of influential members, even more influential money, meeting places, connections, etc.? What about it?

“These guys were no dummies. They knew a good thing when they saw it. They moved in on the Masons. Will said that we are imposing ourselves on some existing organizations, much as the Illuminati did to the Masons. Since we figured it was more advantageous to run as Democrats, because they were the minority party in Mississippi, and we needed less people to dominate them, we moved in on the Democrats. Now we dominate their party in Mississippi. But what Will seems to think is most important is that we are imposing our philosophy on the minds and hearts of the people. For generations, they have had what is known as 'The American Dream.' Dream is a perfect word for it these days, Will said, because it has become totally unrealistic. He said the American Dream had become a fantasy into which people slipped now and then. It was the sand into which they stuck their heads to avoid seeing the truth. But--and this is the good part--it was already burned into the people's minds, so deep that it was like an instinct. Furthermore, reinforcing that dream is a major plank in the government's propaganda strategy. They use psyop techniques to make people think that they are living the American Dream, regardless of reality. Now, enter S.M.A.R.T., proposing a very real American Dream, not a Madison Avenue mirage. We are taking over a concept the people already have, bringing it to the fore, focusing on it. We plant the idea that their dream is a fantasy now, but it needn't remain that way. It can become real. They can live their dream. All that is or ever was implied in the idea of the American Way can be brought back into their daily lives. The wonderful thing is that it is true. The ‘American Dream’ needn't be merely a psychological carrot the government uses to take people’s minds off the government stick. When Will told me all this, I saw it as quite interesting, but I didn't see the real implications of it, until you said that about us having no organization. Perhaps we are using previously existing structures.”

“It is an interesting concept,” said Crowell.

"Interesting? I admire your restraint, Sam," said Fox. "I love Will Hastings. He restores my faith in evolution. Nicole isn't a Will Hastings, but she is a very bright woman. I hope that I'm around to see how the little Wills and Nicoles turn out."

"How about some little Claires and Dereks?" said Palmer.

"In your dreams," said Fox.

"How could you possibly know about my dreams?" asked Palmer, with mock surprise.

“Now that I think about it a bit more,” said Crowell. “Will's reasoning was brilliant. Given our limited resources, adapting existing organizations to our needs was very wise. But the enemy still has a bottomless purse, while we have so little to work with. Thank goodness they are so inept that they waste the majority of their resources.”

“Everyone's always talking about the Feds being a bunch of Keystone cops,” said Carla, “I'm borrowing one of your expressions, Sam. I guess your Keystone Cops are something like our Beverly Hills Cops in the movies. Why not get them to subsidize S.M.A.R.T.?”

“What do you have in mind,” asked Crowell.

“Make up an anti-S.M.A.R.T. organization that is as inept as the rest of the federal government, and get the government to fund you. Take that money and use it for S.M.A.R.T.” said Carla.

“You may just have something there,” said Fox. “It's certainly something to think about. The irony of it is so appealing, that we have to see if we can come up with a way to do it.”

 

***

 

A string of limousines streamed by the entrance of the Beverly Hilton Hotel, delivering dozens of Hollywood's most famous stars, along with many influential Hollywood people that were unknown to the public. Although, it may have appeared to be just another of those events that Hollywood is known for, this particular occasion was far from ordinary.

Dress was informal, and one saw cashmere turtlenecks, designer jeans, and a conglomeration of the most elegant informality imaginable. Comments and emotions were extraordinary as well. When guests met on their way to the banquet room, the initial smiles of greeting were followed by expressions of wonderment seldom seen on their public faces.

“I wasn’t going to come,” said one famous star. “After all, Clyde Masterson and Ron Kellis...” She shrugged her shoulders, as if that said it all, and added, “but they really left me little choice.”

“I know,” said another. “I felt the same way. You have to admire their work, but you also have to hate their politics. Libertarians are worse than bible-thumping conservatives, if that’s possible.”

In the glitter of the banquet room, Dana Lowry and her husband, David Lowry, both militantly active in Hollywood political circles, were sitting at a large table, with several colleagues. One of these colleagues, almost as well known for her politics as for her acting, said, “When they said they had a way for us to get a good part of what we want, but if we wanted to know how to do it, we had to show up, what else could we do. It’s not costing us anything, and,” here she paused and displayed thousands of dollars of dental work in a practiced smile, “if word gets out that we attended this event, it might even soften our super-left-wing liberal reputations. But, I’m telling you, if they don’t say something convincing right off the bat, I’ll get up and walk out. And so will several of my friends. That should give them enough bad press to sink them for good.”

Remarks covered the spectrum from curious to vehement, from sympathetic to antagonistic. But a mild hush came over the room when Masterson and Kellis essentially wandered into the room, passing from table to table, thanking everyone for coming.

The meal was over in short order. Everyone was more than anxious to get to the reason for being there. Masterson took the stage, the lights were dimmed slightly, and he took the microphone from the lectern.

“Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow colleagues, and all the rest of you.” He smiled. “I assume you are anxious to know what all this is about. I would surely be, were our situations reversed. First, I want to thank you for coming, and to tell you that my faith in my fellow man is greatly enhanced by the turnout. I realize that a few of you may not see eye to eye with me on all my political beliefs.”

There was a ripple of laughter.

“Before the night is over, I hope you will realize that we have a lot more in common, politically, than you had thought. That may sound like an impossible dream, but hear me out. Regardless of our ‘so-called’ political differences, we are all talented, intelligent, and ambitious people. No other kind of person was invited--at least, not intentionally-because that is precisely the kind of person I want to talk to.

“Right now, your talent and personal ambition are not as relevant as is your intellect. I’m counting on your rationality and your integrity, your ability to change even your core beliefs, if you truly think they are wrong. I’m sure we have all had situations in our careers in which we had to drastically alter our approach. I know I have.

“In case you didn’t know, I am a libertarian--with a small ‘l,’ meaning I have libertarian ideals, but am not associated with the Libertarian Party, in any way. Most, if not all of you are Democrats with a big ‘D,’ meaning you associate yourselves with the Democratic Party. You might be surprised to find that you and I agree politically about fifty percent of the time, while you and the conservatives disagree much closer to a hundred percent of the time. There are six of you, here tonight, with whom I have recently had extensive political discussions. Now, they are going to find out why I was so darned interested in their viewpoints.

“From those conversations, I consolidated and confirmed what I had previously suspected: the political beliefs of liberal Hollywood, although they cover the gamut of all topics, are dominated by a few basic concepts. One. You are in favor of personal freedom--all the way. You fight for free speech, free expression, free association, the freedom of choice of lifestyle, etc. Two. You are extremely big-hearted, and favor protecting people and their freedom, regardless of their wealth, appearance, nationality, etc. Three--and this is where we disagree, for I heartily agree with you on the first two items. You think that government power is the way to get the first two things.

“I have to tell you that I was initially shocked to find out that I would want much the same things that my liberal friends wanted-that all we disagreed on was the way to get them. But after a little reflection, it wasn’t really all that shocking. Take away our politics, and we are pretty much alike. We are talented, intelligent, ambitious, and highly industrious. Why wouldn’t we want pretty much the same things?

“I got to wondering. I wondered if conservatives were maybe equally similar. As you might guess, I had to look elsewhere to find some conservatives to talk with.”

There were some chuckles around the room.

“But, in offices and boardrooms, conservatives can be found,” said Masterson. “I wanted similarly talented, intelligent, ambitious ones, which disqualified some of the best known ones.”

This brought a murmur in the audience, as to which conservatives were disqualified.

“What I found was equally surprising, for I thought about as much of conservatives in general as most of you do. But believe it or not, they share some characteristics with us. They generally believe in economic freedom, more so than liberals do. They think the money they earn belongs to them, that they know better how to spend their money than some bureaucrat does. Their most outstanding difference from liberals is their attitude regarding personal freedoms. They generally favor regulated personal behavior. Like liberals, they want protection for themselves and those freedoms they believe in. Like you, they believe that government power is the way to get what they want.

“That’s the background. Now to the reason I brought you here. I have an idea that might interest you. It’s a simple idea-simple, but not necessarily easy. But you people are masters at accomplishing the difficult. That’s why, out of all the groups in the United States, I chose you. If you people can’t accomplish what I have in mind, no one can. The question is: will you want to take on this task?

“I think, and I know that many of you do, that, in America, an elite group is active behind the scenes. Furthermore, I think that elite group is using both liberals and conservatives, playing them against each other. You liberals aren’t getting what you want, even when the Democrats take the reins of power. You fight to get them in, and things don’t improve. Instead, they get worse. But, even though liberals don’t get what they want, it’s not because the conservatives are getting what they want. The truth is that no one is getting what they want, save this elite group, which is sucking up all the power that should be invested in the people, and transferring it to the government, where they can control it.

“In a word, everyone is being played for a sucker. When the conservatives are in, we suffer loss of personal freedoms. When the democrats are in, it’s economic freedom we lose. No matter which party is in, we lose freedom. The only thing that changes is the emphasis, and even that is becoming blurred these days. By alternating between parties, every freedom we ever had will be taken from us. The tree of liberty is being chopped down, little by little. A few chops from the left, then a few from the right; soon we will be left with no tree at all.

“Now, brace yourselves for what may seem, at first, an outrageous suggestion. But don’t rush to judgment. Think about it. Government can do or, more accurately, will do nothing to give you what you want. Your arch-enemies, the conservatives, don’t get what they want either, with the exception of those that want the death of a lot of people that are ‘different’ than they are.”

There were cheers at this remark.

“I want you to let your mind roam. Think freely. Set a scene. Imagine, for a moment that America could start over, that we could go back to 1776, knowing what we know now. Imagine that we kept government to the small size it was then, at least relative to the population. Imagine that States were sovereign. Imagine that the government was actually seen as working for you, the people. Imagine that the government’s chief job was to protect you, not from yourself, but from criminals and foreign invaders. Imagine that America never attacked, but would quickly respond if attacked. We would have not been involved in a single war since the Revolution. The War Between the States would not have occurred because the states were sovereign, and wouldn’t have been forced to secede in an attempt to stay that way. So millions of American men would not have died to feed the war machine.

“With the advances in technology, productivity and wages would have soared. Without income tax, people’s savings would be phenomenal, instead of the negative number it is today. Much of those savings would have gone into funding millions of businesses that do not exist today. All investment, including that for movies, is made with funds left over after the basic necessities of life are paid for. Precious little is left, after basic needs and taxes, for most Americans today. America would be admired today, not reviled. Yes, America is reviled the world over, but most Americans don’t know it. They don’t know anything except what they are spoon-fed by the propaganda machines.

“But enough of my diatribe. Here is what I am suggesting. I am suggesting that you can get half of what you want. You can get the personal freedoms that you value so much. As things are now, you get nothing but unkept promises, meaning nothing that you want. What do you have to do to get this personal freedom? All you have to do is temporarily agree to settle for that. Sure, it’s a compromise. But someone once said that half a loaf is better than none at all. And I have a surprise for you. In the end, you will most likely get everything you want, if you are willing to concentrate for a while on what you can get now.

“I am suggesting a coalition of liberals, conservatives, and libertarians. Not all liberals, and certainly not all conservatives. I’m talking about those with enough sense to be swayed by the same argument I’m giving you now. Believe me, there are quite a few of them. The village idiot type isn’t as prevalent as you might think, given the press that they get. I think people, in general, tend to be at least mildly rational. After all, humans are the most intelligent species on earth, and the only species with the faculty of reason.

“I found the liberals really are a lot better group than I thought they were. I can't help wondering how much of what I thought was due to propaganda in a divide and conquer strategy? It may be more pervasive than we ever dreamed. What if most of the people we think are imbeciles, with absolutely no interest in freedom at all, were really pretty much like us? What if we are being made to see the majority of people as apathetic idiots, with their head in the sand? That way, we wouldn’t think there was any chance of doing anything about government excesses, because we would believe the majority doesn’t care about it. What if a vast super majority really does care about things? If that secret ever got out, we could move heaven and earth, so to speak. I don’t know if it is that way or not. I only know that a lot more people agree on a lot more things than most of us dream is the case. If most liberals and most conservatives and all libertarians were to join forces, we should easily have a majority in this country, maybe a two-thirds majority, and we could redefine this country.

“You liberals would have to temporarily forego your penchant for supporting the world, and concentrate on restoring and preserving the freedoms you cherish. Remember that when those freedoms are all gone, you may very likely be joining those you now pity. I know that is a hard thing to imagine, but think about it. When you don’t have a single right left, they don’t have to ask for your support and your money, they’ll just take it by force, and you know it. Until you restore your lost freedoms, you haven’t a chance at all of getting the world you want. That is a necessary first step.

“The conservatives would have to forego their penchant for dictating personal behavior, outlawing risqué movies, etc. and concentrate on securing those freedoms they cherish. To get any freedom at all, each side has to forego limiting the freedom of others. That, I would think is a minor price to pay for restoring the American Dream.

“With such a coalition, we can bring the destruction of our freedom to a halt. Woodrow Wilson said it right. He said that ‘liberty has never come from government. It has only come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is the history of limitations on government power, not the increase of it.’ If that doesn’t ring true for you, you are both hopeless, and helpless.

“Libertarians are for both economic and personal freedom, so we would get more of what we want than anyone. Like everyone else, we now get none of what we want. You and the conservatives seem to get half a loaf, as a result of following my suggestion and we libertarians a whole loaf, but look for a miracle to happen.

“When you bring back all the rights that have been repealed and give them back to the people, you accomplish a miracle. Sure, some people will resist the idea of personal responsibility. There have always been such people. There have always been criminals and moochers, looking to live off the efforts of others. Some of you have played such people, and you know how they think. You can’t eliminate such people entirely, but you can stop actively creating them, which is what is happening today.

“We have a war on poverty that increases poverty. We have a war on drugs that increases drug use. We have an educational program that increases ignorance. We ostensibly promote democracy by attacking and slaughtering people. I don’t think anyone comes close to Hollywood in the ability to influence public opinion and thinking, except, perhaps, the massive government propaganda machine. If you can’t do it, then God help us, for it can’t be done. You have influence over the public, and you have some influence over the media. I beg you to put preconceptions aside and at least consider my suggestions. Think what you could create, if it works. America could be once more the land of the free. You can make it happen and make sure it stays that way. Don’t take my word for it. Don’t make up your mind until you know in your heart it is true. I know that once that happens, it is a done deal with you people. You would do it or die trying. Talk it over among yourselves. Beat it to death. But, please, don’t just dismiss it, out of hand, without giving it a chance. It may be freedom’s last chance. I hate to put the responsibility for the life or death of freedom on anyone. But someone needs to take it on. Right now, no one is. No one. No one.”

He hung his head, and muttered. “No one.” He turned and walked to his table and sat down. You could have heard a feather drop. There was no applause, no talking, nothing but silence. Several minutes passed. Finally, Lester Atkins, a well-known liberal actor stood up. He clapped his hands together several times.

“I don’t know if I agree with you or not, Clyde,” Atkins said loudly, for all to hear. “But, I’m going to think this over seriously. I believe you have the best interests of everyone at heart. You may have something here. You are certainly right to say it wouldn’t be easy. But nothing really worthwhile is easy. Everyone here knows that things have been going straight downhill for decades, under both Republican and Democrat administrations. I think they get worse much faster under Republicans, but when my guys are in, I keep asking why they don’t undo any of the things they supposedly opposed so strongly when the Republicans were running things. By now, we all know that never happens. Thank you for inviting me, Clyde. Thank you for including me in your list of intelligent, talented, ambitious, and productive people. We wouldn’t deserve being on that list if we didn’t give your ideas the consideration they deserve. You went to a lot of trouble and expense to bring those ideas to us. I won’t dismiss them out of hand. If I do dismiss them, it will be after careful consideration. I only speak for myself, but I imagine a lot of those here agree with me. I’d like to see those who agree with me stand up and be counted.”

Masterson and Kellis looked around the banquet room. About two thirds of the room was standing. Slowly the rest of them stood. No one remained sitting. Masterson figured that most of the last third to stand probably did so in order not to appear close-minded. Even so, he was heartened. He and Kellis had what they came for. A giant step for freedom had been taken. With any luck, a movement could come from it. They even had a potential ally in Lester Atkins.

The conversations that took place, as everyone left the Beverly Hilton was not the usual empty small talk, but interchanges about ideas and concepts, discussion more appropriate for intelligent beings. Masterson and Kellis had a drink in the lounge, after everyone else had left.

“Aren’t you pleased the way it went?” asked Kellis. “You did a great job, Clyde.”

“Very pleased,” said Masterson. “We expected a lot of argument and fighting, but they acted almost stunned. I’m sure they didn’t expect anything like what they heard. I still think you should have spoken too.”

“I think we would have lost the continuity and the momentum,” said Kellis. “It had to be one person, and you are better at this than I am. How about Lester? He amazed me.”

“Lord, yes,” said Masterson. “If it works at all, tonight has done a lot to help the S.M.A.R.T. project. You didn’t have a good idea, Ron. You had a fantastic one. If we get a group of high profile people setting up an organization to unite conservatives and liberals, essentially against the establishment, the Feds will probably have their hands and their minds full of that major, nationwide threat. At worst, it will draw their resources away from S.M.A.R.T. and it will surely build a more sympathetic environment for Mississippi when the time comes that we need public support throughout the nation.”

“You’re afraid to even say the big ‘if,” said Kellis. “If it works, and liberals and conservatives set aside their disagreements for their own good and that of the country, America will be a paradise. We wouldn’t even have to secede.”

“True,” said Masterson. “But that will take forever, it if ever happens. I think the two projects complement each other. When the time comes, as you said, we’ll find more support this way from the other states. But when Mississippi secedes and becomes a paradise, people are going to take notice of the difference between them and us. It is going to help the nationwide cause. If the Feds don’t back off some, they could lose more states after Mississippi. It’s a win-win situation. If there is any effect at all, it has to be good for Mississippi. Let’s just hope for the best and settle for what we get.”

“What other choice do we have?” said Kellis.


 

Chapter Thirteen

 

 

James Talbot and his wife, Esther, were sitting at a small table in their sun room, having a late breakfast of coffee and croissants with a little ginger jelly, when the doorbell rang. Talbot looked at his watch.

“It’s early for any of my boys,” he said, getting up to answer the door.

As he opened the front door, Talbot’s jaw dropped in surprise. There stood Senator Greene, looking quite dejected.

“Hello, Counselor,” said the senator.

“Hello, Senator,” said Talbot. “Come in, please.” He ushered Senator Greene into his living room. “Have a seat.” He motioned toward a large easy chair next to the window. When the senator sat down, he sat beside him in an identical chair. “Needless to say, I’m a little surprised to see you, Daniel.”

“I imagine you are,” said the senator. “I know I would be surprised if you came knocking on my door.”

“No more than I would surprise myself, if I knocked on your door,” said Talbot, with a chuckle.

“There was a time when I came to your door quite often,” said Senator Greene.

“That wasn’t you,” said Talbot. “That was another Daniel Greene, a young man with high ideals and high moral standards. I liked him very much.”

“I can’t argue with you about that,” said the senator. “I’m hardly the same person you knew then. I’m not even the person I was a few months ago.” He paused.

Talbot waited, sensing that he was about to learn the reason for the senator’s visit.

“I know you are acquainted with a young man named Will Hastings,” said the senator. “He is involved with my daughter. I’m unable to contact my daughter. I was hoping that you could get a message to her, through Will Hastings.”

“I’m somewhat familiar with your situation with your daughter,” said Talbot. “The rumor mills have spread it throughout the state, I’m sure. If what I heard is true, I’m not at all surprised that your daughter doesn’t communicate with you. Are you?”

“No,” said the senator. “I’m not surprised. I’ve done a lot of thinking lately, and I know I was never the father I should have been. Even if I had been an ideal father, I would have canceled it all with what I did. But, I don’t think Nicole, or you, or anyone thinks I meant any harm to come to my own daughter.”

“No, I never believed you meant to harm her,” said Talbot. “You may be dismayed, but you shouldn’t be surprised, Daniel. You sowed the wind, and you reaped the whirlwind. That often happens, and you know it.”

“I know. I just want to talk to my baby,” said the senator. There were tears in his eyes. “I want to tell her how I feel and beg her forgiveness. She may not give it to me, but I have to try. I would do anything to undo what I did.”

“Since you know that it can’t be undone, that is a meaningless statement,” said Talbot. “Now, if you would do anything to put things right, that would be another story altogether. In that case, I would do what I could to help you.”

“That’s what I meant. Seems like old times with you correcting my speech.”

“You’d do anything to put things right?”

“Anything.”

“Then I’ll see what I can do to arrange a meeting with Nicole,” said Talbot. “By the way, you said that she was involved with Will Hastings. Don’t you know that they are married?”

“I heard that,” said the Senator. “I wasn’t sure.”

“They are definitely married. Do you still stand by your statement to do anything to make up for what you did?”

“I would do anything to be back with my family,” said Senator Greene, “the way we were before this tragedy.”

“I don’t think that would be easy,” said Talbot. “I don’t even know if it’s possible, but if it is, it will take time and effort.”

“I didn’t get where I am by doing the easy thing.”

“No,” said Talbot. “I guess you didn’t.” He handed a card to the senator. “Call me the day after tomorrow, Daniel. I’ll let you know what I’ve been able to do. Call in the early evening. That’s all I can tell you for now.”

Thank you so much, James,” said the Senator. “I only hope and pray that something will come of it.”

“There was a time when, if some had told me that you had done what you did, I would have said I didn’t believe it-that you wouldn’t do such a thing. But when I heard it, I had no trouble believing it. I do see contrition in you, Daniel. Maybe the tide has turned for you. Maybe the old Daniel will live again. As long as you are hoping and praying, hope and pray for that, while you are at it. That, more than anything else, would help you get what you want.”

“I’ll give it a try,” said the senator. “Don’t know if an old dog like me can learn new tricks or not.”

“They’re old tricks to you and tricks you knew well. It’s like riding a bicycle, I suspect. You never forget how. You just start out to do it, and, bingo, you remember.”

“I’ll do my best, James,” said the senator, standing up. “I’ll not take up any more of your time. Thank you again for everything.”

At the front door, the two men shook hands.

“Thank you again,” said the senator. He turned to leave. At the bottom of the front steps, he turned back and faced Talbot, who was standing in the doorway. “If I have ever offended you, James, I am sorry. Really and truly, I am.”

“Your apology is accepted,” said Talbot. He smiled and added. “Don’t forget to call me the day after tomorrow.”

Senator Greene grinned, broadly. “That ain’t gonna happen.”

 

***

 

“Do you really have to go with them, Derek?” asked Claire Fox. She steadied her rifle, squinted through the telescopic gun sight, and took careful aim at a target a hundred yards across the field, against a hillside. She squeezed the trigger. “Can’t your Special Forces guys handle it?”

“Good shot,” he said, handing her the binoculars and taking the rifle. “You already know the answer. This could be the most important thing we ever do. Those nukes can be the trump card to end all trump cards, if we ever have to play them. You know it as well as I do, Claire.”

“Yes. I know,” she sighed. “I just don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“I don’t want anything to happen to me either.” He paused, aimed the rifle, held his finger on the trigger, held his breath, remembered how it felt to make a perfect shot, and fired. “I’ll do all I can to avoid that. But I’m the key figure in this operation. I have studied the instructions so much that I know them by heart. Harry knows them almost as well, but both of us have to go, in case something happens to one of us. It could be a milk run, you know.”

“Another bull’s-eye,” said Claire, gazing through the binoculars. “It could be a disaster too. We won’t know until it’s over.”

“What I’m most afraid of is some totally unexpected disaster, like the papers I found being a decoy planted to mislead anyone who might stumble onto the existence of the nukes. What if the plans are phony and the nukes are really somewhere else? What if they moved them when the plans vanished?” He walked over to a stump and picked up a box of shells and handed them to her. “You do it. You need to know this weapon.”

“You could finally get into the nuke room and set off all the alarms and get killed,” said Fox, pulling the empty clip from her rifle. Leaning the rifle against the stump, she inserted the shells into the clip.

“We are probably overly suspicious,” said Palmer. “First of all, I doubt if they ever had any alarms that would alert the force that guards the gold. Don’t forget they surely planned to go in and make off with the nukes, someday. If that hadn't been their plan, why would they have made a long tunnel from the rear, when they could have taken them right out the front door? They wouldn’t want anyone to know about it. They didn’t even want anyone to know the nukes existed. Why do you think they killed everyone connected with them?”

“You said Herr Friedman was running that show. Didn’t you say Clinton was in on it too?” She pushed the full clip into the rifle.

“I assume he was. I don’t know if they could get their hands on a thousand nukes and all the codes and everything without presidential approval, but I wouldn’t put anything past these guys.”

“Friedman and Clinton may have told others since then.” She took aim at the target.

“That’s true,” said Palmer. “They could have even moved them or sold them to the Chinese or given them to Israel as part of a plan to eliminate all the Arabs. They could have actually destroyed them as they sort of said they would. All those things are extremely unlikely, because that would be like destroying a great many billions of dollars-not something these guys would do. But we could get in there and find an empty room. Or find a room full of who-knows-what hidden away. I think they are still there. If they are, then all the more reason to go and get them now, before they are gone.”

“I had the idea that you would be going for them much later on,” said Fox, “probably after Mississippi seceded.” She pulled the trigger and there was a click.

“You forgot to pull back the bolt and put a shell in the chamber,” Palmer told her. “That was what I had in mind. But think about what we’ve said. They may be moved already. If they are still there, they could be moved, sold, or whatever any day. The current administration is on the ropes. If they don’t arrange a major disaster and pin the blame for the current situation on somebody, the Republicans are out for sure. They may even start a world war. You can’t put anything past these guys.”

“Isn’t that the truth.” This time she pulled the trigger and got off a round.

“Not bad,” said Palmer. “You’re in the second ring.” He took the rifle and handed her the binoculars. “Besides, right now, the Feds still see us as a kooky, fringe group. If by some miracle, we get in power in Mississippi in the next election, they will soon know differently.”

“Our guys are running as Democrats, nearly all of them.”

“Even so, once we begin to hack away at the status quo and restore freedom to Mississippians, we turn the spotlight and a fluoroscope on S.M.A.R.T... They will be all over us. The population of Mississippi could double with the spies and assassins the Gestapo sends in. Every citizen will be suspect and under major surveillance. Getting the nukes then could be far more difficult.”

“I can see that,” said Fox.

He lifted the rifle, aiming it slowly. “The clincher was when we found out that the Stonermans were having a family reunion in Rhode Island next week. That is pretty much a guarantee that they won’t be visiting their West Virginia estate during the week. The only people there will be the caretakers and the security guard. We’ve already checked the property out. Their equipment is fairly good, off-the-shelf stuff, but not a problem. If the nukes are there, and if they aren’t watching by satellite, we shouldn’t have any problems.” He fired.

“First ring, to the right. You’re losing your touch.”

“The wind must have picked up,” he said.

“Yeah. Sure.” She took the rifle. “We should be heading back. Your friend will be here before long. Getting hungry?”

“A little, and if I know Harry, he won’t be late. He’ll probably be a few minutes early.” He, took the ammunition from the rifle, picked up the clips and shells from the stump and put them in a black bag.

“So hurry up and get this thing over with, Derek. If the sooner you get them, the less the risk to you, then you can’t get them too soon. Are you going to get them all?”

He took her hand as they walked back through the woods.

“As many as we can. We can’t possibly get them all in one night, so we’ll get all we can, and make a decision as to whether to go back for more. We don’t need them all, naturally. But the more we have, the more afraid they will be of us. Not only that, we keep them out of the hands of people that would use them on our fellow Americans. They would be perfect for false flag attacks.”

“Where will you store them?”

“You don’t want to know, Claire. Knowledge like that is dangerous to you and to S.M.A.R.T... If they even suspected you knew, you would be tortured unmercifully. They’d get it out of you, and then they would probably torture you to death, for fun. It takes a special kind of freak to torture people for a living, especially innocent ones. They have to enjoy it, or they couldn’t do it at all. Normal people can’t even stand to be in the room while that stuff is going on. Fatherland Security probably has the biggest collection of sadists ever assembled on the planet. The directors of those torture centers probably sell the torturing jobs. There are secret places in this world, where rich sickos pay tens of thousands of dollars a session to torture and mutilate kidnapped people. Think what they would pay to do it all the time, legally, and get paid for it. All I can tell you about the nukes is that we are going to spread them around. Even I don’t know all the locations. No one person does. We worked out a way to arrange that. I’m one of three people that know how to find out where they all are, if necessary. It was the safest way we could come up with. I have seen the list of possible places, but don’t know which ones are used or how many are where. I don’t want to know. I just know one third of the actual sites.”

“All this is going to cost a lot of money, isn't it? Where's the money coming from?”

“It will cost a bit, but not as much as you might think,” said Palmer. “None of our people are getting paid. But there will be a lot of expenses. Believe it or not, the money is coming from the federal government. I'll pay for it from the funds I got from the CIA. Believe me, I won't miss it. The CIA was very generous. Much of the money I got was destined for some two-bit generals who were supposed to overthrow the legitimate government of Chile. Unfortunately, they were assassinated on their way to pick it up. When I told Colby about it, he said to stash the money. The official report would say that they were assassinated right after they picked it up, and it's assumed the assassins got the money. When they got Colby, I took that along with all the other money I'd stashed. Not only that, but Colby gave me access to several permanent CIA accounts in different countries. I assume no one knows about that. Don't worry about the money.”

“If it comes from the government, doesn't that mean it really comes from the American taxpayers?” asked Fox.

“In most cases, that is true,” said Palmer. “However, the CIA black ops money comes mostly from their drug business. It dwarfs any drug cartel in the world. Sure they get a lot of off budget money for 'covert' operations, for which they are accountable to no one, but the majority of their off-the-record money comes from drugs-many, many billions a year. They are in a lot of other illicit operations too. When most Americans think about organized crime, they think Mafia. The CIA makes the Mafia look like the boy scouts. They invest in stocks heavily in ways that are sure to earn a big return. They made a fortune off the Empire State disaster.”

“Now we know why the more money they spend on fighting drugs, the more drugs are used. Are you sure you can trust the others, Derek? You said everyone was suspect.”

“I can’t get the nukes alone,” said Palmer. “That means I need help, and a lot of it. I can’t distribute them all over the country, much less all over the world. I have the best man I know of with me, and we have brought in a crew of Special Forces people that we think we can swear by. It’s the best I can do. The transportation is the riskiest part, as I see it. We needed a lot of trucks and vans. These guys have done a fantastic job. That is what these Special Forces people do. Everything they do, they do it well. They are all part of the SFU, Special Forces Underground. They’re people that put the good of the country and the people in it above everything else, including orders. If they were ordered to blow up a levee in New Orleans and drown thousands of people for political purposes, they would probably shoot the officer that ordered it.”

“Someday, you have to introduce me to these guys,” said Fox. “They are my kind of people.”

“Remember, a few years back, when there was a big stink over something called the “Combat Arms Survey?”

“Doesn’t ring a bell,” said Fox.

“There’s a squirrel over there,” he said, pointing to an oak tree. “Want squirrel for lunch?”

“Don’t you dare shoot that little guy,” she said. “If we needed food, maybe. But we don’t”

“Just kidding, anyway. The house is right over there. One of these shells would go through the squirrel and through the wall of the house, if it hit it. We don’t want to lose our cook,” he said. “The Combat Arms Survey was given to Marines. The big scandal was over questions like one as to whether they would shoot American civilians if ordered to do so by UN officers.”

“Sure, I remember that. I just didn’t know the name of the survey. As I recall, a quarter or a third said they would, and an equal number was undecided.”

“Anyway, it was the SFU that made the survey public. These guys are dead set against the trashing of the Constitution that they swore to defend, and they are against the USA being taken over by any foreign power and probably even more against US troops helping the foreign power. Naturally, the un-Americans that are running and ruining this country don’t want soldiers that think that, above all, they are supposed to defend Americans and follow the Constitution. So these guys are tarred with every propaganda brush at the Gestapo’s disposal. They are called racists, terrorists, child-molesters-you name it.”

“Well, God bless them,” she said, “and bring you all back safe and sound. The world needs all the people of that kind that it can get.”

“That car in the driveway must be Harry’s,” said Palmer, when the house came into view. He looked at his watch. “Half an hour early. He’s as anxious to see S.M.A.R.T. make it as we are. Do you remember that after the Rally in Santa Fe, I told you I had to visit a few friends?”

“Before you came back to Clyde’s place?”

“Right. Harry was one of the people I visited. He and I go way back.” With a grin, he added, “You might say he knew me before I was me.”

Fox laughed. “You mean he knew you when you were someone else?”

“Right. Give me the bag,” he said, as they arrived at the Kellis house. I’ll clean the rifle and put it away. I always clean my weapons. It’s a good habit to have. You never know when your life may depend on your weapon functioning. You don’t want it gummed up and jamming.”

“You already made that point enough times,” said Fox. “I’ll never forget it.”

“Good. The life you save may be your own.”

“Or yours.”

“Precisely. I want to keep us both alive. Things work much better that way. First, I’ll say hello to Harry. I can clean the rifle while he and I talk.”

Colonel Harry Dixon was sitting in the living room. He stood when they came in. “Derek,” he said, grabbing Palmer’s hand in what Fox knew had to be a grip to remember. “It is Derek, right?”

“Last time I looked in the mirror, I was still Derek,” said Palmer. “Harry Dixon, Meet Claire Fox. But, hands off. She’s mine.”

”The Claire Fox, the girl of my dreams?” asked Dixon.

“None other,” said Palmer.

“You always were the luckiest guy I ever saw, Derek. He grabbed Fox’s hand. “Ma'am, I’ve dreamed of meeting you some day and sweeping you off your feet. Looks like Derek beat me to it.”

“Sit down, Harry,” said Palmer. “How about a cold one, before lunch?”

“You talked me into it,” said Dixon.

 

***

 

"I don't understand how you could have been involved in something that terrible, at all," said Nicole. "Mama said that when you were young, you would never have anything to do with such a thing. You would have condemned anyone who would have. What happened to you, Daddy? Where did your ideals go? Where did your conscience go?"

"I don't really know, Baby," said Senator Greene. “You bend the rules a little one time, then another, and another. Each time, it's a little easier. Your conscience bothers you a little less. After a while, it doesn’t bother you at all. You don't even hear from your conscience. Your mama is right. When I was a young man, I was full of piss and vinegar. But I had a strong sense of morality that my mama had drummed into me." He sighed. "That was a long time ago. As a young congressman, I thought I was going to straighten out the world. A lot of us start that way, but the temptations are too great. The opportunities are too overwhelming. I don't think anyone resists them for long."

"You got to the point that you were ready to kill someone because he disagreed with you," she said. "Will didn't harm you, except maybe your pride. You almost killed me. One second earlier, and I wouldn't be here today."

"It wasn't just because he disagreed with me," he said. "He was part of a plan to destroy our way of life."

"What you mean is that he was part of a group that wanted to end the corruption and excesses of government that you did so well with. He wanted to end governmental crime in Mississippi."

"I guess you could put it that way."

"After almost killing me and losing all your family, it looks to me like you’re still doing the same things as before. You don't strike me as being very sorry."

"I am just going through the motions, these days," he said. "I run on autopilot. I hardly know what is going on any more. Sure, I'm still a senator, so I still have enormous power. But I'd give it all up in a heartbeat to be back with my family. I'd not even have to think about it twice. I miss you all so much."

Nicole's eyes glistened with the tears that formed in them. "Believe it or not, we miss you too. We talk about you all the time, and we hear a lot of talk about you.

"Does your mother talk about me?" he asked, as if afraid to hear the answer.

"Of course she does. Never a day goes by that we don't talk about you."

"What does she say about me?"

"She wishes that none of this had ever happened. She wishes you were the person you were when she fell in love with you and married you. She wishes we were still a family."

"She does?" He perked up.

"Sure, she does. We all do."

"So do I," he said.

"Maybe if..." her voice trailed off.

"Maybe if what?"

"Nothing," she said. "I was just thinking out loud."

"What? What were you thinking," he asked, anxiously.

"I was thinking that if you were to somehow go back to being more like the man Mama fell in love with and married, things could go back to the way they were. Probably even better than the way they were-more like they could have been or should have been."

He pondered that for a moment. "Do you think that's possible? Could you forgive me? Could your mother? And Norm?"

"I could forgive you, Daddy. I know you didn't mean to hurt me. But you did mean to hurt Will, and he's my husband now. You would have to make up with him, too."

"Not long ago, I would have said, 'That ain't gonna happen.’ Now though, I want my family back so badly, that I'll do anything it takes."

"When you think about it, Daddy, what did Will ever do to you?"

"Not much, really. I could say he made me look like a fool that Sunday in front of the church. But I guess he just let me make myself look like a fool. Then, he was trying to take my baby away."

“But I would still be your daughter, Daddy. I always will be. Surely, you knew that someday I would get married and move out.”

"Yes. But not with an opponent. Never mind that. I'll eat all the crow I have to. Can you set it up for me to talk to Will?"

"Sure. But what about you being the man Mama fell in love with. Don't forget that little thing."

"Yes. That. That will really take some doing. I don't know if my memory is all that good these days."

"I'm sure Mama's memory is fine," said Nicole. "I'm pretty sure that she'll be glad to give you a hand if you need or want it. Maybe you can meet with her and well--."

 

***

 

Alice Greene opened her front door, letting Nicole in. “Well,” she said, anxiously. “What happened? How did it go?”

“Poor Daddy,” said Nicole, pulling off her sweater and hanging it in the hall closet. “He has lost a lot of weight. He looks ten years older.”

“What did he say?” asked Mrs. Greene.

“He said he would do absolutely anything to have his family back. I told him I forgive him. But he would have to make his peace with you and Norm-and Will, too. He seemed really repentant. He wanted to know if we ever talk about him. I told him we talk about him all the time. He asked me what you said about him. I told him you wished all this had never happened, and that you wished he was like he was when you met him and fell in love with him. I told him that if he really wanted things to be like they were he should try to be like he was when you met him. He said he would try, but his memory wasn’t so good any more, and he wasn’t sure he could remember how he was. I told him your memory was fine, and you would probably help him remember.”

“I would,” said Mrs. Greene. “If only he could be that way again. He was my dream man.”

“I think that he really wants to be,” said Nicole. “I’m not sure he can do it. But I think he’ll try his best. Will you forgive him?”

“If you can forgive him after what he did to you, I would almost have to at least try.”

“You can’t try to forgive someone, Mother. Either you do or you don’t,” said Nicole. “He didn’t mean to hurt me, and you know it.”

“Yes, I do know that. He surely meant to hurt Will.”

“Will is going to be a little difficult,” said Nicole. “He is more upset with Daddy than anyone.”

“Of course he is,” said Mrs. Greene. “That boy loves you, something fierce.”

“And I love him.”

 

***

 

Ten dark-colored vans eased to a stop on the country road that ran alongside the Stonerman estate in the West Virginia hill country. The convoy eased off the road onto a little trail and parked. Several men got out of each van. Their dark clothing made them hard to see in the darkness. They had the latest equipment for night-vision and communication. Ten men stayed with the vans. The others jogged through the woods to a fence that marked the perimeter of the Stonerman property. It was a standard barbed-wire fence, and with two special bars placed between the strands, they made an opening that the men slipped through with ease. A short distance through more woods, they came to a dirt road that led them to a small concrete-block building, set against the side of a large, tree-covered hill.

“This is it,” said Palmer, in a low voice. He pulled a key from his pocket. The first test, he thought. He turned the key, the bolt clicked open. With a sigh of relief, he opened the door. “So far, so good,” he said. Turning to Colonel Dixon, he said, “Okay, have them open the gate.”

“Roger,” said Dixon. He muttered a few words to one of the men, and he started back down the road they had just walked up. “He’ll let us know when he has it ready to open,” he told Palmer.

Dixon sent one man to find the security guard and keep an eye on him. Palmer, Dixon, and the rest of the men went into the building.

“Shut the door,” said Palmer.

One of the men shut the door. “There must be a light switch here somewhere,” said Palmer. He shined a flashlight on the wall by the door. He found a light switch and flipped it on. “We don’t need these any more,” he said, lifting the night-vision monocular. He pulled out a tape measure and measured along the back wall from the corner of the room, making marks on the wall, as he measured. Soon, he had a large rectangle marked on the wall. “We have to knock this part of the wall out,” he said. “There should be a few sledge hammers in the cabinet over there.”

One of the men opened the cabinet. There were four huge sledgehammers and several picks and shovels in the cabinet.

“Bring the hammers here,” said Dixon. “Four of you come here and start knocking out the wall along the lines drawn on it. After a few minutes, swap out with four others, and take a rest.”

The huge sledgehammers made short order of the wall, and soon there was a wall of dirt, where the concrete block wall had been.

“There is supposed to be only six feet of dirt,” said Palmer. And there should be a door behind that.”

Sledgehammers were traded for picks and shovels. The dirt was dug away and piled on either side of the opening. In ten minutes, a large double door was standing before them. It wasn’t locked. Palmer opened it and they found a tunnel.

“Find a light switch,” said Palmer.

“Here’s one,” said one of the men. The tunnel lit up before them.

“A couple of you need to stay and clean the debris away from the floor,” said Palmer. “We’ll be coming through here with heavily loaded carts. Then one of you stay here and the other go down the tunnel to the next room. We will probably have to relay communication with the people at the gate and the man on the guard. Inside the mountain, we won't be able to communicate with them. The rest of you, come on. Bring the hammers and digging tools, and let’s go.” He led them down the tunnel.

After about thirty-five yards, they came to another double door. This door opened to a large room, about fifty feet square. It had shelves of what appeared to be different types of food, including military rations. Along one wall were stacks of fifty-gallon drums. The greater part of the room looked like an apartment, with all the basic necessities, bunk beds, sofas, tables, chairs, a television, music system, etc. There were two bathrooms.

“What’s this,” said Dixon. “It looks like a shelter of some sort.”

“I imagine that they made it look like a shelter,” said Palmer. “If anyone happened to get this far, they would think it was some sort of emergency shelter that the Stonermans had.” He looked around the room. “Over here,” he said. “We have to move these drums away from the wall. Just a minute.” He began measuring and marking again. “This part of the wall has to come out.”

“I just heard from the men at the gate,” said Dixon. “It’s ready to swing open, when we tell them.”

“Good,” said Palmer. “Tell them to stand by.”

After knocking the wall out and digging through ten feet of earth, they came to another double door followed by another tunnel.

“This is the last tunnel,” said Palmer, leading them down the tunnel. Eventually, they came to another smaller room.

“One more wall to break down, but this one should be much easier, because it’s thinner. Start with lighter blows to make less noise,” he said. “Only three feet of dirt behind this one. Better just use the shovels and no picks. We don’t want to break the inside wall in the wrong places or we will have a well-armed army to deal with.”

As the wall and the earth behind it were cleared away, they saw another concrete block wall.

“There should be a frame of blocks that are different from the rest,” said Palmer. “They mark the limit of the opening that we have to make.”

“It couldn’t be any plainer,” said one of the men. “Look,” he said, running his hand along a line of blocks that were almost twice as wide as the rest.

“It is about the size of the other doors,” said Palmer. “But here we have to scrape away the stuff between the blocks and pull them through into our side. Outside of this frame, the walls are full of alarm wires. If any are broken, it’ll set off the alarm. Take it easy on this wall; the nukes are on the other side of it.”

The mortar between the blocks had obviously been made to remove easily, and in ten minutes they had an opening big enough for a man to pass through. Before them was a huge room that Palmer thought must be thirty or forty yards square. Here and there were small overhead lights that gave the place an eerie atmosphere. He looked at his watch. It was ten forty-five.

“Let’s check out the nukes. We need more lights,” said Palmer. “Which one of you is the nuclear specialist?”

“There are two, just in case,” said Dixon. “Morgan. Clements. You know what we’re after. Look around and tell us what we need to know. Look for a bunch of electric carts, too. They should resemble golf carts. If you can, check on the condition of their batteries. See if we need to bring in the batteries we have in the vans.”

“Yes, sir,” said the men in unison. They went through the opening. A moment later lights began going on around the room.

“They’ll have this opening finished in no time,” said Palmer. “Have the men bring the vans up to the building. Better check with the man that’s monitoring the security guard, if you haven’t heard from him recently.”

“It’s all clear with the security guard,” said Dixon. “The man in the hut just heard from him.” He relayed a message to the men at the vans telling them to bring the vans to the front door of the hut. Then he notified the men at the gate that the vans were on their way.

In a few minutes, one of the nuclear specialists returned. “How does it look, Morgan?” asked Dixon.

“So far, it looks like the list is accurate. Except for a few B-83's, they seem to all be W-80 Cruise Missile warheads. They’re small, about 32 inches long and a foot in diameter. Just under 300 pounds each. Those that I checked were 150-kiloton configuration. You’ll need the codes for the PAL’s or Permissive Action Links in order to arm them. Since they are for Cruise Missiles, you would have to disable the Environmental Sensing Devices or ESD’s, which will look for certain missile actions before they will fire.”

“We know about that,” said Palmer. “We have the instructions for that. The arming and fuzing systems should be separate, and the codes should be with them.”

“Very good, Sir.”

“What about the carts?” asked Dixon.

“Burt’s looking for them,” said Morgan.

The carts were found. A couple had dead batteries, but they had half a dozen that were fine, and several more that they didn’t check. They put four warheads on each cart. By the time the first cart started for the front door, the vans were waiting for them. They were afraid to put more than four in a van, because of the weight.

As fast as the vans could be loaded, they left, taking the warheads to a farm about six miles away and stored them in a big barn. They would be removed in larger trucks later. Now, they just wanted them out of there. Each van took four warheads approximately every thirty minutes or eight warheads an hour. With ten vans, they moved eighty warheads an hour. They had removed three hundred and sixty warheads before Palmer said it was time to shut down for the night. They turned out all the lights, put motion detectors in the hut that they could query by remote control from outside, and brushed the area to remove their tracks and left, dragging a bush in each rut behind the last car. The gate was returned to its locked condition. There was no noticeable sign that they had been there.

“Couldn’t have gone any smoother,” said Dixon, when they stopped at the farmhouse to inspect the warheads in the barn.

“We didn’t expect any problems,” said Palmer. “With only one guard at the main lodge, and no homes in the area, there shouldn’t have been a problem.”

“Sometimes, that is precisely when you have the most problems,” said Dixon.

“True. It looks like we still have two more nights. I only hope they go as well as tonight did. They should go even smoother, since we won’t have to knock out any walls or do any digging. Just load them up and bring them here.”

The following night, they returned and removed 440 warheads. The third night was their last night. There were two hundred warheads left but one hundred of them were B-83 warheads, which were twelve feet long and weighed over a ton. These were too hard to handle, as well as much harder to hide. Afraid that Friedman or some equally evil person might sell them to an enemy of America, they wrecked the B-83’s. The only thing that would be salable would be the nuclear material. They had no choice but to leave that.

Within a week, all the warheads would be gone, most of them in the United States, or nearby in the Caribbean or Central America. Eventually, they would have fifty scattered around Europe, with another twenty-five in other locations. They would then have available every option that Palmer and Fox had considered, as well as a few more that Palmer’s friends had come up with.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Chapter Fourteen

 

 

“To think we were looking forward to these elections,” said Will. He was sitting in front of his computer, talking with Palmer, Fox, Carla, Crowell, and Roberts in a cyberconference. Everyone was tired from staying up late the night before, watching the national election results, and disappointed that George F. Upton had been re-elected. “You know there is no way in Hell that he could have carried Mississippi. We can be sure that our people voted for the Democratic ticket. I guess I should say that they voted against the Republican ticket, and most of all against Upton. They couldn’t vote for the libertarian candidate, or they would have a measure of how many of us there are. Even if everyone else had voted for Upton, he couldn’t have gotten as many votes as they say he got. But everyone else didn’t vote for him. At least ninety-percent of the black vote was against him. He didn’t have a chance in Mississippi. There is absolutely no doubt about it: the election was rigged.”

“There are already reports of massive voting fraud all across the nation,” said Fox. “Hundreds of precincts where Upton got over a hundred percent of the vote, broken machines in black precincts, blacks having to wait in line for up to six hours to vote. One black woman, in Ohio, was in the voting booth for 45 minutes. When they asked her what was wrong, she said every time she pushed a button for Perry, Upton popped up on the screen. She just kept pushing, waiting for the right name. Finally, they moved her to another voting machine. But they kept using the other one that always voted for Upton.”

“No wonder he won,” said Carla.

“If all this is coming out less than twenty-four hours after the polls closed, you can be sure that we are seeing just the tip of the tip of the voting fraud iceberg,” said Fox. “More and more will come out.”

“The big problem is next year,” said Palmer. “What is going to happen in the Mississippi General Election, next year?”

“The same thing,” said Will. “The way things are in the United States now, you couldn’t beat the establishment, even with a unanimous vote against them. You would still lose.”

“That would make all our efforts for nothing,” said Fox, her voice quivering.

“I just had a chilling thought,” said Will.

“A different one?” said Fox.

“Related,” said Will. “We’ve been thinking that we were so lucky that the Feds weren’t coming down on us yet, that things were running so smoothly, way ahead of our projections. Maybe the Feds aren’t worried about us because they know we will never win an election in Mississippi, now that they have electronic voting. Besides, they probably think we will run as libertarians, and they have essentially locked out third parties, with their bipartisan legislation, making the elections strictly Demopublican. Now, by installing electronic voting machines, they have full control over who wins what when.”

“Even if that isn’t the reason they haven’t molested us,” said Roberts, “it is essentially the way things are. We don’t stand a chance.”

“Not the way things are,” said Will. “That means we have to change the way they are.”

“Lots of luck,” said Fox.

“We either have to get away from electronic voting machines or keep them from being used against us,” said Will. “Either one seems next to impossible.”

“Elections are still under the states,” said Roberts. “Couldn’t we bring suit to have electronic voting outlawed and paper ballots brought back? What do you think, Sam?”

“Of course you could bring such a suit,” said Crowell. “The question is: what chance would you have of winning it in today’s corrupt environment?”

“You interviewed all the Mississippi Supreme Court justices, Sam,” said Roberts. “What chance would you give that suit?”

“If the justices voted their conscience, I’d say you would win easily. However, I doubt that conscience has any more influence on major Supreme Court decisions than the law does. The way things stand now, I would say that you would lose. If I had to guess, I’d say six to three or at best five to four.”

“You say the way things stand now,” said Will. “You also said conscience and law aren’t the decision makers. What conditions would be necessary for us to win?”

“Let me say that in the U.S. Supreme Court you would have zero chance, but the state courts generally seem to have more integrity-especially in the less populous states, for some reason. Since you would have a fair chance of getting three as it is, you would have to get two more,” said Crowell. “You would have to make it worth their while, and I’m not talking money. If they thought there might be a groundswell of public opinion against them, or in your favor, you might influence one or two more. If they thought there might be a nationwide outburst against them, which is highly unlikely, they wouldn’t want to be seen as just the opposite of national sentiment, not when they knew going against it would be immoral and illegal as well. If they thought Mississippi could end up as a sovereign nation any time soon, you might have an even better chance, but without their help, forget that possibility. I don't know how they feel about that now.”

“You’re saying that we need a spectacular public outcry to get rid of electronic voting, both in Mississippi and nationwide,” said Roberts.

“That would improve the odds,” said Crowell. “I can’t swear that it would work.”

“We know that,” said Will. “Can we get Clyde Masterson in on this meeting?”

“I’ll try,” said Fox.

In a couple of minutes, Masterson was logged on with them. “Good morning,” he said. “What's on your mind so early in the morning? Oh, yes. It's two hours later there. I'm not fully awake yet.”

“Clyde, this is Will. How is your Hollywood group doing these days? Is there any progress?”

“Quite a bit, said Masterson. “Although we obviously didn’t swing the election, I’m seeing quite a bit of dialog between some big time liberals and some top conservatives. I’m optimistic.”

“We need to generate a giant groundswell of public opinion on an important matter,” said Will. He filled Masterson in on the problem. “Can or would Hollywood help with this?

“Sure they can or could,” said Masterson. “Whether they will or not remains to be seen. There are several people that I can talk to about it. Before I even think about talking to them, I need to have a clear understanding of why this is so important. I have to be able to field all their questions. Actually, it should be of just about as much importance to them as it is to us. They certainly didn't want four more years of George F. Upton, any more than we did. Furthermore, they have to know that he took this election by fraud.”

They discussed it for several minutes and decided to let Phil Collins give them some help on making it appeal to as many people as possible. It should be worked into their campaign strategy as well.

“Russ Monroe’s suggested hacking into the government’s own mind control program and substituting our information for theirs,” said Fox. “This is a perfect issue to feed into that. Has anyone heard if they are making any progress in that area?”

“I asked about that the other day,” said Will. “Apparently, there are quite a few people working on it. From what I was told, it overlaps some other programs, meaning that progress in one thing means progress in others. We aren’t ready yet. We have identified quite a few instances of embedded propaganda. In some cases, we know how it is mixed with regular programming. But the source doesn’t seem to be connected to the Internet, and that is a major problem. We think either the information is sent to the destination via Internet and then moved to an off line system, or they transfer it some other way. Today, it just seems unlikely that they would send it any other way. A hard copy could be very damning evidence were it to get into the wrong hands. We are studying the software on the computers at these sites to see if we can effect a similar transfer, or if we can hijack the next update, if any, from the government.”

“You lost me toward the end,” said Crowell. “But never mind. They are working on it. I get the impression that they’re fairly proficient people.”

“They are mostly hackers,” said Will. “When you get right down to it, we are doing society a great service. Many of these guys would otherwise be messing around in people’s computers as an outlet for their talent and energy. Roger has given them a cause. He says they’re generally pretty libertarian in their thinking, if not completely anarchistic, and this project really appeals to them.”

“How do you know they are trustworthy?” asked Roberts.

“We use every technique at our disposal,” said Palmer. “But we are never a hundred percent sure of anyone, including any of us. Voice stress analysis is one of our major tools, but it can probably be fooled with technology, although I don’t know if they have found a way to do that or not. The people in the intelligence business can pass a lie detector test with no problem at all. However, they have to make an effort to do so, and I don’t think they’ll pass an unknown voice stress test. We use a few other things like planting phony info that we would know about if it gets out. So far, it looks okay. Of course, we keep our identities completely isolated from these guys, and hope for the best. We have stopped recruiting, for fear of being infiltrated. Therefore, we can’t expand the team, but those we have are incredibly talented. These are the kind of guys that were breaking into the Pentagon computers and Microsoft, itself.”

“Thank goodness they are on our side,” said Crowell.

“You can be sure that the government has thousands of similar people working around the clock,” said Palmer. “Not only that, they have access to every Internet Service Provider. They are sure to have back doors into Microsoft Windows. If Microsoft denied the government that, they would be buried in legal problems and every other kind of problem imaginable. You know how the government works these days. We know the American anti-virus companies are giving a pass to Magic Lantern, the FBI’s key logger Trojan, and DIRT, a similar Gestapo tool. Once you are infected with them, the FBI can get a record of everything you type into your computer, including passwords, even when you aren’t connected to the Internet. As far as we know, you can’t buy anything to detect it. Even if they could, vendors won’t detect it. They know that if they did, they would have the Gestapo all over them, in every way imaginable. They might be prosecuted for supporting terrorism. These days, the accusation of supporting terrorism is about like being accused of heresy was during the Spanish Inquisition. Now, rumors have it that the Israeli Mossad has hacked Magic Lantern and DIRT, or maybe stolen or been given the secrets. That means the Israelis would have similar access to most people’s keystrokes. I’ve heard the Mafia is branching into the field and hiring an army of hackers. Since most of the old Russian Mafia has been driven out of Russia and now resides in Israel, they may already be using Magic Lantern.”

“Good Lord,” said Crowell. “The sooner we have a free Mississippi, the better. But, the hurdles are awesome.”

“It’s us against the world,” said Fox.

“It’s the world against us,” said Will. “That’s not true. It is government against mankind. These things aren’t directed at us. They are directed at all mankind. The side effects, like the Mafia usage, are what they call ‘collateral damage.’ But, we are getting off the subject. I’ll get back to them and tell them we need to use anything they can get us now, and we will have some trial data for them, soon. We need to know what form to give it, etc. There may be nothing we can do at the moment. All I can do is try. Then I’ll get to our psyop group with the info.” Phil Collins was referred to as their psyop person or group leader, as they didn’t like to use his name online.

 

***

 

A short time later, the Democratic Party of Mississippi filed suit to block the use of electronic voting in Mississippi. This created a furor within the national Democratic Party. Mississippi Democrats countered that they thought it was very suspicious that the Democratic National Committee so fiercely defended a crooked system that had just made them lose an election that they had surely won. Were they part of the plot? Did they actually support the reelection of George F. Upton? This question and similar ones circulated throughout the nation. Was the National Democratic Party really an organization for those millions of registered Democrats across the nation, or was it in league with the Republican Party with some hidden agenda? So many high profile people, including all the Hollywood liberals and much of the media, were loudly demanding answers. The National Democratic Party had to retrench. At least, it had to give the appearance of retrenching.

The opposition to the suit by the DNC was outspoken and well known. In little groups of powerful men around the world, a different attitude was prevalent. A rumble was felt in the ruling elite. Was the worm turning? Electronic voting was a godsend for them. It made manipulation of elections child’s play. This suit and its arguments could set things back decades. Phones were ringing around the world. Little Mississippi was suddenly a matter of international concern, behind the scenes of course. For ninety-nine point nine nine nine nine nine percent of the world’s population that didn’t matter, it was a matter of no concern whatsoever.

Josh Friedman was one of those to whom it mattered, one of the very concerned people. He stood up behind his desk, glowering at the group of people cowering in front of him. “I want a complete file on every single person on the executive committee of the Mississippi Democratic Party. I want a file on everyone in their families, even their pets. I want a file on any mistresses or lovers. If there is any dirt, or even dust on any of them, I want to know about it. And I want everything yesterday. Now, get to it.”

The office emptied. These upper echelon people would fill their office with people that reported to them and repeat the tirade they had just been subjected to. Eventually, a low enough level would be reached that people would start working on gathering the information.

However, over the next few days, thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations in Mississippi joined in the suit, making the Democratic Party of Mississippi merely a drop in a bucket of protest. Outside markets and shopping malls, volunteers set up tables and took signatures for petitions. Other volunteers went door to door obtaining signatures. There were two accompanying petitions. One called for the legislature to outlaw electronic voting machines. The second called for the impeachment of any judge who voted against the plaintiffs and any legislator that failed to support the requested legislation. The number of signatures soon passed half a million and continued climbing. Popular movie stars made public appearances, supporting the suit and the petitions. These appearances of the rich and famous were covered by the media and mentioned on the evening newscasts, in Mississippi and across the nation. Similar suits were filed in three other states, including Texas, the President’s home state. Groups were forming in nearly every state. Everyone was talking about the stolen elections. The number of documented instances of fraud that had surfaced was staggering: over fifteen thousand. Public confidence in the election system was near zero. Every technique at S.M.A.R.T.’s disposal was used, and they all worked as well for the citizens as they had worked against them in the past.

 

***

 

“You two sit down, in these two chairs. My wife is playing bridge this afternoon, and I'm going out for a walk and will leave you two alone,” said James Talbot. He closed the blinds on the study window. “When it’s okay for me to come back, just open these blinds.” He had quickly agreed when Nicole had asked him if her father and Will could meet at his house. It gave them a very private, quiet, neutral place.

Talbot closed the front door noisily so they would know that he was gone. For a while, Will and Senator Greene sat looking at each other.

Senator Greene broke the silence. “Since I’m the one that asked for this meeting, I suppose it’s up to me to start it,” he said. “Right up front, I want to admit that I did a terrible thing-a monstrous thing. I meant to do you harm, and I ended up hurting my own flesh and blood. I can’t undo what I did, but as I told Nicole, I will do anything in my power to make up for what I did. Is there anything that can be done to mend those bridges?”

“I don’t know,” said Will. “Let me ask you a question. If the situation had been reversed. If you had been the victim. What if a political enemy had blown up your house intending to kill you, but had gotten your wife and daughter instead. Then he came to you asking what he could do to set things straight. What would you say to him?”

“I would probably have a hard time to decide whether to beat the Hell out of him or see if I could make him suffer more, some other way.”

“At least, that sounds like an honest answer,” said Will. “Then I’m sure that you understand that I feel pretty much the same way. However, Nicole seems to think you’re repentant and willing to go to great lengths to make up for what you did. She favors reconciliation. I’m here only because she wants it.”

“I can certainly understand that,” said the Senator.

“What you did caused great pain and suffering to Nicole, directly. Indirectly, it caused great pain to your wife, to Norman, and to me. I don’t see how you can compensate at all for the pain and suffering, other than by doing something that would bring us at least an equal amount of joy and pleasure. You will have to speak to the others as to what they require of you. I can only speak for myself.”

“That makes sense. Tell me how I can make peace with you,” said Senator Greene.

“You wanted to kill me,” said Will, “not for anything I did to you personally, but for my involvement with S.M.A.R.T... If I had been working with the Democratic Party, none of this would have happened. Isn’t that true?”

“Yes,” said the Senator. “I suppose it is.”

“Mrs. Greene has told me about the person you were when she married you. James Talbot has confirmed what she said. Nicole tells me you are willing to attempt to regain whatever it is that you lost between then and now. If that happens, Nicole and her mother will be very happy. I love Nicole very much and her happiness is of the utmost importance to me. So one thing I will require of you is that you do make an honest, all-out effort to meet their expectations of you.”

“You can depend on that,” said the Senator.

“And,” said Will, “While I won’t require you to actively work for S.M.A.R.T., I want your word, which you must keep, that you will never actively or openly oppose S.M.A.R.T., and that you will never, in any way, support any legislation that would be detrimental to S.M.A.R.T. or its objectives.”

The Senator took a deep breath. “Okay. I’ll agree to that.”

“That is it,” said Will. “You do those things, and you and I will start with a clean slate.”

“Thank you, Will. You are a better person than I could have possibly been under similar circumstances.”

“You are making up with me in order to get something you want,” said Will. “I am doing it in order to get something I want.”

“Isn’t something like that behind what everyone does?”

“In sane people, it is. The problem is knowing what to want. I think too many people knock themselves out to get something that won’t make them happy when they get it. The first thing you know, it’s too late to start over. I don’t intend to make that mistake.”

“You may be describing my situation,” said the senator.

“I heard somewhere that you should set your goals,” said Will. “Then you should sit down and list your values. Then see if your goals match your values. If they don’t, achieving them probably won’t make you happy.”

“That’s sounds like a good strategy. Too bad I didn’t do that when I was younger.”

“You’ll never do it any younger than you are now,” said Will. “Don’t you think we can open the blind?”

“I’ll open it,” said the senator. As he opened the blind, he said, “Too bad we didn’t have a talk before all this mess. But I wouldn’t have paid any attention to you.”

“It sounds to me like you are already on your way to finding the man Mrs. Greene married,” said Will.

“I hope so. I liked him, myself.”

 

***

 

“So good to see you again, Justice Fannon,” said Crowell. “Naturally, I could have sent you this book, but I hoped to see you again.” He held out a copy of his new book about Supreme Courts. “I put a bookmark at the page where references to you and the Mississippi Supreme Court begin.”

“Thank you so much, Mr. Crowell,” said Justice Fannon. “I’m sure I will enjoy your book very much, as I have all your previous ones. Please sit down. Let us chat a while.”

“Thank you,” said Crowell, sitting in the chair in front of Fannon’s desk. He was there on a sensitive mission: to solicit Fannon’s support for an urgent hearing by the Mississippi Supreme Court of the Electronic Voting Machine Suit. However, since he couldn’t possibly come right out and say that, he had to approach Fannon with the utmost delicacy.

“I want to thank you for alerting me to the importance of the S.M.A.R.T. movement,” said Fannon. “I assure you that I am relatively up to date on them, now. Were I in any position, other than that of Supreme Court Justice, I would most likely be involved with S.M.A.R.T... I’m sure that you understand that most organizations are off limits to me.”

“Of course,” said Crowell. How lucky he was that Fannon had brought up the topic of S.M.A.R.T. right away. He wondered if Fannon had guessed his reason for being there.

“While I can’t be certain,” said Fannon, “I believe that I see signs of S.M.A.R.T.’s influence in many areas lately. Moreover, I am far less certain than I was during our last talk about the futility of their cause. If I am right about them being the instigators of various actions, they are making significant progress.”

“Perhaps a return to freedom in our lifetime is not entirely out of the question,” said Crowell.

“There are changes outside Mississippi, too. Some of them are quite fortuitous from S.M.A.R.T.’s point of view. So much so, that I wonder if they aren’t involved.”

“Perhaps S.M.A.R.T. is an idea whose time has come. I certainly hope so.”

“In today’s high tech world, they will need more than an idea,” said Fannon. “If you know what I mean.”

“Indeed, I do,” said Crowell. “What they need most urgently though is support from men of honor, if you know what I mean.”

“I suspect that I do,” said Fannon. “With all the support they seem to have garnered for themselves, I would say that honor stands a much better chance than ever. Public opinion is not usually of great importance to significant decisions, but when unanimity is approached, history has taught us that it must be reckoned with.”

“How true,” said Crowell. “Wise men stand aside and let Destiny have its way, for is sure to do so anyway.”

“There many things I would like to know about S.M.A.R.T., but cannot ask. Besides, the things I would like most to know are surely not bandied about in public.” He paused and stared off into space. “I truly envy those involved. What satisfaction they must feel.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Crowell. “To be a patriot, following one’s conscience, doing what one knows is right, and giving freedom a new lease on life is something wonderful to look forward to, or back on. It is the kind of life that so many of us dreamed of in our youth. But you needn’t envy them, Justice Fannon. Follow your conscience in the days to come, and believe me, you will feel the same satisfaction that they feel.”

“I don’t doubt that,” said Fannon. “One man can only do so much, but then, millions of Mississippians are standing up and being counted. You may get that invitation yet, Mr. Crowell.”

Crowell closed his eyes. His heart leapt. He knew Fannon was referring to an invitation to his inauguration as Supreme Court Justice for the new independent nation of Mississippi. Fannon was not only essentially declaring his position in favor of S.M.A.R.T., but implying that their suit would likely receive a favorable decision. “I hope and pray that I do,” he said.

 

***

 

“Hello, Alice,” said Senator Green, standing timidly at the front door of the house he had once called home.

“Hello, Daniel,” Alice Greene answered, with not much more conviction.

“Thank you for letting me come and talk to you.”

“Come out on the veranda, and we can sit down and talk,” she said, leading the way.

They sat in two wicker chairs, looking out over the lawn to a row of trees across the back of their lot.

“I don’t know where to start,” he began, “except to say that I am fifty-seven years old and I think I finally grew up. All these years of wheeling and dealing for a little more of this and that, whether it was money or power, and all the while, I was taking for granted the things I should have paid the most attention to. That old saying that you don’t miss the water ‘til the well runs dry never hit home as hard as it did when I lost you and the kids. My well has gone dry, Alice, and I am dying of thirst for what I foolishly gave too little importance to. I’ll do anything in my power, Alice.” He started to continue, but put his head in his hands and sobbed, unable to continue.

“I know you were going to talk to Will,” she said, trying to contain her own emotion. “He’s the one you tried to kill. What did he say?”

“He said that because Nicole wanted it and he loved her so much, he would wipe the slate clean, if I would agree never to do anything against him or his organization and if I do my best to again be the man you married and once loved.”

“Did you agree to that?”

“Yes. Of course I did. I also told him he was a better man than I would have been in his place.”

She smiled, bitterly. She looked at him, with his eyes red and his cheeks wet with tears, and her heart ached. She wanted to hold him and be held by him. It had been so long since she had wanted that.

“So many years,” she said. “So many years wondering what had happened to the man I loved. So many years of wondering and wishing.”

“What a fool I have been,” he said. “Not only did I lose years of happiness with you, I did some terrible things. I don’t just mean what I tried to do to Will. I did some terrible things to the people of Mississippi, and I helped do some horrible things to the American people as a whole. May God forgive me.”

“God is supposed to be forgiving,” she said. “For me, it isn’t so easy. Lord knows, I want to forgive you and have things back the way they were, but it’s not easy to leave myself open to disappointment again. How I loved you then. How I would love you again, if you were half as wonderful as you were then.”

“Give me a chance, Alice. Let me show you. Let me find my way back. I beg you.”

She sat silent for a long time. The hope that springs eternal won out over defensiveness. “Alright, Daniel,” she said. “You can come back. I won’t ask for a miracle, but if I don’t think you’re trying, there won’t be another chance. That is the best I can do.”

He jumped up and knelt beside her chair and buried his face in her lap. “Thank you, Alice. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

She ran her fingers through his hair, her tears falling on her hand. They were tears of joy. She uttered a silent prayer that she would never lose this happiness again.

 

***

 

“We couldn’t go to Will’s wedding, and he can’t come to ours,” said Phil Collins. “That’s too bad. Apparently, Claire and Derek are going to get married soon, too.”

“Of course we would like to have them at our wedding,” said Suzanne Barrett, “but, remember, the reason that we can’t invite them or be invited by them is really a wonderful reason. It is because something wonderful is happening.”

“That's true,” he said.

“You’ve been here for a while now, Phil. Don’t you feel that you are a part of something wonderful?”

“Oh, yes,” said Collins. “Sometimes, I sit and wonder how I got into the state I was in before. I spent years studying how to put people into just such a state, and only now do I realize that I was a subject of the same techniques I was advancing. Theoretically, when you know how it is done, you become immune to the techniques. Apparently, that isn’t so.”

“Don’t they say that no one is easier to sell than a salesman?”

“That’s what they say. I’ve been thinking about it, and there are two possible explanations. There could be additional techniques of which I am not aware. But the most likely answer is that I was thirty years old before I began working in mind control. Maybe by that time, I was already completely brainwashed. The die was cast, and mere awareness of the techniques wasn’t enough to undo the programming. It would make sense that awareness of how programming is accomplished merely prevents subsequent programming, while failing to nullify previous programming.”

“I agree that the second explanation is far more likely,” said Barrett. “Isn’t the public school system one of their most important tools?”

“No doubt about that,” said Collins. “I compared some old textbooks, from the pre-Department-of-Education days, with current ones. To someone who knows what to look for, the changes are very telling. The old books taught people the way our government was designed by the Founding Fathers, to protect our rights and prevent tyranny by the government. The current books, on the other hand, are subtle propaganda tools, to make people acquiescent to government control. The public school system is the most powerful of all their tools, since it works on young minds, even the best of which are oblivious to what is being done to them. Little by little, they are lowering the initial age at which they attack those minds. Even a superficial study of the origins and strategies of the women’s lib movement strongly suggests that it was a carefully contrived plan to get women out of the house and the children into government regulated day-care, kindergarten and pre-kindergarten.

“History is no longer factual at all; it has been rewritten to fit the government agenda. In civics classes, references to democracy have replaced those to the republican form of government, while every founding father was strictly and strongly opposed to a democracy.” He looked at her and smiled. “There I go: preaching to the choir. I guess a reformed liberal isn’t much different from a reformed drunk or smoker. Give them a chance and they will preach up a storm.”

“This particular reformed liberal is special,” said Barrett. “I love every bone in his body. Not only do I love him, but I love what he is doing for his country and the world.”

“I wonder if what good I might be doing is enough to compensate for all the harm I helped the government do in the past,” said Collins.

“Not that long ago, Phil, every libertarian-minded person I knew was totally and depressingly resigned to the inevitable end of freedom on this planet. S.M.A.R.T. has done more to give us hope than anything in recent history. Since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the freedom spoken of in that document has been under attack. The attacks have gotten more severe and more successful as time passed. For the very first time, we see a possible reversal of that trend.”

“It is just that,” said Collins, “a possible reversal of direction, and only for one state, at that. The government’s machinery may have become utterly invincible by now. The reversal may turn out to be impossible. I don’t consider myself mindless, but I was certainly a robot. I was fortunate to have you to help me turn around. Most others aren’t so fortunate.”

“They have you,” said Barrett. “They have S.M.A.R.T.”

“And the government has three trillion dollars a year to counter me and S.M.A.R.T. That’s hardly an even match. Thank God for the confusion and ineptitude of the government's bureaucracy and the domination of self-interest on the part of those implementing the strategy. Otherwise, we were done for long ago. But, you are right. In spite of the tremendous odds, I do see a glimmer of hope. The Hollywood people are doing great things for the country for a change, too. The public furor over the rampant election fraud has caused such a groundswell of anti-government sentiment that it is probably worth having another four years of Mad King George to get it. I think it could be turning into a movement.”

“It probably is worth it, when you think that it wouldn’t have made much difference if he had lost,” said Barrett.

 

***

 

A grassroots movement was indeed underway. It was already strong in Mississippi, and it was creeping across the land. Throughout Mississippi, people invited friends and acquaintances to their homes, where candidates appeared, either in person or in video conferences. Rallies were held wherever space could be found, including ball fields, auditoriums, and even giant tents. These meetings and highlights from them were broadcast and rebroadcast on the local websites and Low Powered TV stations that had popped up around the state. All programming on the Low-Powered TV stations was political, and they were run by a S.M.A.R.T. organization. Every sort of communication method was used, including iPod and SMS broadcasts. On the Internet there were web pages, blogs, forums, RSS news feeds, and e-mailed newsletters, all dedicated to furthering interest in S.M.A.R.T., its cause, and its candidates.

Two of the three main television networks had been hacked into, and the method of burying subliminal government propaganda in the program material had been analyzed. The third network was being worked on and should be available any day. The main radio news feeds had been hacked, but they were not in use as yet. “Only a few more days,” was the latest word from the team working on that project. Cable came next, Fox was the easiest and the first one cracked. CNN and MSNBC weren’t far behind. These cable channels had now been transmitting S.M.A.R.T. material for six weeks, and the government seemed unaware that their propaganda material had been replaced. They probably assumed that no one even knew about their invisible propaganda. PBS, the Public Broadcasting System, and the many other cable channels now known to be actively transmitting government material in the background were on a list, sorted by the size of their audience. There was a dual satisfaction to their success in this area. Not only were they furthering S.M.A.R.T.’s cause, but they were also aborting a significant part of the government’s mind control program. Unfortunately, they had to assume that sooner or later the government would find out, and their reaction would certainly be unpleasant, to say the least. For that reason, every effort was made to make the source of the material untraceable.

 

***

 

By the time the Mississippi Supreme Court finished hearing arguments on the Electronic Voting Issue, there were nearly a million and a half people petitioning the court. This was fifty percent more than the number of people that had voted in the last presidential election. The Court was duly impressed and voted unanimously that electronic voting and any form of voting which didn’t allow for an accurate recount was unconstitutional and illegal. Every one of the nine Justices wrote an opinion and blasted the lack of security inherent in electronic voting. Three justices also referred to the sanctity of the electoral process and mentioned other problems with the voting and invited cases addressing those problems.

Within a week, similar suits had been filed in twenty-three additional states and were being prepared in eleven other states. Hundreds or thousands of organizations, liberal, conservative, and others, were calling for an end to election fraud in general and electronic voting specifically.

The latest battle cry was for outside observers from other countries at polling places. The US elections were being accurately portrayed as no better than those in the most corrupt, totalitarian, third-world countries. In Florida, a ten-day old petition to recall the Supervisor of Elections had already been signed by almost half the number of people that had voted in the last elections. In Ohio, a petition to throw out the results of the last elections and hold all new elections had over a million signatures, and looked as though it might rival Mississippi’s efforts before their drive was through.

The mainstream media was almost completely ignoring the entire voting fraud issue. S.M.A.R.T.-related stations and papers in Mississippi were hammering mercilessly on the matter and on the mainstream media for attempting to squelch it. New newspapers had sprung up all over Mississippi. Supported by sympathetic advertisers and donations, some were free; others were selling for a modest price. People were encouraged to read them and pass them on to others. Most old-line newspapers in Mississippi had lost at least forty percent of their readership, while one paper had lost over sixty percent. Hundreds of Internet pages benefited from the public’s growing interest and the collapse of confidence in the mainstream media.

Nelson Defoe was producing a series to be broadcast on his new Internet Network. Said to be patterned after Dallas and set in the present, the series would blend current events into the story, keeping viewers up to date on actual events. The concept had spurred widespread interest and Defoe was bombarded with questions and offers. Several Internet news “programs” were discussing collaboration with him, including Free Market News Network, The New Scientist, Guardian Unlimited, and even The Moscow News. Joint ventures with big Hollywood names were lining up for a role in Defoe’s project.

In an interview for a trade journal, Defoe was perfectly open concerning his reason for starting the new network. “Its purpose,” he said, “is to educate and enlighten, not to indoctrinate and stupefy, as the so-called major television networks and many of the cable networks seem dedicated to doing. People are going to love it. Each program essentially has its own channel and runs twenty-four hours a day. No matter what your personal schedule, you can see your favorite programs. You can download them and watch them when and where you want. If you miss one, you can access its archives and see it.” He cited data showing that Netizens were far more discriminating than the general public, and anyone considering applying for a slot on his Internet network should keep that in mind. “After all,” he said, “in straw polls on the Internet, the 'mainstream' candidate never won. That could be only because Internet voting was open and above board. Maybe the Internet winner would have won in the national elections if they had been just as honest. We will never know. Personally, I would have voted for ‘none of the above,’ had that been a choice, and so would have most other voters. The consistently dismal turnout on Election Day indicates that ‘none of the above’ is generally the selection of the majority of Americans. It’s unfortunate,” he said, “that the only way to keep from voting for evil, be it greater or lesser--if you can tell-- has, in the past, been to stay away from the polls.”

 

***

 

“That’s it,” said Nelson Defoe. “You are so good at this that we almost never need retakes. You are better than a lot of movie stars, I’ll tell you, Russ.” They had finished the fourth of five commercial spots that afternoon.

“It’s easy when you are as enthusiastic about something as I am about this,” said Monroe. “I feel like a younger man, these days. Joining up with S.M.A.R.T. is the best thing I ever did.”

“That makes two of us,” said Defoe. “Will the same time this Friday be okay with you?”

“I’ll be here with bells on,” said Monroe. He motioned to his two bodyguards that were sitting quietly against the wall. When he had mentioned that he was going to hire a couple of bodyguards, Palmer had rounded up two Special Services Veterans for him. They had been with him for a month. “Let’s go, fellers,” he said.

As they walked out into the sunlight, Monroe reached into his pocket for his sunglasses. As he did, one of the bodyguards tackled him, throwing him to the sidewalk. Several shots were heard. A dark sedan had stopped beside the curb in front of them and someone was shooting out the back window at them. A shower of glass filled the air as the bullets hit the glass wall and door of the building behind them. The other bodyguard dropped on one knee with a gun in his hand and fired several shots at a car. The shooting from the car stopped abruptly. The car sped away, swerved erratically, and crashed into two cars in the street, its driver slumped over the wheel.

The second bodyguard approached the car cautiously. The two men in the car appeared to be dead. The one in the back seat had been hit in the head and the driver in the neck. He put his gun away. People were gathering on the sidewalk.

“Are you okay, Mr. Monroe?” asked the first bodyguard.

“As okay as I can be, under the circumstances,” said Monroe. “I owe you my life, young man. Is it over? Are they gone?”

“It’s over. They are gone, so to speak.” He looked up. There was a surveillance camera on a light pole, pointed at them. “Kent,” he called to his partner, who was verifying that the occupants of the other cars were all right.

“Is he okay, Mickey?” asked Kent, nodding at Monroe.

“Just shook up,” said Mickey. “What’s with the bad guys?”

“Dead or dying fast. They look like pros to me. The guy had two Freedom Arms single action pistols. I almost felt like taking one of them. They aren’t just crooks. They’re high class pros.”

“There’s a camera up there,” said Mickey. “City thing, I guess. Call in and tell them, they might want to get the recording before something happens to it. They only use those things against you-never in your favor. When it’s beneficial to the government, they work. When it’s beneficial to a citizen, they were always out of order. Haven’t you noticed that?”

“Sure. What do you expect?” asked Kent. When he got an answer on his cell phone, he explained what had happened. He told them that there was a video camera on a lamppost that should have gotten the whole episode. “Right,” he said. “That’s what we thought. You’d better believe it. Any way you can get it. Right. I hear sirens. The cops should be here any minute. We’ll need all the help we can get, and the sooner the better.” He hung up and turned to Mickey. “Don’t say a word until our attorney arrives. Not a word.”

“Roger,” said Mickey.

 

***

 

“I just hope that someday you can forgive me for what I tried to do to you, Will,” said Senator Greene, as he and his wife accompanied Will and Nicole out to their car.

“I have forgiven you,” said Will. “That was another person that did that.”

“It was,” said the senator. “That person did a lot of terrible things. I'm trying to make up for them.”

“I know I've got tears in my eyes, but I've never been so happy,” said Mrs. Greene. “I have my old Daniel back, a beautiful daughter, and a model son-in-law. It's wonderful, even it you two are leaving me for your new house, way down in Ocean Springs. “

“If Will is elected Lieutenant Governor, we'll have to be in Jackson most of the time,” said Nicole.

“The way things are looking, he's a shoo-in,” said the Senator. “I am so glad you approved of letting me run for reelection on the Democratic ticket, Will. You'll not regret it.”

“I couldn't have stopped you,” said Will.

“If you had opposed it, I would have lost in the Primary election, and you know it.”

“If I hadn't been fairly sure of you, I would have been against it,” said Will. “You've been doing the right thing for some time now, Dad. I don't think you will ever go back to being that other guy again.”

“Not a chance,” said Senator Greene.

There were hugs and handshakes, and Will and Nicole got in their car. Nicole ran her window down.

“Bye, Mama and Daddy,” she said. “I'm going to miss you so much.”

“Don't forget that you can call us,” said Mrs. Greene, tears streaming down her cheeks. “You be sure and call me the minute you get there.”

“I will, Mama,” said Nicole, her own eyes glistening.

As the car backed out of the driveway, Senator Greene put his arm around his wife, and they both waved at the car, until it was out of sight. They turned and headed back to the house.

“Will is a good boy,” said Mrs. Greene. “I'm so happy for Nicole.”

“He's a man, not a boy,” said the senator. “He's a good man. He's probably going to be our next Lieutenant Governor and a damned good one too. That's quite an accomplishment at his age-at any age.”

“You did better and younger,” said Mrs. Greene, leaning on him.

“What are you talking about, my Baby?'

“You were much younger, and you were a prince. You were my prince.”

“And you were my princess,” he said. “You still are.”

 

***

 

“You know that someone in Washington is responsible,” said Roberts. “If you hadn't gotten a S.M.A.R.T. oriented police man to get the surveillance video of the whole affair and make a bunch of copies of it, Russ Monroe's body guards would be in jail now. They were ready to charge them with so many things it would take all day to read the charges in court. But even so, it was your identifying the shooters as CIA that shut them up.”

“Having these hackers working for us is amazing,” said Palmer. “I wonder if those working for the government are really as good as these guys. Sure the CIA denied it, but when we published their personnel files, on the Internet, they decided that they had worked for them a long time ago, but they had let them go, as being unpredictable or something like that.”

“But they are scraping the bottom of the barrel to charge Ross's bodyguards with causing an accident,” said Roberts.

“The accident, as far as the CIA is concerned, is their guys getting shot,” said Palmer.

'What do the attorneys say about the chances of beating this?”

“In a fair situation, it would never arise, but in today's police state atmosphere, it could be anyone's guess,” said Palmer. “Russ Monroe has some high powered attorney working on it. I guess you need big guns to face down big guns.”

 

***

 

Mississippi’s general election was only two weeks away and the polls showed the Democrats winning by a landslide. The Republicans knew that the Democrats were running on a surprisingly libertarian platform, but they attributed that mainly to the furor over the widespread exposure of their own election fraud of the last two presidential elections. Some Democrats knew better, but weren’t complaining too much, thinking that even a conservative Democrat winning was better than a Republican. Naturally, everyone connected with S.M.A.R.T. was ecstatic, although very afraid of being overconfident. For the first time, American polling places were having UN observers. The chances of a fair election seemed very good. In the current environment, that could only mean that the Republicans shouldn’t stand a chance.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if even a lot of the Republican candidates voted for a few of our Democrats. They are that much out of favor,” William Roberts had said, during a recent teleconference. “Take a maximum of a hundred for family and fellow crooks from the total votes for your average Republican candidate, and you will have the number of irrational people in Mississippi.”

“It will be interesting to compare the vote in Mississippi with those in the other states, with electronic voting and all the other massive voting fraud,” said Crowell. “I can hardly wait.”

“Even though it looks like the Democrats are going to win just about everything,” said Roberts, “just about every one of these Democrats is a libertarian through and through. I wish they could call themselves what they are, but I’ll be happy if they get in, no matter what they call themselves.”

“Amen,” said Crowell.


 

Chapter Fifteen

 

 

It was election night in Mississippi. The S.M.A.R.T. leadership hadn’t quite thrown caution to the wind, but they had dropped their guard a little. At the Kellis Ranch, the mood was one of excited expectation. A number of the “regulars” were there, having gone to great lengths to make sure they weren't followed. Absent were William Roberts and the Collins, all of whom were assumed to be under significant surveillance. Also missing was Nelson Defoe, the favored gubernatorial candidate, and Will Hastings, candidate for Lieutenant Governor, who, along with William Roberts, were at the campaign headquarters in Jackson.

The center of attraction at the Kellis Ranch was the television set, connected to a computer. On the screen, via Defoe’s Internet network, was Mississippi's own Martha Pruitt, someone they could count on for fair coverage. No sooner had the polls closed and the initial one percent of the votes counted than it was obvious that this was going to be an historical evening. In the first one percent, the votes for Democrats outnumbered those for Republicans by more than three to one. Martha Pruitt was ecstatic. She said that could hold true for the entire state, and even were it to drop to two to one, it would make history. She said the major network affiliates in Mississippi didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. They said it was far too soon to jump to any conclusions.

But Martha Pruitt was right and the network affiliates were wrong. By eleven o'clock, close to forty percent of the votes had been counted, and the Democrats were still beating the Republicans three to one. Every news source was admitting that it was a landslide for the Democrats. Everyone had declared all the Democrats winners in a clean sweep. Martha Pruitt was even more ecstatic, but the network affiliates were in the doldrums.

“I am astonished,” said Crowell. “Absolutely, positively dumbfounded, and in so many different ways. It isn’t just the landslide we’re seeing, as amazing as that is, but the percentage of those voting for tyranny is so much smaller than I would have ever guessed. For years and years, we have thought that most of the people were so apathetic, so close-minded, and so irrational that there was no hope as long as we had majority rule. It certainly looks like that was all wrong. It’s not just immigrants voting for our people, but most of the original Mississippians. You have to wonder whether we have awakened something in the people of Mississippi, or whether they have always been this way. Is it possible that, all this time, we have been the victims of an establishment plot to make us think the way we did? Maybe everyone else was as depressed as we were, and for the same reasons. Maybe everyone was being made to think that they were part of a concerned, frustrated minority, hopelessly outnumbered by millions of numskulls. Could that hopelessness have been intentionally induced, so that we would never even try to take back what was rightfully ours?” He paused. “Let’s leave those dreary thoughts for another day. Today is a day that will go down in history. I want to enjoy every second of this day. My faith in mankind has been renewed, and my hopes for its survival are alive and well.”

“Success in Mississippi could give hope to millions everywhere,” said Fox. “But don’t forget, that for now, the rest of the world sees this as just a backlash against the Republicans, and a Democratic landslide. We can celebrate a libertarian victory, but we have to treat it publicly as just citizens fed up with the Republicans and their despotic, lunatic president, and of course, their voter fraud. Although, with our decidedly libertarian platforms, we can gloat a bit, I suppose. Lord knows we can stand a bit of opportunity to gloat. I don’t think it has ever happened before to any of us. But remember, when this election is finally seen for what it is, the floodgates of Hell will open.”

“Absolutely,” said Masterson.

“The count dribbles in so slowly,” said Fox. “I’ve never seen it so slow.”

“You’ve possibly never seen a real count before,” said Palmer. “You’ve damned sure never seen a count like this one.” He grabbed her and danced around the room with her. “I’m not a dancer, but this makes even a non-dancer like me feel like dancing.”

“That’s the way to go, Derek,” cried Kellis. “My God, Guys, we are in. We did it. We have Mississippi. Years ahead of schedule. It’s not Happy New Year; it’s Happy New Era.” He grabbed Carla, who was standing next to him, and hugged her. “Happy New Era,” he cried again.

Everyone joined in saying “Happy New Era,” dancing, hugging, and joking.

“I have never witnessed such jubilation,” said Crowell, with tears in his eyes. “Nor have I felt it. I’m crying like a baby. I am so happy. Thank you, God.”

The atmosphere was indeed jubilant. Non-verbal communication supplemented inadequate words, as emotions overran the barriers that so often make stuffed shirts out of people and keep many parties soporific until people have a few drinks.

 

***

 

 It was almost midnight when Defoe and Will came down from the suite where they had been watching the results and waiting until they had a majority of all the votes cast, making their victory a certainty. With them were, William Roberts, Senator Greene, and Russ Monroe.

“I shouldn't go out there with you fellers,” said Monroe, as they entered the hall. “I didn't get elected to anything. I'll wait backstage for you.”

“Don't be silly,” said Defoe. “It's as much your victory as anyone's. Without you, we wouldn't be here. Come on.”

They walked out to the front of the stage, where they stood in a line, holding raised hands in a sign of victory. Their supporters cheered as loud as they could, though some were already hoarse from the earlier cheering every time a new count had been announced.

Defoe was smiling broadly as he stepped up to the podium. He let them cheer and dance for a while, and then motioned for silence.

“How sweet it is,” he said. The crowd cheered again. ”Mississippians, you have just proven that when there's something other than two evils to choose from, you will all turn out and vote. By showing to the world that you do have minds, you do think, and given an opportunity, you will act, you have confirmed my faith in Mankind. Now, it is up to me and the others elected today to restore your faith in government.” The cheering erupted again.

When he calmed them down, Defoe resumed, “Do I have personal interests? Of course I do. But my overriding interests, the ones that made me run for office, are the same as those of every Mississippian. I want Mississippi to be a place where people can live in peace and be happy. I want enough money to not have to worry myself sick about how I'm going to make ends meet. I want to be able to walk around at night, or sit on my porch and not be scared. I want to be able to go about my business and my life without worrying about criminals in or out of the government. I want my kids to be able to expect a better life than mine, not a worse one. I do not want the government to take care of me, feed me, dress me, brainwash me, spy on me, to pervert my children or send them to die for no good reason. I mainly want the government to leave me alone, as long as I don't harm anyone or their property. I believe, as did America's founders, that I have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. All I want government to do is to protect those rights, not trash them. To put it simply, I want to live a life appropriate for human beings, because that is what I am, not an animal. If you want a governor that will work toward those interests, you picked the right man.”

The crowd went wild. It took a while to calm them down.

“This is an historic moment. Most, if not all, of those elected today are of a similar mind. Like me, they ran for office, not for personal gain or power, but to keep those who do run for personal gain or power out of office. We had had more of that than we could stand, and obviously so had the people of Mississippi.”

After a brief interruption for more cheering, he went on, “I know that people from every party voted for me and the other winners. I want to say, and I am sure that I speak for the other winners, that allegiance to party is at the bottom of our list, and allegiance to the people of Mississippi is at the top. Nothing is more important to us than doing the right thing for Mississippians. There will, of course, be times when two groups of Mississippians will want opposing results. That is inevitable. No one can satisfy both groups in such cases. So I pledge to do my best to make Mississippi as free as I can, to make sure everyone has an equal opportunity to do, to have, and to be all that they have the drive and the ability to do, to have, and to be. You will never be all equal. Hard workers will do better than lazy ones that do as little as they can get by with. More intelligent people may do better than less intelligent ones. But I will guarantee that the State of Mississippi will not hold back anyone. We will not dumb down your kids. We will not rob you blind. We will not meddle in your personal life. Our main job will be to protect you and your rights, and let you do your thing. Every government employee will be working for you, the people, not the other way around. As long as what you want us to do is not harmful to others, it is we that are to do what you want, not the other way around. Never forget that.

“Right now, at this hour, I imagine the last thing you want is a long speech, so I will end by thanking you for your confidence, thanking all those who worked so extremely hard to get the message out to you, over the opposition of the mainstream media who tried as hard as it could to keep you from having the kind of government you want and have a god-given right to. If you never watch their newscasts or read their papers again, it will be more than they deserve. They have shown themselves to be enemies of the people. They seek not to present the news but to shape things to their liking. The sooner they are out of business the better. Watch for new and honest sources to take their place in a free Mississippi.” The applause and cheering was almost deafening.

He motioned for silence. “Look out the window tonight before you go to bed,” he said. “Things are already better. People feel better. Freedom is in the air, even if it is two months away. As for the current government, don't waste your time rushing through any last minute repressive laws. They will be repealed the first week after you are gone. We know we will get a lot of resistance from the federal government. The last thing they want is for anyone to be free. What if everyone decided they wanted to be free? Would that ever cook the goose that lays the trillion dollar golden eggs. But whether they admit it or not, they are bound to follow the U.S, Constitution and that says that they can't take our freedom away. In addition to bringing freedom back to Mississippi, we will be working to help the rest of the nation reach Mississippi's level of awareness and self-reliance. We will start to work for you tomorrow morning. When we take office we will have things set and ready to go. On our first day in office, in January, you will see results.

“For now, I'll say good-night. The next time we meet, I will be your Governor, but I will be governing the government of the State of Mississippi, not its people. They will rule themselves. Good-night, and may your God bless you and the State of Mississippi.”

“Thank you, Nelson,” said Monroe, “for letting me share that moment. It may be the best moment of my life.”

“Thank you, Russ, for making it possible. By the way, I heard that they threw the case against your bodyguards out of court. Using the law as a weapon to maintain power has just about become a tradition in this country. It is something we will put a stop to, at least in Mississippi. Congratulations on that too.”

“I came to an agreement with the owners of the cars,” said Monroe. “My boys were justified in what they did, and it was the assassins that drove into the two cars. I was just so glad to be alive, that I gave them new cars. Neither of the drivers were hurt, and they didn't want to help the police punish people for getting rid of murderers, so they told the court that it was just a weird accident. One said he lost control of his car and swerved in front of the shooter's car, and the other one said he got a bee in his car and lost control while trying to swat it. They said the accidents were all their fault.”

“Sounds a lot more credible than the Feds explanation for the Empire State Building disaster,” said Will. “But then, what doesn't.”

 

***

 

At ten o’clock the next morning, Nelson Defoe, now Governor-Elect Nelson Defoe, called Olympus, the new code name for the Kellis' ranch in Tennessee, for an impromptu conference. When the last of the group there had given out and gone to bed the night before, only two thirds of the votes had been counted. Even so, there had been no doubt of the results. Most of the opposition candidates had conceded. By now, many precinct counts were complete, and over ninety percent of the votes had been counted. Republicans were complaining that there had to be something wrong with the results, although they hadn’t decided what, other than that they had lost overwhelmingly.

“We did it,” was the dominant theme of the meeting, expressed in countless celebratory ways.

“I made some rough calculations,” said Will, calling in from the Greene residence, where he and Nicole were staying. “It is apparent that not only did all the immigrants and all the Democrats vote for our people, but, in order to get these numbers, half of the Republicans had to vote for them too. Not only that, but the total number of voters was almost double that of the last general election, meaning that two thirds of the Mississippians that didn’t vote in the last election voted this time. Even without any immigrant votes, this election would have been considered a landslide for our guys.”

“Are you saying that we might have been able to do this without bringing in all those immigrants?” asked Palmer.

“Hardly,” said Will. “Without the immigrants, we couldn’t have dominated the state’s Democratic Party, and the National Party leadership would have seen to it that all the candidates were the usual establishment hacks.”

“Of course,” said Palmer. “I guess my mouth got ahead of my brain.”

“But,” said Fox, “We had marvelous candidates, and seventy percent of the non-immigrants voted for them. Even most of those who didn’t vote in the past apparently jumped at the chance to vote when they weren’t limited to the lesser of two evils.”

“God, do I know the frustration of knowing both candidates are total disasters, and trying to figure out which is the worst,” said Palmer. “Unfortunately, ‘none of the above’ is never on a ballot.”

“Something just occurred to me,” said Fox, excitedly. “Mississippians can’t be all that different from other Americans, or even other people around the world. This election may confirm what Walter and Will both have said in the past. Maybe most people aren’t really the bunch of air-headed, apathetic, mindless robots that conventional wisdom makes them out to be. Maybe that really is just establishment propaganda to make us believe that there is no hope for improvement. In this election, people had acceptable candidates to vote for, and the votes were counted honestly--.” She stopped in mid-sentence. “My God,” she cried. “If the vast majority of the people would vote for the right kind of candidates, if they had them to vote for, then, if they could get an honest count of the votes, that would mean that the Empire can be brought down. Things could turn around. America could once again be the land of the free. Oh my God. Just think of it-an end to this ever worsening nightmare.”

There was a prolonged silence while everyone contemplated the implications of Fox’s statement.

“Such a possibility appears very real,” said Will, finally breaking the silence. “Unfortunately, you have to assume that the Establishment will be aware of the same possibility. You can expect a vicious attempt to make sure that any such possibility becomes impossibility. They are already in a dither over all the lawsuits and other initiatives stemming from public outrage concerning voting fraud. When this idea occurs to them, they may go berserk.”

“Once our election euphoria subsides a little, we should seek ways to counter the Establishment’s expected response,” said Crowell, “hopefully before it happens. With the Empire’s super-Gestapo, Fatherland Security, it isn’t going to be easy.”

“Listen to the way we talk about our government,” said Fox. “That breaks my heart. We Americans speak of our government as we once spoke of the most despicable totalitarian regimes. How I miss living in a land of the free and the home of the brave. Since the Upton family came to power, we have Fatherland Security, renditions, kidnappings, torture, assassinations, fake terrorist attacks, etc. Who would have believed, even a decade ago, that America would have stood still for such things, much less openly and unashamedly use them, with no fear of public outcry. Surely, some terrible things were done in the past, but at least, they had to hide them from the people, because Americans wouldn’t have stood still for them. What happened to our wonderful country?”

“I think most governments everywhere would often consider such actions,” said Crowell. “The only thing that ever prevents their use is fear of an uprising by the people. Apparently, in America, the government feels the people are too apathetic to resist. They could think the people are convinced that it is futile to resist. They may also think that they can now withstand and overcome any resistance the people might offer. It may be all of those, and some others thrown in for good measure. How can we know?”

“They could also be wrong,” said Fox.

“It is possible that they jumped the gun,” said Crowell. “They may have underestimated the people. Their manipulation of the public mind may not be as effective as they believe it is. So far, it looks like they can get away with murder, so to speak, and on a global scale. Every other country on earth has to be wondering if they might not be America’s next target. Maybe the American people will eventually be ‘liberated’ by an external power, as were the Europeans in World War Two.”

“Very few Americans would think of invading troops as liberators,” said Fox. “Do you think the German people saw the allies marching into Germany as liberators, any more than the Americans would think of foreign troops marching into the US as liberators?”

“No. Not for a long time, would they admit to that. But their grandchildren would in all likelihood see it that way,” said Crowell. “The people supporting the current regime would never see that. Suppose you have a mother with a son that she discovers is an ax-murderer, and she not only supports him, but buys him a shiny, new ax, sharpens it for him, and cheers him on with his hobby. My son, right or wrong. Substitute ‘country’ for ‘son,’ and presto, you have the hardcore base of George F. Upton and others like him.”

“They confuse their government with their country,” said Clyde Masterson. “The son only kills one person, now and then. Upton and company kill hundreds of thousands. I suppose that by now, he must be able to put a million notches on his gun. And that doesn’t count those millions who will fall victim to cancer as a result of the depleted uranium he contaminates the world with. And in the mother’s case, only one demented person knowingly supports and encourages a murderer. With Upton, millions do. ‘Our murderer, right or wrong.’ Has a nice ring to it. We should put out some bumper stickers with that on it.”

“Might not be a bad idea,” said Palmer.

“I even wonder if we would have been any worse off, had we lost World War Two,” said Fox.

“If we had stayed out of World War Two, Hitler would probably never have bothered us,” said Crowell. “That is precisely why we got in when we did. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been involved at all. Hitler’s pact with Japan gave Roosevelt the chance he wanted for getting into the war. Hitler had never bothered or remotely threatened us. We bombed them before they fired a shot or even a threat in our direction. Roosevelt seized on the agreement that Germany and Japan had signed saying that war with one meant war with the other. It is a universally acknowledged fact, among all but the most uninformed and naive, that Roosevelt maneuvered the Japanese into attacking, knew well in advance that they would attack Pearl Harbor, and let twenty-six hundred Americans die, as a public relations ploy, to insure public support for a declaration of war against Japan and Germany. Before that, he had been putting American ships in British warship convoys, hoping the German U-boats would sink one by mistake, so he could declare war on Germany. World War Two was apparently seen as necessary to get the United Nations. The British has fomented the war, but were losing it, so the United Nations wouldn't get off the ground unless we bailed them out. There is also the Balfour Declaration which had been ratified by the defunct League of Nations, and the United Nations was needed to bring it back to life.  After the League of Nations, set up following World War One had failed to be accepted by the American people, the World Government enthusiasts wanted a second try. They felt that if a war was destructive enough, they could sell the idea of a world government the second time around. And they were right.”

“I’m not so sure Hitler wouldn’t have attacked us, later on. He was a pretty bad guy,” said Palmer. “He started the whole thing by invading Poland.”

“That’s what they tell you. The complete story is not so black and white,” said Crowell. “The events of the time were complex and a truthful account makes fascinating reading. But one important factor was that, after World War One, a Zionist block at the Versailles Peace Conference-they pop up everywhere-wanting to keep Germany in a weakened state, prevailed on the allies to divide Germany in two isolated parts. They cut a big slice out of Germany and gave that slice to Poland. Germany was now divided into two parts, with no access between them. This created a tremendous hardship on Germany, and like all the other anti-German measures promoted by the Zionists, it created great resentment toward the Jews in Germany. Germany worked very hard to settle the situation amicably. Finally, after almost two decades of negotiations, Germany and Poland reached an agreement which would give the Germans a narrow corridor for access between its two halves. Poland may have given in because they feared that if they kept up their intransigence, Germany might be getting strong enough to just take it all back. The Zionists went all out to squelch this agreement, fearing free transport between the two halves of Germany would greatly strengthen Germany. They used their considerable influence on England, which was hoping for any excuse to begin a confrontation with Germany, anyway. Just before Poland and Germany were to sign the agreement, England told Poland that if they told Germany the deal was off, England and France would be their defenders should Germany ever attempt to challenge Poland, and the United States would support them. Poland, now feeling very powerful, told Germany to go fly a kite. To emphasize their lack of fear of Germany, they stepped up their ongoing reign of terror on ethnic Germans living in the area. The British got their desired result. German troops moved into Poland, implementing the agreement without Poland's consent, and two days later World War Two was officially under way. No one defended Poland. The German people were not feeling too friendly toward the Jewish group that had thrown a monkey wrench into the works.”

“Not what they teach in the history classes,” said Fox. “I'd like to read more about this. Can you give me the name of a book or author on the matter?”

“That they don't mention this in history classes should be no surprise to you,” said Crowell. “You can find it all in the newspapers of that time. There is a good, well researched book published by the Institute for Historical Review, by Hogan or Hoggan or something like that. I think the title is 'The Forced War.' truth is not hidden. Competent historians know that Roosevelt and Halifax in England had done everything within their power to provoke Hitler into doing something that would give them an excuse to attack him, including mounting massive propaganda campaigns. If you go back to the end of World War One, and read the contemporary comments on the Treaty of Versailles, you will find that many serious scholars thought the conditions imposed on Germany were calculated to bring about another war. One commentator even judged the timing when he said they had set the stage for another war in twenty years. Actually it was twenty-one. Hitler was definitely an evil guy, but he probably wasn't any worse than the other actors in the drama of world politics at the time. If he had won, the other guys would now be seen as the bad guys. The winner gets to write the history to make his side look good.”

“Well,” said Defoe, “in at least one small corner of the world, that situation may be on the way out. Conditions look very promising.”

“Amen,” said Crowell.

“Amen,” said a chorus of voices.


 

Chapter Sixteen

 

 

“Just a minute, Hunter,” said President Upton. “Do we have any explanation yet as to how the Democrats got so many of those stupid crackers in Mississippi to vote for them? They won by one helluva landslide down there. They won it all-from Governor to dog-catcher-and by huge margins.”

“Our side did the best it could,” said Stephen Hunter, the last remaining original advisor in Upton’s starting lineup, a barely perceptibly gay Yale graduate. He was astonished that the President had called him back, when everyone was leaving the oval office, following a short briefing. “They outlawed electronic voting. That took away our best tool. They had almost as many poll watchers as voters. They got them from all over the world.”

“Didn’t we do anything to help our side?” asked the President.

“There wasn’t a lot we could do,” whined Hunter. “We called democrats in the black precincts and told them their polling place had been changed, so that they would go to the wrong place. But the Democrats went around in cars with public address systems and warned the people that we were doing that. I think that, in the end, we ticked off a lot of voters and made things even worse for ourselves.”

“We can’t let this kind of thing happen in any other state,” said the President. “Not that it matters a whole helluva lot to me, since I can’t run again. Still, it’s important to keep the Republicans in control. There will be one hell of a lot of fortunes impacted, if we lose control, including my own and my family's.”

“More states are considering outlawing electronic voting entirely, since Mississippi did it and it turned out so much different than usual. Naturally, every single state government is opposing that, but the people are up in arms,” said Hunter. “We immediately put out a message that there was massive voter fraud in Mississippi, and that our evidence indicated that, although the Republicans really would have lost, it would have been by a razor thin margin. We were trying to make it seem that it wasn’t the electronic voting that caused election fraud. We want it to look like we are coming back from last year’s debacle and by next year, we’ll bounce back and regain the House and the Senate. But I don’t know if anyone really believes it.”

“Where I come from, they say there’s more than one way to skin a cat,” said the President. “Elections were being stolen long before anybody ever heard the word ‘electronic’. We’ll find a way. You can find a way to do anything.” President Upton ran his fingers along the edge of his coat’s lapel as he looked at the young man. His blond hair was short and neat. He was very good-looking, with green eyes and delicate features. “I don’t have much time during the day,” said the President, with a slow drawl. “Maybe you and I can get together some evening and discuss it.”

Hunter lowered his head and looked upward at the President. The look on the President’s face was unmistakable. “I’d be happy to do that,” he said softly. “Whenever it’s convenient for you.”

 

***

 

The incoming administration did not wait until inauguration day to get to work. As promised, they went to work the day after the election. Governor Defoe and Lieutenant Governor Hastings met individually with the newly elected the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the State Auditor, the State Treasurer, the Commissioner of Agriculture, and the Commissioner of Insurance. Defoe called every congressman and senator-elect and within a few days they were meeting and setting up temporary committees to prepare legislation to be introduced as soon as they took office. Via cyberconferencing, Defoe met at least once a week with each committee to see how things were going, and to make sure there were no bottlenecks. They used a private dial-up network, avoiding the Internet completely and using privately developed, encrypted, conferencing software to avoid eavesdropping by the alphabet soup of Gestapo agencies. There was a lot of discussion, but little bickering, as the participants all had, more or less, the same objectives.

 

***

 

“Young man,” said James Talbot, putting his arm around Will's shoulder, “thanks to you and S.M.A.R.T., I feel like someone has lifted a refrigerator off my back. Never before in my whole life did the future look so bright. You may have a long row to hoe yet, but you have already accomplished what I would have sworn was impossible. I count myself extremely fortunate to be your friend.”

“I think,” said Will, “that almost everyone who loved liberty felt that any improvement was virtually impossible and that things would surely get progressively worse, as they certainly have for generations. This last election is like a glimmer of light on the horizon, after a long and terrible night. Whether it is really the dawning of a new day remains to be seen. The establishment is the most powerful machine in the history of mankind. It is armed to the teeth with every kind of genocidal weapon. It is completely without morals or conscience. Mississippi is a poor state. Most of the people in Mississippi are just beginning to think about freedom. Secession is not going to be easy. I just hope it is possible. If it is at all possible, I hope we are wise enough to find the way to accomplish it.”

“It's going to be completely unfamiliar territory for just about everyone,” said Senator Greene. “Besides, people are going to be thinking of the South seceding from the Union, the war, and a lot of killing. That's going to be your biggest problem.”

“Somehow, we must avoid war,' said Will. “Obviously, Mississippi could not win in a war against the United States. Even if we could win, the cost would be incredible. When I see what is going on in the Middle-East, I want to cry. It is so hard to face the fact that my government has killed a million people there, and for no good reason―good reason for the American people, anyway.”

“That is hard for every American to face,” said Buck Smith. “It is so hard to face that most of them won't face it. They try to tell themselves the a handful of uneducated Arabs took a little training, and without ever flying a plane, except, maybe, a tiny single engine plane, hijacked four airliners with no weapons but box cutters and flew them into the Empire State Building, when the Air Force has turned away dozens of planes that innocently strayed anywhere near the Empire State Building. Sure they know it is a pack of lies, but it is easier to swallow those known lies than it is to accept the truth that their own government, and maybe a few agents from another government that everyone knows does things like that all the time, blew up three thousand people for propaganda purposes. That is really hard for an American to swallow.”

“But it isn't just swallowing a pack of lies about the Empire State Building,” said Will. “It's essentially being an accomplice in the cold-blooded slaughter of a million innocent people, just to keep from facing the truth. Do you really want to have anything to do with people like that?”

“If we could pull this off without people like that,” I wouldn't want to give them the time of day,” said Smith. “The horrible truth is that there are so many of them, we have to get a lot more to make contact with their brain again and jump start their conscience. It was you, Will, that told Billy and me that you thought nearly every black person, redneck, and whatever in Mississippi had it in him or her to do anything that he or she can manage to dream about. You were chastising us for doubting that you were going to get poor blacks in Mississippi to comprehend what we are trying to do, much less actually act in any way to achieve it.

“I still believe that all people are capable of marvelous achievements,” said Will. “But being capable of something and doing it are two different things. My car will probably never be driven at the speed it is capable of reaching. Almost no one will ever reach the level of achievement they are capable of reaching. Yet, my car will go as fast as it needs to go. However, most people will not reach the level of achievement they need to reach. They need to be free to reach anywhere near their potential. They need to be free, not just in body, but capable of acting in their own best interest. Once the government and the mainstream media get inside most people's head for enough time, their mind no longer works in their best interests, but in the establishment's best interests. After a while, many people don't realize what is happening or they don't care, or both.”

“But isn't that why you brought all the new people into Mississippi?” asked Talbot. “You wanted to find a haven for those who know the score.”

“That's true,” said Will. “Many freedom loving people have moved into Mississippi. We've raised the general awareness of what is going on in the country. This got us into the state government, well ahead of schedule. The incredible margin in the elections has caused us to question whether or not the brainwashing is as effective as we previously believed. More and more people seem to be fed up with the federal government. However, even though they might want out of the union, they don't want to risk a bloody war.”

“No one wants that,” said Talbot. “And yet, they are willing to send their kids off to die or be maimed in a bloodier war of pure aggression, mainly to help corporate elitists or even another nation. Why are they willing to let Americans die for the greed of elitists and the Zionists, but not willing to defend their own freedom?”

“The answer to that is simple,” said Billy Carter. “It's because the war is overseas. They are here going about their business. Sure they may have moments of apprehension, but no physical discomfort. When it's all said and done, that is actually more important to them than their freedom or even their kids’ lives. Of course they would never admit that, even to themselves. But the circumstantial evidence proves it. It's pretty ghastly when you think of it.

“Maybe that is another thing to bring to the surface,” said Will. “You are right about them not wanting to admit it, even to themselves. Incredibly, many of them actually manage to twist reality to the point that they are proud of their sons and daughters going off to slaughter innocent people. Just because people don't agree with you is no reason to massacre them. That is precisely the same mentality that the people had when they used to cheer the burning of some poor woman as a witch. It's probably worse. The witch burners were so ignorant that they may have believed that the woman was a witch. Today, I don't think anyone is so blockheaded as to really believe the Iraqis ever did anything to America or Americans, until after America attacked them and killed half a million of them. I suppose that the Iraqis' resisting their own mass murder and brutal occupation could be construed as acting against Americans. What these people are saying is how dare they get upset just because we slaughter them? All we've done so far is kill a few hundred thousand of their civilians, take their oil, and destroy most of their nation. Is that something to hold against us? God almighty, what kind of people actually see things that way? Can they be Americans? Can you even call them human? If we could, we should try to induce them to leave Mississippi and move to another state. I don't really want to associate with them. Do you?”

“You make them look pretty bad,” said Buck Smith. “Yet all you've done is take away their disguise, the facade they put up to keep from seeing their own soul. Me, I think they would die rather than face that ugliness. Too bad everyone doesn't have a portrait in their bedroom, like that of Dorian Gray, where the ugliness of their thoughts and deeds, of their very soul is depicted.”

“”I don't know that you should write off these people,” said Senator Greene. “I might have been worse off than they are, and I climbed out of it. It took the loss of the most important things in my life, to force me to face reality. Until they were gone, I didn't even realize that they were the most important things in my life. I suspect that may be true of these poor people. I feel sorry for them, having been in a similar situation myself.”

“I have to say,” said Talbot, “that as much as I detested the things you were doing, Daniel, I think it takes more character to come back from a fall like you did than it would have taken to avoid it in the first place. I truly admire you for it.”

“Okay,” said Buck Smith. “If it's true that most people would have to lose their freedom before they realized how much they value it, does that mean it's hopeless?”

“Daniel's probably right,” said Will. “But it doesn't have to be hopeless. Haven't we lost the bulk of our freedoms already? Aren't they just brainwashed into not perceiving that? Can't we make people aware of that, and make them see the impending loss of the little freedom they have left? Can’t we make them see what their government has become? In Iraq, the U.S. can't seem to win, or they can't stop losing. They have already killed more Iraqis than the number of Americans that died on both sides in the war between the states―that was six hundred and fifty thousand. There have been over twenty thousand Americans killed in the Middle-East, and over a hundred thousand wounded. I don't care if they do rush the wounded to a plane hoping to get them off the ground before they die, so that they didn't die on Iraqi soil. To me, they died as a result of the Iraqi war, and that cheap subterfuge is as despicable as the entire conflict is. The worst is yet to come when the effects of the depleted uranium kick in. From the first gulf war, there are over three hundred thousand Americans sick from radiation. From what is going on now, you can count on three times that many in a few years. Besides, that stuff is going all over the world and will eventually kill millions. The incidence in cancer in the entire world is going to go up because of George F. Upton's evil. It will continue killing people for centuries. We have to make people aware that what their government is doing in their name is far worse than what Nazi Germany did. We will have killed several times as many as Hitler did, and for no better reason than he had.” 

 

***

 

By January, when the new breed of politicians took office, they were ready to start. And start they did, with a big, but not too noticeable, bang. Quite intentionally, they began with the least controversial matters. This was a strategy intended to give them time to become firmly entrenched, and get as much public opinion on their side as possible, before they had a major confrontation with the federal government. Even though they had a record mandate from the voters, they realized that many of the reforms in their campaign platforms would result in culture shock for much of the public, accustomed to being subservient to the almighty government. With this in mind, they continued their battle to wrest the minds and hearts of the people from the tentacles of the federal government’s ubiquitous psyops machinery.

Immediately, they set to work making the activities of Mississippi’s government as visible and above board as possible. Legislative sessions were broadcast live and archived on the Internet. The voting records of every representative were easily and readily available, as was the voting on each bill. New legislation, not rules, made every non-unanimous vote a roll-call vote, so that the constituents could know exactly how their representatives were voting.

A law was passed unanimously which decreed that every new law must have four attachments or appendices. First, the intentions of the legislators in passing the bill were to be spelled out in unambiguous terms as well as any intended limitations to its application. Second, the legislature would develop and maintain an annual dictionary/glossary which defined every word used in any bill passed that year. This was to make sure that any argument over the meaning of a word at the time the bill was passed could be easily settled. A special panel was setup to make sure that there was no conflict between the intentions of the lawmakers and the possible interpretations of the wording. Third, a part of each bill was a list of those voting on the bill and how they voted. As a result of another new law, a legislator, by voting yes for any bill, was certifying under oath, that he or she had read the bill and was familiar with its full intent and ramifications. Fourth, and last, a transcript or recording of all debate on the bill was attached to the bill and part of it. Never again would there be any doubt about what the legislature intended when it passed a bill. Neither would there be any doubt which side of the issue each legislator was on. All of these were posted on the Internet, and six mirror copies were maintained in widely separated areas, each backed up religiously. Backups were maintained in several safe, subterranean storage facilities. Barring an extreme global catastrophe, these records would never vanish.

The State Government began a weekly report program on television, Sunday evenings at eight. Representatives from the various branches and agencies reported what had occurred in their area during the week, and for the last half hour, the representatives and the governor took questions from the public. The questions were passed through aides to prevent unpleasant surprises, but precious little was omitted. It was said that not many people watched the program, but no one suggested that it be discontinued. Although it was true that the audience for the program was still relatively small, it had been minuscule at the start and was steadily increasing. At the end of each program, it was suggested that people bring up topics covered in the programs in conversations with friends and colleagues. If these people weren’t aware of the program or hadn’t watched, they should be made aware and chastised for not keeping up with what is such an important influence on their lives.

There was a concerted effort to reach young people. Teachers were encouraged to have pupils watch the weekly report program and write a few paragraphs on it. It was suspected that many pupils got their information from the summaries on the Internet. At least, they were aware of what was happening in their state’s government. As a result of this induced awareness and a blitz by numerous celebrities, it was becoming “cool” among teenagers and young adults to be politically savvy.

The town meetings not only continued, but enjoyed increased attendance, as students prodded their parents to be more aware of political events. The coalition between conservatives and liberals was growing nationwide, and becoming a rage in Mississippi. Websites that presented real news, as opposed to the establishment propaganda spooned out by the mainstream media, saw their servers swamped with visitors. Many had to substantially increase bandwidth to keep up with the rapidly growing hunger for reliable news. Big newspapers saw their advertising income plummet in spite of their attempts to hide the catastrophic loss of readers. Newspaper CEO’s were fired left and right, but the new ones were under the same pressure to run the papers as propaganda tools, rather than to deliver news. As the goals of the mainstream media never changed, neither did their fortunes.

 

***

 

“Let's go for a walk, Claire,” said Derek Palmer. “It's a beautiful afternoon.”

“I'd love to,” she said. “Let me get a hat. Have to keep my peaches and cream complexion, even if the cream has curdled a little.”

“I love you as you are,” said Palmer, “and I always will.”

As they walked, hand in hand, along the stream by the old mill, Palmer cleared his throat and stopped. “There's something I need to talk to you about,” he said.

“What?” she asked with a tinge of apprehension in her voice.

“Will called today from Jackson. He and Defoe want me to go to Jackson and head up something along the lines of an intelligence service. With all the things they are doing and plan to do, they anticipate, as we know, a lot of interference with the Feds. The closer they get to the secession, the worse it will be. They want to be as prepared as they can be. Knowing what they are up against is half the battle.”

“What did you tell, Will?” she asked.

“I told him I had to talk it over with you.”

“Do you think it's dangerous?”

“Not for me. Probably for you.” he said.

“You mean that I would have to stay here and you would be there in Jackson?”

“I'm afraid so. We aren't kids, Claire. If we are lucky, we have half our lifetime ahead of us. If we are unlucky. Well--”

As she looked at him, tears welled up in her eyes. “No one or no thing has ever been as dear to me as you, Derek. But this is something bigger than us or our love. No, that's not true. But it is something greater for mankind. If we don't make a success of Mississippi, the world may never see a free spot for centuries to come. We won't have children to see the horrors that can happen, but still, if we can prevent them, we should. Don't you agree?”

“Yes,” he said, softly. “The longer I know you, my darling, the more wonderful I find you are. We will be apart, but I will come and see you from time to time, and we will be in daily communication, thanks to Bill Gates.”

“When would you have to go?” she asked

“As soon as possible,” he said. “I will send someone to watch out for you and Carla. I'm glad Carla decided not to go back to her parents. She will be company for you.”

“I can look out for myself,” she said. “I'm almost as good a shot as you are.”

“True,” he said. “But you wouldn't be too good against someone who sneaked up behind you and grabbed you. I wish now that I had taught you some Jiu Jitsu. It's too late now.”

“At least you taught me some Kama Sutra,” she said.

They sat on the deck by the old mill and just held each other until the sun went down and the whippoorwills came out, and fireflies began to be seen here and there.

 

***

 

“What the Hell is going on in Mississippi?” groaned President Upton, to the small group of minions around the conference table. “First the Democrats win every race by an unheard of margin, and now, I hear they are going bananas, passing outlandish laws and flouting federal authority.”

“Mississippi is on a spree,” said Josh Friedman. “Every one in their government is new and inexperienced. They’re feeling their oats, as they say. They are actually, it seems, thinking about fulfilling their campaign promises.” This brought a round of laughter.

“They must be new and inexperienced,” exclaimed the President, when the laughter subsided. “Let’s hope they don’t spread that crazy idea around. Can you imagine if we had to fulfill ours? Holy shit. But seriously, cut off federal funds. Stop those idiots, now, before it catches on.”

“We have already begun that, Mr. President,” said Friedman. “So far, they are sticking to their guns. Most states get a little rebellious now and then and lose some federal funds for one reason or another. Eventually, they all come around and do things our way. Mississippi will too. Over ninety percent of the people that were elected in Mississippi's last election have never held public office before. We’ve never seen such a high percentage of people with absolutely no experience in politics. A lot of freshmen politicians start off thinking they are going to reform the world.”

“I never did,” said the President.

“But you grew up in a family of politicians, Mr. President,” said Friedman. “You probably knew the score before you knew the difference between boys and girls.”

“I can’t remember that far back,” said the President, with a snicker.

“Greed wins out over just about anything except envy,” said Simon Dupree, the Vice-President. “In those rare situations in which we find a few politicians that appear to have a shortage of greed, we generally find they’ve been bought by someone else with pretty deep pockets. In Mississippi, I hardly think that’s the case. So, we are working on firing up the public’s greed, and just in case that is a little slow, we are playing the envy card. Absolutely nothing beats envy. You might want to work it into one of your speeches. Mention how Mississippians are missing out on all the gravy that the other states are getting, because of their stupid legislators. If worst comes to worst, we will put a daily fine of a few million dollars on them, and that will make the people scream to high heaven.”

“I’ll have them work on sticking that in a speech,” said the President. “Then this is just a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears politicians that will soon simmer down and do what is expected of them? Even if they don’t, we can force them to buckle under, without too much trouble?”

“I think so,” said Friedman. “There is one thing, Mr. President. It is a pretty important thing, too. The Governor of Mississippi has made several half-hour films that are serious attacks on the authority of the federal government. The Mississippi government is essentially coercing the theaters and television stations to show these short films repeatedly or lose their license to do business in Mississippi. It seems to be a joint effort of state, county, and city governments. We think the state is leaning on the local governments to get their cooperation.”

“What are these films about?” asked the President.

“What it boils down to,” said Friedman, “is that they are telling the people that just about everything the federal government does is unconstitutional. They say that only the Congress can declare war, and even then only under the conditions specified in the Constitution. They say that your wars are undeclared and therefore unconstitutional. They challenge the constitutionality of the Federal Reserve making money out of thin air, and on and on.”

“That’s BS,” said the President. “The Supreme Court upholds whatever we want them to. I own them.”

“Exactly,” said the Friedman “However, Mississippi is saying that the Constitution doesn’t give the Supreme Court that authority.”

“Is that true?” asked the president.

“I’m afraid so,” said Friedman.

“Just who the Hell is supposed to decide what is constitutional and what isn’t then?” asked Upton.

“The Constitution doesn’t even mention that, or even hint at it. That means it is covered by the tenth amendment, which says everything not specifically spelled out as something the federal government can do is reserved for the states and the people. Since the states created the Constitution and ratified it, they are the final word on what it means.”

“Like hell they are,” said Upton.

“That’s what these films are telling the people,” said Friedman. “They are also saying that when we pass an unconstitutional law and have the Supreme Court declare it constitutional, we are essentially amending the Constitution, which requires ratification by three quarters of the states, adding yet another crime to the list.”

“Get some people to Mississippi and get those goddamn films,” screamed Upton. “That is treason.”

“It’s not exactly treason,” said the Friedman “Essentially, what they say is true.”

“I don’t give a shit if it is true,” bellowed Upton. “We are at war. They are opposing my government while it is at war, and if I say it’s treason, then, by God, it’s treason. Get those films and tell them if they don’t cut that shit out, I’ll put them all in prison.”

“The films are available for download on every government website in Mississippi,” said Tom Bridges. “They are already all over the world. There is no way to get them. You can pick up free DVD’s at every courthouse in Mississippi. There are literally millions of copies already out. Once they were on the Internet, they spread around the world overnight.”

The President looked off into space, seemingly unaware of the others. His eyes squinted, and blinked. He sputtered. “Do something,” he cried. “I don’t care what. Whatever it takes to shut them down. But, for God’s sake, do something about it. We can’t have this. What are we going to do if this idea spreads? Stop them and undo the damage. Can we have a terrorist attack on the capital of Mississippi? We could certainly use another Pearl Harbor. What better place could there be, right now?”

“It might be a little obvious,” said Friedman The president was openly advocating a fake terrorist attack-not indirectly hinting at it. He was going off the deep end. Going? Friedman chuckled softly to himself. Had he ever been rational?

“So what,” said the Vice-President.

“The governor of Mississippi has met with nearly every other governor,” said Friedman He realized that he was talking down to them, like an adult to a group of five-year olds, and he modified his manner. “The idea of the states deciding constitutionality is pretty popular among the state governments, as you might well imagine. The Mississippi legislature has a committee that has been making presentations to other state legislatures, and they like it too. Power is popular at all levels, and such an arrangement would give them a lot more power.”

“Power taken away from us,” said the Vice-President. “It has taken two centuries to overcome the goddamn Constitution. We would be set back almost all the way if this idea took hold-if we let them get away with it. The Constitution is a millstone around our neck. We have to dump it and get a new one. If we can use the new North American Union to change the monetary units of the countries to the Amero, as we plan, why can’t we use it to justify a new Constitution? The Europeans do it all the time. Hell, in Europe, they don’t need Patriot Acts or anything, like we do. The European governments can do whatever they please because they wrote their own constitutions to give them all the power they need. You never hear about anything being unconstitutional over there. That’s what we need.”

“Europeans never ever had any freedom,” said Friedman “All the people that had any inclination to be free escaped to the New World or were killed off. Whenever they have a revolution, it's only to change masters, never to be free. Talking to most Europeans about freedom is like talking to a fish about dry-a completely alien concept. Americans, on the other hand, are loaded with genes for freedom. As far as I’m concerned, that is the best justification for bringing in the Mexicans and trying to breed more minorities, even for the whole new North American Union concept. Outnumber all those descendants of the old-time immigrants with their natural tendency for independence with those bred to be led.”

The President looked at him in wide-eyed surprise. “I’ve never heard that reason for packing the country with wetbacks,” he said. “Not that it’s a bad reason, mind you. I like it. I like it very much. Make a fortune and do as you please, when you please because the majority are born and bred to be ruled.”

“Why don’t you set up a group to get a handle on this Mississippi business, Mr. President,” said Friedman, with a smile. “We can come up with a list of candidates for you to choose from to head it up.”

“Yes,” said Upton. “Go to it. The sooner, the better.”

“This afternoon,” said Friedman He already had some ideas. He kept wondering if it was time to make his move. Moving too soon could be a total disaster. Unfortunately, so could moving too late.

“I would like to have some input on that list,” said the Vice-President, with a frown. He hadn’t been fast enough. Now, Friedman had the advantage.

“Of course,” said Friedman “I was going to ask you for suggestions.” Sure I was, he thought.

Sure you were, thought Vice-President Dupree.

 

***

 

Just about everyone in Mississippi who could was watching a television set. Most others were listening to a radio. For weeks, the people had been primed for Governor Defoe’s speech to a special joint session of the two houses of Mississippi’s legislature.

As Defoe approached the podium, to a standing ovation, dozens of cameras began rolling and hundreds of photographs were taken. Everyone sensed that this was an historic occasion.

“Lieutenant Governor, Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentlemen of the Legislature, distinguished guests and fellow Mississippians,” Defoe began. “I am here to tell you about important events affecting the State of Mississippi. Before I begin, I wish to say that, like every Mississippian that I know, I am extremely proud to be a Mississippian. Our great state has moved so far in such a short time, and we are poised for even greater advances. In spite of the mainstream schmooze media trying to keep it from them, people in other states are becoming aware of Mississippi's newfound independence and growing prosperity. Mississippians are envied by the entire nation, with the notable exception of the primary obstacle to our envied independence and prosperity: the government in Washington, DC. Washington seems to have the idea that America belongs to them, not us. They even think that we, the people, belong to them.

“I have just sent a lengthy letter to Washington, telling them what I will be telling you, letting them know that when the thirteen colonies ratified the Constitution of the United States, they ratified an employment contract or a job description for a federal government to protect the citizens of the various states from invaders and to facilitate interstate commerce. Today, the states are faced with the employees rewriting their own employment contract to allow them to rob us blind, punish us if we complain, and to tell us, the employers, what we can and cannot do. If business had to run that way, letting the employees take as much as they want of the employer’s money and property, do whatever they please with it, and imprison or kill resisting employers. You know there would be no businesses, for no employer would sit still for such a situation. How can the American people stand still while their federal employees take their money, take their property, run and ruin their lives? I don't think Americans are stupid. I know for certain that Mississippians are not. The last elections taught me that.”

There was a burst of applause and cheering.

“But then,” Defoe continued, “in Mississippi's last election, every vote was counted, honestly, and 'none of the above' wasn't everybody's dream candidate.” There was a flurry of applause.

 “Mississippi can't do much about crime in Washington, but we are doing something about crime in Mississippi. In the short time since we revitalized our State Militia and requested all adults to have a gun and ammunition and to attend the free classes on how the use them, crime is down over fifty percent in Mississippi, and still falling.

“Now we're going after the organized crime. Mississippi will give no special treatment to criminals working for the government-any government. Anyone that enters your home without your consent and without a valid warrant will be prosecuted with the full force of the law. In Mississippi, no one, including police, FBI, CIA, or whatever, is above the law. We will cooperate with legitimate law enforcement activities, but we will not allow illegitimate ones.”

There was a brief standing ovation.

“We have repealed some old laws and passed some new ones to reduce the number of lawsuits. There is an old saying: ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.’ Recently you would get more money in court if someone hurt your feelings than if they broke your leg. In Mississippi, sanity has returned. If hit with a stick or a stone, you have legal recourse. If hit by a word, just say ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’ Hurt feelings no longer qualify for lawsuits in Mississippi.

 “Furthermore, sue someone in Mississippi and lose, and you pay the legal fees for both sides. If you sue a store because it has a Christmas tree, it better be because it fell on you, not because you don’t like it. Gone are the heydays of frivolous lawsuits. If you want to make a living suing people, move to some other state.”

There was another standing ovation.

“Mississippians are safer, and getting safer all the time. We have instituted a program to make Mississippi self-sufficient, meaning that in the event of a catastrophic event, local or national, natural, accidental, or intentional, we want life to go on in Mississippi, as normally as we can manage to keep it. We are insuring that within the state, we have sufficient power generating capacity, telephone capabilities, and an Internet system that will work if all the national backbones are gone. We are putting up our own satellites for communication and weather services. We are stockpiling fuel and working on alternative fuels and power systems. These and many more things will make Mississippi able to go on normally, even if the rest of the nation were out of commission.

“For some reason, the federal government is fighting us on this, every step of the way, doing its best to keep us from protecting ourselves and our way of life. President Upton has unconstitutionally declared that the terrorist threat is so great that if he can come up with a national emergency, he is going to make himself a dictator. This complements or supersedes his previous plans to rule the nation, in case 'terrorists' just happened to vaporize the entire congress. Washington showers us with stories of plots to blow up something or someone. Almost daily, we hear the terrorists are planning a big strike, and that they have access to nukes and chemical and biological weapons. If the federal government is not lying to us; if terrorists really did bring down the Empire State Building; if any of these plots they rant about are real plots; if we can believe the government at all, then it is only sensible that we be prepared for any eventuality. If the stories we are told are true, and the federal government really had any concern for the people, they should be overjoyed that we are getting prepared. So, which is it, Mister President? Is the terrorist scare real or did you make it up to have an excuse to destroy the Constitution and take away our rights? If it is real, we want you to show some concern for us, not just for you guys in Washington. If you made it up, we want your resignation, now.”

When the applause finally subsided, he added, “By the way, Mister President, we Mississippians remember how the Feds took care of us after hurricane Katrina. We saw the Sticky Fingers Delivery Service getting paid a million dollars to deliver us a few cents. Federal disaster relief, like health care and national defense, is just one more way for people with political connections to get rich off the taxpayers. We know how the federal government does things, Mister President, so just forget it. Leave us alone. We'd rather do it ourselves. It will be ninety-nine percent less expensive, and it will be done right.”

There were cheers and applause. Mississippi's Gulf Coast had been devastated in a more than one major hurricane, and government assistance had been far too little and far too late.

Defoe continued, “We promised to do something about education in Mississippi. We have. We have reformed Mississippi's school system from top to bottom. Teachers in Mississippi now have to pass comprehensive tests in the subjects that they teach. Teachers are now promoted, meaning they get pay raises, based on how well their students learn, instead of how long they have paid union dues. Tenure, too, is a thing of the past. Just because a teacher has been on the job for a few years doesn’t mean that he can quit working and keep getting paid. Teachers that don’t know their subject or those that can’t or won’t teach can work in one of the other states that don’t give a damn about education. As Rhett Butler might have said: 'Frankly, my dear, Mississippians do give a damn.'”

The applause and cheering were again, nothing short of thunderous.

After a minute, Defoe motioned for silence. “The people of Mississippi are paying for public education. They want something for their money; in fact, they want the best education that money can buy. Public education is a privilege not a right. If a rebellious student messes things up for the rest of his class, he is gone. If he wants to continue school at State expense, there will be a place for him, in a reform school. Otherwise, he can go to a private school. Enrollment in a public school will require giving permission for disciplinary action, as required. Discipline is back in Mississippi's schools, big-time.”

There was a brief burst of applause.

“Because we turned Mississippi’s schools from centers for indoctrination into centers of learning, Washington threatens to cut off federal funds for education. Again, we have Washington unconstitutionally fighting doing anything right. The Washington way for education, like everything else, is: take billions of dollars, skim off at least half for graft, and give back a little, on the condition that everything is done Washington's way. Like everything Washington touches, the more you spend, the less you get. America’s education ranks well below that of many third world countries. Yet, America spends more on one student than some of these countries on a whole class. To waste money that well, takes more than a village, it takes Washington. Well, Mississippi says, 'No, Washington, we will not sacrifice the minds and the futures of our children, dumbing them down just so they won’t be able to understand what is really happening in their country.' For everything we want to do right, Washington threatens to hold back more of our own money. That’s their way of controlling every aspect of our lives.

“Well, this isn’t Cuba. This isn’t China. This isn’t Russia. This is the United States of America, and if the United States of America is going to act like Cuba, China, and Russia, or worse, then we say, this is Mississippi, and in Mississippi, that ain't gonna happen.”

It was hard to get the applause to stop, but it finally died down. He called again for silence.

“What a shame that one has to strain one’s brain to come up with anything the federal government has done lately that we can point to with pride. Yet, it is a snap to come up with a long list of things we wish it hadn’t done. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't we have to strain to find something terrible and shameful, but easily come up with a list of commendable, pride-inspiring actions? You know it should.

“Who can name a country that kidnaps people; tortures people; has concentration camps; assassinates politicians that they don’t like, even in their own country; blows up buildings full of people, in order to create chaos and political advantage; listens in on every phone conversation on earth; mandates the groping and harassment of travelers; monitors and catalogs every credit card transaction; randomly antagonizes or attacks countries and regions around the world; and commits countless other tyrannical or aggressive acts? If you said the United States of America, you win. But, if you are an American, you also lose. Yes, my fellow Mississippians, such is the current, sad, sorry state of our nation. Mississippi is the first and so far, the only state to quit groveling and say that it is time for our federal government to put America first, last and always. If it won’t do that, then we will put the sovereign state of Mississippi first, last, and always. No longer will we bow down, chanting, ‘Thy kingdom come; thy will be done, in our state as it is in Washington.’ We Mississippians are a proud lot. We are nobody's slaves.”

He let them cheer for a long time, and called for quiet. “Every time you turn around lately, you find a scandal about a certain country influencing, if not completely controlling, what our federal government does. It happens so often that I guess the so-called mainstream media doesn't consider it news. It is certainly a lot more common than hearing about Americans influencing the federal government. That really would be news. The only endangered species in Washington is the uncorrupted politician, one not getting money from agents of this country. It seems that our federal government has sold out to that country. We all know what country it is. This country, with half the population of New York City, receives more foreign aid from America than any other country in the world. Why so very much for so few? Simple. Follow the money, as they say. Millions, if not billions, of the money we send that nation are funneled back to our politicians in the form of bribes. That could explain how they get so much and have so much control over Washington. So, for a kickback, your boys and girls are sent to die for the interests of another country. I know that is fine with some Americans, but I for one, find this situation completely unacceptable, and I think most, if not all, Mississippians agree.”

There was a long standing ovation.

Defoe resumed. “If, instead of sending all those billions to this country, we had given every politician in Washington a million dollars-a-year bribe to look out for America’s interests, not only would we would save billions of dollars, but tens of thousands of our young people would be alive and well, instead of dead, maimed, or horribly radiated by depleted uranium weapons. Over a million people that never did anything to America would be alive, instead of dead. Two billion Muslims would have no reason to hate us. Such are the results of our federal government's betrayal-and for what? Well it wasn't quite for thirty pieces of silver. This kind of betrayal is much more expensive. The tab probably runs more like thirty billion pieces of silver. But those guys are nothing, if not shrewd. They get our guys to give them the money for the bribe.

“I promised to do my best to make Mississippians a free people, to give them the opportunity to do all that they want to do, be all that they want to be, and have all that they want to have, as long as they don’t interfere with the rights of others. Notice that I say interfere with the RIGHTS of others, not the wishes, desires, whims, or idiotic notions of others. We are human beings, not farm animals. We are not milk cows to be maintained by the Feds and milked dry. In the Declaration of Independence, our forefathers declared that we, the people, are born with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Most of us call the source of our rights God, Allah, Nature, or whatever we perceive as our creator. The federal government may think it is God; but it isn’t. Government cannot give rights, nor can it take them away, except by force.

“We need to get our terminology straight on a few points. One: If you want someone else’s property, that is a want, not a right. A right is something you are born with. Two: The government of the United States is absolutely not the same thing as the United States. The United States doesn’t take your money. The United States doesn’t spy on you. The United States doesn’t attack countries that have not attacked it. The government of the United States does these things and all the other things that cause our current frustrations. Three: Patriotism is supporting your country. Patriotism is not supporting your government. You can love your country and hate your government. Patriots are often precisely those people that fight their government, in order to save their country. That was the case in America at the time of the American Revolution, and if things don’t change soon, it could be the case again, in the next American Revolution.

“Breaking the law may be illegal. However, breaking some laws may also be the only just and moral thing to do. Slavery was legal for years. Did that make it right? It was against the law to help a slave escape or to harbor an escaped slave. Too many people mistakenly think that saying something is the law or is legal is the same as saying it is okay, right, moral, or just. All it really means is that a bunch of politicians passed a law, for some reason. If Congress passes a law abridging your rights, then, according to that law, it is legal to abridge them. However, the law itself is wrong, and almost certainly unconstitutional. Politicians that vote for unconstitutional laws break the law in doing so, as every legislator has sworn to uphold the Constitution. When an illegitimate law is enforced, more oaths are broken, in doing so. Most of our legislators and law enforcement people are, therefore, criminals. This is a sad state of affairs. The people who are charged with defending our rights are the ones violating them. Mississippi is in the process of returning, to its citizens, rights that have been taken from them in the past and making certain that they don't lose them again.”

A great roar arose from the audience, and everyone stood and applauded.

“I have reminded the Department of Education that the funds for education that they propose to withhold came from the people of Mississippi and were but entrusted to the federal government, to be spent on their behalf. Funds do not belong to the federal government. Believe it or not, they belong to the people. The people of Mississippi voted overwhelmingly for a political platform that specified precisely the improvements in education that we have implemented. Taking Mississippians' money and using it for projects that defy the will of the people is taxation without representation, which was the cause of the American Revolution-in case they have forgotten.

“Moreover-and this is a biggie-it appears that the income tax, as implemented, is unconstitutional, and collecting it is, therefore, a crime. For one thing, the Sixteenth Amendment appears not to have been ratified, as an insufficient number of states voted in favor of it. Furthermore, even if it were ratified, the Supreme Court, in the pre-anything-the-government-does-is-okay-era, ruled numerous times that even the amended constitution does not allow taxation of wages, only of money earned by investment, such as stocks, bonds, and business ventures. Wages are not legally considered income. If you are paid a hundred dollars for so much work, it is an exchange. You and your employer agree that your work is worth a hundred dollars. You give him the work, and he gives you the money. You have traded value for value. You have not made a gain. Only a gain is subject to tax as the law is written. This has been the opinion of the Supreme Court numerous times, in the past. However, Washington says ‘Forget the Constitution. The people will pay or we will put them in jail and take their property, constitutional or not.’

“A fifty-thousand dollar reward has been offered to anyone who can show the law that permits taxation of wages. In two years, no one has claimed the reward. There can be only one reason that the reward is unclaimed: there is no such law. Not only is there no such law, but if there were such a law, it would be blatantly unconstitutional, because such a tax is specifically forbidden by the Constitution. For almost a hundred years, Washington has bled the people illegally, in defiance of the Constitution. They tried to amend the Constitution by fraud. But their incompetence was so great that they didn’t even word the amendment properly to permit taxation of wages. Recently, the administration had to drop charges against someone being prosecuted for teaching that there was no law permitting the taxation of wages. The charges were dropped because to effectively prosecute the case, they would have to produce the law, and there is no such law.

“The war against Iraq is illegal for many reasons. First of all, because Iraq did not attack us or even threaten us. Next, because Congress has not declared war, something that only they can legally do. Congress did illegally vote to allow the president to illegally attack Iraq, if he first showed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Since the president failed to show that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, he had no authority whatsoever to attack-not even an illegitimate one. And speaking of weapons of mass destruction, if we attacked every country that has them, we would have to shoot ourselves, wouldn't we? And those guys that pay the big bribes too.

“In illegally collecting taxes on wages, in waging war illegally, and in countless peripheral acts supporting these crimes and covering them up, a great many members of the federal government are in violation of their oath of office and have committed countless high crimes and misdemeanors, and thus, are subject to impeachment, fines, and imprisonment for their actions. As the Governor of the State of Mississippi, I hereby demand that the federal government come clean about the income tax and the lack of any law enabling the taxation of wages. I demand that they answer charges that the sixteenth amendment was not ratified. I demand that they cease the unconstitutional collection of taxes on wages. I seek no confrontation with Washington, but I will not stand for the unconstitutional plundering of Mississippians at gunpoint. Nor will I stand for the total disregard for our people by a government that is obligated to serve them, not abuse them. If forced to, I will immediately call for an emergency Constitutional Convention to stop a runaway, unconstitutional, as well as unelected federal government.

“The sins of Washington are countless, like grains of sand on the beach. I can only mention a tiny few of them in this speech. They took over education so that they could brainwash the students into believing that government had the right to do as it pleased. Our history was rewritten completely. Shamefully, when read excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, two-thirds of Americans think they are being read subversive literature or communist propaganda. God deliver us from such a perversion of the minds of our children. Children grow up. In a few generations, no one will even remember the glory that was ours. We aren't going to let that happen in Mississippi.”

Predictably, he was interrupted by another standing ovation.

“I must say a few words about the Empire State Building disaster. A large percentage of Americans now believe that the federal government either did it or was in on it. There is overwhelming evidence to support such a belief. There is little question that the government’s story of what happened that day is a complete fabrication, meaning that, at the very least, they were involved in it. We cannot support a government that blows up its citizens in order to get oppressive legislation like the Patriot Pact passed without review.

“Every American is aware of the phony national elections that have been taking place. Except for those in Mississippi, America’s leaders are not legitimately elected. They are in office by fraud, and ninety percent of us know it. Election results are determined by electronic voting machine companies, in the pocket of certain groups or individuals who have made America as much an international pariah as Nazi Germany was during World War Two. Don't expect Congress to investigate the election fraud. It won't, and that shouldn't surprise anyone. After all, weren't they elected by the same rigged voting machines? Why should we have any allegiance to a bunch of crooks that are in office by fraudulent means? We shouldn’t, and we won’t.

“It may be time for a Constitutional Convention to set things straight, restore usurped power, and squelch the dreams of empire of our would-be emperors. If our government refuses to do its job of protecting us and our rights, then we should fire it and replace it with one that works. We should free up the crooks in Washington to go and live in the country that bought them. Kick them out. Make you and yours safe in your own country, safe to live a long and prosperous life, on guard to defend only America, when and if it is ever attacked-something not likely to happen if we just mind our own business.

“What would such a Constitutional Convention accomplish? The current situation can be fixed with a few important, sweeping changes. For decades, the Supreme Court has been deciding questions about the constitutionality of laws and actions. They do not have the right to do that, and for good reason. This is what we call the fox guarding the hen house. What happens is that the administration packs the Supreme Court with people that will declare constitutional anything it asks them to. In effect, the Supreme Court has amended the Constitution, illegally, hundreds of times. It takes three-quarters of the states to amend the constitution, not five judges. The Constitution is a document that was created by the states, when they set up the federal government. It is, in effect, an employment contract and a definition of the federal government, which spells out its duties and limits on its actions. As I said earlier, what we have is the government rewriting its own employment contract. This is so wrong that it is inconceivable that it could ever be allowed to occur, much less continue for decades. This is more than a miscarriage of justice; it is cold-blooded, criminal murder of justice. It must change. The states must decide questions of constitutionality, not the Supreme Court.”

The room was on its feet again. The applause was deafening.

“Furthermore,” began Defoe again, “all such decisions previously handed down by the Supreme Court would have to be reconsidered by the states and either validated or thrown out. The Constitution must be inviolate, virtually sacred. All illegal amendments, effected by the Supreme Court, must go where they belong, into the garbage. We must make sure that the Constitution is exactly what it is supposed to be, a document defining the duties and powers of the federal government and putting strict limits on those powers.

There was a burst of applause.

“The Federal Government has been completely ignoring the ninth and tenth amendments of the Bill of Rights. These are the most important amendments of all. They state that anything, not clearly spelled out in the Constitution as something Washington can do, is something they are forbidden to do. Those powers not specifically delegated to the federal government by the Constitution are reserved for the states and the people. What does all this mean? It means that almost everything that Washington does is unconstitutional. In the United States, unconstitutional is as illegal as it is possible to be.

“A constitutional convention would probably take years to complete, but when it is over, the federal government would be leaner and weaker, as it was meant to be, while the states and their citizens would be much more independent and much wealthier, as they were meant to be. There is, however, a very real danger in calling a Constitutional Convention. There are those who would love to write a new constitution that would do away with all our rights and make our federal government omnipotent. These people are behind much of what is wrong with this country now. They have trillions of dollars, which they sucked from the people over the years, through favorable, bribe-induced legislation. So strong are they that they control the expenditure of hundreds of billions, even trillions, of dollars of our money in government hands. They control essentially every aspect of the economy of the United States, and through that, every other aspect of life in the United States.  Anything that can be bought, they buy it if they want it. They have even managed to squirrel away much of the money we and our children will make for the next century. In case you wonder why the national debt is as gigantic as it is, let me tell you. There is a power elite that controls the money supply in this country. They call themselves the Federal Reserve Bank, but they are not federal, but private, nor do they have any reserves, nor are they a bank. What they do is make money out of thin air and loan it to the government. They want the government to spend more and more and more and more, so they can loan it more and more and more and collect more and more interest on the loans.  Actually, the Federal Reserve is a massive counterfeiter. It counterfeits money and loans it to the federal government. The federal government spends the counterfeit money just as if it were real money. The billions and trillions of counterfeit money filter through the economy, diluting the value of your money and mine, making it worth less and less. Then things cost us more. This is what we call inflation. Every few years, they manage to cut the value of our dollars in half. If they stretch it out over seven years, that is, in effect, a ten percent tax on all the dollars in existence.  The last few months, they have been inflating at a rate of thirty-seven percent a year. If they keep that up for long, it's all over. These people have a great racket, charging interest on loans of counterfeit money.  Since they own the Congress, and the Congress spends the money, they can control where all federal spending goes. They will certainly attempt to buy the people that will determine what happens at the Constitutional Convention, and they have unlimited funds to do it with. It would be up to the people to see that they don’t let that happen. So far, the people have a miserable record of looking after their own interests.

“At this very moment, Washington is working quietly and furiously on a North American Union which will give them an excuse for a new constitution, which will surely guarantee that you have no rights at all. It will look good and sound even better, but be evil to the core. Do you think for one minute that the government that gave you the Patriot Pact, the government that blew up the Empire State Building to blame it on terrorists, so they could attack a country that had done absolutely nothing to them or us, will write a new constitution that is good for the people or one that is good for the government. If they get to write your new constitution, nothing will be beyond their power and their grasp.

“I am asking the Mississippi Legislature for a resolution in support of my actions. In the next few days, we will be taking extensive polls around the state, to see how Mississippians feel. Unless we find the overwhelming support we expect, we will hold a plebiscite and let the people decide if they want to stand up for their rights or lay down and let Washington run over them. We know how you feel, but we owe it to you to be absolutely certain.

“After that, I will ask the legislature to ask the U.S. House of Representatives to begin impeachment of President Upton, and every official who is known to have committed unconstitutional acts. Our U.S. Congressmen from Mississippi can take up the matter in the U.S. Congress in Washington. This method of starting impeachment is allowed by Jefferson’s Rules used by Congress. Understand that we will be asking most of the government to punish itself for its evil acts. So, don’t hold your breath for any cooperation.

“Mississippians are not alone, regardless of all the propaganda you may hear to the contrary. Honest polls show that most Americans agree with what I have been saying tonight. However, in consulting with forty-nine governors, I was dismayed to find a number of them dead set against any freedom for their citizens. Many in Washington and many in state governments seek office only for what they can get out of it. Fortunately, quite a few governors and legislators did show interest in reversing the flow of power to Washington and returning power to the states. They support the Constitution of the United States, which our current, unelected president called ‘a goddamn piece of paper.’

“I call on Mississippians for their support in these critical times. What is at stake is your freedom to live your own life, spend your own money, and keep your children here in America to have a long and happy life, not to die in some godforsaken desert for the benefit of Washington and those that bribe our politicians. I call on all Americans, in every state, regardless of their politics, to contact their state representatives and their governors and tell them to put a stop to the loss of their freedom and their rights. You are sovereign people, not sheeple. Stand up for your rights, before you have none left to stand up for. If your representatives don’t represent you, if they don’t follow the Constitution, you owe them nothing but contempt and opposition. Fire them. Start petitions to impeach them.

“This has been a difficult speech, not an easy one to give, and I’m sure, not an easy one to hear. It was long, but also long overdue. For far too long, we have been far too timid. Now, the time has come, the time for courageous action. We, in your state government, are dedicated to defending you and your freedom to the best of our ability, with our lives if necessary. But we cannot do it alone. We will need your support. It is late, but not too late. Our country can again be America, the beautiful, the land of the free, and the home of the brave. But we dare not wait any longer. United we stand. Divided we fall. If there was ever a time to unite, It is now. Unite, Mississippi. Unite, America. Good night to you all, and may the blessing of your God be with you, now and forever.”

Everyone rose as one person and applauded for several minutes.


 

Chapter Seventeen

 

 

Governor Defoe’s speech reverberated from coast to coast, and around the world. He drew heavy fire from both liberal and conservative media pundits. The mainstream media, however, had lost its power to influence public opinion, except to the extent that a great many people now assumed that if the media condemned something, it must be good, and if the media heaped praise on something, it was surely bad. If the media had anything good to say about the government, it had to be a lie, and should they mention an imperfection in government policy, then the situation must be hopelessly catastrophic. The Internet took up Mississippi’s cause, and spread it around the world in the twinkling of an eye. Transcripts and recordings of Defoe's speech were available on hundreds of websites. Everyone had something to say about the speech. Except for those places where abuse was not only expected but a lack of vitriol would have been suspicious, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.

Nowhere did Defoe’s speech receive the attention it received in Washington, where its reception was possibly even more vicious than in the mainstream media. However, while the mainstream media intentionally misquoted and misrepresented the speech, in Washington, quotations from the speech and paraphrasing of it were meticulously accurate. The people in general saw Defoe as a hero, the mainstream media saw him as a demon, and Washington saw him as an enemy.

Most people were shocked to hear about the offer of a fifty thousand dollar reward for the first person to identify the law that allowed the federal government to tax individual wages. That fact and much more had been prominently featured in the Aaron Russo film, “America: From Freedom to Fascism.” But the film was essentially suppressed by the fear of federal terrorism, and it had been screened in less than a dozen theaters. Theater owners were quite reasonably terrified that showing the film would put them on one of the many government hit lists. Russo made the film available on the Internet, the only way for it to be seen in the current political climate. Now, the fifty thousand dollar reward was suddenly news, and big news at that, although it had yet to be mentioned in the “mainstream” news. The importance of the reward lay in the fact that no one had collected it. That, as Governor Defoe had said, could only mean one thing: there was no such law. There was no law saying that people had to pay income tax on their wages.

Many people were irate that the mainstream media had hidden such extremely important information from them. They could milk trivial celebrity activity for weeks in the headlines, but when the most important news in decades comes along, they censor it out. If there had ever been big news, that was it, and not a peep from the media. Everyone saw this as outright proof that the media was purposefully censoring the news to benefit the government. The media was an organ of the government, to be used against the people.

Newspapers, already reeling from falling revenues, were collapsing. Major networks couldn’t give away advertising space on their newscasts. More Americans were reading the Moscow News on the Internet than were reading most American newspapers. People wanting to bring honest news to the public had filed hundreds of applications for low powered television stations across the nation, but the FCC, bowing to pressure from the administration was approving none on them. WebTV saw a huge increase in sales to those who didn’t have a computer and wanted to see some credible news on their television screen. The Internet was now everyone’s main source of news. Newcomers to the Internet went to Mississippi's website for recommended news sources, as Mississippi had the only government in the country that anyone trusted at all.

The implications of the tax scandal were mind-boggling. Most of the taxes the government had collected for nearly a century had been collected illegally, and knowingly so. Thousands of people had been prosecuted and punished severely-even killed-- for breaking a nonexistent law. The administrations of dozens of presidents, an equal number of congresses and senates, the Treasury department, and the judiciary up to the Supreme Court, and tens of thousands of Internal Revenue workers and officers were obviously guilty of so many crimes it would be impossible to list them all. Who could straighten it out? Who would want to? The people who usually would be expected to take on such a job were the guilty ones.

Those radio talk show hosts and television's talking heads that were a part of the establishment, working against the people, railed incessantly against Mississippi and everything it stood for, while never presenting any evidence that Mississippi was wrong. The few honest, independent ones speculated about the implications of the tax debacle. How many people would have valid false imprisonment charges to file? Would the government have to refund all the illegal taxes it had collected? Half the people were dead. How could they afford it? The astronomical amount would bankrupt the country. Some speculated that the government might tough it out, or even pass the necessary law retroactively, getting the Supreme Court to rubber-stamp whatever they did. The most cynical suggested that Upton might suspend elections, declare a national emergency and martial law, and completely ignore that “goddamn piece of paper,” as he called the Constitution.

In Washington, all these ideas and more were seriously considered, except, of course, the refunding of the illegally collected taxes, which never crossed their minds. President Upton wanted to put Defoe and anyone that supported him in jail, but his advisors talked him out of it. The tax scandal was serious, but Defoe’s threat of a constitutional convention and the possible loss of the Supreme Court as a rubber stamp for executive largess was seen as a far greater threat. They could get around the income tax problem, somehow, but every governor, save those that might have presidential aspirations would be salivating at the prospect of restoring state's rights. Before they would let that happen, they would do whatever it took. In the meantime, they had to come up with excuses that sounded at least slightly credible. The response with the greatest support was to speed up the North American Union, sell it to the public, ramrod it through, and let the new constitution it would require pull the rug out from under Defoe and give the federal government a blank check from then on.

 

***

 

In Washington, on the Senate floor, Senator Greene made a lengthy speech, very much resembling the Declaration of Independence, and introduced a bill calling for the Federal Government to cease all unconstitutional activities and for the final arbiter of constitutionality to be the states, not the federal government.

President Upton was apoplectic when he called Josh Friedman, to his office.

“That does it,” he cried. “I want that son-of-a-bitch arrested.”

“He's a senator,” said Friedman. “I don't know if you can arrest a senator for introducing a piece of legislation.

“I don't give a good goddamn if he's God Almighty,” screamed Upton. “Get some marines over there, arrest him, and throw him in prison. That's not a suggestion. It's a goddamn order.”

“Calm down, Mr. President,” said Friedman. There is no precedent for arresting a senator. Besides, what would be the charge?”

“Treason. Sedition. Whatever makes the most legal sense. That's your worry, Josh. The precedent is Lincoln. If Lincoln could arrest a bunch of congressmen for criticizing his totally unconstitutional war on the South, I can arrest one senator for trying to overthrow the goddamn government. Do you think for one minute the mindless robots out there will care if I arrest the whole senate? Care? Ninety percent of them will never know it happened. Most of those few that do know about it won't think twice about it. So, just do it.”

Friedman's mind sorted through the thoughts flooding it. Maybe this was his moment. If the president arrested a senator, there could be such a public reaction that he would be forced to either back down, thus losing face, or bear down and take control, in the form of martial law. Knowing Upton, he would opt for martial law. If there were no reaction, it would mean that the president could do just about anything with impunity. Then it would be easy to get him to make the big move and take absolute power. Friedman couldn't see a downside as far as his personal plans were concerned. He shrugged and said, “Yes, Mister President. Consider it done.”

 

***

 

That night at three o'clock in the morning, three platoons of marines quietly filed down the hall on the twelfth floor of the apartment building where Senator Green lived when he was in Washington. A captain, in dress uniform, knocked at the door. When Senator Greene came to the door, the captain clicked his heels in a very appropriate Nazi fashion, and said, “Senator Greene, by order of the President of the United States, I place you under arrest, Sir.”

 

***

 

“Come in, Will,” said President Defoe. “I just received news that Senator Greene was arrested last night on Upton's order. We don't yet know where they have him. They sent a bunch of marines to his apartment at three o'clock this morning.”

“I know,” said Will. “Mrs. Greene was there with him. She called us, right after they took him away. She's a basket case.”

“Oh, that's right. The senator is your father-in-law. This is a personal problem for you and Nicole. What are we to do about this?”

“Obviously, we aren't going to invade the United States,” said Will. “We aren't yet a separate nation, so we can't appeal to any international organization for support. Right now, I don't know that there is much we can do, other than to try to raise the public's ire to the point that the Feds have to release him. I suggest we contact Professor Collins as soon as possible and get his help.”

“I'll get someone on it immediately,” said Defoe. “You know it was the bill he introduced that brought this on. We expected opposition, but this is unprecedented.”

“Most of the things Upton is doing lately are unprecedented,” said Will. “Most of the things he does have never happened in America. Until Upton, no one thought such things could ever happen here.”

The intercom on Defoe's desk buzzed. He pressed a button. “Yes.”

“Derek Palmer is here, Governor Defoe.”

“Send him in,” said Defoe.

“Hello, Derek,” said Defoe, walking toward Palmer and shaking his hand.

“Hello Governor,” said Palmer. “Hi, Will, or should I say Lieutenant Governor?”

“Will is fine,” said Will. “Good to see you again.”

“This is a serious constitutional crisis,” said Defoe. “It may be risky to call for an emergency constitutional convention. However, the time has come to draw some sort of a line in the sand.”

“Do you think the other states would support you?” asked Will.

“I don't know. I seriously don't know. If I call for it and they don't, we are in a bad light as far as public relations go. It would seriously demoralize Mississippians. On the other hand, if we let them get away with this, we'll set a terrible precedent.”

“I agree,” said Will. “We knew, going in, that this day would probably come. We might not have guessed the issue, but that a showdown would come, we always knew. It's time to put up or shut up, to stand up to them or slink away and lick our wounds.”

“I would have liked it to come later than this,” said Defoe. “Two and a half years. We've come a long way. Things look good. I knew we were getting close to having them strike at us.”

“Sam Crowell was right,” said Will. “He said that Upton might do like Lincoln and start arresting everyone who openly opposed him. Lincoln arrested congressmen and judges. He never got a senator, but probably because they didn't oppose him. If you handle contacting Doctor Collins, I'll contact Olympus and have them brainstorm, too. Personally, I don't see anything we can do. But we could stand a good idea. I need to call home and see how Nicole is handling it. She was pretty shaken up this morning.”

“God, yes, Will. We need all the ideas we can get. What we don't need to do is act impulsively. We will cool off, weigh our options, and make a decision. You go ahead. Just keep in touch.” Defoe put his arm around Will's shoulder, as he led him to the door. “Tell Nicole how much I regret her father's plight. We will do everything in our power to get this situation resolved.”

“Thank you, Nelson,” said Will, standing up and heading for the door. “I can't see even Upton keeping him in jail for long. I think he's just making a statement, warning others not to try to get the government to abide by the Constitution. Wait a minute. Upton's action is unconstitutional. He has done so many things that are unconstitutional. Mississippi's legislature should order the Congress to impeach him. There is a lot of talk about that avenue for impeachment these days, especially since the Democrats that were elected, specifically to get rid of Upton, won't do it―not that anyone is surprised.”

“Good idea,” said Defoe. “Let's do it.”

“Let me bring up something before you go, Will,” said Palmer. “Seeing what happened to Senator Greene, I think we must increase security for our key people. If you are going to try to impeach Upton, remember that he is mentally unbalanced. You don't know what he might do. That means you Governor, and you Will, as well as quite a few others need protecting. At least one bodyguard for a lot of people, and more for very key people. Remember what happened to Russ Monroe.”

“It may be a pain,” said Will, “but a necessary pain. Go ahead and do it. I'll be in touch in a while, Nelson. Good to see you again, Derek. Got to run.”

“Goodbye, Will,” chimed Palmer and Defoe in unison.

“Derek, why don't you make the necessary arrangements and coordinate things with all the various agencies,” said Defoe. “They already know to take orders from you on all security matters.”

“I'll see to it,” said Palmer.

“Now I have to go on the air soon and tell our citizens about Senator Greene, and our position,” said Defoe. “I'll write the speech and have it reviewed for improvements. I never did understand the idea of letting a group of people write a speech for a politician to read. That kind of speech is a smoke screen. It is something to brainwash the public, not to tell them what the politician thinks or where he stands. If I make a speech, it is to convey my thoughts and not to tell people what they want to hear or, even worse, to mislead them as is more often the case these days.”

“I only hope, Governor, that the people can sense the difference,” said Palmer. “Most politicians have coaches to help them rehearse their speeches, to make it look authentic. What they say is completely unimportant to them. The only thing that matters is the impression they make. Politicians have always lied to the people, but only recently did they have teams of drama coaches, psychiatrists, psychologists, and closely monitored focus groups to evaluate the impact of every word and every gesture before the general public gets hit with a production, not a speech.”

“Not in Mississippi,” said Defoe. “Not while I am governor. How sad that things would ever get that bad in the United States.”

“The United States, of all places,” said Palmer. “Not very long ago, it was the last place on earth you would have thought people were anxious to leave.”

“It's not the United States that we want to leave,” said Defoe. “We just want to escape the demonic government that has taken it over. If we could fix that government, no one would ever want to leave this wonderful country. Unfortunately, I fear that fixing the mess this nation is in is impossible.”

 

***

 

“Good evening, fellow Mississippians and all others,” said Governor Defoe into the battery of microphones on his desk. “Once again I bring you bad news. Last night, in the wee hours of the morning, a group of President Upton's storm troopers invaded the Washington apartment of Mississippi's long time senator, Senator Daniel Greene. They arrested him and are holding him without access to anyone, in a secret place. What did Senator Greene do that brought on this barbaric assault on his person? Senator Greene dared to stand up in the United States Senate and on behalf of the citizens of Mississippi, say that the United States government should abide by the United States Constitution. When asking the government to abide by the Constitution becomes a crime, things are indeed bad. In America, it pains me to say, things are indeed bad, for that is the case. Can this really be America, land that I love? Remember when America was the land of the free and the home of the brave? It may still be the home of the brave, I can't tell for sure. But land of the free, it is not.

“For some reason, the federal government thinks it can arrest a senator with no credible charges, just for suggesting that they obey the law of the land. Yet, this same federal government thinks that its agents can commit crimes with impunity. What kind of perverted thinking has taken over the federal government? Have they forgotten who they work for? Allow me to remind them. They work for the people of the United States. They work for you and for me. They work for the millions of people that get up and go to work every morning. They work for the richest man in the world, Bill Gates. They work for the poorest American, the homeless, and the friendless. At least, they are supposed to work for us. But are they? Hell no, they are not.

“Essentially the entire federal government is under the control of criminals-evil criminals. There exist three possibilities. One: the majority of those in the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial branches of government are the evil criminals, or Two: they are somehow being controlled by evil criminals behind the scenes; or Three: there is some combination of one and two, meaning that evil criminals intent on amassing great wealth and power have sought out prospects already having a suitably evil nature and through either some form of influence, be it bribery, blackmail, coercion, or mind control, use them to achieve the desired ends. In any of the three cases, the result would be the same, only the distribution of the blame would change.

“As there is ample evidence to support both of the first two scenarios, it is assumed that both are occurring, thus it is the third case is what we are dealing with in the subversion of the United States' government, and probably most other governments. Granted, such a scenario seems far-fetched. But for even minimally intelligent human beings to deny the volumes of existing evidence, just to maintain a pleasant image of the federal government, would demonstrate a degree of irrationality much more far-fetched. We have a clear choice. We can see the evidence and believe it, in which case, we are rational, and seeing is believing. Alternately, we can refuse to see the evidence, in which case, we are irrational, and wishing is believing. We all wish our government to be filled with honorable persons of integrity. We wish our country to be a shining example of freedom, justice, and equality under the law. We want our children to be beautiful, wealthy, and sweet. We wish everyone were happy, healthy, and wise. We wish our dreams would come true. Some of us wish some of these things so strongly, that we lose touch with reality. We close our eyes to as many of the discrepancies as possible. In many instances, this can be dangerous, even fatal.

“We must keep in mind the simple fact that the federal government works for us. We don't work for the federal government. Neither do we need to bow down to the criminals in the federal government. Until Senator Greene is released, the federal government can be assured that there will be no negotiation. The people of Mississippi demand the immediate release of Senator Greene. The people of Mississippi demand that the federal government cease ignoring the Constitution and abide by it, as it is written and intended. The people of Mississippi did not sign up for a dictatorship; they joined a union of sovereign states. If that union of sovereign states no longer exists, then there is no longer a United States of America. It has ceased to exist, and all the states are now free and sovereign entities. If the federal government refuses to obey the constitution that defines its very existence, it has broken the tie that binds the states together. All fifty states are free. I am asking Washington to demonstrate whether or not that union of sovereign states still exists. If it does, the federal government will abide by the Constitution as written. If not, that is another story.

“If Senator Greene is not released immediately, I will call on the State Legislature to hold an emergency session to take up the impeachment of President Upton and Vice-President Dupree, for the commission of high crimes and misdemeanors. At this moment, we consider the ball in the federal government's court. I will keep all Mississippians advised of events as they happen. For now, I ask for your support in this struggle against federal tyranny.”

 

***

 

“Thanks for coming, Francine,” said President Upton. “This conversation will be off the record; we’re not recording it. The subject is a bit delicate, but I’m told that you are looking for a way out, as much as I am.” They were alone in the President’s private conference room.

“You have been told correctly,” said Francine Pedocillo, the Speaker of the House. “Even though we are of different parties, we have some common ideals.”

“These renegades in Mississippi are a pain in the neck,” he said. “We were able to neutralize these movements in the other states, but not in Mississippi. We need to bring them into line. In the meantime, I need to keep them from impeaching me.”

“Naturally, you don’t want to be impeached. I don’t want to impeach you either. I tried to get Buck Smith to hold off on the Mississippi legislature's call for impeachment. But he wouldn't budge. We can’t let this go to the Senate, for numerous reasons.”

“That’s for damn sure,” said Upton. He knew that he could theoretically be convicted on so many infractions that his only chance was to avoid the trial altogether. He had nearly a hundred attorneys on tap now, and none of them had any optimism to offer him. Unless he could bribe, blackmail, or otherwise coerce enough Democratic senators, his prospects were virtually nonexistent. He had hundreds more people working on the blackmail and bribery part, just in case, but he hoped to avoid the risk and therefore the need for extreme measures.

“Our Israeli friends understand what a conviction would mean for them,” she said. “They are eager to help you in any way they can. Any way, at all.”

He processed her statement. He took it to mean that, if need be, key incorruptible enemies could be eliminated, with no connection at all to him or any part of the US government. That was comforting to know. He had already thought that an accident might be needed for Mississippi’s congressmen, but had been assured that they would merely be replaced with carbon copies. “I’ve been told that you can decide not to follow Jefferson’s Rules on this,” he said. “There would be a big flap about it, but that’s all. No one could do anything. In no time at all, it would be forgotten. There is nothing in the Constitution about state legislatures being able to call for impeachment and nothing saying you have to use Jefferson’s Rules. Therefore, you can avoid the impeachment altogether. Can that be arranged?”

“Naturally, we’ve thought of that,” said Pedocillo. “I might be able to swing it. It will take some doing.”

He was relieved. He knew she could arrange it. He also knew she would figure she could get about anything she wanted in return.

Pedocillo watched the President’s face. She could see his resignation, and knew she could get anything she wanted. She had the President of the United States over a barrel, and she was going to make the most of it. “Let me work on it,” she said, almost coyly. “I’ll get back with you very soon.”

“I really appreciate it, Francine,” he said. He knew she would try to bleed him, just as he had bled so many others. He would try to put off as many of her demands as he could, until after the impeachment had been squelched. Then he could just keep stalling, until his term was up.

 

***

 

Will Hastings and Samuel Crowell were on their way to a special strategy meeting at the Governor's Mansion.

“I knew they were in cahoots,” said Crowell, but I never thought any congress would compromise its integrity to that extent to protect a criminal president, much less a Democrat Congress to save a criminal Republican President.”

 “Wasn't it H.L. Mencken who said that there is only one party in America? Half of it is called Republican; the other half is called Democrat,” said Will. “I like to call the one party Demopublican or Republicrat. Someone else said it didn't matter if you voted Republican or Democrat and compared them to two doors into the same room. “

“Sounds like Mencken.” said Crowell. “I love everything I've read by him. He had such a wit. In his day, not many saw the government as it really was, though he certainly did.”

“Not many see it as it really is today,” said Will. “But for them to cast aside the Jefferson's Rules that they have been following for two hundred years, just to keep from having to impeach a crooked president, would, at one time, have brought on a revolution. Today it's barely noticed, if at all. The sooner we get out of this decaying nation, the better. The American people are in a coma. They let the government trample on their freedom. Unfortunately, those freedoms are our freedoms until we can break away.”

“The evils are so many, that you can't spend much time on any one,” said Crowell. “For some reason, most people seem to need hundreds of repetitions of anything before they become aware of it”

“Unless it concerns some flamboyant celebrity,” said Will. “As far as I'm concerned, Mississippi has no choice but to withdraw from the United States. I don't say that because they are holding Senator Greene. I say that because the federal government has trashed the Constitution and every single ideal that once defined America. America is worse now than the countries we used to despise as models of tyranny.”

“I'd say we have to be preparing for that as fast as we can. Well, we're here. We'll soon see what the others have to say,” said Crowell, as the car came to a halt, and the driver jumped out and opened the door.

As they walked toward the entrance, Will said, “One thing for certain, from here on, things are going to get worse before they get better.”

 

That same afternoon, both houses of Mississippi's legislature passed a second resolution again calling for the impeachment of President Upton and demanding that the federal government release Senator Greene, that it cease its unconstitutional activity completely, and that it restore those rights it had usurped from the American people. Of course, this demand by Mississippi's legislature was completely ignored by the federal government.

 


 

Chapter Eighteen

 

“Good evening, fellow Mississippians and fellow human beings everywhere. This is Governor Defoe, speaking from the Capitol in Jackson, Mississippi. Mississippi, for those who might have just arrived from another planet, is the state whose senator was one of the latest victims of President Upton's unconstitutional 'renditions,' which is just double-speak for kidnapping. Whether our Senator Daniel Greene is being held on one of Upton's concentration camps and tortured like most of Upton's victims, we have no way of knowing. Senator Greene is a part of the federal government. There are three branches of government, each with its own job to do. They are supposed to act as checks and balances on each other. When Upton kidnaps a senator, he illegally destroys the check and balance, meant to keep him from committing gross crimes. Because our Senator Greene did his job and called attention to the crimes of the chief executive in the executive branch, he was 'disappeared,' as they say in totalitarian countries.

“Today, I signed into law, three new bills. The first bill defines and outlaws treason and espionage against Mississippi, as well as the severe penalties for them. Henceforth, any act, which, if perpetrated against any ordinary citizen would constitute a felony, will, when perpetrated against a person or persons in the service of the State of Mississippi, constitute treason. This will certainly include the kidnapping of such persons. When the person is an elected or appointed official, the penalties are extremely severe.

“The second bill makes every citizen of Mississippi over the age of eighteen a member of the State Militia. This does not necessarily mean that all adults are required to bear arms. It means that all adults could conceivable be called upon to perform some public service at the order of the governor in times of crisis. What this also means is that every adult Mississippian is henceforth legally in the service of the State of Mississippi. Therefore the new treason legislation applies to the treatment of any adult Mississippian.

“I believe the third bill requires a little explanation to keep it from sounding strange. What is strange is that such a bill would ever be necessary in a world of rational beings, meaning human beings.

“On May 18, 1987, in deciding the case of Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb, the United States Supreme Court, in a startling display of its subservience to the Israeli lobby, declared that even though there was no such thing as a “Jewish Race,” they were going to declare the existence of a Jewish race. For thousands of years everyone had known that the word Jewish referred to a religion, not a race. People of every race can be Jewish, just as people of any race may be Christian or Muslim or whatever, even Atheist. So, with no legal or moral excuse for it, they were declaring a religion to be a race. The reason they did this was that the Zionists behind the Israeli lobby were doing some terrible things and they wanted the government to make it illegal to criticize what they were doing. This declaration by our “Supreme” Court brought them the protection of the hate-crime and hate-speech laws which this same Zionist lobby had designed and arranged to be enacted. This why every time anyone criticizes the genocide in Palestine, you hear the cries of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is now illegal. As a pretext for their declaration, the Supreme Court, whose Jewish members, by the way, should have recused themselves in this case, said that since so many people commonly referred to the “Jewish race,” Jews should be treated as a race. Since a portion of America's massive “aid” to Israel is used for one form of bribe or another to the same politicians that sent it to Israel in the first place, there was no governmental opposition of any kind to this move or any other move by the Israeli lobby. Money talks and the U.S. Congress listens.

Today, the Mississippi legislature, following that precedent set by the United States Supreme Court, has, in the third bill, declared the existence of the human race. Since all people, even highly educated people that certainly know what a race is, refer to the Human Race, and in doing so, refer to all human beings.

The United States Congress is hereby requested to pass legislation acknowledging the existence of the human race and that every human being is a member of that race, and to afford every human the protection and deference that they now afford Jews, particularly Israelis. To do otherwise would make the U.S. government guilty of racism, by their own definition. Actually, it would merely expose the racist position of the United States government.

“We also call upon the United Nations and the European Union to adopt similar policies and enact the appropriate legislation to extend to the human race treatment as good as that they extend to any other race. Should they fail to do so, they must stand condemned for their blatant racism. The world must remember that if acts against a certain race are classified as criminal or undesirable, so must similar acts against all other races. To do otherwise is to espouse racism against all the races denied the considerations enjoyed by the more favored race. To perpetrate the so-called “crime” of racism against the human race is after all a crime against humanity. By international law, crimes against humanity should be prosecuted before international courts. Unless the EU and UN mean to use their charges of racism to promote a specific race, as has been so often charged, then they must heed Mississippi's request.

“We take note of UN and EU stances and actions regarding the alleged Jewish holocaust of World War Two, banning any discussion, study, and above all, denial of the same. Recognizing all humans as a race will require a similar stance and policy regarding all alleged holocausts involving humans, also regardless of any supporting evidence or lack thereof. There are several such holocausts underway at this time, which will require immediate action.

The U.N. should provide a mechanism enabling any nation or group to alert the United Nations to the fact that a holocaust has occurred or is occurring. Once alerted, the U.N. Is then obligated to condemn any discussion, requests for evidence, contradictory statements, and above all, denial of any such holocaust, and to bring to bear the full force of their condemnation on the perpetrators. From individuals up to bodies of nations, the only way to avoid the charge of racism is to treat all races equally. Since that includes the human race, it follows that they must treat each individual equally. Hence, the United Nations and the European Community have three basic choices: first, to expand their current racial policies toward certain preferred races to include the human race, meaning all human beings. Second, to cease their preferential treatment for any race or group, treating all human beings equally. Third, to maintain their current stance, thereby admitting that any avowed interest in reducing racism is but a veiled effort to promote, not a race, but one specific religion.

“Mississippi will no longer give preferential treatment to any race or religion. All of our laws and policies will apply equally to all races, including the human race. Therefore, all of Mississippi's laws and policies will apply to all human beings, period.

“In order to avoid future misunderstandings, let me clarify that last sentence. In the past various government agents have been given tremendous leeway, amounting to leave to commit crimes. No one on Mississippi soil will be exempt from Mississippi law. Any member of the human race engaged in illegal activities will be subject to arrest and prosecution, regardless of their motives or connections. This means that unauthorized entry by law enforcement of any kind, except in hot pursuit, will be treated exactly as if it were done by any other person whatsoever.

“These moves are in keeping with Mississippi's new policy of maximum freedom for her citizens. Freedom in Mississippi means freedom from all criminals in and out of government. Government employees are reminded that they are exactly that, employees. The employers are the citizens. The citizens do not employ people to harass and persecute them, but to serve them. We urge other states to adopt a similar policy, as not to do so is to openly admit that they oppose freedom for their citizens and that they do not treat all members of the human race equally.

“In closing, let me assure you that the mass media, being under the influence of certain elements that will aggressively oppose our recommendations, will undoubtedly mount a massive propaganda campaign against us. I urge all thinking people to recognize their ravings as pure unadulterated propaganda garbage, designed to continue the domination of America by un-American non-Americans. Just remember that you are human beings. If criticizing an Israeli is anti-Semitic, then criticizing you or anyone else is anti-human. Don't you deserve equal treatment? Remember, too, that it is your money that is paying your politicians to work against you. Wise up. Stand up. Whose country is this anyway?

“Please do not take my remarks tonight as being in any way intended to take anything away from the members of the Jewish religion or any other religion. I just want the same treatment for everyone. I certainly don't want any mistreatment of Jews, and even though I am Jewish, myself, I don't want any special treatment for them either. Just treat everyone the same, but treat us well for a change. We are all members of the Human Race. Let all humans stand together for our rights. Let us stand together against those who would divide us and pit neighbor against neighbor, at the cost of both. There is room on this earth for all of us. There is no need to waste our lives fighting each other. We can all find better things to do. We just need to get rid of the war-mongers in our governments.

“Why is it that all men are born free, yet nowhere is anyone free? If men are not free anywhere, there must be some force that prevents their being free. It must be a powerful force, too. It must be a force that exists in every country, although in some countries it's worse than it is in others. It must also be a force that is against man and man's freedom. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know what that force is. Do you? We all know what it is. I am the Governor of Mississippi. Mississippi's government is no longer going to be a force for keeping Mississippians from being free. I am on the side of Mississippians. I am on the side of all men everywhere who do no harm to other men or their property. I am on the side of the human race. Join me, on the side of Mankind. It is the place where good people belong. Good night.”

 

***

 

“We may have underestimated the influence of S.M.A.R.T, on the recent events in Mississippi,” said Joshua Friedman. The Director of Fatherland Security was addressing a meeting in the White House conference room. “As you all know, I, personally, have always thought that S.M.A.R.T. was a dangerous organization. Everyone thinks they are a bunch of whackos, but they have a lot of power in Mississippi. I think that most, if not all, of those elected in the last general elections in Mississippi were S.M.A.R.T. people.”

“What are you trying to tell us, Josh?” asked the president.

“I'm saying that S.M.A.R.T. may be the source of our problems with Mississippi,” said Friedman. “If I'm right, we can attack the S.M.A.R.T. organization, as opposed to attacking all of Mississippi. That should prove much simpler.”

“I don't know,” said Zachary Asko, Friedman's replacement as Director of the CIA. When he saw Friedman looking askance at him, Asko added. “Not that I disagree at all with the idea that S.M.A.R.T. may have been the instigator of our problems. It is just that I fear they may have affected so many people with their poison, that countless people are, shall we say, confused. As we well know, the average person just isn't equipped to handle the complexities of current events without proper guidance. S.M.A.R.T. has been misguiding Mississippians for some time.”

“Hell, even if you're wrong about their impact,” said the President, “getting rid of S.M.A.R.T. won't hurt anything. Do whatever it takes. And get to work straightening out those crackers. I say, scare the crap out of them. That always works.”

 

***

 

A week later, in the city of Greenville, Mississippi, at exactly three o'clock in the afternoon, a bomb went off in S.M.A.R.T.'s Washington County headquarters. There were only three people in the office at the time. Two S.M.A.R.T. workers and one visitor. The S.M.A.R.T. workers were killed and the visitor was seriously injured. Palmer immediately called the local police and told them not to put out any information until the team he had already dispatched arrived and completed their preliminary investigation.

By five o'clock, he had the team's preliminary report. “No surprise,” he told Governor Defoe, by telephone. “It's almost certainly the federal government, or someone in their employ. Earlier this week, our man in Washington told us they were now blaming S.M.A.R.T. for their problems with Mississippi, and we could expect them to be striking at S.M.A.R.T. in one way or another. We are aware of their stepped up propaganda campaign against S.M.A.R.T. Now we see the next step. They are probably trying to make people afraid to be associated with S.M.A.R.T.”

 

Three days later another, a second S.M.A.R.T. office was blown up in southern Mississippi. In the following month, three more newly opened S.M.A.R.T. offices were destroyed. In the last three explosions, the S.M.A.R.T. offices were, fortunately, empty.

 

***

 

"My man says he only did the first two offices,” said Lucky Hu. “He had absolutely nothing to do with the last three. I think these S.M.A.R.T. people are really smart. I think they are blowing up their own offices and blaming it on us. No one would suspect them of blowing up their own offices. Not only that, they are blowing up new offices that they just opened right up against a federal government office. They are hurting us worse than we are hurting them. The last three bombings, there was no one in their offices, and they got some of our guys who were next door. They are also winning on the PR. Almost everyone thinks the federal government is behind every one of the blasts."

"The bastards got my nephew," screamed Friedman "My nephew. I hardly knew him, and as I recall, I didn't like him very much, anyway. But killing a nephew of the Director of Fatherland Security is treason. I'll get every last one of those S.M.A.R.T. sons of bitches, if I have to go out and do it myself. If I do have to do it myself, there won't be anyone left in this office, that's for damn sure."

Lucky stood up. "That sounds like a threat," he muttered.

"Don't take it personally, Lucky. You have enough points racked up for a lifetime, maybe two lifetimes. I know damned well that you always do your very best, and your best is as good as it gets. I'm just fed up with this S.M.A.R.T. crap. I have a lot of important things I need to get done, and this crap is taking up far too much of my time and my attention. Now they're opening new offices all over the damned state, and every one is right up against something we don't want to blow up. Is your guy going to use a little common sense on which offices he hits?"

"I'll speak to him," said Lucky.

"Maybe we can 'find' some secret S.M.A.R.T. documents, or raid them and 'find' something on their computers that proves they are terrorists," he said, speaking slowly and deliberately. "Maybe they are plotting to blow up the White House or kill the President. The media will hype anything like that. We can outlaw SMART and put away everyone connected with it, maybe even execute them. That way we can get them and avoid the collateral damage we're looking at now."

"They still have a lot of offices that are perfect targets," said Lucky. “Besides, you don't have to blow up just S.M.A.R.T. offices. You can just use standard 'terrorist' bombings, and that will scare the people even more than bombing their offices. All you really accomplish by bombing their offices is keeping people out of them.”

"Okay, will you talk to some people about it for me? Whatever it is needs to be done right for a change. It seems like we can't do anything right any more. Look at the Empire State Building fiasco. Thank god we have a nation of imbeciles that will swallow just about anything. Those forged documents in Niger--that was incredibly botched. They were forging official documents in French, and they use some numb-nuts who didn't even know French well enough to pull it off. That was our main evidence for going to war and killing half a million Iraqis. The Boy Scouts could do a better job than the goddamn CIA.”

“I will do my very best,” said Lucky. “I can't do any more than that.”

“I have to get to a meeting with the President,” said Friedman, standing up and grabbing his coat from the nearby rack. “He is going to want to know what we're doing to get rid of S.M.A.R.T., and I really can't point to anything that we've done that worked right.”

“You might as well take the credit for the five offices,” said Hu. “That should be better than saying they have outsmarted us.”

“What about the casualties on our side?”

“When did this president ever worry about casualties?”

“Good point,” said Friedman.

Just then, his phone rang. His phone didn't ring while he was in a meeting, unless it was something urgent. He picked it up, listened a minute. “Thanks,” he said and hung up. “Mississippi again. That state is going to give me a heart attack.”

“What now?” asked Lucky.

“They have arrested two FBI people from the Jackson office, charged them with illegal entry.”

“Was it illegal entry?”

“Of course not. It was in the line of duty, anti-terrorist activity.”

“Whose property did they enter?”

“Some Mississippi state legislators.”

“That could be considered illegal.”

“We are at war, Lucky. We can do anything we need to do in fighting that war.”

“Are we fighting Mississippi legislators?”

“Whose side are you on, Lucky?”

“I'm on your side, but didn't they warn you not long ago that they were going to arrest and prosecute anyone, including all law enforcement that were guilty of any crime? Didn't they specifically give illegal entry as an example?”

“I am not familiar with all the things Mississippi has said lately,” said Friedman.

“Well, they did,” said Hu.

“I've got to go,” said Friedman. “This meeting is going to be a good one.”

 

Friedman was right about the meeting with the President. He would have given a lot of money to have been able to film the President during his temper tantrum. When the meeting was over, the decision had been made to impose a million dollars a day fine on Mississippi for every day they refused to release the FBI agents plus a hundred thousand dollars each for a list of ten federally mandated actions that Mississippi had refused to do. This brought the daily fine up to two million dollars. The fines wouldn't start until the court would order it, to make it look good.

 

***

 

 Mississippi refused to release the FBI agents and it refused to pay the fines. The federal government retaliated by withholding federal funds to Mississippi for all matter of things. Every day, a Mississippi Representative would take the floor in Congress to demand that Congress abide by the Constitution and that it force the President and the Judicial branches of government to abide by the Constitution. Their speeches became more and more forceful. Lately, they ended each speech by remarking that in not abiding by the Constitution, the federal government was in fact guilty of breach of contract, and the states were no longer obligated by any agreement, as the United States of America no longer existed and the states were now free and sovereign.

The morning of the Fourth of July, Governor Defoe addressed a special meeting of the two houses of the Mississippi legislature and asked them to approve a resolution for Mississippi's secession from the United States of America. In one last move to show their willingness to remain in the Union if the federal government ceased its illegal activities, the actual secession would become effective at midnight on the thirty-first of August, if the federal government had not ceased its unconstitutional activities by that date. This strategy would also give the people of Mississippi two peaceful months to get accustomed to the feeling of independence, before the real confrontation with the Feds. During the month of August, a plebiscite would be held for the people of Mississippi to approve the secession and a new Constitution, or disapprove the secession and remain part of the Union. Ratification and secession would be on a county by county basis, just as the U.S. Constitution had been on a state by state basis. When two thirds of the counties had ratified and approved, the secession would be pronounced ratified, and any counties not ratifying could remain a part of the Union or do as they wished.

At twelve noon, the resolution passed with a unanimous vote of both houses. A prepared statement was sent to thousands of predetermined e-mail addresses. Although it was a national holiday, the news still spread rapidly. Outside the United States, where the fourth of July is not a holiday, it spread like wildfire. Mississippi immediately sent messages to every nation on earth, announcing its new status as an independent nation, and saying that they hoped for a long, peaceful, and productive relationship with every nation.

President Upton was attending a Fourth of July celebration in Philadelphia, when an aide approached him and whispered in his ear. “Mr. President, Mississippi has just seceded from the Union.”

“Say that again,” said Upton.

“Mississippi has announced its secession from the Union, Sir.”

Upton sat for a minute, stunned and not knowing what to do. Finally, he rattled off a list of names for the aid to get to his office that afternoon for a special meeting. The aide rushed off to see if he could assemble the people.

“Why did they have to do it today, on the Fourth of July, just before I have to get up and make a damn speech?” asked the President of no one in particular.

 


 

Chapter Nineteen

 

Claire Fox and Carla Benson were watching a press conference on television. Stephen Hunter had recently been appointed as the President's new Press Secretary.

“I think he's gay,” said Carla.

“Probably,” said Fox. “I've heard that the Decider is bisexual. Or was it trisexual? Whatever. He's not content with abusing all the Americans. He's out to do it to the world.”

Carla smiled.

On the screen, Hunter pointed to a CNN “journalist” to get started on a friendly basis.

“Can Mississippi really think they can secede, after the precedent set when the South was prevented from it?” asked the journalist.

“I do know that they cannot successfully secede,” said Hunter. “States do not have the right to secede. The Civil War proved that. It is hardly possible that Mississippi believes it can go up against the other forty-nine states. So we can probably assume they know that they cannot secede. We believe this is a play for attention and notoriety by Mississippi's inexperienced leaders.” He pointed to a Wall Street Journal representative.

“If this situation cannot be settled amicably, is the President prepared to use military force?”

“We don't think that will be necessary. At the worst, we would have to wait until the next election, which is not that far off. It is more likely to be resolved before it even takes effect at the end of August. Mississippi has even given itself seven weeks to weasel out of it. However, all options are on the table. Mississippi will not leave the Union.” He motioned to a representative from the New York Times.

“The President's unprecedented arrest of Mississippi Senator Greene for promoting sedition may have triggered their secession. Is it possible the President may arrest Governor Defoe and others on the same or a similar charge?”

“Senator Greene's arrest is not without precedent, as President Lincoln arrested numerous legislators for opposing the war against the South,” said Hunter. “As I said, all options are on the table.” He motioned to another reporter.

“Mississippi has indicated that they would be happy to remain in the Union if the federal government will agree to abide by the Constitution. Since all options are on the table, might we assume that too is a possibility?” asked the reporter.

Hunter frowned. It was obvious that he considered this an unfriendly question. “As far as the President is concerned,” he said, “the government is abiding by the Constitution, and always has.” He moved to another, a woman this time.

“Another demand of Mississippi is that the states, not the Supreme Court be the final arbiter of constitutionality, saying that it the fox guarding the hen house. What is the Administration's position on that?”

“In America,” said Hunter, “the Supreme Court is and has always been the court of last resort. What they say goes. They decide what is constitutional. We have no plans to change that.” As he said it, he realized that he should have worded his response differently, as what he had just said was an easily verifiable falsehood. Oh, well, too late now. Looking around, he pointed to the Fox News' representative.

“Couldn't the government just walk into Jackson and occupy the state government buildings and end this charade in a day?”

Hunter looked pleased by this question. “We could,” he said, “but the President isn't going to do something like that, except as a last resort. He feels somewhat paternal about the states. He believes in giving them guidance, not punishment. I'll take one more.”

Hands went up around the room. Hunter picked an older man in the rear of the group.

“There seems to be a growing support for Mississippi's position among the states. Is the administration worried at all that if they crack down hard on Mississippi, they might end up losing more than just Mississippi?”

“Absolutely not,” said Hunter. “Reputable surveys show no indication of such support. We suspect that such rumors were probably initiated by Governor Defoe or some of his entourage. That will be all for today. Thank you.” He picked up his papers, turned and left the stage.

“He looks like he's happy with his performance,” said Carla.

“You can tell that he's new,” said Claire. “He didn't know the different ha ha journalists, and he picked two with a little independence. In a situation like this, an old hand would never have picked them. God, how I wish I'd been one of them and gotten a chance to nail him to the cross.”

 

***

 

Derek Palmer leaned back in his desk chair, the phone to his ear, listening to it ring, waiting for Claire to answer. It wasn't a regular phone, but a VOIP phone, with secure encryption. They knew that the Feds were intercepting every phone call in the entire world, but they probably had a special task force for calls from the capitol of Mississippi.

“Hello, my sweetie Claire,” he said when she answered.

“I may be sweet, and I definitely am yours,” she answered. “but an éclair I am not.”

“My little sweetie--pause--Claire,” he said.

“Okay, that is I,” she said. “All the above. By the way, did I ever tell you that I once considered changing my name to None of the Above? “

“No. I think I would have remembered that.”

“I figured that I could run for pretty high office almost anywhere in the country and win with a landslide.”

“That's good,” said Palmer. “Except that anywhere in the country is no longer true. If you exclude Mississippi, Okay.”

“How was your day, Derek?”

“Productive, tiring, and long. How about yours?”

“I spent it ruminating,” she said.

“Unfaithful so soon,” he said.

“You nut. I was thinking that since Mississippi is no longer part of the United States, I would be safer there than here. Even if I'm not, the deed is done. The Feds are going to do what they can to undo it and I want to be with you. If they blow us away, we will have been together as long as we could. What do you think?”

“I think you must be psychic,” he said. “I thought about that the moment the decision was made to secede. But, and there is a big but.”

“Watch it,” she said.

“Just you wait,” he said. “Seriously, you know the secession doesn't take effect until the end of August. You probably should come a few days ahead. After that, I think you would be okay here until the Feds decide to carpet bomb us. ”

“Before they do that, I hope you will let them know you can blow up fifty million of them if they even think about it.”

“I think we could blow up far more than that. Let's hope it doesn't come to that. I do want you here, Claire. You better have your stuff packed and ready to go.”

“I could be there tomorrow afternoon,” she said.

“I won't let you drive it alone,” he said. “The Gestapo are already grouping along the state line. I'll have a couple of Special Forces guys pick you up, and you will be the same person you were when you went from South Carolina to Tennessee. You do have those papers, I hope.”

“Of course I do,” she said. “When will my escort arrive?”

“I have to arrange it. Probably on the twenty-fifth of August, I'd guess. I'll let you know. What about Carla?”

“She'll come too. Is there any reason why she shouldn't?”

“I don't see why not. How is she doing? Is she a full-fledged human yet?”

“Derek. That isn't nice.”

“You know what I mean. Has she fully recovered from her brainwashing?”

“Pretty much. She still has occasional relapses. But a dose of common sense works wonders.”

“I'll talk to Kellis about leaving the place empty. He has been wonderful to us. He may need a few days to set things up, get rid of the help, etc.”

“You're right. I'll have everything ready well in advance. We always have a bag packed, just in case.”

“I'm going to pack it in for the day, Darling. I'll get a bite to eat on the way home. Keep your volume up for my call later.”

“It's up,” she said. “Bye. I love you.”

“I love you too. Bye.”

 

***

 

The White House meetings concerning Mississippi were getting larger. Several members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were on hand, since military action against Mississippi was at least an option and one for which they had to be prepared.

“I think the plebiscite is our best way out of this situation,” said Vice-President Dupree. “If the people turn secession down, it is all over. Surely, we can fix that. Can't we?”

“Ordinarily, it would be a snap,” said Friedman. “We could fix it with little effort, anywhere but Mississippi. They have outlawed electronic voting entirely. Not only that, but they are inviting half of the world in as poll watchers. It would be extremely difficult to fix the results directly.”

“What are the chances of it being defeated?” asked President Upton.

“No chance at all, really,” said Friedman. “All the polls show over eighty percent in favor of it. Even a Fox News poll, with questions designed to make people say no, came out with seventy percent still in favor of the secession. They had to simply outright lie to get the numbers to come out the other way around. Mississippians seem to have become a different breed of people. Now that they are on the verge of full-fledged secession, people are pouring into the state, while it's still legal to go there. At the same time, a lot of Mississippians living off the government are pouring out. The surrounding states are seeing a surge in welfare applications. We may have to build a wall around Mississippi.”

“We seem to be better in manipulating the governments in other countries than within our own borders,” said the Vice-President. “Why aren't we using some of the same techniques in this case? Why are these rebellious leaders still breathing? Can't you just take them out?”

“I suppose we could remove Governor Defoe,” said Friedman. “He is extremely popular in Mississippi. He leads those crackers around as if they had rings in their noses.”

“Probably in their genes,” said the President. “I'm almost tempted to let it go to a war and just clean them all out and make a civilized state out of Mississippi. There's some pretty country in that state. With some neutron bombs we could wipe out all the people and not hurt the property. We wouldn't need many troops that way, either.”

  General Moore bit his tongue―. To hear an American president talking about murdering millions of American civilians with neutron bombs to save the property for future exploitation by his buddies made him want to throw up. He struggled to look unaffected. He had sworn to defend America and its Constitution. He was beginning to think that the only way he could do that was by fighting the U.S. Government.

“We have to consider that several states have shown support for Mississippi,” said Friedman. “Two have passed resolutions supporting them. If we were to wipe out a major portion of Mississippi's population, we might be facing a similar problem with more states.”

“How many?” asked the President. “We can use some more prime territory to do as we please with it. A big reduction in population would be pretty nice, too.”

“We are watching seven states now,” said Friedman. “South Carolina and Washington are the ones that passed resolutions supporting Mississippi. Vermont, New Hampshire and California have introduced them, but still not passed them. Alabama is debating such a resolution today. A senator in Texas said he will introduce a resolution. I don't know that we would want to eliminate the people in all those states.” He was thrilled to see this happening. He was trying to come up with a plan for having the President declare martial law and suspend elections. Time was running out.

“I'm not really planning on eliminating the population of Mississippi or any other state,” said the President. “Not yet, anyway. And if we did something like that, we'd have to make it look like a terrorist attack of some kind anyway. I'm not that crazy.”

General Moore, Friedman, and probably most of the others in the room shared the same thought in response to the President's last sentence.

“Personally, I think we should move on Mississippi as soon as possible,” said Vice-President Dupree.

“We can't attack them before they have actually seceded,” said Friedman. “Don't forget they have given us until the end of August to agree to abide by the Constitution.”

“Everyone knows that isn't going to happen,” said President Upton. “You can be sure Mississippi knows it too. They're just using it as a PR maneuver”

“And for time to hold their plebiscite,” said Friedman. “But couldn't we turn their offer to our own benefit?”

“What do you have in mind?” asked Upton.

“You might appoint a panel or even set up a new cabinet level post to review government actions and identify any that might be unconstitutional and make recommendations. This way we could drag things out for a few years, either until people lost interest or we could arrange for a new government in Mississippi. We could get a lot of PR mileage out of something like that. Also, we might just drag it out until the North American Union was a reality and a new constitution is in place. After that, nothing we did would be unconstitutional. Nothing would stand in our way.”

“Fantastic idea, Josh,” said Upton, jumping to his feet. “You really came up with a winner this time. I love it.”

Friedman merely smiled, and said, “I'm glad you approve.” He wondered if he hadn't just shot himself in the foot. On the one hand, he wanted the President to declare martial law and take over as soon as possible. Yet, the idea of the United States expanding to include Mexico and Canada, with him running that union from behind the scenes, was so exciting that he couldn't put it out of his mind. Things were coming together for that too. But was he being too greedy and perhaps risking ending up with nothing. He would have to think long and hard about this.

 

***

 

The so-called mainstream news was filled with President Upton's generous new concession to Mississippi: his new Department of Constitutional Compliance. Mississippi, however, saw through the administration's ruse.

“It is like depending on the fox to verify the security system on the hen house,” said Governor Defoe, in a public speech following the President's announcement of the new department. “It is like letting accused criminals be their own judge in their trial. Kind of ridiculous, isn't it? Moreover, since no such constitutional review of constitutionality by the executive branch is authorized by the Constitution, the whole idea is just one more unconstitutional act by this administration. The idea of setting up an unconstitutional department to decide constitutionality is sick. If the federal government is truly interested in knowing which of its actions are unconstitutional, they must be willing to abide by a review of their actions by those who wrote the Constitution, meaning the states. The federal government must agree to a serious review by a permanent convention of the states. Any question of constitutionality has to be treated as an amendment to the Constitution would be treated, meaning that three quarters of the states must agree that an action is constitutional or it will be held as unconstitutional. If the administration is willing to agree to that, well and good. Mississippi will also agree to that, and so, I assume, will the other states. I will see how the other states feel about it soon enough. The National Governor's Convention begins in two days. It is time to remind the other states that we, the states, created the federal government, and we can re-create it or even abolish it, if necessary.”

 

***

 

“We did it, Sam,” exclaimed Will into his cellular phone. He and Defoe were on their way to the airport after leaving the National Governor's Convention. “It wasn't even close. We got thirty-four governors in favor of the states deciding constitutionality. That's not enough to swing a constitutional amendment, but almost. There will be a formal resolution sent to all the powers that be in Washington, tomorrow, telling them that if they don't want to take care of it, the states will, meaning we will use a Constitutional Convention, if necessary. Another stupid move by Washington has backfired on them. We knew they wouldn't even consider letting the states decide constitutionality. Now they either have to agree to let the states make decisions about constitutionality or essentially admit that they had no intention of really doing anything in the first place. Even if they don't agree, they may get the states doing it anyway, although I don't think they would really do it. I think the end result would be a lot of super-rich state politicians, and a continuation of the status quo. Still, there is hope.”

“It does my heart good,” said Crowell “Things like this keep them occupied, if nothing else, and that can only help us.”

“It surely can't hurt us,” said Will. “Anything going on in Jackson?”

“No, but you will be hearing from Derek Palmer soon, if you haven't already.”

“What's up?”

“He's meeting you at your airport. See him before you do anything else.”

“Here or in Jackson?”

“There. He will be looking for you.”

When he had hung up on Crowell, Will turned to Defoe and said, “Derek is here to meet us at the airport. I wonder why.”

“There must be something going on,” said Defoe. “Not anything good, either.”

Seconds later, Palmer called and told them he was waiting at the airport for them. “Don't ask any questions, and don't worry,” he said. “I just talked to your security detail. You are only a couple of miles from the airport. I'll be waiting for you. See you an a few minutes.”

When they pulled up in front of the airport entrance, the police escort took the whole entourage around security to a plane where Palmer was waiting for them. After thanking the police escort and dismissing them, Palmer explained that they had reason to suspect that someone might be trying to get at the plane they were supposed to have gone back to Jackson on. He had brought a new plane, and kept it well guarded. The original plane would stay there and it would be checked thoroughly for any explosives or sabotage. “It may be nothing,” said Palmer, “but we're taking no chances.”

“Glad you aren't taking any chances,” said Defoe. “I promised Will that I would do my best to stay alive.”

“If we were both blown up, I wouldn't have to worry about stepping into your shoes,” said Will. “But do keep up the good work, Derek.”

Palmer joined them on the flight back, which occurred without incident. That night Palmer called Claire and filled her in on Mississippi's success at the National Governor's Convention.

 

***

 

“You'd better get some neutron bombs ready,” said Upton to his usual clique “It doesn't look like anything else is going to work on Mississippi.”

Friedman was reluctant to suggest anything. The now abandoned idea of the Department of Constitutional Compliance had been his idea, and it had backfired big time. He knew he had lost points with the President, and he didn't want to lose any more right now.

Fortunately, Vice-President Dupree had some ideas that seemed popular enough with the President and most of the others.

“I think Josh was right in saying we should make sure they vote down the plebiscite,” said Dupree. “I have a lot of confidence in fear. The American people are cowards. That's why something like the Empire State Building attack was so effective in scaring the crap out of them. They just aren't used to any kind of strife on American soil. If you were to have a flurry of 'terrorist' attacks in Mississippi, and make it look like it's because of the secession and that they need the big strong federal government to protect them, the support for secession in Mississippi will collapse like a punctured balloon.”

 Friedman gave a generic, non-committal approval of the idea. He said that CIA has recently developed a plan for doing just that, and it was ready to go. Only General Moore had nothing to say about it. And it was adopted as the new plan du jour.

Friedman had brought Zachary Asko, the Director of the CIA, with him, perhaps with a flash of intuition. The CIA would be implementing the new plan-unofficially, of course. Officially, it would never happen, and no one would know anything about it. But if anything went wrong, it would be the Director's fault, unless he could manage to blame it on someone else.

 

***

 

“Thank God that no one was hurt,” said Palmer. He had just received pictures from Oxford, where a car bomb had gone off early that morning. On a computer screen, he, along with President Defoe and Vice-President Hastings, was seeing those pictures.  There was a picture of the charred remains of a car. There were shots of debris scattered all around, on the sidewalk and the street. The sidewalk, the street, and the lawns around the car were black from the explosion and the fire.

“I don't know why they picked Oxford,” said Palmer. “Maybe it was because students often are associated with radical groups.  You can see that they parked the car between two houses, not in front of one. They told me that the front windows in both houses were blown out, but there was no structural damage. It doesn't look like hurting people was their motivation. That lets the Mossad out.”

“Some group called “My Country Right or Wrong” has claimed responsibility,” said Will. “We can't find anything on such a group, anywhere. We put it out on the news. Maybe someone who knows something about them will come forward.”

“It's almost certain that there is no such group and this is some Fatherland Security project--CIA most likely,” said Palmer.

“That occurred to us,” said Will. “I thought the message looked phony. They misspelled a couple of simple, everyday words, probably to make it look like some uneducated redneck, but then they turn around and use some bureaucrat double talk that gives them away. In the typical infinitesimal wisdom of Washington, they probably think striking fear in Mississippians will cause them to vote against the plebiscite and rush to return to the womb of big mother in Washington.”

“It may work on some people,” said President Defoe. “You can't fault people for being afraid of getting killed. I'm not too fond of the idea myself.”

“I guess you're right. My guess is that this is only the first, with more to come,” said Palmer.

“I was thinking that,” said Will. “If they think it's working, then we will see a lot of it. Behavior rewarded gets repeated. Behavior punished doesn't. That is axiomatic. That also implies that to keep it from being repeated, we need to punish it.”

“Sure,” said Palmer. “Got any ideas on how to punish the federal government? Maybe we could take away their whips and chains?”

“What they do in private is their business,” said Will. “But since this is a very important matter, let's put our heads together and see what we can come up with.”

 

That night, at the Columbus Air Force Base, just north of Columbus, Mississippi, several shoulder-fired rockets raced across the airfield and struck three Air Force planes. Within minutes, the news hit the wire that Mississippi had announced that Our Country Right or Wrong, the same group that had set off the car bomb that morning, had claimed responsibility. The group was said to have accused Mississippi of expecting to get all the military equipment on the bases in Mississippi, when the secession took effect, and My Country Right or Wrong was showing them that they were “not going to get squat,” as the message put it.

 

***

 

“Gawd Almighty,” said President Upton. “Just whose side is this 'Our Country Right or Wrong' on, anyway? In the morning, they set off a car bomb in Jackson. Then, the same night, they blow up three aircraft at a goddamn airbase.”

“There's a problem here,” said Friedman.

“Goddamn right there's a problem,” said the President. “What are you doing about it?”

“There is no group called 'Our Country Right or Wrong,'” said Friedman. “We made it up. We needed a patriotic sounding group to be fighting the plebiscite in Mississippi. It simply doesn't exist.”

“For not existing, it sure does one hell of a lot of damage,” said the President.

“Obviously, someone took out those planes last night and used our imaginary group to blame it on,” said Friedman. “The question is, who? The missiles used were ours, but we've sold the same missiles to half the nations on the planet, so that's no clue at all. As for wanting to destroy planes to keep Mississippi from getting them, that's silly. Even if we let them secede, we wouldn't leave anything there, unless we kept bases there. Besides, they only took out T-38 trainers. They could have gotten bigger, more important planes if they'd wanted to. I have a feeling they were just making a statement of some sort.”

“Seems to me, it's got to be Mississippi,” said Upton. “We hit them. They hit us back, only harder.”

“That is one possibility,” said Friedman. “But there is another possibility. One missile didn't go off. It smashed into a hangar.”

“So?”

“We can tell who we sold it to.”

“Well, stop being coy,” said Upton. “Who?”

“Israel,” said Friedman.

“Shit,” said the President.

“But that doesn't mean that Israel did it,” said Friedman. “It could mean that someone wants us to think that Israel did it. Or maybe Israel did do it because they want to make us think Mississippi retaliated.”

“Why would Israel want to do that?” asked Upton.

“That's not very clear. One thought from State is that they don't want us to lose Mississippi, because if we lose one state, we might lose two, and maybe more. That would weaken us economically, and reduce or eliminate their income and their ability to get us to fight their battles for them.”

“We can't even strike back, if we don't know who did it,” said the President.

“Right now, it looks like it was probably Mississippi or Israel, although it could be just about any enemy of Israel trying to make them look bad.”

“Now we're up to at least two hundred countries as suspects,” said Upton. “What are the odds that the car bomb and the planes weren't related at all?”

“That's another possibility,” said Friedman. “That would let Mississippi off the hook.”

“Bring us down to one hundred and ninety-nine suspects,” said the President. “So what do we do?”

“Our recommendation is wait a day or two, set off another bomb in Mississippi, and see what happens. If it happens again, at least we'll know it isn't a coincidence. Of course, we will be on full alert at all our military bases there. Maybe we can catch whoever it is. In the meantime, we've got a major investigation into the matter. Maybe we'll get to the bottom of it.”

 

Two days later, another car bomb went off in Gulfport. This time there was one killed and thirteen injured. Governor Defoe quickly reported receiving a message from My Country Right or Wrong, the same group.

When the local FBI heard the radio reports of the new message from My Country Right or Wrong, they wanted to see the message, which Palmer turned over to them. Palmer told the FBI that he thought the perpetrators were sharp to just send a copy of their message from a copy machine.

“They probably spent a nickel somewhere to get it,” said Palmer. “And it must be impossible to trace.”

The FBI assured him they would be working hard on tracing it anyway.

That night, at precisely midnight, at the Meridian Naval Air Station, an aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, was sunk. Again Mississippi reported receiving a message from My Country Right or Wrong, claiming responsibility. When the FBI came for the message, Palmer mentioned that it looked to him like just another copy of the one they used for the destruction of the planes.

 

***

 

“Well, Josh,” said President Upton, “let's have the excuse of the day.”

“I have no excuse, Mr. President,” said Friedman, wearily. “We sent no message with the second car bomb, but Mississippi got one. It looks like someone is claiming responsibility for everything we do, so they can do something to us and use the same claim. The truth is we don't have a clue. Ordinarily, the Theodore Roosevelt would have been in Norfolk. Although the Meridian pilots qualify on her, they do so at Norfolk. She had just arrived, as part of our show of force.”

“Some show of force,” said Upton. “How can they sink an aircraft carrier right in the port? That has to take some doing.”

“I brought an expert to tell you about that, Mr. President,” said Friedman. “Vice-Admiral Simpson, how did they do it?”

“We have only done a preliminary examination, since it happened but a few hours ago,” said the admiral. “It appears that they placed a row of charges down each side of the hull. Apparently they had some knowledge of the construction of the carrier. A carrier has a double bottom, two layers of very thick steel with a gap between them. A carrier can take a lot of torpedoes and not sink. If a torpedo makes a hole in the first layer, the second layer still keeps the water out. They used a directed blast and probably thermite to cut right through both layers. The steel is high quality, very thick, the same as used in skyscrapers like the World Trade Center. Only thermite or a DU device could have penetrated it. Each charge was carefully positioned in the center of a section of the hull. They made more holes than necessary―just in case some didn't go off. It was almost like they were showing us that they knew what they were doing. We couldn't have done a more perfect job, if we had intentionally scuttled her ourselves.”

“Could we have a mutinous group in the Navy that did this, Admiral?” asked Friedman.

“Nothing is impossible,” said Admiral Simpson, “but I doubt it. Still, it was a perfect job. I suppose it's possible.”

“We must have a mutinous group in the Air Force too,” said Upton. “Next time, will it be the Marine Corps? Or maybe some mutinous astronauts will blow up a space shuttle.”

“I understand your frustration, Mr. President,” said Friedman. “But until someone comes up with some kind of a clue, we don't know which way to look.”

“Looks obvious to me that we don't want any more of those goddamn car bombs. Every time one goes off, we lose,” cried the President. He looked at the Admiral. “I thank you for your help, Admiral. If you don't mind stepping outside, I have something to say to Josh, here, for which I'm afraid you don't have a need to know.”

“No problem, Mr. President,” said the Admiral. “Glad to be of service.” He stood up and left.

“Josh,” said the President, “have you wondered if some people, maybe in your own organization, just don't want to bomb innocent Americans?”

“No, sir,” said Friedman, quite truthfully. “I suppose that is as possible as anything else. I'll go to work immediately on trying to check that out.”

“You do that, Josh. You might not believe it, but some of my people have opposed some of my actions, not for long, of course. That is they were not my people for long. I don't know of any who actually tried to sabotage me or what I was doing, but if I hadn't gotten rid of them immediately, who knows what damage they could have done.”

“Right you are, Mr. President,” said Josh. Then as a studied buttering up, he added, “That's why you are the President, while I'm only head of Fatherland Security. Thank God it isn't the other way around.”

“I don't expect you to be perfect, Josh,” said Upton, obviously mollified, “but right now, you're at 'O' for two.”

“I know,” said Friedman. “I have the greatest intelligence service ever to exist on this planet working their butts off on this, and there is not a single clue.”

“When all else fails, Josh, invent some clues and get rid of somebody, just to make it look like we know what we're doing.”

“Yes, Mr. President.”

 

***

 

At seven o'clock in the morning, on the first of August, throughout the state of Mississippi, the polls opened for the Plebiscite. They had hoped to open the polls in the safest counties first, to maximize the bandwagon effect, but the idea had encountered significant opposition, and rather than risk antagonizing any of the voters, they had conceded, and all the polls opened simultaneously. In their strongest counties, S.M.A.R.T. made a special effort to get the people to the polls as early as possible. This would enable them to begin with a series of successes.

International rights organizations had been asked to monitor the elections, and they had responded overwhelmingly. Governor Defoe placed an armed National Guardsman at each polling place to assure order. A few left and right wing extremist groups were taken in when they assaulted the polling officials. Otherwise, the voting was brisk and uneventful. It was a typical August day, hot and humid, but the lines moved quickly and spirits were high. Initial turnout was much heavier than had been anticipated, given that the polls would be open every day for a month.

The morning of the second of August, the Secretary of State, Samuel Crowell, was smiling broadly as he announced that twenty three counties had ratified the secession and the Constitution on the first day, with a margin of over five to one. Indications were that from ten to thirty more were expected to do the same that day.

  That same afternoon, when Crowell spoke to Claire and Carla, he was almost hyperventilating, so great was his excitement. “I'll never forget that first day in South Carolina,” he said. “I thought it would take a miracle for it to work. I don't know if it was a miracle or not. As far as I'm concerned it was. And when William brought that young man to our meeting. I thought he was personable enough, but hardly likely to make a major contribution to our cause. That has to be the greatest misjudgment of my life. Without that young man, I hate to think what might have happened to our project. We certainly wouldn't be cheering like we are now. He was the miracle worker we needed―that we had to have.”

“When you try to tell him something like that, he gets embarrassed,” said Claire. “Derek said we should keep his value to us a secret. If the Feds found out how important he is to S.M.A.R.T., he would be “suicided” in no time.

“Oh, my God,” said Crowell. “What a tragedy that would be. I'll be careful. It's hard to get accustomed to thinking of the United States of America as a police state. I hope he is taking all the necessary precautions.”

“I'm sure he is,” said Carla. “Will is no dummy.”

“Oh, no,” said Crowell. “He certainly is not. I've got to run along, I just wanted to chat a little with our original core people. When you are deliriously happy, you want to share it with those you care about.”

“And those that care about you,” said Claire. “Thank you, Sam. By the end of the month, you should be seeing us in Mississippi.”

“That makes a perfect day even more perfect,” said Crowell. “I will be looking forward to seeing you both again.”

 

***

 

The vote was running approximately six to one in favor of secession and the Constitution. Most of the counties that ratified the first day were small and were libertarian strongholds. Rumors that it was going to be a landslide for secession spread quickly around the state. By the end of the first week, a majority of the counties had ratified the “Declaration of Independence,” as the secession had become known, and the new Constitution. In the second week a burst of other counties came through to make it over two-thirds. The balance of the counties came straggling in. Given the popularity of the secession, no county wanted to be a holdout, for fear of being blackballed, and in the end the vote was unanimous, with every county ratifying both documents. There were still three days until the secession became effective. No one thought for an instant that the federal government would back down concerning its illegal activities.

The federal government ordered the State government not to relinquish power to the new national government. However, the federal government's orders fell on deaf ears. Had anyone in Washington taken the trouble to find out exactly what the Mississippians were voting for, they would have known that the state government simply became the new national government.

 

 


 

Chapter Twenty

 

“Tonight, Sixty Minutes will be talking with Will Hastings, Lieutenant Governor of the state of Mississippi, and perhaps soon to be Vice-President of the nation of Mississippi, about the current crisis concerning Mississippi’s secession from the United States,” said Steve Kroft. “He asked me to just call him Will, and so: Good evening, Will.”

“Good evening, Steve,” said Will. “Thank you for inviting me.”

“The nation and the world are watching events in Mississippi with a certain amount of anxiety,” said Kroft. “Do you really think the federal government will let one of its states leave the Union?”

“We have left it,” said Will. “Barring a last minute miracle, by tomorrow at noon, it will be official.”

“Perhaps, technically,” said Kroft. “The southern states left the Union once, but the Civil War brought them back in.”

“That was no civil war,” said Will. “A civil war is one between two or more groups fighting over the control of a single region which they all occupy. The War Between the States was a war of aggression by one region against another region. Calling it a Civil War is just a propaganda technique. It was the leaders of the northern states wanting the sovereign southern states enough to murder their inhabitants and lose hundreds of thousands of their own men in the doing. The South had every right to secede from the Union. The Northern states had no right to prevent their leaving any more than the United Nations would have the right to prevent the United States from withdrawing from that organization, which might not be a bad idea.”

“Apparently, President Lincoln and the federal government didn’t feel that way,” said Kroft.

“The South was half of the federal government,” said Will. “When it withdrew, as it had every right to do, it was the remnant of that government that they had left behind that didn’t agree. Half of the United States Congress was gone. The union was no more. Why should one half of the government have any more authority than the other half?”

“I thought they more or less said that once you joined the United States it was forever,” said Kroft. “If you were unhappy, you worked to change things.”

“There was a famous American politician of that time who made a very intelligent statement, which never gets the attention it should. He said, ‘Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right - a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world.’ You may not recognize the quotation. But you will be familiar with the politician. His name was Abraham Lincoln.”

Kroft didn’t respond immediately. “No, I don’t think that particular quotation has received much attention,” he said, pensively. “I can see why it wouldn’t.”

“There are a great many things that Lincoln said, which have been, we might say, swept under the rug of revisionist history. But to return to your initial question, I assume you mean ‘is the federal government going to let us stay out of the union, or will they use overwhelming force like the Russians did in Hungary in 1956? That is a very serious question. I presume the current, fraudulently elected president will consult with his fraudulently elected advisors and ask for the blessing of the mostly fraudulently elected Congress. America’s election process has become a sham, and America is poorly served by those who hold their office by fraud. Unfortunately, the federal government's policy has become one of unprecedented aggression, unprecedented for America, that is. It is quite reminiscent of other tyrannical regimes of history. And like most such regimes, it enjoys the support of a significant percentage of its populace, but not of Mississippi.

“We will just have to wait and see. Personally, I believe that most Americans are basically good people, with a sense of morality. Mississippians love America, but in Mississippi, we know the difference between America and its government. Mississippians find nothing at all to love about the federal government that has seized the country away from the citizens. We feel for all Americans, but we have to assume responsibility for ourselves. The rest of America will have to do the same. We cannot save the entire nation, no matter how much it needs it, or how much we wish we could.”

“Those are pretty profound statements,” said Kroft. “But a matter so important calls for profound consideration. But what about working within the system? Isn’t the American government set up for remedying our complaints at the ballot box?”

“Think about what you just said,” said Will. “Then think about the rampant election fraud. Every American who doesn't need a keeper knows elections today are jokes. That makes working within the system a joke. Also, consider how our freedoms have been constantly eroded from day one. Try to think of the last three times that a major remedy was achieved at the ballot box. Democracy can only work if the votes count, and even then, it will work well only if the majority of the voters are informed, responsible, and moral. There you have four conditions necessary for successfully working within the system. How many of those four conditions do you think are met today?”

“Possibly none,” said Kroft. “Your point is well made, Will. However, if the situation is as you describe it, wouldn’t that, in itself, make your chances of successfully seceding slim, at best?”

“Yes,” said Will. “And that is precisely why we had to do it now, no matter how slim our chances. The longer we waited, the slimmer the chances of ever seeing freedom again would be. Unfortunately, until now, people have not had the guts to stand up for their rights. Even now, in only one state out of fifty, have the people found the courage to try and save themselves. In the other forty-nine, let's just say that the fire in the belly that the original colonists had when they rebelled against England may have dwindled to just a spark in contemporary Americans. However, if we waited any longer, even that spark could be gone. Then, what is now a slim hope would be no hope at all. We can only pray that by our striking example, we will fan that tiny spark that still lives in every American, and they will at least support us, if not join us in living free. We must hope that America’s spirit of independence and self-reliance is not so dead that it cannot be revived. Even if it is dead for the rest of America, it is obviously alive and well in Mississippi.

“When Americans broke free of England, they created the first free nation on earth, and no one has done any better or as well, since. Yet, they put too much faith in their government. They didn’t guard their precious freedom as they should have. As America grew into a very rich nation of three hundred million people, an army of crooks weaseled their way into the government. The more chickens in the hen house, the more foxes it attracts. Getting bigger also made it easier to scam and skim in the political shell game. You never get a glimpse of the shell and the pea anymore. If you ask about them, they shrug and say it’s a matter of national security. With the tremendous advances in technology and psychological manipulation, the governmental transgressions have escalated from petty theft to massive plundering and pillaging. That is why Mississippi had to take a chance that it is not too late, that there might be enough decent Americans left who would let us go and not want to kill us, simply for wanting our freedom. Our leaving the Union harms no one in the other states. We wish no harm to them. What valid reason can they possibly have for not letting us go?”

“In the president’s recent speech concerning your secession,” said Kroft, “he said that Mississippi’s secession is explicitly forbidden by the Constitution, because the states entered into a permanent union. What do you have to say about that?”

“First of all,” said Will, “the so-called president is betting no one will look at the Constitution and find out he is lying. Anyone who bothers to read the constitution will not find the word secession in it, anywhere, and that is important. What they will find, however, is the tenth amendment, which has only one sentence in it. That sentence says: ‘The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.’ Therefore, since there is no mention of secession in the constitution, nothing about it is delegated to the United States, nor is it prohibited to the states. There is also no mention of a right to life, a right to marry, a right to have children, or not to be enslaved. The tenth amendment is there to prevent a self-serving government from exploiting the ignorance of the people by forbidding such things merely because they are not listed in the Bill of Rights. In fact, it cannot constitutionally forbid or dictate anything not specifically allowed it by the Constitution. As for construing the formation of a permanent union, how many people have pronounced the words, “until death do us part.” That is a hope, not a binding contract.

“Secondly, the president and others, either through ignorance or malice, forget what the Constitution is. Even a superficial look at the writings of the people that wrote the constitution will tell you that it is strictly a document to state what powers the states and the people are delegating to the federal government. No semi-rational human being, much less a state, would enter into a contract with absolutely no way out of it, regardless of how badly the other party or parties perform.

“Third, the Constitution can be considered a contract between the United States and the individual states. The federal government has broken the contract countless times, literally millions of times. Therefore, any and every state is more than justified in going its own way. A basic tenet of law is that when one party fails to live up to its obligations under a contract, the other party is relieved of its obligation. If you sign a contract to buy a house, but you don’t pay the money agreed to in the contract, they aren’t going to give you the house, just because they signed a contract. Well, the government has broken every line of the Constitution, every word, every idea. Our fraudulently elected and therefore illegitimate president has called the Constitution a goddamn piece of paper. I don’t care for his language or his beliefs. Would Mother Theresa be upset because the new Butcher of Baghdad criticized the way she went about her business? I don’t think so. Let your president, as the saying goes, look after the mote in his own eye. Wouldn’t you say, Steve, that most Americans are intelligent enough to see through the government's smoke screen?”

“That’s a pretty loaded question you asked,” said Kroft.

“I guess you’re right about that,” said Will. “If you say ‘no,’ you offend all your audience. If you say yes, you risk being kidnapped and whisked off to Guantanamo or some other concentration camp. I don’t want to put you in that position. So, I will withdraw the question. I just get so worked up when the American people are treated as if they were too backward to be exposed to an intelligent discussion of matters of supreme importance to them. The media, present company excluded, needs to back off on treating the American people as if they were mentally retarded.

“The networks complain about losing audience. The audience isn't just drifting away, it is being driven away. We get more hits a day on the news page of our government website in Mississippi than there are viewers of any prime time network news program. Less than half of them are Mississippians. The rest come from all over the U.S. and the rest of the world. We don’t seek them. We don’t advertise for them. They are just people that are hungry for honest, uncorrupted news coverage. They trust us to do our level best to be accurate and thorough, no matter what. We link to a number of other sites where people can get a multifaceted view of what is being said, whether we agree with it or not. We link to a variety of sites, including liberal, conservative, and libertarian.

“In a world of scam and conspiracy, where labels like ‘secret’ and ‘top secret’ are used to protect politician's secrets, not military secrets, it is hard to know what is happening much of the time. But I believe the job of a true journalist is to do his best to find out what is happening and report it, not to obscure, deceive, and mislead. The American people are not as dumb as the mainstream media thinks. That is why the people are leaving the mainstream media in disgust. The fact that I am here saying this is a feather in the cap of Sixty Minutes. We are still on the air, aren’t we?”

“So far,” said Kroft. “The light is still on, anyway. You come down pretty hard on the government, Will. “Aren’t you afraid of a backlash from the public because of that? You said you were expecting the support of the people. A lot of people won’t like to hear their government criticized so harshly.”

“Mississippi is leaving the Union because of the crimes the federal government commits against Mississippians. The government treats all the states equally, meaning that it commits all those same crimes against all Americans in every state. You are suggesting that the people might turn against us for pointing out the crimes that their government commits against them,” said Will. “I think you underestimate the American people. The federal government will surely attempt to make it appear that way, but I feel they will fail miserably. I do not fear the American people, only their government. When the American people finally realize what is really going on, I think they will rise up and put an end to the crimes of their government. I’m certainly not afraid of that. The federal government is extremely terrified of that. But the federal government is between a rock and a hard place.”

“We are almost out of time,” said Kroft. “Tell me, what do you mean by the federal government being between a rock and a hard place?”

“Over the last few years, the federal government has been grinding its heel on the necks of the American people, using the terrorism excuse for every kind of unconstitutional activity. The people are wising up to the scam. They are discovering that the terrorist attacks were staged to justify the atrocities the federal government has been committing. It is hard to face such an ugly truth, and many are still in denial. But the people are on the verge of rebellion now. If the federal government treats Mississippi as Russia treated Hungary in 1956, with tanks rolling down our streets and airplanes bombing Mississippians into submission, the American people will turn on the monster that their government has become. If there is anything wrong with the American people, it is that they are too good. They are so good that they can’t believe their government is as bad as it is. When they do finally realize it, it’s all over. All fifty states will withdraw. There will be fifty separate, sovereign nations. A new union will be formed, and it will be more like the old one was supposed to be. Safeguards will be in place to make sure it never degenerates as the old one did.

“So you see, Steve, the big question isn’t whether we can stay free. It is whether the federal government can stop us without bringing on a breakup like that of the Soviet Union in 1991. Whether there is enough insanity in Washington to take that risk remains to be seen. Either way they go, it will be favorable for Mississippi. Mississippians love America as much as anyone, we just won’t put up with its government, we would prefer being one of fifty sovereign states in a new, really more perfect union, as sovereign citizens, free to do, be, and have all that we can, living a restored American Dream, and at peace with the world.”

“Thank you, Will Hastings, for being with us. The world will be watching events in Mississippi.”

“Thank you for the opportunity, Steve,” said Will.

 

Nicole was in the limousine, waiting for Will when he left the studio. He gave her a kiss. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“I wanted to be here when you came out,” she said. “How did it go?”

“I think it went very well,” he said. “I got my main points in right away, just in case. After that, I got most of the minor points in, here and there.”

“You said they will air it this Sunday, didn’t you?” she asked.

“That’s what they told me,” said Will. "I was pretty hard-nosed about getting it aired right away. We need the exposure as soon as possible. I have to okay the editing, if any. I said I wouldn’t approve any butchering of the interview.”

“You said you trusted this Kroft fellow. I’m sure it will be fine.”

“It might not be up to him,” said Will. “I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”

 

***

 

“This is an historical moment,” said Martha Pruitt, speaking into her microphone, and looking into the camera. “President Defoe is about to formally announce Mississippi's secession. President Defoe has just arrived, and he will be speaking in a matter of seconds. There are media crews here from over a hundred nations. The entire world will be seeing President Defoe's speech by satellite. Yet, there seems to be no one present from what is laughingly referred to as the mainstream media, which apparently is trying to hide this glorious event from the American people.” She paused. “Here comes President Defoe.”

Defoe's demeanor was relaxed, but serious, as he stepped up, put one hand on each side of the lectern, and began to deliver his speech.

“On July 4, 1776, America's illustrious forefathers declared the thirteen colonies that were to become the United States of America independent of the tyrannical rule of King George of England. These forefathers declared the existence of four facts, as follows:

“Fact 1. All men are created equal and with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We know that they did not mean that all men were the same weight or height. They did not mean that everyone would be equally smart or ambitious. What they meant was that no man was born with the right to rule any other man. This fact was contradictory to the generally accepted concept of the divine rights of kings.

“Fact 2. To secure these rights, men establish governments. Governments don't just happen. They don't fall out of the sky, like hail. Men create them. Men create government to safeguard their rights, to keep their rights from being infringed on or taken away. Ideally, no government would be necessary. Maybe someday, that ideal will also be practical. Right now, it is not.

“Fact 3. When men do create a government, that government's power comes from the people that establish it. The only other way a government can have any power is through sheer force-the power of the gun. Those governments that wish to overpower the people will want to have a monopoly on force and keep the people unarmed.

“Fact 4. When a government fails to serve the purpose for which it was established, that of securing the citizen's rights, it is the people’s right to alter that government or abolish it entirely, and institute a new government of whatever form they feel best meets their needs. Governments will usually resist being abolished. The worse a government is, the more likely it is to resist, and the more violently it is likely to resist.

“The founders of the United States, having just fought a revolution to secede from the British Empire and free themselves from tyrannical rule, established a government to secure their rights. To this date, they did the best job that has ever been done. However, the founders died, and as often happens, those to whom they left the nation didn't take very good care of their inheritance. The government of the United States long ago abandoned its only legitimate task, that of securing the rights of the people. Today, Americans live in fear of their government, and with good reason. The home of the brave and the land of the free has turned into a police state, unparalleled in all of history. The people are forced to pay for their own brainwashing, for the dumbing down of their children, for the perversion of their children's morals, even for the use of their children as cannon fodder, and for the high tech monitoring of the their every activity, so the government can be aware of any sign of resistance, and do whatever it takes to end it before it becomes a threat to their power.

“Fifty-six days ago, on the 4th of July, the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the State of Mississippi served notice to the world that it shared the beliefs of America's founding fathers. Mississippi declared that those same four facts that were true then are true today. We declared that the government of the United States no longer served its purpose of securing the rights of its citizens. Therefore it is the people's right to alter it or abolish it and institute a new government.

“Mississippi declared that if, by the first of September, the federal government of the United States failed to agree to abide by the United States Constitution, as written, Mississippi would no longer recognize it as legitimate. Today is the first of September. The government has not agreed to abide by the Constitution. Mississippi no longer recognizes the current United States government as legitimate.

“The current government of the United States is illegitimate, even aside from the fact that most of what it does is illegal. That only makes its actions criminal. The federal government is definitely illegitimate in that essentially all office holders are in office by fraud.

“It is impossible to know when America last had an honest national election. What we do know for certain is that the last two national elections were completely and blatantly fraudulent. The President and Vice-President were not elected, but are in office through fraud, as are most, if not all of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Therefore, everyone appointed by the President and approved by the Senate is in office illegitimately, including the Supreme Court justices. All the laws enacted by Congress and all the presidential directives are therefore illegitimately enacted and null and void. Any court decisions by illegitimate judges are therefore illegitimate. Actually, there is little, if anything, that the government has done in recent years that has even a touch of legitimacy.

“Mississippians love America, but we cannot find anything to love about the illegitimate government that has hijacked it. Criminals have taken over the U.S. Government, and they are using its authority and power to abuse the citizens of the United States. Mississippians feel toward that government the way parents would feel toward someone who abused their children. Not only that, but like most parents, were they to discover someone abusing their children, we want it to stop immediately. We won't stand by and watch it happen, the way most Americans seem content to do. Nor will we be bribed with any kind of promise or handout of our own money to permit the abuse to continue. Most parents, we hope, would say 'you will continue abusing my child over my dead body.' Mississippi is now saying, the government of the United States will continue to abuse Mississippians over our dead bodies.'

“The federal government was created to secure the rights of Americans. It was not created to take so much of their money that both parents had to work to live decently, leaving children unattended by anyone with their best interest in mind. It was not created to blow up buildings, killing thousands of people or to fool the people into letting it get away with oppressive measures. It was not created to kill a million people in Iraq to line a few people's pockets. It was not created to cause the deaths of tens or hundreds of thousands of Americans to fight people who never attacked the United States or showed any interest in attacking the United States. It was not created to spend more money per student than any country in the world to pay for schools worse than most third world countries that spend a minute fraction per student. It was not created to have the greatest percentage of its people in prison of any country on earth, and yet have its people afraid to walk on the streets at night. It was not created to spend billions fighting drugs, while the number of drug users got ten times greater and another branch of the same government funded the overthrow of legitimate governments all over the world by selling drugs. It was not created to take people's money to pay several times what anything is worth to friends and those willing to kick back something. It was not created to send billions to a certain Middle Eastern country so they can afford to pay congressmen millions to vote to send American kids to fight that country's enemies. It was not created to rack up tens of trillions of dollars in debt to a banking cartel and pass that debt on to the next generations. It was not created to make people afraid to talk about the criminal activities of their own government or to criticize genocidal activities of another country. It was not created to make manufacturing in America a thing of the past. It was not created to fill the atmosphere and cover the earth's surface with depleted uranium dust, with half a million times the radioactivity that was released in Japan with two atomic bombs, greatly multiplying everyone's chances of getting cancer. I could go on all day listing things the federal government was not created to do, but that it does routinely. Essentially everything it does is something it is not supposed to do. The one and only thing it was created to do was, as the Declaration of Independence states, to secure our rights. That means it is supposed to keep us safe, and to keep our rights safe. Instead, it is the greatest threat to our safety, and it is the greatest abuser of our rights.

“The truth is that the United States of America no longer exists. The United States of America was created by what President Upton calls a 'god damned piece of paper,' the Constitution. The Constitution created and defined an abstract entity called the United States of America. Mississippi would be proud to belong to that United States of America defined by the Constitution. Unfortunately, that United States cannot be found. It no longer exists. What now passes as the United States of America is completely foreign to that described in the Constitution. Only the name is unchanged, to protect the guilty. It is a fraud, like its government.

“There being no legitimate government of the United States, which we can notify of our secession from the union, Mississippi makes the following announcement and declaration:

 

To whom it may concern:

 

Mississippi hereby withdraws from what is commonly referred to as the United States of America. The sovereign nation of Mississippi harbors ill will against no nation, and hopes to establish and maintain friendly relations with all nations and all peoples. While it would make Mississippians happy, were all the world to agree with us and think like we do, we hereby officially acknowledge that what the rest of the world thinks and what it does is their business and not ours, as long as it doesn't adversely affect us.

 

Signed,

Aaron Defoe

President of Mississippi

 

***

 

The atmosphere throughout Mississippi was generally one of jubilation and celebration. The celebrations went on and on. They never really stopped, but sort of eased off, little by little, as the celebrants became exhausted. It had been so long since the citizens felt that they really had something to celebrate that they hated to stop. There was dancing in the streets. People were friendly to everyone. Perfect strangers were greeted like old friends. Even those who had opposed the secession generally admitted that Mississippi was a better place to live. They too were caught up in the contagious camaraderie. Everyone had something in common with everyone else. They were all free.

The old guard, the politicians that had been in office prior to S.M.A.R.T.'s triumph were lobbying the federal government to intercede and force Mississippi back into the fold. They assumed that Washington would not let the secession stand, and they were jockeying to be the ones running things when they got back to “normal.”

There were those who moved out and went to another state. The adjacent states were complaining that their welfare rolls were swelling beyond their ability to cope. They blamed their problem on the influx of Mississippian welfare recipients.

 

 ***

 

Lieutenant General Karen Murkowski was the youngest person in the room, at a meeting of the Joint Chiefs, the Secretary of Defense, President Upton and a handful of his erstwhile advisors. The meeting was breaking up. People were gathering their papers and briefcases. As General Zukowski looked around at the faces, she was struck by the difference between all the military people and the politicians. While the politicians were uniformly jovial, the senior officers had a look of quiet desperation, and with good reason, she thought. Smiling now would be only slightly easier than lifting herself by her ankles. She couldn't wait to get out of the White House, into some fresh air.

In the elevator, she stood beside General Patrick Moore, “Pat” to everyone who could call him by name.

“Can I give you a lift, Karen?” asked General Moore.

“Thanks, but I have a car,” said Zukowski. Surely he must know she had a car, she thought.

“Send it on, and ride with me. I'd like the company,” said Moore.

“Very well,” she said, knowing full well it wasn't for the company that he was asking her to ride with him. He wanted to talk to her about something.

Once they were moving smoothly down the street, he turned to her. “What do you think of the way the country is going, in general?”

She didn't know whether to give him a diplomatic, non-committal answer or to tell him the truth, that the country was going down the drain, with no relief in sight.

As if sensing her indecision, he added, “Don't give me some 'for publication' bromide. I want to know if you don't agree that the Commander-in-Chief belongs in a padded cell.”

She smiled. “Perhaps. Maybe one on the order of seven by three by three might be appropriate.

“I think at least half the entire military would agree with that,” he said.

“Top or bottom?”

“Top to bottom,” said Moore. “I think most of them are concerned over the wanton disregard for the lives of our troops, the waste of our valuable resources, the billions of enemies we are making around the world, and the hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians we are slaughtering. Those things are bad enough, but I am also concerned about the fact that our forces are stretched thin, all over the world. If we were attacked by a serious opponent, we'd have to use the R.O.T.C. and the Boy Scouts to defend our country, and there probably wouldn't be any ammunition for them. We are sitting ducks and I'm sure every potential opponent knows it. Every new theater we open makes it worse. The Romans had a similar problem, and we know what happened to them. Hitler would have probably ended up with all of Europe and Russia, if he had been slow and methodical. But he stretched himself too thin.”

“I have thought about that too,” said Zukowski. “We still have troops in Germany and Japan, sixty years after the war ended. We are in a hundred and fifty nations; fighting big time in two, skirmishing in half a dozen, planning to attack a third, and now Mississippi becomes a target. When we hit Mississippi, the Chinese or the Russians could walk in and occupy half the nation before we could bring back enough forces to hold them off from the other half.”

“Mississippi couldn't have picked a better time, unless it had waited for the next offensive to begin. We have every spare slingshot already deployed. To secure Mississippi, the only possibility of guaranteeing success would be to bomb it until there was no one left. Of course, if you don't mind killing a few hundred thousand in surrounding states, you could use nerve gas. A lot of us are not at all happy with making charcoal out of every man woman and child in, say, Jackson, Mississippi. Given the course this administration is on, it is small wonder Mississippi wants out.”

“Frank, my husband, agrees with Mississippi. I think he would move there in a heartbeat.”

“He's not alone obviously,” said Moore. “I believe a group of retired generals and admirals have already gone there. I'm not certain, but I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't end up fighting them, when we attack Mississippi. Some of them are very good at their job. If they are in charge of Mississippi's defense, it won't be the cakewalk everyone expects.”

“You mean it won't be a cakewalk like Iraq?”

“Exactly.”
            “It's not clear who is in charge of defense in Mississippi,” she said. “I suspect that may be intentional. It keeps us from taking him out with a covert operation.”

“It may be a panel, like our Joint Chiefs,” said Moore. “Two of the generals that I think have moved there had that job before they retired.”

“Then, I know who they are,” said Zukowski. “I can guess at least five of the others too. They've been united against the administration before. Good men, every one of them.”

“When it comes to Mississippi, it will be impossible for the administration to say that they pose a threat to the U.S. I don't know how our men will feel about killing women and children, when they are Americans.”

“They aren't Americans anymore,” said Zukowski. “But I don't think that will make it any easier. Some of the people they kill could be their relatives. We're almost there. Is this what you wanted to talk to me about?”

“Yes. I don't know what may happen in the near future. Unrest is everywhere. And attacking Mississippi with God knows what kind of weapons isn't going to set well with anyone, except the sickest of the sick. Lincoln went after the South because they paid most of the expense of running the country. Without them, the country would have been in the kind of shape the current administration is driving it to right now: bankruptcy. There was no real question of the South's right to secede then, nor of Mississippi's now.”

“The Supreme Court has already said that they don't have that right.”

“Where did the Supreme Court come up with its right to even decide that issue? Certainly not from the Constitution. Anyway, this talk is completely off the record. I just wanted to know where your head was on this issue. I think I know now. I don't think you would be any more in favor of carpet bombing Mississippi than most of us would be. Those people said they would be glad to stay in the union if the government would just abide by the Constitution. That sounds like a reasonable offer to me.”

When the driver dropped them at the Pentagon and they each went their own way, General Karen Zukowski wondered what the future held and just what General Moore and his friends were thinking about. The possibilities were fascinating.

 

***

 

Derek Palmer walked through the woods in a quiet area of northern Mississippi. He hadn't heard a sound, but he felt certain that he was under observation. He stopped and held up his hands. “I'm Derek Palmer,” he said.

Two men dressed as farmers came out of the brush. Their manner belied their garb, as they asked for his identification.

“We are expecting you,” said one of the men. “Come with me.”

The other “farmer” disappeared back into the brush, as Palmer followed his companion through the forest. There were sheep and cattle in the open spaces. This valley, now known as “Galt's Gulch,” after the valley in Ayn Rand's “Atlas Shrugged,” was developed at Palmer's suggestion, years ago as a refuge, in case any S.M.A.R.T. people had to hide out. It had not been needed, yet, for the purpose that he had set it up. Recently, it had been expanded to become Mississippi's equivalent of the Pentagon, a hideaway for those in charge of defending Mississippi.

Pausing before a patch of bushes on a hillside, Palmer's guide pressed something resembling a remote control for a garage door opener. After a moment, two massive shrubbery covered doors swung out. The armed guards inside spoke to Palmer's escort who chatted with them for a moment.

“They will take you from here, Sir,” said the escort.

“Thanks,” said Palmer.

“My pleasure, Sir.”

Palmer was surprised how far into the hill they went. He was reminded of the feeling he had had while getting the nukes. As they walked into what looked like a compact version of the rooms they use for controlling shuttle launches, he knew he was in the center of whatever defense that Mississippi had.

A tall, slender man that Palmer estimated to be about sixty saw them and approached. He thrust out his hand, and said, “John Andrews. You must be Palmer.”

“Yes. Derek Palmer. Glad to meet you, General.”

“The others are in the conference room,” said Andrews. “Come with me. The President said you had some very important info for us. We can certainly use all the help we can get.”

After introducing Palmer to the five generals and two admirals seated around the conference table, General Andrews said, “Okay, Palmer, let's hear what you have for us.”

Palmer informed them about the nuclear warheads, how he had taken them, and how he had stashed them around the United States and the world.

“I knew we wouldn't need many,” said Palmer, “but I didn't want to leave them in the hands of Josh Friedman, or whomever he might sell them to.”

“This makes Mississippi one of the major nuclear powers of the world,” said Admiral Pierce. “This is incredible. When you told us Mr. Palmer had important information, John, it was certainly an understatement.”

“It takes a lot to overwhelm me,” said General Andrews, “but this certainly does it. This puts everything in a new light. It will be a while before this really sinks in. But I can see that just having them is probably enough. I doubt if it would ever be necessary to use them. I hope to God that it would never happen. One problem, however. If no one knows about these nukes, how can you convince them you have them, without proving it?”

“We left some there,” said Palmer. “Those that were too heavy for us to handle. We disabled them as best we could. But the fact there are nukes there and signs of hundreds more having been there, should be proof enough. Just the fact that we know they are there is evidence of a sort. If absolutely necessary, we can set one off. Maybe at some isolated spot, like Bimini Atoll. Friedman knows about them, and it seems that Clinton should know. Whether they will admit to knowing is something else.”

“Who all knows where they are now?” asked General Arthur Finney.

“Apart from me, just a retired Colonel from Special Forces and a group of the Special Forces Underground, some of them are men that used to patrol this valley, when we first set it up.”

“We. You were in on setting up this valley?” asked Andrews.

“It was my idea,” said Palmer. “I never thought of it being used for what you're doing here. We set it up as a place of refuge, to hide out from the Feds.”

“Damned good idea, too,” said Finney.

“Probably, the less people that know about your nukes, the better,” said Admiral Pierce. “However, we should have a way to access a few, in case anything happens to those that know where they are.”

“I can arrange that,” said Palmer. “I'll take care of it. Whom should I be in contact with?”

“Better make it John,' said Finney. “He's the senior officer here. It's not something you should trust many people with. We'll take care of passing it down the line in case something happens to John.”

“Brief us on the people who know about these nukes,” said General Andrews. “Obviously, you trust them.”

“I had to trust someone,” said Palmer. “I couldn't get them on my own. There is a good friend of mine, the retired colonel from Special Forces that helped me. He had gotten me the men for patrolling this valley when we set it up. Altogether, there were twenty-six of the ex-special forces people involved in getting the nukes. All are connected with the Special Forces Underground. As for the nukes overseas, our guys worked with some local contacts that I knew over there. We can reach them if necessary. Without these people helping us, we could never have stashed the handful in places that we can send local authorities or press to find them. We did that in case we wanted to make it look like the US was planting nukes to vaporize their city, if need be. We thought that would keep the Feds busy trying to talk their way out of it, and give us some international support for having told the locals about it.”

“You seem to have done some excellent planning,” said Admiral Pierce.

“We did the best we could, with what we had to work with, and in the time we had to accomplish it,” said Palmer. “We've done a little fine-tuning since the beginning, but not much has changed.”

“An operation of that kind would have taken the U.S. government years,” said Admiral Pierce, “and they probably would have screwed it up royally. Half the nukes would have gotten lost. A good many of them would have ended up in Israel. Even more would have been sold on the black market, making some wealthy people even wealthier.”

“Who knows what they had in mind for those nukes,” said Palmer. “I suspect they were for their own private purposes, and as far as the government is concerned, they don't exist.”

They spent another quarter hour debriefing Palmer, making certain there was nothing they might need to know and establishing a secure scheme for communicating with him and the others involved. As the meeting wound up, General Andrews reached his hand out to Palmer. “I want to tell you, Mr. Palmer, that I am truly honored to shake your hand. I wish there were a medal fitting to give you for what you have done. There never was and there never will be. What you did has put Mississippi on a par, militarily, with the greatest power in the world. Our freedom just went from being a long shot to a sure thing. We, Mississippi, the entire world owes you an immeasurable debt, Mr. Palmer.”

All the officers joined in, each heaping praise on Palmer.

“It was just the sensible thing to do,” said Palmer. “I was lucky to have stumbled onto the documentation about the nukes, lucky that the Stonermans had a family reunion when they did, and lucky to have good men to help me.”

“Never has one man's good luck extended to so many,” said Admiral Pierce. “At the very least, you have saved many thousands of lives on both sides. It is an honor to have known you, Palmer.”

As Palmer was being escorted out the valley, he felt good about what he had done. He had only told them about two hundred of the nukes. They were all on the same side, theoretically, but you could never be sure. Those men had all worked for the enemy. He couldn't be sure one or more of them weren’t still working for the Feds. Even if they weren't connected to the federal government, one of them might have been bought off by some private group. It was better to be safe. Besides, he knew that two hundred nuclear bombs were more than sufficient for their purposes. With a good bit of luck, they wouldn't need any, not even as a threat.

 

***

 

“God bless you, Martha Pruitt,” said Claire Palmer, as she and Derek were listening to the morning news, while having breakfast. “Every time I see her, I think of what those bastards did to her.”

Martha Pruitt was excitedly describing the events that were to mark the unveiling, in just a few hours, of a statue that France was giving to Mississippi. It was, she said, a new, modern Statue of Liberty. Mississippi's favorite newscaster went on to quote statements by various leaders around the world concerning the new statue. Most of these quotes said more or less that the U.S. should take down the original Statue of Liberty and put up one more fitting of their new image as a disgraceful torturer and despot. Several suggested a statue of the world famous image of an unknown prisoner, covered with a blanket, standing on a bucket, with wires attached to his body, as a more appropriate symbol of American ideals.

“She must be in her element in the new Mississippi,” said Derek Palmer. “I can almost feel the relish with which she twists her blade in the Feds gut, when she reports how wonderful things are in Mississippi, while the U.S. is going straight down the tubes. In her place, I'd be the same way, only worse. Yet, the other day she said that she feels so sorry for the Americans. She said that she still loved America dearly, and she hopes someday the America she loves will come back.”

“Don't we all,” said Claire.

“Got to go,” said Derek, getting up from the table and giving Claire a kiss. “Today's a big day. Sure you don't want to be there?”

“I hate crowds,” she said. “Besides, I'll be able to see it better on television. Tomorrow, I'll go see the statue. Have you seen it yet?”

“Of course. We had to inspect it and put guards around it. The Feds are really bent out of shape over France giving Mississippi a Statue of Liberty, especially when they said they thought the U.S. should give them back the old one. Who knows what they might try.”

“With what passes for art these days, I'm almost afraid to think what it may look like. Do you like it?”

Palmer screwed up his face. “I've seen worse,” he said.

“I knew it,” she said. “Some piece of abstract crap.”

“You'll see,” he said, with a broad grin. “Bye.”

 

On his way downtown, he was whistling, happily, when his phone rang.

“What is it?” he said. “I'm on my way--Be there in three or four minutes-- No arms or explosives?--Start searching all the streets in town for a similar van, just in case this one is only for monitoring.” He started to turn on his siren and thought better of it. The traffic wasn't too bad and it would only give him a few seconds advantage, while it might alert someone he didn't want to alert. He had known that the unveiling was the kind of event the bad guys would love to turn into a disaster. The police had just discovered a van full of electronic equipment, with four men of middle-eastern appearance inside. This was bad news. It surely meant they had something planned for the unveiling ceremony that was only two hours away.

When Palmer arrived at the scene, he looked at the men who were handcuffed in the back of the squad cars.

“Look like Mossad to me,” he said. “The van is a lot like the one with the famous 'dancing Israelis' on the roof, dressed like Arabs, filming the planes crashing into the Empire State building. The NYPD took them in and the Feds took over and turned them loose. What on earth would the Mossad have against Mississippi, unless they just have to be doing something evil or they get bored?”

“They tried to run up an antenna, when we banged on the door,” one of the police officers told Palmer. “But we broke it off. We thought they might be trying to contact some others or to set off some explosives.”

“Good thinking,” said Palmer. “A very wise thing to do. I hope they have enough shielding in the van to keep them from using a cell phone or a walkie talkie. I guess that depends on what they are up to in there. If they keep their secrets from getting out, they may just keep their call for help or their warning to their friends from getting out. No use worrying about that now. If they can communicate they already have.”

A member of Palmer's special security team of ex-Special Forces men rushed up to Palmer. “Sir, they found an almost identical van, as close as it could get to the plaza where the unveiling will be.”

“Can you contact them?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Tell them to bust any antennas on the van or any that might start sliding out of it.”

The man pressed a button on his radio and repeated Palmer's instructions into it. “All set, Sir,” he said.

“Do you know how to get there?” asked Palmer.

“Yes, Sir.”

“Hop in. We're on our way. I don't think there's much I can do here is there?”

“I don't think so, Sir. Turn right at the next corner, Sir.”

“Call in for a tow truck, a fire truck, and EMS,” said Palmer. “We may have to tow the thing away, and we may have an explosion if we try.

When they pulled up behind the white van, the two Jackson police officers were waiting for them.

“Anyone in it?” asked Palmer.

“We banged on the door, but no one answered,” said one of the officers. I could swear I heard something move inside.”

Palmer pounded on the door. A fire engine pulled up across the street.

“You guys have a cutting torch to cut into cars with?” asked Palmer, as two firemen approached.

“Sure do,” said the fireman.

“Just a minute,” said Palmer. He banged on the door again. “If you're in there, this is your last chance.”

When there was no answer, Palmer turned to the fireman. “It is identical to the other one,” said Palmer. “It has the same antenna built into the roof. If you open a door, it might blow up. Weld all the doors shut. Take it to that big field down by the river. There's a concrete pier there, and the water's quite deep. Dump it in the water and let it soak a few days,” said Palmer, loudly. “If there is anyone in it, we don't have time to play games with them. If there are explosives, there could be a timer. If there is anyone in it, let them die in it. Get the damn thing out of here. Here comes the tow truck.”

The firemen brought a propane torch and began welding the back door shut. There was a banging on the door.

“Okay,” said a man's voice. “Let us out.”

The fireman pulled back and looked at Palmer.

“Go to hell,” said Palmer. “If you tell me what is going down here, I'll let you out as soon as we confirm it and take care of it. Otherwise, you are going to be trying to breathe under water. I'll give you thirty seconds to make up your mind.”

“You can't drown us like that,” said the voice.

“If you don't want to drown,” said Palmer. “I suggest you kill yourself now. Twenty seconds left. I've got to get out of here; I've got other fish to fry. Pardon the pun.”

The thirty seconds passed and the men hadn't responded.

“Weld it shut,” said Palmer. “Take that chain link fence down over there and weld it over the front windows in case they try to get out that way. Take the cap off the gas tank and run a shirt or something down into it. Light it just as you drop it. Let's see if it blows up before the thing sinks.”

The fireman looked stupefied.

“These guys are terrorists,” said Palmer, signaling to the fireman to play along with him. “They are going to do something terrible during the unveiling this morning, and I suspect we will have a lot of dead people. Do you want to handle them with kid gloves?”

“Hell no,” said the fireman, and he put the torch back to work, welding the back door shut.

There was some yelling inside the truck, followed by two gunshots. Then a man called out. “Stop. I'll tell you. All the hollow lampposts in the plaza are full of explosives.”

“How are they supposed to be set off?” asked Palmer.

“Someone will turn on the streetlights and that will set off the explosives.”

“How are they going to turn on the street lights?” asked Palmer.

The man explained that the switch was in a small substation a few blocks away, and a man was there waiting for a call from one of the crew members in the van.

“What happens if you don't call?” asked Palmer.

“He will turn them on at eleven-thirty-five, if he doesn't get an order from us, either to set them off or to delay it.”

Palmer's mind raced. He might be able to get the man inside to call and delay the detonation. There could also be some prearranged way to preface the instructions and with that missing, the man would set it off immediately. That would be the intelligent way to do it. The Mossad were as crafty as they were evil. He could easily lose any chance he had to keep them from setting off the explosives. “Get over there and check it out, Mark,” Palmer told his man. Use my car so you don't scare him away. Do you want to take the uniformed guys for backup?”

“I'd be more afraid of him getting spooked and turning on the damned lights,” said Mark. “I'd better go alone, and the uniforms can wait a block away. I'll finesse it somehow.”

“I had better go with you,” said Palmer. “Go get two cops to follow us, and have them wait down the street until we call them.” He got in his car. While he waited for Mark, he made a call with his cell phone. “Harry, Derek here. Hold up the President and the French people until further notice. We picked up two vans of what I think are Mossad and or CIA that have filled all the lampposts with some kind of explosives. They are to be set off by a guy in a substation nearby by turning on the streetlights. We're going after him now.”

Two more police cars had arrived. They were blocking the street at the corners of the block, their blue lights flashing. The one at the corner where they were leaving said he would move his car.

“No time,” Palmer called out, as he drove up over the sidewalk past the patrol car.

“You're right about one man being better,” said Palmer, when they parked half a block down from the substation. “You or me?”

“No offense, Sir, but how long since you were in combat?”

“I'll be right behind you,” said Palmer, grimly. “No windows at all. I can be right around the corner from the door.”

Mark messed up his hair. He rolled in the dirt in the field, pulled his shirttail out, and dirtied his face. He went to the door of the substation, and banged on it. “Come on, I know you're in there. I saw you go in. Any stuff you find in there is mine. If you drink my booze, I'll be really pissed.”

In the distance, a siren was heard.

“Come on,” muttered Mark, sounding drunken. “The cops are coming this way.”

Suddenly, the door opened, an arm shot out, grabbed Mark by the arm, and yanked him into the one-room substation, sending him sprawling on the floor, as the door slammed shut again.

“Damn. You must be a vet too,” said Mark, maintaining his role. “You homeless, too? Lots of us are. Don't take it out on me, Man. No need to get rough. I'm not in very good shape these days.” He stood up and brushed himself off. “This is a good place to stay. No one ever comes here. I spent all last winter here. You're welcome to share it, if you want. I wouldn't mind havin' someone to talk to.”

“If you live here, how come you weren't here the last couple of days?” ask the man.

“I was in the drunk tank,” said Mark. “Somebody must have kicked me in the ribs while I was out. God, am I sore.” He rubbed his ribs gingerly.

“You can't stay here now, buddy,” said the man. “Take off, and come back this afternoon. I'll be gone by then. I'm here on a mission. You can understand that.”

“Sure, I do,” said Mark. “Okay, I'll go. You look pretty flush. You wouldn't have a buck or two to spare would you?”

“Sure, buddy,” said the man. As he reached his right hand into his pocket, Mark's hand flew out and his knuckles struck a lightning blow into the man's Adam's apple, collapsing his windpipe. The man choked frantically, gasping for air. Mark pulled his arm back and fired his fist in and out of the pit of the man's stomach. When he bent over, Mark grabbed the man's right arm, spun around and dropped on one knee, and snapped the arm down over his shoulder. The bone broke with a crack.

The man was trying to reach his left hand into his right pocket.

“Mark yanked his broken right arm. Don't move or I'll kill you,” said Mark, pulling a gun out of the man's right pocket. He assured himself that the man had no other weapons. “Now, buddy, just who are you?”

“You are in deep shit, fella,” said the man. “I'm CIA.”

“You are in the wrong country,” said Mark. “If either of us is in deep shit, it isn't me. What are you here for?”

“Just on a stakeout,” said the man.

“Yeah, sure,” said Mark, as he tied the man's hands with a plastic strap. “Your phone call isn't going to happen, and you aren't going to turn on any lights at eleven-thirty-five.”

“You know?”

“Yes. I know. We got your vans, and now we have you, Asshole.” He opened the door and shoved the man out in front of him. Palmer was there waiting.

“Any trouble?” asked Palmer.

“Piece of cake,” said Mark.

“Let me go for the black and white. Stay here with him. We have to post a bunch of people around this place until we get the lampposts taken care of.”

“How'd you find out about it?” asked the man.

“One of your guys called us and told us about it,” said Palmer. “Looks like one of you is actually human.”

Palmer ran down the block and waved to the patrol car to come on up to the substation.

“Stay here and stand guard. Call for two more cars to come and guard this substation,” Palmer told one of the officers. “If anyone tries to enter it, they are to be shot instantly. I don't care who they are. No one goes in there until you hear different from me. If you let anyone in, a lot of people can die. Call for another car to take this guy to Security Forces Headquarters. Keep an eye on him. Keep him and all the other's separated. They aren't to see or talk to each other or anyone else. Be extra careful with him. He could probably take two of you with one hand. Shut him in the back of a black and white.”

Once back in his own car, Palmer pulled out his phone and punched in a call. “Hi, Harry. It's me. I don't know if we should call the whole thing off or not. We got the guy that was supposed to set the charges off. We got two vans of what looks like monitoring and movie equipment. The guys were going to make a movie of it.” He paused. “Yeah, I know about them filming the Empire State Building disaster. They are some sick sons of bitches alright.” He paused. “Oh, no. How did he know? Well, it's too late now. We just have to hope for the best. I'll see you there.”

“What happened? Sounds bad,” said Mark.

“President Defoe and the Frenchmen have left for the unveiling,” said Palmer. “One of the officers called in and told them we had captured the guy and had the substation under guard by six policemen. They figured it was safe to go. I hope they are right. We better get over there. Just be careful if you have to fire your weapon for any reason, don't shoot a lamppost.”

“Right,” said Mark. “But nobody else knows that. Certainly not the bad--” he stopped in mid-sentence. “I guess maybe the bad guys do know about it. They might just shoot at them on purpose.”

They looked at each other, and each knew what the other was thinking. If there were more of them, they could still create a disaster by shooting at the lampposts. Palmer sped up.

“I don't think Mossad, and certainly not CIA agents are going to be suicide bombers,” Palmer said. “But from a window some distance away, they might set off one or two. I just hope they don't have something else up their sleeve.”

Mississippi Street was blocked off, and the police let them turn onto it. Palmer parked the car in the middle of the street, and they rushed through the crowds to the towering, canvas- covered statue in the center of the Mississippi State Fairgrounds. Defoe was speaking, thanking the nation of France for this great gift. He said that Mississippi would never forget that liberty was the one thing they could never do without, and would guard it with all their hearts, minds, and bodies, doing whatever it took to keep themselves free.

“And now,” said President Defoe, “here is France's great gift to the people of Mississippi, in honor of our heroic stand for freedom. We call it the Statue of Freedom, lest it be confused with that out of place statue in New Jersey, the poor old Statue of Liberty. Our new, wonderful, beautiful, great lady is one hundred and eighty feet high, or twenty-nine feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. Let it be known, however, that Mississippians still have a warm spot in their hearts for the Statue of Liberty. I'm sure we all hope that someday, soon, she will again be a fitting symbol for the United States. Here goes.” He cut the cord and the canvas came tumbling down, revealing a magnificent statue.

The crowd roared and applauded. President Defoe stiffened and fell crumpled on the ground, just as Palmer and Mark arrived on the scene. His bodyguards rushed to him. One felt under his jaw, then his wrist. The people in the crowd began to look away from the statue and see the President. A groan with through the crowd. People screamed and cried out.

“He's dead,” called the bodyguard. The other Security Force members were scanning the crowd. Not knowing exactly what they were looking for, just anything out of the normal. But no one saw anything.

Palmer broke through, “Look for a small hole, about two-tenths of an inch in diameter,” he said. “If it's what I think it is, you won't see anything else.”

Two doctors came forward, and verified that the President was dead. They found a small hole on Defoe's cheek. “It looks like it's four to six millimeters in diameter,” said one of the doctors. “There is no blood.”

Palmer was dispatching Security people, using his walkie talkie. “Stop anyone with a cane, and umbrella, any tubular object. Unfortunately, it could even be a pen. But we can't stop everyone with a pen, or search everyone for a pen. I doubt if we will find anything, but get to it.” He closed his eyes for a moment and hung his head. This painful moment of heartbreak was all he could offer Defoe right now. He had to get to Will Hastings, now the President of Mississippi.

 


 

Chapter Twenty-One

 

“Fellow Mississippians, it is with a heavy heart that I address you today. I am Will Hastings, your new president. Just hours ago, President Nelson Defoe was cut down by an assassin's hand. Cut down in a festive moment, while unveiling the Statue of Freedom that freedom lovers in France sent to Mississippians to commemorate our brave action in striking out for our independence.

“We have captured eight of the group responsible, and one was killed by his own men. We know that they had planned to kill everyone present at the fairgrounds yesterday, but our intelligence people were able to disrupt their plans, only minutes before their planned massacre. Unfortunately, there was at least one more of them: the monster that killed President Defoe. Right now we are interrogating eight of the men. Seven in jail and the ninth in the hospital. We already know that half of them are agents of the United States-CIA to be specific. The other half are Israeli agents. We are in the process of developing positive, verified identification of these men.

“Nelson Defoe was not only a great man, he was a good friend. His death is a great loss to Mississippi, and a great personal loss to me and all his many friends. We miss him, and we mourn him. We will long harbor strong feelings against those who murdered him, not just the man who fired the shot, but those in Washington and elsewhere who ordered and coordinated it and those who put up the money for it and empowered the ones that ordered it. I will have more to say about that later.

Right now, I have a lot of work to do, and I must leave you. I plan to return to the air, tonight, at eight o'clock with more information and further comments on this vicious attack by the two least trustworthy governments on this planet.

 

***

 

“What a fiasco,” cried President Upton. “When was the last time we got something right? This was screwed up worse than the Empire State Building. At least, it went down. What the hell went wrong?”

“We aren't completely sure,” said Zachary Asko, the director of the CIA. We had two vans of men; each had two of our guys and two Israelis. We had one of our top men in an isolated sealed building with no outside access, ready to blow up the whole fairgrounds. Apparently, they got both vans, and the man in the sealed building. How they discovered them, we have no way of knowing. We had several men, in the crowd. They were in contact with the men in the van. But something went wrong. When we lost contact and the bombs didn't go off, we knew things had gone wrong. As a last ditch plan, we thought that we would at least get their president. That is better than nothing.”

“As long as he doesn't turn out to be a martyr,” said Friedman. “And the fact that they have several of our men isn't going to help. Maybe we can make use of the fact that half of the men are Israelis. It might piss off Israel, but they owe us big time. They can take a few lumps for us. We have done plenty for them. We could say that we had nothing to do with it, that the CIA people were Jews that apparently put their allegiance to Israel above orders from their own government. People will certainly believe that. It happens all the time.”

“It may happen all the time,” said the President, “but we don't let it be known that it happens.”

“I know,” said Friedman. “I know how things work, believe me. But back to the problem at hand. If Mississippi is getting a boost in public support, we need to counter it and neutralize it. Why not paint it as a major ploy by Mississippi to gain that public support?”

“Sure.” said Upton. “They kill their President to get sympathy from the public.”

“And it worked,” said Friedman. “Our initial polls show a huge increase in support for Mississippi's secession. Look at how the country felt about JFK after he got killed. They made a saint out of him. Come to think of it,” he added, jokingly, “we could easily swing sentiment back toward us, were you willing to make a grand sacrifice.”

“When pigs fly,” said Upton. “That's not funny, Josh. No. I think we will just deny everything Mississippi says. That always works with a good many people. They want to believe we are good. So, they see us as good.”

“We could also suggest that Mississippi meant to kill one of the French delegation and blame it on us, but they missed and hit their own president. “

“Now, that, I like,” said the President. “That would piss off the French.” He looked at his watch. “The military will descend on us in a minute,” he said. “Personally, I'm in favor of telling them to move now and take full control of Mississippi, even if it means slowing things down a bit here and there overseas in order to get enough men here. Hell, we're worse off now in Iraq than we've ever been, and this 'war' has already lasted longer than World War Two. What does everyone else think?”

“Slowing things down here and there could cause us to lose a lot of ground,” said the Vice-President. “As you observed, things aren't going well, as it is. If we take away some of our resources, who knows what can happen. For want of a nail, the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe, the horse was lost, etc.

“We don't have any horses over there that I know of,” said the President, laughing. “Maybe we'd be doing a lot better if we did. All this technology. Sometimes, I think the old ways of doing things were better.”

“There are a thousand times as many of them over there as there are of us,” said the Vice-President. “Our technology is all that gives us any hope at all.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” said the President, sullenly.

“Let's think this through,” said Friedman, thinking that would be a major feat for this president. “Attacking now could be counterproductive. Mississippi has just gotten a big boost in public relations. Maybe, just maybe, we should make it look like we are bending over backwards to settle things amicably. Every time we make a half-baked peace offering that we know they will turn down, the press can rave about how generous it is and make them look like they are unwilling to even listen to any peaceable solution. After a while, the whole world can be made to see them as a bunch of redneck farmers who have no clue when it comes to running a chicken farm, much less a nation. Everyone will see us as the long-suffering mother country, hating to have to spank our wayward child. They will sympathize with us, and turn against Mississippi. Then we can waltz in with a big show of force with a minimum of troops, and they will give up with no resistance. After that, we'll have another two hundred years with no one even thinking about secession.”

“I'm willing to give it whatever time it takes to prepare for the invasion,” said the President. “You all do what you can to get public opinion on our side by then. I'm the decider, and that is my decision.”

 

As the generals and admirals filed in and filled the remaining chairs around the conference table, the atmosphere in the room became much more businesslike.

Karen Zukowski sat next to General Moore. They had not talked to each other since their last meeting together in the White House. He looked at her and smiled.

“How have you been?”

“Well, thank you,” she answered.

“Have you thought any more about what we were talking ab